Does it have to be the one who screams the loudest?

Sugarhouse, Utah

Moments ago I sat in the orthodontist’s office.  My oldest son was getting his braces off. His braces came off easily. 

“Do you plan on keeping your wisdom teeth?” The dental assistant asked him.

“Yes.” We both replied.

“Well, they are coming in straight. So I say why not.” She responded and continued, “I just want to make sure we get this right and it is hard to get impressions of wisdom teeth. They are so far back.”

After five tries, they were (finally) able to get the right teeth impressions retainer molds. I was impressed with her care and her fortitude. Soon we would be on our way.  We just needed orthodontist to polish my son’s teeth. We sat. We waited. And we waited some more. As we waited, a woman holding a notebook, (who I later found out was a new employee). With her walked in the lovely dental assistant. Shortly after that, a mother and daughter came in. The girl (probably around twelve years old) sat in the dental chair next to my son’s. My mind drifted as I remembered the days of individual dental rooms. The newer, assembly-line-style orthodontia surely makes appointments faster and enables the orthodontist to move swiftly from chair to chair. Consequently, I imagine it also makes things more cost effective. My sons definitely seem to enjoy seeing that they are not the only ones who have to wear like sixty different rubber bands in their mouth.

As my son and I waited, we watched as the assistant readied the girl’s station.  At once the girl’s mom stood up and warmly said,

“My daughter does better if you tell her what you will be doing first. She likes it if you walk her through the process.”

“Of course.” The assistant responded and then sweetly explained the next step.

I was amazed.  She was the same assistant who had just taken five impressions of my sons’ teeth.

“We use this sand to make it easier for the braces to adhere…” she continued.

It was now 11:00 a.m. My son had been at the orthodontist since 8:00 a.m. I saw his anxiety. He had an AP test at noon. He looked at his watch. He needed to leave.

As my son’s face grew pale, I could not ignore what was happening next to us. The girl was screaming. Her mom was standing with her fists clenched. The woman with the notebook sat silent.  The assistant calmly and gently continued,

“Now we are going to place these trays in. I have not seen this process hurt anyone. I do not think it will hurt you.”  

“Hey honey. They are going to tell you what is going to happen. You can do this.” The mother said.

My son sat silent and wide eyed.

The girl began to weep. Then sob. Now she was wailing. That is when I saw the mother cry.  She stood up, turned her back and looked like she was making a call.

“My tooth. My tooth. My tooth hurts.” The girl shrieked as other assistants gathered to help.

Another assistant walked up and slowly walked back. The girl loudly pleaded,

“I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! This is going to hurt. It is going to hurt. I can’t!”

The mother turned back, looked at her daughter and said,

“This is so embarrassing. I am so embarrassed.”

I looked at my son. He reminded me that it was now 11:15 a.m.

“I know.” I whispered and continued, “We will make sure you are out of here in time. I promise.”

Then I stood up and walked to the assistant who had walked back. She was standing behind a wall.

“Hey there. My son has an AP test at noon. When will the doctor be ready?” I asked and continued,  “His day is so busy. He does not have time to polish his teeth later.” 

“I could stand by his door and usher him to you when he is done.” She kindly said.

As she walked toward his office, the doctor’s door opened and he walked out. Together the three of us walked into the treatment room.

The assistant began to advocate for us. Before she could finish her sentence, the three of us were in a wash of the young girl’s screams.  The doctor pushed past her words and sprinted to the girl, who was now surrounded by all available staff.

My son sat quietly.

I sat down. As the doctor huddled around the girl, I made eye contact with the assistant. I smiled. I pointed at my son and I pointed at my watch.

Now touching the girl’s shoulder, the doctor said, “Let’s give her a minute. Let’s have her sit up.”

As I listened, I thought, “they haven’t even started. No. Really. They have not even started working on her.”

Athens, Greece

I remembered all those tantrum days, specifically in grocery stores. My sons were two and four and then three and five years old.  I remember leaving full shopping carts. I would ask my sons to calm down. I would tell them it would be ok. I would tell them,

“We are going to leave. I need you to calm down.”  

Often they would. And often their screams only intensified. Then, as my sons shrieked, I would try to collectedly lift them out of the shopping cart. Then we would leave the store.

It was less than easy. Often I had no energy to go back to the store. I resented going back to the store. I also knew it would be easier in the moment to bribe them. Sometimes I did that too.

I acutely know anxiety.  I was raised to fear and to think bad things would happen. I was raised to think things would not be ok. I also know how it feels as the stares of judging eyes wash over you.  I have no idea what was really going on with this girl. I do not know if she has a severe mental health issue, if she has PTSD, or if she was being indulged. I do not know if it is my place to know her story. All I can do is have compassion for her, the staff and my son. I do.

Ultimately, my son is my responsibility. And in this moment, even though my son was not screaming, he was in distress.

Sugarhouse, Utah

He is graduating in four weeks. He leaves for college at the end of the summer. This is his second AP test in two days. True story: Yesterday during his Chemistry AP Test over the loud speaker the school announced that a student had committed suicide on school grounds. Shortly after that, the school counselor stopped the exam to explain. She left. Then completely shocked and broken-hearted, the kids continued their exams. We are still processing this extreme and confusing sorrow.

So, yes, as my son sat silent in that orthodontist’s office, I felt protective:

“Why can’t this be easier for him? Why won’t the screaming girl leave? Can’t her mom take her away until she gets it together?”  

I do not know.

The orthodontist eventually came over. He put on his gloves and began to work. We actually really like him. As he polished my son’s teeth, I saw blood oozing. My son did not react.

The girl continued to scream. He face was purple and choked. She was hyperventilating. Her mom was crying.

As I looked at my son’s bleeding mouth, I kept thinking,

“It is bleeding everywhere. Man, that has to hurt.” I asked the doctor, “Does that swelling get better?”

“It does.” He thoughtfully said.

The doctor was done.

I remembered watching other kids get their braces off. Usually they celebrate. Today my son heard screams. I asked another assistant if there was anything else. She seemed distracted. I think we all were.

She quickly recovered and asked, “Did they give you a bag of candy?  Kids like the bag of candy.”

“No.”  I said.

She ran away and came back with a bag filled with Kit-Kats.

“Does he like Kit-Kats?” She asked.

“Yes.” I said.

She handed me the bag and I handed it to him.

“Thank you.” I said as my son and I left. He drove his car. I drove mine.

At home he could not find his keys.

“Mom, mom. I can’t find my keys. I need to go.” He screamed and continued to scream, “I have my test. I need to go.”

We rushed. We looked upstairs. We looked downstairs. We looked everywhere.

“Did they fall out of your pocket it?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but mom I have to go.”

Bordeaux, France

Then I looked outside. I found the keys in the ignition of his car as my other son quietly waiting for me to take him to school. (He also has an AP test at noon).


Tagged :

Be A Better Mom By Making Peace With Your Mom

The other day I took both boys to the orthodontist. Kyle usually drives himself, but his car was in the shop. I had just returned from the dentist. I had two fillings — both related to clenching my teeth. It was lunchtime and the waiting room was clearing out. As I sat in the orthodontist’s office all numb-mouthed, the orthodontist’s wife, who also manages the offices, came up to talk with me.

The Day the Boys Got Braces, Salt Lake City, Utah, October, 2016

“Beth, you Adams’ have had quite a year. How are you all doing?” She asked.
“Yes. We have. With Eli’s broken jaw, Dave’s bad concussion and my broken hand, you would think we were accident prone. I like to say we are active.” I laughed and then explained why I was  also talking funny. She said I didn’t have to talk, but then continued the conversation. After telling me about her six kids and telling me,

“The last one to leave home is the hardest.”

“I have the two. Kyle and Eli,” I said.
“Wow!” she said, and continued, “I just assumed you had more.”
Ok. I never hesitate to mention the truth anytime anyone, I mean anyone, including the sweet wife of my sons’ orthodontist, says anything about how I should have more children,  which is,

“Yes. I wanted more. I tried for years.”

She was silent. And sure, that particular sentence usually does  stop people in their tracks. My guess is within about ten seconds, she had done the math, and realized that Kyle will quickly be followed by Eli. Meaning, I am also at the end.

I am sure she was relieved when I was suddenly called back to talk to talk the orthodontist. Wait. Maybe she just #911s him when things get uncomfortable.

Anyway, with Kyle graduating from high school in two months and Eli graduating in two years, of course I have found myself extra reflective and totally weepy. My mom was right when she said,

“It will go by fast. Enjoy every moment.”

Us, Park City, Utah, December, 2007

Honestly, I think I have. Nevertheless, I still cannot believe we are here. In fact, I am shocked! Wasn’t  Eli just practicing his pogo stick moves for the elementary school talent show? Didn’t Kyle just get bitten by a snake? Wasn’t Eli just learning to ride a bike? Ay-yi-yi!

Instead, here is where we are. I am surrounded by two giant and amazing man-children. Kyle is trying to figure out how he can he bleed every last moment out of high school. While he is making all the minutes count, he is also trying to decide which college to attend, how he can order a tux for prom, can he will handle life away from his girlfriend if he goes away for college. Then there is the huge concern regarding his braces. The question: will he have them off in time for graduation? We are doing everything possible to make that happen and we also understand why Kyle keeps complaining of these pounding headaches that hurt above his eyes and along his jaw.

“You might be clenching your teeth. We get it. Dude, life is stressful.”

Eli is not far behind. Not only is he planning his cross country running career, he is pining for the day his braces to come off, waiting for the snow to melt so he and the dudes can go mountain bike riding, and wondering if his dad will help him upgrade his gaming computer. Eli also thinks that college away from home might be very cool. What? Eli, man, you are my bestie. I thought you would stay close. In truth, I am certain Eli will soar near or far. We imagine he will write for Saturday Night Live or for Seth Meyers, or even the next Bob’s Burgers’ franchise.

