Clawing Out of the Hole


There have been a few different times in my life where I have found myself at the bottom of a deep, dark hole.   A few of those dark times in my past, I have jumped on that “grateful journal” bandwagon in desperation to hoist myself out of the pit of despair. And guess what?  That whole gratitude journal thing works.

The one downfall to this magical method is that when you are in that dark deep well, the last thing you want to do is plop down criss cross applesauce on the slimey, rank ground and start ticking off the blessings showering down on you.  We like to wallow, or scream for someone to come and save us. I have been exploring some of my life adventures, like moving across the country, and lice, and humidity and surgery…things that recently had me wallowing in deep misery.  While the idea of revisiting the gratitude journal popped into my depression-fogged brain once in a while, I would snicker at the very idea.  Sunny skies and puffy clouds and giggles could not pull me from the shit hole I wallowed in, not this time.   I resisted.  I was saturated by my misery, consumed…depressed.

What I do know…  gratitude is the life line.  It’s simple. So simple, it is easy to angrily crush the idea between two fingertips.   Wallowing in the muck is so much more…available.  But the thing is,  you can force yourself to start with just one tiny thing.  And pretty soon, more tiny things appear.  And then you will find yourself actively searching for those tiny things, until the collection of beautiful things becomes more consuming than the collection of miserable thoughts that keep your ass bound in the mire at the bottom of that hole.  If you use those beautiful things to stand on, the hole will become shallow enough to climb out into the sunshine.

I write 5 things a day.  They must be unique and they must be written.  And I will share five things on sundays here on my blog.  I am going to start this practice with my three children at home as well, and report how it goes to you all.  I want my children to actively participate in collecting beauty and finding gratitude in their every day moments.  Gratitude must be more than a concept I angrily throw at them when they whine on the way home from the movies.

This is a big commitment for me, because I live in a wasteland of chore charts and jars half filled with “reward marbles” and potty posters with just a few random stars stuck to it.  I am abysmal at creating and consistently implementing great parenting ideas such as this…but since the gratitude journal concept has brought me from the darkest places into the lightest moments, and because I believe gratitude is essential to bliss, I will do this.  Now.  With my children.  And, with you.

I invite you to join…do it yourself, in your own household, or just post a comment on sundays with one thing in your week you are grateful for, and see where it brings you!

For my inaugural Sunday of Gratitude, I will use pictures too.  (A dangerous precedent).

ImageAn obvious one.  I  have no idea how I managed to turn this dude from a pen pal in my mailbox into a man willing to take on…ME for eternity, but it happened, and there is nothing more incredible on the planet than that.


So, do you all know about Azaleas?!?!??  I just lived my first spring in Connecticut, and you guys from other places, it was RIDICULOUS.   I practically drove my car into a mailbox every time we went anywhere.  No one in my family could finish a sentence without me gasping and pointing it out, in every yard.  Look!  Look! At the hot pink bush!  That coral color!  Oh LORD can you see that purple bush!? Sometimes, I would randomly have to pull over and take a picture, it was just too hard to zip on by.   I still can’t get over it.  Crazaaaay.


So, the last time Rick and I went into NYC, we finally made our way to the MOMA.  Whoa.  It was inspiring, and sometimes, a bit confusing.  What is NOT confusing is my joy at seeing pantyhose being stapled to walls and filled with sand.  This is a picture captures how I feel about pantyhose… I would rather be nailed to a wall than wear it.  And, since I used to be mormon, I have done my share of suffering their sausage-like suffocation.  I am truly grateful that I no longer own a pair of these wretched things, and I don’t feel the need to subject my little girls to this torture either.  It is true freedom.


When my oldest daughter was cleaning out her backpack, I found this in a stack of papers.  She had written it at school, not for an assignment, but just because she felt like it, she told me.  It is framed and hanging above her bed now.  I hope she eats these words for breakfast every day for the rest of her life.  I am grateful that right now, her 9 year old self is captured in crayon, in the most breathtaking way imaginable.


This is a picture of a bookshop in NYC.  I fell in love with this ceiling, and I stare at this picture as my wallpaper every day.  I wish I could remember the name of the shop.  But when I see these books, I am grateful for the sense that my spirit rises up to meet them, I can smell the pages of those books just looking at this picture, and let it fill my soul with a dream that is ever present within me.

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fell Down

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― Frank HerbertDune

Living within the restricted confines of the mormon faith was like camping in the beautiful Rocky Mountains and being too afraid to leave the tent.  The tent offers a false sense of security and safety, a feeling like the whole entire world exists within the dome structure of nylon and mesh.  There is no need to set foot outside its confines where the dangers are fierce and unforgiving.   The  LDS church warns people that if they leave the tent, they will get attacked or hurt or worse… lost forever.  So everyone holds hands and sings hymns and basks in the safety of being together in a community, having faith that they will be delivered from the tent and into a more glorious existence after the camping trip is over.



Leaving the confines of this familiar and loving space is terrifying beyond measure.  To step away and start breathing the fresh air and view the fulness of the landscape, vast and wild beyond imagination is exhilarating and disorienting. The level of vulnerability is bewildering and the visual stimulation and open air can shut you down.  Some dive back in, and declare to the group that it was horrifying and scary and they will never leave again.  Some venture out for a while, but return, unable to feel safe without the controlled environment they were nurtured in for so long.

