Category Archives: Motherhood

They Say It’s Your Birthday

My birthday is tomorrow and I’m turning 60. (I know, right?!) As a gift to myself, I’ve decided to stop coloring my hair. The whole process is messy and time consuming, and lately, it seems the results last all of five minutes. Still, I’ve waffled on pulling the plug because each time I darken my silvery roots, I see my younger self in the mirror. Miraculously, the march of time is skirted yet again and that’s hard to let go of. But it’s beginning to feel, and let’s be honest–look–less authentic. Like I’m clinging to the past. 

I make no judgments either way. My mother never went gray before she died. Nor did my mother-in-law. I know plenty of octogenarians who still color with no plans to stop. For me, though, embracing my natural hair is symbolic of self-acceptance that dates back to my teenage years in the 70s, trying to tame my stubborn curls into Marcia Brady’s smooth tresses. Letting go of this fight to cover my gray means letting go of who I once was without knowing for sure who I’m becoming.

There’s a rising sense of anticipation to explore this new version of myself. Who do I want to be? It’s exciting to consider that, with conscious intent, I can be whomever I decide to be. If I can get over the number, that is. Sixty. Six-zero. Six decades? It sounds old, or at least it did until I was the one seeing less road ahead of me than behind.

The march of time is skirted yet again

They say “age is just a social construct“ and “you’re only as old as you feel.” I’ve long held to the theory as a fitness professional that exercise is the fountain of youth and staying active is key to longevity. And I am fit and healthy and strong—for any age. At the same time, I feel the years in my bones. I see the passage of time on my face. Could it be that aging is both a state of mind and a reality of the body? 

Me at 20

There are, too, the cultural influences. As enlightened as I think I am, I’m not immune to the undeniable correlation between a woman’s physical beauty and her worth. And there’s no doubt that what our specific culture defines as beautiful skews young. Very young. Blame post-modern marketing campaigns for searing images of “perfection” into our brains–all in the name of capitalistic profits–but these impressions are deep-seated and often unconscious. Since girlhood, the messages we women receive about our appearance shape how we view our own aging process.

Aging is a reality of the body

I want to see past external trappings and shallow judgments, but you won’t find me tossing out my expensive moisturizing serum that hydrates and regenerates tired skin. It’s not that I expected to stay young forever, but something shifted in my self-perception when I realized I wasn’t turning heads anymore, when I overheard myself referred to as an “older” woman.

Me at 30

Besides, there’s only so much we can do to stave off this process. Entropy, the second law of thermodynamics states that everything is in a state of decline and decay. That’s the irrevocable reality—my body is aging as will every other body on the planet. This flesh and bone phenomenon that grew up to grow four babies, then deftly moved through long days of raising them, that body is tired. But how could it not be after nearly 40 years of mothering? 

Yet, it’s astonishing to be witness to my own deterioration. The knee-jerk tendency is to resist the forward thrust of life, even to denial. Part of me wants to “rage against the dying of the light,” as Dylan Thomas wrote. But there is a tradeoff, one in which I believe the gains are actually greater than the losses and which convinces me I wouldn’t want to go back if I could: Maturity. Wisdom. All the years of lived experience with their suffering and brilliance, their unimagined joys and devastating disappointments garners an understanding not obtained otherwise. 

Aging is a state of mind

Me at 40

I’m grateful to have learned I am much more than this body, which may be attractive some of the time, but frankly, more often is anything but. I’ve learned I’m also more than what I do, more than my achievements, my productivity, my skills and performances and track records. I’ve learned to look within for my worth rather than rushing around outside myself from one source to the next asking, “Am I good? Please tell me I’m good enough.” I’m definitely more than someone who seeks to please, molding herself into whatever others want and need her to be. 

You are enough

It took time to arrive at this conclusion—decades, in fact. At 40, I stopped caring as much what other people thought. At 50, I cared even less. And now, at 60, rather than not caring at all, the focus is on caring most about what I think. Jane Fonda calls this the third act in life, 60 and older, a significant developmental stage, as different from mid-life as adolescence is from childhood. This final act, in which we are freed from social constraints and cultural conformity, is for the ascension of the human spirit. 

