Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

We all need a little help

Be curious. Ask why. Be brave. Ask for help.

My son and I have good discussions. Great discussions. Hard discussions. I remember lots of knocking and kicking when he was in the womb, no doubt he was crafting scripts for the endless questions he had for us. He was the kid who taught himself to tie his shoes, ride a bike, and construct the perfect paper airplane. Once he figured things out, he taught others. I distinctly remember when our youngest was potty training, and I heard him holler, “Come on Zavy, I’ll teach you how to hook your heinie to the potty!” 

So his questioning for us did not involve actually needing us, but rather knowing what was behind the “why” for all things. Yes, way before Simon Sinek started excavating WHY, our guy had the word turned inside out. 

Here’s a sampling:

Age 3: “Why do you and Papa get to stay up and we have to go to bed?”

Age 5: Second day of kindergarten: “What?! Again?! Why do I have to go again? I already went to kindergarten yesterday?”

As he got older, the questioning was focused on trying new things… “Can I play baseball and soccer, then give archery a try, and why not gymnastics and tennis? Maybe mountain biking and guitar?” Unicycling sounds fun and the saxophone – let’s get one! Swimming grabbed his attention for a minute as did basketball and even church retreats. Chess was fleeting…too much sitting. Then came badminton, ping pong, rollerblading, skateboarding, Ripstick, scooter-riding, cross-country, and frisbee golf. He asked and we said yes.

The mess that is Middle School kicked off with the classics from our son (and daughter): 

“Why can’t I have a cell phone in 6th grade? EVERYONE else has a cell phone, Mama…I – mean – everyone!” My daughter chimed in, “LITERALLY EVERYONE!!!” 

I answered as candidly as possible, “First off, because we are not everyone.” AND (my go-to answer for all injustices questioned) “Everyone does things differently.” 

High school hit me with: “Why can’t my curfew be the same as all my friends?” My answer: “Simple. Because nothing good happens between 11:00 pm and 3:00 am…NOTHING! AND everyone does things differently.” 

I was learning to arrive armed with answers and time to process the reasoning because there’s not a teenager out there who accepts your first response. Unless of course you were born before 1975…then “Because I said so.” was the final answer.

At our son’s conferences in 8th grade, his teachers each applauded him for asking great questions. “Not the off-the-wall questions either.” one teacher stressed. “He is content-driven.” Apparently, all that inquisitive training at home prepared him for school. He mentioned later that in elementary school he hesitated to raise his hand for fear of getting the wrong answer. We do that…worry about being wrong, embarrassed, or judged. 

“More importantly” one teacher continued, “He asks for help if he needs it.” 

Whoa! This coming from the same kid that hollers for the universe to hear, “No! I don’t need help with my homework!” Maybe my barrage of “Do you need help, now? Now? Now?” was exhausting.

I have always been intrigued by the reasons some people ask for help and others don’t. There is the number one worry the answer will be “No” – but also, Stanford social psychologist Xuan Zhao, flat out says people are worried about inconveniencing others if they ask for help. Others may fear that asking for help would make them appear incompetent and inferior –even children as young as seven years old believe this. At some point, all children struggle to ask for help, but kids are not alone, adults also have a fear of exposing themselves to the need for help. It takes courage and vulnerability to ask.

Author Brene Brown says, “When you cannot accept and ask for help without self-judgment, then when you offer other people help, you are always doing so with judgment…when you don’t extract worthiness and you think, ‘I’m just helping you because one day I’m gonna need help’ — that’s connection. That’s vulnerability.” So mustering up the courage to ask for help is dependent on how we see ourselves and others.

What I learned:

My son leans in the direction of calculated answers. His brain craves knowing why – like a flower covets the sun. Raising kids who ask questions is a challenge because we don’t always have answers. I scoured Barnes and Noble shelves looking for a “what to say when your child asks…”. No luck. Thinking back, if I could tell my 16-year-old self one thing it would be to ASK! Ask for help on the physics test, ask someone to go to prom, ask why the point was taken off on your essay, or how you can get your grade up. Ask if you can go to the Braves playoff game or skiing with a friend. ASK!

Moreover, there comes a point when we all need help. Someone to take your daughter to swim practice, help find your dog, move a couch, take you to the airport. Then suddenly AARP starts sending us magazines reminding us how old we are and our need for help increases. Maybe it’s a ride to the eye doctor or church – maybe we need help fixing a fence or simply someone to hold our hand when we are disoriented with grief.

The good news is –  when we ask for help, it is absolutely cathartic for those who say, “Yes, I can.” The gift of time gives us a sense of meaning and purpose… 

For it is in the giving that we receive. St. Francis of Assisi’s words ring true.

We each had a cavern in our souls filled with wonder and curiosity…all we have to do is set aside our fears…and simply ask. Ask why? Ask for help. Ask.

