Trail of Dreams

I had it down like clockwork.

Hair appointment at 11:00, pick up kids at 12:30.  Home by 12:45, on the road by 1:15, 1:30 at the latest.

I had a big book meeting in NYC.  (You’ll read about THAT in an upcoming blog!).

I planned to stay at my brother’s house in Connecticut and take a train into the city.

We’d been talking about The Plan all week, so when we walked in the house and Tucker stood just inside the door, slowly blinking his eyes, saying, “Meeting?  New York?  Uncle John’s?”  I exhaled a long, slow breath, and explained The Plan all over again.

“I knew you were going to New York, but I didn’t know it was this week.”

“Yeah, Buddy.  This week,” I said as gently as I could.  “Today.”

He turned away and looked out the window facing the backyard.

“Can we go for a walk before you go?” he asked.

And what are you supposed to say to that?

Your thirteen-year-old boy asks you to take a walk?  How do you say no?

So I followed him out toward the back woods.  He led me onto the mountain bike trail he and Lee had been building since last spring.

Rain dripped off the trees, and my newly flat-ironed hair soaked up the moisture.

I hadn’t noticed the cordless drill in his hand until we crested the top of the trail.

“What ‘cha got a drill for, Tuck?”

“Oh, this,” he said in a casual, this old thing sort of way.  “I thought I’d work on my trail a bit while we’re out here.”

I looked down at my black flats and imagined the traffic already building on the Merritt Parkway.

“I’m gonna head back,” I said.

“No, wait.  You haven’t seen my trail.”

“I’m standing on it, Tuck.”

“No, the new one.  The new one Daddy and I’ve been working on.”


I followed him deeper into the woods.  I reminded myself to pack a book on tape ’cause at this rate I’d definitely be sitting in traffic.  I wiped a rain drop off my nose.

“This is where we moved a bunch of stones,” he pointed, “and made the trail go down there.”

“You want me to walk down there?  In these shoes?”

“You’ll be fine,” he said, reaching out for my hand.

What can I say?  I’m a sucker for a gentleman.

I made it down the trail and when we rounded the corner, I stopped in my tracks.

There before my eyes was the real-life manifestation of the popsicle stick model that had been on our kitchen table, living room floor and everywhere in between for the past month.

“You built this?” I asked.

“Me and Daddy,” he said walking to the bridge, grabbing a board and casually screwing it into the log cross braces.

“This is incredible, Tuck,” I said.

He looked up and smiled.

“Wait till I ride my bike across it,” he said pulling a screw from his pocket and reaching for another board.

Later, as I sat in traffic, trying to flatten my hair, wondering and worrying about my meeting in New York, I thought of Tuck’s model bridge that he’d made into a reality.

I stared at the red brake lights glowing in front of me and realized my boy had shown me that with hard work, focus, determination and belief, I, too, have the ability to make my dreams come true.









Somehow, every soccer season, one way or another, I get roped into helping my husband coach one of the kids’ team.

Typically, he gets stuck at work and calls me in a panic. “Can you please just get practice started?” and a list of drills arrive via email.

Now we all know how much soccer experience I have, but because I love my husband and our children, I always agree to help.

This year has been no exception.

On the first Saturday – game day, I arrived just a few minutes before start time, a fresh cup of coffee in one hand, my collapsible sideline chair in the other.

For the first few minutes of the game, I sat back and watched my daughter and her teammates run up and down the field.

Shortly there after, however, I began watching my husband running up and down the sidelines, trying to line up subs, organize drills for the kids waiting to get in the game, and tend to an injured elbow.

“Where’s his assistant?” I asked out loud.

I tried to catch Lee’s eye, but he was too busy managing life on his side of the field.

I attempted to watch the game, but eventually set down my hot coffee and made the long walk around to the other side of the field.

“Hey, Babe.  Where’s your assistant?” I asked, breaking up a water fight between two of the players (one being our daughter).

Never taking his eyes of the field, he called over his shoulder, “Turns out he has to work on Saturdays.”

Don’t say it. I warned myself.

But I had to.

“Do you want some help?”

The words had barely left my mouth when I found a clipboard in my hands.

Here we go again, I thought.

Every season, no exceptions.

But it turns out this year is an exception.

