May is Mental Health Month

Recently I noticed that many of my posts are kind of dark, deep dives into heartbreak. I was like, 

“Beth, you sound depressed. Why all the big feelings? Are you always this sad?” 

Maybe I am depressed. I definitely have very large feelings. Please know that I am not always this sad. Yet, if I were “this sad,” I think that is ok too. Regarding my often pain-filled blog posts, I simply think I write when I have something I am working through (or most likely have been triggered). Writing helps. I have also come to believe that telling our stories is crucial to healing. Selfishly, I also recognize that a big part of my healing is having a platform. Honestly, at this point I am not sure who reads my words. Nevertheless, I am grateful I have a place to put them. I am grateful I am able to write them down. I am grateful for the opportunity to process and heal. Even better, I am grateful for those who do speak up, who do stand by me, validate and show me that I am worthy and I am seen. You are a gift. You have saved me more times than I can count. Seriously! Thank you! 

I only hope I can do that for you. 

Earlier I was watching Oprah’s new show on mental health called, “The Me You Can’t See,” when I heard the following quote,

“Therapeutic change is about healthy relationships. It’s about feeling like you belong and like feeling like you are connected.”

I love this quote and I agree. About the show, sure I cried all the way through and no, I am not going to review it except to say that it is vulnerable and it is good. I hope it reaches those who need to hear its message. 

Now onto my story:

The stars collided in such a way that I could not refuse their message. My mind is racing to connect all the dots that have brought me to this place. I see the intersection of my family and our relationship with the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints). I hear my best friend Marianne say, 

“Mormons are just like everyone else. They make mistakes. They care about social status, prosperity, power and popularity. They cheat on their spouses and talk behind your back. The problem is because they have Jesus, they think they are better. I would argue using your belief in God to justify your ‘Christlike’ behavior is even worse.”

I do not disagree. 

As I think about Marianne’s words I solidly hear my non-Mormon therapist say,

“You know, Beth, many people love being Mormon and do not blame the Mormon church for their problems.” Then I see her pause long enough to make sure that I am really paying attention. She continues, “I also think many of these same people grew up with families who gave them healthy tools to navigate such an intense religion. These were the families that also provided their children with a healthy sense of self.”

Immediately I feel inadequate. I want to throw up. I feel deep pain. I feel weird. As a young girl, I know I did not have the tools. I know I did not possess a healthy sense of self.

As I try to piece this rush of feelings together, I am thrust back in time. I see my trigger. I feel the pain and insecurity as I remember how I perceived the women at church treat my mom. Though not everyone was like this, the ones who were, were terrible. I let my mind remember. I see my mom’s good friend dropping her upon being accepted into a more prominent social circle. I remember perceiving like my mom felt inadequate and rejected. I remember all the phone calls from those same women, including the “good” friend. They always wanted to make sure my mom knew how bad my sisters were. I remember the rage and frustration I felt knowing that the kids of these same women were doing the same or worse. I felt powerless as I watched my mom appear to feel like it was all her fault. It was not her fault. Those women were cruel, exclusive and self-righteous. Many of my peers remember these women differently. I think that is ok. I imagine we can hold space for all of us.

Most of these women live in Utah now. So does my mom. It is my memory that they never have included my mom, or invited her to their Minnesota get togethers. I imagine they would tell her the same thing the local LDS moms tell me,

“We just didn’t think you would want to come.”

I imagine my mom feels less than, confused and rejected. I wonder if she thinks it’s her fault. Maybe she moved on long ago. 

Abruptly I move from these feelings of sorrow to the moments I needed my mom’s empathy and compassion. Instead, I hear her words every single time I shared my pain,

“They are such good people. Beth, are you sure there wasn’t something you did?”

What I have learned through hours of therapy and mistakes I have made myself is that what I needed is for my mom to believe my story (as it was). I needed her to stand by my side and to protect me.