I had been outside out of the mormon tent once before, a year or two prior to meeting Rick. My first attempt to leave was after years of actively trying to stifle my inner voice and grow my faith in the life within the space I was born. When I stepped out of that tent, I had felt cast out, rejected and unable to trust in my family’s love. I had wandered aimlessly and ached for acceptance. In that short time outside, I never turned to inspect the tent I had been dwelling in. I did not need to know what it looked like to know that I did not want to live there.  The few glimpses I took at the LDS church from the outside filled me with a fear so complete, I could not investigate further. My avoidance was a result of a lifetime of conditioning. The LDS people are taught that reading, listening to opposing views or examining material that is not “faith promoting” or church approved is a temptation straight from satan.  It is evil and corruptive and to be strictly abstained from.


Eventually, I dove right back in.  I sought comfort, safety, and most importantly, the look of affection in my father’s face, my mother’s unbelievably soft hands in mine, and the  feeling that they still wanted to know me.


And I fell in love.  First, with being a part of my family again and then, with a gorgeous LDS missionary…Rick.


Years later, Rick and I emerged from the bishop’s office, on this night, and found ourselves unzipping that nylon tent door, taking deep collective breaths.  And together, we gathered our little girls into our arms and we took a step, just outside the tent. I gulped in the fresh air and kissed him fervently, trying to communicate my gratitude through those kisses.  I squeezed his hands tightly in mine, and I promised him we would not trade my happiness for his.  If he could not bear to be outside the tent,  we would re-enter together.  I would not leave him, and I would not want him to be unhappy. It was me that was changing the rules. The anxiety I felt in taking action, the idea that he may resent me, or secretly think I was a bad person overwhelmed me so completely, I could barely move.  Rick was stiff and unnatural, unwilling to engage or talk any more about what was happening… but his love for me was soft and liquid in his eyes, and it kept me calm enough to breathe in and out.

Eventually, I turned and let go of his hand, wanting to move from the threshold, and for the first time, allowed myself to examine the place I had devoted my entire life to.  I knew this time I would need to know where I had been.

I was shocked beyond belief.


I had been confident that I knew the LDS doctrine, the scriptures, the history, the prophets.  Even after stepping out, I would have balked and bristled at the implication that inside those walls a cult was thriving.  Or that my people were not Christians.  I would have fought tooth and nail with anyone that implied such treacheries.


Being a mormon simply did not make me happy, and I was unable to explain why.  Until I allowed myself to look at it with open eyes.  The tent was constructed out of only one material.


And in the details of that fear, came such shock and alarm, I felt newly shattered.  There is no bounds to the betrayal I felt in the things I discovered about the place I had called home my entire life.

I begged Rick…

Come and look!

Did you know this?

Did you have any idea?

Why did we accept this?

How did we allow it?

Can you fathom how deep these deceptions run?

But he did not want to look.  For him, he had been out in the world, searching for safety and sanctuary when he entered the LDS faith. Inside, he met me, the most beautiful and intelligent woman he had ever laid eyes on (ha, couldn’t resist!)  He would step back out to save me, but he did not wish to soil his glowing feelings about a place that had brought him so many blessings.  It was the place we had discovered each other and had woven ourselves together in the most deeply intimate ways.


So I circled the tent, and really investigated all that it is.   White hot, acidic anger liquified my insides.  I was unprepared for the way it pulverized me.  I had not recognized how my LDS faith and culture had infiltrated every thought and action and belief…it was the material I was made of.  Upon examination from the outside, the whole structure seemed to burn to ash, along with my entire sense of identity, my culture…my tribe.  The discovery turned me to ash too.

Rick, unable to watch me howl with rage and torment alone, tentatively stepped again to my side, and ever so slowly he let me share the betrayals and shocking discoveries with him.  The anger lit a fire under me and we ran for it.  Deep into the mountain terrain, fueled by fury and a sense that I no longer existed at all.  It felt as if I had just witnessed my own death, and the disembodiment was astonishing.


I marinated in this anger for a long, long time.  It still flares in me when I nurture it.  But Rick did not understand it.  He was not spoon-fed these stories and emotionally manipulated since he was in diapers or had fear infused into his every cell since birth.

The vast differences in how we processed our new, open-air surroundings left us staring at each other as if we had just met.  It was a bizarre mirroring of the first time we met as strangers on top of the Empire State Building.  Back then we had a year of snail mail letters and a shoebox of audio tapes sent back and forth in the USPS, a relationship born in a mailbox. When we came together we were unknown, and yet deeply known to each other.

We found ourselves strangers once again. We were in the wilderness without the safe confines of shelter and a long list of rules to measure ourselves by. Unknown to one another, but with four years of history and two baby girls between us.  Our temple marriage, the vows we took…they were cremated too.

And the phoenix is our love, still rising from the ashes.