Thanks for joining me,


“And when you’re done, you may take a long, quavering breath and say, ‘Help.’ People say ‘help’ without actually believing anything hears that. But it is the great prayer, and it is the hardest prayer, because you have to admit defeat — you have to surrender, which is the hardest thing any of us do, ever.”

 Anne Lamott –Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Watch him take the shot!

I’ve heard kids spell love——-T–I–M–E.

Every day in backyards, schools, and playgrounds the words “Look!” “Watch this!” bounce through the air carrying the excitement kids get when they MUST have a witness to watch them succeed — just one set of eyes to see them weave through the monkey bars, jump off the swing, do their first back walk over, hurtle over anything or make the shot.

In fifth grade, I was unstoppable on the monkey bars. My signature move was the “cherry drop”. It was risky and exhilarating, and I did it nearly a zillion times. Here’s how it works. Pull yourself up to the bar. Sit and balance on the top, point your hands straight out in front of you, fall backward quickly, hook your knees to the bar, flip your body over, and land in front of the bar in the soft, warm New Mexico dirt (at my elementary school anyway). That’s a cherry drop. 

Fast forward to today and simply stepping off a curb feels like Everest with my old ankles, so the thought of purposely falling backward while on a small metal bar and landing in the dirt is completely terrifying. Although – when you’re a kid, the feeling of landing such a feat – sticks with you forever. 

But what left an imprint on my 10-year-old heart more than anything else, was having someone there to watch me land – or not land – the flip. Someone who listened when I said, “Look!!” …someone who swiveled around caught my eye and took TIME to be there…someone who was awed that I even tried.

Isn’t that how childhood and — well — life works? Someone stops, wedges out of a moment of their day, and listens to you, believes you can, or helps you get back up and try again. 

Maybe it’s a parent, who shows up locked and loaded with love, support, optimism, and tons of faith that we can do IT. 

Whatever IT is…

They believe we can…then we believe and suddenly – little tiny seeds like on a dandelion float through the air planting confidence, a connection, and a conversation for later. I recently read there is an increase in the number of children needing speech therapy due to the lack of interaction between the child and the parent. Imagine that, this one free commodity we have called time slips away and our focus bends toward money, status, and stuff rather than being truly and sincerely present for our kids and families.

What I learned:

I can still remember when the kids would play out back all day and if my attention was scarce, inevitably I would turn my head and see my son’s eyes peering at me through the window…waiting. If I missed the shot, the goal, the jump, or the flip, there was always an instant replay, either spoken or delivered in slow motion. Thankfully, like in most sports today, the replay counts for inattentive parents.

I know how easy it is to get steamrolled by the day-to-day craziness of life – but there is nothing as priceless as simply watching your child play or better yet, tossing the football or slamming the Hungry Hungry Hippo yourself. Our kids are older, but there are still insane bike jumps to watch, swim times to marvel at, amazing trick shots to video, and brave back flips I’m summoned to watch.

It might be a three-point shot or a monkey bar miracle but some kid somewhere is pining for their moment to be seen.

So right now. Just stop. Stop swiping and texting, streaming or tweeting, cooking or cleaning. Just stop and watch him take the shot. Watch the look on his face when he does it. Watch him keep trying when he doesn’t. Watch now because too soon he’ll stop asking.

My apologies for the late post on this tax day.

Thanks for joining me,


Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

An Easter Reflection on Sacrifice and Change


As Holy Week ends, and the Easter season begins, I’m reminded of how things change over the years. Growing up, Holy Week was a quiet time. Usually, we would have Thursday and Friday off from school and prep the menu for Easter Sunday. Somewhat of a nod to Thanksgiving dinner, Easter had a few unique dishes thrown into the mix. One vivid memory is my Aunt Eugenia’s salad.

Always toting items from her Amway inventory, she was the aunt who rode a motorcycle, brought her bird “Bonita” to visit, and played the accordion for Sunday mass. I’ve been told I have the same sharp-slanted nose as her. She’d arrive carrying a big bowl and tongs likely from a recent Tupperware party. She had a knack for chopping everything in the salad super-tiny like a Cuisinart before they were a thing. There were little bits of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and other minuscule items that even my keen 10-year-old eyes couldn’t identify. The salad dressing was made in one of those glass containers where you drop the Italian seasoning powder in and shake it up with vegetable oil. Partially hydrogenated? Who cared? It was delicious.

The salad sat alongside ham, mashed potatoes, and red chili (in lieu of gravy). Another headliner was Mom’s pineapple salad. Made with cream cheese, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple (canned – likely in the cupboard alongside several boxes of Jello), and topped with shiny maraschino cherries, it was a Dad-favorite. Maybe because it was a dessert disguised (if only by the name) as a “salad” or maybe because it was a once-a-year wonder. I’m always amazed when we stumble upon a gem of a recipe and it’s only made once a year. Perhaps that’s the formula. It always tastes good…but only once a year.

