Listen up.

I snuck out a total of once in high school (and yes, yes I did get caught, but that’s a story for another day). I was eighteen and a senior. We hadn’t lived in Arizona for very long and I never really felt like I fit in (that’s the story of my life).

Anyway, I snuck out.

I snuck out and went to a desert party.

I snuck out and went to a desert party and had a beer and sat in a lawn chair around a bonfire trying to look like I knew what I was doing. Or like I was invisible. Mostly the latter.

And this really nice, funny guy from my English class (hi, Alex!) sat down next to me and asked me to the prom.

So really, even though I ended up getting grounded until the prom, it was totally worth it.

This thing happened this week where someone tagged a picture of me on Facebook from senior year of high school. It’s 2004. It’s prom. There are fourteen of us in the photo, and we are all adorable babies with corsages and gelled hair. I might have this wrong, but in my mind it was a group of guy friends that sort of put the whole thing together, and I didn’t know the other ladies very well. But it was a fun night. We took a limo, ate at Ruth’s Chris, danced, went to an after party.

It was eleven and a half years ago.

Two people in the photo have since died.

Some have moved away. Gotten engaged. Gotten married. Have careers.

I didn’t keep in touch with the people in that photo as well as I should have. Facebook has told me about their relationships, their degrees, their transformations. I don’t even recognize the girl who is supposed to be me — there sure is a lot I would like to tell her. So much has happened since I walked in her shoes.

When I was a teenager, adults told me that life happens fast. Did they tell you that, too? They tell you about their friends who went too soon. They tell you about their heartbreaks and their mistakes; they tell you about what has made them the happiest.

And you don’t listen because you’re having a hard time getting through that week or day or hour. Because being young is hard. Because you’re trying to figure out how to take care of yourself, and your mind doesn’t go very far beyond trying to conceive how to do that. You don’t listen because all of those are someone else’s life. And someone else is so far away.


Now I’m 29.83 years old, and even though I’m still trying to make it through this next hour, day, and week, I’m ready to listen. I don’t think it’s too late to learn that lesson.

Our stories are all so similar, really.


The summer before she was thirty.

Heather Lynne, 29, needed therapy.

Or answers. Or change. Or ownership. She couldn’t decide.

At 29 years old, she realized that her 20’s had, in part, been swallowed up or stolen (in large, but definitely not in entirety) by malevolent forces. A rush to grow up. A traumatizing childbirth. A nasty divorce. A loss of self. The death of her sister.

When she looked in the mirror, she possessed, perhaps permanently, loose bags under her eyes. Blotchy, ashy skin. Hair that was falling out by the combful. From 19 to 29, her body had shrunk. Twenty pounds of muscle and presence. A full bra cup (or two). A longer face.

And yet, she was proud. The trials-by-fire, ten-years-in-the making transformation had given her more than she had ever hoped for.

A beautiful, blue-eyed boy, ever-curious and wide-eyed and open-hearted.

A partner that was not just her closest friend, but the fiercest protector of her heart.

Faith by choice.

Wisdom through experience.

A backbone comprised of individual family members and friends that never left her side. That grew by the year. That extended in all directions.

Another blue-eyed baby, with soft-soft skin, fuzzy hair, a furrowed brow, chunk-a-lunk thighs, and a raspy voice.

This was the life she’d previously hesitated to even dream of.

And it was a life, she decided, that needed to be fully enjoyed — every last drop of it, savored. Starting now. Because, she knew very well, anything can be taken from you, no matter how close you hold it. No matter how tightly. No matter how long you’ve loved it.

So in came a devotion to exercise, because she only had one body. And even in all of its shortcomings and frailties, it was hers.

In came a belief in cooking, every day. In shutting the recipe book and developing a framework of kitchen intuition. In slowly getting better.

In came listening to the news while driving.

Reading a book she wanted to read.

Taking a difficult math class to prove to herself that she could.

Adding M.Ed to her resume.

Bible study with a group of women that changed her life, one Tuesday morning at a time.

A passport with its first stamp.

Time set aside to craft, to create, with her mom, with her sister, with other neighbors who needed to breathe.

Keeping a planner, like her sister had, and scrawling events to look forward to: A getaway with her love. Camping. The beach.

