Summer vacation!


This week we started a very first “summer vacation”.  Last week BSF, preschool, and dance class all ended.  So we spent this week doing almost nothing…well, by Friday we were bored, and spent the day at the zoo, and then went to small group, and on Saturday, we had the Browns over.

I’m trying my best to keep this summer unscheduled, and we’ll see how we do.  I want the girls to be free…explorers and discoverers, creating the world around them.  I don’t want to fill up time with classes and obligations.  We signed up for VBS and got a zoo pass, but that’s it.  I worry I’ll end up just letting them watch too much TV.  Truthfully, I’m not nearly as creative as I wish I were. But we will do our best.  I made a list of things we can do…hope it helps:

Dance party

Take care of the dollies

Take the dollies for a walk and have a picnic

build a fort

do puzzles

work on our letters

do crafts

do a science project

go to the library

practice yoga


build a city

play catch

play tag

put on a show, record it, then watch it

have a photo shoot

make rhythm band

play hide-n-seek


Growing up


Tonight, at 35 and a third, I can say I finally feel like a grown up. And I’m sort of the person I hoped to be as a grown up. I floss and use mouthwash almost daily. I read books and watch documentaries. I work out (almost) every day, eat food I’m (mostly) proud of. I care for a home and people who care for me. I do a job I enjoy, volunteer at things I’m good at.  I have furniture that matches, a car that runs, and most of my clothes are not hand-me-downs. 

That said, today I still left my keys in the door, my wallet at home, and forgot change clothes for work. I guess I’ll never grow out of some things. 

Potty training in a day.


Some kids make motherhood look easy. At 16 months, my sweet Suzanne handed me back her pacifier and said “all done”, and never used it again. At 17 months, she quit nursing on her own and never asked again. When it was time to kick her out of bed, feed her solids, whatever milestone, I have learned to just let Suzanne take the lead.

I rarely confess these things, and when younger mothers asked how I weaned, got her out of our bed, took away the paci, I humbly admit that I have no skills for these things. Suzanne took the initiative in each area. And by saying this I am in no way suggesting that all any parent needs to do is wait for their kids…some kids would never quit anything. I know that. Each kid is individual and it’s a mom’s job to understand her kid. I’m just saying I got lucky. We have other things we work on, but growing up has not been a struggle with my Suz.

Today, she told me that she wanted to use the potty and not wear diapers anymore. “I tell you when I need to use the potty from now on, mama.” It seems too easy, but its possible that she means it. Which will make her one spectacular child. If it’s the case that she potty trains herself, she’s totally earns herself one free pass when she’s 16.

My job


When people ask me about my job, I usually start by saying that I work in my family’s business.  I avoid mentioning what kind of business.  When pressed, I’ll admit that it’s a funeral home.  This is usually met by a barrage of questions, which I sort of welcome and sort of hate.  First, it requires that I talk a lot, which triggers my anxiety, causing me to talk more and later, have insomnia and a panic attack.  Second, is there a bigger buzzkill than talking about death?  I always hope that perhaps this person’s family used us before, and they can just talk about how nice we were… and maybe I can turn the conversation around to talking about their loved one. But that hardly happens. At the same time, I wish it was a conversation that could be had more casually.  And it will never be more casual if we never have the conversation.

Usually, it goes something like this:

“Do you, like, touch the bodies?” (Usually said with a grimace.)

“No, I work in the office.  But my dad and brother embalm.”  This either takes us down a rabbit hole of people barely hiding their disgust at the thought of being near men I deeply love, or with their admitting a strange fascination with bodies.  But usually it’s followed by:

“Oh…what kind of things do you do?”

“Officey things.  Kind of like any other small business office person.” How do I describe what I do?  I mostly answer phones and emails, pay bills, mail invoices, file insurance paperwork…you know, work in an office. But it’s different too.  When I answer the phone, it could be any number of horrible things on the other end.  One time a call was so awful, so personal, I put the caller on hold, ran away shaking, threw up in the sink, then got back on the phone to professionally get all the pertinent information.  When I do paperwork, I’m writing obituaries, family trees, designing a headstone for someone’s beloved.

And then there’s this: “I’ve bet you’ve seen some crazy things.”

