Give Me Blood

My little boy, 6,  plays hard. He runs and jumps and tackles and…invariably…falls. Cuts and scrapes and bruises are a way of life around here. He’ll come running to find me, all alarmed and agitated. “Mommy? Mommy! I’m BLEEDING!!!”

You know…BLOOD!

The drill is always the same. Wash the wound, apply some antibiotic cream, followed by a bandage. Within minutes, the crisis has passed and he’s back outside, running and jumping and doing all those things little kids do. Sometimes he even comes running for ointment and a bandage for a bruise or a growing pain…and the second all is applied, he’s back to his normal happy self.

My daughter is another story. She’s eleven. Her scrapes and bruises are no longer of the flesh. Her aches and pains dwell beneath the surface, and they run far deeper. She’s dealing with hot-and-cold friendships and peer pressure, with cool kids and mean girls, hushed whispers and turned backs, fifth grade math and standardized tests, the looming end of (the much loved days of) elementary school and the exciting yet terrifying beginning of middle school. She’s no longer a little girl but she’s not yet a big girl. She doesn’t understand why friends she’s known and played with for years and years suddenly don’t call or include her anymore. She gets hurt when there’s no seat saved for her at the lunch table. Her heart breaks when she finds out about a party everyone was invited to, except her.

And I just feel so helpless. Sometimes she’ll come to me; other times I have to figure it out on my own. Sometimes I’ll see a post on Instagram and realize what has happened, hear something from another mom, or simply see the hurt or confusion in her eyes. And the mom in me, the mom who once cleaned and bandages her skinned knees, wants to clean and bandage those wounds, too. But it’s not that simple anymore. Because these wounds are life wounds. I can wipe away her tears and hold her close, stroke her hair. I can give her words of wisdom and tell her about similar situations I ran into when I was a kid, about friendships that went awry and how sometimes people simply grow apart. I can promise her that everything will be okay, that she and her friends will either find their way back to each other or she’ll make knew friends, better friends (which we, as adults, know is true.) But none of that takes away the sting or the devastation of the moment. None of that puts the smile back onto her face. None of that sends her bounding back out to play, like her brother with his ultra-cool Star Wars bandage on his shin.

It’s all part of growing up, I know. Perfectly natural. And being there for her, loving her, supporting her, is as important as any ointment or bandage. (It IS the ointment and the bandage.) But as I hold her close and try to absorb as much of her pain as I can, I can’t help but think…skinned knees are a whole lot easier than skinned hearts.

WT# Is Wrong With You?

I peruse several Facebook Fan Pages for various television shows, authors, movies, and such that I enjoy. I like reading articles and comments, and yes, sometimes spoilers. Last week, I absently clicked on a link for some spoilers for the second season of a television series…and was gob-smocked to discover these spoilers, instead of being of the vague “a beloved character dies,” “a couple faces a threat,” or “a mysterious newcomer promises answers” variety were excruciatingly specific. But that’s not all they were, either. They were the entire plotline of the second installment in the story, including all the major plot points and surprises.

Given that I already knew all this, the revelations didn’t bug me, but I found myself cringing anyway. Since I’m somewhat of a spoiler aficionado, I know what spoilers usually are, and this wasn’t it. So I found myself feeling REALLY BAD for the people who clicked on that link expecting regular vague spoilers, but who instead had the entire second season of a popular show ruined for them. True, true… they clicked on the link so it was their choice. But I couldn’t help but think a lot of people who were clicking on that link weren’t expecting to read what they did.

So…I commented. Now, I’m not a confrontational person. At all. I’ll go out of my way to avoid just about any confrontation of any type. I’m much more of a peace making type of person. And that’s what I was trying to do. I commented something to the effect of “wow, careful there! those are a lot more than spoilers!”

And the slamming began.

All sorts of people started jumping on me, as well as the few others like me who dared to mention that these spoilers were a little more specific than regular spoilers. People pointed out the thread said Spoilers (true), so what did we expect? But they didn’t stop there. It was a regular pile: Only an idiot clicks on Spoilers if they don’t want to see spoilers. Quit crying over something you did yourself. What kind of stupid person are you? Could you be any more of an idiot? What part of the word SPOILER did you not understand? And, my favorite: WTF is wrong with you?