Of course, we can always do better. I can do better. Regardless, what I keep thinking about is this: why do we live in a world where my mom or a person of color, or the whistleblower, the rape victim, the poor kid, or the family who no longer attends church has to shoulder the burden and constantly prove they are valid or that they have worth? Why does the burden of proof fall solely on the disadvantaged or marginalized? Why is the outsider required to carry the relationship? It makes no sense. Victim Shaming or shunning the outsider or whatever you want to call it, drives me absolutely bonkers! Unjustified rejection is my trigger. It is also my trauma.

I am certain this trauma goes right back to the moment my family walked into the doors of the LDS church. My parents were recently married. Both of them were on their second marriage. They were young. And somehow in my mom’s upbringing, I believe she was taught that everything was also her fault. I believe she wanted to have healthy relationships. I believe she wanted to fit in and to connect. As a young mom, who was raising a blended family with six children, I believe she did her best. What I remember is that her best was taking the blame, asking me to take the blame, and consequently, reinforcing our cultural belief that the burden falls on the disadvantaged. By the way, it is also my memory that the women at church had no problem letting my mom take the hits. I always thought it was so cruel. I don’t know if she realizes what I see. I am sure my truth would embarrass her and break her heart.

Honestly, how on earth could one expect her to give us a strong sense of self while she was reconciling her own past trauma? How on earth could one expect her to stand with confidence as a new member and within the confines of such a rigorous belief system and religion?  How could I expect her to navigate the nuance of prosperity doctrine, social status, the generational cliques, while at the same time incorporating Christ’s teachings of inclusion and love? I truly believe she did her best. I also believe many of these women grew to love my mom. She is kind and openhearted.

Nevertheless, as many times as my mom has owned these moments, the trauma is still deeply embedded. It is what it is. I also fear I have perpetuated this pattern. For me to heal, I recognize that need to be honest regarding my complicity.

As a result of this learned behavior, within these dynamics, I always felt like it was me, not them. I felt like if I could shove myself into their world, everything would be fantastic. I have come to believe that feeling like I am less than and unworthy is damaging. I cannot fix them, or better, I cannot heal their own damage, the damage that causes them to be mean. I can only surround myself with people who love me for who I am.

As a result of these experiences, I was determined to help my kids feel a healthy sense of self. I was determined that they would always feel worthy. I encouraged their dreams, their fashion sense, their interests. I look them in the eyes. I make sure to connect with them each time they leave. I tell them I love them. I tell them I believe in them. I tell them these things often. Regardless of these positive behaviors, I also feel as though I have failed my sons. See, I could have done better. I am heartbroken. Now, when I know they are actively being ostracized and excluded I have never said and then asked them,

“Kyle and Eli, they are such good people. Are you sure there wasn’t something you did?”

However, what I did do is when they were actively being ostracized I stridently tried to negotiate with the parents. For years, I worked on these parental connections as I tried to prove our worth. I bargained over and over and over again. I allowed my boys to needlessly suffer because somewhere inside of me I felt like it was my fault. Thinking about the moments my children were rejected, condemned, and excluded fills me with suffocating pain and shame. I see the damage I enabled. Instead of encouraging them to walk away from people who do not treat them well, I encouraged them to stay. I am so sorry. I think I really still believed that I was the bad one. I was the one who was unworthy.

I have apologized privately to my sons. I have actively held boundaries with those who have been so unkind, intentionally or neglectfully. Now I straight up call these folks assholes. My brain also breaks each time I hear someone say, 

“well, I mean, it was so and so’s plans. I did not want to step on toes.” 

I scream inside at those who know what is right and do nothing. I think they are lame. After repeatedly placing my sons in harm’s way, and allowing them to stay in a situation they were ill prepared to navigate, I finally see that there is nothing I could have done to change who these people are. Sure, these folks also exist in a belief system where I believe they think they did what was right (in spite of our sons feel less than). From my lens, this behavior is still not ok. Regardless, it was my job to protect them. I could have done a much better.

