I have to say that I’m not really sure about this ME TIME thing we’re having. I have spent a lot of time solo, leading up to this month. I feel it’s my job as facilitator to dig in just ahead of you so that I can make fresh observations to add to what I already know. For this purpose, I have spent a lot of time alone and sitting very still. What I’ve noticed most is that it is quite uncomfortable to just sit in the ME. I know that God is present, I clearly perceive him. However, so is my ego. That part of me that isn’t spirit is in charge of my safety, my logic, my measurable worldly success. It’s the part of me that knows better than to play in traffic. But it’s also the part of me that keeps track of my errors and those of others in an effort to keep my heart from breaking. It’s a sneaky grudge-holder at its worst. My ego sits quietly with its list of dangers and waits for a still moment to start hurling warnings and rules toward my mind, in an effort to keep me from risking anything. In the quiet space, that little ego wants me to know that I can stay intact and safe if only…as long as I….don’t forget to…

Glennon Melton calls this the Hot Loneliness. That’s a good description for it, because it’s prickly and uncomfortable and all mine. My fears and experiences aren’t like anyone else’s. You guys probably aren’t terrified of maple syrup like I am. You probably don’t swear that you feel a sticky spot behind your elbow when you’re just trying to get your prayer on. This worry is mine alone. And though it’s funny on the surface, it’s sets me apart and makes me sweat. Hot Loneliness. Time and again, I am squirmed right out of quiet by my ego’s insistence that I take care of something threatening. And though I “know better”, I lose my focus to it. Every time. No one likes to be nagged. What happens for me is that I leave that space of quiet and want to eat. I leave that space of quiet to watch TV. I cannot stay there because I feel like I need a glass of wine…a walk…to make dinner…anything not to be nagged by my over-protective ego.
Logically, of course I know better than that. I am and evolved woman, after all. But I have gained weight in this hot loneliness. This is truly unfortunate and unarguable. So for the past couple of weeks I have chosen to sit in wonder with it. I have asked my ego what she’s up to and why this is so hard. Here’s where I am with this after the wondering:

It’s been so long since I had only myself to care for that I can longer easily discern what my individual needs ARE. My own needs are quite tangled up in the needs of my family, my work, my Girl Scout troop, the PTA…..the list goes on and on. There are “need to” things and “should” things and “errand” things and “school” things. I have learned to prioritize so many OTHER things ahead of my OWN things that I truly don’t know what I want for dinner anymore. This past week, I got two whole days off from the kids and Allen. And do you know what I did? I’m not sure, really. I could only come up with one goo thing. I think I am stark-raving mad. Either that, or I have completely disconnected from myself and my desires. It’s a little bit heartbreaking. And oddly, my previously distant relationship with God was easier to repair that the one with myself is. Sigh. It’s like I am no longer married to myself. Maybe it’s a middle aged thing, and me and myself have simply grown apart. It’s not that I don’t love me anymore, I just don’t know why there’s no more Dr Pepper and Funyons snacks or why cigarette smoke is so GROSS. I feel like I am waking up from 9 years of altered reality….because I AM. This is really the strangest thing I’ve ever been through.

But here is the final score for me as this exploration comes to a close: my needs aren’t as complicated as I thought they were. And, in fact, they are quite a bit easier to manage than they were those 9 years ago. I get hungry and angry and tired. I need support, I need food, I need sleep. I need hugs from my fairies, people I can count on, and a constant dialogue with God. I need permission to screw up so that I can correct as soon as possible without shame. I need permission to be messy in an effort to keep moving ever forward rather than getting mired in the slog of perfection. And, most importantly, I need pants that are forgiving. Life is simply too short for uncomfortable pants. Period.



Boundries. Damnit.

Fekkin Boundaries. Every time I walk up to this topic, I get smacked. I have great boundaries. I can say no. I can. I have a huge capacity, so it may seem like I can’t say no, but I can. I have no problem overextending myself in work tasks as long as I can still do a better job than my predecessor. I have dropped the perfection act and now feel OK with OK. I can do a task to the best of my ability and it can be far from perfect. I can even feel good about that. I can. I don’t have trouble with toxic people anymore, either. Not in real life or on the internet. I can identify when I’ve been triggered and pull back to center myself. I can read an article and ignore the hateful comments. I can listen to conservative talk radio and actually listen for insight (no, really). I have evolved so much in my capacity and my tolerance. My heart can be wide open and still I can feel safe out in the world. It’s here at home that I am utterly destroyed on a daily basis. HOLD ME.