And I just sat there reading all this, going…wow. At first I responded, trying to explain WHY I commented, but that only made the slamming worse. Random people started posting pictures with pithy little sayings on them, one after the other. Labels were tossed about, stupid, moron, and idiot among the most common. So…I disconnected from the thread and went on my merry way. I wasn’t upset personally… but on more of a macro level I found myself scratching my head, wondering what possessed people to be so ugly? Why would you talk that way to anyone—someone you know, but maybe even especially to someone about whom you know nothing? A complete absolute stranger (who could be the nicest person in the world, or could be unbelievably fragile, or in the middle of a personal tragedy, or, or, or…you just don’t know.)

A few days later there was another Facebook discussion on my local community’s page about a certain parental behavior, something some are comfortable doing, but others aren’t. And again the judgment started to fly, with those who had opted against something referring to those who opted in favor as stupid, careless, dumb, idiots, and criminal.

And again…I found myself going wow.

It’s not just on Facebook, either, although Facebook represents a nice tidy microcosm of society. It’s everywhere. The judging. The slamming. The hate-speak. There’s the big stuff like politics and religion, abortion and gay marriage, gun control and the death penalty, but the ridicule doesn’t stop there. People get shamed and shredded for whether they use plastic or paper, which light bulbs they buy, if they believe in global warming, what time they choose to put their kids to bed, if they choose to shop on Thanksgiving or…whether they choose to read spoilers.

I don’t know. I think back ten, twenty, twenty-five years ago, and it feels like we’re less tolerant than we use to be. It feels like we’re less okay with people thinking and behaving differently than us. We say we are, but then we turn around and ridicule/blast/shame them for doing so, then defend ourselves by saying hey, it’s your right to say/do what you want, but it’s my right to say/do what I think about it. And…well, yeah. It’s hard to argue with that basic logic, but it also feels like something’s getting lost there. Passing judgment/ridiculing does not equal accepting differences—and being cool with each other anyway. (And yes, as I say that, I find myself wondering if I’m being a little hypocritical…if calling out those who pass judgment is, in its own way, passing judgment…)

All I know is I find myself shaking my head, wondering…when did we quit caring about other people? Where did our basic compassion go? And civility. When…did we get so mean? We give all this lip-service to bullying, telling our kids how horrible it is and running news stories about it, but it seems to me that we, the adults, are as guilty as, if not more so, of bullying as our children.

Hmmm. Could it be our kids are learning more from us than we realize?

Moms and Loneliness

When at Home: Are You Lonely, Mama?

I saw this awesome blog on When at Home about not allowing loneliness to ruin the time you have with your kids when they’re small. I wanted to reblog it, but I’m ashamed to say, I couldn’t figure out how. But I could figure out how to leave a link. I know I was desperately lonely at times when my daughter was an infant. It’s much better now, but it’s still easy to look at people who travel, sleep in on weekends, or go to a movie whenever they want, and feel a twinge of jealousy. This blog is a good reminder about why it’s important to manage those feelings.

Life’s “Anchors” in a Fast Moving World

Why good morning there!

Zeerrrp, hold it right there. Let’s get honest. We can say whatever we want on social media or here on the blog, and throw up whatever “front” we want. “I’m so happy! And exceedingly NORMAL! I’ve got it all TOGETHER!” 

In truth, it might not be such a good morning. It might just be an … okay morning. I do have coffee, so that’s a great start. But back to being honest — things have been uber loco for La Vida Loca Mom lately and you know me, I like order and structure and schedule. All those things are my comfort and my rock. Not to be overly dramatic, but lately, I feel like a lot of my rocks have gone tumbling down the mountainside.

