About brijens

I'm a hopeful but often cranky menopausal midwesterner writing about questions without looking for answers.

The Letter Incident

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a long and detailed letter to my daughter, A. She’s 22, living at home, and working instead of schooling. It’s all good stuff, but the day of the letter I was a little incensed by the state of her room; in particular, the number of water bottles accumulating beneath her bed.

Listen, the pandemic has done a number on our kids. I get it. I understand that it upended her college life–no more sleeping through classes, no more stumbling home from the bars, just boring, day after day, school from bed. A tends to be a little inward to begin with, so the forced exile from normal life has been a trial.

But seriously, why were there so many empty plastic water bottles under her bed? Had she forgotten where the trash can was? Was she sick in some obscure way that would cause her to defy the customary placement of used water bottles? I mean, wtf was I missing? I had to be missing something, and if not, it was simply rude.

Spinning. That’s where I was when I wrote the letter.

I like writing letters when I need to confront someone about their bad behaviors and offer a plan on how to fix them. It’s much easier than sitting down for a talk. I tend to get flustered during the conversation part. I guess I prefer dispensing wisdom to debating differing opinions.

So the letter. After a loving introduction to some of the problems (water bottles under the bed among them) I wanted to address, I offered up a five-point plan. Five detailed bullets I believed if implemented into A’s life would find her healthy, happy, and on her way to fulfilling spring and summer. I was rather proud of my work. A 54-year veteran of this confusing old world, I had so much good advice to to offer.

I immediately attached the letter to a text message and got back to work. I figured we’d have a lovely discussion when I got home–that we’d dive further into some practical tips to help A cultivate better habits. She’d be grateful and I’d be graceful. We’d sip cherry blossom tea and later we’d take a walk in the late afternoon sun.

She wasn’t happy at all. She didn’t want to drink tea and congratulate me on my well-thought out and easy-to-apply advice. Not one bit. In fact, she said, “You’re my mom. Not my doctor or my counselor.”

She went on to explain that the water bottles were not a sign of some unknown illness, but a symptom of laziness. “When I finish drinking one, I just sort of toss it over my shoulder and it falls behind my bed,” she explained while flipping her hand back to physically show me what that looked like.

“We’re all fucked up, Mom,” she said. “I mean, you drink too much. Dad’s got the pot thing. C only eats fast food. You’re right. I shouldn’t throw my water bottles under my bed. I’ll stop that, but don’t write me letters telling me all the things you think I should do. It makes me feel bad. It makes me feel like I’m NOT okay.”

I got hung up on the “you drink too much thing” for a minute (is a bottle of low-cal wine a day too much?). But then I thought about it for a minute.

Anne Lamott does this thing she calls WAIT. WAIT stands for Why am I talking? She says she uses it with her grown son. I think it’s a good one. I’m going to start using it too. A doesn’t want or need a bunch of unsolicited advice. And when I ask her a million times a day if she is okay, what else would she derive from that than I don’t think she’s okay.

She doesn’t need fixing. She’s not broken.

And there’s a silver lining to this story. I was talking to a dear friend about the letter incident, and she laughed and said, “The next time you feel the need to write A a letter filled with your precious advice, go ahead and write it, and then please, please, please, send it to me. I’m 54 years old, and I can appreciate a letter full of wisdom about how to live a better more fulfilling life. In fact, I want it.”

We laughed and laughed and laughed.

She didn’t know she’d be getting a letter the next day.

The Easter Vigil

“Every day we have the chance to resurrect [compassion].” ~Juli Stewart

Easter morning, I am sitting in my bed wondering, is resurrection possible? Merriam Webster’s online defines resurrection as 1) the rising of Christ from the dead, the rising again to life of all the human dead before the final judgement, the state of one risen from the dead; 2) resurgence, revival; and 3) Christian Science: a spiritualization of thought: material belief that yields to spiritual understanding.

What does it really mean to bring someone/something back to life?


The night before, Eric and I went to the Easter Vigil service at the Catholic church we sometimes attend. Sometimes because I have not been a good or regular attendee for a while now. You probably know the drill–I have trouble overriding what has become a dominant narrative in my head about the Catholic church–it’s a patriarchal institution dying a slow and painful death due to it’s refusal to accept responsibility for its sins and to fully love all people. And I’m embarrassed too, to claim such a corrupted faith as my own.