The reality of personal growth is that it changes only us. By nature, it’s and inside job. Each of us has a path, a journey that is intensely and personally our own. The way we live and relate to the ones we love is divine in so many ways. We enrich each other’s journeys, if we’re doing it right. We live and love and grow together over time, making each other better and loving each other better over time. Until we don’t. Everything can be copacetic…until it’s not. that is the reality of living in close proximity to other people. The truth is that at any time on any day, we can cross paths in a way that feels largely NOT beneficial. We can actually hurt or maim or stunt one another if we aren’t careful, or if we misinterpret someone else’s actions. Surely if we knew what we were doing, we wouldn’t. But theres also the part where we just feel plain worn out. There are so many times that one or all of us feels so deeply depleted that we don’t have any support or growth or love to give. The truth is that because we are all journeying separately, there can and will be times where we are all in the desert together and our suffering is not alleviated, but instead compounded together. That is the story of this week for me.

We had the most wonderful spring break together. We took not one trip, but two. We did ALL THE THINGS. We went to the zoo, rode rides, had cotton candy and toured museums. We played in water areas, visited tree houses and rested. We rode ponies, zipped down zip lines, hiked, ate s’mores and raced canoes. We had so much great family time together. And when we arrived home, fully fulfilled and totally spent, Allen hopped a plane to Cali and the girls and I unpacked and flicked up a movie. That’s when reality seeped in. That hour and a half was a slow and steady drop into the space and time that would follow vacation….the end of the school year sprint to summer. Hold us. When I turned off the movie (much later than agreed upon), there were tantrums and sobbing just,laying in wait. The horrors were lurking there, just on the stairs, waiting for us to find them. In the hour that followed, I realized through all my yelling and bargaining, threatening and cajoling that none of us liked each other at all. What I’ve learned most about this shared family space of mutual disdain (besides how painful it is) is how quickly we all backpedal out of it in an effort to save ourselves. It’s all fight or flight up in there…brainstems on parade. If you can remember the next time you’re there, take a moment to look around and notice what each of you is doing. That space holds the key to each of your suffering. Remember that pain is a given and that suffering is optional. And each of us suffers greatly (because humanity). It is in these moments of collective suffering that we can learn a lot about our tribe. But alas, I digress (because pain). In the space of that Sunday night desert, I became very despondent and felt incredibly alone. I realized that there was no saving myself in the place of authority I must hold in the house. I felt that very real and all too familiar feeling of resentment for being mature one in the room. Frankly, I felt unable to carry out the task. Neither could my children pick up the mantle and carry us forward. They are simply not old enough yet to understand the complexities and dynamics of people in a group. When they are suffering, they simply pull in and take care, however they can. I once had a conversation with a 5 year old about negative attention. She quite astutely explained to me the difference between getting negative and positive attention from her parents. When I asked her which felt better, she quickly replied “Neither. They are both the same.” Sunday night told that story over and over again. And by the end of it, there was a list of consequences as long as my arm. We slumped into Monday and wriggled our way through pickup and dance, then pouted and whined and hollered our way through bedtime, all three of us. By the time Allen called, I was in the WHATS THE POINT headspace that gets us all nowhere fast. I was completely shut down and willing to get a job at Crate & Barrel just to make it all go away. I found some garage sale website impulse purchases to make myself feel better and took myself to bed.

After dropping the girls at school (where I admitted to friends that I wish I’d had a kid-sized slingshot to get them to their classrooms faster), I refilled my tea mug and took off for gently used unnecessary items guaranteed to lift my spirits. I got WAY more than I bargained for, loves. God sent me two angels with an IKEA patio set and the most delightful tea. They promptly sat me down and reminded me of who I was, which is all the more incredible when you consider that they’d never met me before this moment. As we talked through this week’s kids meditation lesson, shared our faith, told our life stories and delved into our love for travel, our hearts joined in one common and beautiful refrain of THIS IS THE POINT. I left there remembering our time with Laura two weeks ago when she tenderly reminded us not to be the judge, but instead to “be the sunshine and shine on everyone.” And back I circled again to the fear and reality that I am not always so shiny and bright. As I told these angels about Forming Families and my plans for the future of us, I was able to reiterate what I’ve always known to the core of my being. We cannot make it alone, none of us. We are equal parts amazing and mess. An amazing mess, each of us, we can and will have so many times where we are depleted and hurting and exhausted. And when we feel that way, we will need a place to come back to. We need a well to drink from…over and over and over again. This is how we live. We do not judge our thirst, so why should we judge our need for the love and spirit in life? Bryan and Huyen reminded me that the mind is a sponge for negativity and teflon for positivity. We have to keep loading in good things or we lose our way. And it isn’t a journey for which we get one simple roadmap. It’s a map that is interactive ever-evolving.