Breaking plans and going running with the moment.

In embracing the power she has to be decisive. To change any path she wants (and then change it again, if she wants to).

Nothing is guaranteed. Everything can be taken from you.

Yes. But.

But because nothing has to be permanent, that is why what she chooses is so precious.

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(She is still having a hard time discussing any of this in first person. But she is choosing to work on that later.)


On pie, the fetal position, and catching lightening in a bottle.

Thanksgiving crept up on me. By the Wednesday before, I was disappointed in myself for a barrage of reasons: I’d worn a ponytail for the third consecutive day that week (assuming the calendar week starts over on Monday). I was wishing for a nap. I was wishing I didn’t have to wait another day for pie.

My Facebook feed was cluttered with people giving thanks, which I liked. It was a nice break from the political monotony that had sabotaged my fragile disposition upon so many logging-ins previously that month. In my mind, I tried to come up with some witty list of my own.

I had a difficult time.

Not because I’m not thankful — I am, times a billion. It’s just that it was a long week, and I was feeling sinister in a clever-ish sort of way. In a turn for the worse, I maniacally brewed over all the things I’m NOT thankful for in 2012, namely:

1. Gangnam Style.

2. The iPad Mini.

3. 50 Shades of Grey.

3. Von Willebrand Disease.

4. Kelly Romirowsky’s stealth photography.

5. Delaware.

6. Growing out my bangs.

…and a few other minuscule hiccups not worth mentioning. But then I felt guilty, and I went the obvious but logical route and started listing items I am indeed thankful for. And then I scrambled them all up so that they appear in no particular order. Because you’d get jealous.

1. Carter Bird. Little toddler messes all around my house. Face grabbing kisses, backseat singing, and a one-inch vertical. Pants that never fit, an affinity for girls’ shoes, and bath time. A love for reading. Man-child laughter. New words every day. For being a 2 and 1/2 foot genius. For occasionally letting me sleep. For “Goonight, Mommy” and “Lub you too”.

2. Old friends.

3. New friends.

4. My parents. I would  probably curl up in the fetal position and disappear if it weren’t for my parents. Sometimes I do that anyway, just for kicks, so you can imagine how godawfully I might hold up without their support. For being my strength and my protection and my wisdom. For letting me raid your cabinets and sleep in your bed.

5. I’m thankful that I have more than I need. Life can’t be so tough if it takes me and Carter a month to go through a loaf of bread. And by go through, I am stating that we have to throw nearly full loaves out because they go bad.

6. For Ashley Butler and all that comes with her, namely Tom, her nectarine-sized fetus, Luna, her parents, her Harry Potter wall, the easy access to the printer in her room, and her cupcakes. The pumpkin ones most of all. Or maybe the strawberry ones.

7. My Uncle Jim. For the advice and the logic and for being there.

8. Patrick and Megan.For being the best roommates a lady and a 1/2 could ask for. For late night snacking, Dance Moms, couponing, Patrick waking me up screaming into his XBox headset, and that one night we went to Zumba and Megan came back pregnant.

9. Michelle. For telling me to get smarter and to use my head. For the best advice of the year award. For being a rock.

10. For Mi.

11. For Lu.

12. For little Sean Patrick, who made a ruckus getting here. For being seven pounds even with soft little hair and sweet little lips, and for having a mother who takes you on daily walks. For evening the boy-girl grandchild ratio.

11. Erin Renee. For half-pumpkin, half-chai and couch-sitting and ladies’ nights. For baby-showering and cooking and for all of the company. For perfect bitty Kami Rose. For FJ forays. For telepathy.

12. For Hawaii.

13. Katie Rodgerson. For the strawberry cookies in the mail and for just knowing.

14. Lynds, for knowing I wasn’t crazy the whole time, and for telling me. For that one night. For yoga and breakfast crepes and farmers’ markets.For being the most positive and thoughtful human, and for hopefully rubbing that off on me.

15. Jesse. For being both handsome and handy. For handling things. (How many times can I repeat hand-words?) For the lime tree and high on summertime. For how wonderful life is now you’re in the world. And, if we’re being honest, for Plex.

