When you’re afraid to be a helper

You’ve most likely heard of the quote from Mr. Rogers about what to do in times of trouble. “Look for the helpers,” his mother told him. At a time of global pandemic and the accompanying uncertainty and fear, our world needs so much, yet I am afraid to be a helper.

There is a call for food pantry volunteers, for people to deliver groceries to those who can’t go out, for child care for the children of essential workers. But what if you are afraid to be a helper? Afraid to put yourself or your family at risk of getting sick by leaving your bubble and getting to the business of helping? That’s been my internal struggle. I want to help. I ask what would Jesus do and I know before I get the question out of my mouth that he would care for the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless.

Does my fear make me a bad person? No. Does it mean that I have too little faith? Maybe. God and I are having conversations about that.

And while I sit with my fear vs. faith struggle, I seek small ways that I can help from where I am.

  • I can call to check in on friends or family, particularly those who are isolated without family.
  • I can send cards to nursing homes, addressed to my own loved ones or simply to “resident,” so someone who needs some cheer can receive it.
  • I can pray. Today I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet (it’s a Catholic thing) as a means to spiritually adopt someone with Coronavirus who is dying alone.
  • I can volunteer to do telephone reassurance calls with a local charity.
  • I can participate in neighborhood efforts to put hearts or smiley faces on my door so children can count them as the family goes on a walk.
  • I can donated to funds designed to support service workers who have been laid off.
  • I can support small business by placing carry-out or delivery orders or buying gift cards for future use.
  • I can donate food to those food pantries. I can share toilet paper or paper towels or canned goods with someone who needs it.
  • I can be real and honest in my posts on social media, letting down the facade of “she’s got it all together” and saying “I’m scared and frustrated, too.”
  • I can be kind.

I’m going to keep thinking and praying about how I can be a helper, doing some small part each day. Maybe I’ll get to a point where I can step up and do something that scares me, but until then I’ll do what I can to make the world a little less scary for others.

No photo description available.

Photo Credit: Ispirivity



The changing of the calendar from one year to the next always comes with intentions and resolutions, reflections and proclamations. One fairly recent trend is the selection of a “word of the year.” Yesterday as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post that asked people to choose a word for 2020 that began with the first letter of their name. “Available” popped into my head immediately.

If I had sat down to consider a word-of-the-year for myself, I don’t think AVAILABLE would have been on my radar. I might have chosen JOY or SERENITY or FAMILY or GROWTH. But God gave me AVAILABLE by handing it to me before I had a chance to overthink it.

And you know what? I love it. To me, this word is inspired. It asks me to be:

AVAILABLE to whatever God would ask of me this year.

AVAILABLE to my family, willing to set aside social media or television or chores to be present, to really listen without distraction and without trying to think ahead to my response.

AVAILABLE to people in need, giving my time in service where and in what form needed.

AVAILABLE to myself, to take the time I need to remain centered, rested, inspired, and healthy.

So AVAILABLE doesn’t become simply a year-end blog post, a sentiment lost by mid-January, I’m going to write the word down and post it in several places to give me daily reminders that God is asking me to AVAILABLE in this new year.

Do you choose a word of the year? What word is speaking to you this year?

How pants without pockets ruined my groceries

Yesterday, I hosted Grand Camp — a day for grandparents and their grandchildren — at work. This day is wildly fun and incredibly exhausting. So I always take the next day (that would be today) off from work to recuperate. Before, I could get to resting, though, I had a fundraising breakfast for Joy’s House to attend. So, I got up early and dressed in a flowy top and my favorite pair of khaki capri pants, which happen to not have any pockets (I’m getting to my point…)

After the breakfast, I had a couple of errands to run and then an appointment at 11am. I would rest after that, I told myself. After the appointment, it was about five hours after my early morning breakfast, so I decided to take myself out to lunch at Panera, which is not too far from Costco.

I go to Costco about once per month, right after pay day, which happened to be yesterday. So, since I was close, I decided to do the Costco shopping. Then, after that, I would go home and rest. Which was exactly my plan, except…

After I checked out at Costco and waved my receipt at the lady by the exit (which, do you know they only draw a smiley face on your receipt if you have a small child with you?), I headed to the van to unload the cart.