The Church is True: My Belly Flop

 “Humiliation is the beginning of sanctification.”  -John Donne

On the fourth of July, Rick and I went golfing in a monsoon. We took cover in the clubhouse, and ordered a couple of beers to pass the time and dry out.  The bar only took cash, and we had none.  Unthwarted, Rick broke into my emergency stash of money I keep in the glove compartment…rolls of quarters I use in a pinch, or for parking.  The golf did not happen, but the beers were good, and we high-fived our resourcefulness and quick thinking in our beverage “emergency.”

Sipping these beers sort of looked like this:

Total bliss, but the flop comes next.

This brings me to the flop. Yesterday.  After a week long visit at my in-laws home in northern Vermont with the hubs and kids, I was hightailing it home to Connecticut.  Rick and the girls would follow the next day.   It was hard to leave them, despite my yearning for my own bed and the peace of being able to work uninterrupted for a day.  I was longing for home, but acutely aware of how completely alone I would be in Connecticut. I have not made many intimate connections in our new area thus far, and there is a keen sense of loneliness that swamps me when I think about my lack of people.  Home is where your people are.

To help myself not dwell in the sense of homelessness but swim in the bliss of a long four hour drive alone (glorious!)  I was cruising at a smooth 70, enjoying the sun, the AC in my car, the freedom to be silent and listen to whatever I damn well please.  I was invigorated.  Alive.


Three hours into my drive, I realized that I was approaching my last quarter tank of gas.  And that is when the image of my purse, hanging on the back of my mother in law’s kitchen chair burned a hole in my brain.  I had no wallet.  No money.  Credit card.  ID.  Nada.


That’s ok!  I thought.  I will make it!  This is a test, surely.  This is a great blessing!  A chance to rise to the occasion!  Old Megan would be cursing and panicking, New Megan was zen, calm, living in the moment. And  at the moment, I had gas in my  tank, so no worries.  I’m livin’ in the NOW my friends.

A visual:  I’m more like Carly (confident) than Lydia (nervous but willing to try the ride).


In mormon folklore, there are tons of stories about people that have tremendous faith, and they are sustained by miracles.  Like the bible story about Jesus feeding the 5,000. There are innumerable modern day miracle stories of mormon people that tithed their last cent to the church and find their supply of food magically replenished.  I may not be mormon anymore, but miracles happen, and not just to mormons!

This was going to be me.  I was going to make it all the way home, the gas tank will be sustained by my unshaken faith in the universe.  I turned off the AC, to conserve.  Just letting the universe know I was willing to meet halfway, be a little uncomfortable…(translation…sweat my ass off).

Twenty miles from home, the last bar on my gas meter disappeared.  I took the next exit, not wanting to be on the freeway as reality tapped me on the shoulder.  I pulled over, and I will admit, I said a few naughty words.  But then I took some deep, meditative breaths and chugged my way to a gas station on fumes.   I smiled, and felt safe and congratulatory for getting to a pump relatively calm and unscathed.

Ok. Time to regroup.  Maybe the miracle would look more like this:  I was going to dig through the pile of crap in my car and find a ten dollar bill.  There were mormon stories like this too.  Faith, people.

I was not losing composure.

But maybe a little more Lydia (left) than Carly at this point…


So I ransacked my car.  When all the trash had been tossed… the golf bag, tennis bag, suitcase, camera bag, writing satchel…

I found the squashed wrapper for the roll of quarters, and lamented those beers.  Just three days before, we drank away what should have been my last gallon of gas.

This is when I knew…I’m being punished for those brews.

The church IS true.*

But seriously, it was pushing 90 degrees with ungodly humidity, I was in unfamiliar territory, all of my family was four hours away. I searched for solutions, someone to help me, rescue me.  But there was no one.  I was going to have to beg for money.  This is so much worse than it sounds.  Believe me.

 First, every time I have ever turned away from a person with an outstretched hand came back to my memory like a slap in the face.  And every moment I had put money in that hand attached with some heavy judgement made me burn with shame.  I watched eight or nine cars fill up and leave.   I could not bring myself to do it.

After loitering for 30 minutes, the shame or the heat or both sent me into the tiny station.  There was a line of people with wallets. They had bags of ice and Snickers bars and cigarettes.  Over their heads, the attendant asked me “which pump?” and much to my exceeding horror, my eyes filled with tears.  I ran to the back corner of the store to wipe them frantically away.  They just kept coming.

 I cried in the Dorito isle and waited for all the wallets to leave, and then wept like a little girl as I explained my predicament to the guy behind the glass partition.  He asked me if someone was coming.  If my husband was coming, or a friend.  I told him no one was coming.  I was alone.  He suggested I begin asking customers for money and I retreated to the gatorade cooler to marinate in my mortification, unable to stop the crying.

I was humiliated.  The tears, the “damsel in distress” act I could not get a handle on… filled me with renewed shame.  I detest crying.  Especially in public. Especially  amongst strangers.

In the end, Gary B. from Windsor saved me.  I stalked him awkwardly, stifling those embarrassing shudders that happen when you are choking on intense emotion.  I watched him buy lottery tickets and gab with the attendant, who kept throwing me looks. I could barely make it through my plea, I had lost all control. He took pity on my obvious distress, and I was pulling into my driveway 15 minutes later.  My ability to stand in that humility and risk rejection was completely spent on that one request. If Gary had said no, I may have found myself enduring a long walk home, unable to gather the courage again.