The Boys, Avebury World Heritage Site, Avebury, Wiltshire, England

Ultimately, my love for my boys has always been and will always be fierce, protective, long winded and powerful. I will cut anyone who crosses their path. Ask the ones I have cut. They will tell you that I do not mess around. I will also do my best to give them the space they need to carve their own path. I want them to follow their dreams. I want them to fly — wherever they want to fly to. Of course I also want them to make good choices, be kind, thoughtful and gracious.

Alas, how do I transition from fiercely dedicated day-to-day mom to the mom who wants help them spread their wings? I have been worried about this moment since Dave and I started making babies. In fact, I always believed that if I modeled healthy boundaries and relationships that the boys and I would find healthy ways to ebb and flow. I always thought it was about maintaining a dedicated relationship with them. I like my sons, so that is easy to do. I also think Kyle and Eli know I am always there for them. I am loyal and I have been their strongest advocate. For them, I have and I will fight fire, monsters, bullies, or stupid people. I also see the importance and the need for them to live their own life, even if it is a life that I cannot imagine. I truly believe that they need to stand in their space, not mine.

Further, I was convinced that if I modeled a healthy and reciprocal relationship with my mom and my mother-in-law, that my relationship with my boys would remain strong. It was not hard. Dave’s mom and my mom are good people and are important to me. What they both do not realize (and do not need to realize) is that I spent way too much time trying to make sure they were happy, or better, I spent way too much time trying not to hurt their feelings, get along with them, and to accommodate them.  But then, I began to see that maybe I missed the most significant lesson of all.  In my attempt to show them my sons that I love my mom and mother-in-law, I forgot to stand in my own space, or better, I made accommodations and concessions for the women in my own life thinking it would reflect on how my sons treat me (kind of selfish really).

The boys back in my blogging days, Salt Lake City, Utah

For my mom, I stopped blogging. Ha ha, any of you early bloggers out there may think I stopped blogging because Heather Armstrong ( and I had a fight a million years ago. I wish it were that easy. I stopped blogging because it hurt my mom’s feelings. Again and again she told me how my words hurt her. Then I let her feedback dictate the terms of what I wrote. Ultimately, I did not how to reconcile integrity in my writing with breaking my mom’s heart so I stopped blogging.  Sure, in her defense, maybe I could have been more mature about how I shared. I think if I had trusted myself, I would have gained that maturity. I think I have. I bet if I had kept writing, I would have arrived at a place where my mom would feel less pain and more pride regarding the words I put out to the world. If not, at least I would have learned to stand in my own space, not hers. At least I would have the confidence to know that I am not trying to hurt her. Instead I was weak and I did not have faith in either of us to grow. As a result, I  was careful. I went out of my way not to hurt my mom’s feelings.  And of course, by trying not to hurt her feelings, I always managed to hurt them anyway. My guess is that writing this will may hurt her feelings now.

In the end, our relationship did evolve. Instead of sharing myself, I closed myself off. Now I simply avoid any sort of complicated interaction. I sincerely try to agree with and support  her. I respect her perspective and try to reassure her that things are ok. Upon reflection, I only wish I would have seen that had I continued blogging, we would have been ok. And actually, I think my mom and I were much closer way back when we were dialoguing about how I was hurting her online.

So in attempt to learn from my own experiences, I want to give that openness to my sons, even when it stings. Wish me luck.

My mother-in-law near the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Now onto my mother-in-law. I value her opinion probably to a crazy fault. She feels very differently about blogging than my mom. Instead of wanting things private, she is outspoken, often conveying how broken-hearted she is that I do not write about her online.

Here is a little story to illustrate why writing about family is difficult gymnastics routine at best, and why I understood my mom’s needs for privacy. Truth and perspective are messy:

…There we were. We were at the end of a long trip. My mother-in-law still insists she paid for all of it. She didn’t.  I know even the suggestion that she did not pay for our entire trip infuriates her. My guess is the fact that I am writing that she did not pay for everything will bother her more than anything else I write.

Here is the thing.  She takes both Dave’s brother and sister on trips, Mediterranean cruises, and more trips. She also helps them out a ton financially. We have always been grateful that she has been a position to lend Dave’s siblings a hand. That is a gift in of itself. We are also glad she can take Dave’s brother and sister on these fun adventures. In fact, we have always been cool with the generosity she shows them. This trip was her gift.

This trip was her gift.We are grateful for her gift. It was thoughtful.  She was thoughtful. Unfortunately, I think she undermines her generosity. For instance, often when she takes say Dave’s brother to Spain, or his sister on another Alaskan cruise, she brings up that this one trip as a justification as to why everything is equal among the siblings. First. Let me be clear.  We do not care that she takes Dave’s siblings on adventures. Second, No. It is not equitable. And third, it will never be equitable. And fourth, we do not care. We are happy she can do this for Dave’s siblings. Ok. I sound a little bitchy. I feel a little bitchy. And actually to move beyond my bitchy and to give her gift credibility, I think it is ok to be honest and acknowledge that we paid for part of it ourselves. Like for starters, we paid for our airfare to get on said trip [wink, wink].  And just because we paid for some of the trip in no way undermines that she was generous. She was. And being honest about the parameters, keeps it real, keeps it valid, and allows us to hold space not only for her gift, but what we did too. Does that make any sense? And do you understand why writing publicly about my mother-in-law may not be the best plan? Throwing caution and common sense to the wind, I will take an even deeper dive, and continue our story (and yes, it includes her).

Dave, his mom and the boys, Hampton Court Palace, Molesey, East Molesey, England, July 2014

It was July, 2014 and we were staying in Killarney, Ireland. It was our last day at our quirky bed and breakfast. We were sitting at breakfast in a room full of hotel guests. I suggested we stay at this bed and breakfast because I know my mother in law loves quaint bed and breakfasts. As breakfast finished, my mother-in-law looked up at me and proclaimed,

“Beth, everyday I read your blog. Everyday you write about Davy and the boys. You never say anything about me. You never post any pictures of me.  I feel invisible.” (If you have read up until here, can you see why?)

I felt embarrassed that she publicly called me out this way. I felt sad that I had made her sad. Then she sat there quietly glaring at me.

I responded. “I do not write about friends or family. It is kind of my rule. I tend to hurt people when I convey my perspective.”

I paused and followed with, “This has been a complicated trip. I am tired and edgy. And I do not want to write anything that will hurt you.”

She assured,

“You already have!” I wanted to say, (but didn’t),

“Seriously. I know where opening my mouth gets me.”

Dave and his mom at the Cliffs of Moher, Lislorkan North, Liscannor, Co. Clare, Ireland

I wanted to show her what I had privately journaled (and why I try to follow the don’t-publicly-hurt-people rule).  I should have shown her all the pictures I had quietly taken of her and her son. I refrained back then. I will share our story now:

Dave, Easy E and his mom in York, England, July, 2014

We were at a little family owned pub restaurant in Eastern Wales a few miles from Tintern Abbey. My mother-in-law asked that we order three desserts to share. The yummy desserts arrived. My mother-in-law sat at the table while Dave and the boys first stood and then eventually sat around her. She took a few large bites. Abruptly she swatted at Eli.

“Stop. Stop. STOP!” she proclaimed.

She decided Eli had taken too much of the mutually shared desserts and told him as much. I was watching. Regardless, reality had no impact. She looked at Eli, who was standing there holding a clean spoon, and assumed he was the one stealing all of her precious dessert. Both Dave and Kyle had taken a few bites. Still Eli had not had taken any. After she started scolding Eli (again), Dave and Kyle stopped eating. Undeterred, like a fast move train, she was convinced so she scolded and berated Eli (age 11), the youngest person in our group. Dave, snapped, asking her to stop.

“Mom, he is not eating your dessert! He has not had any dessert. I thought you suggested we all share. Mom. Leave him alone.”

She would not stop yelling at Eli. Dave circled her and demanded she leave Eli alone, urging,

“Mom, knock it off! Eli is not eating your dessert! Really! You need to stop this now!”

She ignored Dave.

Us and Dave’s mom, The Fountain Inn, Trelleck Grange, Llanishen, Chepstow, Wales (near Tintern Abbey) (Notice Eli’s clean spoon)

Steadfast, she persisted, gobbling up her dessert and reprimanding Eli (who was now terrified and standing a few feet from the table). I honestly thought my head would explode. I wanted to jump across the table and throttle her. I wanted to scream, “LEAVE MY SON ALONE!”

In that exact moment, a story she often tells ran through my mind. It goes like this. When Dave was very young his aunt rebuked him for eating popsicle in her living room. I remember how upset my mother-in-law was as she recalled this story to me. Dave does not remember the story. Maybe Eli will forget this moment.  I hope so. My mother-in-law never forgets. She shares it with me almost every time I see her. Surely she would correlate, right? No. In this moment she was all tunnel vision. Someone was eating her dessert and she was going to fight til the death. In this moment, she was unable to see how her tunnel vision was hurting her grandson.

 As tears quietly fell down Eli’s cheeks, he motioned to me. Even though I see her as an authority figure and the mother of my husband,I needed to rescue Eli. I needed to resist my polite inclinations and fight. I needed to set a boundary. Angry, heartbroken and frustrated, I firmly asked her to stop. She swatted back,

“Well. Then. Beth. Eli needs to stop eating ALL of my dessert.”

“He is not eating ALL of your dessert!” I firmly said.

At that, Dave and I immediately stood up and asked the boys to follow us.  We walked over to the backside of the little Welsh restaurant. In his traumatized frustration, Eli said,

“I keep trying to be grandma’s friend. She never listens. She wants it her way. I don’t understand. I am done.”

We took this photo behind the inn after leaving the table. Us. The Fountain Inn, Trelleck Grange, Llanishen, Chepstow (Tintern, Wales)

Last summer (June 2017) Dave, the boys and I found our way back in Eastern Wales.  We made our way to Tintern Abbey and decided we would find our way to that little inn.  

“Hey Eli let’s find that little inn.  You can have all the dessert you want. You can have it all to yourself.”

