Worry like a mother…


What it means to worry like a mother
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My mom hasn’t been sleeping well. She says she wakes up in the middle of the night and lies there in the dark and breathes her fears and worries in and out — about her kids and grandkids and the unpredictable and uncontrollable things that happen to us in the circle of community.

My mom is known for worrying. She’s got her mind on the big things, like car crashes on icy roads, resulting in an obsession with weather forecasts and road reports, which she relentlessly relays to her children. She’s already telling me not to drive to Fargo next month, because it will be November and it’s likely to snow.

And she worries about the little things too, like Edie having the right outfit for family photos or Papa playing too wild with the grandkids in the living room pillow fort, interjecting playtime with warnings to “Be careful!! Careful!”

Her worrying used to make me crazy when I was young and invincible and had the sense that the world wouldn’t let me down. I didn’t wish the worry of the world on my mother’s shoulders, I simply didn’t understand what worry was.

Because she carried it for us.


“I haven’t slept well in three years,” I tell her now, sympathetic to how loud and daunting the dark nights can become when a heart is being stretched by one child snoring face-down on her blankie in her bedroom and the other kicking and rolling and hopefully growing strong and healthy, heart flickering at 140 beats-per-long-and-agonizing-minute in my womb.

These days I can’t close my eyes without thinking of the mothers who have seen their most unreasonable midnight worries come true. No matter how many times we reassure them, “Mom, I’ll be safe.” “It’s just a concert.” “I’ll call you we get home.” The harsh and heart-wrenching reality that’s blaring on computer and television screens is that sometimes, sometimes, the fear that keeps you up at night is the very fear you wake to in the morning.

And that’s what they don’t tell you about becoming a parent when your belly is round and heavy on your body. They don’t tell you about the weight you carry with you long after your children learn to stand on their own two legs, drive their own four wheels or fly with their own set of wings.


Today, despite my aching back, I want to keep my baby safe in my womb and my daughter close within the familiar embrace of this landscape. I want to shut out the world and stay here, just us, forever, to protect them. And it makes me feel silly and selfish and then it makes me angry that in this big world I keep telling them is so beautiful that such ugly and evil can make me want to keep them from the freedom and perils of growing up healthy and strong in it.

But right now I don’t know what else to do. So I vow to love them fiercely, to model compassion and to try my damndest to raise them to be the good humans.

And worry like a mother.


Paying the good stuff forward

Summer Sunset

We had our 20 week ultrasound scan last week. My husband and I got up really early to drop Edie off at daycare and take the three hour drive to the doctors to make sure everything was going and growing healthy and normal in there. So I wrote this column in the passenger seat of our pickup, driving into the sun on Highway 94, thinking I would write about that week’s “pay-it-forward” moment and how sometimes the smallest gestures of kindness can help brighten worried hearts.

I didn’t really realize that was the diagnosis of my attitude lately until I started writing this. That’s the thing about having he chance to reflect on my life in writing very week, often I discover a few things about myself along the way…

Because they all tell you the second pregnancy is different, but I didn’t know how much. When I was pregnant with Edie, it was all so new and exciting and terrifying. I documented every milestone, took weekly photos of my growing belly, made (and executed) nursery plans, even took naps sometimes and counted down the minutes until her arrival.

Baby #2? Well, despite a tiny little scare early in the very early stages of my pregnancy, and now that I’m through the icky first trimester sickness and hanging out in the sweet spot, I have to admit, if it weren’t for this little one’s jabs and kicks to remind me, I might forget I was pregnant.


Four months pregnant and this is the first real photo documenting it…

And it makes me feel sorta weird, a little bit guilty maybe? But pre-Edie I had no one to think about but me and that mysterious growing human inside of me (and my husband too, but he pretty much takes care of himself you know?)

After Edie? Well, I have Edie. And she’s a lot of kid you know. One-and-a-half going on thirteen, a spitfire who strips off all her clothes as soon as she hits the back yard, a baby who already has opinions on what dress she wants to wear and what she wants for “supper” (which is breakfast, lunch and supper in her language.)


At my last checkup they asked me if I’d felt this baby move yet and I had to take a minute to try to remember. And it made me feel bad. And then sorta worried, like am I already screwing this second child up?

But mostly I’m nervous. I’m not sure I’m the mega-mom I see my friends being, the ones with three or four kids, carting them around to church and hockey and picnics in the park and playdates and just nailing it really.  I work from home thirty miles away from civilization, the park and the pool and most of said mom friends. Lots of days are a combination of frantic and lonesome. I can’t imagine how the hard stuff might multiply with a newborn in the house.

