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Archive for the category “family”

Top 10: Lessons I Learned from My Parents



I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all learned things from our parents–some intended and some…not so much.

10.) If you want a piece of machinery to work better, you need to swear loudly and profusely at it. I’ve seen this demonstrated with boat motors, tractor engines, combines, arc welders, and gas grills. I’ve used this technique myself with cars, computers, and sewing machines. Dad was right. Machines respond better when they know who’s in charge.

9.) Knitting is cheaper than therapy (unless you buy really, really nice yarn, and then you probably still break even). I don’t know that this bit of wisdom was ever verbalized, but it was certainly demonstrated on the regular. Thanks for teaching me the art of therapeutic knitting! (Full disclosure: sometimes I swear loudly and profusely at my knitting, too.)

8.) You can always use a good piece of rope. This is one of those things I remember hearing all the time as a kid. Literally all the time. And my dad always had various lengths of rope or baling twine to fix stuff. And he wasn’t wrong about that advice, either. This is a link to a thing I wrote for his retirement party a few years ago…involving a good piece of rope.

7.) Do what it takes to follow your dreams. This is one of those double whammy kind of lessons that I got from both sides–from both the parent who did and the parent who didn’t. My dad grew up on a working dairy farm and he was a journeyman welder and did maintenance on the kinds of machines you find in metal fabrication factories.

My mom grew up on a small sustenance farm and became am OR nurse. However, she realized really quickly that wasn’t what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. So she went back to school and double majored in psychology and philosophy and graduated at the top of her class. Then, she went on for her master’s in psych and her her doctorate. She ended up becoming a psychology professor and a leading expert in child development.

Just a few years ago, I found out that what my dad really wanted to do was teach history and write westerns. I wish he would have. I think he would have been happier.

6.) Life is too short to stay married to someone who isn’t right for you. This right here was a huge gift. I was sad that my parents divorced, but it was truly the best gift they could have given us kids and themselves. Everyone was happier, and I learned that it’s crucial not to sacrifice your happiness for anyone else and not to allow them to sacrifice theirs for you.

5.) It’s possible to be so tired that you can do some really fucked up stuff when you’re exhausted. That shit will become family legend. My mom once washed a load of clothes with maple syrup. She also once made quiche with spearmint instead of parsley. It was the literal. worst. (My brother Tim still ate about it, but he bitched the entire time.) I shaved a big chunk of hair off the top of my head thinking my razor was a comb.

4.) Wildly inappropriate lullabies are the best lullabies. My mom rarely sang us traditional lullabies. We got a lot of Simon and Garfunkel, Beatles, Carly Simon, Carole King, and John Denver and the occasional Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. I kept up the tradition with my kids with a lot of Dar Williams, Tori Amos, Kate Rusby, and other fantastically morbid Celtic folk songs.

3.)Once upon a time” are four of the most powerful words in the world. Both my parents were (and are) huge readers. And my mom always read to us. I loved story time, and I loved it even more with my own kids. Some of my favorite memories involve cuddling up with my kids and books.

2.) There’s no such place as “away”. Stuff doesn’t magically disappear when we get rid of it or throw it away. Donate what’s still useful and recycle everything you can. Yeah, mom was/is a bit of a hippie. And I’m okay with that.

1.) Unconditional love is everything. It’s the best thing my parents taught me, and I hope that it’s the best thing I’m teaching my own kids.

What kinds of things did you learn from your parents? I can’t wait to check out the rest of the parental lessons, and you can too by clicking on the bloggers’ names. Jessica, Jess, Kellie, Paige, and Deelylah.

Texts from Cait (and Martin) – Part Twenty

Some background on  this text you’re about to see:  My family’s nickname for me is T-Rex because my arms are short and I can’t reach shit. In fact, when I need something on an upper shelf, I yell, “T-Rex needs help!” and someone who’s taller than me needs to come reach stuff down for me.

My brother, Martin, delights in sending me T-Rex related memes and buying me T-Tex related t-shirts or building Lego T-Rexes and naming them after me. (Please see exhibits a and B, below.)


Today, he sent me this text that I immediately relayed to my sister, Cait. I thought I’d share Martin’s text and Cait’s response.