This experience all served to reinforce Laura’s wisdom that lay there in wait, unused yet, but still available in my mind on the way home. Punishment and reward do not work. We have to deal with our family struggles head on, with honesty and sunshine. We have to remind each other of who we are when we forget and wait for the storms of our struggles to pass. Boundaries in this way aren’t so much about keeping other people out as they are about keeping ourselves intact. As people, we NEED connection. It isn’t optional, it is NECESSARY. When we are low, we seek out people to raise us up. the closest people to us are the first that we approach, which can often end in disaster. Because those people represent a deep well of love for us, it can feel like an emergency when they withhold love from us, or worse yet, push a button. A loved one in struggle can be seeking love from that same well and shove us painfully from it, leaving us feeling desperate and unloveable. The struggle is real.

In order to be able to navigate these tough moments, we have to build in the good ones on the regular. We have to foster connection in steady, small increments that we can learn to trust. We have to ham up those moments and really amplify the adoration for one another. We have to build in support for ourselves so that in our less mature moments, we have people to turn to outside of this first and closest network of loved ones, people who won’t change their opinions of us upon hearing the truth of our horrific Sunday night circumstances. We have to bring limits early and often for our children. They need to know the truth of the space where they reside and where the lines are they simply cannot cross. Lastly, we need to remember that at the end of any good time together, there will be FALL OUT. We would do well to be prepared for that. Once we get all good and lovingly connected, we can trust that we fall from this high platform of love. This is a fall into waiting arms of parents who are willing and ready to hold them. This trust fall will allow them to dump the stress of the upcoming week (or the week preceding) and can be viewed as just that. Laura calls it the “Spoiled Outing Syndrome”. You know the drill….you stay out watching fireworks and eating cotton candy only to sit through the 30 minutes screaming fit on the way home….regretting that you didn’t leave sooner…regretting that you bothered going at all. Outing spoiled. But the temper tantrum is not the problem we perceive it to be, is it? It is actually a sign that we connected just right. It is an indication that our deep well of love is full to the brim, overflowing slightly, and we are so lucky we got to drink so deeply.

Carry on, loves. We are doing it just right.

Tales from the Edge

Loved ones. I hope your holidays were amazing. Ours were. But not in the ways I expected. there was feasting and family and mending fences (with packing tape, if not nails). There were copious amounts of dairy and wine. There was prayer and gratitude, sunshine and archery. It was moderately great. But that wasn’t what drove my holiday. What drove my holiday was the clearing out my space and my mind. I am through one more phase of my life. I no longer have young children. They don’t need a tiny art table or to be monitored downstairs. They like space and time and reading on their own. They need bigger chairs, better markers and real scissors. It’s so strange and welcome. So, naturally, we completely rearranged the entire house. For the entire week. And we’re only halfway done. Doesn’t that sound exhausting?! It is, but it’s also equal parts invigorating and terrifying. I keep having to fight the feeling that I might one day regret throwing out this or that; that one of us might grow back into or out of something; that I won’t find suitable or affordable replacements for any of it. All of these efforts simply mirror the bigger picture that God is drawing on my heart about our future together as a family. It’s not lost on me. But it also doesn’t feel comfortable at all for me to wait for it, or to not know what it looks like. Both my family (extended and immediate) and my career seem on the verge of big change, and while I am excited, it also feels untenable. I am overwhelmed and overloaded. The clear-out was an effort to move some old energy. I suppose it worked, but now I feel empty. Here I sit at the window, waiting for God to fill me back up with wisdom and courage for the next phase. I am wondering here, in want of new energy. And these words just keep bubbling up. I am certain they are God’s best efforts to let me know that all is as it should be, as usual.

My call has always been to be a bridge, to be an edge dweller, to let those on both sides know what it looks like, to remind the other that the other exists. A therapist once told me that sounded exhausting. Some days and weeks that call is easier than others. And yet, even in the hardest of days, the fellow edge dwellers, we find each other. We whisper stories that warm hearts and remind each other to take breaks. We tell each other things that start with, “I haven’t told anyone this, but…” We don’t fully live in one world or the other. Fellow edge dwellers, take heart. Keep going. Your work is holy.
~ Holly Rankin Zaher