I unlocked the van with the key fob on my keys and, because my pants had no pockets, dropped the keys on the front seat. Then, because my pants had no pockets (do you detect a theme?), I had put my phone inside my purse, which I threw onto the floor of the front seat.

$250 worth of groceries in the back of the van later, I closed the van door and turned to return the cart to the cart corral (because I’m responsible like that). As I stepped away from the car, I heard a “click,” which turned out to be the car doors locking — with my keys, my purse, my phone, and several weeks worth of groceries locked inside.

I ran around the van, trying each door, pleading each to open, to no avail. So, I went inside Costco to call Mike to ask him to bring me the spare set of keys. I figured if he saw it was a phone call from Costco, he might pick up. He didn’t.

Costco is kind of like Cheers; ok, maybe not everyone knows your name, but you’re bound to run into someone you know. Except, after about 15 minutes, I hadn’t. Near Costco, there is a McAlister’s Deli, where I almost always see someone I know. Heading that way, I honestly prayed, “Please God, let there be someone at McAlister’s I know who will let me use their phone to text Mike.”

When I saw an old classmate of Annie’s, I almost jumped across the table calling his name. God love Ethan, he was happy to let me use his phone, from which I texted Mike, explaining the situation. Afterwards, I sat down with an ice water and waited.

So, there I was in a McAlister’s with nothing to entertain me. No phone. No book. No pen and paper. So I read the labels on the salt and pepper shakers. I found out that you can change how coarse or fine the texture of the condiments are, so I learned something today. Then I read the table ads. Did you know you can order a mini brownie platter or a mini cookie platter, that is a big platter with bite size desserts? Also, free tea day is July 18.

I tried meditating, unsuccessfully. I checked the clock on my FitBit obsessively, mentally picturing my frozen foods thawing and spoiling in a hot car locked up on a 90+ degree day. I made a mental list of things I was grateful for in the situation. Note: I was not grateful for my pocketless pants, but I was grateful that I have a car to lock my keys in, that I had money to buy the groceries, that I was able to use Ethan’s phone.

Oh, speaking of Ethan…about 45 minutes after I locked everything in the car, I saw that Ethan and his buddy were leaving. I scrambled to catch him before he left.

“Did Mike respond?”

Nope. Thankfully, as I was asking to borrow the phone again, Mike called on Ethan’s phone. He had been meeting with a friend and didn’t notice the text message. He was on his way.

Thirty minutes later — do you know how many black wagonesque cars drive past that McAlister’s — Mike pulled in with the spare key and the saga was almost over. Except that most of the frozen food I’d purchased at Costco was thawing, leaving the boxes soggy. So, tucking the keys into my bra (remember — no pants pockets), I grabbed a cart and took the soggy groceries back inside where I explained to the manager what had happened. Happily, he allowed me to return the potentially spoiled groceries and I went shopping at Costco again.

Three hours after I first pulled into Costco, I pulled out and headed home with my frozen replacement groceries, my keys, purse, and phone, and yes, my pants without pockets. And next year, on the day after Grand Camp, I’m not leaving the house.


Lessons on love by the fathers in my life

It’s Father’s Day and I feel oddly like I should apologize for the wealth of positive father figures I’ve had in my life. I know that not everyone is that lucky. But not appreciating the gifts in my life is a big waste, so I’m not going to apologize and I’m not going to brag. What I’m going to do is reflect, appreciate, and share the lessons I’ve learned about love from the men who are fathers to me.

My dad, my grandfathers, and my father-in-law are the authors of these lessons. They might be surprised to know that. But it’s a reminder that in everything we do, people — notably those closest to us — are watching.

Lessons on love by the fathers in my life

1. Love shows up. This is the first thing I think of when I think of my dad. He shows up. When there is a need or a celebration or an open Friday evening, my dad is there. When a stroke kept him from attending Charlie’s high school graduation, he watched it streaming live from the hospital. There was no way he wasn’t going to be there.