That is why regardless of where I am tempted to place blame, at the end of the day, the buck stops with me. (Accountability)

I should have encouraged better boundaries. I should have kept Kyle and Eli from this harm. For my failings, I will always be sorry. I pray for Kyle and Eli’s forgiveness. I hope they see that because I know better I am trying to do better. I hope they know that I always stand by their side. I have their back. I like them and I love them. They are good and they are worthy. Ultimately, I hope they are able to surround themselves with people who love them just the way they are, (and not people who are not determined to dictate who they should be). I hope they always have places and spaces where they feel connected and where they know they belong. I hope they know they are loved — because they are loved — always.

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Coronavirus Campus Chaos

Dave, Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

The other day I wrote what I would call our Coronavirus download, or better, a “I don’t want to forget this moment” journal entry (that I made public). The post was a bit sloppy. This one might be too. At the time, I had been up for more than two days. I was jetlagged. I was definitely nervous and completely freaked out. I imagine I am not alone. Today I woke up at 6:00AM —  worried. As I listened to Dave’s deep breathing, I tried to stop—worrying, that is. Then, while I hid my head and my brightly lit cellphone under the covers, Eli and I texted about his day. That just made me worry more. Of course Kyle woke up seeming sad. He assured me he was just tired. I have been worrying ever since. Nevertheless and in spite of my worry, I am going to try and write again. I think it is important. I want to remember this moment, even in its rough draft awkwardness. 

Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

My hope is my words convey the love I intend (and are not glazed with worry). I know everyone is dealing with a lot. I am sorry you are struggling. We are sending you love & disinfected air hugs.

This Coronavirus business is complicated and hard. As a result, in the past few days, I have been in awe and completely overwhelmed. I have witnessed unexpected anger and extraordinary patience. I have been firsthand-judged in one moment and then unyieldingly supported in the next (from the same person). I have seen awkwardness, a weird sort of piousness, and a thousand times more compassion, kindness and love. At first I felt a little tender and maybe even protective of our bad-timing-travel choice. I think I also understand why people would be mad at us for traveling. I think I get why people might think I am an irresponsible mom for leaving Eli home. Yet, as I slow my own roll, I realize that we are all just doing the best we can. We all have our path. I never intentionally want to do anything that would cause someone else pain. That being said, I am sure I have. Yes. This moment is also making me contemplative. I think it should. Consequently, what I see is that I also need to be patient and forgiving.

Dave & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

We are still in the thick of it. We are still uncertain. 

See, we left Utah before the world shut down. We believe in and support social isolation. We do not take the potential harm our travel could cause others lightly. We never have. Last Friday we were on a flight to New Zealand when the announcement was made that New Zealand would shut its borders. We landed hours before they did. Kyle landed here a few short hours after we did, but before the self-quarantine deadline. As we traveled, we were extraordinarily cautious about touching people and things. We antibacterial-wiped down our airplane seats. We washed our hands. We used hand sanitizer. Social isolation was not as enforced until we arrived. Nevertheless, we still feel like we could have done more. We also feel like we are exactly where we are supposed to be. Is that just weird? I can’t explain it either.

Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

Up until the second we left Utah, we questioned our choice. Dave and I rarely, if ever, feel the united calm we did before we left. We still feel it. We think it’s weird. We recognize that Eli is home alone. We feel guilty that Eli is home. We tried to find a way to get him here. Having him fly here at this point is irresponsible at best. Eli and I spent a long time talking. It is complicated. I think he loves being home alone and also wishes we were home. I wanted him to know he is loved. He is. Thank the stars for my super awesome neighbor (dear friend). She offered to help both my mom and Eli. Then, without even saying “let me know if you need anything” first, she texted Eli and brought him delicious tacos packaged in her own take-out container and a yummy chocolate pretzel dessert. To let me know he is really ok, she sent me a proof-of-life photo with the following message:

“Take care of yourselves. I will plan on making extra dinner for Eli until you get home. Even if he just puts it in the fridge for later.”

As I relayed this story to Dave, our eyes filled with tears. 