My Kid is a Hilarious, Hilarious Jerk – Update

Okay, so some of you may remember a couple months ago when my daughter, Killian, tormented me with images of a certain creepyass dog.  If you don’t remember that, you may want to check that out first, or this post won’t make a whole lot of sense.

I feel like some of you will be delighted to know that I completely forgot that the dog picture was taped to my driver’s license, and I didn’t even look at it before handing it to the pharmacist when I was picking up my Adderall. a few weeks ago. It was only when he started laughing that I realized the damn picture was still on there. And of course it was the hot pharmacist… I ended up having to explain the whole thing, and he thought it was hilarious.


Other than that, I haven’t really given the dog a whole lot of thought lately.

Until I got out of the shower, this morning.

I went to put on my glasses and…



I immediately hollered for Killian who had no idea what I was talking about. Then we heard the snickering from the other room. Apparently, Corwin decided to pick up where his sister had left off.

Little shits.

Vacation Wrap Up

Last week, I was in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for our annual family vacation which involves my fam, my dad and stepmom, one of my brothers and his family and my two stepbrothers and their families.

It also involved zero wifi and cell coverage that was so bad that I had to drive over 30 miles to make a phone call. #PureMichigan

Anyway, I thought I’d share some of the highlights of the trip.

We stayed at a little resort on on South Manistique Lake which is in the middle of nowhere. There were a ton of ducks on the lake and several mama ducks with their broods. They were super friendly and came right up on shore. It was a pretty quiet lake – very peaceful and relaxing. The sunsets were all gorgeous.

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One of the highlights of the trip was taking the Pictured Rocks sunset cruise. Pictured Rocks is a stretch of protected Lake Superior shoreline. There are amazing sandstone cliffs and caves and they’re colored by the various minerals and tannins that seep through the rock like manganese, copper, iron and calcium.

If you’re new to this blog, I love rocks. A lot. If you’re not new to this blog, you know this and are probably rolling your eyes. I loved every second of this cruise. The lake was as calm as I’ve ever seen it, and the scenery was stunning. If you’re ever in the U.P., do yourself a favor and take this boat ride (Sit on the right side of the boat for the best pictures.) I have probably hundreds of pictures from this ride, but don’t worry. I wouldn’t do that to you. I’ll just post a few.

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We also visited the Shipwreck Museum and the beach at Whitefish Point (The Edmund Fitzgerald’s wreck site is nearby at a depth of about 530 feet.) The museum now houses the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald after a new one was installed on the ship, engraved with the names of the 29 sailors lost.

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And one of my favorite moments of vacation was PETTING A BEAR CUB!!! Oswald Bear Ranch is a bear sanctuary. Orphaned cubs are often brought to Oswald’s where they can live out their lives in peace and the people who run the sanctuary fund it by allowing people to come in and observe the bears and for an additional (but totally worth it) fee, pet a bear cub. But these are a couple bears I was really fond of. The little guy who thinks that sign is bullshit is named Brooks and he’s the cub we got to pet. And the other bear is named Charlie. But I call him Zen Bear. He’s so chill.

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I got a bunch of reading done on vacation and quite a bit of knitting. Oh, and my niece did my hair for me so I could be a faery like her. 🙂

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But, eventually, we had to return to the Lower Peninsula…and reality. Which translates as I need to clean my house and finish writing a couple books and get a pile of editing done. I suppose I should get to it.


Texts from Cait – Part Seventeen

Sometimes the most sisterly thing one can do is to offer to perform amateur surgery. It’s also reason number eleventy billion three hundred thousand and seven why I love my sister.





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IMG_5969(The time stamp is off on one of the texts because I had to resave it.)

Of Labyrinth, Beauty and the Beast, and My Family

I got to spend a few hours with my niece, L, today. Man, that kid cracks me up. But to tell you that story, I need to give you a little background.

My sister, Cait​, and I have what’s called the Labyrinth Test. Basically, we’re not meant to be friends with people who hate the movie, Labyrinth. We’re just too different, and it’ll never work. This theory, thus far, has proven entirely sound.

