Jason sold 454 items. 

Jason sold 454 items. 

There was always that one kid, and it was never me. 

It didn’t matter what the competition medium was at Belle Point Elementary. It could be collecting old phone books, selling candy bars, a canned food drive for the homeless, Christmas wrapping paper…

I was the kid who scrounged around for change to buy 2 chocolate bars for myself, and then had to turn in an almost full box. Sorry. I just…that’s all I sold, and…yeah. 

I usually got to pick some kind of Chinese finger trap or kazoo or plastic flipping frog for my efforts. Well, all right. That’ll do for me. 

But there would be this one kid in class, and it would sound like such a lie.

“I sold 454 items. I’m getting…the Gameboy.”

“Yah, right.”

And somehow, he had. And I’m thinking–this kid can’t motivate himself to study enough to score over a 68 on our weekly spelling tests, and…wth? He can sell a square foot of wrapping paper for $16…454 times?

Okay, go on with your bad self then. I ain’t mad atcha. 

“My uncle Bob is bringing all the phone books I collected to school for me later. He is driving his full-size pickup with a trailer attached, all full of phone books. I collected 768. Our classroom will be getting the pizza party, don’t worry. Miss Napier’s class thinks they are getting it. Hahaha…no.”

“Yah right. Seriously? Where did you get that many phone books?!” I had brought 4, 2 from my own house…including the current one that my mom has been looking for angrily. Shhhhh. 

And it doesn’t matter what someone is selling. I’ll buy one thing from you once, but don’t come at me crazy; I will do crazy back. And joining you in the selling of it? Um…no, never. I’m sorry. I know myself. It’s just not going to be my thing ever. It’s just not. I’ll get the kazoo. 

It could be jewelry or face care products or children’s books or Tupperware, or makeup. It could be vitamins or cookware or local phone service. I don’t care which one. I will buy one thing for $8-12 once. That is all.

For whatever reason, I appear to have the necessary traits to be a seller, and everyone asks me. Everyone. Everyone. You are not the first person to think I should sell stuff. Probably because I’m pretty loud and sorta funny sometimes. Maybe people are envisioning–yes, she would sell the shit out of this stuff. You’re wrong; I wouldn’t; it’s not me. 

I wish you the best in the world, and I’ll buy one thing from you, once ever. And I’ll be clapping and cheering on the sidelines. I hope you get your Uncle Bob to bring a semi-truck full of phone books. I truly do. 

But me? No, no. Not me. Y’all go ahead. If you’re selling chocolate bars, I’ll even buy a few, but…

Hey…oh yeah. Hey, there’s this kid I went to elementary school with, and he’s your guy. He is your guy. Unstoppable combo. Find him

Vacation: I cannot feel my brain right now. Does that mean I’m relaxed?

Vacation: I cannot feel my brain right now. Does that mean I’m relaxed?

First off, I am grateful that we were able to go to Florida this week to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. And I’m so grateful that they agreed to take Clara (2.5 year old) in their vehicle for the trip there and back (as we couldn’t fit all 9 of us in my van, only 8.) We had a lot of fun. We truly did. That said…

At the start of the trip, I sort of wanted to fast forward the two 12-13hr drives, but they weren’t THAT crazy. Well, I mean obviously they WERE, but we survived and would do it again–5000 bags including a giant luggage bag for the top of the van full of beach towels and boogie boards and other beach accessories, 12-13 hr drive in a minivan with 8 people in it, 5 teen/tweens ages 11-18, 2 adults, 1 infant, a giant cooler, 600 half sandwiches for lunch, 12 DVDs, 8000 drinks, labeled gallon ziplocs full of smaller ziplocs of snacks for each person. diapers galore, swimsuits and toothbrushes and hair supplies and I can’t even…

I could not even feel my brain the day we woke up super early to take the trip. So much preparation.

Life was especially grueling for myself and my own 3 older daughters during the “prepare for trip” process. Two days before takeoff, this includes moving every bit of furniture and scrubbing carpet stains, cleaning under beds and in closets, washing windows and baseboards, putting everything possible out of sight, cleaning the bathrooms, washing all clothes and putting them away, filling the van with things to donate…driving those things to the donation place. All while keeping up with my toddler and infant and everyone’s food and drink and shower needs. 

