Sunday, July 31, 2011

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Legos

Those are tweezers. I thought they'd do the trick, as I was more familiar with them.
Turns out, pliers really worked better.

I made up names for the ditties and parts I was unfamiliar with. I found myself asking for 'that guy over there,' the #1 of the 110210, the long flatty, the short squatty, 'the sheep,' and another Zacchaeus.

(He earned his name because I kept saying, with elbow grease and a screwdriver, "Oh, come on. You get down there." Hence, Zacchaeus.)

Everything I needed to know I learned from Legos.

The projects are remarkably similar; there is much to be said for pictorial directions.

"Mommy, I think Daddy will not mind if you use his hammer."

"You know, sugar, I think Daddy would be very proud that I am using his hammer."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Sonnet and Free Will

"How can I explain it to you? Oh, I know, in your language, you have a form of poetry called the sonnet."

"Yes, yes," Calvin said impatiently. "What's that got to do with the Happy Medium?"

"Kindly pay me the courtesy of listening to me. Mrs. Whatsit's voice was stern, and for a moment, Calvin stopped pawing the ground like a nervous colt. "It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?"


"There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That's a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?"

"Yes." Calvin nodded.

"And each line has to end with a precise rhythm pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?"


"But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn't he?"

"Yes." Calvin nodded again.

"So," Mrs. Whatsit said.

"So what?"

"Oh, do not be stupid, boy!" Mrs. Whatsit scolded. "You know perfectly well what I am driving at!"

"You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?"

"Yes," Mrs. Whatsit said. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."


"To speak analogously is to admit that you can't say it directly; you really can't say it at all; it's outside the realm of provable fact. But it is not a coincidence that some of the greatest poetry in the English language is in the form of the sonnet. The haiku is one of the most popular forms of poetry today: what could be more structured?"


"Without our structure, we would be an imprisoned, amorphous blob of flesh, incapable of response. The amoeba has a minimum of structure, but I doubt if it has much fun."

~ Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, July 29, 2011


It was several weeks - perhaps months - before I could turn on the radio.

I couldn't bear to hear songs that reminded me of places I had been; I couldn't bear to hear new songs that Robb wouldn't hear.

I have spent a lot of time in silence. It's a gentle companion with plenty of room for me.

It's the invisible guest who needs plenty of time to talk.

I used to bring the party with me; now I bring the quiet.

Sometimes it's the safest place I know.

Bigger Than The Mall

"Mommy, remember when we played horsey and Daddy let me ride on his back?"

"I sure do, kiddo. You and Daddy had lots of fun together."

"Do you think we can play that again when I get to heaven?" His face lit up over the very idea.

"I bet you will, Ty."

"Is heaven big?"

"It is. Bigger than any place we've ever been."

"Bigger than the mall?"


"Bigger than Disney World?"

"Even bigger than Disney World. And even more beautiful."

"And Daddy's there."

"Yep. He's there."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Scent in the Air

I thought Winston was doing better at housetraining.

Turns out, Tyler has been dropping the poop into the heating vent in his bedroom.

For who knows how long.

I can't really talk about this yet.

This Morning

"Mommy, I need more blanket."

I didn't even know he was sleeping next to me,
the dandelion boy.
He came some time during the night.
He earned a Captain America for five consecutive nights in his own bed,
but he tells me that what scares him most are the crabs and spiders that climb out of his dreams.
Such is the grief process of a four-year-old artist. Creatures meet him in his sleep.
Sure, buddy. Mommy's here.
And I don't let spiders into my bed.
You're safe here.

I woke up before both of them today.
That's always a great way to start the day.
I stand in the warm shower,
enjoying silence and breathing truth.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my hope in you.
Show me the way that I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Establish the work of my hands, O Lord.
Not to us, but to Your Name be the glory.

"Stop kicking me!"
"I need more blanket!"
"I don't like your breath!"
"My breath isn't anywhere near you!"
"Move over!"
"YOU move over!"

So, looks like they're awake then.

I call to them, "That blanket was big enough to cover Daddy and me. It's big enough to cover the two of you. Find a way to fit if you're going to lay there."

I am nearly ready before I step into their morning dance. It's hard when they start the day fighting; it's like waking up to a loud, buzzing alarm. It makes me a little grumpy.

"Good morning, guys. Let's get you dressed."

"I don't want to get dressed. Ever. Zero dressed."

"Tyler, you need to. It's what people do. Tucker, it's silly day at PreK today. Let's pick out some silliness for you to wear."

It's truly unfortunate that it's not silly day in Tyler's class.

Tucker finds a Hawaiian lei, a Lightning McQueen hat, and fuzzy slipper socks of green and blue stripes. Silly: Check.

Tyler has taken a framed picture of Robb from the credenza in my office. It's 17-year-old Robb, a picture from his senior year in high school.

Handsome Robb. Tucker looks so much like him.

Tyler is carrying it around, hoarding and teasing.

"But I want to see the picture too!" The older brother whines.

The little brother is in the corner of the bedroom, between the bed and the wall, his eyebrows furrowed in knots. "No. I'm holding Daddy."

I am torn; is his heart wrapped around a picture of Robb, or is the greater joy in having something he doesn't want to share?

"Tyler, please share it with Tucker. That's his daddy too."

"I don't want him to touch it."

"He won't touch it. Just show him."

