finding anticipation

“I really miss having things to look forward to.”

I was chatting with a friend this morning about the little stuff we miss. I’m beginning to realize how much I need to have things on the horizon. Maybe a trip next winter or even just a trip to Anchorage with Andrew that doesn’t get cancelled. My friend Lindsey calls it the spiritual discipline of anticipation, and I’m missing it. Big time.

My hands smell amazing. I bought fresh basil weeks ago for the best-ever tomato soup and (as usual) didn’t use the whole package, so I cut the bottoms of the leftover stems and put them in a cup like flowers and, while I cannot keep regular plants alive for anything, I can apparently keep basil clippings on my windowsil above my sink until they bloom. I touched the cup to move it earlier and now, hours later, I keep getting a whiff of amazing.

Today on the way home from an appointment to meet strangers (that I forgot about and thus I arrived late and stressed out), I noticed just the faintest haze of yellow on the hill: Green Day. It’s possibly my favorite day of the year: the birch and aspen all decide in unison to start sprouting leaves. It’s just a kiss of yellow today, but by this time next week, the whole hill will be green. Last week I said I was feeling uninspired to take photos because breakup in Alaska is exciting, but not especially lovely. We’re just on the edge of spring overtaking breakup and I can feel the excitement.

We’re also sort of emerging out of quarantine. I went to Lowe’s just now and less than half the people were wearing masks. Mandates are starting to relax here and everybody seems to be taking Alaska’s “strong suggestions” a little less seriously. The mathematician in me is screaming “Nooooooooo!” But the part of me that has been cooped up with my kids for the last million years with no place to go? That part is all about it.

When I talked about having nothing to look forward to this morning, I forgot about these little (big) things: blooming basil, leaves on trees, seeing humans who don’t share my last name. I forgot about the tiny bits that don’t require me leaving for somewhere novel. Can I just enjoy the bursting forth of new life that feels so right as we continue through Eastertide and look forward to all it brings?

The spiritual discipline of anticipation continues, though my formal plans vanished. What are you looking forward to?

a look back at April

Well, April is over. I can’t say I’m mad about it.

As with last month, I’m borrowing Emily Freeman‘s questions to look backwards, because it’s time to put out a post and I don’t have much else. And, again, I’m rearranging it so it ends on something fun. (I read On Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, who, btw, is a favorite, and he talked about how a person’s perception of a period of pain is basically the average of the maximum pain of the episode and the pain level at the end. I’ve experienced this and now apply it to basically everything. So we will end with light.)

What do I miss?

I miss taking pictures. Weird, right? But a few things have come together to make it difficult. First, breakup is ugly. A lot of dirty snow piles and last year’s dead vegetation. I am uninspired. Second, and probably more influential, my husband has been stealing my camera to video music and sermons for church, since video is suddenly an essential part of church services. So I frequently don’t know where my camera is, and when I do have it, the card comes helpfully preloaded with a ton of video and my settings are all screwy. The digital settings are fine—we have separate user profiles on the camera, so it goes back to manual everything—but the number of physical switches on the body of the camera that come back to me all kinds of wrong makes “taking a quick picture” impossible. I might be mild-to-moderately grouchy about it. Not at him, really—he’s got a job to do—but just at the situation that has everything, even this, all wrong.

What does peace look like in May?

Better self-care.

Andrew went back to work this week, so for the first time since mid-March, I’m home between 9ish and 6:30ish (and occasionally later) every day with some children I can’t take anywhere. I absolutely have to prioritize exercise so I stay sane, and I asked him last night for a night out of the house (probably library parking lot) and a night that he and I actually do something together (like watch a movie or something) every week.

What was the funniest thing that happened in April?

I don’t know about funniest, but this happened yesterday, so I remember it, and I did laugh pretty hard.

I got a text from Andrew: “Looks like maybe you had a couple kindle books that went on my work card a week and a half back…? History of Printing and Forgetting the Past?”

None of this rings any bells. I’m pretty judicious about my Kindle purchases and very careful not to use his work card on anything, and I tell him so. I check in with my sister who has, on occasion, used our account. Seemed like a long shot, but I couldn’t imagine anything else.

