Pushing Pause: Our Day in Oxford, England

The Day Before it all happened: Dave & I at theNational Trust - Middle Littleton Tithe Barn, England
The Day Before it all happened: Dave & I at theNational Trust – Middle Littleton Tithe Barn, England
The boys, The Day Before it all happened: Dave & I at theNational Trust - Middle Littleton Tithe Barn, England (What a difference a day makes)
The boys, The Day Before it all happened: Dave & I at theNational Trust – Middle Littleton Tithe Barn, England (What a difference a day makes)

Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday afternoon, July 10: I sat in my doctor’s office. After waiting for more than an hour, he walked into the room. I could tell he was upset and I knew why. Do not worry. There was no devastating news. He merely wanted to chew me out. I let him. Then I paused.

Here is what happened: Thursday, July 6, I was ready to leave for the hospital — so was Dave.  It was 9AM. The hospital wanted me to arrive at 9:15AM.  Sinus Surgery would start at 11:30AM.  As he sat on the couch waiting, I reviewed the places and times with Dave, like I had done over the last few days.

“You will be done by noon, right? I need to be at work at noon.” He urged.

“Dave, the surgery starts at 11:30AM. I do not know how that is possible.”

As the words left my mouth, Dave started to freak out, so did I. Then memories of the week before flooded my mind.

[Flashback. Several days earlier:]

Us in Oxford, England
Us in Oxford, England
The boys in Oxford, England
The boys in Oxford, England

We were in Oxford, England. Dave, Kyle, Eli and I were sitting in our car ready to leave. Dave was in the driver’s seat. In a panic he started the engine and began to drive. As the car began moving, Kyle abruptly shouted,

“Dad, DAD! Stop the car!”Dave kept driving.

Kyle insisted, “No. really. Dad please stop the car.”Dave slowed down and did not stop.

“What? What do you want, Kyle?” Dave demanded.

As I held my bloodied and swollen hand I said,

“Dave. Please stop the car NOW!”

Oxford, England seconds before I fell.
Oxford, England seconds before I fell.

In the middle of the parking lot, Dave slammed on the breaks. Then I asked Kyle what he wanted to say. Kyle wisely uttered the following:

“Guys. Stop. Look around. Just pause. We need to pause. We need to catch our breath. We need to make sure we are not missing anything.  Think. Are we missing anything? Take a second and pause.” We did. After a moment, Kyle continued, “Not pausing is how we got here.”

He was right. I took a deep breath. We collected ourselves and then Dave drove us to the hospital.

It was Monday, June 26, and we were near the end of our three week UK adventure. The boys were completely over the trip, their parents and each other. Kyle and Eli wanted to be home. I knew they were on their last legs as I gently urged them out of the car. Eli put his shoes on slower than a snail’s pace. Honestly, it was painful. I was fried and didn’t know how much glass-half-full I could muster. As we locked the car, Kyle complained about how boring the day would be. I assured him it might be. Then we worked our way out of the tiny car park, through a long alley and unto the Oxford city streets. We stopped, looked at our online itinerary (I found a last minute walking tour online), and Dave led the way. Now the boys were both complaining and swatting at one another. I raised my eyebrows then offered up a bribe: Anyone who makes it through 60% of the day with a good attitude will get a prize:

“Dudes and I will pay you cash!” I paused then said, “Dave, you can play too!”

Kyle outside the Tower of St. Michael at the Northgate, Oxford, England -- and he is thrilled ;)
Kyle outside the Tower of St. Michael at the Northgate, Oxford, England — and he is thrilled 😉
Dave and the boys in front of Oxford, England's "CLOSED MONDAYs" Ashmolean Museum
Dave and the boys in front of Oxford, England’s “CLOSED MONDAYs” Ashmolean Museum

They boys did not care.  They continued telling me how much the other was annoying them, and when they were not complaining, they were fighting. When they were not fighting,  they were pouting.Dave did not notice. My bribe was lost on the three of them.  Guilt had no effect. No amount of telling them how grateful they should be for their super special and blessed lives  mattered. Each new landmark became a nuisance, and the museum Dave was excited to see was closed. [insert that hands pulling on the face emjoi here]. Do not worry. I became an active participant in our collective doom. But then I had a flash. Money is not working,  how about I bribe the boys with new books?  (Please know I have not bribed the boys since they were like three and in the throes of potty training). Nevertheless, I was desperate. So, with my book bribe uttered, Dave and I took the boys to Oxford’s famous Blackwell’s bookstore. Dave encouraged me to buy a book too. (He is also good at bribing.) I fell for it. I knew what I wanted, yet was not sure where to find it.

“Ask the lady for help.” Dave urged (several times).

I finally did.  

As the words left my mouth, immediately I recognized  the up and down look this young Oxford student was so clearly giving me: contempt. When I asked for books on memoir writing,  she directed me to the “self help” and “bestsellers.” Then she succinctly stated:

 “the academic books are down here. What you want is upstairs.”

That is when our day turned around (sort of).  Kyle witnessed the entire exchange as I said something like,

“You have judged me to be an incompetent, suburban mom, American tourist, haven’t you?”

She nodded.

“You are only partially correct.” I responded.

We purchased a copy of "Nudge" at Blackwell's Bookstore in Oxford, England. We left our library copy in our AirBnB in Devon, England (that is another story for another day).
We purchased a copy of Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein’s, “Nudge” at Blackwell’s Bookstore in Oxford, England. (We left our library copy in our AirBnB in Devon, England — that is another story for another day.)

By his own admission Kyle was totally impressed  with me. From my observation, his elevated mood lasted for like thirty-five seconds. Then he asked if he could go outside to participate in a Pokemon RAID battle. “Whatever it takes to make them happy today” is what I thought.

Moments later we found ourselves standing next to Kyle and like several Oxford college students. One asked me if I would be fighting too.

“No.” I smiled and laughed.

Kyle & Eli standing with a group of dudes (Oxford college students) finishing their Pokemon RAID battle outside of Blackwell's Bookstore, Oxford, England
Kyle & Eli standing with a group of dudes (Oxford college students) finishing their Pokemon RAID battle outside of Blackwell’s Bookstore, Oxford, England
Kyle finishing his Pokemon RAID Battle with Eli and Dave walking ahead to the next "nuisance" landmark, Oxford, England
Kyle finishing his Pokemon RAID Battle with Eli and Dave walking ahead to the next “nuisance” landmark, Oxford, England

The Pokemon RAID battle was complete. Eli had his new Douglas Adams anthology in hand,  and Kyle was carrying a new copy of a book we lost earlier in the trip.  To answer your question: Those books elevated the mood for maybe another two minutes. And yes, it was totally worth it.

Me in Oxford, England
Me in Oxford, England
My team players, Oxford, England
My team players, Oxford, England

We walked. I snapped photos.  I wanted to remember this place I have never seen before.  Eli was also hungry and so was I. And the bitching only escalated. Thank goodness for bright spots in snotty college towns. The folks at Noodle Nation, where we ate some great pan-asian cuisine, were a dream. I highly recommend this restaurant. The food is great and the customer service is warm and friendly.