The pineapple phenomenon reminded me of one of my volunteering gigs at NPR. During a break, a talk show host named Rose with a cool, smooth voice and long dreds said, “I love your blouse!” Thrilled with my outfit choice, I told her my husband gave it to me. “Great taste!” she replied. After that day, I wore the heck out of that shirt holding on to the compliment as we do. Then one day one of my students probed, “Is that your favorite shirt ‘cause you wear it ALL the time.” And so it happened, I had worn out the beauty of the blouse. That could be the pineapple salad’s story. Better to pace the good stuff.

I digress…

The menu was ready. Then, on Holy Thursday as we loaded up the station wagon and headed to St. Anne’s Church, Dad leaned over the seat with his annual reminder: “Today’s mass is a long one!” This, coming from the man who, when Father Gallie’s sermons would go over 10 minutes would circle his hands in the air as if tying a bow on an invisible gift while whispering, “Let’s tie it up now Father.” We’d all giggle secretly praying Father got the hint.

Typically, Dad would deliver the readings as a lector, and Mom would play the organ. I had a choice to either turn pages for Mom or try to sit still with my sisters for the two hours of feet washing and the Last Supper. Up the stairs, I climbed to the choir loft for my bird’s eye view.

Under the cloudy Good Friday skies, we would attend services at 3:00 pm sharp every year. I still remember the cold, empty altar and solemn sentiment inside the Church. Mom reminded us, “This is the one day we don’t need to genuflect and we don’t call it a mass. It’s a service.” An all-knowing Catholic, she went on to explain why and I said “Ohhhh….” holding out the word as if I was listening, but knowing I wouldn’t remember. Although back then I knew I could ask her anything, anytime I needed to – – you know, that time of life when you think your parents are going to live forever and moments stand still like lighthouses shining bright. 

Saturday we buckled in for another “long one”. I really loved that mass. Maybe it was seeing a lot of babies being baptized or because I was kept busy turning pages for Mom as she switched from organ to piano. But I highly suspect it was the fact that we could officially indulge in whatever we had “given up for Lent” immediately after mass.

One Easter weekend, we visited my oldest sister at New Mexico State University. That was the year I gave up soda for Lent – I admit, it wasn’t a HUGE sacrifice, as we rarely had soda in the house except for Dad’s RC Cola and a 7Up if we had a stomach ache. But after Holy Saturday Mass that year, I remember going out for pizza right after mass and getting the coldest most delicious Shirley Temple ever. It was served in one of those big red plastic cups, a staple all pizza joints had. I even got a refill.

Over the years, my view of Lent became less soda and more sacrifice. In college, a friend of mine and I vowed to say a Rosary every day, together. During the long drive to San Diego for spring break we prayed, after going out with friends we prayed and even before watching Shamoo jump through hoops, we prayed the Rosary. Yup. I was wild and crazy then too. 

What I learned:

Today, unless kids attend a school starting with the word “Saint” it’s likely they will be in class during Holy Week. Even Good Friday. Because times are different. Holy Week just seemed holier back then. Calendars are filled with games, practices, and activities with church fitting into the gaps. 

Like anything else, age readjusts the lens on what matters. What we sacrifice, what we lack, what we share, what we just don’t need. For some, Lent might be about giving up chocolate, complaining less, serving at a homeless shelter, and maybe even blogging.

Perhaps we all need an annual reminder of what we overuse, underdo, and ignore. Something that forces us to stare sacrifice in the face and see who blinks first. 

Whatever I do, EVERY DAY, Lent or not, I pray it will make a difference.

I often think, if I could pass a little Post-It Note on to God about my writing, I would say, “Please let my stories help others realize they are not alone in this one wild and precious life you’ve given us. Help me to offer them a little chuckle, a tiny connection, and a chunk of hope when it’s just too much. And God (not yet!), but please save me a seat up there …I’ll bring you a special pineapple salad you’re just going to love!”


Thanks for joining me.

See you next week,


On justice and sacrifice:

“We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice…Ms. Parks leaned back smiling. ‘Ooooh, honey, all that’s going to make you tired, tired, tired.’ We all laughed. I looked down, a little embarrassed. Then Ms. Carr leaned forward and put her finger in my face and talked to me just like my grandmother used to talk to me. She said, ‘That’s why you’ve got to be brave, brave, brave.’ All three women nodded in silent agreement and for just a little while, they made me feel like a young prince.”

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Posted in empty nest, Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

When the nest empties…

we never forget when it was full


I said something for the first time today. 