Eli & my sweet neighbor/friend, Salt Lake City, Utah

I am grateful for Eli. I am grateful for friends who fill in when I can’t. We are here. Kyle has had a tough study abroad experience. So have the million other students who had their studies abroad cut short. We only have one Kyle and one Eli. I am not exactly sure what Dave and I are doing, except providing a safe place for Kyle to land. 

Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

When we arrived here on Sunday, Kyle’s school was still planning on keeping campus open after Spring break. On Monday, and after my other post, we received notification that NYU Sydney will be moving to an online format for the rest of the semester. Kyle has three friends who are also here. Two of them cut their spring breaks short. One of them flew back to Sydney today in hopes of packing up her things. The other’s parents bought him a flight home while he was out of cellphone range. He flew back to NYC this morning, the long way round. The third is here with his parents and is taking it a day at a time. All these amazing humans are traveling their own road and dealing with the impact of having their study abroad cut short. As they process their own shock and remorse, I am amazed and inspired by their strength of character. 

Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

But wait: there is more. We were told by NYU that they do not want any students who are outside of the country to return to Sydney. Instead, NYU said that they will mail back their things. Further, students who are still in Australia have until March 22nd to get their things packed and out of their rooms. After that, students will no longer be allowed back into student housing. Wait. Wait. There is even more. We feel bad that all of Kyle’s belongings are stuck in Sydney. Kyle came here with enough clothes for a few days. If we did travel to Sydney to pick up Kyle’s things, we would all be required to self-isolate for 14 days or face severe fines and penalties. At this point (and we think it is a super long shot), we are trying to find out if the Australian government would allow Dave and me to remain in the Sydney airport while Kyle quickly packs up his things and then immediately returns to the airport. Dave and I are not allowed into student housing or we would go with him.

Kyle & the horse, Queenstown, New Zealand

In the meantime, we remain safely in Queenstown. It is beautiful here. Kyle and I went on a walk this morning. We saw two horses in a field. For a moment, they found us and healed our souls. I love horse energy. At first they were like, “Um, you two have so much stress” and they trotted away from us. I was like,

“Kyle, I think they know it’s been a crazy week.”

Kyle & the horses, Queenstown, New Zealand

Eventually, we joined their moment. Kyle noticed some hay just out of their reach. For several minutes he fed them. It was a gift. Dave later commented about our free equine therapy. It was the best. In fact, except for the stunning realization that Eli is not here with us, we almost feel like we were given a reprieve from the chaos. We do feel blessed. Coronavirus signs on storefronts about travel outside of New Zealand keep us grounded. We don’t know how we are going to get home. We don’t know if we will be allowed back into Sydney to pick up Kyle’s things. We don’t know what we will need to do to get back in the country. We are also taking it a day at a time. Some moments are light, like now. I hear Dave laughing heartily as he tells Kyle a story. Some moments are heartbreaking, like earlier when Kyle broke down in frustration. We imagine unpacking the moment will take a minute. We encourage Kyle and his friends to pace themselves and not skip healing steps. I was like,

“of course it is ok to be uncomfortable. This moment is hard.”

Dave & Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

Some of Kyle’s study abroad friends were in a car accident yesterday. They are ok. They also have to go home. I really don’t know how they are doing it. I also know I have to bite my tongue. Of course I want to save them pain that I think my experience can save them. Alas, this is their journey, not mine. Like I said, we are here as a sort of oasis. Once Kyle’s cup is full, I am certain he will soar. 

Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

What a week. Thank you everyone for loving us, especially knowing you are dealing with your stuff too. 

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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).


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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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Traveling Sucks Until it Doesn’t: our day in Yosemite National Park.

At the Ahwahnee. Stick figure made by Dave. Changed into a woman by me.

Heading east. Heading home. Writers we met along the way were all female writers. Kyle tells me we need to write a book together. I am convinced I need to write. He wants us to share our story, his story. We should. I like that he wants to share it together.