Noodle Nation, Oxford, England (they offer student discounts, by the way)
Noodle Nation, Oxford, England (they offer student discounts, by the way)

Now fed, the boys could not implore us to leave Oxford fast enough. After buying them some last minute fruit pies (yes, more mood bribes), we found ourselves racing to the car. The parking meter was past due. Dave is 6’2”. Eli is over 6’ and Kyle is just about 6’. I am barely 5’4”. Like I often do, as we left the Oxford indoor Market, I snapped a few more photos. Snapping those photos only put me farther behind. Like Kyle often does, he waited and ran along side me.  I watched as Dave and Eli ran across a street. In full sprint, Kyle and I ran to catch up. With my phone in one hand, I heard the beep, beep of a car horn coming from my left. I turned to looked as my feet kept their pace.

Fruit Pies from Oxford, England's Covered Market
Fruit Pies from Oxford, England’s Covered Market
Oxford, England's Covered Market
Oxford, England’s Covered Market

Before I realized what was happening, my sandal caught the edge of median I had not seen.  I extended my right arm. And as Kyle observed (with full arm motions),

“You dropped hard and then you slid — also hard.”

Even though I could see my pants were not ripped (Props to the durability of the Athleta Trekkie Jogger), I could feel my knees swell and see the blood begin to seep through the fabric.  My right hand was scraped, purple and swollen.  I was mortified as I lay splayed out in the street.

Me wearing the sturdy Athleta Trekkie Jogger the day before in Stratford-upon-Avon, England the day before (the clothes were at the end of the trip too)
Me wearing the sturdy Athleta Trekkie Jogger the day before in Stratford-upon-Avon, England the day before (the clothes were at the end of the trip too)

Kyle ran to my side, helped me up and screamed for Dave.  Within seconds, Dave and Eli were at my side helping me walk. Dave asked me if I wanted to stop.

“Why don’t you sit here for a minute. Let’s make sure you are ok. Really. Beth. Let’s just stop.”

Tears streamed down my face. I was embarrassed. “No. No. Let’s get to the car. I will collect myself there.”

Dave held me up as we quickly walked. The boys were behind us. The crowd was large and moving slow. With each impatient  breath, the crowd only seemed to move slower. Within seconds, I grabbed Dave’s left arm, nudging him a little and said,

“Let’s pass these people. They are moving  way too slow.”

As I pushed on his left side, Dave stepped into the street.

As he stepped, we heard  loud, panicked screams. It was a woman.

“NO! NO! NO!” she cried.

I watched as her bicycle hit the ground as a car swerved to miss her. She kept screaming. I held my hand. The car missed her within inches, continued honking and drove away. The crowd stopped. Now all those slow walking people were screaming too.

“Ma’am, are you ok. Ma’am!” I heard them shout.

Her left pant leg was ripped at the knee. I did not see blood. She was wearing a helmet. Thank God!

“Yes. Yes. I am ok. I am ok. I just need a moment.” She shouted as her tears fell.

People walked her over to the side of the road. Dave gathered her bike from the street. We stood there. We asked. We wanted to know she was ok.

“Yes. Yes. Yes. I am ok. I am just late.” She trailed off.

An older woman in the crowd took over. Within seconds the older woman had the injured biker’s phone and was making calls. And from behind I hear a quiet, calm voice. I turned to look. It was a priest on a bike. He was probably 70 and about my size. He tried to help the injured biker. When he saw the older lady take over, he began to talk with us. We watched. We stayed. We asked. We made sure she was ok. Several moments later and when we knew she was more frightened than anything, Dave quietly asked the priest,

“My wife just fell. We need a hospital.”

I showed him my hand and he said,

“Oh my! Yes you do.”

He pointed us the way. Dave and I said nothing as we rushed to the car. Then we said everything. Mostly we were shocked and completely grateful  that the woman was ok. Seriously, I can still see the rapid chain reaction.

This kid has my heart. Eli stood by my side quietly & calmly made sure I was ok. Here were are at Snowdownia National Park, Wales
This kid has my heart. Eli stood by my side quietly & calmly made sure I was ok. Here were are at Snowdownia National Park, Wales

In the past few days, via an MRI and x-rays, I had it double-confirmed that my hand is broken (a minimally displaced 5th metacarpal fracture and a minimally displaced hamate fracture).  My hand still hurts, is still swollen, and my arm is still numb. In a month we will see if there is anything else to address. Honestly, I feel lucky and my guess is everything will heal.

The people I love most, Oxford, England
The people I love most, Oxford, England

[Flashing back again to that Oxford, England, parking lot:]

After falling and after the woman crashed, it made complete sense that Kyle was insisting we pause. So  last Thursday I wanted to correlate Kyle’s wisdom. When things were falling apart, and it was time to leave for my sinus surgery, I took a deep breath and asked Dave to pause. Then we both sat down.

We caught our breath, readjusted, and re-grouped.  Sure, I could have gone to my surgery alone, but it is my surgery, my body and I did not want to be alone.  Instead, we canceled my surgery. Then Dave went to his meeting.

Ultimately, Dave and I took responsibility. The doctor goofed up too, changing times and mysteriously canceling the original surgery the week before.

Us, Cecret Lake, Albion Basin near Alta, Utah, Sunday, July 9
Us, Cecret Lake, Albion Basin near Alta, Utah, Sunday, July 9

[Fast Forward again to Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday, July 10:]

As I mentioned, the doctor asked me to come in.  He is a good doctor so I obliged. Nevertheless, even good doctors overstep, and I think that is what he did when he chewed me out. I felt shamed, humiliated and scolded. As a result, I really wanted to have my say. I thought about posting a Google review. I considered saying something like,

“This doctor had to prove he was right. He wanted to punish me. He is immature and self-centered. Be careful.”

Sure. I think he was immature and self-centered. I definitely felt punished. I also have compassion. He is frustrated and my guess is he is not getting the full story. Miracles do happen. As he rebuked, I took a note from Kyle.  Instead of screaming, I paused. I apologized for any misunderstanding and offered that I could see another doctor. He said, “No.” 

 I am no saint. I am human.  And because I make a lot of really awful mistakes (especially via my words), I get it. I also appreciate that he was willing to move forward.  In reality, it was the chain reactions of the past weeks that remind me to consider all sides. See, in all of this, it was my impatience and self-focus that almost got a woman killed. You know what else? Instead of screaming at me or telling me it was my fault, she had perspective. She was rushing and admitted she was.  So were we. She did not scold me. She was kind and she was forgiving.

I am grateful she was not run over by the car. I watched it all.  And yes, it was completely in slow motion horror. I do not know how the car did not hit her. Wow! I am grateful for the people who were there to help her. I am grateful for sweet priest on the bike.  I am grateful Dave, Kyle and Eli were there to help me up. And when I needed it most, Eli quietly put his arm around me. Then as Dave ran ahead to pay the meter, both boys slowly and sweetly walked me to the car.  (By the way, we did not get a parking ticket.)

Even in "lame" estate homes, the boys always seem to make the best of it. I am really lucky to travel with these awesome humans. Wightwick Manor & Gardens, Wolverhampton, England
Even in “lame” estate homes, the boys always seem to make the best of it. I am really lucky to travel with these awesome humans. Wightwick Manor & Gardens, Wolverhampton, England

Bonus: The day was not a complete dark hole of awfulness. After my fall and the bike crash, the boys rose up and regrouped. Then they patiently sat with me in an Oxford hospital as we tried to figure out what to do. They did not complain. They kindly waited and laughed when all we had to pay is 6 dollars US.  On our way back to our hotel, we stopped for 3 GBP meals and enjoyed the rest of our night. We are lucky.

My Broken hand with its most awesome fashion splint, Salt Lake City, Utah
My Broken hand with its most awesome fashion splint, Salt Lake City, Utah

And of course there is an obvious moral to our story: If we remember to stop and pause, maybe we would not miss appointments,  break our bones,  or hurt so many others. I hope it will stick.