Fast forward to today. L and I were running some errands and singing along with a Disney mix CD, because that’s how L and I roll. So we get to the end of “Love is an Open Door”, and this conversation happened.

L: *sighs* Hans wasn’t who Anna thought he was.

Me: Nope. He was a big jerk.

L: Bet he hates Labyrinth.

Me: *dies laughing at the stoplight*

(Be proud, Cait. Be proud.)

Later, we were singing “Something There” from Beauty and the Beast, and we got to the end where L was nailing all the characters’ dialogue and accents.

Me: How come Mrs. Potts has a British accent and her son, Chip, doesn’t?

L: *busts out the most perfect Angela Lansbury accent ever and pats me on the head* Shhhh. I’ll tell you when you’re older.

I heart my niece.


The Most Difficult Thing I’ve Ever Written

Trigger Warning: This post deals with infant death, grief and loss.

I would like to say the most difficult thing I’ve ever written was any of the books I’d completed – like my recent forays into different-for-me genres, but I’d be a big fat liar. The hardest thing I’ve ever written was a poem.

Before writing it, it had been years since I’d written anything. I’d had some success in college with short fiction and poetry, winning several awards, and I graduated planning to do great things with my writing. Instead, I let fear and insecurity devour my desire to create until wanting to write turned into that thing that I’d do “someday”. But in a way, I didn’t really believe that I’d ever go back to it. I wasn’t good enough to do it in the real world. So, I let that dream fade away a little more every year.

On March 4th, 1998, my nephew, Zane died of SIDs.

My brother called the evening of March 4th, while I was in the middle of putting the kids to bed. Before he’d gotten a word out, I asked if I could call him back when I was done with bedtime songs. Instead of answering me, he blurted, “Zane’s dead.”

There’s very much a before and after portion of my life. The before portion is blissfully naive. The after portion is viewed through a lens that’s clouded with grief and anger and general disbelief.  Those two words were the dividing point between before and after. Those two words are the wall between happiness and grief and guilt. Those two words changed everything.

On March 5th, 1998, I woke up and said to my husband, “Oh my god, I had the worst dream.”  When I saw the look on his face I fell apart all over again. Or maybe it was still. I’m not sure.

Later on March 5th, my brother called and we talked and cried some more. He asked me if I’d write something for Zane. If I’d write a poem for him to be read at the funeral. How could I say yes? How could I possibly string together any words to sum up the life of this beautiful child? How could I possibly tell my sweet, baby brother no?

I couldn’t.

We feel so helpless when someone we love dies. We feel more helpless when someone we love is in pain because someone they love more than life has died. We all tell the grieving, please tell me what I can do to help. And when they tell you what they need, you do it. Because how can you not?

I was terrified to try to put words to this child – to this beautiful, blue-eyed boy with the the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen. I was afraid I couldn’t do justice to him or the memories that we were left with. But I tried.

It gutted me while I was writing it. It gutted me to stand up at the funeral and read it to the family and friends that had gathered. It still guts me when I see a portion of the verse that’s been carved into a stone that’s part of a Michigan SIDs memorial garden. It guts me every June 30th and every March 4th.

I don’t read the poem. I’m not sure I’ve read it since I read it aloud at Zane’s funeral. But it remains the hardest thing I’ve ever written. And I hope that I never have cause to write anything harder than this. I hope no one does.

For the other Wednesday Random bloggers’ takes on this subject, please click the names below.






Do you believe in ghosts? Have any weird encounters?

Do I believe in ghosts? That’s the question. While I think a lot of stories are made up for various reasons, I do believe some of the encounters are true. Other than a brief flash a couple times, I’ve never really seen anything. My sister, Cait, on the other hand, sees all kinds of things.

One of the most memorable was when we were singing at our Grandpa’s funeral. I think we were partway into the second verse of Amazing Grace when Cait grabbed my hand and started squeezing. Hard. I swear I had ring marks in my fingers for days. But I managed not to yelp, and we continued singing while her eyes kept darting toward the pews in front of us.