 Instead of writing all night as planned, I was wrung out by the experience.  I showered, letting the shame wash down the drain, and climbed into the sanctuary of my own bed.

 I am going to tack this experience on to a growing list of excruciatingly humiliating moments I have been wading through lately.  It was probably on par with meeting the neighbors while giving Stella a lice treatment the week we moved here, but only marginally more tolerable than the school fundraiser this year.  Details withheld until I don’t feel like crawling into a hole at the mere mention of it.    Here’s to hoping the lesson I am meant to learn from marinating in humiliation is mastered soon.  Before I show up naked to Rick’s company picnic.  You never know.


* A very mormon declaration that LDS people use regularly to claim that the only church that has the complete “truth” is the mormon church.  It is often used to  “prove” that a circumstance directly correlates to the truthfulness of the gospel.


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

-The Beatles

Years ago, a hummingbird flew right into our tent.  I was sweeping out the last vestiges of pine needles and tree bark before packing it in for the weekend.  The flittering beauty zipped right in through the partially open door.  Its minuscule fluttering wings almost completely invisible with speed, she seemed to be floating in the air in front of me.  She glided through the streaming sunlight, pausing at the mesh windows and then up to the crisscrossing tent poles at the ceiling.   I was awestruck by her beauty and bravery as she explored the nylon cave of our tent.


 When Rick and I married in an LDS temple, I followed him back into the mormon life.   I had already attempted to leave, declare my independence. My attempt had been incredibly painful, and I was carrying some pretty big scars.  After taking a shaky stand, I had serious doubts that I would ever be comfortable at a family gathering, or feel truly accepted by my parents.  The difference between “I love you” and “I love you but do not approve of you”  was a deep, dark chasm I had been lost in before meeting Rick.  He offered me a way back into the fold, and he was so easy to love.  I believed my love for him would deliver me the kind of testimony I had been seeking my whole life.  I believed that the way his love had softened me, lightened me, and healed my wounds would make the LDS faith much easier to take in to my spirit.


  Not long after entering, the hummingbird became  frenzied, her movement more unpredictable and choppy.  She began zooming from one side of the tent to the other, always close to the top of the dome.  She was realizing that she was not in her element. Somehow, she had confidently flown in to explore and now she was disoriented.  Trapped.  She wanted O-U-T.   Maybe my presence was scaring her.  I completely unzipped the big, yawning door and stepped outside.  Without my presence, she would find the bright, dappled sunlight beyond the door and be free.  But when I went to check on our dainty guest…she was wild with stress. She was physically smacking into the nylon walls of the tent, the whisking of her delicate wings on the taut material caused a corresponding flutter of anxiety in my gut.  I left her alone again.  She just needed more time.   But each time I went to check on her she was still whapping her fragile little body against the tent ceiling, only a few feet from freedom.  I tried shooing her out with my hands, with the broom.  She fought.


 It was not long after we married that I knew.  Love did not conquer nor quell the disquiet in my soul.  The same niggling doubts and discomfort, the same sense of being trapped and smothered by my mormonism did not melt away. I felt betrayed by my own naivety.  I could not hide it, so I was honest about my fears with my brand new husband.  Just a few weeks after our wedding, I had my first panic attack in front of him.  We were asked to  give 10-15 minute talks in front of the whole congregation.*  Rick was assigned the topic of “the evils of pornography.”  Quite the ice breaker.  My topic was about faith.  The night before, I was a complete wreck.  He had never seen me so distraught and irrational.  I was supposed to be writing this talk, and the more I tried, the more panic I felt at the growing knowing inside me.  The undeniable fact that  I was still faking it.  The temple wedding and uncomfortable mormon underwear did not change it.   I threw my notebook with my half written speech at him.  The look of shock in his eyes I still remember 10 years later.  His reaction was to offer to give me a blessing.**

Eventually, I settled down. I gave the talk.  And many, many more. I threw myself into the life of a mormon wife.  I read “faith promoting material” and daily scriptures, prayed, attended church, fasted, served callings and supported Rick in every way I could.  Peppered into our life were many tearful conversations, after the lights had turned out and we lay in the darkness.  Me, trying to loosen the tentacles of doubt that wrapped themselves insistently around my neck.


Finally,  I became aware of the absence of her struggling thwaps.  Thank GOD.  I went to the corner of the tent and yanked a stake from the soil, eager to get the tent put away and go home.  Something burst inside me when I caught a glimpse of her through the open tent door.  I had assumed the absence of her buzzing  wings and desperate thunking meant she had found freedom. But it was utter, hopeless resignation instead. Our hummingbird was hanging upside down from one of the tent poles.  Like a bat.  Succumbing to whatever fate was dealt her, she was too exhausted to continue her fight, too disoriented to carry on.  The door was big, and wide, and she would not fly through it.   I could not catch her and force her release.  I walked right up to her and looked her in the eye. I saw myself.


 The day after Rick offered to leave our religion,  on this night, we shuffled into the bishops’ office to seek guidance and  counsel.  Rick was distraught. He was desperately trying to hold the pieces of me together.  But I was not broken, I was disappearing altogether.