Nevertheless, we did Easter. The Easter Vigil service is long for those of you have never attended one. Saturday’s mass was no different. The cantor, a lovely young man with an even lovelier voice, drew out each note he uttered. The exsultet, a hymn sung at the beginning of the service last 13 minutes. That’s a long time when mass begins at 7:30 on a Saturday evening. It was, in fact, so long that Fr. M who has bad knees nearly went down. You see, the pastor stands at the front of the church holding the immense lit Easter candle during the entirety of the song. When Fr. M’s hold on the candle began to slip, C (the lector for the evening) leapt up from her seat in the front row and in what would perhaps be the moment that resurrected my heart, gently took the candle so Fr. M could unlock his knee.

C’s relationship with Fr. M is complicated as are most relationships between men and women in a church committed to inequality. Those complications did not, however, unwind the web of humanity connecting them.


The service was long. But instead of bearing it, as I expected to, I was cracked open. The vulnerability and kindness played out in the opening moments of the service, a reminder of compassion’s potency. A reminder of love’s capacity for resurrection.

8 years

March 15, 2021

This day marks eight years since my daughter Audrey was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Each year, I remember that day with a blog post. It’s a bittersweet day. Bitter because Audrey has been living with a chronic illness for eight years. Sweet because Audrey has been living (with a chronic illness) for eight years.

In those first few weeks and months after her diagnosis, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. That she could be taken from me pulsed through me like a racing heartbeat, galloping, galloping, galloping. I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t eat because my throat was dry. I couldn’t cry because my eyes were dry. I was a desert, dry as bleached bone.

It took me a long time to cry. (It took Audrey longer.)

Eight years later, I still miss before.

Anne Lamott and many other smart and spiritual people have written and spoken some variation of the following:

Forgiveness is letting go of the wish that things had been different.

I believe it, but Type 1 Diabetes is tricky. There’s no one, no thing to forgive. You know how when something goes wrong, you ponder each step to figure out where you fucked up? Say you pull a bunch of light clothes from the washer and they are tie-dyed in blue ink because you didn’t check the pockets of your husband’s shorts? How first you’re so mad at him, and you mutter about how it’s not your job to check all the pockets. How you hold up your favorite pink shirt and realize there’s nothing you can do to save it. How you smear it with stain stick and berate yourself. How you go back in time and check the pocket. If only I’d checked the pocket. If only.

Well, you try to do this with a diagnosis of a chronic illness too. Except there’s no juncture where a different action on your part would have put a kink in this thing. You are reminded again and again and again there is nothing you could have done–and while it seems like this would be a relief, it only confirms your ineptitude. When there’s no one and no thing to blame, who the hell do you forgive?

And yet. Crocuses and snow drops and daffodils have pushed their way through the cold winter earth to magnanimously burst open and litter color upon the dull gray landscape. The natural world. If I train my eyes out there. If I spend a minute or two every watching the red shouldered hawks rebuild their nest, watching it grow from a storm-ravaged shell into a wide shelter. If I put my windbreaker on and take a walk, I remember what I know.

We don’t get to go back. There isn’t a portal through which I can crawl into before. And I wouldn’t if I could. Because what’s at stake is NOW.

And right now it’s been eight years. 2920 days. 70,080 hours. 4,204,800 minutes.

When you start measuring time in minutes, you put yourself in a position to be gobsmacked by the numbers. So today, I want to honor all the minutes, grief and wonder, despair and grace alike. Each one of those minutes a gift–even the ones we wasted (we waste so many). The abundance–4,204,800 of them–a shock and a reminder.

Now is the time to celebrate.


Each year, I post some version of the story. Here it is:

I smelled it.

Every time I got close to Audrey I smelled fingernail polish remover.

I smelled it for a week, on her breath and on her skin. I sniffed her for a week while she slept—and she was sleeping a lot—while she ate, while she watched TV. Every time she turned around, there I was with my nose in her hair, or trying to get a whiff of her breath.
Something was wrong.

There were other symptoms, sure. She was dropping baby fat which could be explained away by her age—14. Maybe she was hormonal. Maybe her body was changing. Maybe things were shifting as she grew taller. She ate strange things like Frosted Flakes and Snickers bars, and she started gluting soda and lots and lots and lots of water. She peed all the time.