Then I get another text: “Looks like Brian has been buying books on my kindle… at least I’m guessing it was him since my device was renamed ‘BRIANLOVESANDREW‘”

Y’all, I died. I have no idea how the boy renamed his device, but whenever he writes anything (or, often as not, uses the alpha keys on my trusty TI-83 from 1997) he uses our first names:


We will be keeping closer tabs on the Andrew’s kindle going forward.

How are you going into May?

photo essay: quarantine, day whatever

Quarantine, day who-the-heck-knows:

I spent this day looking for light, both literal and metaphorical. This collection looks to me like a really random mix of images, but it’s just my life, from the cheery morning light reminding me to fold laundry to an unplanned trip out of the house alone.

This set of images misses the fights and the dishes and the mess. It’s not that I want to hide the reality of four bickering children from you, but they were on top of me, elbowing me in the femur and poking me in the eye, yelling in my face and whispering with their mouths actually inside my ear. Grabbing the camera was not the first thing I considered. Anyhow, the minimum focus distance of the lens I had on is way farther away than any of my children were.

Even in a day that had every bit of its allotted crazy, there was so much light that culling this post down to a reasonable number of photos was hard. This was maybe half of the photos I initially chose.

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Go Where the Light Is.”

big and little grief

This weekend is my favorite every year. Andrew and I get to drop the kids off at Mom and Dad’s, drive to Anchorage on Thursday, spend all of Friday setting up a stage and sound (and I spend my whole day taping cords to red-and-gold carpet with wide, burgundy-colored duct tape), followed by the first couple sessions of a marriage conference we’ve attended (either in the regular attendance way or in an official working kind of way) some fifteen times. Saturday is more sitting beside my husband at the soundboard, followed by an early end of conference activities, splitting the ballroom in preparation for separate men’s and women’s sessions the next morning, and then a date night. Sunday we run the split sessions for a bit. (This is typically the only time of year I do sound and it’s stressful because the Anchorage Marriott’s ballroom system is janky and there’s a lot of bleedthrough from the men’s session on the other side of the air wall.) After that, we’ll reconfigure the ballroom back to a single huge session. We finish out the conference at 12:30 or so, wait for most of the attendees to clear out, and take everything back down. We’ll stay Sunday night. We used to drive back Sunday after strike, but that’s a six-hour drive that doesn’t start until about 4pm, so we finally started driving home Monday. Much better this way.

That was an inappropriate amount of detail, but every bit of it is seriously the best. I get time away with my husband to do ministry work alongside him (a novelty since the kids were born and my primary formal ministry became “the sound guy’s babysitter”) and it’s in service of strengthening marriages, which I’m passionate about.

Except… unless you’re reading this LONG after I’ve written it, you already know the whole thing is off. No gatherings over ten. Six feet between bodies. (I assume we could treat married couples as single units and just have six feet between couples?) In Alaska, there’s no intrastate travel, so we couldn’t even drive down.

And I’m sad.

As usual, my impulse is to minimize it. It’s not a big deal, just another weekend. Hopefully it won’t be cancelled next spring. There are people in danger, people dying. Domestic violence is on the rise for reasons that seem pretty obvious right now. I haven’t seen stats, but probably suicide as well. And the conference? I have a pretty stable, happy marriage—what about the couples for whom this was the last-ditch effort to keep it together? Suck it up. You’re fine.

I have done this weird internal self-shaming as long as I can remember. I did it when I miscarried and when my dog died and when my husband lost his dad tragically and all the smaller losses before, between, and after those. When I say “I can’t complain,” it’s probably code for “I don’t have a right to.” There’s always someone who has it worse.

So I shove that crap down. It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine. My life is relatively good. This is a bummer, but I can’t complain.

Who, exactly, is it for, though?

I used to feel bad when I’d enjoy blessings despite the suffering of other people. (The pain of the whole world?) I’d hear about someone else’s sick child and I would feel bad for having healthy ones. It was some weird mutation of survivor’s guilt, maybe, for those surviving disasters other than death.

When I was in my early twenties, newly married, a friend of mine, twelve then, was with me baking cookies the afternoon her mom died of cancer. Through her high school years, she’d tell me how much she hated hearing people rag on their mothers—sometimes she’d shut them down with “Well, at least you have a mom,” just because she could.