We sat in chairs opposite his desk, and with Rick’s hand warm on my thigh,  I unzipped my soul and laid it on the table before him.  The bishop listened.  He asked questions, and I wept with swollen, heart rending shame.  Grief made my sinuses and throat swell shut, my voice eclipsed by my failure.  After an hour and a half, there was silence.  I believed the bishop was searching for the right words, the spiritual direction that I needed to survive this.  Guidance, from the Lord.  We waited with great anticipation, for some healing words of wisdom.

 Finally, our bishop said solemnly,  “Fake it till you make it.”


We waited as long as we could, and then Rick left me alone, to check the tent again. He knew I needed to be the first to look.  I felt like that hummingbird was stuck in my throat and my heart was trying to pound her out.   I peeked cautiously inside.

She was gone. Released. Free.


*mormon men who hold a certain level of priesthood, given  to them by other men who deem him worthy, have the ability to perform special blessings and rituals.  This priesthood power is one of the most sustaining elements of a couple’s marriage.  Women can not “hold the priesthood,” and rely on the men in the church to wield this sacred and special power.

**There are no “sermons” at the LDS church.  The church service consists of blessing and taking a sacrament of bread and water, and then talks prepared and given by members of the congregation.  One is called and assigned a topic, and length of time by a member of the bishoprick, the group of men at the head of the ward, or church group.  Saying no to this request is highly frowned upon.  Mormons believe the bishoprick is asking them based on inspiration from God, and saying no is equivalent to saying no to God.

Shit hell damn fort piss. Today I am choosing Happiness.

choose to be happy

 “Shit, hell, damn, fort, piss!” A string of expletives handed down through generations.  Yeah, I was raised by a prim and proper mormon woman who was in turn raised by a very prim and proper mormon lady.  But we all have our weaknesses, and the occasional naughty word wormed it’s way into the household.  I grew up hearing my mother, in moments of great frustration or pain, utter this string of expletives.  This would shock and secretly delight me.

My young mind had worked through the secret, naughty meanings behind the words, with the exception of “fort.”  When I got the courage to ask for explanation as a teen, the answer was so much better than I could have imagined.  Apparently, my regal, uber-feminine, ultra-mormon grandmother had the bad habit of using this string of words at times.  The “fort” was actually “fart,” but that word was too unbecoming and unladylike, so she said “fort” in its place.


 The moment when this string of wicked words became a part of my own arsenal, slipping out as if it had always been there…it was a right of passage.  And sometimes, I have those days where they come much more readily than others. In our home lately, our mantra has been “Choose to be happy.”  Because it is a choice.  Every moment.  BUT.  There are days. Days where there is nothing to be done but hiss “shit, hell, damn, fort, piss!” between gritted teeth… and try to laugh, as my grandmother is most certainly laughing with me from above.

 Last week, I had one of those days.  A quick synopsis:

1.  Getting Cocky

2.  Digging Up the Dirty

3.  A Smoke Monster

4.  Great Balls of Fire

5.  $10,000 Sweaty beds

6. Blue paint and Wet toilet paper

7.  A Huge Load of Crap

 Let’s get started.

 #1.  Getting Cocky

I forgot that I am not 20 anymore.  Gone are the days I could juggle 18 credit hours, a job, a sports schedule, and a boyfriend without writing anything down. Fifteen years, a husband and three kids later,  if I don’t write my own name down, I may forget it.  Or the name of my kids.  Done that too.  On this fateful day, I got cocky.  I did not check my calendar.  At all.  I could handle the basics, I scoffed at the intuitive warning bells.

This cockiness led me to believe that I could allow my children an extra half hour of play on the school grounds before heading home and into the fray.  Big. Mistake.

 After the extra playtime,  I was pulling into the driveway, the were kids hungry and filthy, and I was rattling off the list of expectations.  “Practice the piano, put on your uniform, find a book and do your reading, finish your homework.  I will pack snacks and water for the game.”   I was already feeling the rising pressure of cramming too much into too little time.  My fault, my fault.

Before the car was in park, Carly reminded me of her neurofeedback appointment.  Today.  At 4:00.  Blast!  The essential calendar reminders on my phone went unnoticed, as my three year old was busy opening every app on my phone and dismissing the crucial ding!  reminders with an expert touch.  It was 4:03.  And thus,  the beginning of my “schooling.”

 I backed out of the driveway, amidst the cries of hunger and thirst.

 “Suck it up!  Mommy dropped the ball!   NO ONE eats!”  I wanted to yell over their whiney protests, my stress level instantly soaring.

But I took deep breaths instead. (And muttered “shit, hell, damn, fort, piss” under my breath, enjoying the release of stress it brings.  I was quiet about it.)  On the way, Lydia asked me if I was obeying all the speed limits, and could I please stop breathing so loudly, stop chewing my gum, and could I please not whisper? Her polite attempt at avoiding a misophonia meltdown  (like this and this)  made me want to claw my eyes out.

 I had to forgo walking Carly up to her appointment like the responsible mothers.  But instead, texted the therapist to watch for her and reminded her of which button to push in the elevator.