The team we’re coaching is a U12 team, meaning the kids are under 12 and over 10 and typically have a number of years of soccer experience under their belts.

But this year there is one child on the team with absolutely no soccer experience at all.

It turns out that during the years her teammates were practicing dribbling, passing and shooting, this child was relearning to walk and talk after a brain surgery left her without the ability to do either.

The first few practices were hard.

Lee tried to encourage his new player to participate, but at the same time, not scare her off.  She mostly stared at the ground, muttered a few words, stood by her mother’s side and refused to participate.

“She can do all of this,” her Mom told Lee.

And slowly but surely she began to.

She started running around the field with the team, even though it usually took her twice as long to finish.

She began passing the ball back and forth with a few of her teammates.

And most importantly, she showed up at every practice with a big smile on her face and a greeting of, “Hi Coach,” for Lee.

Last week, as usual, I arrived moments before the game was to begin.  As I came running across the field, I saw a whole group of young women clustered behind the typical smattering of parents.  I noticed they all had neon signs – pink, green and yellow, tucked by their sides.

“What’s going on?” I asked our new player’s Aunt.  (An experienced player, she’d come to a couple of practices to support her niece and was soon enough recruited as Lee’s assistant, leaving me, Assistant-to-the Assistant!)

Auntie came to my side and explained that the women’s hockey team from the local college had “adopted” her niece during her surgery and the recovery that followed.

I looked across the field at the 25 or so college girls ready to erupt in cheers.

“Oh,” I said through a tight throat.

Lee caught my eye.  His nostrils were flared which always happens when he’s trying not to cry.  I pulled my sunglasses out from my pocket and was glad I felt some tissues in there.

Lee called in the team.

“Looks like we’ve got to thank someone for bringing her fan club, guys,” he said and everyone high-fived the Star of the Day.

She was chosen as captain and when she went out for the coin toss, the opposite sideline erupted in cheers, signs waiving in the air.

Lee put her in as Center Forward and every time she started things off, there was another eruption of joy.

Midway through the game, I sidled up next to Auntie and confessed that Lee and I were working hard to hold back our tears.

“I know,” she said.  “She has come so far.”

In between subbing in players and retrieving stray balls, we talked about how their family has tried so hard not to baby her, or make her think there’s anything she can’t do.

“We know about keeping expectations high,” I said, and told her a bit of Andie’s story.

“We’re lucky she ended up with a coach like Lee,” she said.  “It’s great that he puts her in the game and doesn’t care about winning.”

I almost laughed in her face.  Lee, not care about winning?  He tops the list of Most Competitive People I Know.

Later I told Lee what Auntie had said.  He didn’t laugh and instead thought for a moment before saying, “I make sure that every kids gets an equal opportunity to play, and I do everything I can to put them in a position to win.”

The team didn’t win that day.  The final score was 4-2, but as the entire team ran across the field to high-five the largest fan club to ever turn out at a U12 game, they all ran back with enormous smiles across their faces.

Winners, every one of them.

Sisterly Love


Libbie and her daughter, Amelia

I just got off the phone with my sister.

I was complaining about how I feel so overwhelmed by the book publication process.  How I’m just so sick of all of it and want to throw in the towel and say to hell with it.

My sister, four years younger than I, has always been so full of insight and clarity.  She listened patiently as I spewed my woe-is-me crap into the phone and then offered the following in return:

“Just remember why you wrote the book,” she said.

Oh yeah.

“How this is just like everything that happened with Andie.  You get one more thing thrown in your path, and think you can’t deal with it, but you do.”

You’re right.

“Remember this isn’t about the publishing industry.  This is about helping people heal.”

Oh yeah.

“Keep the integrity in the process.  Remember where you were almost eleven years ago and how much your book would have helped you.”

You’re right.

“Then do whatever you need to do to get that book into the hands of the people who need it most.”


You should go back and read the opening page of the book.”

I will.

“And then get to work.”



This is my sister holding Andie in the NICU.  Andie was a couple of months old and it was Libbie’s second trip back home from Colorado to see her.  Whereas I was so afraid of Andie, Libbie couldn’t wait to get her hands on her.  Libbie didn’t have children of her own back then, but she was showing me how to love my own.

This is the opening page of my book that Libbie so wisely reminded me to go back and read.