Of course, I attributed the peeing to the water drinking and I attributed the water drinking to the weight loss—I thought it was a strategy, one I had used my entire life; drink more water in order to fill up, in order to eat less food.

It wasn’t a strategy.

The night before the diagnosis, the fingernail polish remover smell rippled around Audrey like a gas leak, and so I asked a others to smell Audrey’s breath and still no one smelled it. Normally the lack of accord would have consoled; however, it did not console because I COULD smell it; at this point, I could see it.

That night, I didn’t sleep because I was busy shuffling into Audrey’s room to smell her. Did I really smell it? Each time I leaned in for another sniff, I answered the question. Yes, I still smell it. In the morning before I woke her, I smelled her again, and knew I would have to do something. I woke her, took her to school, and then googled this: “Breath that smells like fingernail polish remover.”

And there it was–ketones. The smell of diabetes.

I called the pediatrician, related to the receptionist my Google sleuthing and that I suspected, but wasn’t sure, of course, that Audrey’s blood sugar might be high. “Could she have a glucose test,” I asked. She’d get back to me, she answered.

And then I took a walk. You see, there was a part of me that knew Audrey had diabetes and there was a part of me that refused to believe it. Disbelieving Bridgett went out for a nice walk and saw some things that seemed like omens–a couple of big crows, a sky smudged gray, and a tree full of starlings.

I walked for a bit, and soon my phone jangled and the receptionist encouraged me to retrieve Audrey from her 8th grade classroom and bring her in for a blood test.

At the clinic, a lab tech drew blood, and then Audrey and I went out for lunch before I dropped her off at school. Within ten minutes the doctor called.

“Audrey has diabetes,” he said.
“Her blood sugar is over 300,” he said.
“We will need to transfer her to Children’s hospital in St. Louis,” he said.

“Okay,” I answered.

That’s when he paused, “Bridgett,” he said, “go get Audrey right now, take her to the ER, so they can stabilize her for the ambulance ride to St. Louis.”

“Stabilize her.” he said.

I remained calm, but I repeated his words.

I said to my husband who was home for lunch. “Go get finished up at work while I pick Audrey up and take her to the hospital, so they can stabilize her.”

I called my parents, “I’m taking Audrey to the hospital. She has diabetes, and they need to stabilize her.”

I called the principal and told her, “Get Audrey out of class, I’m on my way to get her. We have to go to the hospital, so they can stabilize her.”

Stabilize her scared the shit out of me. Stabilize her is not something you want others to have to do to your daughter.

It took four hours to stabilize Audrey, and when they did, they rolled her into the back of an ambulance, and my husband and I got into our van and drove to St. Louis.

The nice people at children’s hospital told us we were lucky Audrey was diagnosed on a Friday because diabetes education was unavailable on Sundays. We’d have one extra day to learn about taking blood sugars and giving injections and dangerous lows and Diabetic Ketoacidosis. And when we left on Monday afternoon after finishing our education, we didn’t think we were lucky, we didn’t think we knew enough, and we were very worried all the time.

You know, most folks like a good illness narrative where the main characters learn big lessons about life, love, and living. I can’t say it doesn’t happen. In fact, I’m sure it does, but mostly diabetes stole Audrey’s childhood and robbed me of the handy delusion that I could keep her safe.

As delusions go—it was a hard one to lose.

Today it’s been eight years. We’ll mark it the way we always do—with story-telling. I tell Audrey’s story because stories connect us. We tell them to make sense of what we do not understand—and even when understanding remains elusive, we keep trying.

Fixing Things

I haven’t written here in months. The last time I wrote, the pandemic was beginning, and soon those of us living in Illinois were supposed to be sheltering in place. It seems both so long ago, and like yesterday at the same time.

I’ve been thinking about my long silence, about the pandemic, the end of the trump presidency, new beginnings, new babies, and the reality of near-constant change. Sometimes all this thought is a thunderstorm, rain and hail and skies full of thunder followed by flashes of light and it’s impossible to put any of it into words. I am both gobsmacked and terrified silent.

There’s so much beauty in a storm. The clouds hanging low, heavy, and gray; the heartbeat of rain lashing against the windows.