After we sat back down, I asked her what was wrong. She told me that she’d seen our grandparents sitting in one in the fourth pew back – Grandma had died thirteen years earlier. And she was holding a baby. I assumed it must have been either our cousin who’d been stillborn, or our nephew who’d died as an infant seven years earlier.

Cait said that she was sure it wasn’t. The baby Grandma had been holding was one she didn’t recognize, and she was sure that somehow, this was a baby who hadn’t been born yet. A few weeks later, we found out our cousin, Sarah, was pregnant. And in August, she had a little boy that looked exactly like the baby Cait had seen our Grandma holding.

It didn’t freak us out at all. Instead, it was a comfort and my cousin said that Grandma was probably holding her son because it was the only way he’d stop crying. That kid was a screamer as a baby. 😀

Check out the other Wednesday Bloggers thoughts on ghosts!


Now this is a family I can get behind!

I’m sure you’ve all seen those trendy stick people family bumper stickers. The school parking lots are full of them at my kids’ schools. They’re almost always on minivans and SUVs. As a side note, I swear the bulk of the SUVs and minivans in West Michigan are at these two schools. But I digress.

Anyway, I don’t have a problem with these stickers (except when the first and last names of the children are on there – that seems like a terrible idea) but it gets a little old after a while. Plus, I’m always stuck behind them in line, and that just makes me crabby, anyway.

However, last week I saw a family sticker that delighted me to no end. I was at the grocery store and parked right next to me was this SUV…sporting the Star Wars Rebel Alliance symbols. I almost wanted to go back into the store, find them and high five them. But stalking, no matter how well intentioned, is never cool. Also it was real cold and starting to snow. But whoever these people are, I adore them.

Love the Obi Wan bumper sticker, too! These are my people. 😉

Weekend Wrap-Up

Saturday, we went to my dad and stepmom’s for a delicious, pre-Easter meal of steaks on the grill. They live on a lake, so even though it rained the whole time we were there, it was still gorgeous.

I got a chance to hang out with my favorite sister-in-law as well as one of my brothers and my niece and nephew. We all had a blast, but omg, my niece can be exhausting sometimes. She’s a bit of a tornado…a stubborn princess-y tornado. Everything about Lex is “Go Big or Go Home.” I think that will likely serve her well in later life, but sometimes, it just makes me a little tired. But the boys had fun hanging with their cousins and visiting with Nana and Grandpa. We’re all looking forward to going up to the UP for a family vacation this summer. My stepbrother and his wife and my niece and nephew on that side will be going, too. It’s going to be so much fun!

On Sunday, we went to my aunt’s and I brought the only dish my family will let me bring – green bean casserole. They’re convinced it’s the only thing I can make. It’s not a big deal – I hate cooking anyway, and it’s not like it needs a ton of prep or cook time. Besides, I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years – roasted garlic cream of mushroom soup instead of regular, shredded cheddar cheese and bacon pieces…mmmmm…bacon.

But I digress. It was a pretty small crowd – only 39 of us. Usually, we’re looking at 60-70ish. But we all had a great time and fantastic food (except for the ham and kielbasa – so not a fan of either of those – blech) There was a giant Easter egg hunt for the kids and visiting with my sibs and cousins. The weather was perfect, except for the part where I forgot my SPF Vampire sunscreen – stupid fair skin – but I didn’t get too toasted. My sister, on the other hand, got very pink.

My one aunt (who’s a teacher) and I had a lovely discussion about Psychological Munchhausen by Proxy. She’s got some horrifying parents in her first grade class this year and is so happy to be retiring at the end of the year. And I did end up with another sewing project before I left from another aunt, but hopefully, I’ll be able to squeeze it out before the Memorial Day cookout. All in all, it was a great time.

Yesterday, Brynn and her boys came over to hang out with me and my boys. It was wonderful! I love Spring Break. I particularly enjoy not getting up at the ass crack of dawn. I am a little annoyed though. Two of Killian’s teachers gave him major projects to do over break. It’s break, people. B-R-E-A-K – as in a break from school and homework. Grrrrrrrrr

I’m hoping to get a ton of writing done this week, but mostly, I’m just enjoying hanging with the boys and sleeping in. Isn’t it time for summer break, yet?

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