And while this was the plan (albeit a bit earlier than I expected) I’m not certain I’m cut out for being a mom of two. And I know it sounds ungrateful, given all we’ve been through to get here, but it’s honest. And I was honest before when I said I didn’t know if I was cut out for the first one, despite and because of all the heartache


A few weeks before Edie was born…

These were the thoughts that were going through my head when I sat in the drive through after a long day one evening last week and realized, after I ordered, that I had forgotten my wallet…and well, surprisingly, it all worked out nicely actually.

Which, when I really slap myself back into reality and out of my hormonal worries, I know is going to be the case with me and my husband and these two babies. Because we’ve gone through so much to get to this chaotic point in our lives, I do believe we deserve all the crazy/wonderful/beautiful/weird/unexpected that’s ahead of us.

And honestly, worry couldn’t have changed or predicted anything it turned out to be so far, and what it’s turned out to be is a hilarious, vivacious, smart, hot little mess of a human that’s turned every moment into something more special. And it’s hard sometimes and awesome lots of the time.

So, after I submitted the column with the worry tucked in the back of my throat, we opened and shut the door on a great doctor’s visit where our new little person barely sat still long enough to get all the photos they needed. And I breathed a sigh of relief, smiled at my husband and passed the gratitude along…

edie and em


Coming Home: In a world of worry, pay the good stuff forward

Last night, the person in front of me paid for my meal at the drive through.

It had been a long Monday, and I got to the end of it only to realize I hadn’t really eaten anything all day. So I went to one of the only drive-throughs in town, sacrificing nutritional value and inevitable heartburn to make sure that I didn’t pass out on my drive home.

And really, there’s nothing like a fast food taco when you’re pregnant and starving. Next time I’ll remember to pack an apple or something, I decided as I reached in my purse to dig out my money only to realize I didn’t have my wallet. Combine mom brain with pregnancy brain and things like this happen I guess — wallets get left in diaper bags in baby rooms 30 miles away.


Does any place take checks anymore? Remember when we used to write checks for things like tacos?

“Do you take checks?” I asked awkwardly while trying to explain that I left my wallet at home, and I’m so sorry this sort of thing never happens it’s just been a crazy day…

“Well you don’t have to worry about it, doesn’t matter,” she stopped me. “The car ahead of you paid for you. They left a note. Have a great night.”

She might as well have handed me a squirmy new puppy because that’s how surprised and happy the simple gesture made me, especially given the timing and my overall grumpy attitude with the world lately.

I blame it on hormones and lack of sleep, but some days it’s something more.

It’s bad news on my television screen. It’s the lack of rain and the heat. It’s too much on my list and too little daylight.

It’s missing my husband who gets up early for work and comes home late from the hay field. It’s my puny tomato plants.

It’s nothing really, in the grand scheme of it all.

Funny how we let ourselves get this way when things are going pretty dang good really. It’s the blessing of a good life, to have the time to complain.

This morning, as I type, we’re on our way to our mid-pregnancy sonogram. My husband is driving into a hot sun, and I’m squinting into the computer screen because I forgot my sunglasses and I have a deadline. Our daughter is safe and sound, playing with her friends at daycare. Her gramma will pick her up this evening, giving us more time in the big town to maybe have a long lunch without picking hot dogs up off the floor.

In an hour we’ll see the little fuzz of our new family member, the length of a banana, inside my belly and hold our breath until they tell us that all is well.

Now that we’re down to it, maybe my mood’s been a little less about the puny tomato plants and a little more about the quiet worries sitting in my gut with the banana baby, tickling my nerves.

Maybe we’ll buy someone lunch today, pick their baby’s hot dogs off the floor and pay the good stuff forward.

Baby #2

We’re ok.

It’s been three months since they rushed dad off of the ranch in an ambulance. Three months since his heart betrayed him.

Three months since we sat with him, night after night, in that hospital room in the big town as this brutal winter froze us over and life’s unexpected struggles brought us to our knees.

Three months since I told him, hang on dad, in a few months it will be spring and we have so many things to do.

And for three months it has just been my husband and I living on this ranch, going back and forth between work and home, one house and the other, checking on things, making sure everything’s fed and things are running right.

See, my parents decided to stick out the winter a little closer to town, to recover and take a breath, avoid the drive on icy roads and call someone to come in and renovate the house, nice and new for when they returned.

For three months I have been sending up a prayer each night thanking God for giving us our dad back. And for three months I’ve been telling myself that we are so blessed, so lucky to all be together in one piece.

And so it’s for all those blessings that I should jump for joy each morning, ready to get up with that beautiful sunrise outside of my window, but I haven’t.