“Yes.  Yes I have.”  But not what you’re looking for.  You want to hear about bodies sitting up, decomposed bodies, ghosts wandering the halls, death at a funeral, family fights that end in police.  Here are the crazy things I’ve seen: I’ve seen a father trying to climb into the casket of his 7-year-old son to hold him one last time.  I’ve also seen a 1-year-old attempt to sit on his mother’s casketed chest. I’ve seen friends come together to make a casket for a man who died too young, and parades of Packards, Harleys, and and American Flag flying Pick-Ups honoring a fallen member of their group.  I’ve seen couples come again and again and again to bring us their lost babies. I’ve seen suicide train victims put back together, and gunshot wounds disappear under the skilled hands of my father. I’ve seen things I won’t even type here, for fear of admitting it exists.

“I don’t think I could do it.  How do you do it?”  “You’re right.  You probably couldn’t.  I compartmentalize.”  I remind myself that I need to be the strength for people.  My professionalism is a buoy in their grief-ocean drowning.    I shove all that sadness, that sense of injustice, in a closet in my brain.  And when it fills, I go home and weep it all out.  Then I remind myself that none of those griefs were my griefs.  My people are still here. And even those days when I fear the loss of my people…I lean heavily on my faith to see me through.

Sometimes people ask: “So, are you guys less busy with all the cremation going on?  Do people even have funerals anymore?”  Or more rudely, “You know, people don’t need even funeral homes.” “Well, yes, you kind of do.  You’ll need somebody.”  You can’t cremate or bury in your back yard…not without a heck of a lot of legal problems.  And try explaining the dead body in the back seat when you get pulled over.  While it’s true that more people are choosing cremation, that’s hardly less work for us.  And it’s true that some funeral director rejects run little more than garbage disposal operations out of their vans in which they will eventually take your loved one from their place of death and bring them to the crematory and might get the cremated remains back to you for a low, low price.  But when most people find themselves with a family member dead, they want someone they can trust to handle that beloved body. Our job has little to do with the choice of cremation or burial.  We’re surprisingly flexible.  Tell us what you want…we’ll do it.  Have a budget?  We’ll figure out something we can do with it.  We don’t do this job for the glory of it, or the money.  There are much better ways to make money.  We do it because somebody has to.  And we’re really good at it. But it’s a really hard job, in more ways than one, and we do have to make a living.

“I don’t want anybody to look at me/I want to just be cremated and scattered/I just want to be buried in a pine box in the backyard.” “Ha, ha.  We hear that a lot.” But my mind screams: Oh yeah?  Well guess what- it’s not your decision.  You’ll be dead! It bugs me a lot when people say stuff like this.  It’s all vanity.  Your death is not about you, it’s about the love you’ve earned. Whether you’re being falsely humble or vain, it’s not your business to tell those who love you how to grieve.  If you’re family wants to see you, let them.  If they want to bury you where they can visit and plant flowers, let them.  If they want to throw you into the wind, let them.  If they want to respect traditions, let them.  Let them let others comfort them.  Let them let others feed them.  Let them grieve, and don’t pile guilt upon it.

“I just don’t think I could be around all those dead bodies.” “Oh, you get used to it.  And really, I barely see bodies.” My job is NOT about dead bodies.  My job is about the grief-stricken.  For every dead body that passes through our doors, we are met by the grief-stricken tenfold.  Nearly everyone I meet is having literally the worst day of their lives. They are exhausted, shocked, uneven at their best.  They are thoughtless, self-centered, and scatter-brained;  and I’m amazed that they get it together enough to walk through the door on time.  I sometimes wish my job were about dead bodies.  They would be easier.  But I can’t comfort a dead body.  I can’t guide them through the next steps on their journey.  And that is what makes my job worth doing.




I’m white.  Suburban, private school, upper-middle class white.  I can trace my heritage back to Europe.  In fact, I’m also 100% Dutch.  I think I could count on one hand the number of people of any color that I called a friend, even through college.  I’m including southern Europeans.

