Easter is not about far-off, mysterious things. It’s about close-up, homey things.

I am one of the lucky few who, as an adult, gets to live close to their parents.  Five minutes away, to be exact.  And despite some occasional inward eye-rolling about how I “never got out” of my hometown, in truth, it’s been fabulous.  As a child, I loved my parents.  As an adult, I’ve learned that I like them a whole lot as well.  They are fun and funny, energetic and intelligent, and crazy generous in helping me raise my own little brood. And their house, though different than the one I grew up in, still feels like utterly, deliciously like home.  It has our family’s look, our family’s vibe and, most importantly, our family’s smell.  (Don’t worry; it’s a good smell.)  (I think.)

We headed over there a few days ago to kick off Easter week with a bit ‘o egg dying.  I grabbed a shapshot of the Fam, minus me.  (Intentional.  Moms over 40 understand.)


Aren’t my parents gorgeous?  I’m told I look like my dad and rock my mom’s attitude.  (No offense, Dad.  Or Mom.  Or anyone I’ve rocked with my ‘tude.)

Looking at this photo choked me up a bit.  See, my parents are leaving in a few months to serve a mission for our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  (Did I tell you I was a Mormon?  Yeah, pretty sure I’ve mentioned it.  How could I not?  It’s so fun.)  We don’t know where they’ll be going yet—that’s part of the Big Big Excitement—but I put in an early request for Rome.  (How else am I ever going to vacation there, unless under the guise of visiting my saintly parents on their saintly mission?)  Granted, my request was made to no one in particular and bears absolutely no weight, but I figure if my parents are doing something this saintly, the angels must be on my side.  I don’t ask for much, do I?  Tossing me a little Rome now and then wouldn’t kill anyone.

They’ve been planning it for ages and our whole family’s excited about it, but still.  But still.  They’ll be gone for eighteen months, with no visits home.  That’s eighteen months that my kids won’t sleep over on a Friday night and wake up to Grandpa’s pancakes and Grandma’s “projects.”  Her last one had them painting and decorating the bonus room (i.e., the Cousins’ Lair.)  They did a beautiful job.  I cannot get my children to make their own beds, let alone paint an entire wing of the house.  Just one more proof in a long line of evidence that they Like Her Better Than Me.

It’s eighteen months without Friday nights of cards and popcorn, Saturday afternoons of pizza and the Big Game (take your pick of which game; they watch them all), Sunday evenings of family dinners and walks around the neighborhood.  It’s eighteen months without my Mom picking up my kids from school when I’m in a jam; it’s eighteen months without my dad lending Derrick his nice, new truck when Derrick’s in a jam.  (Maybe he’d consider leaving it with us?  I’m just saying.)  It’s eighteen months without standing in their kitchen, chatting about church and the kids and the weather and the fate of the nation over a pan of Grandma’s latest to-die-for dessert.  (Grandma’s taken baking by storm this year.  She is, to the dismay of my my skinny jeans, very good at it.)

For my children, it’s eighteen months without a trip to Circle K with Grandma; it’s eighteen months without a trip to Home Depot with Grandpa.  It’s eighteen months without a hug from either of them.  It’s eighteen months without meeting their favorite people–their cousins, naturally–at their favorite destination–Grandma’s house, naturally.  Here is where they live, as my husband puts it, their Second Life.  Here is where they work in the garage and do science experiments with Grandpa; here is where they cook and sing and dance with Grandma.  Here is where there are no chores, no rules, and best of all, no parents.  Here is where there is acceptance and encouragement and love.  Here, at Grandma’s house, is where my kids have found heaven on earth.  And so have we all.

Eighteen months is really not that long–unless you’re missing somebody terribly.  Then, I’m afraid, it will seem like a very long time indeed.

And so this Easter Sunday, I am determined to swallow the lump in my throat and stop thinking about how much I’ll miss my parents next Easter and remember, instead, how lucky I am to have them to miss.  And while I’ll remember the lofty and majestic doctrines of Easter, I’ll also remember that those doctrines exist, ultimately, to support the simple and intimate doctrines of the family.  Easter is not a remote, religious holiday; Easter is about my parents, my family, my life, here and now.  Easter happened so we could live again—not just with our Father in Heaven, but with our families—eternally.  Think of it.  Compared with our ultimate destiny as children of God—as members of a forever family—what is eighteen months?

Not too long at all.


Why Gwyneth Paltrow’s divorce makes me feel better

Can you believe Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are breaking up?  Me neither.  I’d always assumed the golden girl and her uber-talented husband would, despite their celebrity status, somehow stay the course.  Although I know many (most) celebrity couples who look The Part don’t last, that she had a rare set of stable parents and was committed to deflecting the spotlight with her Hub made me believe (hope? dream?) that the Paltrow/Martin fusion would remain en force.  But alas, it is not to be.  Standing in line at the store last week, I saw news of their “conscious uncoupling” splashed across the glossies, and I have to admit:  it made me feel just a little bit better. About what?  Why, my own life, of course.