For most of my life, I’ll admit, things have been charmed. No, I’m not wealthy, or a huge NYT bestseller and I don’t have the looks of a super model, but…life has always been really good for me and my family. We’ve been so blessed. And I’ve always felt SOOOOO in control. But I’m in my early 40s, and…things have started to change. For the past two months, there’s been a lot of change. Dear friends and family members have suffered life changing tragedies, and encountered frightening health issues. They say bad news comes in threes? We’re up to the tens at least, with all the associated ripple effects. Mind you, these aren’t MY tragedies or health issues, but you know how it is when those we love are hurting. You hurt too. Those new realities weigh on your mind, and you want to fix or at least help where you can. While all this is going on, it’s become very apparent that my kids are REALLY GROWING UP (cue the dramatic music, heavy on the violins!) and my son is getting a driver’s license and he’s being so independent and…starting to break away. I feel like in a blink, both he and my daughter will be grown up and gone and it’s all just happening too fast. On top of this, there are book deadlines and a full time job and all the other responsibilities that aren’t at all so complicated when life is easy and good. Yesterday I walked outside to see that my neighbors had apparently been foreclosed on, and had abandoned their house in the middle of the night, but not before making a huge destructive mess in their front yard (with a very interesting arrangement of Halloween plastic pumpkins), I guess to thumb their nose at the bank? I don’t want to know what the inside of the house looks like. That stayed in my mind all day. It unnerved me. I know that despite their anger, they must be upset and afraid.

Soooooo….you know, I’m experiencing completely normal stuff. Things that happen to everyone! Life changes. These things are just part of growing up. 

I know you know what I’m talking about, because you’ve been through big life changes too. Haven’t you?

So lately, I’ve been relying more and more on my “anchors” in order to feel like the world is still solid beneath my feet. Anchors are small things, really, that make home feel like home, and make my life feel like it’s still my life. Some of those things are:

1. I grew up eating dinner with the family, and that’s something I’ve continued in mine. Usually we eat on real dishes at the dining room table, but on really busy days, corn dogs on paper plates in the living room (while watching reruns of The Walking Dead) will do! Food is a comfort and brings people together, so even on the craziest of days I might take five minutes to mix up a box of brownies or (haha, remember Maisey’s post a couple of days ago?) throw some ingredients in the bread maker for homemade bread. Or put out olives, hummus and pita chips, if I’m feeling guilty about the brownies and the bread.

2. Good morning and good night kisses. It makes my day feel right to give everyone a hug or a kiss at the start and the end of each day.

3. Pets. We have two dogs, and two cats. They really are therapeutic! No matter what’s going on, they are waiting to say hello and that they love you. I’m having difficulty just getting this post typed up, because I’ve got Tango the Cat wrapped around one of my arms, trying to give me kisses. Aw!

4. Phone calls and texts to family members. These have really gone into overdrive lately. To my consternation, my Dad will never, ever get a cell phone, which makes him a man of mystery at times, and I think he likes this.

5. All I have to do, in order to feel lucky and blessed, is watch or read the daily news. After I see what’s going on in the world, I really have nothing to complain about.

6. My faith. Not to preach, but having a spiritual life really does help me keep things in a healthy perspective, and to find the wealth of blessings in every day life.

Just typing out that list had a calming effect! Despite everything that’s happened lately, I do have to say, life is good. It’s just changing.

So tell me, what are some of your “anchors” that you rely on to keep you grounded in changing times?


Love Notes

love notes image


Friday is Valentine’s Day; a day that celebrates love. But here’s a thought, why wait ‘til February 14th to show your loved ones you care?

It doesn’t have to be in big ways. Sometimes all you need is a gesture, a word, a smile… or a simple love note.

When my girls were younger and I left for a trip, I’d grab a dry erase marker and write a note on their bathroom mirror. That way, every time they looked in the mirror while I was away they’d see my message: Make good choices, XOXO, Mom or Love & miss you, XOXO, Mom. And they’d know I was thinking of them.

Occasionally I’d drop a note in their lunch boxes—even when they were teenagers and pulling out a napkin with a big red heart on it might not look cool. These notes might say something like: A+ Effort, XOXO, Mom or You’re awesome! XOXO, Mom or You ROCK! XOXO, Mom.

In high school I snuck love notes in their cheerleading or show choir travel bags, and later, when they later headed off to college and study abroad opportunities, I snuck notes in their suitcases. Messages like: Break a leg, superstar! XOXO, Mom or Have fun, be safe and know I love you! XOXO, Mom or The world awaits your greatness! XOXO,Mom.

It was a simple way to let my girls know that while I wasn’t with them physically in that moment, I’d always carry them in my heart and thoughts. My note was a tangible connection to home—where they are always welcome, always loved and always cherished.