Then the DAY before takeoff, my older 3 girls spent time cleaning the van–bagging up trash, bagging up toys, bagging up all unidentified objects, removing every hair accessory and stroller and item that has gathered, scrubbing and vacuuming the carpet and mats, using Armour all on everything, washing the van  windows.

Then we also had to make a detailed list to buy snacks and drinks…$112 worth, but that’s 8 people…trip there and home including lunch. Compared to impulsively buying snacks at convenience stores for $15000 total, it was a good plan. 

The process I used was pretty much more stressful and involved than being an air traffic controller. And maybe next big trip I won’t be so accommodating. No one likes the same things, but I like to try my best to buy bulk generic. These are two opposing ideas. We had to make lists and charts to keep it straight who likes what. 

I bought enough turkey, hoagies, and cheese to make up PLENTY of half-hoagie sandwiches. That was about the only “good food” in the van for 13 hours. 

I also bought three big bags of chips (Funyuns, crunchy Cheetos, dill pickle Lays), 4 different kinds of M&Ms (pretzel, peanut butter, crispy, peanut), 3 kinds of granola bars , gummy snacks, crunch and munch, Chex mix, 2 kinds of twizzlers, bottled waters, Monsters, two kinds of soda, coconut waters, Goldfish, sour Trolli worms, Whoppers, cheezits…I can’t even remember if that’s all. And no, I’m not interested in discussing the sugar, oil, sodium, or calorie content of any of it. 

We label each big ziploc with our name. And fill it with small ziploc bags of chips and cookies and crackers. Everyone gets PLENTY

And this list doesn’t even include the list of ingredients needed to make enough of Rebekah’s homemade goat milk formula for the entire trip–goat kefir, coconut water, goat milk, flax oil, nutritional yeast. Don’t forget her thyroid medicine, measuring spoons for everything, insulated bag full of bottles, and…

Why do we ever leave the house again???

I know what’s going to happen on a vacation, and I do my best to think out every angle beforehand. It is best and it is cheaper in a long run and it is more fun…to give every older kid (that’s five kids ages 11-18 in our family) $40 each in cash before we ever leave the house. So I did that too. 

And I give a speech–“I don’t like to have to remember who has spent what at which gas station or coffee shop or souvenir tshirt store. I don’t like to have to say no every 30 minutes. And I certainly can’t afford to say yes to everything. And…you all are old enough to make your own choices about budgeting this money. You are not required to spend it; you can keep it and put it in your savings (that’s Hazel). You will be fed meals and snacks and drinks. You can spend it all on the first day. It’s yours. 

I don’t want to hear anyone criticizing their sibling’s choice about spending. And if you choose to spend it all in the first day, I will only say–that’s fine. But when you find something else on day 2, on day 3, 4 or 5…don’t ask. You will survive. 

If you want a $6 Starbucks drink, get it. If you want a $25 tshirt because it’s so much cuter than the $8 ones, go for it. If you want a $5 ice cream cone or a $4 piece of gum, okay…up to you. Don’t ask me, ask yourself.”

And it works out well. Very well. We stay at a condo, so we cook breakfast and lunch and sometimes even dinner. Biscuits and gravy, giant cinnamon rolls, eggs and bacon, cereal and granola bars, bananas…I love big breakfast with everyone before hitting the beach..and we usually ALL made it out there by 8:30-9am and stayed til lunch. Usually sandwiches and chips and cookies for lunch, and occasionally some leftovers.  Meals are covered. 

We have found that condos are a much better option for us than hotels–so much more room, a full kitchen to cook instead of eating out for every meal, a washer and dryer, and you can usually split the cost fairly well between adult couples (who get the bedrooms), and kids pile up on air mattresses and foldouts and pallets in the living room (and this condo had a third bedroom with two sets of bunk beds too. 

Gas is a pretty predictable expense. And snacks that are divided up and given to each family member (good for teaching them to budget their own allotment). We also bought a big box of small ice cream cones and the kids all ate one every night. If you are ever looking for ideas to have lots of stress-free fun BUT ALSO save money on a family vacation, talk to a mom in a BIG family. 

Our condo had a private pool and our older kids went night-swimming in it every night, until…I don’t know or care what hour. It was about a 2-minute walk to the beach from the condo, too…and we went 2-3 times a day…sometimes to watch the sunrise and just walk, sometimes to watch the sunset, sometimes  late at night to collect shells, and at least once daily for 2-3 hours to layout, play in the sand, watch the kids on their boogie board said, etc.