CrazyUS 4.0: Exposing My Vulnerability

Kyle, Eli & Dave, Sugarhouse Park, Salt Lake City, Utah, August, 2006
Kyle, Eli & Dave, Sugarhouse Park, Salt Lake City, Utah, August, 2006

A little over ten years ago I blogged daily.  With an an average of 20,000 daily readers, I was on my way to becoming a well known public voice.  I loved it. In truth, I have always written. Sometimes my writing is sloppy and less polished and other times extensively edited. Regardless, I need to get my words out — always. I journaled as a young girl.  I spent hours talking and processing and eventually pouring those thoughts onto the page. In high school, I sought out creative writing classes.

“Write out the garbage.”  My teacher, Roman Borgerding, would say, and followed with, “then you will find the beauty.”

Us, Laird Park, Salt Lake City, Utah, July 30, 2006
Us, Laird Park, Salt Lake City, Utah, July 30, 2006

In college I majored in English, where deconstructing and analyzing poetry and prose was my jam. In fact, I found that I am oddly great at deconstructing poetry.  Seriously. I was a little shocked as well. And when I went back to college years later, I eagerly and painfully embraced literary critical theory. At first I thought deconstructing Jane Austen, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, or Elizabeth Barrett Browning was an extremely self-indulgent endeavor. How can literature change the world? I wondered. Of course my assessment was wrong. Because I am stubborn, it took me a minute to correlate that Jane Austen wrote a template for understanding social class, which I would argue we all try to navigate and make sense of. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o addresses language in how it affects culture, even making some cultures go extinct. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, “The Runaway Slave Girl at Pilgrim’s Point,”  the concept of sacrifice, articulating what a mother will do to protect their child. The more I read, wrote, analyzed and deconstructed, the more I saw myself in their words. It was exhilarating and painful. Nevertheless, because I am addicted to the human narrative, I did my senior seminar in memoir writing, which I thought would lead me into perhaps writing a self-indulgent memoir. Nope. Instead, I connected. And through connection, I learned that good stories happen when people allow themselves to be vulnerable. In Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” it was her ability to connect and to show courage when her only daughter died. Her vulnerability was beautiful. Those were the words I wanted to write. She gave me a template for making the uncomfortable beautiful, relatable and clear. Further, then I learned to break down these personal stories and push back with my own. It was invigorating.

Me on the North Shore of Oahu, January, 2014 right before I started classes back at BYU
Me on the North Shore of Oahu, January, 2014 right before I started classes back at BYU (that’s another awesome story)

Tonight I found one of the first papers I wrote when I returned to school a few years after I took CrazyUs.com offline. The paper is on Ted Hughes’s poem, “Daffodils,” a response to his wife Sylvia Plath’s suicide. Here is first paragraph of my paper:

“As I considered the compilation, “Birthday Letters,” which was released in October, 1998, months before Ted Hughes’ death. As I read the poem, I was also distracted by the noise, and found it easy to get lost in the salacious biographical details of Ted Hughes’ and Sylvia Plath’s life. Instead of doing a close reading of the poem, “Daffodils,” I found it hard not to psychoanalyze the doomed couple, which admittedly made the poet’s literary voice challenging to hear. Whether it is Hughes’ own confused and complicated internal voice creating the noise, or the fascinating biographical details, I would move beyond the critics and argue that a solid literary voice exists, and because the voice is a messy grey, not a solid black and white, it is no less real. I will show that these very details when embraced enable a concrete, informed, and close textual reading of Hughes’ complicated love poem, “Daffodils.’”

Me doing college in 2014, Salt Lake City, Utah
Me doing college in 2014, Salt Lake City, Utah
Me on BYU Campus with one of my favorite college buddies, the beautiful, Maddie, Provo, Utah
Me on BYU Campus with one of my favorite college buddies, the beautiful, Maddie, Provo, Utah

Yes. Messy and grey. That is one-hundred million percent me. You know what is funny? It never occurred to me at the time that going to back to school and writing all those papers was in fact a search for my own voice. In fact the title of my paper is,

“Ted Hughes, “Daffodils:” Is the Poet’s Voice Lost in The Noise?”  

And I would argue that the title of my life could be the same: “Beth Rodgers Adams, “CrazyUs.com:” Is the Blogger’s Voice in Lost in The Noise?”

Um and the answer is, “Yes.”

And since August, 2006 (and really since way before that), I have been trying to be a tree instead of the wind. That being said, do not underestimate the power of the wind. 

Us driving through Kalamata, Greece, March, 2016
Us driving through Kalamata, Greece, March, 2016

So here it is: Back in 2006, Dave and I were also in the throes of parenting two extremely entertaining and active little boys. Whether it was telling the world how a two and and a half year old Eli could not go to bed until he told us a joke first, or how a three and a half year old Kyle found a screwdriver and unlocked our bedroom door while yes, Dave and I were having mommy and daddy time [wink, wink]. Children are excellent at giving their parents plenty of material, and Kyle and Eli were no different. And really, whatever the story was, in the early to mid 2000s, I could not wait to tell my internet friends about my new highs and lows, including, but not limited to adventure, heartbreak or hilarious crisis. I love human connections and sharing my life experience online was another most valued outlet.

On an emotional level, I loved seeing my words reflected back through the very personal and insightful experiences others were willing to share. Our online conversations lifted me through the day. The online communities we were creating were a natural progression of in-person relationships. And I was experiencing these connections from my kitchen table. Looking back, those relationships and online communities grew faster than the speed of sound travels. We, the early blog adopters, were navigating and creating a new language and space of our own. It was crazy, terrifying, uncertain and exhilarating.

Kyle behind the 15th & 15th Einstein Bagels, Salt Lake City, Utah, March, 2005
Kyle behind the 15th & 15th Einstein Bagels, Salt Lake City, Utah, March, 2005
Easy E, Maryland, June, 2005
Easy E, Maryland, June, 2005

Because the word, “blog,” was still in beta in our collective consciousness, when people asked what I did for a living, I would unsteadily answer,

“I am a writer.”

When they pushed further, I would say,

“I have a blog,” which would inevitably be followed by their long eye roll and my self doubt.

I would try to authorize my space by sharing my credentials such as how Dave and I met in our high tech internet careers. I would always follow with the fact that and even had a blog for our wedding. And,

“We were married in 1998. Crazy!”

Me and Big Daddy, Scotland, July, 2016
Me and Big Daddy, Kellie Castle & Garden, Fife, Scotland, July, 2016

In August 2006, I took my blog down. I went completely dark and walked away from a space I worked very hard to stand in.  

There is no other reason than this: I took my blog down because I was afraid.

Kyle & I, The Main Square in Liechtenstein, April, 2017
Kyle & I, The Main Square in Liechtenstein, April, 2017

It took me a long time to see that I did not feel worthy of that space. I did not feel like I earned it. I felt shame. I felt less than. I believed I was unworthy. It took me an even longer time to see that I was not allowing myself to be vulnerable. Sure, I had no problem sharing my stories online. I could talk about other moms and how much they suck. With great and specific detail, I could talk about the bad and sad things that were happening around me. What I could not do is be vulnerable. Simply put, I was terrified committing to the uncomfortable and of standing in my truth. As a result, I felt shame. As a result, I will never know what could have happened. Most of my friends who blogged at the time did make some money and did find careers that were birthed via their blogs. Me, well, I was afraid and I walked away.