Last year, we got a new roof. No shingles for us. Sheets of metal. And the crew that installed the roof also fixed our leaky skylight. For the past 20 years, we have lived in a house with water stained and peeling ceilings. No room was excluded from water’s assault on our roof and old sky light.

Over the years, we did patch work. The plumber (we live in a small town where the plumber will do odd jobs) would come and throw tar around the chimney and sky light when we noticed new streaks of water damage. Each time, I’d believe we had it fixed, and I’d paint the ceilings. Sometimes I painted the ceilings without really fixing them, just scraping the peeling paint away and painting over it so the ceiling itself was interesting in a 3D way.

But the roof continued to leak. The ceiling continued to peel. I learned to ignore it mostly. Oh sure, it was difficult when during the middle of a hard rain I’d slip in a puddle of water investigating the tap, tap, tap of rainwater hitting the vinyl floor. Or when I saw a guest’s eyes linger on the giant spot on the living room ceiling where I’d slapped a bunch of plaster on a fault and let it dry like reverse icing all swirly up there.

Then trump won the presidency. And I wanted to fix things–this is something because I have a high tolerance for domestic imperfections. While I’m clean, I’m no maven of home decor or maintenance.

First we remodeled the kitchen. Then we pulled the trigger on the roof, and about a year later, I called a painter and had all the ceilings painted and the walls too. And just last week, we installed a new gas log in our fireplace.

Is it weird that we’ve lived in this house for 22 years, and we’ve never used the fireplace which is by anyone’s account the architectural triumph of our small home.

The fireplace sits in the center of the home. It is open to both the kitchen and the living room. It is a massive Bedford stone edifice. The flue is huge. In fact, when the gas log came to investigate and give us an estimate, he said he’d never seen such a giant fireplace. He didn’t even know if he’d be able to fit it with a log.

He managed.

Now, it’s as if we’re living in a new home. And it’s hot. That fireplace churns out a lot of heat. But still, when it rains or snows (it snowed for the first time this week), I still pad out into the kitchen, stepping gingerly on the dry floor, expecting to slip by the light of the fire.

March 15. Lessons in letting go.

Well, she’s 21. My beautiful, strong, wise daughter Audrey. And stuck at home for at least another week, and quite possibly for the rest of the semester due to the coronavirus. She waited to go away to a university. Did her two years at the local community college, and it was a good decision. To say that she’s a tiny bit sad by this hiccup would be to understate the depths of her disappointment.

She’s pretty cute, isn’t she!

That said, she’s had to deal with more than a little disappointment in her 21 years. She is, in fact, pretty good at the whole disappointment gig as she got a crash course in 2013 when, at 14, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on a cold March Friday. In the hospital, hooked up to an insulin drip, she didn’t cry. In the back of an ambulance as her dad and I waved goodbye before hopping into our van to meet her in St. Louis, she didn’t cry. In the e-room at Children’s Hospital, when I finally made my way back to her, she didn’t cry.

It took her months to cry.

It took me a while too. People wondered why I wasn’t crying or railing at the unfairness of it all. I got lots of advice from well-meaning folks, “Go ahead, feel your feelings. You’ve got to deal with this.” But I couldn’t. I was lucky to have one friend who told me, “You guys are in crisis. You can’t break down now. It’s okay to be on auto-pilot as you get everything figured out. You’ll deal with it when you do.” Indeed.

Sometimes it takes a while.

So today, March 15, is the anniversary of that day when our worlds were turned upside down. And I say “our” but the truth is that Audrey is the one who deals with diabetes (and a worried mother) every day. Yes, I admit to being a teeny tiny pain in her ass during her first few months away from home–texting, emailing, hell, I’ve even resorted to snap chatting when I don’t hear from her.

I’ve never been much good at letting go, so this isn’t a surprise to anyone.

And when I can’t get ahold of one of my kids (equal opportunity for all of them). Well, let’s just say the apple (me) doesn’t fall far from the tree (my own parents). Case in point: many years ago, my sister who was an accomplished teacher with an advanced degree and a good job, had a bad cold. After a long day at work, she snuggled up in her bed after taking some cold medicine. My parents tried to call her. She didn’t answer. They tried to call her again. Again, she didn’t answer. When she kept not answering the phone (these were the dark ages when phones were hooked up to the wall with cords and not everyone had one in their bedroom), my parents called my sister’s co-teacher and asked her to make the trip cross town to check on her. Needless to say my sister was a little peeved. (but loved, right!)