Looking into the flat, dark night, I think about our day. Fighting is all we did. We’ve been fighting a lot, dying on swords for patterns we hope to break. Eli freaked out. Kyle pestered. I screamed. Dave screamed once and then remained quiet. Wrapped into the backs, forths, up and downs of our uncertain day, Dave made lunch reservations at Yosemite’s lovely and grand Ahwahnee Hotel. I did not know they close at 2:00 p.m. “How on earth would we not be in Yosemite by 1:00 p.m.?” That was Dave’s complaint.

Our Super Hero Boys climbing over Yosemite’s Giant Rocks

In the enormous expanse of granite peaks and giant redwood trees I felt small. We were little action figures, really superhero action figures, and we were working our way through the dollhouse that is Yosemite National Park. My super power is still hearing and Dave’s, well, I will ask him. I am back in Utah editing my post. It is Monday morning and he is sitting next to me. Surprisingly his “current” super power is close to mine. He looks over at me and sweetly says, “listening.” “Listening?” I ask and then because his power appears to be so close to mine, I look back at him and laugh. “Listening to someone talk about their friends and all of their friends’ problems. Listening.” Dave responded and I laughed again.

Back in the car: I am writing while listening to music. I’m always listening to music. I should have been today. These headphones could have prevented the angry, sad and nonsensical words that were hemorrhaging from my lips. The Avett Brothers, that is what I am listening to. Their new album, The Carpenter. Eli reaches his hand up. I think he wants to hold mine. Letting go he begins tapping, tapping fervently on my head then my shoulder. Fear filled, I remove the headphone from one ear. “I am not ready to re-enter that world. I am not ready to listen to the narrator’s voice on Disc 3, Track 2, read another word of the “Beyonders.” My headphones are keeping me safely tucked away in the sweet melodies. “I have been homesick for you since we met. I have been homesick for you blah, blah, blah if I die, its for you,” the tapping wont stop and the headphone is removed.

“Mom, can I use my iPod?” Eli asks and as if they had written their very own, (sing with me), “Mom, can I use my iPod,” song together, Kyle really, without missing a beat, then asked, “Mom, can I use mine too?”

They knew they had me. They know I want some space. I said, “yes,” and started handing said iPods over my seat while Eli stated firmly, “Mom, that is Kyle’s!” I kept passing those electronic babysitters/fight inducers back and encouraged them to work it out. “Eli, Take yours and pass Kyle’s to him.”

As I get farther along in this Avett Brothers album I am feeling lukewarm. I have sped through a few songs and hung onto a few others. If only I could have pushed pause on those moments. I was losing my mind or completely fast-forwarded through my less-than-lady-like language. I hate swearing in front of my kids and as hard as I try not to, I do.

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park (Yes, there are climbers on that rock!)

Eli melted down hard at El Capitan. Before the collateral damage was too great, I walked him, while holding his upper arm, to the car. I can’t blame him. His mom and dad were not being especially nice, and when I say not nice, I mean that Dave and I were not being nice to each other. As I think about Eli and our El-Capitan-incident, I also remember how insane I thought those rock climbers were as I stood and watched while they scaled El Cap’s 3,500 feet. I wanted to take pictures and Dave wanted to drive on. He wanted to see the sun set at the top. I did not know that. I just knew he wanted to go. In those short seconds of meltdowns and miscommunications, I thought I might lose my mind. Instead, I took a breath, made space for Eli, and once near the car I stopped Eli. I did what my mom has always told me to do, “Even if they push back, even if they are mad, don’t. Don’t let them push you away. You hug them. You hold them close.” I felt Eli relax in my arms, where he safely looked into my eyes, and told me why I suck. I listened. I apologized, told him that I thought we both had made some big mistakes today and I was sorry. I held him close. His eyes are so blue and the late afternoon sun pierced those blue eyes into my heart. I looked at him and heard my mom say, “You are the mom. Don’t let them push you away. Hold them close.” I held him close and have not stopped. Since this moment Eli and I are better. We’ve been talking about grizzly Halloween costumes, and at least six times a day he says, “Mom, I love you!” Thank God for that kid.