"I'll touch it," Tucker says defiantly.

"Give me the picture, Tyler." I strike a happy medium, holding the picture Tyler doesn't want Tucker to hold, and letting Tucker study the red hair and sturdy jaw line of his dad.

The room is silent, for just a few seconds.

"My daddy," Tuck whispers.

"My picture!" Tyler stomps.

Mommy's picture, really. It's a good thing I like you both.

I divide and conquer, sending them to get dressed at opposite ends of the upstairs.

I go downstairs to let Winston out, only to find a flood of yellow in the powder room that is his.

Well, shoot. I didn't make it down fast enough to let him outside before the urge hit. That was one full bladder for such a small dog. Bummer.

I gather paper towels, Resolve for Pet Stains, Lysol, and Clorox wipes. Wishing now I had remembered to get more Swiffer Wet Jet solution yesterday at WalMart. Ah, make do, Tricia. Just clean and sterilize. The boys need breakfast.

I kneel, a silver sunflower dancing on my beaded pearl necklace, my white sundress brushing against the wood floor. I try not to get it wet in this mess of yuck.

"Mommy, I don't like these."

"You don't like what?"


"I can't see you. I can't see what you don't like."

"Then come upstairs."

"Tuck, Winston made a big mess on the floor. I'm cleaning it up. Please come here and show me what you're talking about."

He appears behind me. "Hi, buddy. What do you not like?"

"Um, I don't remember."

"It sounded like Crocs?"

"Oh. These socks. I don't like these. They make me trip."

"Okay. You don't have to wear them."

"I don't want to wear the flowers on my neck either."

"What about the Lightning McQueen hat?"

"No, I don't want to."

"But it's silly day."

"But I don't want to."

I understand this dichotomy. I remember it well. I suspect an idea was born in his head, but now he's not sure if his classmates' silly ideas will match his courage. Better to lay low than to stand out when confidence wanes. I respect that, kiddo.

"That's up to you, Tuck. You don't have to. Can you help me with breakfast?"

"Yes. Let's do PopTarts."

He roots through the pantry while I throw away the mess of paper towels. He pulls a stool over to the toaster while I wash my hands, again.

The toaster is jammed with broken PopTarts gone awry from other mornings. I begin exploratory surgery. I retrieve two of them, but one is smashed into the bottom of the toaster - pulling out the tray underneath only scatters crumbs everywhere across my counter. No dice on retrieving the PopTart. Unsuccessful surgery.

"Tuck, let's put the PopTarts in the microwave."

"But I need scissors to open them."

"Just give them here. I'll open them." I insist on opening them myself, plating them myself, putting them in the microwave - myself. I am all about empowering, but honestly, sometimes I just need to get the task done. (Sometimes independence is a top commodity in our house; it's hard to know who wants it more.)

"Tyler, can you come downstairs, please?"

No word from Tyler.

It crosses my mind that some silent tragedy has perhaps happened upstairs, since that has happened in our home and my mind no longer naturally claims optimism or even reality. I decide to give him one minute to come downstairs before I race upstairs, prepared to call 9-1-1.

(Maternal instincts are not always reasonable, but neither is Post Traumatic Stress.)

I hear him coughing as he comes down the stairs. Ah, there we go. Coughing means breathing.

"Ready for breakfast, Tyler?"

"I need markers."

"We're not doing markers. Do you want a NutriGrain bar or a PopTart?"

"Can I have gum?"


"But I found this piece upstairs. I want it."

It's Robb's gum. One piece left in my office drawer.

"We're having breakfast, Tyler. It's not time for gum." I choose not to be sentimental about the Spearmint Extra. I simply choose to tell Tyler no, not now. He is angry that he cannot have gum, then angry that I offered cherry NutriGrain instead of raspberry, when he knows he chose raspberry at Walmart yesterdfay, and I realize I said the wrong thing. I meant raspberry. He chooses a PopTart.

"Mommy," Tucker calls, "My foot is bleeding."

He holds his foot in his hand, twisting his ankle sideways so I can see between his toes on the underside of his foot. A blister is heeling, after he hiked in flip flops because I forgot to pack tennis shoes.

"It looks like it's getting better, Tuck."

"But it's bleeding. Why would God send blood? Why would God do that to me?"

We are dangerously close to a dialogue about the sovereignty of God in relation to a blister between his toes, and this is a topic I feel particularly uneasy about these days.

"Tuck, God doesn't do things to hurt us. If it's bleeding, it might be just because it's bleeding."

"Or it could be because I picked at it."

"Yes. Yes, it could be because you picked at it. Does anyone want blueberries?"

They are perched on their tall chairs at the table. They cheer for blueberries.

I carry the Tupperware bowl to the table, take off the seal, and offer them each a handful of blue to set alongside their brown sugar cinnamon, no longer fresh from the microwave.

Tyler takes the Tupperware seal for his plate. "Tyler, I need that to keep the blueberries fresh."

"Well, I need it to keep my blueberries off the table."

"That's what your plate is for."

I tilt the seal and let the blueberries spill onto his plate, rolling around the perimeter of the PopTart. I close up the Tupperware bowl, pressing firmly in the center of the seal, just like my Tupperware mom taught me when I was Tucker's age.