So I might be worse. I blame it on cell phones.

Seriously, the point of this somewhat meandering blog post is that every year I remember the day Audrey was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. But this year instead of reposting the story (as I have done here, and here, and here in case you’re interested) I want to say that from here on out, I’m going to trust that she’s got this. And even if the coronavirus and the president’s poor and inadequate response to the crisis has given me a few more days with her this semester, I’m not gonna forget that my job continues to be letting go.

I promise.

Generosity and Gratitude

Every time I consider writing a blog post or an essay, I feel a little sick. As if I’ve eaten something slightly tainted or took a too-big swallow of soured milk. It’s a hint, just a hint of what could happen if I fail. 

Intellectually, I know that if, as Brené Brown so wonderfully asserts, I am in the arena, I will most definitely fail or get my ass kicked once in a while. I even believe that experiencing failure (hopefully on a somewhat limited basis) is healthy, promotes humility, and teaches us how to do better. Still—it feels like shit especially if you are a teensy bit paralyzed by your longing for perfection.


Lately I’ve been reading Patti Digh’s wonderful Life is a Verb in the mornings before I go to work. About a week ago, I drew a square around this quote:

“Generosity, it turns out, is a way of being in the world, not a way of giving in the world. It has little to do with giving gifts, and everything to do with giving space to others to be who they are.”

I think Patti Digh is right. And I think I’m capable of being generous in the world. But am I capable of giving myself this sort of space? 

That’s what I find out when I write. When I read what I’ve written and cross out the dishonest parts, when I go back in with an open mind and a tender heart I’m offering myself the sort of generosity I wouldn’t think twice of offering to others.

I’ve got to admit, the committee has been a real pain in the ass lately. Every time I sit down to write, they ask, “Why are you writing that?” or “Who cares?” But as a good friend reminded me just today, I can fire the committee and have security escort them from the building. Interesting idea.


Do you get Kelly Corrigan’s newsletter? If you don’t, I highly recommend it. This week, she wrote about gratitude and a pretty cool gratitude practice she has begun. It got me to thinking about my own gratitude practice (I don’t have one). 

Oh sure, I give it a try now and then, usually around Thanksgiving. I make the decision to deliberately incorporate more gratitude into my daily life. I’ve gone the gratitude jar route with an elaborately decorated jar and brightly colored paper strips upon which I write what I’m grateful for. I’ve kept a gratitude journal with colored pencils and pens, and one year I even forced my children to keep their own gratitude journals. You can imagine how that turned out. The entries were less than inspiring. 

Here’s what I think happens when I get started. I get hung up on the big stuff. I write about my long marriage and my six kinda-brilliant, kinda-smart alecky kids and my three tiny-to mid-size grandchildren. I list my toasty warm house which in these post-menopausal days is a tad bit too toasty, plenty of sweatshirts, and a few too many pairs of sneakers. I acknowledge clean water and an abundance of food (popcorn, asparagus, and garlic roasted chicken, not to mention cheesy mashed potatoes), trash pickup and health insurance. Then I sort of fizzle out. 

It’s not that the big stuff isn’t important or that I don’t need to remember those things all the time because I do. I think it’s more that I am reminded of the masses of folks who cannot be grateful for the things I take for granted because they don’t have them. And it shuts me up. Just like the committee who reminds me of how privileged and self-involved I am.

But today, I fired the committee (and security personnel is on the way) because I’m beginning a new gratitude practice.

Gratitude for small and ordinary miracles.

For example—Dark-eyed Juncos flying startled from Redwood in the front yard. The woman in the Buick, who leaned over her front seat and waved maniacally to make sure I saw her as she drove past. Getting my 10,000 Fitbit steps before 1:00 in the afternoon. Iced coffee and a ripe but firm Chiquita banana. Oprah’s Super Soul Conversation with Pema Chodron (yes, I listen to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast regularly). Sharpie pens, sharp pencils, Blackwing pencil sharpeners, and lined paper that doesn’t bleed through. A friend’s post on FB about a beautiful tree that “let go” all her beechnuts at once. Sticky little hand and mouth prints on the front window and most other surfaces in my house. 