Forgiveness and healing took me really far. Standing in my own space was a great push. Ultimately, I truly believe vulnerability is the piece I was missing. I am ten years late, but I am here and I am standing. I am willing to invest and I am committed to sitting in this space, even when it is less than awesome, or no one is here. I reject the wind and will be the tree. I will even try to throw in some courage, authenticity, but mostly I really miss connecting in a space I helped create, and for that, I am sorry.

I am sorry I ran away.

Ran-Tong Save & Rescue Elephant Center, Chiang Mai, Thailand, June, 2016
Ran-Tong Save & Rescue Elephant Center, Chiang Mai, Thailand, June, 2016



Remember how we picked the daffodils?
Nobody else remembers, but I remember.
Your daughter came with her armfuls, eager and happy,
Helping the harvest. She has forgotten.
She cannot even remember you. And we sold them.
It sounds like sacrilege, but we sold them.
Were we so poor? Old Stoneman, the grocer,
Boss-eyed, his blood-pressure purpling to beetroot
(It was his last chance,
He would die in the same great freeze as you) ,
He persuaded us. Every Spring
He always bought them, sevenpence a dozen,
‘A custom of the house’.

Besides, we still weren’t sure we wanted to own
Anything. Mainly we were hungry
To convert everything to profit.
Still nomads-still strangers
To our whole possession. The daffodils
Were incidental gilding of the deeds,
Treasure trove. They simply came,
And they kept on coming.
As if not from the sod but falling from heaven.
Our lives were still a raid on our own good luck.
We knew we’d live forever. We had not learned
What a fleeting glance of the everlasting
Daffodils are. Never identified
The nuptial flight of the rarest epherma-
Our own days!
We thought they were a windfall.
Never guessed they were a last blessing.
So we sold them. We worked at selling them
As if employed on somebody else’s
Flower-farm. You bent at it
In the rain of that April-your last April.
We bent there together, among the soft shrieks
Of their jostled stems, the wet shocks shaken
Of their girlish dance-frocks-
Fresh-opened dragonflies, wet and flimsy,
Opened too early.

We piled their frailty lights on a carpenter’s bench,
Distributed leaves among the dozens-
Buckling blade-leaves, limber, groping for air, zinc-silvered-
Propped their raw butts in bucket water,
Their oval, meaty butts,
And sold them, sevenpence a bunch-

Wind-wounds, spasms from the dark earth,
With their odourless metals,
A flamy purification of the deep grave’s stony cold
As if ice had a breath-

We sold them, to wither.
The crop thickened faster than we could thin it.
Finally, we were overwhelmed
And we lost our wedding-present scissors.

Every March since they have lifted again
Out of the same bulbs, the same
Baby-cries from the thaw,
Ballerinas too early for music, shiverers
In the draughty wings of the year.
On that same groundswell of memory, fluttering
They return to forget you stooping there
Behind the rainy curtains of a dark April,
Snipping their stems.

But somewhere your scissors remember. Wherever they are.
Here somewhere, blades wide open,
April by April
Sinking deeper
Through the sod-an anchor, a cross of rust.

The poem is to Sylvia, about cutting and selling flowers in spring with their daughter, who no longer remembers her mother. The collection broke a 35 year silence on Hughes’ part. It is a response to Wordsworth’s daffodils as well – the kinds of memories the flowers conjure here are less those of solace than treasured, fragile moments. The scissors form a beautiful image of violence and vulnerability.”

I Was Blind But Now I See — Literally

Near Interlaken, Switzerland
Near Interlaken, Switzerland
Kyle, Bern-Gurten Park, Bern, Switzerland with the Alps in the background
Kyle, Bern-Gurten Park, Bern, Switzerland with the Alps in the background

I had no idea. Sure, I kind of knew I was depressed. I just thought it was my typical Seasonal Affected Disorder. Winter grey is no fun every single year. As a result of my malaise, I was not correlating that the darkness I was feeling was because of my eyes. And because I am pretty farsighted, I figured my bad eyesight was a result of my inability to read tiny ingredient labels. And for some reason I attached my tiny label issue to my utter inability to read larger font restaurant menus. I gave up and Dave always pitched in. I neglected the constant blur in the center of my vision field and we adjusted. Still, I was not connecting that not being able to read up close had nothing to do with my world going dark. Again, I adjusted. I turned all my electronic screens to their brightest setting, read under very vibrant lights, and dealt with the daily fact that I literally could not see my left eyelid as I tried to apply mascara and eyeshadow (even with a magnifying mirror in the morning sun). Further, I did not think twice that my freckles were fading out of view.

“I am getting older and that is what happens.”

Me and Big Daddy, The Moran Eye Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
Me and Big Daddy, The Moran Eye Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

I also thought that the infamous Utah winter smog caused by temperature inversions is what caused the mountains and my background to blur, and it never occurred to me that writing was becoming a task and that images are not supposed to disappear when you look toward the light. It all seemed normal. In all truth, in spite of the profound loss of my once very clear vision, I had no idea I was going blind.

Snowbird Ski Resort, Park City, Utah
Eli after his crash, Snowbird Ski Resort, Salt Lake City, Utah

The only reason I did something is because we met our deductible. In January Eli had a horrible ski accident, which resulted in a seriously fractured jaw, which required a titanium plate, tooth extraction, and having his jaw wired shut. He could not chew food for two months and lost thirty-five pounds. With our deductible met, Dave suggested we see the doctor for anything we thought we might want to take care of. I knew I had not had my eyes tested in a while and the blur was a little bothersome. With risk of pre-existing conditions soon counting against me, I decided to get my eyes checked out. Mind blown. I have a traumatic cataract. And understandably, my diagnosis caused some confusion, especially with me. See, several years ago I thought it was strange when a cornea specialist said that I had cataracts, or better, said that he could see my cataracts. He suggested it would be a several years before I needed to address “them.” Herein lies the confusion. The specialist was expert in corneas, not cataracts. There is not a “them.” There is a,  “one.” And one blinding cataract may have a different diagnosis. In my case, it does. Still I was caught off guard, he explained my scans and explained my diagnosis. Still did not make sense.

“Don’t cataracts come in two?” I thought.

Thankfully the surgeon realized that my processing speed needed a minute as I absorbed the shock. That is when he asked me to come back before surgery.

“Seriously. Look it up. Think of questions. Research. I can answer any of your concerns. And yes, the diagnosis is a classic traumatic cataract. Oh and by the way, when did you hit your head?”

Information on Traumatic Cataract from Google
Information on Traumatic Cataract from Google

I did hit my head, and hard. Nearly ten years ago I went airborne and fell down my friend’s stairs. It was an unfamiliar house and completely dark. I went over a baby gate and landed on my face. I broke my nose, ruptured a cyst in my wrist, and damaged my optic nerve. In fact, even now the skin sensation on the left side of my forehead feels different than the right. And no, I was not drinking. Crazy!

Easy E long boarding at the house where I broke my nose, Park City, Utah, November, 2007
Easy E long boarding at the house where I broke my nose, Park City, Utah, November, 2007

You still may doubt or have questions. I did too. So before I go any further, let me clear some things up. Yes. It is true: everyone will eventually develop cataracts. If you’re reading this, you probably have them this very minute, and if you live long enough, you’ll probably need surgery to address them. Normal cataracts tend to affect both eyes. When vision is bad enough, surgery is performed on one eye and after that eye heals, surgery is performed on the other. My mom recently had cataract surgery and her mom, mom grandma, had cataract surgery too. And it is possible that one eye may need surgery a year or two before the other, but they are close.