It breaks in my hand. Damn. My mind races through the knowledge I have about Tupperware replacements, the pieces Robb had set aside to be replaced, where did he put them, who was the sales consultant he worked with... oh, for crying out loud.

I get another seal from the cupboard.

"Mommy, I sat on a blueberry."

"Clean it up, please."

"You clean it up."

"I will not. The napkins are over there. Please clean it up."

"It's okay. I'm full anyway," he says, pointing to the two bites missing. "My preschool teacher says I only have to eat a little."

"True. But I think your tummy is probably still hungry. Plus, you asked for blueberries. I need you to eat them if you ask for them."

I join the boys at the table with my bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch, just in time to see Tyler toss a blueberry squarely into Tucker's glass of milk.

Two points.

"Tyler, go sit on the rug by the door. We don't throw food."

I'm wishing I had finished my makeup and hair before I had stepped onto this Mommy Dance Floor this morning. Time is running out.

Tucker cleans up the splashes of milk from the blueberry score, Tyler whines on the rug, and I eat a few bites of fiber with raisins.

It's after 8:00. I've taught the boys that we leave when the short hand is on the eight, and the big hand is pointing tall to the twelve.

I'm running late.

I dismiss Tyler from the rug. I dismiss Tucker from the table. I turn on NickJr. My fellow parent for the next ten minutes.

I rush upstairs, diffuse the curly mop, brush on some mascara and eyeliner, and slide my feet into flip flops. I grab the gray 'classic piece' cardigan, since Starbucks is cold. So is iced soy chai.

I come down the stairs to find Tyler spraying Lysol across the wood floor.

"I'm spraying for ants," he tells me.

Way to go, SuperMom. Leave the toxic stuff on the floor. Let him go crazy with it.

"Tyler, stop. Go wash your hands. Tucker, shoes."

Tucker is standing on his tiptoes on top of a stool, reaching above the refrigerator to retrieve Spiderman from the basket that is called Toy Jail.

I'm about finished with this morning. I really, really am.

"Tucker, get down. Put on shoes. And put the stool away."

"But I..."

"Please, just do it."

Tyler says, "I think we should call it a Stool-Aid. That rhymes with KoolAid."

"I think you should put on your shoes, Tyler. Tuck, shoes and stool."

"She meant shoes and Stool-Aid, Tuck. That's what we're calling it now."

Oh, my word. I'm living this.

Somehow we make it into the car. I'm not really sure how that happened; the details are a blur.

The boys argue over who gets first music choice. Then they argue over if VeggieTales are real since Pandas are.

Then Tucker realizes we are on our way to school and he isn't wearing a single silly thing for silly day.

And at some point, I realize that I have kept up with them this morning.

And that's a really, really big deal.

The Birth of an Idea

I have sprung out of bed this morning,
breathing fast,
my mind spinning with ideas.

Perhaps a book was born in my head overnight?

I really and truly feel like I cannot think fast enough to contain or capture these ideas.

Like they may flit away on a breeze
before I have had the chance
to explore,
look at them from every angle,
unfold every wing,
underneath my mind's microscope.

Lord, this comes from you.

The flow of ideas,
the connecting of dots,
the lines of parallels,

Holy Spirit,
these come from You.
Breath of creativity, breath of life.

Perhaps this is a glimpse of my springtime.
A warm day in my winter.

Father of ideas,
let these not pass me by.
May my mind be big enough to hold them all,
yet present enough to look each one in the eye.

Help me to slow down and engage.
May my moments meet my thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Still Asking

"I'm asking God to let Daddy come back."

"Honey, Daddy can't come back."

"I know. That's why I'm asking God."

Let There Be Cake

I wasn't going to celebrate it. I really wasn't. I thought I would; then I thought I wouldn't. I thought I could; then I thought I couldn't.

I vacillated: birthday or no birthday.

There is a community of women in my life, "The Tuesdays," who said to me in January: "Tricia, we get that you are drowning. We understand you cannot leave your home. We just want to be with you. We need to be in your space. We're coming over on Tuesday night with coffee and dessert. If you need to go to bed, you can, but we need to be where you are."

They have come over every Tuesday night for seven months. Two of them chime in via text or conference call from Arkansas and Chicago.

These same girls said to me, "We get that your birthday is hard. We get that your anniversary is harder. We choose to celebrate your birthday on your anniversary, and you can sit quietly while we party, but we're partying. Because we love you. And because Robb loved you. Stop the ridiculous talk of skipping your birthday. We won't have another word of it."

And celebrate they did. They brought me right into the mix.

And on my birthday, on the actual day, I chose a route different from any year before. I set aside the loud, the splashy, the pack-it-in. I escaped for the day with my Soul Sister, and we talked (or didn't) all day long.

My children sandwiched the day with donuts in the morning and ice cream cake at night.

They gave me their cherished gift: a Cinderella doll. "Because girls like dolls and Mommy is a girl." You really can't argue with logic like that.

They had dropped hints along the way. It's a good thing my birthday arrived, or I do believe they may have opened it themselves.

"Mommy, see this box? There isn't a doll in it."

"Mommy, I'll give you a clue. Your present is a girl, and she's your favorite princess in the Cinderella story, and her dress is blue."

Welcome to our home, princess in blue. You are an icon of thoughtfulness and all that makes sense to gift-giving little boys.

As soon as I opened her, Tyler said, "May I hold her yet?" He's learning how to take care of the things that belong to a girl he loves.