#2. Digging Up the Dirty

 I had to recover the day. I can do this. Back at home, I barked out orders to Lydia.  She ran inside, unearthed her filthy uniform from an epic pyramid of dirty clothes and puts it on.

 This felt acceptable because “playing softball” when you are in second grade means playing in the fine, powdery dirt, kicking up great clouds of it, tossing it in the air, rubbing your glove in it, innocently unaware of the large, hard ball that could smack you in your unsuspecting shins, or worse, your teeth.  Also, diving around in the grass by the dugout until it is your turn to bat.  She was going to be dirty in five seconds anyway…no one would know, right?   No big.


I grabbed four bottles of water from the basement emergency stash and we ran out the door to pick up Carly, and drive to the ballpark. I texted Rick, who would meet us at the field after work with snacks. Crisis over.  I rock.

 We arrived at the game with relief, ready to collapse on a blanket with Stella, get Carly started with her homework and watch Lydia play in the muggy 90 degree heat.   This is when Lydia’s softball coach ambled over to ask me why Carly is not playing today.  WHAT!?    I missed that Carly had a game too?  The damn calendar!  How could my “mind calendar” have gone so very wrong?

 In a pink dress, without hat or mit, I sent Carly sprinting across the field to her team, snatched Stel and drove all the way back home. At the house, I dug deep into the mountain of dirty laundry that Lydia had fished her uniform out of.   I found Carly’s balled up uniform and crammed it in a sack with a box of crackers, her hat and glove.

 Rick pulled in the driveway, I tossed him the goods and he was off to watch (both!) girls play softball.  Stella and I would make dinner.

 Whew!  All is well.

 At this point, I decided it was time to be more responsible.  Learn something from the mayhem of the day.  Be prepared.  Before grilling burgers and baking fries, I felt that doing a load of laundry would be…redeeming.

I was quite diligent and responsible as I overfilled the washer.  Shaking out gravel and mulch,  fishing gum wrappers and chewed up erasers out of their shorts pockets, pulling the balled up wad of crusty socks so they will get clean, and my favorite, seperating the dirty underwear from the pant legs.   But just as I was going for the detergent, I spotted a clump of Stella’s clothes hidden under a bath towel.  Hastily, I grabbed the lump, and shoved it in without inspection.  So it was a risk, but I felt better about myself. 

#3.  Smoke Monster

 Onward.  Here is where things get dangerous.  I could only find frozen fries, frozen burger patties, and two slightly shriveled zucchini for dinner.  I was still in the mood to compensate for the earlier catastrophes so I decided to go the extra mile and make baked zucchini fries to dress up dinner.   And, I was gonna let Stella “help” which will certainly boost me out of the disorganized, foul-mouthed hole I dug.  I turned on our oven, and let Stella wear a cute apron and dip the sticks in egg.  It was messy.  I was going with it.  Serenity, and good mom vibes abounded.  Until I opened the oven to bake up our zuchini.  My mascara melted together and I was completely blinded by a thick billow of black, acrid smoke.  The smoke detector began screaming, and in my quick thinking, I crammed the baking sheet into the smoke monster before slamming the oven shut.


I forgot that a few days ago, I had made this beauty:


A lemon pound cake. I do a lot of baking,  but I had been out of the Martha Stewart mode since we moved to Connecticut (obviously).   And, like I had never made a cake before in my life, I happily filled the bundt pan all the way to the tippy top, (seriously??)

I lovingly smoothed the batter with a spatula right to the edge,  and then licked it clean while half the cake baked and half the cake batter bubbled over into the oven.  Miraculously, we waited out the smoking mess, and it was delish.  I had decided to let the burned mess cool before cleaning up the oven…  Two (ok maybe three) slices of lemon cake later, we laid out with our sugar hangovers, and I forgot about the mess.

Until the zucchini, today.  And 425 is 100 degrees hotter than my cake baked in, so the result was much, much worse.

 Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have preheated the oven without opening it up first…which resulted in this happy moment a few years ago:

I couldn’t get the storm windows down on the kitchen windows, and the house filled full of nasty black smoke. The smoke detector, just doing it’s job, went off intermittently for the next hour despite my efforts to fan it into submission.  Frazzled and worried about permanent smoke damage to the house, I retreated into the muggy yard to light the grill.  The show must go on.  The Rick and the girls will be home and hungry soon.

 #4. Great Balls of Fire

The starter was not working so I turned the gas on, crouched down with a match to find the small hole to poke it in, as Rick had shown me.   I poked a lit match into the hole, and took a forceful ball of fire at point blank range to the face.  A GINORMOUS ball of fire.  It engulfed my face.  Picture the fireballs the wicked witch throws at scarecrow.  Like that, in my face.  I jumped back, immediately swatting at myself like a swarm of bees were on me, certain I was on fire.  I ran into the house and turned the faucet on my scorched face, frantically patted down and wetting my hair, then feeling for my eyebrows.  Singed, but in tact thank God.

 Rick came home with Carly and Lydia as I was running ice cold water over my scorched hand, wrist and arm, my hair slicked back and wet from dousing myself.  The smoke detector was going off again., it smelled like the zuchini was actually on fire in the oven.  He informed me that in fact, Carly did not have a softball game after all.  False alarm. For the love of humanity.