The boys and Wawa (my mom), May, 2017, Salt Lake City, Utah
The boys and Wawa (my mom), May, 2017, Salt Lake City, Utah

It is my understanding the cataracts are a natural product of the aging eye. My doctor put it this way:

“It is like every year someone puts a dropper of milk in a glass of water. Eventually the water becomes too foggy. And because the glass is yours, you get to decide when has become too foggy.”

Ultimately, it is our ability to see through foggy-water combined with the speed in which the fogginess impedes our vision that dictates when we are ready. As a result of these factors, not all of us will have surgery. We may die first (for real).

In my case, my left eye has a barely noticeable and typical cataract. It will probably be many years before it gets bad enough to fix. On the other hand, my right eye looked like a firework exploded in my lens. When given a glare test, I was completely blind. I would get my questions answered, yet surgery needed to happen regardless. Deep breath!

Even though it was confirmed that I could not see, I was crazy terrified the week before surgery. I was anxious. The risk of losing my eyesight altogether weighed heavily on me. I tried talking myself out of the surgery so many times, and I tried to cancel the day of. I convinced myself that I needed to be at the boys’ track meet. I even told the nurse,

“I should reschedule. They both run today. I do not want to be a bad mom.”

Image from
Image from the 1985 movie, “Cocoon.”

The nurse was kind and accommodating and told me that I had until 1PM to let them know. I waited until 12:50 PM to give them go ahead and I needed to be at the hospital by 2:15 PM. At that time, I walked onto the set of the 1980s movie, “Cocoon.” That is, I walked into the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. In a sea of delightful old people facing the same surgery, I waited. Because I barf 100 percent of the time after having morphine, the anesthesiologist opted not to give me pain medicine. Instead she used topical numbing and anti-nausea medicine. Of course they give you anti-anxiety medicine too, considering the fact that you’ll be awake while they poke your eye with sharp things. At approximately 3:30 PM MST, the surgeon began. He and the male nurse covered my head in a big white sheet with a hole. As the sticky parts around the eyehole adhered to my top lashes, I heard the doctor say,

“Let’s do this again. We don’t want to hurt those lashes.”

They lifted the sheet off of my face and repositioned the big white cover. Then they attached something to hold my eye open.

“How are you doing?” the doctor asked.

“I am good. This is so weird. Really weird.” I responded.

He cut into my right eye. I was awake. No. Really. I was awake for the entire surgery. And I remember it. About five minutes in, the doctor asked me,

“Beth, can you feel anything?”
“Yes.” I said and followed, “Is it supposed to hurt like this?”
“No.” he responded and then asked the anesthesiologist to give me more numbing medicine.

I could see colors. I heard the surgeon as he worked my busted cataract out of my eye.

“We are ready to put the new lens in.” the doctor said.

As he placed in my new lens it became stuck at the edge. “
“We need to fix this part. It is getting stuck on the edge.”

We were at minute ten. The doctor asked again, “Beth, can you feel that?”
As I looked at the bright whites, reds, blacks and blues reflected in the mirror above I said, “Really, is it still supposed to hurt?”
“No. It is not.” He responded and continued. “Please give her more medicine.” He instructed.

Me, post surgery, wearing my "Hannibal Lecter" Eye Mask, Salt Lake City, Utah
Me, post surgery, wearing my “Hannibal Lecter” Eye Mask, Salt Lake City, Utah

In twelve minutes my surgery was complete. The average time for cataract surgery is ten minutes. I’ll give the extra two minutes to the snag in my lens. When I came back for a follow-up the next day the doctor asked me about my experience. I asked him,

“Is it normal that I remember the surgery?”
“Yes.” He responded.
“Even all that pain.” I asked.

“The numbing medicine is supposed to last 15 – 20 minutes. Yours lasted five. Some people metabolize medicine really fast. You are one of those people.”

After surgery I was traumatized. I could remember the pain and remember the procedure. I could not get over the fact that I was awake while the doctor sliced into my eye. As a result of my processing overload, I asked Dave to drop me off at home so I could catch my breath. I assured him I would be ready to go to the boys’ track meet after he returned with my prescriptions. Yes, I was still trying to make the track meet. Three hours later I woke up. The track meet was over and the boys were on their way home.

Me, post surgery, May, 2017, Salt Lake City, Utah
Me, post surgery, May, 2017, Salt Lake City, Utah

As I kept opening and closing my right eye, my blind spot was gone. My vision is crystal clear in my right eye and a bit duller in my left. The boys were back home. They were kind and grateful I was ok.

Before I left for my check up appointment the next day, after about half of the way in, I realized as I put on my eyeshadow that I could actually see my left eyelid. I looked closer and kept thinking about all the freckles on my face.

“Wow! I love my freckles. Man, I have a lot of them.” It honestly took me a few minutes to connect the dots as I thought to myself, “It is my new robot eye. It is allowing me to see. My freckles have always been this bright. Wow!”

The boys and I on our Mothers Day Adventure, Liberty Park, Salt Lake City, Utah
The boys and I on our Mothers Day Adventure, Liberty Park, Salt Lake City, Uta

Later that day Kyle and I went on a walk. I kept staring at the mountains to the east. I saw contrast. I saw peaks. I saw canyons. I have not seen the mountains like this in years. Then I saw the leaves on the trees. No longer were they a blend of greens. In high contrast I saw each leaf. From blur to high definition in twelve minutes, I still cannot believe it. By the way, I also noticed my bathroom is much dustier than I imagined and that I have a lot of wrinkles. Nevertheless, I am grateful.

Trust Me

CrazyUs.com Travels
Us, Citadel of Besançon, Besançon, France


A friend recently suggested I listen to Brené Brown’s talk entitled, “The Anatomy of Trust.” I was like,

“Who is Brené Brown? And why do you always refer to her?”

Apparently I am nearly the last people on Earth who has not heard of or listened to Brené Brown, or at least, I am the last of the subset of those who listen of those who watch Oprah, listen to the Ted Radio hour, and/or read transcendent personal essays, such as the ones found in The Atlantic Monthly.  In truth, I was listening to another podcast recently (Amanda Palmer on Design Matters) when Amanda Palmer, formerly of the cabaret-punk duo, “The Dresden Dolls,” quoted Brené Brown. I figured if cabaret-punk can coexist with Dallas mom, then well, I can listen to Brené Brown.

CrazyUs.com Travels
Me and the boys, Liberty Park Salt Lake City, Utah

So, between avoiding my online French class and booking summer travel I decided it was time. Immediately Brené encoded the definition of trust into a most awesome mnemonic device. Yes, awesome, because I still remember the word: BRAVING. I will not break it down for you now. I suggest you listen to her entire podcast.  Right now I want to focus on the “v” in her memory acronym.  No. The “v” is not referring to a 1980’s alien invasion reboot, or to lady parts. The “v” in BRAVING refers to the trust concept of a Vault, which by Brené Brown’s definition means: “what I share with you, you will hold in confidence. And what you share with me, I will hold in confidence.”  Feeling confident with my ability to keep confidences, I almost missed the next crucial advice Brené gave, which is the idea that we are not trustworthy when we participate in salacious behavior. Meaning that “in our relationship I need to see that you acknowledge confidentiality and I need to do the same.” Nevertheless, in an attempt to “hotwire connections,” simply put, we gossip.