“Everyone has a story.  Mine began in November of 2000 when I thought I’d given birth to the smallest baby ever born.  She arrived four months prematurely, weighing one pound, eleven ounces and measuring eleven inches long.  Imagine a potato with tiny arms and legs.  Several days after my daughter’s birth, I mustered up the courage to ask a nurse if she’d ever seen a baby that little.  When she replied, “Oh honey, this hospital floor is full of babies this small,” I felt not quite so alone.

After my daughter was born, I longed for a compassionate woman who had been in my shoes to sit on the end of my bed and share her story with me.  It wouldn’t matter how different or similar our stories were, just to have someone who understood what it felt like to have a pregnancy end half way through, resulting in a baby that didn’t resemble any baby I’d ever seen.  I wanted to see her nod in understanding as we discussed the daunting task of raising, loving and believing in a child born at twenty-five weeks.

That woman never arrived.  Due to hospital privacy rights, we were discouraged from even glancing at other babies or parents in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU.  I was lost, incredibly lonely and terribly wrought with guilt and fear. 

So, I’d like to sit on the end of your bed and share my story with you.  Your story and mine are sure to be different, but if hearing mine allows you a moment away from yours, if it leaves you with a sense of hope, then this story was worth writing down.”

Thank you, Libbie.

Promises Made… Promises Kept?

When we moved to New Hampshire – uprooting the kids from the only home they’d ever known – I wanted it to be a wonderfully smooth transition them.

I wanted them to be excited!

I wanted them to remember the move as simply wonderful!

Soooo… I resorted to bribery.

To my daughter, a six year old at the time, I said, “Remember how you’ve always wanted a kitty-cat? Well in New Hampshire…”

Tucker, a savvy boy of eight back then, smelled opportunity.

“I’ve always wanted a gecko,” he said, his eyes growing big with excitement.

A gecko?  I thought.  One of those cute little lizards from the insurance commercials?  Why not?

“Sure,” I said.  “You can get a gecko.”

Tuck ran out into the backyard he’d soon be leaving, shouting out to the grass and the trees, “I’m getting a gecko! I’m getting a gecko!”

A few months later we’d settled into our new house, the kids had settled into their new school.  Life was good.

Except… we were missing a couple of promised pets.

Max the Cat came first.  An all black, one-year-oldish stray that the crazy lady at school couldn’t take in because she already had like 172 cats.  “If I can catch him, you want me to bring him over?” she asked.  Looking into Andie’s hopeful eyes behind her round rimmed glasses, I said, “Sure.”

Max has been with us ever since.



With the cat’s arrival, Tuck turned up the heat on the gecko acquisition.  And before I knew it, there I was at the local pet store staring into a glass aquarium filled with lizards.

“Aren’t they cute, Mom?” Tuck asked.  I could only nod.

The sales clerk arrived to help.

“We’d like one of these,” I said pointing into the cage.

“That one,” Tuck shouted.  “The one on the branch in the back!”

“Good choice,” the clerk said to Tuck.  He spoke like he had marbles in his mouth, and I noticed he was missing a couple of his front teeth.  “They’s great pets.  I’ve had ’em all my life.  Live long too.  They can live 15 to 20 years if you treat ’em right.”

“15 to 20 years?” I asked.

“Thank you so much for letting me get a gecko, Mom,” Tuck said.

“Ya got all the equipment?” the clerk asked.

And before I new it I was standing behind a shopping cart filled with a huge glass aquarium, a heat lamp we’d have to run 8 to 10 hours a day, bags of sand, a glossy rainforest print for the back of the glass to make the gecko feel at home, and a slew of other stuff that I quickly calculated added up to about 150 bucks.

“Thank you so much, Mom,” Tuck said again.  I looked down at his little hand next to mine gripping the handle of the cart.

“You’re welcome, Buddy,” I said with a sigh.

“We couldn’t find the food,” I told the guy.

“That’s ’cause the food’s back in the ‘fridgerator section.”  He pointed and Tuck and I looked toward the back of the store.  “Got to buy live meal worms.  D’you get a lid for that ‘tararium?  Them uneaten worms turn to moths and fly all round the house if you don’t keep the cage covered.”

“Thank you so much for letting me get a gecko, Mom,” Tucker said again.