And then my mailbox began to spill. Packages, letters, cards, gifts, surprises. I have to take a small child with me to the mailbox to help with the task of carrying the mail into our home.

You have sent gifts from near and far: brightest flowers, frothy scarves, bracelets of every color. Oh, how you bless me.

And I thank you.

My birthday would happen, with or without me.
I chose to step onto the merry-go-round;
I chose to join the party too.

It sparkled in spite of me. I sparkled in light of it.


"Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday than a successful exam, a promotion, or a victory. Because to celebrate a birthday means to say to someone, 'Thank you for being you.' On a birthday, we do not say, 'Thanks for what you did, or said, or accomplished.' No, we say: 'Thank you for being born and being among us.'"

~ Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Journals, Questions, and Four Small Degrees

Perhaps this might typically be called a Madeleine L'Engle binge, this insatiable desire I have to read her every thought, scribble and line.

I'm like an addict, making sure I have another book of hers on my shelf before I finish the current read. Addicted.

The one I'm currently reading has been as deeply invaded as a journal - with writing, tabs, thoughts, me.

And, get this: I am four degrees of separation from Madeleine L'Engle.

I just learned this.

My friend Elizabeth, the brilliantly gifted Anglican priest - who simultaneously cusses like a sailor and makes me think deeply - sat in the audience of Luci Shaw during her college years. Lucy is a thinker, writer, speaker, theologian, and - not least on the list - Madeleine L'Engle's best friend.

Elizabeth stood in line to meet her after Lucy spoke, and their brief conversation was the spark of an intimate friendship.

Elizabeth has eaten dinner in Luci Shaw's home.

(I just had to take a break from typing to clench my hands together in delight. Just needed to say that.)

One evening, at Lucy's home, Elizabeth saw a stack of 8 1/2 x 11 pages, all marked in red and sitting on a shelf.

"What's that over there, Luci?"

"Oh, that's Madeleine's newest manuscript. I'm taking a look at it for her."

(Insert my clenched, delighted hands once more.)

Perhaps you can hear the angelic chorus singing in my head.

Madeleine L'Engle is best friends with Luci Shaw who mentored my friend Elizabeth who met me for coffee yesterday.

One, two, three, four. It's like I know Madeleine, really.


I say all of that to say this, the real meat of this monologue. (Although that last deluge of thoughts was certainly not without profundity, I'm sure you agree.)

When she met Luci Shaw, Elizabeth was face-to-face with a personal, spiritual crisis. A Christian Education major, she churned with questions about all that she was learning, questions about how any of this could really, truly be real.

Lucy spoke on the art of journaling, about a recent pilgrimage to Israel and the pages she filled with questions, responses, thoughts, and reflections.

When Elizabeth spoke to her, with tears and raw humility, she asked, "But what if all I have are questions?"

And with beauty, dignity, and raw response, Luci Shaw said:

"Then you write down the questions."

I have a new journal and a stack of pens: To write down the questions.

Compliments of Elizabeth.

(And Luci and Madeleine. Sort of.)

Monday, July 25, 2011


"I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the Lord.

Hosea 2:19-20


I am betrothed to the Lord forever.
I am betrothed in righteousness,
for he has made me holy and whole.
I am betrothed in justice,
for he will create me as he intended.
I am betrothed in love,
for he holds me in his heart.
I am betrothed in compassion,
for his eyes look gently upon me.
I am betrothed in faithfulness,
for he never lets me go.
I will acknowledge the Lord.

~ t. w.


I am the Lord, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you,
"Do not fear; I will help you."

Isaiah 41:13



"Hey, Tuck, look. Mommy has a tattoo. Be careful, buddy, it's a little sore."

He touched it gently, carefully tracing the letters.

"It's okay, Mommy. God will heal it."

"He will. But it will always be there."

Such wisdom in his words.

It's okay: God will heal it, but it will always be there.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I Choose to Celebrate

Dates are facts; celebrations are choices.

Good morning, July 24. Let's do you right.

Because it's my birthday.


My hope, each day as I grow older,
is that this will never be simply chronological aging -
which is a nuisance and frequently a bore -
but that I will also grow into maturity,
where the experience
which can be acquired only through chronology
will teach me
how to be more aware,
unafraid to be vulnerable,
committed, to
accept disagreement without feeling threatened
(repeat and underline this one),
to understand that I cannot take myself seriously
until I stop taking myself seriously -
to be in fact a true adult.

~ Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, July 22, 2011

Letter to a Young Bride

Good morning, Miss Tricia Lott,

Happy Wedding Day to you. Twenty-year-old you. How in love you are.

I'm not so far ahead of you... 11 years. Oh, sure, you think that's a long time. Think again, cute girl. It'll be here before you know it.

Today you will wear your bridal gown, the cathedral-length train, a wedding veil with satin edging.

You will smile all day long. All day long. You will smile so much that your teeth will get dry and your cheeks will hurt. For the rest of your life, you'll talk about getting 'a wedding day headache': the kind you'll experience today. An ache born of euphoric joy, of a heart so swollen with joy that it makes your head pound.

You'll see him in a few hours, this groom of yours. Untraditional in your desire to see each other before you say your vows, you've chosen to present yourself to him by walking down the aisle in an empty church. A moment for the two of you.