We found the inn. We had built this place up in our memory, imagining the little farm in the back,  the great food and the welcoming innkeeper. As luck would have it (or not), we arrived too early for dinner, which meant we were also too early for dessert. The dispassionate owner could not care less about our pilgrimage. Dinner would be served in two hours. He told us we could wait or we could leave. We decided to pass, and probably ate dinner from food that was purchased at a grocery store. Nevertheless, we were there for Eli. And Eli knew it. Eli still wants his dessert.  We oblige regularly.

The Fountain Inn, Trelleck Grange, Llanishen, Chepstow (Tintern, Wales), June 2017
The Fountain Inn, Trelleck Grange, Llanishen, Chepstow (Tintern, Wales), June 2017

Here is why I am sharing this story now. Since that moment in Killarney, I realized that holding it all in or letting it all out publicly has no impact on the health of my relationships. I cannot control wether my mom likes what I write, wether my mother-in-law is happy with me, or wether Kyle and Eli’s future loves are cool with me.  Now taking a huge breath I see that what impacts my relationships is communication, trust, a willingness to listen, accept, heal, and to forgive (on all sides). 

Us, Northern Italy driving along Lake Maggiore, April, 2018

Just like my mom and Dave’s mom are responsible for their relationships with their children, I am the mom of these two boys. I am responsible to them. Meaning, my relationship with them is not dependent on how I do or don’t get along with my mom and mother-in-law. And as far as my relationship with Dave’s mom goes, I think my mother-in-law is pretty thick skinned and I should trust her. Things are not black and white. If she wants me to write about her, then I should. Hey, she might even be amused by her hoarding-desserts story or she may hate what I say. (Oh and yes, Plural hoarding desserts stories. We discovered hoarding desserts was kind of her thing. ). Maybe if I am brave enough to write, she might soften when she remembers that at the end of this trip I asked Dave to give her his first class upgrade so she could have a special flight home.

The boys and Dave’s mom at the Belfast Airport, July, 2014
Dave, Easy E and I on the plane from Belfast to Newark. Dave not only gave up his first class upgrade (to his mom), he sat in the middle. He is also wearing Kyle’s shirt because we were out of clothes. Love him!

Now back to my stuffing my stories way down my brain hole. See, what I also did by keeping this story and all the other stories hidden, is hide a part of myself, which is totally counter to what I want to teach my boys. I have encouraged them to stand in who they are. I have encouraged them to give me feedback, even the shitty feedback that either breaks my heart or calls me out. On several occasions, for instance, both boys (and Dave) have suggested that I talk (explain) way too much. We may disagree on this point, but not only should they be able to give me this feedback, I should be willing to listen and consider their perspective. Guess what? They are teaching me to be more succinct. Yay them.

And here is the big one. Along the way both boys have pleaded with Dave and me to stop fighting. (Dave and I are robust and impassioned, expletive-laden communicators, by the way). Recently, it was Eli who said to both of us,

“You need to knock it off. You are acting like bickering children.”

Eli was right.

Me and Easy I am sure this is another moment after he told Dave & I to chill out. The Tate Modern, London, England, August, 2017

But because I have been in a pattern of hiding who I am, I hid an opportunity to publicly share the fact that marriage is super hard, but marriage can also be really good. I have hidden the growth we have made as a family.  Man, I love them. I have hidden so much like. And really, I am very sorry for hiding.

Ultimately, what I realize is getting along with Kyle’s girlfriend or Eli’s future wife is not dependent on how Dave’s mom gets along with me. Just like I want my sons to carve their own path, I need to trust my own path too. I adore my sons and hope we will figure out how to stay close around all of life’s turns. I hope do not annoy Kyle’s girlfriend. I probably will. But I also get it and I do not mind. Because the people they love are important to me!

NOW I hope it is ok that I end by leaving a personal message to Kyle and Eli here.

Barafundle Bay, Wales (near Stackpole Quay)

Boys, you are my heart!

In the end and moving forward, I apologize for hiding me. There is no shame in my past or in your future. I think it is ok that I miss those days of yesteryear. Dudes, you were very cute with all of your sweet dance moves and late night jokes. I also LOVE the men you are becoming. You are both very cool.

A little about me: personally, I think it is ok that I voted for Obama and that it took a very long time to finish college. It is also ok that I am still sad that I did not live in the dorms and it is ok to say that I wish had gone to a small Midwestern liberal arts college. Ok. Sure. That means I probably would not have met Dad. And maybe that implies that yes, there would not be you. So really, because I am saying it (writing it) out loud, I am also able to come full circle and see (and say) that I ended up absolutely where I wanted to be — with you (and dad).

Please know that if you end up going to BYU, or voting for Mike Lee, not only will I still love and accept you, I will listen to you — always.

Me, Ville de Cahors, France, August, 2018

Mostly, please learn from me. I do not want to let my fear of losing you force me to hide myself anymore. My moms are strong women. Moving forward, my mom can deal with stories about our life, or she can tell me she hates my writing voice and how much pain I cause her. Nevertheless, we will both be ok. My mother-in-law and your grandma can continue to think Eli is a dessert thief, and that I am the Second-Amendment-repealing, antifa, liberal, atheist woman-who-stole-her-best-friend, your dad. But guess what? She will also be ok. I love them and I love you. And if I want you guys to be ok and feel safe being yourselves, and if I want to maintain my relationship with you, then I need to stop being so afraid of losing my mom and Dad’s mom, or mostly, I need to not be afraid of losing you.

Get it? Be you! Trust yourselves. Remember that life is a journey. No one expects you to be perfect ever  (especially not out of the gate).

I love you!
Love, Mom

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Athens, Greece: I hope the people who stole our stuff enjoy Eli’s math homework and Kyle’s completed chemistry labs

Us at the Munich, Germany International Airport


Flight from Munich, Germany to Chicago, Illinois

I noticed my phone was almost dead and my adapter was gone. Dave was sleeping. I woke him so I could scold him for taking our one remaining charger.  It is mine.

He looked at me groggy-eyed and said,

“You insisted I use it.”

Immediately, I stopped myself. I wanted to bite his head off (literally). Instead, I bit my tongue (again, literally), and apologized for jumping to conclusions.  Then Dave sweetly apologized for not giving my charger back. I am angry. I am angry at Dave. That is my uncomfortable truth. I am struggling to forgive. For that I am sorry.


Almond Milk, Athens, Greece

After twenty-five hours in transit, we arrived in Athens, Greece,  I was excited and surprisingly awake. We made our way to baggage claim, picked up our luggage, which included one case of Costco Brand Almond milk. Because Almond milk is not always easy to find, that our experiment worked, which was to check a case of almond milk and have it safely travel across the world.  With luggage in hand, we walked to the car rentals,  stopping to buy two overpriced bottles of water. Across the way we noted the pharmacy we visited the last time we were in Greece.  We were all confidant as we heartedly proclaimed,

“Knock on wood. No one had a strange allergic reaction on the plane. This is going to be a good trip.”

Then we rented our unusually nice car and were on our way. As we drove there was a light rain and sunny skies in the distance.

Our Athens, Greece Rental Car
Driving into Athens, Greece

That is when Dave happily proclaimed,

“Look at that exceptional rainbow.”

He was correct. The rainbow was exquisite. It was a beautiful day and we were finally on our adventure. Our Thanksgiving trips have become a lovely tradition. It is Kyle’s senior year of high school, and this may be our last. Consequently, to say I was excited for our time together, is a complete understatement.

Our ferry to Crete was leaving at 9PM. The boys and I would have been ok sleeping, but Dave was determined that we do something purposeful. I suggested some loose alternatives. Nope. Dave needed solid specifics (not like ambling jet-lagged around Athens is a solid play, by the way).  Dave won and we drove into Athens. Athens is actually pretty cool and very gritty.  It has some of the best graffiti and street art I have ever seen.  The food is not bad either. We were there last March 2016. And as cool as the street art is, the boys and I did not want to go back. So again I suggested we do something else. Dave emphatically shot back,

“Like what?”
“How about we find something on our drive to the ferry?” I responded.
“Like what? (He said several more times.)

The warning signs were screaming. I firmly and repeatedly suggested we pull over and look at TripAdviser and Google Maps. It did not matter.  I know Dave and knew he would not yield, unless, that is I presented him with say a business plan, a plan that included a Powerpoint presentation with accompanying handouts.  I was very tired and finally gave in.

We made our way into the city and was completely relieved a few minutes later when we were unable to find parking. I hoped Dave  would follow his typical behavior in these situations, which is to get frustrated and eventually give up. Alas, I completely underestimated Dave’s resolve. The lack of parking only served to fuel his determination. We kept driving. I stopped looking for parking. I mean pulled out my phone and searched for alternatives. Dave’s frustration mounted and I saw an opportunity. For a split second I felt like I might have a chance. I began saying things such as,

“Hey, why don’t we just go for a drive, go to the grocery store and enjoy our day,” and “hey, we are so tired. Athens is crowded and dirty, why don’t we do something more relaxing?”

My words only served to solidify his will. We were now in an unfamiliar neighborhood, a mile from the center of town. That is when Dave found a spot. As he parked I plainly said,

“We should do something else. I do not think this is safe. I think someone will break into our car. This does not feel right. Please. Dave. Please, let’s push pause and just go. Really, Dave let’s not park here.”

In response to my words Dave blurted,

“Well, what else are we going to do?”

Here is there deal. I know whom I married. I am annoyingly flexible and paralyzing considerate to Dave’s steadfast vision.  I am truly the Ernie to Dave’s Bert. In truth, we are a great match. And most days my ability to bob and weave is the perfect complement to Dave’s clear focus.  Yet I still wonder if Dave knows or has considered why he is unable to easily shift his expectations. Sometimes I fight his fixed determination. Because Dave has great ideas, most days I happily go with it. Ultimately, it was Dave’s clear resolve that built a beautiful home and has spent the last few weeks tirelessly building our addition. Steadfastness is just what he does and a strong resolve serves him well. It serves us all well.