We brought Phase-10 cards, a deck of regular cards, there was a tv with Netflix, every kid has a smart phone. There’s a free trolley in Pensacola that takes you to the boardwalk area, and we took that on two separate days. There’s a cool, free air naval museum on where kids can climb into several planes, and we did that too. It’s $1.25 a person to walk out onto the LONNNNG pier, abs we did that two nights. We saw several dolphins, some sharks, lots of people catching marlins and other fish. There were loud cover bands playing at the beach right next to the pier as we walked around watching the sun set. One night, there was a huge crane or stork or some bird that just walked around at the end of the pier, not the least afraid of humans; the fisherman would throw him a fish occasionally, and Clara (all of us really) were fascinated with watching him swallow it whole. Entertainment was pretty much covered. 

But this past few days of vacation got me thinking about so many things. You truly find out what your family is made of during a vacation.

Yes, it’s about fun and having time to relax, it’s about the beach and quality time and memories…but there’s SO much preparation and so many life skills that are necessary to help the vacation be successful and even just survivable.

I tend to be very hard on my own daughters, and I hold them to very high standards of competence in so many areas–laundry, cooking, budgeting, cleaning, using the Internet to access information (like maps and schedules), cleaning a house and van top to bottom, picking up after yourself, loading a dishwasher, basics of watching a baby…and a toddler, personal hygiene, independence in public places, following simple directions, having a good attitude, apologizing when you make mistakes, forgiving others when someone apologizes. 

Forgiving me. Yes especially that. 

Did I yell during the trip? Was I tired? Did I get overwhelmed? Did I cry? Did I feel frizzy-headed and dehydrated and bloated and grouchy at times? Did I ask for lots of extra help? Yes, yes, yes, yes…all of it, yes. 

I have to force myself to stop and look at our life as a spectator. Am I being fair to everyone? Is the workload pretty even among family members–biological and blended? Who disappears when work duties are being assigned? Who does things without being asked? Who “forgets” to clean up after themselves? Who acts helpless? Who has a good attitude? What life skills are reasonable for what ages? What do I need to do as a parent to positively help each different child learn the life lessons that they are lacking…not to make them feel bad that they can’t load a dishwasher correctly or can’t see a mess they left behind or can’t change a diaper…no. You know what you know. But you can learn more, and that’s good for you…to become successful adults.

Do you have what it takes to survive a vacation? Do your kids? Does your marriage? 24 hours a day every day of vacation? Will every bit of preparation effort ensure that everything will be perfect the entire trip?

No. It won’t be perfect by everyone’s definition. But with plenty of kindness, hard work, love, grace, bitten tongues, and forgiveness…it can be your perfect vacation. 

And it was. 



I don’t sleep well. Probably 4-5 nights in a week, I only sleep 5-6 hours each night. And no, I don’t want pills; I want peace again. 

“Be anxious for nothing.” I know the verse. I understand its meaning. Do I live it? Knowing it…understanding its truth…living it. The miles between. 

Did you have to learn Bloom’s taxonomy in school? Or the steps of critical thinking? I learned about it in our school’s gifted program. I think about each level sometimes, think about where I allow myself to get stuck on an endless treadmill of digression…and why. 


Do I overthink? Yes. Do I worry too much? Yes. Do I think that…if I think long enough that I will find the solution, that I will find peace? Yes, I often think that I will. Is it true? No, it’s not true. 

I will find…more information, more definitions to learn, more ideas to understand, more possibilities to consider, more reasons to worry. That’s what I’ll find. 

There’s no peace there crying on the edge of a bed, not sleeping. There’s no joy. There’s no love. There’s no worthwhile lesson. There’s no rest for the weary soul, the aching brain, the burning eyes. 

Why cry a prayer in your heart if you don’t quiet yourself long enough to hear the gentle response? Why scream it in your mind?

God isn’t my servant. I am not His petulant toddler…or well, maybe I am. But He doesn’t exist to cater to my demands. He has the answers. But I guess I’ll never hear them if I’m stomping and rebellious. 

I understand. I see my own toddler throw tantrums daily, and I understand how this relationship works. I say to my own toddler–“You can just sit there until you will listen to your parent, and I will wait until you are ready.”