Easy E and Me, tonight, Salt Lake City, Utah
Easy E and Me, tonight, Salt Lake City, Utah

As a result, instead of healthy, trusting connections, Brené Brown suggests that “our closeness is built on hating the same people.” She calls this, “Common Enemy Intimacy.”  Ouch! I get it. How many times am I silent, ultimately complicit, as I listen to the rumors. My excuse: I want to feel a part, especially when it comes to the other moms. Why can’t I be brave?

With thoughts simmering, I finished the twenty-four minute podcast (of course I took notes). And I continue to simmer. I am trying to process the concept that an aspect of trust is our ability to keep our mouths shut, or better, “not sharing something that is not mine to share.”  As I think, I want  push further and suggest that Common Enemy Intimacy is a pervasive societal condition. For instance, socially we reject those who do not act like us. Religiously we fear those who do not believe like us. Politically we hate those who do not think like us. Deep breath. I am not going to talk politics or religion. I am going to speak to the social component, specifically regarding parenting as it relates to my relationships with other moms. And here is my conundrum:  How do I quickly engage you without betraying trust? I need help.

First, I could totally rationalize.  I agree.  Gossip does hotwire a connection. Sure, telling you about a bitchy mom may build closeness with you, but at what cost? I would even argue that talking about someone else in an attempt to heal is a form of gossip. In defense of healing, my story includes other people and my opinions of them. I know if you understood the details you would gain greater perspective. As a result, I am sure my full disclosure would allow for better advice. At what cost? What about trust? Where is the line? Is it worth breaking someone’s trust? Ah! What do I do?

Kyle & I, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kyle & I, Salt Lake City, Utah

Here is a thought. I would like to push further on the concept of trust.  In what we share with others, I would like to consider a line of thought, which is that women (in general) are culturally taught to accommodate.  As a result, I would suggest that our society does not enable us to ground ourselves in our own space or our own stories. Because we are taught to tether to our relationships to an exterior world, we become dependent on the opinions of others. And as accommodators, I would argue that gossip is a natural form of this exterior connection (intimacy). Sure, I could also have an entire conversation regarding the idea that patriarchy and how women treat one another is because they feel the only power they have is within their own gender and that creates inequitable trust, but I won’t, at least not right now. Ultimately, women who try to break the societal cycle and who are “grounded” in their own narrative can actually be viewed as self-absorbed or narcissistic. Because we do not want to appear self-centered or self-absorbed, the accommodating feedback loop persists. That is why I push back. I may not like or condone gossip. In fact I pretty much hate gossip in all its mean-girl forms. Nevertheless, I have compassion for the women who do.  And maybe it is because women who gossip are not trying to break trust. Perhaps they gossip because they are not comfortable standing in their own space, or they do not feel they can. (By the way, self trust is half of the equation:  You “can’t ask people to give you something you don’t think you are worthy of receiving.”) In the end, we become more of the wind and less of the tree. And as the wind, it is not about trust, it becomes about fitting in and holding on.


Us, Alsace Region, Riquewihr, France
Us, Alsace Region, Riquewihr, France

Alas, all this exposition simply to ask,

“How do I stand in my space and tell my story while holding everyone’s trust, including my own?”


Keeping it Real As We Make Our Way Home

Our Flight Seattle, Washington to Salt Lake City, Utah
Our Flight Seattle, Washington to Salt Lake City, Utah

[Be warned: Not only did we cover a lot of physical territory on our return flight, my words here are all over the map!]

It is 6:30 AM.  We are on the last leg of our epic adventure, traveling on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City. The sun is shining through the window bright. I am sitting in seat 17A.  The middle seats are empty, and our family has the entire row. Seconds ago I stole my neck pillow back. I feel a little guilty. Dave really seemed comfortable.

Us on our flight from Seattle, Washing to Salt Lake City, Utah
Us on our flight from Seattle, Washing to Salt Lake City, Utah

Over the intercom I hear a voice. It is the captain:

“We are at a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet …Mad props (yes, he did say ‘mad props’). The captain continues,  “We are going to be on time, or very close to it.  We are lucky to have four of Alaska’s top flight attendants with us today…Enjoy the flight.”

Kyle at the Liechtenstein Main Square, our last day, April, 2017
Kyle at the Liechtenstein Main Square, our last day, April, 2017

The return travel portion of our journey home began approximately thirty-four hours ago when I heard the beep, beep, beep of my alarm. I had no idea what was happening. Confused, I said,

“Stop that noise! Seriously, turn it off.  Whose alarm is that?” (It was mine.)

It was 3:30 AM — Zurich time. Somehow we showered, packed, ate breakfast, and made our way to the airport. I was patted down in Seattle. At the Zurich airport, both Kyle and I had our bags searched. Then the sweet Swiss airport security agent lady held the two tiny jars up high.

“That is my jam for the plane.” I said, and then I looked at Kyle and mumbled, “Not music, but like real jam.”

Examining them she mumbled, or better, spoke German, “[insert German words here].” I listened incomprehensibly. Then smiled when I heard the word, “marmalade.”

“Yes, the marmalade.” I proclaimed.

“Marmelade. Yes. Marmalade.” She laughed and concurred.

She placed the marmalade with my little toothpaste as she crammed all of my small items into one plastic bag. Finally, she instructed me to keep all items in that bag.  As I watched her, all I could think was,

“my jam is with my toothpaste. That’s weird.”

A picture of one of my little jams that made it home from Zurich, Switzerland, April 2017
A picture of one of my little jams that made it home from Zurich, Switzerland, April 2017

We made our way to the gate and as we were boarding, I heard,

“If your name is called, please come and speak to a gate agent.” I heard the name “Adams,” and said, “Dude, they just called our name.”

Uncertain, he listened again, “Adams.”

Sure enough, his name was called, which ultimately meant he was bumped to first class.

Kyle piped in and said, “Mom should get the seat.”

Let me preface this next part and to tell you that in all the years of flying, flights and upgrades, I have never taken the first class seat. Nevertheless, Dave always offers. And yes, on occasion, we have upgraded together. But, because I seem to be allergic to all food, which means I would not fully enjoy the luxury of a first class meal, and because I am also small in stature, which means I fit in a middle seat between the boys more comfortably, I always feel guilty taking the upgrade.  The closest I came to taking him up on his offer is when I suggested we give the upgrade to his mom, who was traveling with us.  (*Hold up! Do not think I am a sweet daughter-in-law because I suggested Dave give his mom the upgrade. Sending his mom to first class was as much as a gift for me as it was for her. We were at the end of a long journey, a journey, where, for two weeks, I listened to her talk at great length as she detailed her previous trips to England including, but not limited to, things such as the intricacies of every meal, a full-blown accounting of where she ate, details such as how the restaurant was decorated, how many people were also eating at said restaurant, then an exhaustive listing of what she and her companions ate, how the food was prepared, and how long it took for her to eat compared to everyone else. **By the way, I bumped her to first class in the van too.  Of course and in truth, I  wanted her to be comfortable as we traveled across the country. As a result, I insisted she sit in the front passenger seat. I sat in the far the back. It was great. Dave drove. She talked. I hid. *Please be hard on me and not her. For more than forty years she was an English professor. And is much more accustomed to an audience. When it came to our return flight, I knew I had no more energy to listen so I insisted she have Dave’s first class upgrade.)

Dave and his mom, DeAnne, Hampton Court, England, July, 2014
Dave and his mom, DeAnne, Hampton Court, England, July, 2014
Me in the back of our rental van somewhere between London and Brighton, England, July, 2014
Me in the back of our rental van somewhere between London and Brighton, England, July, 2014

Of course Dave happily obliged.