I firmly believe that his steadfastness is an inherited trait. Dave’s mom is a force. She is single-minded and often unflinchingly fixates on an idea or a perception. As a result, when she gets an idea in her head, there is very little, if anything, anyone can do to knock her off course. Because we know this, when we traveled with her a few years ago, for instance, we repeatedly asked her with the kind of directness that seems unkind,

“No. Please do not buy the London pass. We will not use it. It will go to waste.”

Nevertheless and undeterred, she bought the London pass. Of course she was surprised and also very sad when we did not use it. Kyle also shares this same single-mindedness. In fact, I would argue that their relentless is what makes the three of them such a success.

…As we pulled up to the parking spot, my heart sank. Ok. I think I have made the point that Dave is a force. And a jet-lagged me did not have the energy to fight that force. Nevertheless, the neighborhood seemed sketchy so I pleaded,

“I am not sure, but this does not feel right. I do not think we should park here.”

Parking our rental car in Athens, Greece
Parking our rental car in Athens, Greece

Dave did not respond. As he pulled into the spot, a dude on a beaten up motorcycle pulled up next to Dave’s car door. It was weird. We all said it was weird. Then Dave finished parking the car. That is when I grabbed our passports and shoved them in my purse. Then I covered my backpack with my black jacket and shoved it as far out of sight as I could. As I got out of the car, I said,

“Is there anywhere we can hide the kids’ backpacks? How can we get them safely out of sight?”

Dave snapped,

“Like where?”

I took a deep breath and asked the boys to hide their packs as best they could.

A screenshot of the Google Map where I marked our fateful parking spot, Athens, Greece
A zoomed out view of the screenshot I took of the Google Map marking where we parked, Athens, Greece

I should have done more. I should have screamed like a crazy person and demanded that we get back in the car. I should have been more kind and willing to deal with Dave’s lack-of-a-solid-plan disappointment. I was tired so was he. Instead, I caved.

Dave shut the hatch or our hatchback our rental car. As I walked around our car, I noticed his backpack up against the back window.  Then I saw the bright orange priority labels on the Almond milk case.

“Hey, why don’t we pull those orange tags off,” I said followed by, “I just don’t think that is a good place for your backpack.”

Dave pulled the orange tags off. I should have put his backpack on the floor.  I regret that I did not try to shove all the backpacks under the seats. In fairness to Dave, we travel often and all over the world. Most of the time we rent cars. As a necessity and on travel days, we have left our luggage fully exposed. Consequently, logic and experience would dictate we were safe. Alas, it was never about not having a plan. I knew we should not park where we did. My gut feelings (and Dave’s, because later he would tell me he had a bad feeling too), could be dismissed as jet-lag, right? Wrong.

Life Imitating Signs, Athens, Greece

So I let go and  on a random Athens street we left our luggage exposed. Then we walked into town. I often walk with Kyle as Eli loves to walk with Dave. Kyle would probably like to walk with the guys, but is always kind and waits for me as I pause and take things in. I am grateful for the care and friendship Kyle gives me. It is often during these times where Kyle and I get real. We had a pretty long walk toward the Acropolis to the neighborhood known as Monastiraki that lies in its shadow. As we walked, I said the following:

“Kyle. I think someone is going to break into our car. As a precaution I put our passports in my purse. At least if all of our stuff is stolen, we will be able to get out of the country.”

He agreed. I continued,

“I hope Dad will listen and trust my witch sense. I hope this moment impacts him so in the future he will be willing to go off course. You know I don’t think we should leave our car. None of us do, but here we are.” Then I paused and said, “I really hope you and Eli do not have to pay for this lesson.”

In hindsight we should have at least paid for parking, Athens, Greece

Just a few blocks from the car, as we were passing a bus stop thronged with tired commuters, a gaunt young man that kind of looked like Charles Manson was bouncing erratically from one person to the next with a menacing air. As we approached, he fixed his gaze on Eli, and reached out to him with his hand, holding a lit cigarette. Dave tried to position himself between them, and hustled Eli along, looking back after they were out of his orbit, to see that the man make a similar aggressive gesture toward Kyle and me.

The antics of this street lunatic left us all a little rattled. Another warning sign?

Half way down the block, we noticed a group of heavily armed policemen on the corner, looking at the direction of the disruptive crazy man. As we walked toward them, we hoped they might intervene, but they just kind of stood around. As we passed them, we noticed a small bulletproof police kiosk on one side of the street, and a large schoolbus-sized riot van, with more cops milling around outside. They didn’t seem to be there for any particular reason, other than the fact that the area was a plaza and public park that seemed to be a decent place for locals to hang out on a Sunday afternoon.

Again it was clear that a neighborhood where 20 police officers just hang around in a group might imply that it would be a sketchy place to park your car.


Eli, Quick Pitta, Athens, Greece
Kyle, Quick Pitta, Athens, Greece

The rest of our walk to the Monastiraki was uneventful and Athens was better than I expected. We ate at Quick Pitta. I wanted to go back to the car. Dave wanted to keep walking up the hill so we could get an Acropolis view. I love the view and was happy to oblige. By then I figured if the damage was done at least I could enjoy this moment. We walked along tiny roads and paths covered in vivid graffiti. At the top we could see the Acropolis across the way. It was the time of day where the sun is a perfect sepia light. We were amazed with feral cats and tiny churches. We made our way back. I was looking forward to the ferry and seeing Crete the next day.

Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece

Kyle and I were walking side by side. As we neared the car, I cautioned,

“I will let Dad walk ahead so if the car was broken into, he can see it first.”

Dave and Eli approached the car. It is painfully comical to recall how many times the boys and I urged Dave not to go into Athens, yet no amount of humor can erase what I heard next:

“They got our backpacks! Mom. Everything is gone.” Eli screamed.

He kept screaming and his screams turned into painful tears.


Note the case of Almond Milk in the upper righthand corner, Athens, Greece
Theft in Athens, Greece

Kyle walked up —  stunned. I think he is still stunned. I watched as an eerie sadness enveloped both boys. In that exact second I knew the direction of our trip would change. They had been violated. The things that were most personal to them had been ripped away. I did not stop it. I did not protect them. I should have fought harder.

Eli was pacing and frantic. Kyle was stoic. I was shouting at Dave,

“Dave, I asked you not to park here. I pleaded with you. I demanded. You [insert advanced expletive here] refused. You [insert all caps advanced expletive here] REFUSED!”

“I know. I know. I know.” Dave cried out.

“Why don’t you listen? Why do you get so fixed?” I screamed again. “Why are you so rigid?”

I noticed people walking by and looking at me as I screamed. Our moment is dark and very sad. My boys watched me scream at their dad. They watched their dad comprehend his responsibility.

Eli pleaded.

“Mom! Dad! Everything is gone. Everything.” Eli reached into the car and cut his hand badly on the broken glass.

Dave was now more frantic. Eli was scared and sobbing. Kyle was numb. Then Dave cried out,

“I do not know what to do. I do not know what to do.”

I had no idea what to do either. One of us suggested he find the police. I figured the police would not be able to do anything, but I also understand the importance of a police report.

Dave remembered the police kiosk around the corner, and thought maybe we could ask them for help, so he ran off in that direction, leaving us at the car. As we were sitting there for a long time, Dave was having a frustrating, exhausting, and bizarre interaction with Greece’s criminal justice system.

The cops on the corner at the bulletproof kiosk had no interest in coming to the crime scene, despite having nothing in particular to do. They informed Dave he needed to go to the police station to report the crime. They helped him find it on the map. It was over in the other direction, about a ten-minute walk. Dave ran over, taking several wrong turns on his way, and finally found a darkened building with another kiosk out front, the cop on duty informed him that he should go to the third floor to make his report. Entering the building, there was no lobby: just closed doors and a dark staircase. At the landing of each dimly lit level, there was another closed door and small placards written in Greek. No markings identifying anything or looking particularly police-like. As he entered the door on the third floor, he was in a shabby, mostly empty room, with a hallway down one side and a heavy green door with an opening in it at chest-level. As Dave entered the room, a man’s face peered out of the opening, and he beckoned Dave over. As Dave approached, saying,

“Someone broke into our car,”

he got a better look a the man and saw through the opening that there were several men in the small room behind the green door, he realized that small room was a holding cell. He turned around and walked down the hall, and saw an office that looked just like the set of “Barney Miller” or some other 1970s police TV show, with a couple of hard-boiled middle aged guys in shirts and ties sitting at small desks, and a young woman with a holster on her hip. The woman stood up, and Dave explained why he was there. Like most younger people in Greece we’d met in our travels there, she spoke decent English. She explained that he needed to report the crime at the office of the “tourist police.” She typed the address into Google Maps on his iPhone. The tourist police office was another 12 minute walk in the opposite direction of our car.

When Dave arrived at the tourist police, the man at the desk was a fatherly type with salt and pepper hair. If you wanted to cast a Greek police officer in a movie, you’d end up with this guy for sure. As Dave explained the events of that afternoon, he listened with weary familiarity.

“Athens wasn’t always like this,” he said.

He and his younger colleague gave Dave a stack of forms to fill out. While Dave filled out the forms, he and I had been carrying on a sporadic conversation over text. Eventually, the policeman realized that Dave’s family wasn’t there, and asked where is your wife and the car? He was surprised that we hadn’t packed up the car and all come to the police station together. Dave explained that we had tried to get help nearby, but had been sent to progressively farther-away places. The man suggested that Dave go get his family and the car and return. They would need to take some time typing up the police report anyway. was feeling helpless and panicked, so he just obeyed each time and went to the next place.

In the meantime, the sun was setting, it was getting cold and Eli was calming down.


Kind Strangers Helping Eli, Athens, Greece

Two men walked by and then returned a few minutes later with medical supplies. They walked up, and to clean Eli’s bleeding hand, dumped an entire bottle of Betadine on, then dressed his wounds. Eli’s hand looked much worse than it was. The men did not speak English so they called someone who did. On their flip phone I tried to speak with another kind stranger.