Now, if you were to ask me, in person, why the latest celeb divorce makes me feel better about my life, I’d tell you that it’s because I’m tired of watching multibazillionaires with ridiculously decadent lifestyles pose as “experts” on all things parenting, food, fashion, and politics.  I’d tell you how irksome it is to read about their organic, holistic parenting that’s only afforded them by the grace of an inflated paycheck.  I’d tell you that I knew it–I knew they weren’t that perfect, or even very happy, all along.  (Because who, amidst such wealth and fame, could be?  Sheesh.)

And upon telling you all this, what I’d really mean, of course, is:  I’m jealous.  Because isn’t this life basically a competition, with the Paltrows of the world winning?  There’s only so much room at the top, so when a Paltrow-esque figure falls, the rest of us naturally move up a notch.  And nothing’s so delicious as watching royalty fall from their thrones into the laps of us commoners.  Say what you will about the French Revolution, but I can kinda relate to those guys.  (Okay, so may the guillotine stuff was a little over the top.  But you get it.)

We all love to hate celebrities, and I think that’s just fine.  And truthfully, I really don’t care much about the Paltrows, or the Martins, or Apple or Peach or Pear or whoever their kids are.  Honest.  But after walking away from that silly magazine with a skip in my step, I had to ask myself:  what put it there?  And if the misfortune of someone so far removed from me delivers such a mood boost, what will the misfortune of someone close to me do?  In short:  why do we feel just a little bit better when someone else feels just a little bit worse?

The mindset seems to especially work upwards.  When a perpetually downtrodden friend comes to us with troubles and worry, we empathize, we sympathize, we genuinely want to help her.  But when we witness the problems of someone who always seems to travel light and fast, the sympathy (though we’d never admit it) may not be so sincere.  Why?  Because, I’m telling you, there’s only so much room at the top.  So when my “perfect” friend falls, I immediately move up a notch.  It’s easy to be magnanimous when you’re looking down; you’ve got nothing to lose.  Your position “above” the person you’re looking down on is simply reinforced by their woeful state.  But when you’re asked to empathize with someone above you–well, that’s when things get dicey.  They already have everything you want; why should they have your pity as well?

This is where some painful self-examination comes in.  I’ve always thought of myself as “nice,” but as I get older, I realize:  Nice is the easy part.  Nice just means keeping your head down and getting along with everybody.  What I ask myself now, is:  am I compassionate?  Truly compassionate, to everyone—those “ahead” of me, those “behind” me, those beyond me?  Do I tell myself that “love one another” really means “love those who aren’t a threat to me?”  Can I reign in my (secret) jealousy long enough to look at someone as a struggling, tangled person, and not just the sum total of her life’s good luck?  Can I see a woman I envy as a girl, like me, with an insecure heart and an unsettled mind and regrets and worries and embarrassments?  That though she seems to be lapping me in this life we’ve deemed a “race,” we’re both running it with the same hard and heavy baggage?  Can I see that chance or genetics—so presumably critical to our varying life stati–are merely peripheral distractions from the commonality of the journey?

I guess we’re kind of like cars on the freeway; speeding up, slowing down, and yes, sometimes passing each other.  But we’re all trying to reach our destination; we’re just doing it with different speeds and styles.  Your car may be nicer than mine, but the point is:  we’re both in a car.  And when you pull over your gorgeous, decked out SUV due to engine trouble, do you deserve my pulling over my minivan to help you?  Or is my help reserved only for those in a crummier minivan than I’m in?  After all, your superior car is already an insult to me.  So why should I help you?

The questions are rhetorical, but were nonetheless buzzing through my mind as I stuffed the magazine back into the stand, crumpling poor Gwyneth’s face in the process.  Walking to said minivan, I confess that I could still stir little pity for the estranged couple from afar.  I did, however, feel grateful to them.  Not just for making my petty and pathetic self feel better that day, but for making me aware that I am, in fact, a petty and pathetic self.  Armed with that awareness,  maybe I can now do something about it.

Hmm.  Guess you can learn something from lustrous checkstand literature–and for just $4.99!  (Or, in my case, for free.  The line was long, and I call it a “perusal.”  Just go with it.)


Your guide to a killer weekend in killer Kennewick.

1.  Order warm, sunny, glorious spring weather.  Check.


View from my bedroom window.  Love.

2.  Spend Friday morning at the computer finishing your warm, sunny, glorious ebook.  Check.  (More on that later.  Excited!)

