Grocery Spin

Grocery Spin

“Don’t take it personally…holidays are the saddest time of the year for many people,” my brain could not, would not absorb this sentence.

Mom used her hands to iron the wrinkles of Mr. Gobbles’ construction paper feathers. Slow little exhales, burning nose, tight throat. Each feather had a letter of my name written neatly on the back.

Red feather-E, orange feather-M, yellow feather-I, green feather-L, blue feather-Y, purple feather…oh, no. At first I was a little sad that it didn’t work out evenly. Then aha…purple feather-K.

It was a good idea. You can call yourself “Emily K” if your name is Emily Knoll. This trick especially helps if the kindergarten class has 2 Emilys. You don’t have to say the whole name. My letters were very straight, all the same size…I forgot to show Mom the back, but I didn’t want to right now.

Why can’t I spin in the grocery store aisle with arms wide, faster and faster, listen to his feathers flutter, whoa…whoa, no one has EVER spun this fast, canned foods a blur, probably a world record-

“WATCH what you’re doing!” His hand was quick and precise. I know an accident, and I know on purpose. Grab, crunch.

He did not look like my grandpa, but he looked like he was SOMEone’s grandpa. All old people love all children. No. They don’t.

Sometimes if I close my eyes tightly, I can see pages in my reality scrapbook, and the days when more details were added. Pages that were once only a brightly colored paper plate turkey, that now also have a black and white photograph of a stranger–large glasses, a veiny nose tip, deep frown lines–“WATCH what you are doing!” Thanksgiving page.

“He was NOT SAD. He was MEAN.” I no longer felt like crying. He wasn’t on the aisle anymore, and I wasn’t tall enough to reach his face. But I was a good climber, and I also had a good imagination. Our paths could cross again on a different aisle. I could climb into the cart and slap him in the face with my turkey. Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap…I could probably get 5 or 6 whacks in before anyone could stop me.

“Sometimes sad people SEEM mean,” Mom interrupted my violent fantasy. And caught up in my own angry-sadness, the irony of her statement was lost on me, for many years. Hurt people hurt people. Adjectives and verbs and…I get it now.

“Why would a holiday be sad for someone, Mom?” We would collect cans at school for homeless people, and I knew what they looked like because I would see them at the library reading Western books on the worn, upholstered couches.
I knew a lot. He was not homeless. He was clean and dressed nice with a good haircut for an old man.

“There are lots of reasons people get sad on holidays…sometimes they are lonely. He might’ve lost his wife recently.” I knew that “lost” could mean she had died, and probably did not mean that he couldn’t find her.

People don’t like to hear the words “dead” and “died,” so sometimes we say…”my dog passed away.” Or “we lost my dog last night.” And most people will know this means died.

I thought of my own grandmas and great-grandmas. I did not want holidays without them. And that would be sad. Where would we go? My great grandma came to my grandma’s now. My grandma is her daughter.

“Well, why can’t he just be happy that he can have Thanksgiving with his kids and grandkids and other family? He’s not homeless.” THANKful. FULL of thanks. Reasons are everywhere. You have to teach yourself to see them and to say them and to feel the thanks. I had been practicing myself.

My neighbor had SEVEN Cabbage Patch dolls. I had only one Cabbage Patch doll–Lily Lynette. I did not name her. Her birth certificate came in the box. I called her “Lily the Net,” and I did not like her middle name, but my sister said I cannot change it.

I told mom that my friend had seven, and she told me to be thankful for my one. I never said I wanted seven. I was just telling her. And I did love Lily. We would swing together. I was full of thanks for her.

“Baby…you just never know. He may not have other family or…maybe they all live far away or…” Mom was scribbling out items on her grocery list.

He ended up in front of us at the checkout, just like I had hoped. I didn’t know what the word confrontation meant back then. Or intimidation. I only knew that I was not a pretender. He could pretend he doesn’t see me, and he did. But I was not a pretender. I would just stare.