2. Love is action, even small ones. My father-in-law could buy my mother-in-law anything she wanted. But one of the greatest, and small ways, he showed love to her was sitting on the couch rubbing her feet. Oh, he did plenty of other things to show he loved her, but that quiet act is something I always remember.

3. Love does not get old, it gets deep. Both sets of my grandparents were married for a bazillion years — or at least more than 50. And when I watched both of my grandfathers (Grandpa and PaPa) be with my grandmothers (Grandma and NaNa), I could almost see them as smitten young 20-somethings. The love they had was deep, forged over decades of joy and heartache. The love they had and showed for my grandmothers, that’s #lifegoals material.

4. Love is funny. So, he’s not my dad, but Mike fills our house with humor. He plays a great comic relief to my often too-serious straight man. And though my PaPa has been gone for a few years, his legacy of PaPa jokes lives on. You know the kind — corny, punny jokes that make you smile and grown at the same time. Here’s one for you: “Why do cows have hooves instead of feet? Because they lactose.”

5. Love challenges. This is one of those lessons that can be infuriating in the midst, but looking back, is the greatest gift. There have been times when both my dad and Mike’s dad have challenged one of us to do something more or better or differently. The response in the moment is sometimes “lay off” or “mind your own business” or “you don’t know what you’re talking about.” But when love challenges, it’s not because we are not good enough, but because it wants the best for us.

So, on this Father’s Day, I’m going to acknowledge how lucky I am and be grateful for it. To Mike, Dad, Tom, and Grandpa — and to PaPa in heaven, Happy Father’s Day.

Green is…

Green is…

an invitation

a welcome


quiet energy.

Green is…





Green is…

my favorite shoes

my next car (someday)

a celebration

despite what Kermit says, easy.

Green is…





Green is…





Choose your color. What is it to you?

Double exposure

I wrote yesterday about exposing myself by sharing my postpartum depression story as part of The Blank Monologues (TBM) at Millikin University. But there’s a part two to that story. Not only did I expose my own truth, but I also exposed myself to new perspectives, experiences, and understandings that were shared as part of the show.

I had never attended The Vagina Monologues (TVM) before — that’s the show that TBM was adapted from. If you haven’t either, let me tell you that this is not a she-woman, man-haters occasion. The Blank Monologues (and I assume TVM,) was a platform for sharing some of what it is like to be a woman today and sharing hopes for what that experience will be like in the future.

Being a member of the TBM cast was a powerful experience for me. Not only did I get to watch my daughter practice her craft (proud mama here!), but I also took a closer look at a topic (femininity) that I usually just gloss over without thinking too much about it.

I hadn’t read the entire script all the way through before I got to Decatur for dress rehearsal, but I’d heard a few of the monologues during the rehearsal that I’d attended via FaceTime, so I knew that I was going to have to steel myself for some language that I’m not used to — or entirely comfortable with — hearing.

You know what happened? I was so struck by the authenticity and the power the women in the cast projected that I didn’t even think about being uncomfortable. The opening monologue was original to this performance and was delivered by the young women in the cast (that is, everyone except me and the three professors who were also in the show). It was called “My Feminism” and was a sort of feminist manifesto. And it made me re-think feminism.

I should probably point out here that I don’t usually get too riled up about gender equality and pink hats and marching on capitols. I like to be agreeable (at least on the surface) and choose not to rock the boat. I am not comfortable with anger, but this devised manifesto helped me to better understand what people are angry about.


Yet, my experience of womanhood includes certain joys — feeling a baby moving within me, being able to talk about my feelings, and wearing dresses with pockets. I would love to see them included to fully represent the experience of womanhood.

The show included music performed by a transgender woman. It was not my first encounter with a trans woman — you might remember Emma, but it’s not something that happens every day. Mel, the musician, talked briefly about her experience living as a woman in a world that doesn’t always acknowledge that and I was most struck by her humanity. She is just a person who wants to be accepted. Aren’t we all?

Another group monologue was called “Why I Didn’t Report.” Some of the “whys” were statements that have been given by others over time and several of them were these brave young women’s stories — stories that made me sad, and shocked, and has me re-thinking what constitutes assault.