He'll wait for you, all alone, at the front of the aisle. Your bridesmaids will perfect you, fluffing your dress and straightening your train.

"No peeking..." you'll call to him, just to make him crazy with the sound of your voice, the bride he so badly wants to see.

When you give him permission, he will open his eyes. He will see you, his bride.

And he will cry.

And you will plan to take your time walking down the aisle, but you'll run to him.

He will wrap his arms around you. He'll kiss you. He won't be able to take his eyes off you. He'll twirl you so he can see you from every angle. Please study the look on his face. It's worth remembering forever.

He'll put a ring on your finger today; you'll put a ring on his. Right now, you're both worried that the rings won't fit, that your fingers will be swollen and sweaty with nerves, too puffy to receive the new bands.

Don't worry. They'll fit.

There will be 300 guests, a line out the door. In fact, they'll have to retrieve the guest book so the long line of people can come inside, so the wedding can begin.

His dad will marry you; he will announce yours as the closest thing to an arranged marriage, this side of India.

Robb will make vows to you.

I, Robb, want to commit myself to you, Tricia, my beloved wife. I realize that we two are better than one Because we have a good return for our labor together. For if you are weak and fall, I will lift you up; When you are cold and vulnerable, I will make you warm; And when another attacks and overpowers you, I will protect you. Our cord of three strands— God, you, and me— Is not easily divided. It is my desire to enjoy life fully with you, my love, All the days of my life— Through all the many times of our life— A time to tear down and a time to build up, A time to weep and a time to laugh, A time to embrace and a time to push away, A time to be silent and a time to speak, A time for war and a time for peace, A time to give birth and a time to die. For all times are in God’s perfect plan, And you are God’s plan for me.

And you will say the same to him.

"I, Tricia, want to commit myself to you, Robb, my beloved husband."

You'll make all the same promises.

And together you'll say,

I will suffer long and be kind. I will not judge you nor will I seek my own way. I will not be easily provoked And I will not think evil of you. My love for you will bear all things, Believe all things, Hope all things, And endure all things. It will never fail. Faith, hope, and love abide, But the greatest of these is love.

And as his dad pronounces you husband and wife, as he introduces you for the very first time in public with your married names,

Robb will dance.

Yes, my dear, your conservative, reserved husband will bounce on the stage, so eager to claim you.

The beaded, stretching train you have been so careful with for so many months, the very one you can't wait to wear - I know you don't believe me as you read this - but you'll kick it out of your way.

And together you will run up the aisle, your first steps into life together. Your first steps into life together.

He will scoop you up and spin you around, and he'll whisper again and again in your ear, "We're married! We're married! We're married!"

You will be inseparable for the rest of the day,

as you stand together to release each row of guests,
as you run through the cascade of bubbles,
as you escape into your limousine
and tour the city with a honking parade of cars behind you,
as you invite all the married couples to join you on the dance floor,
as you dance the night away, song after song,
as you race out of the ballroom,
hand in hand,
to the tune of the Ohio State Fight Song.

(You really should wear your 'get away shoes' a little on the sidewalk today. I know you want them to be perfect, but Robb's going to run really fast through that ballroom. You're going to slip and slide on those flawless soles, and you'll nearly fall. I know you won't listen to this advice right now; you love your wedding shoes too much to take them off, especially to damage a pair you'll wear later today. I'm just sayin', girl... he'll whisk you away. You'll wish you had some traction.)

This really will be the happiest day of your life, so far. Believe it or not, some other good ones are coming, too. Hard to imagine, I know.

You may want to stop reading now, young bride. It won't always be as bright as this moment of yours, with your ringlets under that satin veil.

I'll give you a few headlines.

I know you really can't imagine moving across the country, but you will. And you'll love Colorado. It's as great as they say.

You'll get pregnant easily, but hold this loosely: you won't get to keep each of those children. Miscarriage will visit your home half as often as conception.

But you do get two little boys. I won't tell you their names; I want you and Robb to name your sons together. Nobody should rob you of that joy.

(I know you think you want girls. But I'll tell you what: you won't want to trade those little boys for all the girls in the world. You're made for boys, Tricia. You're in for the ride of your life with these two genetic composites of you and Robb. One will be serious and linear, a thinker, a scientist, an athlete. One will be silly and funny, a comedian, a creator, an artist. Brace yourself.)

You get ten years, Tricia. Ten years, plus the two years you have spent dating him.

But then you have to give him up, sweet girl. You can't imagine the story the way it unfolds, and you wouldn't believe it if I told you.

And you'd miss out on the joy and the beauty of the decade if you could predict how it ends.

So live it, dear girl.

Say yes. Say, "I do." Over and over.
Live this day, and live the next.
He's so worth it. Every day of it.

May each blessing be yours, dear girl.
And may you be found faithful.

With deep affection,

Mrs. Tricia Williford

July 22, 2011


"Boys, today is a special day. It's my anniversary. That means it's the day that I married Daddy. It's our anniversary."

"Yeah, but it's not Daddy's, because he died."

"Oh, it's still his too. He's just not here to celebrate it."

"Oh. It's still his, too?"

"Definitely still his."

"Do you know what it means to get married?"

"Ohhhh! It's like that part at the beginning of The Incredibles when he stands at the front of the church and waits for ElastiGirl."

"It is. Just like that. Daddy waited there for me. And I wore a beautiful white dress. I was a bride."