When I start, it’s hard to stop. I’m grateful for wind and headbands and red wine and Ibuprofen. I’m grateful for potato soup and fizzy water, books and reading glasses, slippers and pajama pants and old t-shirts. I’m grateful for memory and words, blankets and lil pillow (a Casper nap pillow that, at 52, I’ve become wildly attached to).  

I could go on and on, and that’s the point. There’s enough to be grateful for right here, right now. 

A blog, or for that matter a life, is no place to worry about perfection.

Beginning Again. Again.

We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. ~Anais Nin

It’s a little embarrassing really, but here I am, beginning again.

You see, I’ve been angry.

The awful president who won’t go away. The exhaustive amount of energy I expend wondering if someone I know voted for the man still supports him.

Guns. The exhaustive amount of energy I expend wondering if the gun owners I know still think everyone should have the right to own an assault rifle (because they’re fun, you know).

Healthcare. Do our leaders really believe that people with pre-existing conditions should be unable to afford healthcare?

And I broke my hand this summer. That’s not why I haven’t been writing although it did make it quite difficult to type for about 6 weeks. Walking along the waterfront in Savannah, Georgia on our second night of vacation, I slipped on a slick patch and went down fast on my right hand. No alcohol involved, only excitement, gawking. So much noise, so many restaurants, all the people–I was delighted in that vulnerable, childlike way. Completely open to the sights and sounds and smells and then wham.

“I broke my hand,” I said to Audrey who was next to me, the look in her soft eyes wanting so badly for me to be okay.

After that, and for the next two days, I didn’t want to consider it was broken. We were on vacation. We had trolley tickets and a haunted tour planned for the evening. I’d never been to Savannah, and after Savannah we were on our way to Hilton Head for a week.

But when I finally made it to an urgent care, the x-ray showed a break.

I’m not good at being broken. Well, hell. Who is?

A month ago, I still couldn’t comfortably hold my Elizabeth Warren coffee mug in my right hand. But this morning I can. That’s how healing goes, isn’t it. A little at a time.

A couple of days ago, I reread my last blog post. Each year I post about Audrey’s diagnosis with diabetes, and I read that post, and the waterworks began. Eesh. But here’s something interesting. It wasn’t the story that made me cry. I mean, Audrey is doing great. She’s away at college, studying, working, and rarely available by telephone due to her full, exciting new life (does that sound bitter?). No, I cried because I found myself there.

It was my voice. My cultivated voice. The Bridgett of this blog. The Bridgett who is a little bit more me than I am on a regular day. The Bridgett whose quirks I can tweak for effect. The Bridgett whose mistakes I can magnify. The Bridgett who allows me to publicly figure out who I am and why I’m here and what I want to do with this one “wild and precious life.”

I have been missing her. So I’m giving her a little space here. Because writing is how I process the world. And that Bridgett is the voice that opens my heart just a little bit bigger.

I’ve been meditating with Sam Harris, (it’s an app called Waking up with Sam Harris) and one morning he said beginning is always available to us. Of course, I know this, have known this, have been a practitioner of beginning again for years now. But it bears repeating.

Beginning is available to all of us. Even when we haven’t written on our blogs for 7 months. Even when we miss our own voices so badly that we cry after reading something we wrote months ago.Even when we can’t tear our eyes away from the horror that is our federal government. Even when people we love disagree with us in so many ways and on so many different issues that we can’t begin to comprehend how we live in the same world let alone in the same small town in southeastern Illinois.

I told a friend of mine that I’m tired of being afraid. Afraid of climate change and guns and that we’re just too different. Afraid that I might say or do something that offends my neighbor or worries my friends. But being afraid is part of it. Always has been.

My friend is pretty smart. She didn’t go into all the reasons I shouldn’t be afraid, she just said, “But what’s good is that you aren’t waiting anymore until you aren’t afraid.”

She’s right, of course, because if I waited until I wasn’t afraid, I’d never say another word again. And poor blog Bridgett would be silenced forever.

So here I am, beginning again. Again.

Remembering March 15, 2013

Six years ago this morning I woke with a knot the size of a fist in my stomach. I woke early. I padded through the house to Audrey’s room, where I stood above her and sniffed. The same smell lingered about her–the scent of fingernail polish remover. As if she had doused her face in it, as if she had been swigging it moments before.