I don’t do anybody any favors when I don’t fully receive the blessings I have.

I think grief is similar.

If my friend’s grandpa died of covid-19, if an acquaintance is having a hard time making ends meet in the face of sudden unemployment, if someone is grieving the loss of her marriage in addition to living through a pandemic as a newly-single mom, if a friend has to navigate a military move and deployment of her husband and it’s all in the air but she still has to care for five kids, or if someone I know has a small business about to go under because nobody is shopping, I can support them in various ways. I can offer empathy or groceries, maybe buy a gift card. You know what isn’t useful? Shoving down my little grief over a cancelled weekend because bigger problems exist. Perspective is still important, of course, and whining is never good, but minimizing my own feelings leads to a whole host of other crap down the line. (Ask me how I know.) The amorphous and physical anxiety I experience when I push sadness away eats up my margin and my ability to be a human. I’m no good to anybody.

Naming and feeling the things, even just within myself (or, you know, discussing them at length with couple dozen of my closest internet friends), makes me more empathetic, not less.

So I’m sad. It will be fine, but it sucks right now.

looking for hope


That’s the word I used tonight to describe myself to a friend in a Marco Polo message I meant to send a week ago as a check-in but simply could not. This isn’t the first time I’ve used the word, and it’s not necessarily quarantine-specific. It’s been a year or more since I told someone I was suffocating under a pile of small humans I produced, and at that time, I still had the ability to go places and do things. My current really exciting outing is sitting in my husband’s truck in the library parking lot by myself. (And I don’t mean to minimize that—it’s fabulous.) Please hear me: I love my children. I especially love them one and two at a time. But when they all pile on and they’re bickering constantly, words like “buried” and “suffocating” are the ones I feel.

I read an article just now that quoted John Piper: “Hope governs our behavior” and went on to talk about the very in-the-moment nature of motherhood and how that can squash it.

This resonated as completely true. I have become so myopic—all I can do is count down until lunch after which I will send the children outside after which they will have screens: a rest. Then after that, it’s checking the clock with constant calculation of “time until 7:30.” My day comes in chunks of, at most, a few hours at a time. Things that normally involve hope for me are ones I work on in the breaks—planning, learning, Bible study, creativity. And mostly, I’m just in need of rest.

The quote sent me on a rabbit trail looking for the quote by Piper which I could not directly find. He said:

In fact, fear itself is not wrong. God actually designed us to be fearers. Fear is a faith-revealer. What we fear reveals what we trust. It’s a strong response to a perceived threat commanding us to protect our hope. In that way it governs our behaviors.

John PIper, The Only Thing we have to Fear (emphasis mine)

And also:

Hope is not an add-on to Christian experience. It is part of the first things. The essential things. It is a vital component of saving faith, because part of what we believe relates to our future. It is impossible to be a Christian and keep on believing that your eternity will be bleak. Saving faith is the “assurance of things hoped for,” and such faith believes that “God is the rewarder of those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:16).

John Piper, Why Would the World Ask About Your Hope?

Welp, so much for the quote. But all this got the wheels turning: did I really lose my hope? No. I still get all kinds of fired up about all things being made new. I just forget it when I’m going from one snack request to the next. This reminded me of Romans. (Aren’t you excited about this canoe ride down the stream of Robin’s consciousness?)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV, emphasis mine)

And here’s the payoff. Our sufferings lead to endurance which leads to character which leads to hope. My (relatively light) suffering—the regular daily struggles of life with four children, currently in quarantine—is working on my heart to produce endurance, character, and hope. I didn’t lose my hope, but it’s not complete yet, either.

I have no brilliant tie-ups here. I’m about to drive home (later than planned) to my very sweet and longsuffering husband and my four delightful-but-noisy children. I will still be tired and overwhelmed and will very likely lose sight of my hope yet again. I don’t know the fix for that. But it’s on my radar now and this all is producing endurance and character for sure and Paul seems to think (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so, you know, pretty reliable) this will lead to hope.