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16. Thankful for all of my work ladies. Natalie, who has given Carter a new wardrobe time and again as Van grew out of his stylish duds. Heidi, who always listens patiently. Debra, whose excitement for life (but mostly for lunch) is catching. Melinda, for helping build my badass backbone — and for returning my “WTF is that kid wearing?” looks between passing periods. Brenda and Renee, for their love for the Core kids and their educational philosophies that just… make sense.  Kelly for making me laugh excessively. Ok, for all of my better halves on campus who I see on the rare occasion I do get to pop out of my hole — I work with some pretty rad folks.

17. For Game of Thrones, Dance Moms, and Sons of Anarchy. Thanks for the endless hours of escapism.

18. For church. For the ritual. For the dark seats in the back. For Chandler in the nursery. For time spent breathing, or taking notes, or getting my hand held.

19. For Jennifer Steele Rolland.

20. For my grandparents’ love.

21. For Jesse’s parents. For knowing exactly how to play with an 18-month old maniac. For being really, really good at making someone feel at ease. But not for taking that picture of me at Babushka’s.

22. For a really efficient TA. She deserves a medal.

23. For Dr. Lauren Marie Coletta Andrade and her husband. For “turn the lightbulb”, tossing and turning like the cutest bride she was, for “Call Me Maybe”, for introducing me to Liz and Darren, for a last chance to see a close friend, for the most needed vacation.

24. For Megan Kelleher, and for that really sweet note that she wrote.

25. For a huge, nutty family.

26. For Jessie Smith. I miss your guts.

27. For the blanket that Cracker gave me.

28. For The Hunger Games.

29. For Brandon and Janie.

30. For all of “The REAL Cool Kids”. For waking me up when I forgot to disable comments. For LGO and for Groupons. For Cards Against Humanity, Lime-a-Ritas, a lot of car-talk, the lake, trolling, and being the easiest people to fall in love with.

31. The rain.

32. For djdust5. For Livejournal, being my musical soulmate, Suns games, Mean Girls, Cabin Coffee, book club, Casablanca, and that one time we hung out on the swings at Kiwanis Park and found out that I can jump farther than you. Also, fuck Genet.

33. For Instagram. #sorryimnotsorry. Oh, and for Pinterest, too.

34. For my students. Even the ones that write about how strict the Protestants were in The Crucible, how Abigail Williams is a sex addict, and how John Proctor is just like Jon Gosselin.

35. For Champ, even though he sucks.

So there it was, this list that kept on listing. It felt bizarre, all of these blessings stacked in crooked juxtaposition with all of the disappointment and frustration and fear. How was an overthinker supposed to make sense of all of that?

Life wasn’t at all going where I had pictured. Between you, me, and The Internet, my life the past 12 months can generously be described as an egg falling from the roof of a three-story building. I mean, in all fairness, mine was a fine, fine egg. Not one of those half-stuck to the carton suckers with a fast-approaching expiration.

We can think of it as a Humpty Dumpty of sorts.

January fell into March, which tumbled into August. October had never felt so wrong. At least Good ‘Ole Humpty only fell once, so far as I’m aware. Each time I felt convinced of my own personal political slogan, “Things are getting better”, I found it more realistic to agree with the ever-persistent mantra, “Every time I think it can’t get worse, it does”.

So I taught myself what I thought was my most necessary skill set: an on-off switch. I’d feel the electricity wane and then stop flowing, and then I’d not be scared any more — or nervous, anxious, expectant, joyous, or hopeful. Just like that, I shut off. Done.

It’s simple, really. Adaptibility. Survival of the fittest.  And while I know so well how to do it now — like the back of my hand, like a well-traveled surface street, like auto-pilot — I’ve begun to wonder if you can unteach yourself a skill like that, because I for one never wanted to acquire it.

It’s just no way for anyone to live. Life, it goes on, and even while you’re busy running hard and fast just to find a place to catch your breath, you’re really just busy getting stronger. Bandage the damage and keep moving forward. Sooner or later, it heals.

2012 taught me that resiliency is humanity’s most underrated quality. It taught me to laugh out loud without covering my teeth. It taught me that I’ve been one tough cookie (but a tasty one!) all along. It taught me that’s it’s ok to be both the umbrella and the rain, and not to close your eyes during a thunderstorm, or you’ll miss the lightning.