"Mommy, I'm so happy. I'm so glad you married Daddy. I always wanted you to. I like you."

"I like you too, kiddo."

"Can you drive through that puddle? Can you make a big splash?"

"I can."

"Sweet! Hey! Two motorcycles! When I'm a Daddy, I'm going to drive a motorcycle."

"Sounds great, kiddo. Just always wear a helmet."

I taught my boys the word 'anniversary' today.

Maybe Robb is telling our other two children about our anniversary, too.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July and December

My whole life, I have loved two months of the year more than any other: July and December.

My birthday is in July, and I have long cherished every day of this month of ice cream cones, fireworks, swimming, and picnics. With my birthday tucked at the end, the cherry on top.

And then Robb and I chose to get married on July 22. Two days before my birthday.

(I turned 21 on our honeymoon. Wasn't I such a baby girl? 21. And my friends and I were so impressed with Robb, a real man at age 24. Whew! Maturity defined, undoubtedly.)

And then Robb died, two days before Christmas.

My two favorite holidays have rested at a polarized axis across the calendar. Now a dark cloud of blackest heartache looms just two days before each one.

These four dates will never change for the rest of my life. More will be added, but those four will never change.

How do I resist the pull to relinquish the joy attached to the days I have loved?

How do I keep this cycle from becoming an annual self-fulfilling prophesy?

I said to my therapist, "I have always loved July. Now I am beginning to hate July."

She said, "We need to change that."

"But how?"

"Well, we need to get you excited about your birthday."

"But I'm not. I want to skip it."

"But your boys want to celebrate it. And they need to learn to. For the rest of their lives, that day will matter to them. And Robb would be teaching them now how to love you well. You need to acknowledge the day, Tricia. Have a birthday. For your little boys."

I've got to learn to love July again. And somehow, someday, December, too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Bubble and an Opera

When a bubble's gone, you don't see it anymore with your eyes.
And when an opera is over, you don't hear it any more with your ears.
But you can remember it.
You can remember what bubbles look like
and what operas sound like
and what friends feel like.
And you'll always have them with you in your memory.

~ Fred Rogers

Real Conversation

I like real language.

Not small talk. I can't really do an evening of talking about the weather, traffic, hair styles - or worst - sports or politics.

(This is perhaps because I am apolitical. It's just not in my genetic makeup. I often handed Robb my ballot; it mattered to him. So unless I had a strong opinion, I gave him my vote.)

I like real conversation.

It doesn't have to be audible; today's technology allows for real deal conversation without saying a word out loud. Text messaging does not have to be impersonal; it can be as fluid as a coffee date.

I like when people truly speak to one another.

When they abandon platitudes,
set aside the safe, insulating cushions of small talk,
when people are brave enough to talk
about the things we don't talk about,
the real topics of life.

I like when people really think. Together.

I like words that bring meaning,
gird with affirmation,
reason and listen,
teach real love, real life.

And there's much merit to the conversation
that doesn't exist at all,
the beauty of silence.

There's a lot to hear between the words.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


We have one word for love. How very silly of us. Such definition can't be wrapped up in four letters.

The Greeks, in their linguistic prowess, had four words for love. Now that's more like it.

They have a word for the kind of love that is all inclusive, healing, unconditional, and wholly other: Agape.

a profound concern for the welfare of another
without any desire to control that other,
to be thanked by that other,
or to enjoy the process.

~ Edward Nason West

Do I love with an agape love? Can I?

Certainly Christ is the example of this love; am I capable of anything near?

"A profound concern for the welfare of another." That part seems simple enough. Do I want the best for that person? Sure.

(Welfare: Check.)

"Without any desire to control that other."

Hmmm. I don't think of myself as a controlling person; I truly don't. And yet, do I allow my children their own God-given free will, without an air of control over their public displays that others may project as a reflection on me? I could tweak this one a bit.

(Control: Work on this.)

"Without any desire to be thanked by that other." Well, if I intentionally gave anonymously, then I impose no need for thanks. I hope such a gift is between God and me, the recipient being his glory.

But if my name is attached to it? If my children saw me fold their laundry? If I shopped and wrapped, if I served and loved, do I wish for a nod in my direction?

Agape says, nope. You don't need to be thanked. At all.

"Without any desire to enjoy the process."

He's got me there. I do want to enjoy the process. I would like to have fun, to laugh, to think, to exchange worse for better. I would like to enjoy it, even in the humble exhaustion that comes from serving hard.

As a mom, agape love must be all there is.

I signed up for their well being; I did not sign up to control, to be thanked, or to enjoy every day in the journey. No guarantees on those last three criterion.

I daresay the truest friendships I enjoy are those that model this agape love.

Those who have given selflessly in this season of my life,
who want what is best for me even if it does not involve them in this moment,
who do not keep score in the thank you ledger
(of which I will - for the rest of my life - be behind),
those who have stayed in these long miles,
even when the novelty had worn off,
when the searing heat of the crisis had passed,
when the hurt became a daily ache,
when my tears were contagious,
when the nights were late,
the hours were long,
the list continued,
and the process wasn't enjoyable.

May agape be mine.

And may it flow through me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

No Script for This

"Mommy, for your birthday, I'm going to draw a picture of Daddy marrying someone else."