Three bananas, a loaf of white bread, one roll of toilet paper, a package of bologna, a frozen Salisbury steak dinner, the smallest container of pecan ice cream. 

Ice cream with nuts:  that’s the dividing line between young and old. I had been trying my best to keep my parents away from old flavors, to keep them young. It was an exhausting fight that they didn’t comprehend. I didn’t even know you could buy only one roll of toilet paper. I did not want to think about him going to the bathroom, but I kept thinking it.

I don’t hate you anymore, old man. I really never did. I am so sorry about your wife. Life has a way of humbling us all.
My name was Emily K for exactly one month shy of 19 years. And then Emily S for exactly 2 months shy of 14 years. And then Emily B for exactly 2 years and 3 months. And today, it has been Emily C for 3 days shy of 1 year and 4 months.

Sometimes you stand in the front rows of church with your hands lifted, belting out joyful noises.

Sometimes you sit on the back row even though everyone else is standing, and you just listen with a repentant heart, thinking…I shouldn’t have spanked my daughter so hard this morning RIGHT before we left for church.

Sometimes you only make it to the parking lot, and you can’t bear to walk in, past all the people who love and hug you. So you just text a friend and ask her to please come sit outside in your minivan with you and let you cry while you tell her that he packed and left.

Sometimes you come back too soon, all alone. And the sermon series is called “Songs of Love” and all about things your heart isn’t ready to hear yet, so you have to make a brisk walk sobbing past the huggers, before the service is over, back to a minivan full of no one.

Sometimes you come alone during a holiday sermon, and a little girl inches closer and closer to you with the warmest smile, and she tells you that she wants a Christmas sweatshirt that lights up.

And then sometimes you make it back on the front rows, and not everyone knows about the back row days or the parking lot…but you will never, never forget them. Life’s scrapbook pages are so full of clippings of every sort.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12 NIV)

Family holidays and gatherings change so much over the years. I am thankful for the memories of big holiday gatherings with lots of food and a roomful of family members. Memories of paper plate turkeys.

And I am thankful for holiday alone times too, years when I don’t have my daughters with me, thankful for quiet morning times with God, thankful for all the other people who love my girls, thankful for the good food and laughs they will share in the homes where I no longer go, thankful that I can relax and not cook. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, so I won’t lie and say I don’t miss them. I am thankful that I miss them, thankful they will be back. 

Much love to all my family and friends. I hope your day is lovely. And lots of love and prayers to those friends who are going through hard times, friends who can’t be with their family today, friends who are deployed, friends in prison, friends who are eating Salisbury steak and pecan ice cream alone, friends who lost a loved one recently…or not recently, friends who don’t see their blessings, friends who do see theirs, friends who have to work, friends of broken and blended families, friends struggling with addictions, friends who are sick or in the hospital. 

Love to my friends who are laughing today, and especially to my friends who are crying. May God bless each of you in special ways.

In everything, give thanks. Somehow find it, feel it, give it. Thankful. 

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Glorious Chub

Glorious Chub

When did I love you less? Never. 

How many times have I stretched a baby sock over a freshly lotioned, plump pink baby calf? With four older sisters, Rebekah, you know it was many, many, many times. 

I would circle my finger around inside your little sock. It gapped so drastically. Rubbing the tiny knob of your ankle, watching your soft skin roll and wrinkle as I easily slipped the sock back off, I would kiss your long thin toes as they curled onto and gripped my finger.  

A long, skinny 5lbs and 10oz, I usually dressed you in long-sleeved, footed outfits or in many layers, not because I was ever ashamed of you; please know that it was never that, but because I wanted to protect you from any raised eyebrows, from whispers of concern, from tight-lipped smiles, from critical eyes. People can be cruel. 

Your wide eyes were glazed with fatigue at times, not always, but even once a week was too much. You fought sleep  sometimes, even when we knew you were exhausted. 