And I’ll tell you what, I’m definitely on the edge. Re-entry this week has NOT been easy. I have lost my temper more horribly than I care to admit. I crumpled up (and threw) Ella’s math homework Monday night because I was so frustrated. I had to apologize to a sobbing child and admit my ridiculousness to her teacher via email. I sent myself to bed before 9:00 on Monday AND Tuesday nights because I could not trust myself to speak anything but cuss words. I took SO MANY deep breaths yesterday, my houseplants actually look GREENER. This world, these days feel brittle, ready to go up like tinder. My relationships, in and out of family, feel fragile. All of a sudden, I don’t feel like I know what’s in store for any of us. But I know I will keep at it. You see, I’m into commitment. I’ll do whatever it takes, no matter what. So this caught me yesterday like a lifeline (or maybe, in truth, like a clothesline):

Understand this and you will understand relationship: When we pick a partner/lover/husband/wife[/child] we will inevitably be choosing a person who comes complete with an entire set of re-occurring patterns (some of which will interlock with our own) and their own unique set of unsolvable problems that will be with you forever; along with their beautiful eyes and amazing great sense of humor (hopefully). If you can get this – and approach it all as a team – the relationship might be successful. You might even stay in the relationship a really long time and be mostly very happy. If you go at this any other way – welcome misery.
~Pamela Madsen

These re-occurring patters and unsolvable problems feel like the end of me when I am not balanced enough to see them and let them go as not my own. When I allow them to interlock with my own, I become quite intolerant(able). When I dig down to the base of all this trouble, I see one simple truth. What I’m trying to shed isn’t old energy at all. It’s layers of confusion and coping, patterns and problems that I have learned through living here in my human self. These patterns and problems are not part of my spirit. This bumping into each other thing? It isn’t real at all. It’s all a story I’m making up in response to everyone else’s patterns and problems. All I really have to do is change the story. If I can shed that story, then we can simply meet, spirit to spirit with human heaped up on top, warts and all.


My children do not know this dynamic yet, and so they suffer. I’m doing my best to explain it, to mind it, but I only understand it so well, myself. I also don’t consistently succeed with this information just yet, so I suffer, too. And I’m OK with that. This is a long game, loves, and one that I will keep playing, willingly. Until we all get there, it helps me to keep my values (intrinsic and extrinsic) for them in mind:
What I want my children to know most of all in this life is that relationships matter more than anything else. Having and holding relationships isn’t easy, but it’s important. I want them to notice what other people need. I want them to learn how to support those needs, and when not to intercede. I want them to know that sometimes other people have to come first. First, not at the expense of ourselves, not in a martyr way, but simply first. I want them to know that we can do hard things and still keep our integrity, even from the edge. I want them to be educated and savvy, both. Most of all, I want them to surround themselves with people that know them and hold them in love implicitly, whether that happens with the family they were born to, or with a family they choose for themselves.

I cannot wait to gather with you tonight and hear about your time with family went. Did your family train stay on the tracks or derail somewhere around Saturday afternoon? How was your re-entry? Did it look like mine or did you find the grace of Glennon?

We will be a small group tonight, and we will miss those of you who are gone. We will eat Zoe’s, circle up, and be real. Because love wins. In these next two weeks, we will be formulating a game plan for winter break. There will be more of this family togetherness in one hot minute, and I do not intend for any of us to spend it hiding in a cloffice (see: Glennon, above). Carrie Contey has gifted us a beautiful workbook from Slow Family Living and I’m working up a list of digital enrichment for those moments when what we desire most is to pretend to live alone.

Take good care loved ones. May the odds be ever in your favor.

You can count on me.


I would never profess myself to be an “attachment parent.” It’s too strict a practice…the co-sleeping, the perfection of always having to be there as a parent, even when you yourself are having a meltdown. I think my struggle with it is really the unanswered question of where my emotions go in that process. But there are so many pieces of that work that attract me. It’s the connection that I love, that I strive for in every moment. But that’s humanity, isn’t it? Our whole purpose here is connection. In all moments, in all ways, if we are connected, we’re all set. The ideal, of course, is a connection to source. For us adults, that’s crucial. For us as parents, connection to our partner is key. I believe that the support we create for one another is the very reason there are two parents required for life to be created. When two people are connected in the process of parenting, each has backup when they falter. When the connection between parents (or source) breaks down and that support falls apart, it it become untenable for the entire family. This is the struggle I have with the ideal of attachment parenting. It leaves no room for the messy realities of actual life. I am human. He is human. They are human. What now?

There is a commitment we make when we become partners. It’s a commitment that happens before we hit the alter, before we create a family. It happens the moment we decide to belong to each other. We step into an agreement to do whatever it takes, no matter what. It’s important to note before we go any further that the order of that commitment is to God, to myself, to my partner. Doing whatever it takes, in some instances (when honoring the aforementioned order), means not staying in the parenting relationship. When this commitment breaks down and the situation becomes untenable, our commitment to God and to ourselves takes precedent. When we commit to a relationship and a family, we make a promise to do whatever it takes, no matter what. When we take on the care and keeping of small people, that commitment becomes more important, and more intense. This is where the terrain gets a little rocky, the commitment ordered a little bit skewed.