In pursuit of a pen, I reached into the junk drawer (grumbled about cleaning it out) and picked up a mechanical pencil with no top, wrapped in tape, and the cylinder was empty. Harper, our 8-year-old neighbor was over and said, “Why does the pencil look like that?” I held up the plastic pencil remains fiddling with them in my hands and said, “Well, when my son lived here, he would recycle these and use them for projects he would build.” 

Whoa…Past tense. “…when my son lived here …” I heard it. 

Then I felt it. My heart did that sinking thing when it secretly knows the past is, well, past…and life within the walls of our home will never be the same. 

That was then…

I thought back to when the kids were little. We’d set up obstacle courses in the backyard with logs to balance on, hula hoops to maneuver through, and barriers to tackle. My husband managed the stopwatch narrating along the way, and I held the video camera–because in my mind documenting meant the moment wouldn’t (couldn’t) go away. 

Our oldest son would go first, his eyes planning the most efficient, logical, and fastest path, no ladder too tall, no tunnel too narrow, no risk too great. Our youngest son would follow, arms flailing, adding cartwheels, leaps, and spins along his path to ensure the most fun could be had on the journey. Finally, our daughter, the oldest, would lean out of the screen door, Harry Potter book in hand “What’s the fastest time?” she’d ask while slipping on any shoes that were handy and pushing her curls away from her face with the back of her hand the way she does. She’d quickly survey the course, hustle to the starting line next to her brothers and yell, “READY Papa!” Up, over, in, and out, she dashed through the course with her signature audible breathing making it clear she was working to win. Once she held the new record, the screen door closed with a bang, book, glasses, and our current winner once inside again. The boys would then clamor to surpass her time and the cycle continued.

I play the kids’ childhood moments in my mind’s Viewfinder all the time–clicking through the first days of school, family trips, awards won, races lost. I think about who leaves toothpaste in the sink, who can tolerate “all that crunching” and who will empty the top rack of the dishwasher. One common thread – as if running the backyard course, they have all become unstoppable-each blazing their own trail, no matter the obstacles. 

This is now…

We had our kids 15 and 18 months apart. Total 3. So…in the last two years, we’ve had two high school graduates and in 2024, our youngest will flip his tassel as we say farewell to all of the high school pomp and circumstance.

And as quickly as they graced our every, single day for 18 years, off they go.

As our first two started their journeys outside the context of our family, it was beyond hard. But all I could picture was our unstoppable daughter out in the world discussing the current issues and immigration policies with peers, laughing heartily at her friends’ jokes, and making Spotify song lists with her new people.

She is right where she needs to be. But boy do I miss her.

Then our oldest son who always came out to greet us, carry in the groceries, and asked SO MANY “Can I?” questions – the stamina of a cheetah, he never tired of hearing, “No.” He’s the guy to call when the car won’t start, the path needs clearing or the couch won’t fit through the awkward doorway. He follows Mark Twain’s words, “ I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” 

He too is right where he needs to be. But boy do I miss him too.

Our youngest is our mainstay. The traditionalist. He knows where the holes are in the wall to hang the birthday banner draping the kitchen window five times a year, where the angel food cake pan is kept (and how to use it), and is always clad in workout clothes as if a “sporting” emergency could spring up anytime, he’s the kid that will be there on your happiest or loneliest day and come loaded with snacks and goofy jokes. 

Soon he’ll pack up and our nest will be very empty. 

Boy, I’m going to miss that nest.

I recently read an article about a killer whale mother who, instead of having more offspring, decided to take care of her one son for over twenty years. Male orcas are massive, not as nimble as their moms, and require a lot of food. This particular orca mom would typically dive down for salmon, bring one up and split it with her son. Once the male relies on his mom to supply him with the extra food, his dependency becomes too great to survive on his own. Therefore, in these situations, it is said when an orca mother dies, her son will also die within the next couple of years. 

This story resonated with me as I thought about how much I would love for our kids to all be here, at home, together again. Playing outside, laughing, competing, and crushing obstacles. Sure, I’ve done my share of enabling by bringing the forgotten saxophone or “co-writing” an essay or two, but I’ll be damned if these kids aren’t ready for this one shot at life. Therefore, unlike the mother orca, I am NOT splitting my salmon with them anymore, I don’t care how much protein it has!

What I’ve learned:

Back in August, when packing up the kids for college, I stopped and really listened to the sounds of our morning. I held onto them with clenched fists because somehow through the cacophony of yells and stomps, blenders and constantly running water came the harmony of our home. But eventually, even the best of bands have artists who seek standalone stardom. Simon split from Garfunkel and still performs today with a little less hair and a lot of notoriety. So as they should, our family paths have split. I struggle to marvel at the space between us because letting go is really, really hard. Thankfully we have our stories, love, and of course, Facetime. 

Thanks for joining me,


“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”

Ann Landers