But then, in my 20s, I spent a good deal of time talking about race.  I started attending an activist church, worked in racially mixed environments. I lived with a few people of different races, including a teen mom.  A black, product-of-foster-care teen mom.  I dated a few black men.  Race was part of my every day.  I thought a lot about my white privilege, about the systems of oppression, about the problems of poverty and how intertwined poverty is in our country with race and opportunity. And while I thoroughly believe that each individual person is responsible for his or her own actions, I understood that the reward or consequence of those actions varied greatly depending on a person’s outward appearance, which, in turn, begat a new set of actions. I got it. I got that I didn’t get it at all. I figured out that I really knew nothing about what it meant to be black in America. It was exhausting, but I felt that in those dialogues, real things were happening. The world was changing, and I was part of it. Racism existed, but we were fighting to make it better!

But my interactions with people of color (not coincidentally) accompanied my own slide into poverty.  And I found that poverty didn’t suit me well; I found it rather uncomfortable.  I had a degree from a private college, after all.

So I acted out the greatest of white privilege.  I left.  I got tired, got married (to a white man, also 100% Dutch), had white babies, and moved to a suburban, private school, upper-middle class white neighborhood. I started attending a white, wealthy church.  I hardly ever talk about race anymore.  It has almost nothing to do with my every day. An idea that is almost sick at it’s very root, as it implies that by being white, I have no race.  Which is of course, not true.  I simply have no penalty in life because of my race.

She’s crafty


Salsa con queso


I hate Velveta, but love queso. What’s a girl to do?

Figure something out. That’s what this girl did.
8 oz chihuahua cheese
8 oz cream cheese
1 c shredded Colby jack
1/2+ c milk
1 jar salsa or 20 oz can of chili no beans
1 can rotel tomatoes

Melt chihuahua cheese with cream cheese. Stir in Colby and milk until creamy. Heat more if necessary. Stir in salsa.
It’s rich. Share with lots of friends.

Beloved, just the way I am


I’m fat.  I know that.  I’ve been fat my whole life.  They called me ‘balloon baby’.  But even though I’m fat, I feel pretty healthy.  I work out nearly every day. I eat mostly healthy, home-made foods (along with some other, less healthy stuff). There’s nothing I can’t do because of my weight.

But I could probably step up my workout.  I could stand at my desk at work more.  I know I eat too many cookies and too much cheese.  I love rich tasting foods and I love to cook and bake and I probably do too much of it.  I sometimes wish I cared less about the food I ate.  Addy hates food, and will probably always be skinny.  And I worry that I will need to stop doing fun things because of age sooner than others because of the damage done by carrying all that extra weight around.  But my goal for myself is be healthy and enjoy life, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job.  I’ve never considered “skinny” attainable, and never thought it necessary, either. I have a lot to balance in my life, and pounds on the bathroom scale don’t weigh that much to me.

And I’m married to a man who loves ME.  He finds me attractive no matter my size because, I think, he’s attracted to the whole person me- not just the body me.  I haven’t worried about getting back to my pre-baby weight or my pre-wedding weight.  As if my body should somehow pretend those things didn’t happen, and that my husband should pretend it too.  Those sags and stretch-marks, they’re part of our story…our love.  Why would I try to lie about them?

You see, I think I have a pretty healthy attitude about my body and it’s value.  It carries me through the world, I couldn’t live without it. I like to dress it pretty well, and assert a bit of style with it.  I like to protect it from harm, and I want it around as long as it makes sense for it to be around. I even believe that I will spend a heavenly eternity in my body.  But also, it is just a part of me.  Not even my most valuable part.  I would never devote more time to it than I would to feeding other, more valuable, parts of me: my soul, my intellect, my curiosity, my creativity, my relationships….even a few of my possessions mean more to me than my body, if I’m honest.  I really like my house.

But still, I felt shamed.  I don’t buy into any of the messages that media throw at me, or fad diets celebrities endorse-they don’t shame me.  I felt shamed by people I know.  Thin friends who go on diets.  Who run marathons to get “back to pre-baby weight”. Skinny girls who complain “oh, don’t look at my stomach-I look so fat!”  or refuse to be in pictures.

I wondered, “wow, what does she think of me?”.  Me-the fat girl who biting into the cupcake at a friend’s baby shower while she tells me how she gets up at 5 a.m. to get some training in before the kids wake up–not because running makes her feel good, helps clear her mind– because she needs to lose weight.