Last month, at the end of the Christmas holiday, when my middle daughter returned to her graduate program up North, she left a few surprises for me. As I crawled into bed that first evening, sad because all my girls had gone back to their own lives, I pulled back my bed covers to find a love note on my pillow.  The next morning I moved aside a bauble on my vanity tabletop and found another one. When I tugged open my armoire doors, I discovered another.  Later, hiding amongst my jewelry boxes, yet another.

Over the next few days I discovered a total of seven love notes hidden throughout my room. Notes that read:

IMG_6341 IMG_6342 IMG_6343 IMG_6609

I’ll admit it, I cried when I found the first one. And the second. Then actually giggled with glee when I found the third. By the fourth it was a delightful game.

As moms we try hard to pass along our positive values and beliefs. I strive to show my girls that family is important, and you have to let them know it in words and actions.

My daughter’s surprise love notes brought tears to my eyes for multiple reasons. One, just ‘cuz they show she loves me. Two, because it shows she “gets” it—even the small things make a big difference. Three, because I’m sappy about emotional moments. Four, because I love her so darn much. Five, because it was proof of the circle of love I’ve been trying so hard to create with my girls.

So what about you, have you left love notes for your loved ones? Or what do you do to show them how you feel in simple ways?

I Shall Not Live in Vain

Today’s my last post on Peanut Butter on the Keyboard as a regular contributor, and I’m feeling bittersweet.

Have you ever had a tangle of necklaces on your counter that you’re trying to sort out? Attempting to figure out why I’m leaving this place of grace  is something like that. Eventually, those chains–each representing a passion, duty, or unmet goal–separate unto themselves and you see clearly again.if-i-can-stop-one-heart-from-breaking-i-shall-not-live-in-vain4

Ultimately, all my reasons for leaving come down to this: I sense a need for a change in direction. Hanging out here is such a pleasure. But as I age, as my children grow up, I want to continue to grow, too. I want to keep moving. Looking ahead. Evolving.

Yet it’s hard–because the years I’ve spent as a mother with children in the house have been the best years of my life. I’m scared of what comes next. I still have a couple years to go before the nest is empty, but I’m ready to start contemplating that change. It will require feeling out, slowing down. Expressing gratitude along the way.

I think the first blog post I ever did here–or darned near the first–was about poetry. Emily Dickinson never had children, but she understood what it means to be a mother. I love how her poem, “If I Can Stop,” [see below] celebrates the concept of nurturing, of mothering the world. You can be a guy and show maternal grace. You can be childless. Blast it all, you can be a soldier or nurse or admin person and mother your troops, your patients, or your boss and your clients!

Emily says in a simple, beautiful way everything I long to say about being a mother. By golly, I know I haven’t lived in vain.

At the soul level, we all long to feel we’ve made a difference, right? Our children are gifts to the world. Let’s celebrate that fact! And let’s remember that every day brings new opportunities to lift a baby bird into its nest again–or dare I say, push it out when it needs to go (smile).

To Emily, Shana, Jennifer, Robyn, and Maisey, thank you so much for including me in this wonderful undertaking to create a space where moms can come to find understanding and support. I’ll be following along and chiming in occasionally. Big hugs to you and to all our readers. You’ve enriched my life beyond measure.

Kieran XOXO

If I can stop

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
–Emily Dickinson

Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 24 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job. My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a senior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college junior; and my youngest, Dragon, is in tenth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.

23 Ways to Save Your Sanity

Facebook is a fascinating amalgamation of… stuff. There’s all the daily mundane posts, the pictures and the advertisements, the political/religious/other lightning rod topics, videos, jokes, virtual train wrecks…  But every now and then, a little gem pops up and you find yourself absorbing every word, going yes…yes.  That’s what happened a week or so back when a friend posted the following list.  As I read along, it was like someone was giving me a cyber hug, and I just knew i had to keep the sharing going. Fortunately, the lovely ladies at Mommy Made gave me the green light to share 😉