His English was not great. I do not speak Arabic or Greek. I assured him we were ok.

They left and came back with two bottles of water.

Kyle asked if he could go for a walk. I said,

“I need you here.”

People walked by, stared. Some stopped and asked (mostly in Greek) what happened. One woman scolded me, pointed several times, and rolled her eyes. Another man admonished,

“You parked in the bad-est of the bad parts of Greece.”

He could not emphasize this fact strongly enough. We were like,
“Dude, we know.”

Regardlesss, no one seemed to understand that we were robbed. Instead their eyes were drawn to the pool of Betadine surrounded by discarded gauze pads. It did not help that the Betadine looked like a blood bath.  A few were kind. All of them were foreigners, that is to say, non-Greek. I know this because they wanted us to know that they were not Greek. I appreciated the respect the showed us as they walked up to Kyle, asked what happened and asked what they could do.

By now Dave had been gone for some time. I was at a loss. Kyle’s phone was dead and their chargers and charger cords were gone. I knew we would miss it so I tried to get online so I could cancel our ferry. It was 8:00 AM in Utah. Eli was calm and helpful. Kyle was still quiet. I decided to text my friend Beth to see if she could get online for me. I sent her the following stream of texts:

“I need help” [send]
“Are in Greece and we were robbed” [send]
“This is Beth Adams [send]

She did not respond so I texted my friend, Emily. I did not hear back from Emily either, and wondered if she was having the same reaction.

That is when I realized Beth would never answer the phone, but instead assume my phone had been stolen. I texted:

“I am going to call you now”

It took two calls for her to answer. And yes, she thought it was a scammer.

She texted me the information I needed. Then I made the calls. While making calls and talking to Beth and now Emily, Eli stood by my side deconstructing our situation.  I love Eli’s awareness. He processes quickly and feels profoundly. Because he does, is well adjusted and heals fast.

By now we were freezing. Dave was still gone. Kyle seemed more relaxed as he talked to passers by. The two men came back with more water and checked on Eli’s hand. One of them looked at me and said,

“No English.” Then he pointed at himself and said, “Algeria,” and pointed at his friend, “He too.” Then he pulled up his flip phone again and handed it to me. I told the man on the other line that we were ok. As the two men walked off they said, “Algeria! No Greece.”

After what seemed like forever, Dave came back.

The boys outside of the Athens, Greece Tourist Police Station
The boys at the Athens, Greece Tourist Police Station
Eli’s injurred arm, Athens, Greece

He told us that the police were making a report and we need to drive back to the station so they could see the rental car. Kyle and I spread hoodies over the broken glass and sat in the back. We parked illegally (as per the policeman’s request), and went inside. As we sat on the couch, the policeman kindly admonished,

“Greece is beautiful. Don’t let this ruin your trip. You get away from Athens and you are more safe.”

As he walked away, I looked at Dave and said,

“He does not speak for us. You know that, right? Of course Dave agreed.

The boys, and Harry the police officer, at the Athens, Greece Tourist Police Station

We were at the police station for a very long time. They had a computer and a phone that we could use. Dave quickly got online to cancel the stolen credit cards and try to deal with our reservations at the ferry and hotels. Kyle and I shared my phone  so he could talk to his girlfriend and I could text Emily. Emily and Eli have a great connection and her energy is what we needed. At one point Kyle escorted me to the scary bathroom in the basement. Eli passed out on a couch. Dave and I had several tear-filled heart-to-hearts. Both boys pleaded that we get out of Greece. They were afraid. Normally I push through or assure them things would be ok. Somehow, and even if there is a lot of discomfort, they always are.  This time I knew making them stay was wrong. I also knew that logistically and financially it would be hard to stay. Just to be sure we were doing the right thing, I suggested several options like making our way to Zurich to connect with our return flights. Sure, I thought that may be impossible, but maybe the airline would take pity on us. Then I suggested we drive out of Greece to another country. I realized with most of our things stolen how impractical either of these options would be. That is when I suggested we see if we could fly home a few days early.

Dave at the Tourist Police Station, Athens, Greece

Dave made the call. That is when adrenaline faded and pure, beautiful emotion took over. I cried as I watched him sob,

“We were robbed. What they took has made it impossible for us to stay.”

I assumed they would give us a few days (like I had planned). The call agent told him there was a flight at 6AM. It was now almost 10PM. Kindly, United Airlines waived all fees and told us,

“We need to get you home.”

Me at the Athens, Greece Tourist Police Station
Kyle outside of the Athens, Greece Tourist Police Station

We found a hotel, took showers for the first time in three days, and at 4AM this morning we left for home.

Now we are on our last flight traveling from Chicago to Salt Lake City.  It is about 9:45 PM. The lights just came on. Over the loudspeaker I hear,

“We have a medical emergency. Do we have any doctor’s, nurses, medical personal, EMTs, or first responders on board? If so, please ring your call light.”

The flight attendant just made the announcement again. Then I heard a call light from somewhere on the plane. I have no idea what is happening. We heard nothing more. For the remainder of the flight there is an unusual amount of turbulence.

And maybe flying through turbulence is a good place to end. Because life is filled with turbulent moments. When we checked into our Athens Hotel, we told Dimitri, the desk agent about our robbery. He looked at Kyle and I and said,

“You have like nine or ten of these hard (turbulent) moments in your life. The sooner you learn how to move through them, the better you will be.”

Dimitri has a point.

A little family therapy. Us, Salt Lake City, Utah

Now a week out we are ok. Dave and I are ok. The boys are ok. This week has been hard. Nevertheless, I think we are closer. What I like about us is we are both willing to stretch. That is why we have agreed to listen more, especially when someone pushes pause. I love him for that. I love Dave — always.

Tagged :

Sexual Abuse Did Not Start In A Vacuum

Me in France

[Trigger Warning: authority abuse, brief mention of sexual abuse]

I specifically chose not to include the more profound abuse I have experienced. Unfortunately the experiences I included here are quietly commonplace. When I am all alone and safe, the phrase I think of are “culturally insidious, misuse of power and epidemic abuses.” In fact, I think the small acts of petty domination, verbal threatening, and entitled abuses of power have become (almost) ordinary. As a society we are not just guilty of re-victimizing women who have suffered horrific sexual assault. We are guilty of letting casual dominance slide until it is commonplace. My guess is most men who commit sexual misconduct do not start off by raping women. In fact, I would argue that sexual assault may actually be an outgrowth of entitled people throwing their weight around and misusing their power.

…There I was.
In a Brigham Young University classroom.

After the professor asked for feedback and promised he was open to whatever we had to say, I spoke up. Class finished. Two classmates and I stood in the hallway talking. My professor walked up. I asked him a question about my upcoming paper. Instead of answering, he asked me to follow him onto the elevator — alone. Obediently I followed. The doors shut. We stood in silence. Several long seconds later, we arrived on his floor. He stepped out and I followed him into his office. He shut the door behind me. I sat down across from him. Before I could ask my question, he interrupted. Assuming he forgot why we were there, I gave him the benefit when he began berating me for speaking up in class. Nevertheless, I was blindsided. He told me it was not my place to give feedback and that I should know better than to challenge him. Several times he admonished making claims such as,  “Beth, your words are unacceptable. Do not embarrass me in public again.” On and on he went until his words blurred into one powerful message:

“Beth, you are bad. I am good. Do not challenge my power!”

With my sense of right and wrong knocked off its axis, tears screamed down my face. I needed this to end. Defending myself only incited him further. I was breathless, frustrated and needed him to stop telling me how bad I was. I needed to get out of the room. Instead of realizing I could just get up and leave, I found myself apologizing. My apologies only made things worse. I was trapped. He was angry. I don’t know if it was my wet face or my silence. Eventually he finished. I left. We never talked about my assignment. A month or so later, I sent him an apology.

…Years earlier I was working on the very same Brigham Young University campus at a job I loved. My boss at the time was giving a tour to some outside visitors. I had no idea I was in his way. Regardless, he forcefully grabbed me by the upper arm and held it tight. Then he abruptly yanked me from where I was standing. As I stood there stunned, he looked back and admonished:

“Next, time you are in my way. I need you to move.”

I knew what he did was not right, but I had no idea what he did was criminal battery. I did nothing. Later that semester I withdrew from some of my classes. The secretary at the time asked me to fill in for her for a few hours when her father-in-law passed away. Of course I said yes. A week or so later that same boss sat me down in his office. He asked me not to speak. Here is what he said,

“Beth, by working for the secretary you were deceitful and are unworthy. I could fire you. Instead, I will ask you not to return next semester.”

I make no excuses, yet had no idea that I could not work if I was not a full time student.

…Around the same time, I was dating someone I thought I would marry. Even though we were not having sex, we crossed a lot of lines. According to Brigham Young University professor Brian Willoghby, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ stance on premarital sex is the following:

“Although the church discourages ‘any kind of sexual behavior’ before marriage, sex is considered a ‘bonding experience’ once the couple has entered a committed union.”

As a practicing Mormon (at the time), I understandably felt guilty, so I did what LDS members are encouraged to do: I went to my ecclesiastical leader to confess. My Mormon bishop said it would not be easy and that he may excommunicate me. He asked me to make a chart of my repentance progress and then to show him my chart progress during our weekly visits. He said my forgiveness was contingent on how I filled out my chart. He also said that under no uncertain terms that my forgiveness was also contingent on me NOT SEEING my boyfriend, (which he asked me to keep track of on my progress chart). That bishop and I met for several months. One week I was five minutes late for my appointment. He stated, and I quote,

“Because you are late, you are showing God that you do not want to be forgiven. Do you even want to repent? I need to know! I need to know now!” I assured him that I did want to repent. He paused for what seemed like forever. He continued, “Beth, I am not sure. I will have to think about your behavior today. Honestly, I can see you are not taking your repentance process seriously. You may need to be disfellowshipped. When I figure it out, I will let you know what I decide.”