Addendum: I wrote this last night and did not get home before bedtime, hallelujah. Currently my seven-year-old is making banana bread with her five-year-old brother. She is wearing roller blades and a helmet. Little Lilly (3) is throwing flour around. Jenna’s on a zoom call with her class because the world is weird right now. Just thought I’d give you a real-life update. I am, in fact, fully overwhelmed, but keeping hope in mind.

quiet space

It’s Friday, April 10. I’m looking out my living room’s big picture window at smallish snowflakes. The spruce across the street have a dusting on the branches, and the ground is, of course, still covered in white as it has been since October. The overcast sky along and the bright white flakes makes the whole world appear grayscale, which, though it sounds depressing, is actually soothing.

In Kindred Mom Zoom meetings every week, one of the things we do real quickly at the beginning is check our numbers. The last month as we’ve looked at the stats for our newsletter, the open rate isn’t awesome and the unsubscribes are trickling in. Our content is solid, but people aren’t reading.

I’m not reading, either. I have 347 emails come in every day from school—zoom meeting reminders and assignments and enrichment activities and logistics and updates from the superintendent—and only one of my four is in “real” school. I get daily texts from DHSS telling me how many new cases there are and in which communities, along with hospitalizations and deaths. Every company I’ve ever given my address to is sending me emails about their COVID-19 strategies, which change regularly as mandates shift, prompting new flurries of emails. Influencers are sending me awesome deals on this e-course, but hurry! don’t miss it! You won’t see prices this low again! Any newsletter I’m subscribed to (including the one I am involved with producing) is sending me super helpful ideas to cope with sheltering in place and curated links to free content to keep my horde of hooligans busy and articles explaining why everything is so freaking hard. (It’s grief. Fight or flight response. Anxiety. All the things.) Social media is flooded with (admittedly funny) memes and rants and complaints and conspiracy theories and just a general record of what is going down in the world right now.

I can’t.

I’m tired. My already-sensitive brain has been overloaded for years now and a disruption in routine, health concerns, and economic worries are compounding the problem. I could keep myself busy twenty-four hours a day just reading the text accompanying all the helpful free content on the web right now. I can’t even quite wrap my head around the time consuming that free content would cost.

I need quiet.

You too?

I’m tempted now to send you to Headspace or to a helpful resting practice I found, but wouldn’t that just be adding to the noise?

So instead, I’ll briefly record my current moment of peace in hopes it helps you recognize similar moments in your world. Feel free to just close this tab now and stare out the window for a sec.

Snow is falling. My feet are cold. I keepe typing random Es at the ende of words, like I’m olde timey or somethinge. I put on makeup and a cute shirt to do a podcast recording at seven this morning because I want desperately to feel like a person today. But also, I’m wearing my workout clothes because that’s what’s coming next and I refuse to put on a full outfit complete with a bra and real pants in order to record audio and then change out of them to work out. I realize this is inconsistent. The heater just kicked on. My husband made himself coffee, then disappeared back to our room. In a minute he’ll sit beside me and we’ll work together on our sorta-matching apple laptops. Our kids are still in bed. The big girls’ room is reading in the massive and complicated multi-room fort they made with their beds and blankets last night (after they should have been sleeping) and the little kids’ room is listening to Sir Bernard, which is an musical kids’ audio drama. (I have no idea what order those adjectives should be in. I think this is close to right.) I am as grateful as I’ve ever been that we have rules about what they should do if they wake up before “get up time.”

I hope you find pockets of quiet today that take you by surprise. I hope you recognize them as the gifts they are. I hope they point you to the Giver of good gifts.

a look back at March

So remember in late January when everybody was all, “it’s January 74th” because it just felt so long? Hahahaha… We had no idea how long a month could be. I realized the other day during a rare quiet moment (I left the house and sat in my car in the parking lot of a gas station) that I no longer quite think in complete sentences unless I’m writing or talking. There’s so much noise in my house, online, and in my head.