Without further ado…here you go: 23 Ways to Save Your Sanity

  1. Lower your standards for cleanliness and order.
  2. Did that? Lower them even more.
  3. Your house will never look like a magazine spread, period. Embrace that.
  4. No matter how many baskets you buy to contain toys, they will always be visible. Embrace the Toys ‘R Us/ frat house-chic decor.
  5. You can never have too many popsicles in the freezer. How many bad moods have been fixed by a simple popsicle?
  6. If you can’t change them, change your perspective. For example I read recently– probably on Satan’s website Pinterest– that toothpaste is great for cleaning things like faucets. So now when I go into the bathroom every day and see toothpaste splatter all over the bathroom faucet I think about how my children have done half the chore of cleaning for me. How considerate of them! Then I wipe it off while cursing.
  7. Those chores that no one ever wants to do. Decide if you would rather do it yourself, badger your child to it, or let it go. If you are confused about what to do, see Number 1 on this list.
  8. No one cares what is stuffed under your child’s bed, why should you. Unless it is old food. In that case, you should get a dog.
  9. If you have boys, your bathroom will always faintly stink like pee. Invest in some Febreeze and count down the days until they move out and you can go visit them and pee on their bathroom floor.
  10. Don’t buy white furniture. Unless you enjoy screaming at your children every time they go near it.
  11. However bad a situation might seem, one day it will be funny. I have a few for which I am eagerly awaiting for the funny to kick in. Any time now….
  12. When your child is a young teen there will be nothing more embarrassing than your very existence. Use this to your advantage. Start planning early.
  13. Do not paint any walls in your house with flat paint.
  14. Be okay with letting your kids stumble sometimes. Whether that is turning in an assignment late because they didn’t do it or wearing an outfit so hideous you have trouble looking at them without laughing.
  15. Noise cancelling headphones are great for blocking out whining, bickering and the endless episodes of Sponge Bob.
  16. Socks do not have to match. Every day is Crazy Sock Day at my house, which is infinitely better than Crazy Mom Day.
  17. The crayons will break and it is okay to throw them away rather then save them to make some sort of craft that involves the hair dryer. In fact, I give you permission to not feel guilty about all the crafts you know you will never do.
  18. Your children will not die from eating the occasional hot dog or frozen pizza. And by occasional I mean more than you are really willing to admit.
  19. If your children are driving you crazy arguing with each other, start an argument with them. Then your children will bond over their mutual hatred of you and be quiet.
  20. Children do not appreciate top sheets or high thread counts. Buy neither.
  21. Homework time is the worst time of the day. Help your kids and yourself by having a designated time and a quiet place to do homework. Preferably in a neighbor’s home.
  22. Just say No to ironing.
  23. Last, but not least, a glass of wine and some really bad TV makes everything seem a little better.

See? How awesome is that?  Which is your favorite? For me, I think it’s probably 8. Or 9. Or then there’s 11…

If you’re inclined, go check out the fabulous ladies at Mommy Made: They’re got a great page going there!

And…let’s see if we can turn 23 into 30, 35, 40….surely there are more ways to save our sanity!

Total Mom Freak Out: Psychological Stress & Mothering

Do you ever have them? Total mom freak outs? Sometimes the stress of worrying about my kids’ health, happiness, and security gets me to the point that I lose it. For me, losing it means I get illogical fears. I feel sort of trembly inside. I think, “I’ll never be able to protect them,” and suddenly, everything feels overwhelming.

When this sort of cloud passes over me–through me–sometimes I think I should drink wine to deal with it. But I’m not a big drinker. I decided long ago that I don’t handle alcohol well. I become the woman you wish hadn’t come to your party because I’m dancing on your antique dining room table in my heels. It’s too bad–so many people have said to me, “Have a glass of wine!” But no. That fix doesn’t do it for me.

Other times, I think, “Get your butt outside and walk.” That does help.

And on the rare occasion, I’ll think about going on an anti-anxiety drug. It’s mainly when I’m at my doctor’s for a regular check-up and he comes in, white coat tails flapping, and says, “How are you? I mean really?” And he’ll sit in front of me, hold my hand, and look deep into my eyes with such compassion, I start to cry. I know sooooo many moms on anti-anxiety drugs! Or anti-depressants. I did try Prozac once. I lasted about a month and had to quit. I just never got out of sleepy mode, even though I was on a baby dose because the doctor knew I was scared to take it. I have a really sensitive nervous system and do terribly with most drugs. So anyway, I quit Prozac the day the pre-K teacher pounded on my car window–I had fallen asleep in the car rider line, and she thought I’d fainted.