(In Mormonism, “disfellowship” means a disciplinary action less severe than excommunication.) We continued our visits for a few months. I was terrified and began to think I was evil.

After my boyfriend and I broke up I was casually dating a few people. One of them was very well liked member of the Provo, Utah community. One day I stopped by his work to say hello. He said,

“Beth, sit here. I will be right back.”

I was a little confused when he asked the few remaining customers to leave. Then he locked the door. I tried to leave. He insisted I remain where I was sitting. He walked up to the table and sat across from me. As the abuse started, a sort of twisted negotiation began. If I let him do what he wanted to do and told him it I liked it, then he would let me leave. I was frozen, afraid to move. This man is much bigger than I am. I am not comfortable saying what happened next. At the time, I also did not want to upset the community by getting this very well liked individual in trouble. Consequently, I did not go to the police. Instead, I told a couple of our mutual friends. One of those friends told some of this man’s co-workers. Instead of offering me help, validation, or just staying out of it, these co-workers told me I was no longer welcome at their place of business, and if they saw me, they would ask me to leave.

Upon reflection, I can say I noticed red flags in all of these situations. I asked for help and was often asked what I had done to mislead these men. I was also told that I should let it go or just go along with it. As a result, I kept my head down and thought if I were a better person, these things would not happen. After many years and many experiences, it finally hit me: I did not cause the abuse or cause someone to misuse their authority. It was not my fault. Nevertheless, I remained silent.

Regarding the news of: this moments sexual abuse issue, why did it take so much effort to bring awareness, and ultimately action, to the situation? Is it because of silence? Or is it that popular, powerful or even patriarchal people get a pass? Are we the enablers? Is that why pleas for help fall on deaf ears? Because of the sorrow my own silence has caused, I would suggest that our collective conversation can help break these culturally baked-in patterns.

And yes, what the news of  [insert latest Sexual Abuse issue here] has done this week is (again) open a dialog. And now we have an opportunity to be different. We can chose to stop reacting off of sound bytes and social media outbursts. In contrast, I think we need talk and keep talking. We need all the voices. (I also recognize that getting people to listen is not always easy.) As I mentioned, I have tried a thousand different ways to begin this conversation myself. Something always stops me. Usually that something is my fear of embarrassing those closest to me. Ultimately, I stop talking, slow down my own healing, and pretend that everything is ok. Usually I realize that my need not to embarrass those I love only serves to enable the abuser. Then something like [insert current Sexual Abuse issue here], wakes me up and I ask myself,

“Why did it take so long for people to speak up?”

Obviously I have already internalized the answer: Embarrassment, shame, fear, or complacency. All of these things kept me silent. I also know that my silence perpetuates the abuse cycle.

I have a lot of rationalizations. I live in a culture where a man is the man and for me to scream is a sign of disrespect, which again enables the cycle: silence. And to fight the silence, I know I need to keep talking, but then the fear of upsetting my loved ones takes over. Even though I know that talking will protect us and that our conversations will teach us balance and discernment. Why I am speaking up now is that I recognize that words are also power. Our conversations will only serve to help us teach our children that they deserve respect; that our daughters do not have to compromise their integrity; and that our sons must be good men, even when society is telling men that they have a role: predator, (a.k.a. teenage boy who wants to touch a teenage girl’s boobs).

I also recognize that patterns are hard to break. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter and a sister. I want to be better. I want to do better. I think we all do. I want my boys to be transparent. I want to model boundaries and I want my boys to have boundaries. And that is why we dialog. I drill consent and talk about the things that are uncomfortable. I think it is also fair to mention that parenting alongside other parents can be muddy. We have dealt with other parents and their reactions to my sons, like the dad who asserted,

“I know how teenage boys think. I was one.”

As a mother, I wanted to disagree (because I do) and scream,

“Why can’t we do better?”

I remained silent. And really I am not always sure how, but I think we can do better. My initial step was to get comfortable with me (not easy still) and next to have a healthy relationship (with a man). And that is why I cannonballed myself into the deep end and dated a lot top notch guys [insert heavy sarcasm here].  First, there was the guy from church who told me I would never get married if I didn’t marry him (I was 19). At some point there was the “upstanding guy” who wanted me to reimburse his expenses after the date because I would not have sex with him; the dude who took his clothes off while I was not looking and insisted on walking to the car naked (even after I insisted he put his clothes back on); oh and the guy who said,

“Beth, you would be so much more comfortable if you took your pants off.”

Then there was the guy who dated me while engaged (he lied to both of us), the guy who liked to come to the door in a towel. As soon as I walked into his apartment, his towel would drop to the floor, and the guy I had a huge crush on. When we finally were alone. He asked me to give him a hand job, but not kiss him. He told me.

“I just broke up with my girlfriend. Kissing you is too intimate and makes me think of her.”

At least he eventually apologized — I guess [insert me shrugging my shoulders]. Finally, there was the seemingly gentle guy who in a firm voice said there was something wrong with me because I did not like Disney movies. What? (He also freaked out and berated me when I tried to end our relationship).

“You will not find anyone better than me.” he insisted.

Dave and I in Castres, France

Thank goodness he was wrong and double thank goodness for Dave. I chose him specifically because he was different than the others. He had boundaries and he respected mine. And here is the good nudge: I chose. I did not sell myself or settle (even though I was encouraged to settle every single day). Instead, I literally decided that I was tired of dating men who treated me poorly. And seriously, by the time Dave and I found one another, most people thought I was not worth someone like Dave (and told me as much). I found my worth from within. And that is what I want to say out loud:

“Learn from me. You get to chose who you love. You deserve a healthy relationship. You get to hold your boundaries. You are not bad if you say no.”

Society does not make self worth easy either. Ultimately, I told myself that I was worthy of a healthy relationship. And maybe that is a first. Consequently, I deliberately turned a corner and there he was. It was not magic. It was so fucking hard. I  reminded myself that I was not Dave’s property. Our relationship was not solely based on our sexual connection or manipulation. I did not have to entice him sexually to get him to like me, nor did he ever coerce me to do anything I did not want to do. He did not humiliate me. He respected my boundaries. He liked me, and was delightfully amused that I did not want to watch “The Little Mermaid,” or any Disney animated film, for that matter. Dave talked to me. He held my hand, and he was honest (even when he wanted to break up with me — like all the time).

Even though our marriage can help stop the cycle of abuse, Dave cannot heal my pain or break the patterns, and sometimes he even crosses them. (He is learning.) He also supports me speaking up and healing. As a parent, he does not want to perpetuate unhealthy societal patterns either. That is why he wants his sons to treat others with the respect he treats me with. Again, learn from me, even though you speak up, the pain may remain close and awkward. It is ok. Mine does. I think it always will. Maybe I can use my pain to effect change in a culture that patterns abuse. That is what I am (trying) to do now.

And what happens when we take our conversation beyond this moment?
Answer: a lot

Such as, what if your abuser is a relative, a close friend, an ecclesiastical leader, a professor, or your boss? What if the abuser is someone in a position of power or authority? What if he or she is someone you have been taught to respect or revere? What about people who are wrongly accused of abuse? Does that happen? What about the under-reactions, over-reactions, misdirections and inappropriate responses? I know how people freak out over minor issues and how others will take the secret of being raped to their death. I also know that people who actually have been abused do not trust they will be heard. How do we make it stop?

I do not have a perfect answer. Nevertheless, and from whatever lens you are viewing my words, I think the conversation is key to healing. So maybe the answer is to keep it simple. Trust that we will figure it out. Know that you are not alone. Just keep opening your mouth and using your voice. The more we use it, the easier it will become.

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We are not friends and that is ok.  

Hands down, Dave is a my Best Friend. Here we are at Dyrham Park National Trust Site, Gloucestershire, England
Hands down, Dave is a my Best Friend. Here we are at Dyrham Park National Trust Site, Gloucestershire, England

Please do not take it personally. First, and foremost, I LOVE people and my relationships with them. Through years of practice, I have also learned that friendship is not an exact science. Thankfully, I have awesome friends; friends who are cool with who I am (or are super awesome at pretending).  And because I am a huge sucker for connection, especially the connection that the word “friendship” or “best friend” implies, I take my role as friend very seriously (like in a for-real blood oath kind of way).  I sincerely believe (again, in like in a freakish, overachiever sort of way) that love, loyalty, honesty, transparency, responsibility, integrity and follow-through are friendship’s core values. And like some sort of super-earnest, albeit a little sarcastic, Joan-of-Arc (or just like a very devoted pet) I completely commit to my friends.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I also commit to those who insist I am their friend, even those who literally have no clue how to be a friend, like those “friends” who are only “friendly” when they need a favor. And of course I have also found myself sucked into the blackhole of friendship with the occasional narcissist, stridently co-dependent, gaslight-er, sociopath and life-bloodsucker.

Hey and most relationship are cool and balanced, right?  It does not take much for me to heed the charge or enable an imbalanced connection.  Whereas, when the plane is going down and I should be putting my oxygen mask on first, all you have to do is show me your tangled cord and in the name of “friendship,” I will suffocate. If it means you can breathe, I will lose consciousness. All the while ignoring the fact that had I actually put my mask on first we both would be breathing. My dysfunction is on me.  And believe me, the dysfunction goes deep and is probably baked right into my DNA. I love the rush of helping others — sometimes even conflating help (being used) with true and connection friendship. I get it. Feeling needed feels good. Feeling needed, or better, helping is a great avoidance technique.  