3.  Spend Friday afternoon getting mani-pedi at Walmart while waiting for your oil to be change.  Wait–did I just admit to getting a mani-pedi at Walmart?  Yes I did.  I had an hour to kill and no shopping to do, and my digits were in need of some pre-summer love.  And wouldn’t you know it–the Mart has a nail salon sandwiched between their credit union and kiddie arcade (both of which reside just south of their hair salon, optometrist, tax service booth, and Blimpie. If you’re scared that Walmart’s going to take over the world, don’t worry—it already has.)  I ran into an old friend there and we chatted happily while a mysterious tattooed man with a shaven head gave me the foot massage of my life.  Just as he was brushing the final gloss on my freshly-pinked up toenails, I heard my name over the loudspeaker, announcing that my vehicle was ready for pick up.  With my oil changed, my fabric softener purchased, and my hands and feet gorgeous, I was ready to roll into the weeknd.  Three cheers for Walmart!  (Whenever you’re done booing it.  No pressure, really.)

4.  Spend remainder of Friday afternoon at the mall with your youngest daughter then meeting up with your brothers family for dinner at local Mexican restaurant.  Your jovial brother’s company makes up for the misery of trying to find clothes that your seventh grader will actually wear.  Pat yourself on the back for ordering a salad instead of the arroz con pollo you really wanted.  Tell yourself said salad cancels out your pre-dinner inhalation of massive quantities of chips and salsa.

5.  Spend Friday evening reading, for two hours alone, while your younger kids are at grandma’s and your teenager is out to dinner with dad.  Almost finish The Lowland.  (More on that later.  Excited!)  Finish out evening by watching latest Parenthood with the Hub.  (More on that later.  Disgusted!)

6.  Spend early Saturday morning driving said teenager to take the ACT test.  (She is only a freshman, but will take it every year through high school then keep her highest score.  Now why didn’t I ever think of that when I was her age?  Things could have turned out quite differently for me, I’m sure.  The least of which being that Walmart would not have played such a prominent role in my adulthood.)  Recognize what a warm, sunny, glorious daughter I have.  Tell her so.  Again.

7.  Spend remainder of Saturday morning cleaning out fridge and freezer.  The immense satisfaction earned upon completing this nasty chore makes up for its unpleasantness.  And my kitchen doesn’t reek anymore, which is a bonus.

8.  Spend a warm, sunny, glorious half hour afterward walking the neighborhood with a bestie who stopped by.  Recognize that spontaneous bits of time with a friend should never be foregone, regardless of the cleaning frenzy you may be in.  You will return to the task at hand happier and healthier, and hyper-er.  You feel thankful for good friends.

9.  Spend Saturday afternoon cleaning out your closet (it was bad), the downstairs hall closet, and storage space under the stairs.  See #6 for satisfaction-to-unpleasantness ratio.  It was awesome.

10.  Spend remainder of Saturday afternoon cruising Costco, running into every person you’ve known since childhood and picking up a hot new Calvin Klein hoodie while you’re at it.  (I’ve notice Costco carries a lot of Calvin Klein.  Is it really Calvin Klein, or is is Calvin Klein-for-Costco?  And is Calvin Klein still cool?)  (Was it ever that cool?)

11.  Spend Saturday evening supervising said teenager’s movie night she was hosting in your bonus room.  Just as you’re pulling out the ironing board downstairs (you had to keep yourself awake somehow–it was past ten o’clock), a mom of one of the guests, who happens to be another bestie, stops by.  She says she wants to keep you company while you stay up with the kids, since both the Hubs were in bed already.  After kissing her repeatedly, you talk for hours while catching up on a month’s (not kidding) worth of ironing.  Recognize, for the second time that day, that time with a friend is better than therapy.  Cliched, but true.  Fall asleep feeling like you had a rockin’ girls night out.

12.  Spend Sunday morning at killer church meetings.  Recognize that killer church meetings are better than therapy.  (No cliche there, unfortunately, because few people are saying that these days.)  But true.

13.  Spend Sunday afternoon napping with the kids then making a killer dinner of pork tenderloin, baby potatoes, asparagus, and and artichokes.  Whipped up some biscuits to boot.  Strawberry shortcake for dessert.  Ah…spring.

14.  Spend Sunday evening bumming with family and getting organized for week.  Made plans for Easter week; excited to try some new ideas.

15.  Fall asleep thankful for good weather, good friends, good family, and a freshly cleaned closet (!)  Relish an ancient, almost forgotten sense of anticipation about All Things Possible.  Recognize that small joys in a small town lead to big happiness.

16.  Wake up early Monday morning and punch out an assignment for your writing class, which is to post an unedited first draft.  We’ll call this ramble of thoughts a “first draft,” and, as you can tell, I refrained myself from going back and editing any of it.  I’m closing my eyes and clicking “publish.”  Please forgive (or ignore) it all.  And have a killer Monday!