Yesterday was different. A voice screamed. Ok, my voice screamed,

“Beth, take the seat!”

I was exhausted. I needed a break and I really needed a moment alone. So I took a deep breath and I took the seat. Of course I immediately offered to split the time with Dave. (You can check my text messages for proof. It was sort of ridiculous actually.)

Dave insisted,

“I think you should stay there the entire time.” Then he demanded, “But you’d better sleep.”

Air Canada 787 Business Class Seats
Air Canada 787 Business Class Seats

I did. I slept. Even after two flight attendants woke me up, I forced myself back to sleep. Sure, I went back and visited Dave and the boys a few times. Of course I had moments of lonely. I hate being alone all those hours. But people it was awesome.

Dave in Toronto Airport's Plaza Premium Lounge -- the only picture I took, April 2017
Dave in Toronto Airport’s Plaza Premium Lounge — the only picture I took, April 2017
Dave & the boys at the Zurich Airport Aspire Lounge, April 2017.
Dave & the boys at the Zurich Airport Aspire Lounge, April 2017.

We landed in Toronto, where we had a six-hour layover, a layover where I sat in the exact same chair in the Plaza Premium Lounge for exactly five hours. For the past few days prior Eli had been bugging me because he wanted to download some Netflix shows. Apparently you can only download Netflix shows on one device at a time and my iPad had the shows.  So to help out a brother, who is really my son, I sat and watched my remaining downloads, which were the last three episodes of the teen-suicide drama “Thirteen Reasons Why.” See, I have been watching the show in tandem with Eli.  He read the book in 7th grade. And after watching the show, I am now retroactively questioning another parenting choice. I can’t change the past, but I can address the now.

I finished the last episode, and with our food-stained yet comfortable airport lounge chairs facing each other, I announced,

“I am done.”

Like the great literary deconstruction specialist he is, Kyle asked, “What did you think?”

“I have mixed feelings.”  I responded.

He shook his head affirmatively and asked, “Like what?”

“For starters, Hannah, the girl whose suicide was graphicaly depicted, announced her despair throughout the show.  She clearly stated that she felt:  flat, hopeless and apathetic.  Consequently, I would argue that it seems a little incongruous that in her hopeless state she had enough energy to make thirteen, very detailed, sixty-minute cassette tapes — not to mention the fortitude it took to procure a cassette recorder … That is a lot of energy.”

“I agree,” Eli piped in.  “And to tell 13 specific people why they played a part in her suicide, well, that is a lot! Mom, there were so many things that did not make sense.”

Colmar, France, April, 2017
Colmar, France, April, 2017

We continued talking about things like teen suicide, rape and why we think narrow literary stereotypes are lame.  Through our analysis we compared the merits of real life versus making a best-selling teen novel turned Netflix-binge watch.   We all agree. Reality and being yourself should win, including the dirty, less glamorous parts. We also concluded (again), that suicide and suicide prevention was not portrayed accurately or well in this Netflix series. 


Our conversation wound down and soon we were on our way to our next flight: Toronto to Seattle.  I convinced a tiny, curly haired, and very entertaining teen to trade seats with us. I noticed he was flying alone. I convinced him by telling him he would be sitting behind my sons who would both be happy to talk with him about Pokémon or whatever. He agreed and probably would have moved regardless.  But he did move with a lot of back and forth regarding Gameboy Pokémon compared to travesty that is Pokémon Go. And yes, as a level twenty-four Pokémon Go player, I participated in the trash talk.  (I am not kidding. In fact I leveled up on this trip.) Huzzah!

When I noticed no one was sitting in the seats in front of Dave and me, I urged Kyle to move so both boys could have their own row. As they stretched out, I asked Dave, “should I have offered the Gameboy kid the empty seats?”

To which he said, “No way! If he’d stayed in the seat he was given, he’d still have someone sitting next to him.”

View from a plane at the Toronto, Canada International Airport, April, 2017
View from a plane at the Toronto, Canada International Airport, April, 2017

I let it be, wrapped my clean (because I keep it in a backpack) neck pillow around my neck and turned on a video on the in-flight entertainment system. Ben Affleck was saying words and I could not stay awake.  We landed in Seattle delirious and moments later we met up for a quick bite with one of our favorite humans, Justin. And because it was Seattle and because I stated out loud that I have celiac, the Cheesecake Factory wanted to get my order right. They re-made my dinner three times. I did not ask them to keep remaking my food. It was Jen, our waitress, followed by her manager. They insisted.

“We are closing down our kitchen, but we want to get you something you can eat.”

It was a moment of kindness after a very long flight. I was grateful. They continued,

“We don’t want you to get sick or have some weird allergic reaction.”

Us with Justin, Seattle, Washington, April, 2017
Us with Justin, Seattle, Washington, April, 2017

The food was good. We ate up, found our way back to our hotel. Said goodbye to Justin and found our way to our room.

Here I sit. Around my neck, my pillow snakes. I am wearing noise-canceling headphones, listening to my Spotify Mix and typing away. Now hovering over Salt Lake City, I feel super reflective. I feel reflective as a means to distract me from the mad, turbulence.  Our flight path had us do a bunch of wide circles before we finally came in to land.  As I cross my fingers and hold a hand to the ceiling (not really), I feel grateful. Truthfully, I am grateful we have embraced the what-you-see-is-what-you-get aspect of life, especially as far as travel goes. As such, I own the moments like when I bring marmalade on a plane, or that I would selfishly help my mother-in-law as a means to help myself, or that for my boys I would totally sit in a seat for five straight hours (because I did) and binge watch Netflix. Instead of shame, I think it is cool that the boys and I have played Pokémon all over the world.  And finally, I am so glad that I have learned that profound experiences do not need to be orchestrated by, say, taking the kids to every self-important, humble-brag-to-your-friends museum such as the Louvre or the Prado, unless, that is, you can run them through said museum in less than an hour on “free” museum days.

Easy E outside of the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain, November, 2016
Easy E outside of the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain, November, 2016
Kyle in the Prado during our "free last 2 hours of Sunday" visit. We did the museum in under an hour. I surreptitiously took this photo. I am not a fan of "no photo" policies.
Kyle in the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain, during our “free last 2 hours of Sunday” visit. We did the museum in under an hour. I surreptitiously took this photo. I am not a fan of “no photo” policies.
Dave & I outside of the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain, November, 2016
Dave & I outside of the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain, November, 2016

I feel like a poorly made Gluten Free waffle.

My gluten free waffle
My gluten free waffle, Salt Lake City, Utah

Yes. I have photographic evidence of said waffle. I made it this morning. Each Sunday morning, for our family breakfast, I follow the exact same recipe, which is located on the back of the gluten free Bisquick baking mix. I measure. I stir. I blend. I pour the batter in and then I wait. Gently I nudge open the waffle iron. If I feel any sort of tension, I wait some more. Today I was able to open the iron. As I urged my waffle out, I noticed it was sticking.

When I see my waffle fall apart, silence escapes me. I am loud.  No. I do not need anyone to fix it. I just need to vent.

Like the boys say,

“Mom speaks out because she does not want to feel so alone. She wants you to know she is having a hard time…That is all.” (Pro Tip: raise your children to speak and translate Mom.)

They continue to reassure,

“Dad, mom is really ok.”    