#5.  $10,000 Sweaty Beds

Defeated but determined to get through the night, we sent the girls up to shower and threw together a pathetic meal.  The zucchini and fries tasted like charcoal briquettes. During dinner, Stella kept asking me, “Mommy, are you choosing to be happy?”  Don’t you hate it when your kids decide to throw your “life lessons” in your face when you have burned your eyebrows off and smoke is still curling around all of your furniture?  “You choose to be happy.”  Uh. Huh.

I looked forward to getting the kids to bed.  It was hot and sickening and smokey in our main level, but upstairs held the promise of our new air conditioning.  We paid a cool ten grand to put the AC in the upstairs last year after we moved in and I almost went bat-shit crazy in the sticky heat of summer.  Nothing can make me angrier than sweating while brushing my teeth.

 But in today’s 93 degree heat, the AC would save the mood for sure. When we got upstairs, I was gleefully expecting a cool 71, and it was 83 degrees instead.  It was now  9:30 pm on a school night.  The AC Was. Not. Working.  I sent Carly and Lydia to bed with wet hair, fighting over which way the fan should point.

Shit.  Hell.  Damn.  Fort.  Piss.  I was so close to saying “fart” too.

 #6  Blue Paint and Wet Toilet Paper

Conquered,  I plopped down on the lid of the toilet seat to comb through Stella’s wet hair, only to discover that the blue paint she had been sporting since our art project that morning had not been washed out, merely re-wetted, and clung to her hair in blue gobs.  Too tired to find something other than toilet paper, I began to sponge the paint out of her wet hair while she cried with weariness.  I felt like I was trapped in some perverse version of “If You Give A Moose A Muffin.”  Little did I know.



#7 A Huge Load of Crap

“Meg?  You wanna hear the clincher?  Should I top it all off for you?”  Rick called up the stairs.   Feeling wreckless, I bravely called out “Hit me with it!  Bring it!”

 “There is shit!  In the washing machine!” .

 Now that was unexpected.

I almost fell off the toilet seat laughing.  He appeared in the doorway, observing my indelicate pile of wet toilet paper streaked with blue paint, and Stella, defiantly sporting a long sleeved fleece nightgown, cheeks blazing in the sticky heat.  I believe he was equally surprised to see my laughter,  which quickly turned into dry heaves.

“What the hell?  (Blaaaaaaughhhaww) (Bleaaughhaaw!)  In that big load of kids clothes?” (Blawwwwwuuugha!)

“Yup. It’s everywhere. All over,”  He wiped his brow and rolled his eyes at my deafening dry heaves.

“Stella had an accident and didn’t tell me?… but I went through all of the clothes….”  I heaved again, remembering the pile at the end I hastily crammed in.  Sending Stella to her room, I started digging into my cleaning supplies.

I handed Rick a cylinder of lysol wipes and an empty laundry basket…

Moral of the story: check the calendar before giving the kids that extra half hour of play,  look in the oven before turning it on, open the grill before lighting a match,  and always shake out every piece of dirty laundry before you toss it in…you never know the hidden pile of crap you may find there.

You’ll want to deal with that NOW, not later.  It will not all come out in the wash.

Sound Hysteria

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”  -Maya Angelou

We were homeless the whole month of July 2012.

During our cross country move, we spent some time on the shore, waiting for a million flying puzzle pieces to fall into place. My brother from New York came to visit us and stay in the beach house a couple days after the Lydia’s first major voice-induced tantrum, found here.  He is a much loved uncle, one of my greatest supports, and amazing with the kids.  Gardner was a welcome distraction from the mounting tensions in our little “moving vacation.”  I picked him up from the train station alone, filling him in on the move and the situation developing with Lydia.  He was quick to reassure me that it was just the move aftermath…I just needed to show patience and love.  He stayed with us for three days.  On the third day, Rick had begun his new job and I had to take the three kids with me to the train station to drop my brother off. I made every effort to make the drive easy for Lydia.  I handed them cue-ball sized gobstoppers on a stick.  The treat was a true vacation prize,  the smooth shiny surface inviting their little tongues to bore a hole through the center.  It would take weeks to eat. Genius!   I turned a movie on that Lydia in particular would enjoy, and we were on our way.

Within a mile of our ride, every time I spoke, Lydia would react.  Five minutes into the drive, she politely demanded that I stop talking to Uncle Gardner.  Annoyed, I told her that she had a movie to watch, candy to lick, and I wanted to talk to my brother.  I was not going to sit in silence for the 45 minute drive.  She interrupted me constantly.  She began seething, spit bubbling between her gritted teeth as she hissed at me.  She made fists at her sides and began ramming into the back of Gardner’s seat with both feet.  Gardner tried to intervene, reason with her.  I tried to discipline her.  I got more firm, and then angry.  Finally, I was silenced.  Tears streamed steadily down my face, desperate and impotent.  I was white knuckling the steering wheel, anger towards her behavior was furiously fighting to be unleashed.