I really like my kids. And yes, I will go against so conventions and say that I am so glad they are my friends. This is Kyle & I at Levant Mine and Beam Engine National Trust Site, Trewellard, Cornwall, England
I really like my kids. And yes, I will go against so conventions and say that I am so glad they are my friends. This is Kyle & I at Levant Mine and Beam Engine National Trust Site, Trewellard, Penzance, England
I love these boys! Land's End, Cornwall, England
I love these boys! Land’s End, Cornwall, England

The other day I needed to put my oxygen mask on. I was trying to sleep. I should have been sleeping. I was very tired. My back hurt. I was exhausted and catching a cold. The night before I was up past 1AM and then up again at 6AM. I wanted to say goodbye to Kyle. He was leaving for his Varsity Cross Country team run. As luck would have it, Kyle left his cellphone on the kitchen counter. And so it began… Every nine minutes I heard the beep, beep, beep of his cell phone alarm. Because I could not figure out his password, the only thing I could do is hit snooze, which meant I was also up every nine minutes. It never occurred to me to bring his phone into my room, hide it outside, or guess the password (which I actually knew). I was supposed to go walking with my friend Rita shortly.  Because I trusted she would kind and empathetic, I knew she would be cool if I canceled. She was. In her text filled with a bunch of heart emojis she said,

“No problem. Let’s go Friday.”

My friend, Rita & I after we finished the SLC Half Marathon. (It was epic.)
My friend, Rita & I after we finished the SLC Half Marathon. (It was epic.)

Feeling relieved, I went back to sleep. Within minutes I heard my phone beep. I was mad at myself for not putting my phone on “do not disturb.” I felt the obligation to look. Someone did need me.  I felt compelled to “be a friend.” It was only going to be a few minutes, but those few minutes also meant I needed to get up, brush my teeth, brush my hair and locate what this person needed. It also meant that I was up. So, Instead of sleeping I said,

“Sure. Come on over.”

Me & Easy E. He puts up with me & is a super considerate human. Man, I love this kid! Snowdownia National Park, Wales
Me & Easy E. He puts up with me & is a super considerate human. Man, I love this kid! Snowdownia National Park, Wales

I do not think I am the only one who feels compelled to be a “good friend.” I do not think it is bad to help someone in need either. What I am truly suggesting is balance.

Culturally, I think women are taught to put everyone’s needs before their own, especially in the culture I was raised in. I think this baked-in, I-must-serve behavior complicates true, bonded friendship even further. Many people feel such an urge to please others, even their own friends, that they forget to take care of themselves, or to have boundaries, like I did that morning.  Sure, our commitments and obligations are distracting. Time is short. Oh yes, and then there is the whole part about having our “me” time versus our guilt about being a good friend, or at least being seen as a good friend.  What complicates the concept of friendship even more is that from my experience, we are all different. And because we are different, there is a no roadmap to perfect friendship.

My friends, Emily, Andi & I, Galilee Grill & Bakery, Lindon, Utah
My friends, Emily, Andi & I, Galilee Grill & Bakery, Lindon, Utah
Moe & I, Red Iguana, Salt Lake City, Utah
Moe & I, Red Iguana, Salt Lake City, Utah

Because I have made many wrong turns, I hope I can help you avoid the detour by offering you a few directions.  I will start with the idea that friendship is not a one-sided service project. Meaning, friends are not a box to check or a badge to earn, someone to possess or a crazy, co-dependent feedback loop. Friendship should definitely not be a status or hierarchical-based relationship. (You can save that relationship for your boss, as a super-fan, or when you move to North Korea.)

In contrast, I would suggest that friendship really is mutual affection. Meaning, we both get to equally dictate the terms of our relationship (high fives to that). Friendship is boundaries and support (even when either is uncomfortable). We do not have to text everyday, talk every week, or even see each other every year. And because we stand by each other’s side, when we are together, our friendship has integrity. We mean what we say. We apologize when we are wrong. We are honest, (even when truth adjusting would be way more comfortable). We are loyal (even when it is not cool). Mostly, we forgive.

It took me a long time to fully digest the concept that for me to be a good and committed friend I cannot possibly be friends with everyone. Ok. Wait. I will push back here to say that Facebook and Facebook friendship is not what I am referring too. So in the Facebook realm, yes, I believe you and Mark Zuckerberg can friend the entire world. In support of my friend-the-world claim, Dave often observes:

“You have a super liberal Facebook friend policy.”

“Yes. Yes I do. I love people.” I respond.

Me & Big Daddy at Levant Mine and Beam Engine, National Trust Site, Trewellard, Penzance , England
Me & Big Daddy at Levant Mine and Beam Engine, National Trust Site, Trewellard, Penzance, England

Alas, Dave is correct and also proves the fact that the people you acquaint with are not all friends. See, a few years ago, a high-profile-on-the-internet guy friended me. Obviously liberal-Facebook-friend-policy-me accepted his request, even though (once again), we had not met. Of course, like I suspect many people do, I checked out his Facebook page before I actually accepted his request. When I saw his friend total, the smart-ass in me was like,

“Seriously, you 4,999 personal friends? You mean to tell me you know every single one of these people — by name?”  And because I am bubbling with dry sarcasm, I continued my internal discussion and said, “How do you have time for all of those relationships [long pause] and your family [even longer pause] especially your wife?”

Well, you don’t. For example, I saw this same dude recently at a Cross Country meet. I literally ran into him. By his long, perplexed stare, I assumed he thought he knew me. His wife looked similarly bewildered.  Dave was half way across the race course, so alone, I said “Hello.”

He paused and stared at me for a really long time. That is when I impatiently thought (because I needed to find Kyle & Eli),

“Wait for it. Wait for it.”

“Hi Barb.” He said.

Ok. I am kidding.  In truth he said, “Hi Beth,” as I began to lift my hand to give him a high five. Realizing he was not going to make the connection, I quickly & nervously brushed my hand into my hair as if I meant to do that.

Alas, even though he remembered my name, the uncomfortable moment would not end. As I answered, his wife, in sort of a stunned and freaked out way quickly asked,

“well, how do you know him?”

And that is when I gave her the name of one our mutual real-life friends.  I know they are real friends because tagged pictures of them spending time together always roll through my Facebook feed. His wife seemed to relax, which was good.

Easy E, Pre-Region Cross Country Meet, Cottonwood Complex, Salt Lake City, Utah
Easy E, Pre-Region Cross Country Meet, Cottonwood Complex, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kyle a t the Pre-Region Cross Country Meet, Cottonwood Complex, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kyle a t the Pre-Region Cross Country Meet, Cottonwood Complex, Salt Lake City, Utah

Here is the deal. This dude (bless his heart), despite having met me in person a dozen times since we became Facebook friends, never knows my name. When he stumbles with any sort of recognition, I wonder if he thinks I am a super-fan or a stalker.  And because he is the one who friended me, his incongruous reaction always fascinates me.  Obviously we are not friends. We are barely acquaintances.

Doug, Dave & Easy E, Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas, January, 2017
Doug, Dave & Easy E, Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas, January, 2017
Dave & Ryan Raddon, SLC, Utah
Dave & Ryan Raddon, SLC, Utah

His incongruous reaction, like many others, got me thinking. Has Facebook eviscerated the connection of real friendship? Do we know some people way more than we should? And is there any real-life correlation between Facebook friend totals, real world relationships and imbalanced obligation?  I do not know. I think we all Facebook friend differently. Nevertheless, I do belive Facebook and social media are influencing how we friend. Just last week, because a woman who friended me seemed so cool and is a friend of a friend, I accepted her friend request.  And guess what? She is cool. And yes, you read that correctly. I accepted the friend request of someone I have never met, or at least do not remember meeting. I know I am not the only one. And because she now owns the title of my friend, should I give her the same friend benefits? Am I obligated to wake up for her when I should be sleeping?  I was friended by my friend Letti after knowing her for twenty minutes (and I really like her in real life). (Fun Fact:  twenty minutes was the same amount of time I knew my friend Mike’s brother before making out with him.) Moving way beyond my fun fact, I also have friends who I have met once (in person), only to become really great friends via Facebook. Doug Vandiford, we are talking to you. On the other hand, Dave Facebook friends only those he really really knows. In contrast to my interaction, Dave actually knew Doug Vandiford way back when they were in the BYU dorms together (with Ryan Raddon (DJ Kaskade namedrop). And guess what? These three dudes are still real life friends. Ok. I would also argue that there are many sides to non-discriminatory Facebook friend requests (which have absolutely nothing to do with the concept of friendship I began with).  That is why I would suggest is that bonded friendship goes well beyond today’s Facebook friendship friending rituals, and that the mutual affection of friendship actually takes effort. I would also suggest that having only a handful of friends is a very good thing.  Considering the effort it takes to be a friend, I would like to offer that we may only have healthy space for a handful of friends. Meaning, that the other 4,988 relationships may fall into the category of acquaintance. (I think that is ok, by the way.)

Me & Big Daddy, Venice Beach, California
Me & Big Daddy, Venice Beach, California

Think of it this way.  An acquaintance can be an ally without all the strings or obligations.  I would also argue that if you put most people into the acquaintance category, your disappointment will decrease, your awkward moments at your boys’ cross country meet will not feel like rejection, and that your expectations of reciprocity may soften. And if you see relationships through the acquaintance lens I would argue that your relationships with these people may actually be healthier, more fun, and more fulfilling (or even an serendipitous networking opportunity).  I would to think about it this way: An acquaintance is a friend without the loyalty and expectation. Do I care if an acquaintance blows off dinner plans? Do I care if an acquaintance makes up a lame ass excuse for not including me? Do I care if an acquaintance tells everyone I am high maintenance (dude, I have food allergies, get over it). Do I mind if an acquaintance tells everyone I  have social anxiety, or that I am too religious, or that I am not religious enough? Nope. Do I care if an acquaintance needs a favor, even though I have not heard from them in years? No. I am happy to help — always (even when I would rather be sleeping).

Our feet, Venice Beach, California
Our feet, Venice Beach, California

Bottom line: I say learn from me.  Figure out how you want to friend, and then trust it — (as long as you are not being a tool and are being transparent).