I was having a hard time coming up with words to say here when Emily Freeman’s monthly newsletter ended up in my inbox and she shared a look back at this wild month in three parts:

  • a moment of joy
  • something that surprised me
  • something I want to leave behind as I head into April

I can probably manage this. But I’m going to rearrange to leave you with the fun part.

something that surprised me

Well, I mean, March. But that’s everyone. I started a writing project early this month. This in itself is a surprise to me—it’s not a big project, but it’s bigger than a blog post and I’ve long told people who’ve mentioned me and book-writing in the same sentence that I barely have enough [semi-] coherent words to write a 1000-word post. Anyhow. It’s a different kind of writing than I’ve done before and a bigger project and just generally intimidating to me, so kinda put it off for a minute. But right at the beginning of March I finally decided, “You know, I’m just going to do it. I don’t have to do much, but I need to at least start something.” and within a week or two I was roughly a third through the rough draft of the whole dang thing. Didn’t see it coming. It’s not easy, per se, but the words come every time I’m faithful to show up to do the work. (I haven’t done any of this in the last two weeks, so it’s still roughly a third done, but still.)

one thing I’m hoping to leave behind as I make my way into April

When the first case of COVID-19 in Alaska was announced roughly the same hour as the school district decided to close, I started following all the things pretty closely. Every day right around five, I’d hit the dhss website, be irritated at the lack of news, google “covid-19 alaska,” weed through the stuff about Alaska Airlines and the things from the Fairbanks Daily News Minor which won’t let me read unless I subscribe (which I won’t), read the remaining useful articles coming from Anchorage and the local TV news channels, go back and refresh DHSS, look at the CDC’s map of the spread which is maddeningly behind, do math regarding the rate of growth of cases both in the US and Alaska, etc. This is madness. And even if I do need to get all the info from all the places I can find it, five o’clock is literally the worst possible time. From 5:00-6:30 pm has been witching hour (hour and a half) since we’ve had kids. Five is when the kids really seem run out of the ability to regulate well and six thirty is when Andrew gets home so we can do the dinner/bedtime shuffle. Me sitting on my laptop compulsively hitting refresh on sites that will only give me stressful news about which I can do nothing is profoundly counterproductive.

I have prefered news sources (that generally link original documents and transcripts, so I feel good about reliability) which I check regularly. I’m happy with exactly this level of news. If I want to do a deeper dive, the sources are available, but generally I just get the highlights in a way that doesn’t completely overwhelm me, and that’s plenty. I am signed up for texts from Alaska’s DHSS, so I get a message a few minutes past five most days with whatever the case and body count is (this sounds so cold and crass, but those really are the details I get) along with any new health mandates.

This is enough. And it doesn’t eat my attention and stress me out during the most difficult ninety minutes of my day.

a moment of joy

This past Saturday, Andrew set up the trampoline. Note: the snow is still up to the bounce mat (I had to google “what is the floor of a trampoline called”) so this may be a bit premature, but we have to burn their energy somehow.

He sent the older two out to play, but the younger two needed to clean up the toys they’d been playing with before heading out. Brian picked up the blocks and got his gear on and left. Lilly was dragging her feet—she would rather never go outside without a “gwonup”—and was putting Duplos in the bin as slowly as she could manage.

Suddenly, shrieks erupted. Brian’s one of our screamers and evidently somebody did something he didn’t like and he LET US KNOW. (We could still see him bouncing, so he wasn’t majorly injured.) Lill immediately kicked cleanup into high gear and started frantically yelling, “It’s okay, Boyboy! I’m coming! I’ll be right there!” Now, it was a balmy twenty degrees out, so all our doors were closed and even if they hadn’t been, Brian’s shrieks would certainly have drowned out Lilly’s panicked maternal reassurances. She got the Duplos put away in record time, dressed like a marshmallow, and waddled out to the back as fast as her clunky boots would let her.

I love how much she loves her “Boyboy.”

And there we have it. I’d love to hear the rundown of March from you, if you’d like to share.

to my non-mom friends

Dear single ladies and friends without physical offspring,

I see you.

I see you living your best life in the season you’re in. I also see some of you heading to another wedding, throwing another baby shower, faithfully celebrating your friends’ milestones and sometimes shoving aside your own grief—perhaps your story doesn’t look quite how you imagined.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the way I’ve idolized marriage and family and marginalized you.

I’m sorry for the years where I asked single acquaintances if they were seeing anyone, dating friends if things were “serious,” married friends when kids were coming. I thought I was making conversation, but I was adding to a problem.

It was none of my business. And those are all great things, but I treated them as ultimate. The Best Thing.

I grew up around a subculture of purity rallies and courtship as an ideal. True Love Waits! I understand the idea and I don’t disagree—I’m reaping the benefits in a marriage where we both “waited”—but there’s the implication that if you’re not married, you’re just waiting. Like marriage is when actual life and adulthood starts. And it was really real when you started having kids.