She was asleep. I didn’t wake her yet. Like I said, it was early. I waited. Got some sort of breakfast ready for her and her younger brother, Carter. I knew something was wrong. That is what I remember. And it’s what continues to plague me because I can’t remember why I knew then, that morning. I feel like I always knew.

Memory is funny that way. Our minds shift and change in order to make sense of our stories.

I took them to school, Audrey and Carter, and then I came home and googled “breath that smells like fingernail polish remover,” and everything made sudden sense. All the water drinking. All the peeing. Audrey’s newfound love of candy bars and Frosted Flakes and Coke. All her life, all her fourteen years, she’d been salty–preferring mashed potatoes to chocolate pie, popcorn to cookies, chips and salsa to ice cream.

And she’d lost so much weight. She was skin and bones, while eating more than she’d ever eaten in her little life. Her lips were chapped. Her period had stopped, and her sunny disposition had disappeared into fatigue and long naps. Just the day before, she’d come home from school and fallen asleep for three hours.

Type 1Diabetes. How had we missed it? That’s how I felt. How had we missed it. All the drinking and peeing. Everyone knew those symptoms, didn’t they?

Google told me what I, at that very moment, felt like I’d always known. Audrey had diabetes. I called the doctor and stumbled around trying to explain to the nurse, not wanting to seem like one of those internet diagnosticians–still hoping I was wrong–but feeling urgent and wild. Could Audrey get a blood sugar test? Audrey’s pediatrician was out of the office, so she would get back to me.

And I went for a walk. It was warm for March. The sun was out. And maybe I was wrong. I’d always heard that diabetes breath smelled fruity. Audrey definitely didn’t smell fruity. She smelled like fingernail polish remover, but no one else smelled it. I’d embarrassed her many times in the preceding days. “Would you smell her breath?” I asked my cousin Janet who didn’t smell it. “Do you smell anything funny?” I asked my sister, my mom, my husband. They didn’t.

Maybe I was wrong. So I walked. And here’s what I remember. I saw some blackbirds or crows. And I thought to myself–if Audrey has diabetes, I will forever think those birds were an omen.

And I do.

The nurse called and said Dr. Einhorn ordered a blood sugar test. I picked Audrey up from school, took her to the clinic, pretended it wasn’t a big deal, that I just wanted to rule diabetes out. She didn’t even know what diabetes meant, but she was scared. I can still see her sitting beside me in the car–so still–as we drove the six or ten blocks to the lab where they took her blood.

We went to the coffee shop, ordered turkey wraps and ate them as if nothing was different, as if the world wasn’t changing as we chewed, and then I took her back to school. If you read my blog, you know the rest of the story. The doctor’s call. The e-room. The ambulance ride to St. Louis. My husband and I driving too fast, silently terrified. Arriving and finding her alone in a room, attached to IVs ad monitors.

Everything changed that day. And everything stayed the same. Audrey was then and remains today one of the best people I know. She handles her chronic illness with a grace the astonishes me. I can count, on one hand, the times she has complained. It took her about six months after diagnosis to cry. Some people would say she hasn’t grieved all she lost six years ago today, and I would tell them we all grieve differently. And if she hasn’t and needs to some day, we will be here to hold her up.

Two evenings ago, I was stir frying some some chickpeas with broccoli and peppers in a big skillet. Audrey sat at the bar–we were revisiting that day, talking about the weekend we spent in Children’s Hospital, and she said, “I don’t remember it at all,” She paused for a minute, and then she said, “Well, I remember the ambulance ride, and the room, but that’s all.”

I tell the story again and again to remember for her.

Back and Beginning

Cold, rainy, and peevish at the beginning of my walk.

I’ve written here once in 2019. I’m not certain what I’ve been waiting for. Perhaps it’s just another lesson in the possibility of beginning again. It’s always there.

This morning I took a peevish walk. The rain was cold and steady. I carried my unopened umbrella in my right hand, perversely refusing to open it up. Instead allowing the cold rain to pelt against my old blue raincoat stretched tight around my backpack so that I looked, I’m sure, like a bright blue sausage.

I’m so tired of the rain. I long for winter. For the hush and stillness of snow draping the pine trees and blanketing the yards. For the bright crisp air. For the puff of breath dissipating in the cold. For the blood red cardinal against the brilliant and shimmering white.