Over the years, I’ve grown to recognize when I’m in a weak psychological state. When the kids were little and we were first discovering that Nighthawk, our child with Asperger’s syndrome, had “issues,” I had panic attacks for a whole year. I tried the Prozac–you know what happened there. So instead of using meds, I wound up keeping a journal and telling myself to laugh every day, walk every day, meditate and pray every day, and keep writing about my feelings in that journal. I also decided to eliminate caffeine. The panic attacks did go away, and I went over ten years without another one.

My last one was two years ago when I went to Dunkin’ Donuts car line when I was stressed with more than kid worries. The concerns about my brood were still there–I could always list two or three child-related issues that hovered in my conscious brain–but I also had a short deadline. Money was tight. My parents were getting older and I was worried about my mom’s atrial fibrillations. I ordered decaffeinated coffee and two donuts, then an hour later, had a panic attack. The coffee, handed to me by an overworked or perhaps indifferent window attendant, was likely not decaf. That, combined with the ridiculous sugar rush (eating two donuts was an unusual event for me), destabilized me physically. Then I got a phone call from a really scary person who’s known for bullying people. Combine all that with my initial stress about the kids and my deadline, and suddenly, on the phone with this difficult person, I was lightheaded, my heart sped up, and I felt weak. Hell, I couldn’t even breathe….

So that was a wake-up call for me. I realized that I needed to be more diligent about taking care of myself. I let go of guilt (yes, it was that easy. I  just stopped kicking myself all the time!). I walked a lot more. I went to a counselor to get help with dealing with difficult people–those couple of sessions included learning how to let go of bad reviews online from people I don’t even know. The best part about the counseling was that she helped me remember I had the solution to my worries in me all along. I just had to think back to that year of journaling, walking, meditating/praying, and laughing.

When I stay aware of what’s happening in my life–not hiding my head in the sand about anything, including child, marital, physical, emotional, and work issues–I stay healthy. It takes courage to live in the now. But staying right here with the truth of my life is what keeps me strong and happy. So moms, if you find yourself getting emotionally frail–if your panic about your kids or anything else you’re worried about starts to affect you to the point that you aren’t living the way you want to live–consider paying attention to what your body and mind are telling you. Do this on your own or with your family doctor or a counselor. And remember, you’re not alone! So many of us moms deal with anxiety, depression, and stress. You deserve to feel better. So take action, or tell someone you trust so they can help you move toward where you want to be. We’re rooting for you here at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard! Hugs, Kieran 🙂

Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 24 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job. My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a senior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college junior; and my youngest, Dragon, is in tenth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.

What One Mother Has Learned About Grief and Loss

This month at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard, we’re talking about moms and loss and the grief that comes with it. But that’s not a bad thing or a sad thing.

It’s ironic, really, that talking about loss and grief can actually be uplifting. After reading Ellie’s poignant posts about her miscarriages, I felt so inspired. I want to be a coffee bean like Ellie. How can I give? How can I change the world through what I’ve learned? And same with Robyn’s post on having polycystic ovarian syndrome…she’s created such a good life in spite of her infertility. She’s an awesome mom, and she won’t let any sense of loss or grief deny her the joy she finds in her family.

As I was contemplating my own journey as a mom who’s experienced loss, I sat and tried to hold it close so I could write about it easier. But I’m having a hard time doing that…reliving the intensity of the anguish of expectations that didn’t come true. And I’m kind of glad. I’ve experienced a ton of loss as a mom–and terrible, wretched grief about it. But I’m at a new place. And it’s a place with a lot less fear because I already know the ending. That’s the beauty of becoming an older mom, I suppose. I already know that whatever happens to my children and to me as their mother, the love is there. It won’t die. It will be stronger than ever. Good will win.

In the long, long run, good always wins. I think that’s the most profound thing a person can learn, and I learned it through my experience as a mother.

I think back on the last 21 years—that’s how long I’ve had my son with mild Asperger’s Syndrome–and it’s been a real odyssey. I was afraid Nighthawk (that’s what I call him on this forum) would be ostracized as a child and a teen. Well, sometimes he was. I was afraid he’d be depressed about that. Yep—occasionally, he was! And I was afraid he’d be lonely, confused, and scared. Well, gosh darn it, he certainly was all three, many times.