This is absurd.

Marriage is an excellent gift. Kids are amazing.

But they’re not the only gifts. My circles talk a lot about how marriage and parenthood are sanctifying, and they certainly are. But I can’t say they’re somehow more sanctifying than singleness or marriage pre-kid or infertility. I’m pretty sure the Lord uses whatever season we’re in to make us more like Christ.

YES, the enemy assaults the image of Christ and the Church that’s found in marriage, and it’s worth putting energy into strengthening my own marriage and those around me. But he’s also pretty intent on defacing the image of God in individuals, and I haven’t always done especially well standing for you.

You are valuable. Not for your potential to be married or become a mother, but for who you are right now, in this season. We need you. You have gifts to offer that I can’t give. It’s on us as the Church and individual families to bring you in and welcome you in ways we haven’t always.

I’m sorry for the ways I haven’t seen you.

I’m trying now.

field notes from a brave new world

Hey, friends! So in this weird season of minimal structure besides “stay in your house whenever possible,” my lifeline has been chats with friends about all the things—how we’re feeling, what we’re doing, how we’re staying sane (I mean IF)… Good times. Anyway, I figured maybe I wasn’t the only one surviving more on stories of friends than on the deluge of information (Fun fact! So far our state has been increasing in cases in a way that’s almost a fibonacci sequence!) so maybe I’ll share. Plus my brain is everywhere but I really, really need the structure of a Thursday post.

So… here’s an incomplete (and somewhat self-indulgent) list of things I’m thinking:

Major side effects of a global pandemic (and not the virus itself) are a permanent low- to mid-grade headache, fatigue, and also a really itchy face.

Currently, I’m kind of scattered and even more absent-minded than usual. I feel extra anxiety in my body, though, as usual, there aren’t anxious thoughts to go with it, just sensation.

I sent some of my kids to the playground today. I went to get them later and found out the parents of about two dozen other children had the same idea and they were all playing together on a very tall snow hill. There were no 6-foot gaps. Social distancing fail.

On the day everything caught fire here (last Thursday at about 5:30 when Alaska had their first confirmed case and our school district “extended spring break” at roughly the same time) Katherine had Tae Kwon Do and in the hour between when the news broke and the end of her class, the couple who runs the place decided to open their space for full-day childcare (at an absurdly low weekly cost) for parents who have to work because that’s not available hardly anywhere here, and yes, that’s gatherings of people, but to offer a place that is safe and welcoming to families without options (at a fair bit of personal cost and some personal risk, as well) made me tear up just a little.

My life hasn’t changed a whole lot. I have three of my four kids home always anyway, so I have one extra child for six extra hours a day and it shouldn’t be such a huge deal. But the activities that differentiate one day from another have vanished and it all feels a little sideways and the constant uncertainty wears on my brain, so I’m even more of a hot mess than usual. All of you who have real changes? Prayers for you. That’s all I got.

I’m not sure how girl scout cookie sales fit in with social distancing (probably they don’t) but there were girl scouts when I made a quick trip to Fred’s for milk (during which I touched NOTHING except a sanitizer wipe) and dipping frozen thin mints in coffee is still my favorite thing.

Coronavirus memes are an important tool in my “survive quarantine” kit.

Disney+ releasing Frozen II early was so, so kind. (Any guesses how I’m writing right now?)

Another important sanity-saving tool: Pantsuit Politics podcast/Instastories daily news brief/Patreon feed. I appreciate a single place to gather information (with links to sources) rather than trying to piecemeal it.

We need onions and potatoes. Toilet paper is a nonissue (subscribe and save) but I haven’t seen any memes made about onions and potatoes, but those are gone. I can do without the potatoes, but I’m not sure how to live my life without onions. What do I even cook? I have no idea.

Lots of writer-types I’ve talked to have mentioned how this has eaten their ability to write words. And I get that. There’s brain science behind it, even. But I’ve found a few areas where I’ve made more progress on projects.

I didn’t think about this, but birth photography has taken a hit for a minute as extra people in hospitals are not super welcome in general. (Related: local friends who are due soon, want birth photography, and plan to deliver somewhere other than a hospital, talk to me. I realize there may be zero people in that group, but just in case. Crazy discounts available.)