Eli let go and we both walked. Only a few more steps and we were at the car, where Eli immediately slipped, and because our car was parked at such a severe angle, his door bounced back and slammed hard on his legs. “I hate this!” He shrieked. He struggled his way in the car, where he desperately tried to shove his head deep under a pillow. He took a deep breath and then sobbed, “We should have stayed home! I mean it! I know we should have stayed home.”

Out of my seat I maneuvered the crazy-way-our-car-was-parked-angle, and made my way to Eli. Safely in the car, I shut his door and made my way back. “Boys, give me your iPods. I think we all need a break.” And somewhere between losing their iPods and Eli’s meltdown Kyle shared, “Mom, I need more music on my iPod. I really like “Green Day.” They totally calm me down.” Flashbacks of my older sister Brenda blaring, I mean, blaring songs like Led Zeppelin’s Blackdog, “Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove,” I didn’t see it coming. Eli seems like our Green Day kid. Kyle? Is it all of our fighting? Is Green Day his teenage right-of-passage, which will hopefully lead him into the alternative and easy-listening music of Adulthood? Will Green Day bring him to Feist or The XX or maybe even Coldplay? My twelve year old is listening to Green Day for relaxation and somehow I think it is my fault.

Dave and I are great partners, but somehow today we threw ourselves down the rabbit hole. We left El Cap and headed east-ish toward the Tioga Pass, stopping at a, and I am not kidding, $5.49 a gallon gas station. Dave was hoping for some caffeine and before I could get out of the car he was on his way back. “it’s closed.” I got out anyway and asked Kyle to stay in. Eli was now snoring. Really. I even told him later on, “You snored. You know that sound Wawa makes? That’s what you did,” and then I promptly made the noise [insert swallowing, snorting noise here] so we were clear. We both laughed and he seemed a little proud of his great snoring snort.

Out of the car I looked at Dave and said, “This isn’t good. I think the boys are acting crazy because you and I are fighting.” he agreed. “Are you ok collectively apologizing?” First we told Kyle and once Eli was awake we told him.

Damian Rice’s, “Cold Water” is now playing and as I typed this paragraph’s first seven words, Dave literally almost hit two wild horses in the dark Nevada night. Damian Rice’s mellow serenade is perfect and would have calmed me, even if Dave had hit those horses. Thank God he didn’t. Oh thank God!

We left the gas station, gaining elevation as the sun began to set. “If we had been twenty minutes earlier we could have seen it set on Half Dome,” Dave said and I heard his disappointment. Along the way I realized I was missing something and then I said as much, “Dave, I am sorry. I am sorry that I did not appreciate how important it is for you to maximize your days off.” I knew Dave was feeling discouraged and that traveling with me was for the birds. We kept driving and I kept thinking.

Seconds after the lady asked if she could take our picture we took this & yes, we are “Facebook Happy,” if you know what I mean?

I thought of the lady who offered to take our picture when we were on our Yosemite Hike. She asked and I responded with such disturbing laughter I believe I hurt her feelings. I saw her down the way and apologized, “it’s been a hard day and I would have loved for you to take our picture. Thank you for offering.”

Dave wasn’t talking much. I think that’s what guys do when there really isn’t any more to say. I wanted to make it through the other side of this. I heard words I have been told before, “You fight for your marriage! There is no autopilot, ever! You see things from their perspective. You back down and then you fight some more.” I took another breath and apologized for our rotten day. Insecurely I asked him, “are you still in — even a little bit?” he said, “a little bit.” I don’t know if he was being literal, sweet or funny, but I took it. I talked about how when the boys were young he always took them to the pool while I was getting ready and now when we travel we do all boy/men things and I never take a minute to decompress or shop or drink a green tea without a, “MOM, Mom, can we go? Mom, mom, I want to leave. We are SOOOO bored!” I can’t go with the boys without them fighting and many of our current trips consist of Dave working and me 24-7 testosterone managing. I think Dave heard me because he seemed more relaxed. I asked him if he did and he said, “yes,” in a very nice way. I reminded him that it goes both ways. We need to make space for each other and for each other’s priorities and then I think we can travel better.