He said it with a smile and a twinkle. As if I could want nothing more.

"Oh, really? Who is he marrying?"

"I don't knoooo-ooooow... you'll just have to wait and see. But I'll give you a hint: her dress is blue."


"You may not ride your bike or scooter in the street. There are cars out there. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, but if I get smashed, I can just go and visit my dad."

"But you can't come back. And that doesn't work for me. Stay on the sidewalk."


These conversations, these journeys into the concept of an encounter with death before kindergarten - these have no scripts.

Please, God, help me.

I Don't Know How.

"I don't know how to pray anymore."

A friend said this to me; she is an ordained Anglican priest. And she doesn't know how to pray.

And neither do I.

The upturn of my life is entirely overwhelming, and yet I am well aware that I am not the only one. There is heartache everywhere I look.

Some of my closest friends are preparing to say goodbye to their baby girl, only a year after they said goodbye to their baby boy. Two children, born to the same family, with a brain deficiency so severe that it cannot sustain life. Two hits. One family.

Another family at my church has been battling their daughter's cancer since she was a toddler; she is now six years old. And they learned this week that this tumor, after major surgery last week, is still present and pressing. And the doctors have reached the end of their conclusions, have done all they can do.

A friend has spent her life in ministry, pursuing graduate degrees to the doctoral level. She is skilled, gifted, and has so much to offer - yet she is stocking groceries as a fulltime job. Her aspirations sit on the shelf, her gifts seemingly set aside.

Children are sick. Parents die. Accidents happen. Diagnoses are true. Dreams are delayed or dashed all together.

I read, "In thanksgiving, present all your requests to God."

And yet my heart seems too weak to speak at all.

I read, "Be still and know that I am God."

Be still and know.

Be still.


I appreciate this permission, since it's all I can do today. Simply be.


"Mrs. Franklin, do you really and truly believe in God with no doubts at all?"

"Oh, Una, I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts."

But I base my life on this belief.

~ Madeleine L'Engle

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Words of Affirmation

This morning, Tucker and Tyler joined dozens of children on the stage at church, to lead us in the songs they learned this week at Vacation Bible School.

Tyler was nervous as anything. He really just wanted to stay with me.

(This is not typical Tyler behavior.)

Tyler leaned hard into Tuck, a real, live security blanket. I was so proud of Tucker: he stood beside Tyler, encouraged him, and even stroked his head.

I longed for a camera to capture this image of brotherly affection, even for a moment. I counted on the many around me to tuck this mental picture away and remind me that it really happened.

Tyler eventually gave into the pressure, and he came marching down the aisle to sit in my lap and watch from a safe distance. But he gave it a try.

Tucker stuck it out, singing through every song. (He did no motions, naturally.) Only once, he came off the stage once to say, "But Mommy, I'm really thirsty."

Sorry, kiddo. No drinks on stage.

(Why is it that everyone else's children seem to simply stay put on the stage while mine insist on all the coming and going?)

On the drive home, I affirmed Tucker for his excellent encouragement to his little brother.

"You were so kind to him, Tucker. He was really nervous, and you helped him to be brave. You said, 'You can do it, Tyler. You can do it.'"

"Well, I also said, 'Don't touch me. Don't touch me. Don't touch me.'"




Answerable or accountable, as for something within one's power or control.

Involving accountability.

Being the cause of something.

In some contexts, to be 'responsible' means precisely what the word implies: to be capable of giving a response.

At any given point, I may or may not be responsible for this season of my life.

The cause? No, I'm not the cause. And the cause is baffling. Nobody is responsible for this. And it is beyond me why God thought it was a good idea.

In control of? Ha. No.

Accountable for? Absolutely. And more than ever, I am thankful for grace - grace that forgives and heals.

Capable of giving a response?

Depends on the day.

Sometimes all of this madness leaves me wordless. Incapable of responding.

Other times, I must respond in order to sort any of it out, in order to put one foot in front of the other.

Perhaps this blog is my response.

Even if I am responsible to this season of my life, I sometimes find it inexplicably difficult to respond in this season of my life.

Or perhaps silence is a response in itself.

A response is a choice; each choice is a response, even if nobody can hear it.

Joy and happiness are different; their responses do not look the same.
I used to be happier. But perhaps now I know joy.

Joy is the voice that gives me a response. Even when I have nothing to say.

Even when happiness hides.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Missing in Action

"Tyler, where are your listening ears this morning?"

"Well, you see, Mommy. They went for a ride in the sky. But they know my name, and they know where I live, so I think they might come back."

The Cost of New

I bought some new furniture this week, in my pursuit of a new look, the redefinition, the beauty of new surroundings to ease the fall into the new truths.

As I was paying, I asked them to update my records with my cell phone number instead of Robb's.

I said, "Is my husband's name on the file?"

The salesman, who had referred to me as smart, beautiful, and 'a trophy', winked at me and said, "No, ma'am. Break away. Just break away."

He assumed I was separated or divorced, glad to be finished. He assumed I'm pleased to take his name off the account.

And I was too taken aback to disagree, to right the story, too weary to make him know that's not how it is.

But that is very much not how it is.

I just stared at him blankly.

He just didn't deserve the strength it would cost me to tell him the truth.

I just didn't have it. I offered him nothing.

Friday, July 15, 2011


One square solitaire,
princess cut diamond,
cathedral setting.