“These Are My Sisters” spoke of all the women in the world and how much we are connected, how much we owe to each other. My favorite from that monologue was “The teachers that pushed us to the top, and not over the edge, are my sisters.” WOW.

I looked around the room, especially at these amazing young women who believed in this project so much that they gave up dozens of hours over two months to bring these stories to light. I looked at these Millennials, who I have at times judged as loud, hysterical, and inexperienced, and though I might not agree with everything they believe in, I thought to myself, “This generation is going to change the world.”





Exposing myself

I just spent the past two days exposing myself and I am exhausted. No, not THAT kind of exposing myself. I’m talking about revealing truths about myself that, in the anticipation of it, left me feeling vulnerable, nervous, and maybe a little scared.

Annie and three of her closest friends put on a show at Millikin University last night called “The [Blank] Monologues.” It was an adaptation of The Vagina Monologues. They had seen a production of TBM in St. Louis earlier this year and knew right away that they had to bring it to their campus. In less than two months’ time, they put out an audition and submission call, casted the show, scheduled and held rehearsals, and promoted the show, all culminating in two performances at Millikin on Friday night.

What made this show different from The Vagina Monologues is that they wrote and accepted submissions of original content, to be performed alongside some of the original TVM content. That’s where exposing myself began.

When Annie told me about their plans and that they were asking for people to submit original content, I suggested that maybe I would submit something, which I assumed would be immediately shot down. It wasn’t.

But what did I have to say that would fit in with the spirit of The Vagina Monologues? I don’t have a bikini wax story. I don’t claim a place in the #Metoo movement. What exactly would a heterosexual, Catholic wife and mother of three have to say to the world (or at least to 150-ish people) that would be remotely connected to her vagina?

When I sat down to write my submission, my story spilled out onto the page as if it had been waiting for a long time to be unleashed. I wrote about my experience with postpartum depression and postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. Without much editing, I emailed my story to Annie, with a firm directive that I did not expect them to accept it and that my submission should be viewed with neutrality, not as a something Annie’s mom wrote. The next day, I got the call: I was in.

I FaceTimed in to the first rehearsal. Hearing the scripts for show’s other monologues, I felt like mine didn’t measure up. I wasn’t sure it belonged in the show. I told Annie as much after the rehearsal. She insisted I was wrong, my story needed to be told, and it would be.

Rehearsals went on without me, though I promised to be at dress rehearsal the night before the show. True to my word, I showed up and immediately became intimidated and a bit overwhelmed. These young women are AMAZING at their craft. They delivered their monologues convincingly, naturally. During a break, I told Annie I was feeling uncomfortable, especially because I would be using notes to help tell my story. She assured me that two of the professors in the cast would also be delivering their monologues with the help of a script. This girl was not taking no (or even maybe) for an answer.

I’m not afraid of public speaking; in fact, I enjoy it. But this was going to be the first time I had told this very personal, very vulnerable story to a large group of random people. Annie had told me that many cast members cried when they read first my piece in the script, which is what happened when I delivered it during dress rehearsal. I was surprised. For some reason, I didn’t expect my story to resonate.

Even still, their reaction did not prepare me for the reaction of the audience when I delivered the monologue. First, the girls in the cast (yes, they are young women, but they’re 25+ years younger than I am, so they seem like girls to me), applauded me to the stage in an audible show of support before I even opened my mouth. They knew I was a little unsure. As I told my story, I looked out into the audience and saw that people were completely dialed in to my story, many with tears streaming down their faces. When I finished, there was a standing ovation. It was, as my castmates would say, FIERCE.

After the show, several people came to me to thank me for sharing my story. A professor complimented my writing and suggested that I submit my piece to The Moth, a storytelling podcast. I think the most meaningful feedback I received was from a student who told me that she’d always wanted to be a mother, but that she deals with depression and didn’t know if she could be a good mother. My story, she said, gave her hope.

That made all the uncertainty and hesitation to expose myself and my experience with postpartum depression worth it. I write to make connection. Because I was willing to risk putting myself out there — and because my daughter could see the importance and pushed me to own it — that connection happened. And I am so grateful.

Blank Cast