We left it at that and stopped. Dave pulled into the backside of a look out point. Immediately my eye saw a woman in a pink jacket. She smiled. Kyle, Dave and I got out of the car, walked up to the edge and then walked further to get a better view. Eli, who had been sleeping, woke up and made his way. As we walked back to the car the lady in the pink jacket’s (Stacey) boyfriend asked me, “where in Utah are you from?” We talked canyons and the awesome hippie gas station just south of Boulder, UT. Dave walked up, Eli got back in the car and Kyle entered our conversation. I started talking to Stacey. I needed to talk to Stacey. Immediately we connected, “sometimes I just do not care what rock formation we are looking at,” I said to which she laughing responded, “Seriously. Monoliths. He wants me to understand every little canyon and geologic formation.” We were laughing so hard I was crying. I was relaxing and oh thank God she was there. “As Dave and my boys get older I feel less in touch with them and all of their man-ness. I am this alien female creature trying to communicate with three dudes. They have no idea what to do with me. It’s lonely and sometimes I just need a moment to catch my breath. How many Sci-Fi-Fantasy-Books-on-tape can one mom listen to or tune out?” She understood and even said something like, “they just don’t get it, but women do. I am glad I am here.” I was glad too. Thank goodness for the overlook, sun gone or not.

At the Look out Point and this is literally the moment Easy E stumbled out of the car to catch up with us.

We exchanged emails and stories. She shared her favorite books and by the time Dave made his way back to me, after walking straight into a pole first (ouch and yes, blood), of course he had one read one of the books too.

We are not perfect. We are scarred, flawed. I swear and yes, I have to tell Dave exactly what I want for Christmas, pick it out online and put it in a shopping cart. He does the same for me. It helps. It’s not easy being married. It is not easy being a family. Friday, October 19, 2012, it was not easy being on the road. I don’t blame Eli for wanting to go home. I am understanding and respecting Dave’s silence and totally get Kyle’s newly acquired Green Day need. I, well, I couldn’t turn my mouth off and even suggested I have my vocal chords removed so I would shut up already. Kyle immediately said and then Dave, “but you have a lovely singing voice.” (Those words meant the world to me.)

We made it through. We fought our way to the other side. Once over the
Tioga Pass, which parallels the Donner, by the way, we did not starve, we were not stuck in snow with know way out until spring and mostly we did not have to eat each other. Although there were moments when I would have.

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Riding Over the Sharks is Better Together


Standing at the brand new park near our home, the evening was the kind of Autumn chilly I love. It was just cold enough for me to zip my hoody all the way and wear a favorite hat (kind of an aqua blue with a grey pom-pom on top). I promised Eli we could go to the park if he finished his homework. Dave was leaving for San Francisco the next day and had a million things to do beforehand.

It was already dark when Eli finished his homework and I heard him from the other room exclaim, “Dad, I am finished. Let’s go!”

“Eli, I’ll throw the football outside with you for a few minutes.” In my mind I wanted to hit pause putting both Dave and Eli in suspended-animation. During this time-stopped moment, I would run over and fill Dave in about the promise I had made. Oh life, where is your pause button when I need it?

Instead and because I felt Eli’s temperature rising, before a complete melt down ensured, I said, “Hey guys, let’s go. Dave you can stay home if you want, but I promised.”

“Beth, it is so dark and I have a lot to do.” Dave replied.

“You can stay home, but I want to follow through.” I said as I rushed the boys first to put on their pajamas (track shorts and an old t-shirt) and then out the door. “Don’t forget your sweatshirts. It is cold.” The boys, indulging me, assured they had them and also assured, “Mom, really? It is not cold.”