When we came into town, we had intended to get some lunch.  I needed to ask my brother what he preferred to eat, the exact time his train arrived, if he had time.  During these necessary exchanges, Lydia lost it.  Completely.  She was suddenly a feral animal, tied down in the car with us.  She bucked and screamed like she was being beaten.  Carly and Stella burst into bewildered tears.  Lydia screeched in panic.  She kicked the seat in front of her so hard I thought she would puncture the leather.  “You hate me!”  She roared, over and over.  “I know it!  You HATE me mommy!  YOU.  HATE.  ME!”  she screamed it like she was fighting to the death.  My anger quickly became horror.  Her words shredded me.  I choked on my anguish, my throat throbbed. I drove into a strange city I was about to get lost in, I was lost.

“I hate me!  I don’t want to be me!  I hate myself!”  She howled and then wordlessly screamed.  I found a street off the freeway and pulled the car over.  I turned to Gardner in despair.  “What do I do?”  I risked speaking, totally lost and fighting panic. Carly, her nine year old sister, lunged forward in the car. “We need to get out of this car right now and leave Lydia alone!”   Of course.  We all scrambled to the sidewalk.  I threw Stella at Gardner after rescuing her from her carseat.  I walked back to the van, opened the door, and risked speaking to my rabid daughter.

“I love you Lydia.  We will wait here for you.”

The door slid firmly shut, muffling her animalistic fury.  Exhaustion and fear for our future burst like fireworks in my mind.  We stood hand in hand on the sidewalk, and she raged in a way I did not know was possible.  The car shook.  I shook.

It had to happen.  I had to hear her tell me I hated her, that she didn’t want to be her, for me to understand.  This is not a discipline problem. The sound of my voice is an assault.  My little girl can not bear the sound of my voice.  The enormity of what that means for her life, my life, our family …swallowed me like a giant hole in the ground.  Gardner slumped  on a store front stoop, the shock glittering in his eyes. My body held the small hands of my two year old and eight year old daughters as we stood on that sidewalk,  but my spirit lay down flat and wailed. An unbearable something stood on my bared throat, its weight crushing my voice, our silent barrier pressing me into the hard concrete.

When Lydia finally emerged from the van, still sobbing, fists clenched at her sides, the world was not the same.

Home is in the loving arms of mother…we had lost our home.

Bleeding Spirit

“The authentic self is the soul made visible.”

-Sarah Ban Breathnach

I tried holding my breath, but the tears streamed into my ears. Obviously, the driving force of despair building within me did not need oxygen as a catalyst.  I could sense Rick’s awareness, though his back was turned to me in bed.  He was probably still praying, silently pleading with Heavenly Father to soften my hardening heart.  We had finished our nightly ritual, praying aloud together in the dark on our backs, fingers intertwined…a suggestion of our solidarity, which I felt unraveling faster than we prayed.  “Our dear, kind, Heavenly Father..” he would begin, and so would my tears.

Night after night, it was the same.  Lights out, prayers spoken, and my anxious heart, not hardened as our scriptures suggest, would almost seize in my chest.   I would lay in the dark, and assess myself, asking… “Do I want to die?  Will I take my own life?”  I knew unequivocally,  the answer was NO.  My baby girls slept in adjacent rooms, my life ever so much more precious than it had been just two years before.  Then what?   Am I ill?  Is something poisonous, cancerous, growing inside me?  Is it disease creating this pervasive, encompassing awareness that I am ceasing to exist?  These questions trumpeted loudly in my mind, an effort to drown out the answer I already knew.

 I must abandon my life.  Not my babies.  Not my husband.  But my faith, my religion, my testimony…my God?  We were mormon.  Married in a mormon temple for time and all eternity.  We had callings (mormon jobs) and sacred underwear, temple recommends (worthiness cards), monogrammed Book of Mormons (well read), and pictures of Jesus on our walls.   Friends.  Family.

I am an impostor.  A living, breathing, broken lie.  Performing a mormon life like a mime trapped in an airtight glass box…and running out of air.  But to leave my religion would be to dissolve all I have ever known.  Maybe, I would dissolve with it. Like a sugar cube in bowl of warm water.   All that was beloved could be ruined…I could lose everything.

My sobs shook my shoulders, and Rick came to me. He held me and kissed my eyelids and stroked my hair and took deep breaths into the crook of my neck.  His desolation and helplessness  hung thick in the dark above us, a dark monster ready to overcome us both.

My soul began to plead with him. Inside I was screaming. “Help me!  Help me pleeease! Save me!”  But I could not ask him to do it for me. To leave God, for me.

Months on end of the same scenario had played out, until we fell into exhaustion and slept.  But this night was different.  Tonight, I knew the monster would win, that some how, I would die.  I tried again to find words to express my anguish, the urgency.

“Rick, if I were laying here next to you…and I was bleeding.  A wound was open and I was bleeding out in front of you… you would save me.”

“Of course, I would save you Meg.”  Fear distorted his voice.  I began to shiver violently, my jaw chattering, even my insides shook.   He was terrified, gripping my quivering shoulders.

“We are leaving.  We will leave.  We will stop going Meg.  We don’t have to go, we don’t have to be mormon.”  He said them…those words like a tourniquet, it slowed the bleed of my dying spirit.  He held me against him so tight the shaking calmed.  We held each other, aching and heartbroken, until we slept.