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Overcoming Travel Hate with Seagulls and High-Hedge-Lined Roads

Dave and I, near St. Ives, Cornwall, England
Dave and I, near St Agnes, Cornwall, United Kingdom

I love traveling. I push my kids to travel.  In fact, Kyle has eagerly anticipated our summer travel.

“Mom, I could be gone all summer.” He enthusiastically said.

Then yesterday, day six of our trip, Kyle proclaimed:

“Mom, you know how we normally take like nine day trips? I wish this one was nine days. This trip is too long. I want to be back home with my friends.”

Kyle and Eli, St. Ives, Cornwall, England
Kyle and Eli, St. Ives, Cornwall, United Kingdom

Alas, Kyle is a teenager. Teenagers and their moods are my realities. Most often it is Eli who wants to be home. This time it is Kyle. Ok. And in truth, so does Eli. But because he knows Kyle is currently riding the “I miss my friends” train, Eli has risen to the occasion. He is pleasant & even grabbed my hand yesterday. (Um and Yes, to hold it.)

Me and Eli, Carn Galver Mine, Penzance, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Me and Eli, Carn Galver Mine, Penzance, Cornwall, United Kingdom

Guess what? I want to be home too. Well, yesterday I did. Ok. Maybe I did not want to be home. I certainly did not want to be here. I white knuckled it the whole way as we winded through the super narrow high-hedge-lined roads to the town we we are staying in: Dartmouth. We arrived and found an awesome parking spot. We checked into our AirBnB. Then the boys and I walked half a block to the local Marks and Spencer’s. Finally able to catch my claustrophobic breath, we settled in for the night. Oh dear God and then it began! The seagulls! They would not stop. Their squeals are like a thousand crying newborn babies. Add the broken washing machine, the incurable jet-lag, and the super bad wifi, I will admit I went a little crazy. Sure, one would argue that these are sissy, first world and privileged problems. They are. We are not starving. We are traveling. We are seeing the world. Kyle can deal with missing his friends and I can find some drying racks, earplugs, and melatonin. Done!

The boys and I, National Trist Site at Bedruthan Steps, Cornawall, England
The boys and I, National Trist Site at Bedruthan Steps, Cornawall, United Kingdom

So last night when Kyle told me he was done being here, my heart really did drop. See, typically Kyle is my travel wingman. When Eli and Dave are all bent out of shape, Kyle will say things like,

“Mom, next time we can travel without them,” or,  “I will travel with you as long as you will have me.”

[insert achy throat crack]

My boy is growing up. He needs to spread his wings. And as much as I want to tether these two amazing teen humans to my side, I must let them fly. Still heart achy, I went to bed determined to save our trip.  Here is where I will pause to offer a

#Pro Tip: The pictures people post on Facebook may not be an accurate reflection of their reality. ( I am sure you already know that. )

Kyle and I exploring Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom
Kyle and I exploring Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom

In fact, this moment filled me with growth, you know that kind, where your bones throb because they are growing so fast? In that super-speed-growth moment, I had to chosen to move forward, or to bury my head in my tears. I chose to move. See, I love my boys. I want them to love travel and love our amazing world.  And once I got over myself (a little), I realized that Kyle was actually handing me a gift. By telling me he prefers nine day trips, I was able to consider why. And then I was able to push forward and remember how we survived longer trips. In fact, Kyle and Eli often say there very favorite trip is when we went to Italy, Spain and France two years ago. We were gone for 1 month, not nine days.  So in essence Kyle’s frustration offered me an opportunity. I thought, “What did I do differently?” Structure. While in Rome, Barcelona and Southern France each day had structure. The kids were doing online school at the time. We always made time for homework.  Dave needs to put in a full work day. So similarly, on this longer trip, we have to cut our days short, or better, we have to make space for the less desirable responsibilities such as online school.  When Dave is back working, Kyle gets bored and then longs for his friends. I get it. I get bored and miss Dave. Sure, we walk around the town, but that gets boring too.  There had to be something I could do. I remembered the boys have summer homework. I also reminded them that we would could not fly home just because they missed their friends. I was definitely a little dark and completely truthful when I told them,

“Hey, this trip has kind of sucked for me too.  The high-hedge-lined roads are making me insanely claustrophobic and those seagulls are making me go mental!”  

High-Hedge-Lined Roads, Devon, United Kingdom
High-Hedge-Lined Roads, Devon, United Kingdom

And that is when we decided to make a plan:

After sightseeing, the boys would work on summer homework. Then we would hang out and see the town or watch a movie, and maybe even work some more.  While in Dartmouth, we tried our new plan. During the day we visited two National Trust sites: Coleton Fishacre and Greenway, the summer home of Agatha Christie. We decided that, as usual, we preferred the airy servants’ quarters at the Coleton Fishacre home. We gave the gardens a seven out of ten. We still prefer Lanhydrock and St. Michael’s Mount near Cornwall.  As we walked into Greenway, Eli said,

“Dad, I am getting a little burned out on the English country homes.”

Walking into Lanhydrock, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Walking into Lanhydrock, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Dave and I talking to a National Trust volunteer in one of the many kitchens at Lanhydrock, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Dave and I talking to a National Trust volunteer in one of the many kitchens at Lanhydrock, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Leaving Lanhydrock, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Leaving Lanhydrock, Cornwall, United Kingdom

I am with Eli. So instead of reading every little placard or examining every blooming flower,  we worked our way through the gardens, lost Kyle, who was distracting himself with Pokémon Go, relocated him and made our way to Agatha Christie’s boat house. There were not a lot of shady spots for Dave and I to sit, but there were a lot of rocks for the boys to skip. Our boys love skipping rocks. In fact their favorite memory of the Cliffs of Moher are skipping rocks in a pond on the edge of the cliffs.  Homesick-Kyle and overall-meh-Eli needed this moment.  Dave and I sat in the sun while the boys gathered as many flat rocks as they could hold.  Over and over they skipped and skipped rocks. They held the one rock up. It looked like a cheese cracker and then we said, “this looks like a cheese cracker.” I may or may not have slipped it into my purse. Then I offered the boys a hundred dollars if they could skip a rock far enough to hit one of the passing boats. Done skipping rocks, we found our way back up a long, winding path. It led us outside of the trust site. The people at the front joyfully let us back in.  Instead of making them read every sign, or wait for Dave to read every sign, we breezed on through.

“Mom, really. At this point.  I just don’t care.” Kyle said as we entered a few steps ahead of Dave.

Agatha Christie's Boat House at Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom
Agatha Christie’s Boat House at Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom
Dave & Kyle at Agatha Christie's summer home: Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom
Dave & Kyle at Agatha Christie’s summer home: Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom

He was right. I heard Kyle. As a result I suggested we see how fast we could make it through Agatha Christie’s house. In reality, I know nothing about Agatha Christie’s boat house and not much more about her country house. I honestly do not think it matters. Further, we have seen so many estate homes filed with tiny beds, table settings and portraits. Really? Who paints all of these pictures?  Of course I know if they really want to learn about Agatha Christie, they can Google her. My guess is they won’t. Instead, quickly discovering her creepy doll and obscure can collection, having both Kyle and Eli laugh and editorialize the inaneness of Agatha’s thimble collection, and then comment on her super large wooden toilet, is an experience I cannot recreate. Soon (because we saw the house in like three minutes), we met up with Dave on the first floor.  He was ready to go up to the second. I know this because he said,

“Are you guys ready to go up to the second floor?”

We all laughed and said, “Done.” Then I said, “Seriously, take you time.” In all sincerity, I want Dave to enjoy Agatha Christie’s summer home too. He did.

Creepy Dolls & a Teddy Bear in Agatha Christies's Summer home: Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom
Creepy Dolls & a Teddy Bear in Agatha Christies’s Summer home: Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom
Agatha Christies's Summer home: Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom
Agatha Christies’s Summer home: Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom
The boys waiting for Dave at Agatha Christies's Summer home: Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom
The boys waiting for Dave at Agatha Christies’s Summer home: Greenway, near Brixham, Devon, United Kingdom

And while he did, the boys and I sat outside. Soon Dave joined us. We made our way to the car. Of course I commented on the couple wearing the red shirts. I looked at Kyle and said,

“In this scenario they will be the first to die.” To which Kyle said, “Almost as good as what I said the other day.”

Near St. Ives, Cornwall, England
The red shirt surfer,Near St. Agnes, Trevaunance Cove, Cornwall, England

“Mom, when we were near St. Ives, high above the shore, we could see some instructors in yellow and blue shirts. In between them were situated a dozen or so young children — all lined up in the crashing waves for surf lessons. The children were wearing red shirts.”

Kyle was correct. His red short story was awesome!

A view of the tugboat while we were riding the tugboat in between Kingswear & Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom
A view of the tugboat while we were riding the tugboat in between Kingswear & Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom
Dave & the boys, Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom
Dave & the boys, Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom

Now  back at the car and singing along to “Hamilton.” Of course we were also making our way down another high, hedge-lined grass luge run, I mean two-lane road. Dave is a rockstar and finessed his way through the insane drive. We made our way to Kingswear, where we waited in the heat for our ferry to Dartmouth. Once in Dartmouth, we grabbed dinner: end of day half price cornish pastys. Then we made our way back to our AirBnB. The kids are in much better moods. I feel a little less crazy.  We realized this is the moment we are in. We all let off steam and let go. I made videos about the seagulls. Kyle went out to the water and worked on his art journal. Eli and I spent a long time filling out his Fitness for Life questionnaire. At one point he had to answer questions about my siblings and Dave’s siblings. Dave has two siblings, I have five.  After answering questions about Dave’s two siblings, Eli looked up at me and said,

“For these questions I am going to say you only have two siblings.”

Obviously I supported his plan and suggested,  

“Let’s just say that three of my siblings were also wearing red shirts.”

Me in Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom
Me in Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom

Our new structure worked (at least for today). The kids are sleeping. The seagulls are squeaking and my laundry is drying in the humid air.  And really, a big reason travel is completely transformative is because it pushes us out of our safe and comfortable spaces and then reminds us that we can.