Once at the park, I left the boys and Dave (yes, and yay! he came) to play Frisbee (with their brand new Frisbee) in the brand new soccer/lacrosse field while I started to walk the long circle that outlined the field. I had no idea how they could see the Frisbee clearly enough to not get smacked in the face. On my second lap, Dave joined me. We could hear the boys screaming in the darkness and knew they had made it over to the playground. “Mom, can you see us swinging? It’s crazy! If we jump off we fly right into this big pole.” Sure enough, Dave and I made our way through wood chips and playground equipment to see the boys swinging hard. “Mom, look. See the pole?” Kyle said as he swung higher and higher. “Mom, you have to watch this. Watch.” All of a sudden Kyle was airborne and flew right into the pole thankfully with his hands outstretched. The pole was indeed large and also unprotected. The park is new and knowing this Dave and I both uttered, “Poor planning. They are going to have to do something about that.” And then I continued as I often do, “As soon as some kid gets brain damage, you know they will.”

The boys were having a blast so Dave and I continued our chilly, dark evening walk-talk. It has been a hard few days. Between Dave’s frequent business trips, the new and long daily school commute, PMS, a combo sinus infection/double ear infection, I have been off. I mean, crazy off. I sound whiny. I know. Usually I can swim away all of life’s sharks and rise above my own insecurities. I just wasn’t cutting it and felt like I was starting to sink. I don’t know if it was the PMS or the nasty cold, but something definitely shoved me off center. Petty issues were turning into giant monsters and as soon as I would pick myself up or take a deep breath, something small would grab my ankle and knock me over again. And because I was feeling discouraged from feeling knocked down, even smaller things were grabbing my attention. Dave and I walked and talked. I whined. I finally said, “Why does everyone have to be so dumb? Why are some of the most annoying, cruel and undeserving people the most successful? Why do people who work hard and long get screwed? Why do people our age still care about being cool or popular? Blah blah blah I am feeling sorry for myself!”

Dave responded with some harsh words or really what I felt like were harsh words, and I felt worse.

As I walked and fumed I thought to myself, “I know Dave doesn’t mean it. He has my back. I know he does.” Then I thought about what he told me the other day when something else was bugging me, “Even if you do not care to be a part of the group, no one likes to be actively excluded.” I know Dave gets my pain. I knew he understood I was feeling blue. Why the harsh words? In that second I got it. I re-grouped and realized he was just trying to help me SNAP OUT OF IT!

“Hey Dave, I am sorry. I don’t think I am expressing myself well. I feel bad because in this moment I feel alone. I think some people are really lame and I do not understand why things happen they way they do.”

It really didn’t matter what I was complaining about because I was. Dave got it and after I told him I didn’t think I was expressing myself well, then backed up and slowed down, he began sharing how he understands. He explained the pitfalls, ups and unfair aspects of his chosen path. “It doesn’t make sense.” He responded.

It does to me. It is about empathy.

Struggling to climb up for air, all I needed was some genuine I-know-how-you-feel feelings. It is much easier to swim past the sharks when someone is there holding your hand. It is even easier when you are in a life boat together and that they totally get why you need to stay afloat.

Our conversation continued, we were in the car, had found the lost soccer ball (twice), the new Frisbee made it too (thankfully) and were on our way home. Dave cracked me up because when I told him how much it meant that he empathized he informed me that he felt his advice was useless and that his words had merely been selfish: “All I did is tell you the bad things that happened to me.” And then Eli jumped in, “Empathy? Empathy? What does that even mean?” I am not sure he really cared as much as he wanted to be a part so we told him, “It is kind of like sympathy, except you have experience that same or similar things yourself.” “Oh.” He responded.

We were home walking our trash cans to the curb. I brought up our conversation.
“Dave. I am so glad you said what you said. I loved it. You told me things that reminded me that you get it and that I am not alone. You see, my friend, it is much easier floating on a raft with you than all alone. At least when you die, I have you there to eat you so I will not starve.” I shared.

And then Dave added, “Really you need to eat me before I die when I am nice and healthy. If you don’t the meat will go bad and you will starve too.”

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