The boys, Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, April 2017
The boys, Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, April 2017


The boys, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017
The boys, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017

By the way, I always vent. My vent is often packed with colorful feelings. I vent for the waffle crumbles. I vent because extricating a gluten free waffle from any pan is a pain in the ass. I vent for my jealous heart, because come on, we all know that eggs and white flour make everything easier. Mostly, I vent because I feel like a character in  the Sesame Street skit, “One of These Things is not Like the Other.”  

Dave is standing over the waffle iron now. He insists:

“Stop using a fork to get it out.” [insert short pause here], “You are ruining the waffle iron!” [now insert a long pause] Dave continues, “You just need a new waffle iron.”

This is our routine: I perfect my waffles as Dave successfully makes fancy European pancakes (with eggs and whole wheat flour, of course). I often tell him that it is not the waffle iron, but the “stupid” waffles. It is not lost on any of us that my waffles are without gluten, which means they will not have the stick-togetherness of Dave’s beautiful pancakes. Nevertheless, I am a fighter. When presented with failure, I will always make another batch. It the next batch fails, I will persist.  At times I feel like a failure as I watch them as they eat their high-achiever-styled pancakes. Then I remember it really is apples and oranges, or better, glue vs. acetone. Then I cover my my waffle crumbs with perfectly sliced strawberries (that is another story) and whipped cream.

Some might suggest I pack it in or give up. Nope. Please know that my complicated gluten free waffles are always worth it. They allow me to feel like one of the others. Even when they are a disembodied mess, they taste really good. Mostly I know that once in a while I am able to produce a gluten free waffle masterpiece. In those moments, I gently open the waffle iron. As I marvel, I swear I hear a choir of angels sing. Then I easily remove my beautiful creation.

Today I said nothing when my waffle fell apart. Then I extracted it with a fork.

The remains of my gluten free waffle, Salt Lake City, Utah
The remains of my gluten free waffle, Salt Lake City, Utah

I am sure I remained quiet because even though a crumbly waffle has nothing to do with my birthday, my birthday is tomorrow, and crumbly is definitely how I feel. I dread my birthday. Like I told Dave,

“I do not want to be remembered, yet I do not want to be forgotten.”

“I get it.” he responded.

As my birthday rounds the bend, I ponder, I loop. I always loop.  My failures amplify and wasted moments shout,

“Beth, live in the now!”

See, for as long as I can remember, I have become consumed with reflection the closer the calendar nears. When the week hits (because yes, it is a week), I always hope things will be different. Unfortunately, this year is no different. It is April 23. I am at the beginning of a tailspin. I am still in the place where every single resentful, shameful and angry I-thought-I-had-resolved-this-already feeling is screaming its way to the surface. My self doubt is obliterating every cognitive behavioral therapy technique I have been taught. Doubt is crushing my empathy, and fear is suffocating my voice. Finally I scream,  

“CINNAMON!” (which is our family safe word, by the way).

No one hears me.

Me, Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, April, 2017
Me, Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, April, 2017

Feeling both worked up and defeated, my despair paints the air I breathe. I always see the times I stepped aside, stepped back and was afraid. Usually, and for no real reason, I get frustrated with my mom for placing so much value on birthdays while simultaneously becoming irritated that my mother-in-law is not naturally considerate. I wonder if these two amazing women realize they are part of my birthday psychosis. (Shh. Maybe it is better if we left them out of this.) And speaking of Dave, he is never off the hook. Pre-any-holiday, he always gets on my nerves. We always fight. We most often misunderstand. Nevertheless, he does not throttle me. Instead he stands by my side.  

Alas, I am no a victim. I own my pre-holiday moodiness and I am lucky that I can indulge and work through it. In fairness, I also give Dave a clear heads-up and say things like,

“Seriously dude, if you do not order me a gluten free birthday cake, I will lose my mind.” (ha ha, irony. I am already losing my mind.)

Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017
Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017

I would argue that together Dave and I are our best hope for surviving these dark moments. Instead, my despair crushes him too. I have an idea for both of us.  I am starting to think that to survive these moments Dave and I should go all “Freaky Friday” on each other.  In fact, I think we would be better off if flip flopped our strengths. He could “Beth” me all up while I “Dave’d” him.

In truth, with my hopes high, our weekend began well.  Dave and I ran errands Friday night. Then we binge-watched season 6 of “Homeland.”   Before we started our binge watch and errands, Dave had a plan. He sweetly wanted suggested we do something for my “birthday weekend,”  and that is when he said,

“Hey, let’s leave town tomorrow morning…Just grab a change of clothes and go.”

Kyle is currently out of town and off the grid with his environmental science class. I thought it would be too much to get us ready and be back before Kyle returned so I said,

“Let’s just spend Saturday together doing fun stuff.”

I happily assumed we would. I also happily assumed Dave would cheerlead us out the door. Meaning he would not wait for me to make the plans. We ran our errands and that is when it happened. As we walked in the door Dave said something like,

“I was talking to the bike guys. Tomorrow afternoon we are talking about a ride.”

There was no asking. With jaw agape, I said,

“I think I am going to be upset.”

“Really?” he responded — indignant.

I walked away.

Big Daddy at Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017
Big Daddy at Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017

Aside from asking Eli and Dave to have lunch with me, (when they already were full), the weekend took a nosedive. And really, since Dave told me about the bike ride, I have waffled. And by waffled, I mean, waffle like my poorly made, finesse-less, gluten free waffle.

Anyway, the weekend moves forward. I have completely bailed on my self-worth and my parenting. When Dave and I do engage, I vomit my feelings, which are of course, riddled with barf-y explanations. I know. Feelings talks are hard on anyone. At one point I used the following, yet “gentle” (not gentle) metaphorical experience:

“Dave, you know how when I make a really good dessert and I can’t stop eating it, so I just put it down the garbage disposal?  That is how I feel about this weekend.”

At this point Dave is somewhere working on house projects. I am sure he is looping, or I secretly hope he is. To me that would imply he also wants things to be better. Do not worry.  I am a long processor. Usually by the end of said holiday, I get over myself. I stop being mad at my mom and mother-in-law. They have done nothing wrong. My mom is the most thoughtful human I know. I am forever grateful she taught me to compassionately think of others. My mother-in-law is a bit harder. As she often tells me, “we are nothing alike.”  Regardless, she is the reason for Dave, and well, Dave is my world. Eventually  I forgive Dave for being Dave. (I did last night.) He forgives me. And ultimately it is Dave who swims by my side and helps me come up for air. Please know that after this weekend Dave totally earns extra good-husband points. (And yes, there is a great big jar where all those good-husband points go. When Dave fills the jar, he can use his accumulated points pick from several prizes)

Me and Big Daddy, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April 2017
Me and Big Daddy, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April 2017

[insert robust and thoughtful conclusion here]

Here it is. Dave thinks my ending is too abrupt.  I am not sure. When I ask, he suggests I sum it all up more completely. I honestly thought I did, but can see his point. I guess if I were to add anything, I would conclude this conclusion by saying that things like birthdays, or better, expectations, are not a waffle fail. And if we can move beyond the said birthday anxiety or waffle fail, we might see the is beauty. See, crumbly or not, each Sunday morning our family makes and then sits down for breakfast together. Dave and the boys always wait until my waffle is ready. And when we are done, we do the dishes — together. Sure, Eli may all of a sudden need to use the bathroom and yes, I may remind them to push their chairs in. In the end, we are team, and being a team is pretty awesome.  I am lucky

Us, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017
Us, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017