It doesn’t matter what you know if you don’t understand it, if you don’t live it. 

The wisdom of men is foolishness to God. Even the smartest man on Earth. He takes the wise in their own conceit, confounds them. 

Help me be simple. And gentle. Please bring me your peace that no man can understand. 

Psalm‬ ‭4:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬–

“Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”

Philippians‬ ‭4:4-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬–

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”



Even a pebble makes ripples, Dad says.  But I didn’t drop a pebble in the pond, did I, Dad? It wasn’t a pebble. 

It was a boulder, wasn’t it? It was two boulders, maybe. It was…a landslide. And the water may never be still again. 

Our life was a series of pedestals, and we tiptoed around on them. I guess I never did belong up there, trying hard to balance precariously alongside people who proudly live on pedestals, who look down at people below who never deserved to be up there. 

Who is a good person? Who? Who has a good heart? The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? Only God. Not any person on any worldly pedestal. 

We were kids, 17 and 16. I remember well. Funny, smart, hardworking kids. Making bagels. Scrimping. Making plans. Listening to Radiohead. Thought we had the bull by the horns, maybe we did for a while, but no. I guess we caught the tiger by the tail instead.

People like wrapping loss up in little justification packages–

The problem is…I married an asshole. The problem is…she turned out to be crazy. We just, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into…


You know it is, and I know it is. 

There was love. There was more than one betrayal from both of us. There was forgiveness. There were hurts. There was a lot of interference from people who didn’t belong between us. People I let in; people you let in.  There was apathy. There was triumph. There were so many laughs. There were cries. Sure. 

Every marriage is two sinners who buckle down and refuse to give up on each other, against whatever odds they have both brought to the table. And we did that. For 15 years, we did that. 

I cannot tell you how many inaccurate, blatantly ignorant comments have been made to me over the years by so-called friends regarding my first marriage. 

“I think maybe you just never loved him.” “I didn’t know your marriage was a facade.” “Don’t say hi to me in public, Emily, because I’m not ready for that; I know what’s really going on.”

Oh do you? You all knew the intimate intricacies of my own marriage better than I did? Interesting. 

Where were you when we decorated our first apartment? Where were you when we took care of each other when we were sick? Where were you when I cried about his betrayals? Where were you when we held hands as I pushed our daughters into the world? Where were you when he forgave me for my betrayals? Because I don’t remember any of you being there for any of it. So you go ahead and believe your shallow lies. 

We became the ending only.

If every marriage is a refusal to give up, then every divorce is…giving up on each other. We did that, too. And none of you were a part of any of it. 

 “I will kill every feeling I have for you. You will mean nothing to me. Nothing.” You said it. And you meant it. And you live it. Fifteen years of mostly good memories, but none of it will matter. 

Used to was: I could do no wrong in your eyes, even at times when I knew I was so wrong.

“Emily, I’ve always been on your side. Even when no one else was. It was me. I was. You know that’s true. Even when we separated, people would tell me how it looked, what you were probably up to…and that’s never how I saw it. Not my Emily. No. ” He loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. Choked it back. Not one to cry.

But now. It seems I can’t do anything right. Every way that I handle things, you have a judgment, a criticism, a remark, a request. You see me through crap-tinted glasses. Everything about me is shit now. Okay.

I became the ending. The fleeting backstage deceit made the spotlight years a lie to you. My name becomes a knell that few dare to toll in your presence. Or maybe a joke…Yeah, probably a joke. 

I did do lots of wrong. And I’m sorry. Do you even know that I’m so sorry? I’ve said it, but you aren’t one to acknowledge any emotion. I remember your brother sobbing at your grandfather’s funeral. And you leaned over to him, “You don’t have to think about anything sad, and then you won’t cry.” Your solutions. 

Would it make me a better person to pretend my heart never loved you before? I don’t really trust people who do that. To turn every speck of love into loathing? Erase every photo. Block every memory. Never happened.

Should I pretend we don’t know each other? Maybe we don’t anymore. But we did. 

Tell it however you want to. No, you will choose to say nothing. You do that. I will keep the photos and memories and stories.

If I die first, don’t worry, no one expects you to cry. But when you die, I will quietly sit on a back row at your funeral. And I will cry. I’ll remember the full story. And I will cry.