You will never know how many hours your dad would patiently rock you, slowly massaging, warmly snuggling, securely pressing you into his safe chest. Hours and hours, leaving his hand in your crib with you because you would wake if he tried to sneak away. Your strong, delicate fingers wrapped tightly around his thick finger, but he cannot deny that he was the one who was wrapped. 

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You slap my face with your chubby hands, throw your head back smiling, then head butt me as you pull my head toward you, slobbering all over my face as you cover  me with the messiest, sweetest kisses.

In two days, you will be 9 months old, and this morning while I watched you laugh as you splashed water onto your fat face in the bathtub, I decided I needed to weigh you again. 

Whoa…19.1 lbs of glorious chub, I was elated to see that. But just so we are clear–this scale has never weighed, and could never weigh, my love for you or your worth as a baby. 

You are so curious about Audrey’s kitten Carly, and she is curious to know you too.

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 Morning babies, playing hard.


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YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY GIRL!!





To my favorite soldier…

To my favorite soldier…

Do you ever look at pictures of us and think–why do we ever fight? Because I do. 

A man in uniform. Hot. A uniform crumpled on the floor. Hotter. A cocoon of safe arms. Warm. 

Don’t get up. Don’t go. 

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It must be the Army in his veins. I’m not usually awake at 5:15am these days. I had never been a lucid audience watching Keith when his alarm goes off. It gave a new meaning to UP AND AT ‘EM. 

I think my dad would’ve liked to see me move this way when he would clap his hands in my room late on Saturday morning, “UP AND AT ‘EM!” <CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP> I am no soldier. “Mo-ommmmm! Tell him not to do that. And why does he always call me Adam?!”

I was playing 2048 on my phone when his alarm went off. Keith JUMPS out of the bed, and I think he must land in his pants, socks, boots. He would have an amazing transition time in a triathlon.

He is quiet and quick and I don’t know what all he did in the dark. I blink twice trying to see him; I can’t figure out where he went. I feel the wind of the fan being blocked, and I sense he is kneeling by my side of the bed. 

“Bye baby. Have a good day.” Smooch, smooch. 

I look at my phone time,”It’s only 5:23am.” He has to be there at 6:30am. 

“I know.” I was thinking he must’ve forgotten to switch his watch back an hour last time we did that.

“Do you always get dressed that fast?”

“Yeah.” And I feel the fan again. 

I know he likes to leave about an hour before he has to be somewhere, but I didn’t know he greeted the morning with such vigor and sense of purpose. It was inspiring. He was completely ready and out the door before most people would have had the time to hit snooze once. 

I slipped back into sleep. When my alarm sounded…well. Let’s just say my soldier mechanic probably wouldn’t have been impressed…
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Who will protect us if the US gets attacked? Who will lay his life down to do anything to protect our family if someone broke into our house? What is the face of our nation’s defense?

My love…up before the sun on a Sunday, out the door within minutes, never a hesitation, never a complaint.

Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.

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Do you feel the sun beat on your neck, inhale some dust, and wonder if we miss you? 

Don’t remember my daggers. Please forget them. Forgive them. Think of me when I’ve been a cold drink for you, ice clanking to your lip when you don’t want anything to eat, only a drink. Only cold tea down a dry throat. Only me. 

We do miss you. In a messy house, clock ticking, exhausted pile of arms and pjs and ponytails, under a lonely blanket on a creaky couch, we do. 

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Your flaws are not flaws to me. I watch you when you don’t know. 

Did I forget to hug you today? Did I forget to hold on? Did I forget to thank you?

I know I probably did. 

Leave your guns on the shelf. Stare into my eyes. Search them. See me. I will hold your face. I will slide my fingers over your warm sandpaper jaw. Let me see you. Come back to bed. Dim the lights and remember me when I was beautiful. It’s okay. Closer. It’s me. Soften. Find us.