In the very first moment of parenting, when that child arrives in our hearts, we whisper that commitment to them. The very first time our heart swells with joy, we make a promise show up for them in every moment, good or bad. “You can count on me,” we speak gently into the hearts. This is the very basis of attachment parenting. It’s the great part. It’s the part that I extract and place into my very human parenting experience. At the end of every day, what I want my kids to know most is that they can count on me. That doesn’t mean that I will arrive in every tough moment with my wits intact, prepared to calmly respond to their every need. No no. Not by a long shot. Most of all, I want my kids to learn to navigate their own messy humanity with grace, willingness and love. That isn’t ever a seamless undertaking. Grace requires mistakes, willingness requires overcoming our own resistance and great love ALWAYS comes with great heartbreak…if we’re doing it right. This is not a Normal Rockwell existence I’m creating. It’s one of stormy reality, of humanity, of real courage. It’s an existence I build where in the very midst of that storm, I will be there, fighting alongside them for dry ground, for shelter, for safety. You can count on me to SHOW UP, gloves on, ready to fight the good fight.

That fight will change from year to year, each day. The good fight changes by season, by location, by incident. That fight will be different for each and every member of my family. We will each be fighting different personal enemies in any given moment. But, no doubt, in many moments, we will all join forces to fight one person’s enemy together. In those instances, we will have stepped into the very purpose of family. We will be fighting together for the security of one among us. This is the very beauty of the village. We go to bat for one another, we go to war for one another and, most importantly, we fight our demons together. You can count on me.

Just because our children are children doesn’t mean they can’t fight. In fact, they fight harder than we do….simply observe any 3 or 4 year old for a day. They fight hard, even though their fight isn’t well articulated. In fact, it’s a bit scrappy. This is why they need us; to separate them from the animals. Growing and evolving takes higher thinking. Recent studies show that brain development is not complete until around twenty five years of age. In other words, we do not spend the majority of our time in the higher functioning parts of our brain until well after we earn the rights to vote and drink. Yowza. Before twenty five, much of our time is spent in the lower functioning parts of the brain, the mid-brain and the brain stem (which is all survival instinct). Reason takes at least a third of our lives to master. Is it any wonder our small people have tantrums? The brain stem is a scary place to live. They need to know they can count on us for regulation, for reason, for survival. Much of their day is spent feeling their very existence is threatened. This is what it means to live in the brain stem, after all.

I cannot survive without food…
I cannot survive unless I eat….
I will die if I eat brussel sprouts….

You can see how easily they digress. The point is, they need to know they can count on us, that we will help them survive. And in a clever twist of fate, one day we will rely on them for our survival. It’s a beautiful thing. Or not. Choose wisely.

If we are to truly come to each others’ aid, we have to be willing to recognize and fight the good fight together. That fight may be against brussel sprouts or an eating disorder. It could be cough syrup at bedtime or alcoholism. The fight may be over doll clothes or feminism. Some fights seem more meaning for to us than others. But for our children, the little things are the big things. More critically, those things will become the big things. And we get years to practice how we will approach them, how we will fight, before that fight really is life or death. Thank God.

So how will you fight? Will you fight for them or with them? Will you attack or strategize? What weapon will you choose? Is it a complete assault or can you hang back and pick off one at a time, letting them lead their own offense? This determines what kind of parent you are and who they become as people. Choose wisely. For me, my role depends on the intensity and the volume of the demon. I can absolutely and completely annihilate if I need to, and I’m glad that I can. But I save that for emergencies. For normal growth and brussel sprouts, I prefer to take a back seat and be the gunner. I’ve got your back, little ones. You can count on me.

You can count on me to stop you if you’re about to bite your sister. I know you don’t want to be mean.
You can count on me to send you to your room if your tantrum is so big you’re not safe out here.
You can count on me to come to you when you’re calm again and help you understand what happened.
You can count on me to tell you when you’re being ugly. I know you cannot see it in this moment.
You can count on me to show you what ugly looks like. I’m human, too.
You can count on me to usher you through darkness because it is a part of all of us, and is not to be feared, but understood.
You can count on me to show you the way back towards God and grace and the light.
You can count on me to teach you to take notes and draw maps so that each of these places becomes your birthright, your choice, and yours to navigate.
You can trust me to love you, no matter what.
Whatever it takes, no matter what.