Suddenly the lights in the store were too bright.  I squeezed the handle of the cart and closed my eyes to steady myself.  When I opened my eyes I saw a small warning sign on the side of the cage.


“Salmonella?” I said.

“Oh yeah,” said the clerk.  “I got it so bad when I was ’bout 10, had to stay in the hospital for weeks.  Missed school though,” he said winking at Tuck.

“Tuck,” I began.

“I knew it,” he said before I could say any more.

“I just think we need to talk,” I said.

“I knew it,” he said, fighting back the tears.  I followed him out of the store where he sat down on the curb.


“Mom, you promised,” he said.

And he was right.  I had.

And thus began the lesson of When It’s Ok to Break a Promise.

Besides, in the end, really, which is better One Gecko or TWO HERMIT CRABS?!!


A Light in the Dark

This past weekend found us all traveling in different directions.  My husband to a long planned golf weekend, the kids to their grandparents house, and me to the wedding of an old childhood friend.

I don’t like when we’re all apart.

Alone in my bed in a strange new place, fear woke me in the night; a film reel of worst-case scenarios playing on my movie screen mind.

But then I remembered the poem a dear friend had shared.  We had talked of the power of love and fear and how thoughts of losing it all can climb onto our pillows in the middle of the night and blow uncertainty right into our ears.

Her friendship and the poem she shared, assured me I wasn’t alone in thinking such thoughts, and allowed me to leave my restless bed and create a soothing place, perhaps by a stream or a quiet lake on a soft bed of grass on which to sleep out the rest of my night.


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Thought You Might Like… (The Bubblah)

This entry is a little different from those I’ve written in the past.  You see, sometimes I get really excited about something; so excited that I just can’t help myself, I have to tell everybody about it!  It might be a new recipe, or a book, a song, maybe a poem, or a kid’s game or craft, or like today, a simple gadget.  I hope that by sharing some of my favorite things, you’ll be inspired to share some of yours, too!

 Thought you might like…

…this At-Home Water Fountain!  

Or if you grew up in New England, this At-Home Watah Bubblah!

When new guests come to the house or the kids have friends over, we hear exclamations of “That is so COOL!” followed by the question I dread, “Where did you get that?” which inevitably leads to my long, sheepish explanation:

“Well, you see, I was in Florida visiting my parents, and my mom had the TV on and she was flipping through the channels and happened to briefly stop (here I emphasize briefly) on The Home Shopping Channel.  (Here I steal a glance at my guest to gauge the reaction and level of judgement before deciding to continue on with this story or make up an entirely new story in which my purchase was made at a small plumbing fixture store that sadly just went out of business).  But if my guest looks more interested in getting my cool fountain than judging me, I carry on, explaining how when seeing these little faucets on the boob tube, I had exclaimed, ‘Those are so Cool,’ and my mom insisted I buy them right then and there or they’d be gone.  

So I did.  

And she was right.  

I was never able to find them again.  (Did you notice how I conveniently scapegoated my mom for my home shopping TV purchase, but made it seem ok to do so, by admitting that she was right?)”

Usually by the time I arrive at the end of my explanation, my guest; 1.) Looks pretty confused as to why she/he had to endure this long story only to find out this product is unavailable to her/him and, 2.) Wonders where she/he can get a stiff drink and duct tape to put over my mouth. (My husband is usually standing by with both!)

But those days are over because I have searched and I have found!  It turns out The At-Home Watah Bubblah is called Kwik Sip and is now available online!

So you can save yourself the embarrassment of admitting you commited the unthinkable act of sitting on your couch and ordering a product seen on TV and instead admit with confidence that you were sitting on your couch and ordered the little device through your computer!

They’re 2 for $20 (7 bucks for shipping).  All you do is screw the little thingy right into your faucet and you’re good to go!

Here’s the link: (Be warned the ad on the website is pretty cheesy!) 

I just placed an order of my own and had to click through several screens of additional promos before placing the order, but otherwise it went smoothly.  I’ll post an update when they arrive!

Wicked awesome!


We took the kids out for dinner.  Mexican.

Prompted by images on the tv in the bar, they started asking questions about September 11th.

Maybe because they’re 13 and almost 11, or maybe because I’d had a margarita, or maybe because I can’t believe it’s been ten years, 10 years, but this year, for the first time, I started talking and answering honestly.  And it was good.  And hard.  And intense.  And real.