I haven’t risen to shine very bright.

It’s been one of the longest, coldest, hardest winter of my life.

But let me say this, when we moved back to the ranch, almost four years ago now, it was not to get away from the big wide world, it was not to quiet and slow things down or to live inside a fantasy of a “simple country life.”

I grew up out here. I know it’s never been simple. In fact, living thirty miles from town on a gravel road that turns from dust to mud to ice and back again, has the potential to complicate a lot of things.

I knew this. And we came home anyway. We came to work. We came to learn. We came to make a life out here surrounded by a landscape we love and a family that can help us make the most of it.

But something shifted this winter, in the way I see this place, in the way I see this world we chose to surround us. Maybe it was the unexpected call in the middle of the night and the threat, the knowledge, that it all can be taken away in a second.

Maybe it’s our ongoing struggle to have a family and the realization that some people just don’t get what they want, no matter their prayers or their faith in something…

Or maybe it was just the relentless cold piled on top of it all, keeping me from climbing to the tops of the buttes for fear of frost bite, when climbing to the tops of those buttes is what I’ve relied on to heal me up time after time, but in the past three months this world has revealed to me her edge, and in response, it seems I’ve created my own.

And I want to tell myself that when that first crocus pops up under the warm sunshine that edge will soften and I will feel more like myself, but the truth is, I don’t think I need to go back there.

I’m not sure I want that.

Because this place is my refuge, yes. When I was a little girl so green and sheltered, it was here I belonged, here I could grow up sort of innocently unscathed for a few years before being thrown into the real world, and that is what I loved about it and one of the many reasons I returned.

But I’m a grown woman now. I’m at the age where money runs out and babies don’t make it, we don’t get the job and parents get sick…

Running into the trees and singing at the top of my lungs is not going to save me from these things, but those trees can hold me for a minute, help me breathe, help remind me that I can survive these human shaped tragedies.

And that even when this place is cruel, it is simultaneously beautiful…

Human shaped miracles happen too.

I know that. I’ve seen it.

Yesterday mom and dad moved back home, back to the ranch. Mom pulled into the yard and dad was waiting there, shoveling the drive from Monday’s snow storm, ready to grab her bag full of shoes and help her with the groceries.

Husband and I came over to visit, to see their new floors, to talk about furniture arrangement, have a glass of wine and welcome them back.

Back from a lonely winter.

Back from a hard time.

Back on the right side of life’s unexpected twists.

And I know now that we’re not all always going to be ok out here, but we’re ok right now.

Right now, we’re ok.

Some things I know for sure.

Sometimes life is just so unexpected, like the thirteenth rock flying into my windshield on my way home from town.

Those uncertainties make me nervous–I come up with worst case scenarios. Like now, for example. I got home from work this evening to say hello to Husband who also just got home from work only to turn around and walk out the door to go back to work again. I don’t think it was an emergency, but it was something important that sent him out there in the dark on the same scary road that throws rocks at windshields unexpectedly.

I worry.

internet issues

So now I’m sitting here with the cat on my lap and the pug at my feet breaking all of the rules about pets on the furniture while I come up with a list of things I know for certain to help deal with that nagging little feeling of terror that at a moment it can all fall apart.

And that other worry about the aliens.

So here it is, my list of ten or eleven or twelve or however many things that I know for sure on a perfectly calm Thursday night in February.

  1. I will always worryHorse
  2. The pug, when left unattended and to his own devices, will always shit on the floor. Sometimes he will puke, but always he will shit.
  3. I could eat guacamole with every meal. I should have guacamole with every meal. Avocados are a vegetable.  It can’t possibly be a bad choice.(No photo available because I ate all the guacamole)
  4. A climb to a good hilltop cures me. Every time, it cures me.
  5. Spring will come. Spring always comes.
  6. I love him. I love him. I love him.
  7. It’s not the singing, it’s not the words, the guitar, the harmonies or the harmonica. It’s everything. Music. It’s just everything.

  8. One day I will have pigs, I don’t care what you say.(no photo available because I don’t have a pig. Yet.) 
  9. If you call me I will have to call you back, because I never put the phone back on the hook, therefore I can never find the phone when you call. It’s a sick cycle that I am unable to break.(no photo available because I can’t find the damn phone. Again.)
  10. This cat is crazy.
  11.  This puppy is cute.
  12. So is this kid.
  13. I am grateful every day to call this home.
  14. It will probably, most definitely, very likely, I mean, I’m pretty sure, almost positive  everything’s gonna turn out alright in the end.

Now you know what I know, what do you know for sure? Let it fly party people, I promise it will make you feel better.