The grief you feel as a mom to see your child hurting is excruciating, and I hid the depth of mine from everyone for so many years. What else can you do but move past all the incidents of hurt? You have to keep going. But I remember one particularly bad time when we were visiting friends in Spain. It was our last night there. Nighthawk was a teenager and his American cousin, a boy the same age as Nighthawk, was quietly invited over to a Spanish girl’s house—probably for a romantic goodbye–and Nighthawk was not, although he was her friend, too. He was visibly upset, both sad and angry. Usually, you hide when you’re hurt, especially in front of people you don’t know well, but Nighthawk didn’t. My brother took him aside and tried to explain to him the concept of being a “wingman:” yes, guys stick together, but if a special girl one of them likes enters the picture, the other guy understands and gladly steps back.

I tried to intervene, too, but there’s only so much a mom can do. It’s really up to your child to figure it out for himself. So while I watched Nighthawk try to process what had happened, I got through the rest of the awkward dinner with our Spanish friends with dignity and good cheer. I was a guest in this country, and I owed them that.

Even as I went back to my hotel with my sister, who was my roomie, I acted as if the hurt hadn’t happened. I pretended along with her that it was a beautiful night in a charming town in Spain. How often would experiences like this come along? She thought it was a kindness to me to forget the incident at dinner, so we tried for normalcy back at the room, laughing and talking, happy to be two sisters having a European adventure.

But I couldn’t sleep. I remember sitting up in bed and saying something like this to her: “What happened to Nighthawk was so painful to watch. And I’m tired of everyone just acting as if everything’s okay around me for the sake of moving on. My grief is real. I’ve been pretending for 17 years that I’m okay. But I’m not. And I’m scared that the hurt will never stop, for him or for me. I wonder how we’ll endure.”

That moment was a turning point for me. My despair, my sadness, all had its roots in being afraid. I wasn’t sure that I could handle the truth.

But here is that truth: my son wears his heart on his sleeve. He doesn’t have the instinctive social filter he needs to protect himself. He’s not sophisticated and never will be. He’s smart, though, and through a lot of practice, he can learn to navigate the world. He’s come such a long way already—he’s a junior in college now, he speaks several languages, he has friends and a part-time job. Embittered people sometimes use his vulnerability to entertain themselves. The kind ones are wonderful—helpful, friendly, and loving. But Nighthawk won’t always be around kind people. Perhaps more than the average Joe, he may get hurt, over and over, for the rest of his life.

This is not what I wanted for my boy when I birthed him.

When you’re low—truly low—you have two choices: to actually embrace what scares you or to hide from it. If you choose the former, you choose to live. If you choose the latter, you die inside.

And when you choose to live your truth, the big miracle is that strength and peace just come. In abundance! Some people call it grace. Some call it God. All I know is that since that night in Spain, I am living wholly. And those fears I faced—aloud in the presence of my sister—lost their power.

Those damned expectations I had the day I held Nighthawk in my arms for the first time as a newborn baby…well, they were phantom dreams that held me back from living my real life. They kept me from seeing vividly, every day, that I can celebrate the fact that my son is living his truth with courage, humor, and compassion. He’s a walking testament to the power of love and what it can do in a person’s life.

So this is why I’m in a new place. Sure, I know bad things can happen to Nighthawk, to me, to my family, my friends, and to the world. But I’ve experienced utter despair. I have used that power in me—whatever you want to call it–to stare down the fear, to somehow turn myself, despite all odds—like a rusty, stripped screw–from denial to reality.

And each day, I remind myself that the power that turned me is there. I call it Love. It’s truth and grace and God…it’s all that’s left in us when we think we’re empty. So in a way, I’m glad I’ve been reduced. I’m glad I know pain. I’m blessed to be the mother of Nighthawk, and I wouldn’t change a single bit of our path. To be fully alive, you have to be where you are. Not settling—no, indeed, we must fight hard sometimes to make things right—but having faith that truth will lead us to the place of peace and power inside us that allows us not only to survive but thrive.

That’s all I have to offer the world. That’s me being a coffee bean. I hope I’ve brought you hope—the way Ellie and Robyn have brought me hope. We’re meant to share it.