Is she judging me? Does she think that I don’t care about myself? Does she think I’m unaware of my weight?  Is she using her comments as subtle ways to ‘encourage’ me to lose weight? Does she think I sit around watching TV and eating Cheetos and ice cream after a few slices of pizza?  Does she think I don’t love my husband enough to make myself more ‘desirable’? Or love my kids enough so that I don’t embarrass them? I wonder if she knows my skinny daughter said to me, “Momma, when I grow up, I want to be soft and beautiful, just like you.”

I’ve considered why thin women would share their imagined body struggles with me. Perhaps they just talk about it all the time, and my being nearby is merely coincidental. Perhaps it is an attempt to bond with me. As if her perceived need to lose 10 lbs obviously is just like my weight “problem”. Maybe it’s that seeing me subconsciously reminds her of her feelings about her weight struggle. And maybe it really is judgement, “See, I can do crazy things to lose weight, and value that above almost anything else. You should too!”

But today I had a bit of an epiphany.  I won’t let those moments shame me anymore.  Those are the moments I should feel most confident and beloved. These women- they have yet to learn what I already have. Some may never learn, because they won’t have to.  Some will learn in devastating ways. And some may even be right.  It may be that their husband will cheat on them if they don’t “keep it tight”. Maybe their husbands really do only love them for their bodies.  It may be that they’ve raised children who have learned to think “fat” is “wrong” and will therefore be embarrassed of a chubby mom.  It may be that they feel unhealthy and concerned about what they eat.

And there could be so much more going on with these women, and I remind myself not to return judgement for judgement, or heap more disgust on them than they already feel.  Histories of abuse or eating disorders can run under those desires to be skinny.  Inability to filter cultural messages could be warping their minds.  Even in our deeply Christian circle (or maybe even more so in our deeply Christian circles) women are improperly valued and the hurt of being seen as property leaves scars so deep even the wearer is unaware. Or it could be nothing more than superficiality, and I remember not to judge in an overly empathetic way either.

But no matter the reason these women feel the need to be different than they are, none of it has to do with me.  Or my body.  Or my value.  I am loved, just the way I am.

Pumpkin Cake


Tried out this new super simple recipe and I’m very pleased.

As always, pan prep is key for cake. Grease a cake pan, preferably a Bundt style cake pan, with coconut oil, lightly flour with about a tablespoon of sifted cake mix.

1 cake mix (yellow/white/spice)
1 can of pumpkin, 14.5 oz
3/4 c brown sugar
4 eggs

Mix cake mix with sugar and pumpkin. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating for about a minute between each, and after last one. Pour into your pan and bake 300* for 1 hour ( you could do 350* for 40 min, but the top will bow more).

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 Tbls butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract. (Spiced rum makes a great sub for this)
1 Tbls of milk
2 c powdered sugar

Whip cream cheese and butter. Add milk and vanilla. Add powdered sugar slowly and beat until icing forms. Microwave for 30 seconds and pour immediately on caked top, allowing excess to spill over outer side of cake.

Choosing a church


In my relatively short life, I have attended many churches. All Christian, none considered cults or heresies.  Some small enough to spend time each Sunday morning asking each person in attendance for his or her prayer requests.  Some so large, I had no hope that I would ever meet everyone.  Some with large important buildings, and some with no designated space at all.  Some deep rooted in tradition.  Some deeply striving for innovation.  Some more heavily focused on the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit, some on the restorative healing of the work of Jesus Christ, some on the reverent worship of the Almighty Creator.  Some that meet on Sunday, and some that do not.  Some whose theology I strongly disagreed with, or whose worship style made me uncomfortable.  Some whose populace seemed fake, some that seemed uptight, some like they were trying too hard, and some so, so, so comfortable to meet.  Some working on having great programs, and some working on having great community.

But no matter where, in each of these places, I have met with God; met with His people; and learned to love both more.  This is something I would never have achieved without attending a church.  For all their faults and flaws, striving and searching, these were places that unworthy, sinful, failed people met to glorify God, and be met by Him; and in doing so, be made worthy, holy, purposeful.  And in each of these places, I too, have learned more about who God is, who His people are, and who I am in Him.

All that to say, I can go to any church.  So I choose the closest one, because I hate unnecessary driving.