Me at 50

Lately, I find myself gathering up all my memories, the places, the people, the adventures and challenges that have filled my many, many days and taking a good look. It seems to me now that was only part of it. The profound experience of this life cannot be alchemized until seen clearly, until some sort of meaning is made of it. That seems to be my work of late, reflecting and distilling my past into the simplest and purest understanding.

This is not a light undertaking; surging emotions can overtake me in mere moments. I cry nearly every day whether with grief or gratitude or heart break or exquisite joy. But I’m brought again and again to forgiveness: For those I love, for the world at large, and most of all for myself. It’s then I feel more wise and gentle and kind than ever. Embodying love. I am becoming who I was always meant to be. 

Go and live it

If I could go back in time and talk to the 20-year-old me or the 30-year-old, I would say, “Oh, honey. You are enough. Just you, without all your doing. Just be you. When you find the joy, everything–and everyone–else will fall into place. Don’t take it all so seriously.” 

Me at 60

Casting forward, I channel my 70-year-old self or even the 80-year-old and wonder at what she might come back to say to me now. “Darlin,’ you think you’re old, but you aren’t. You have been through plenty, yes, but there’s so much more to come, you can’t even imagine. Stop dyeing and stop dying. And go out there and live it.”


Filed under Motherhood

The Bonus Baby

It’s birthday time again. Each year, the full trip around the sun seems to get shorter. The passage of time is marked by my wrinkles, as distinct as tree rings. The same me, but . . . older. My children, however, turn into completely different creatures. I am still stunned by the evolution of infant to adult, the development of a tiny, helpless bundle of humanity into a fully functioning, if not fully matured, individual of “grown-up” status.

Spreading my four offspring out over 18 years was not what I envisioned. In sequence, their ages roll like numbers on a tote board from even to odd and 2022 sees my kiddos turn 37, 35, 23, and 19. I may not have planned this configuration, but each was a deliberate choice. Still, the truth might be that before we’d actually decided on a fourth child, while on birth control, said child decided for us. Initially making an appearance as a blighted ovum, imagine our surprise when the miscarriage our doctor told us to prepare for turned out to be a fully viable pregnancy.

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What Do You Know?

I held some strong convictions when I was young. I just knew what I knew was true because, well, “when you know, you know,” right? But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. For most of us, we often miss the realization that we actually don’t know. Until we’re knocked loose from those dearly held certainties, that is, and not always gently.

Around age 28, life provided me plenty of jolts to rumble the foundation I’d built, one I was sure was rock solid. I’d left the Mormon church. And my marriage. The shockwaves were severe enough to send many of my beliefs toppling ass over teakettle and smashing to bits on the ground.

When you know, you know . . . until you don’t

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Filed under Aging, Enlightenment, Family, Grief, Hope, Memories, Motherhood


When I was growing up we moved a lot, big moves crisscrossing the country. Perpetually the new kid, I never stayed long enough to feel like I fit in. Then, I married a man whose childhood was the opposite of mine, who grew up in a small north Missouri town of Mayberry charm. It seemed like the ideal for many reasons and though I could not give it to my oldest two children, Columbia is the only place my youngest two remember.

Home sweet Home

A dream come true for me, raising the kids in the same town, the same schools, the same neighborhood, the same house, felt like a second chance for me, too. Like coming home.

But now it’s time to go. Change is hard, even when it’s the right thing. Objectively, I marvel at our human tendency to reverberate with surprise or even shock when life takes a turn. Why, exactly, are we so astonished? After all, the only constant in life is change. But subjectively, I am taken aback at every shift and feel it deeply, personally. Even when it’s my own choice.

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Filed under Aging, Babies, Community, Family, Gratitude, Growing Up, Letting Go, Loss, Marriage, Memories, Motherhood, Parenting

Antidote to Disillusionment*

*Reading given at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, online, August 9, 2020

“Always have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

Maya Angelou

In what do I place my trust? This profound, existential question is, for an inherently trusting person, difficult to quantify. Before the pandemic, I trusted my alarm to go off, my car to start, and my phone to keep me on task. I trusted there would be money in the bank, food in the fridge, and job security for my partner and myself. From the sturdiness of my home and the safety of my Midwestern burg, I trusted the sun to rise and set on another ordinary day.