The one that said,
"Will you make me the happiest man in the world?"

One channel of baguette diamonds,
the ring that sealed the deal.
The one that said, "I do."
"Our chord of three strands is not easily broken.
You are God's plan for me."

One more channel of baguette diamonds,
sandwiching the solitaire,
the one that said,
"Hey, baby girl? Merry Christmas. I still do."

Two diamonds have fallen out. Like missing teeth from a smile,
an otherwise straight, sparkling smile of orthodontia.

The part of me that will forever be a young bride,
naively in love,
believing in a fairy tale story,
"Run to the jewelry store.
Replace and renew.
Fix it. Fix it all. And hold tightly."

The part of me that feels broken in a world of whole,
the part of me that knows how the love story changed,
"Leave it be. It tells the story."

Tattered, gapped, broken,

sparkling, shining, beautiful.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Extreme MakeOver = Extreme Gift

When we moved into our home, the deck was in bad shape. Neither waterproof nor weather treated, it was warped and cracked.

The summer I was pregnant with Tuck, we improved our outdoor living as well as our budget allowed: we flipped over each board and re-installed each one with the existing screws. I remember this well because I was Big Pregnant - as in, he was born in September, and we took on this project in July. I remember well the kneeling, squatting, and nailing involved. (And I say that with the afterword acknowledgement that I did only a fraction of the work involved.)

Robb has maintained it through the seven years, replacing boards, sanding, and repainting. And the task for the summer of 2011 was to finally replace it.

Southeast Christian Church set out to complete this task on Robb's behalf.

Insert: Community Impact Day.

Two dozen people showed up at my house, and together they demolished the deck, built a new one, and landscaped our backyard. All in a weekend.









This team of people exchanged water bottles and Advil, power tools, pats on the back, and encouraging words.

They transformed our outdoor living space, giving room for growing boys to run, climb, play and get dirty.

They cared for a widow in the church; they provided for the fatherless.

They served the Lord with all their hearts, minds, and strength.

Thankful and humbled do not begin to describe.

Pillow Talk

"God, thank you for my little boys. And thank you for sunshine and rain, and for books and for friends. Amen. . . .Good night, guys."

"Good night, Mommy."

"Hey, Mommy?" says the little one.


"I wanted to pray for you too."

"Okay, sweet boy."

I sat beside him on his bottom bunk.

"Dear God, thank you for my food, and for my home, and thank you for my friends, and thank you for making my mommy. Amen."

An aside reason to teach my children to talk to God: They're learning to pray for me, too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Space in Her Mind

"The space in her mind he had occupied was not yet empty; she could still feel the warm weight of him against her chest. It was terrible to know the weight would never rest there again, where she had held it for four long years.

No, not a thing to cry over; tears were for her dolls, for wounds in the fragile sheath of self-esteem, and the childhood she had left behind forever. This was a burden she would have to carry until the end of her days, and continue in spite of it."

~Colleen McCullough,

Why Write?

Who do I write for?

Is it for you? The invisible you, who might read it?

Is it for me? The tangible me that spills and wants the page to catch me?

Is it for the therapy of sorting the words, stringing them together, emptying my mind, pouring out my heart?

Is it about the writing? Is it about the posting? Is it about the reading?

Writers write to be read.

Do not painters paint so their work may encourage and inspire?

Do not inventors create to solve a problem, perhaps not just their own?

Writers write to be read.

Is that okay? Is it permissible? Is it humble?

It's messy.

Life is happening around me. I do not write to suspend it; I write to experience it.

If I write in a stagnant place, pre-December 2010, my heart will grow weary. My writing will grow stale. I cannot pretend it is as it was. And yet I long to remember.

If I write only in the future, in the happiness of what I hope for, if I pretend I have arrived there and found purpose in this mess, then I'm not honest. And yet I long to hope.

Dishonesty benefits nobody. Questions are real.

If I write today with a sprinkling of my yesterday and my tomorrow, perhaps I've found the beginning of balance.

And so I write.


"Don't look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance." ~ Anne Lamott

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Insanely Jealous


I overhear two women talking. About their darling, petite friend and her exceedingly tall husband. "Man, that guy loves his wife. It's awesome to watch."

I'm sure it is.



I watch a TV commercial of a father and son on the couch, the son mimicking his dad's every move. Subtly the mom slips a bottle of water into the dad's hand, instead of the sugary orange soda. It's a lesson in modeling, in setting the example, in cutting thousands of calories a year.


It's a father and son. And it makes me nauseous.


"I'm quite sure that Hugh and I would never have reached the relationship we have today if we hadn't made promises. Perhaps we made them youthfully, and blindly, not knowing all that was implied; but the very promises have been our saving grace."

~ Madeleine L'Engle


Robb and I didn't have a perfect marriage, but we had a healthy one. And we were getting better at it. And I miss it.

We were going to be old together. Him before me, naturally.

I must guard my heart if I am to get through the day, let alone this month.

And sometimes that means I must simply walk away.

Read something else. Stop listening. Disengage.

Lest I publicly give into the rage inside me that feels so horribly wronged. So horribly robbed.


In the middle of a party,
I'll just want to go home.
I'm beginning to learn where to find the words
to the song that emptiness sings.

Glory to God, this is how emptiness sings.
This is how emptiness sings.

~ Christa Wells