I shared this hack with a friend today, but haven’t used it in a while (we are getting there, though): When you cannot hear your name one. more. time… inform the children you no longer respond to “mama” or “mom” and if they want your attention, they may address you as “Your Royal Highness.” It usually buys at least 30 to 60 seconds of confused silence, anyway.

Why again are you reading this? These ramblings are incoherent and helpful only for solidarity. I guess that’s not entirely unusual for this space. If you want words that might be legitimately helpful, here’s a liturgy I shared on Instagram last week. (This week? I have no idea, it all blends together.)

life/life balance

“So what’s new in your world?”

I was in my doctor’s office because the prescription for one of my antidepressants was up. I needed a med check to get another year’s prescription. I’d done the standard depression and anxiety screenings with the nurse and the numbers seemed to show the meds were doing their thing.

“Well, I started a birth photography business and just got back from a retreat with the staff of the collaborative blog I’m with, so I have writing projects coming out my ears…”

“I LOVE IT.” She went on to tell me this is the part of motherhood where she tends to see a lot of improvement in mental health—when Mom gets enough margin to start doing other things.

“There was one lady I saw when I worked in Montana who started running triathlons and it became her THING.”

“Oh. Yep. Forgot to mention that—registered for one of those, too.”

My creative world is expanding, my mental health is improving, and there seems to be a correlation. Though, as I say it, I’m not sure I can tell you one causes the other—I imagine it’s kind of an upward spiral.

We talked. My twice-daily med got switched to a once-daily version with a different release mechanism because twice a day is hard. My prescriptions are set for a year. I left feeling buoyed: maybe the worst is over and I can start getting actually better.

Later that day:

“So I need to talk to you about Brian. He needs more constant supervision… he basically gives no craps about anything, does what he wants, and your attention is pretty well consumed by whatever you’re doing.”

The prior day, I was recovering from a stomach thing and dying of a dehydration headache. Brian had apparently been climbing the bookshelves and I didn’t even notice. Andrew granted I wasn’t at my best, but we both wondered how much his shenanigans were due to my diminished abilities and how much is just the way my attention works—when I’m focused on creative pursuits, I actually don’t have a lot of awareness of the rest of life. Is this just… normal?

“I think your days would probably be a lot more successful if you were less distracted.”

He wasn’t being mean, just honest, and I agree.

But what happens when the thing that takes my attention from my children and makes me less effective as a parent is also making me more able to be a person?

The next day, I did a little experiment. It was a thing I’d tried years ago, when “present” was my word of the year, and I abandoned before the end because being one hundred percent present with my children is actually really hard on my brain. But I tried it again: no distractions, just full attention on the little people.

It worked. Parenting went much smoother. I won’t say Brian gave any more craps than he had earlier in the week, but I consistently caught him before he did anything dangerous. It was pleasant.

And I fell asleep at about 11:30 in the morning. Apparently using my brain this way is a lot of work, and the things I usually do that make me feel alive and awake were explicitly off-limits. While I slept, shenanigans resumed as usual.

It’s like leaving a car’s headlights on without the engine going. If you call the running engine a distraction and disallow it, the headlights will dim and the whole thing will die.

The same thing has happened every time I’ve tried, including today—I keep trying because I promised I would.

I don’t have a pretty bow to put on this, only just recently words to describe the struggle. The solution seems obvious enough: put structure in place to give them productive things to do so the chaos subsides and I have some space to do things as well.

But… I’ve tried. Lots of things, lots of ways, lots of times. I haven’t managed. Either I’m dumber than I look or this is harder than it looks. From this place, it’s hard to muster the creativity to make a solid routine, harder to find motivation to implement it, and, once I’ve put in the effort to accomplish those, nearly impossible to get back on track once things inevitably go off the rails.

Why am I telling you this? Partly because it’s Wednesday and I’m supposed to publish tomorrow, and this is all I’m thinking about. And also because maybe I’m not the only one. If this sounds painfully familiar…

Hey! I see you. It’s hard. I don’t have answers. There is also grace here, and I can’t wait to tell you how I find it. Just because I haven’t yet doesn’t mean I won’t—we’re going to be okay.