And I’m pretty sure the greatest challenge in parenting is trying to offer answers and advice, when you’re still looking for them yourself.

But I guess that’s what parenting is all about.

This quote from Michael Levine sort of says it all.

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.”  

What do you think?  How do you talk to kids about the hard stuff?




I gave my 10 year-old-daughter permission to ride her bike to the library.  Alone.

She’s old enough and it’s only a quarter of a mile away.  Right?

She’s been gone eight minutes.  I’m sure she’s fine, but what if the tote bag I gave her is too long?  What if it gets caught in the bike spokes?  It won’t.  But it could.  And she could go right over the handlebars.  Oh my. What if right this moment she’s sprawled on the sidewalk bleeding and terrified, hoping someone will come along to help her?

She’s not.  But she could be.

14 minutes!

Actually… I just remembered I need a book from the library.  Should I?

Or do I just sit and wait and trust and know that she’s protected?

Do I recognize that this is just a little step in all the big steps she’ll eventually take toward independence?

I know this swirling, flip-floppy feeling in my gut.  It’s the same feeling I get every year when Andie goes back to school.  All those post-NICU fears come flooding back, reminding me that I can’t always be there to protect her.  (I’ve never experienced quite the same level of anxiety over Tucker who was born on his due date at a hearty 8 pounds.  Yet sometimes my mind decides my vigilance is misplaced and begins fretting over him as well.) Usually the first day is the worst.  I imagine her falling from the slide or a sick kid sneezing on her. I want to send her to school wrapped in bubble wrap with a dust mask covering her mouth and nose.

But I don’t.

Instead I breathe.

And I trust.

And I try to focus on something to keep my busy, worrying mind, calm and at ease.  Writing often works.  So does a walk in the woods, or stretching, or a good book, or classical music or a new recipe.  Sometimes just saying I’m scared out loud helps, or repeating a prayer or mantra…Please bless and keep my children safe and protected…

And sometimes nothing works at all.  She’s been gone twenty-two minutes and you’re sitting here writing!  My edgy mind just screamed at me.

I’m going to the library.

But, wait.  Who is this rounding the corner?  It’s my little bird returning to the nest!  Look at her pedaling along with a sack full of books and that proud smile!

I knew she was fine.

She always is.

I, on the other hand, have some work to do!

What about you?  How do you manage your child’s return to school?

My First Go as a Guest Blogger!

I’m so excited for my first ever appearance as a Guest Blogger!  A couple of months ago, Tamara of Tamara Out Loud held a contest offering others to write for her blog.  And, drum roll please, today she posted my essay called Making Meaning!

Tamara writes beautifully on Real Life and Real Faith.  Her entries often have me laughing out loud as she writes about anything from bible school to pole dancing to tattoos!

Here’s the link that will take you over to her site and my post:

By the way, it would sure be fun to see some comments from my readers over there! (Hint, hint!)

Happy September!


Edge of September

The kids go back to school next week.

Alarm clocks will have to be set.

Underwear will have to be worn.

Several day old tattered t-shirts will no longer make the grade.

We’ll move too quickly for dragonflies to perch on our toes.

I’ll have to share the kids with teachers, soccer coaches and friends.

The yoga and tennis classes I thought I’d so desperately miss will start up again.

“What will you miss most about summer?” I asked Andie.


My entrepreneurial 10-year-old daughter at “work”!

“Everything,” she said.  The added, “Max and Sam and Hooch.”  Her “clients” from her first summer job.


I’m going to miss my kids, because I know when we meet again next summer they will have grown and changed and moved another summer closer to the summer when school commitments or real jobs or travel opportunities replace these lazy frog-catching, lemonade-sipping summers.


Tucker, 5 summers ago!


So…  I’m gonna wrap up a piece of this summer, put it in my pocket and when I need it most – on one of those inevitable lost homework, no bread for sandwiches, can’t find one shoe, car won’t start mornings – I’ll pull it out and sprinkle it over us like the powered sugar “fairy dust” their granddad sprinkles on their summer pancakes. Then we’ll remember those carefree, barefoot, don’t have to be anywhere-do anything days, and we’ll laugh and smile and breathe and start counting down the days ’til next summer.