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Filed under Community, COVID-19, Enlightenment, Faith, Family, Grief, Hope, Letting Go, Loss, Motherhood, Pandemic

View From A Quarantine

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen

“Be careful what you wish for,” my mother used to say.

“You just might get it.” A wise woman, whose words I often disregarded when she was alive, her advice has been on my mind a lot lately. 

Time, as we experience it on this plane–as we have all agreed, is linear. A steadily-paced constant. Yet I know I’m not alone in the perception of its acceleration. In recent years I’ve felt more and more like a hamster on its wheel, running frenetically in a perpetual, never-ending race. My days consisted of  rushing to commitments, appointments, and activities packed into an impossibly tight schedule and coordinating the inherent overlapping and conflicting logistics of the same. Fueled by a bottomless to-do list, my go-mode was switched to “over-drive” nearly 24/7. 

Until March 15th, that is. Before that fateful date, I ran myself ragged trying to keep up, all the while complaining about being too busy. 

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Filed under Family, Gratitude, Grief, Letting Go, Motherhood, Pandemic, Self-Care

Resurgent Hope

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

I read once that Canadian geese are monogamous, that most couples stay together all their lives. Considering the brutality of life in this wild world, I find that to be an inspiring example of devotion, applicable to the human condition, particularly in our postmodern reality.  

My husband and I have, on day 13 of the COVID-19 quarantine, brought our two goslings out to the country for a change of scenery. This is our fourth spring out at the farm. Well, that’s what we call it. Although we raise no livestock nor harvest any crops, we christened our 22 acres in the rolling countryside of Steedman, Missouri “the farm.” 

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Filed under Babies, Family, Gratitude, Grief, Loss, Marriage, Motherhood, Pandemic

The Way Home

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I went to church this morning—on my couch. A dutiful daughter, I spent the first half of my life in religious prostration, and then I left. But detachment from dogma meant disconnect from community and I wandered, people-less into my middle-age. In recent years, I sometimes sat, shyly, noncommittally, on the back row of a new church I discovered, an un-church. The Unitarian Universalists. 

The UU church, nurturing spirit and service, brings a solace of words and music and familiar faces to my living room via Zoom on this second Sunday of social distancing. Congregants come like moths to the chalice flame. Greetings scroll up from the chat box as joiners bask in the warmth of shared hearts and minds, if not bodies.

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Filed under Breast Cancer, Down syndrome, Family, Gratitude, Grief, Loss, Motherhood, Pandemic, Stress

Rockin’ The Socks for World Down Syndrome Day

Repost from March 21, 2016

The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe
Will never be the same
I’m glad you came

Steve Mac, The Wanted

My sock drawer is stuffed to overflowing: Everyday athletic socks, fuzzy slipper socks, a few dressy pair of trouser socks. But my special collection consists of crazy, colorful knee socks and on March 21st I’ll have plenty to choose from in honor of World Down Syndrome Day.

Trisomy 21 is the technical term for Down Syndrome. Chromosomes made up of DNA exist in every human cell, typically 46 chromosomes or 23 sets of two. In the case of DS, an abnormality occurs, resulting in an extra chromosome, 47 in all. The extra, third chromosome is on 21st set. 3-21. Hence, March 21st was officially declared the day the world would recognize these extraordinary individuals.

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Filed under Babies, Childbirth, Down syndrome, Family, Gratitude, Growing Up, Motherhood, Parenting, Special Needs

Just Breathe

Re-posted from March 6, 2014

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am.”

Sylvia Plath

There’s a stillness that descends on the hospital late at night, softening the harshness of bright lights and the sterility of hard floors. Sounds are muted and voices hushed. Sydney is the only patient in the sleep lab tonight located at the end of a long, empty corridor. It’s dark in her room but for a night light and the glowing dots of the medical devices hooked up to her. I shift uncomfortably in the reclining chair next to her bed and wonder how I’ll make it until morning when it occurs to me that my father-in-law spent more nights this way than I can count during the fourteen months of my mother-in-law’s battle with cancer. It also occurs to me that the last time I sat in the dark next to a hospital bed was with him, the night before she died.

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Filed under Childbirth, Down syndrome, Family, Gratitude, Letting Go, Loss, Motherhood, Parenting, Special Needs