I like to get bundled up. To wear lined pants tucked into knee-high boots. To layer gloves and mittens, hats and scarves. I like the weight of my coat on my shoulders as I take tiny steps down the ice-covered sidewalk.


Peevish enough that I almost missed world of ice melt in the puddles alongside the road. Peevish enough that I could’ve missed the pine needles. Plumped with water, they created a carpet through the cemetery, and by chance I stepped upon them, and I stopped.

It sounds silly, but I realized I could begin again. Almost home, I could begin this walk again. I could enjoy the steady drip of rain, my bangs damp, my toes cold against the ends of my shoes (why wasn’t I wearing boots?).

I could begin again. And I did.


Yesterday was the 29th anniversary of my marriage to Eric. We are nothing if not a study in beginning again.

29 years ago, I married a man I had known for two months in a hotel room in Owensboro, Kentucky. We were about as ready for marriage as a couple of toddlers. Less ready, perhaps.

I look back with gratitude for the multitude of mistakes we both made because mistakes kept our humanity intact. I’m grateful for the uncertainty because it kept us open and soft because certainty kills the desire to begin again. Certainty hardens hearts and lives as surely as we reach blindly for it.

There were days, weeks, months when the last thing either one of us wanted to do was hold on, but we did. Listen, I know that holding on, hanging on isn’t always the right thing. I have friends who hung on so long their fingernails were coming off and their hands were bloodied. Sometimes letting go is braver and better, for sure.

But I’m grateful for those days when holding on morphed into a long embrace. I’m grateful that we kept beginning again.

After all, beginning is always available.

So here we go.

Begin again.

A Few Ordinary Things: Finishing Up

January 1, 2019. How in the hell did this happen? Aside from the ordinary passage of time which is speeding up.

Prompted by a cousin of mine (Lauren, that’s you), I am going to finish up this list–stream of consciousness-like. So here goes.

Listening and lists and lids. Why lids? Is there anything more satisfying than finding a missing lid?

Mittens. I’ve always been a glove girl, but mittens are so nice, aren’t they. I am beginning to love my fingers all cozy with one another in a nice warm wrap.

Noses and nose rings. Smelling and beauty in the middle of a face. I had my nose pierced years ago when Carter was just a little guy. I came home with the new nose stud, and he cried and said, “Take it out.” I did. A few months ago and years after the first failed attempt, while visiting my friend Katy, I decided to have it redone. So happy!

Black olives, green olives, olives stuffed with garlic or feta cheese. Olives with pits and olives with pimentos and olives warmed on the stove in vinegar and oil.

Pants. I love dresses and I love skirts, but after a few days, I’m always so grateful for my pants.

Quiet. Quick wit. Quarreling with someone smart. Quacking. Yes, I said quacking. I love when kids learn to quack and they quack and quack and quack. When I was a kid, my sister was quite the quacker.

Running. No, I’m not a runner. But there is so much joy in it, isn’t there? Sometimes I am walking alone in the park, and I find myself running. Just for a minute and always with much furtive glancing all around for my running gait is a source of much laughter for my entire family. In fact, when my kids want a good belly laugh, they say, “Mom, would you run?”

I’m partial to soup. Potato soup (I made a big pot for New Year’s Eve). Roasted butternut squash soup. Bean soup. (I should have listed beans under :b:)

And I love toast. I am beginning to feel hungry. Toast is the perfect, simple snack. Tacks and tape for hanging or sticking things.

Time. Isn’t time ordinary and extraordinary all at once.


Underwear–the cotton sort.

Vines. I am aware that vines are a hassle for the backyard gardener, but gosh, a vine in the woods is a beautiful thing. Up trees, connecting trees, covering the ground, pulling everything together.

Winks and winking. I love walking back from communion and seeing someone I truly like wink at me. I feel seen and happy when that happens. As if I’m special and someone noticed it. Singled out for that wink. By the same token, I love to wink and offer that same blink of recognition and happiness to someone else.

I am going to admit, that X stumps me and Z will too. So extras.

Yellow. Just yellow.

A good zinger. I like to receive one, and I love to give one. Mostly to my husband who appreciates a good zinger now and then too.

So there it is. The end of the list or ordinary things. Anyone have time to offer up a few of your own?

PS. hummingbirds.