Every mom has had to witness her child’s pain. We tend to make it our own, don’t we? And every mother deals with expectations that didn’t come true. I’d love to know how you handle yours, if you’re willing to share. XOXO

Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 23 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job.

My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a junior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college sophomore; and my youngest, Dragon, is in ninth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.

Guest Mom Natalie D. Richards on Motherhood and Writing

I’m so thrilled to introduce you to Golden Heart double-finalist Natalie Richards! She’s a true inspiration to moms of young children who think they have to wait to pursue their dreams–Natalie’s proof you don’t have to wait. You can start today….

I wrote the first book I ever sold without sitting down.

Okay, that’s a lie, but I did crank out more of its pages on my feet than I ever did on my rear end. I even wrote some of it in the midst of a grueling kidney stone attack. Sounds pretty intense, right? Like maybe my story was one of those life-changing journeys, one of those books that could not wait to be put to the page.

If only I could claim such greatness. Truth be told, I wrote standing up because I typically had a two-year-old crawling onto my lap and over the keys if I sat down. And I didn’t write with kidney stones because I’m the John Wayne of the writing world. I whined and griped through every minute of that ordeal, but I had a Golden Heart® contest deadline looming, and I refused to miss it.

My methods were weird, because my life demanded weird methods.

See, like a lot of people probably reading this blog, I picked the worst imaginable time to get serious about my writing. With two toddlers at home, and my thirtieth birthday looming, I thought it was high time to recommit to my dream. I focused on my craft, joined a local writer’s group and approximately fifteen minutes later, found myself pregnant with baby number three.

Writing was…hard.

Children come in many varieties. Some are shy, gentle creatures who take pleasure in long hours coloring quietly or reading in solitude. I don’t have any of those children, but I’m sure they exist.

My kids are rocket-talking, wall-bouncing bringers of stickiness and noise. They are amazing and inspiring and so exhausting that it sometimes takes everything I have to wrangle these little energy cannons through a day.

It would have been easier to put writing on hold. I mean, realistically, how was I going to manage the house, three children and a part-time job, and pump out a novel or two?

Well, I wasn’t about to let silly little things like logic and reality stop me.

So, I wrote. Wrote standing up, wrote in the car, wrote at hockey rinks and in the bathroom while my kids splashed in the tub. I wrote at the kitchen counter while dinner cooked and in the corner of the play room alongside Lego masterpieces and puppet shows . On a particularly rough night with a stomach bug running through the house, I wrote on the laundry room floor, waiting for sheets to dry.

I didn’t start with the intention of this writing Bedlam I exist in now. My original plan included a tidy house, organic, homemade dinners, and a strict writing schedule that I’d carry out at the small desk in my bedroom. My plan went off without a hitch for at least seven hours. That’s about the time I found myself with a clingy baby on nap-strike, a sink overflowing with dishes, and a pile of laundry I needed climbing gear to scale. As for my desk? It was still there. Somewhere under that sea of unpaid bills, half-finished kid-art projects and odd socks. Reality had done slapped my dream upside its head.




See, when motherhood hits, she takes no prisoners. You can either give up or dig in your heels and fight.

The truth is, it might be easier to wait until your kids are older to venture into the writing world. But if you’re reading this blog, you’re not willing to wait.

Good for you.

Keep your eye on the prize. Be flexible. Be opportunistic. And most importantly, be relentless. No one can really take your writing away from you, but no one will do it for you, either. So, let go of your expectations and tighten your fist on your goals. Carve out every slice of time you can and before you know it, it will become second nature.

Maybe you, too, will write a book standing up. Or maybe you’ll be better at this gig than me, and you’ll find a way to do it sitting down. Regardless of how you do it, get those words on the page. Much like motherhood, as brutally difficult as it can be, you’ll never, ever regret it.

NatalieDRichardsSmallerHeadshotAt seven, Natalie D. Richards wrote about Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes (who wouldn’t dare do the dishes.) Now she writes about awesome girls, broody boys, and all things dark and creepy. Natalie lives in Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her husband, kids, and a giant dust-mop who swears he’s the family dog. Her first book with Sourcebooks Fire, Six Months Later, is a young adult psychological thriller scheduled for release in October 2013. Contact her at or follow her @NatDRichards.