15 REAL Dos and Don’ts of Juice Cleansing

Jan 30 2014

I’ve started a juice cleanse to jump start myself back into better eating habits following this past season of life which I shall call the Unlimited Chocolate and Cheese season. And also the Don’t Hold Back the Butter season. And the Of Course I’ll Have Fries With That season. A good season, to be honest. A great season. And one I fully intend to revisit. But one from which my clothes and I need a brief break if we’re going to have any hope of making our relationship long-term. 

I’m also — obviously doing the juice cleanse because I’m an Oregonian so this kind of thing is periodically required. Frankly, a juice cleanse is an easier way to keep my Oregonian card than buying therapy llamas, although not nearly as awesome.

Of course, before I started, I researched juice cleansing and juice fasting online. Ostensibly so I could do it right, but really to plan exactly which rules to break. Like the No Solids Rule. Yeah – totally breaking that one with small amounts of lean protein because I’ve met me without protein and I’m not very nice. 

Now that I’m a day and a half into my juice cleanse, though, and, therefore, an expert, I’ve realized my research didn’t fully prepare me. 

Just in case you, like me, are curious about juicing, I thought I might put together a list of what to expect at the beginning. What to know ahead of time. And what behaviours to avoid. Not, you know, the kinds of Dos and Don’ts that come from a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in nutrition science and public health. No. This list is more of a nuts and bolts list; a practical list; or, as I like to call it,

15 REAL Dos and Don’ts of Juice Cleansing

juiceReady? Here we go.

1. DO understand you will be drinking things that look like Jabba the Hutt… like if you took Jabba the Hutt, crammed him into a blender, flipped liquify, and poured him into a cup. This is, I am now convinced, why people say blended fruit and vegetable juice tastes surprisingly good. Because you look at it, expecting a sort of chunky, foamy Jabba the Hutt flavor, and are so pleasantly surprised to be choking back something that tastes more like apple and spinach that you can hardly believe your good luck.

2. DO understand what a juice cleanse means: no refined sugar, no salt, no fat, no solids, no alcohol, and no caffeine.

3. DO understand a mother of five will insist coffee is a plant derivative and, as such, can be reasonably included in a diet of fruits and vegetables.

4. DO understand she will also make an exception for half-and-half which is really just juice of cow.

5. DO NOT try to tell the mother of five she’s breaking the rules, doing it all wrong, and shouldn’t even bother if she’s not going to do it right. She’s been breaking the rules and doing it all wrong for years; if she previously abandoned all rules of socially appropriate behavior by, oh, say, wearing her pajamas to the store in the middle of the day, sans makeup, bra, panties, socks and dignity to procure medicine, a nasal aspirator and off-brand Popsicles with extra dye and sugar for a sick child, then juice cleanse rules really don’t stand a chance. Nice try, though.

6. DO understand when you get caught eating Pop Chips in the bathtub that it will be hard to convince your 7-year-old that you are eating juice of potato. This is not meant to discourage you from making the argument; it’s simply fair warning to be prepared to really sell it.

7. DO realize that if you have ever said to your child, “If you were really hungry enough, you would eat it,” the Jabba juice is karmic justice, and it’s time to put up or shut up. It’s time to decide… are you really hungry enough? If not, it’ll be waiting for you at breakfast. Maybe by then you will be.

8. DO understand, after you have put up, that Jabba the Hutt will wreak havoc on your digestive system. 

9. DO understand this is what cleansing means.

10. DO understand you must remain within darting distance of a toilet for at least 24 hours.

11. DO NOT think you can run out for a quick errand.

12. DO NOT think it will only be a few minutes and you really, really need just one thing from the store.

13. DO NOT, I repeat do NOT, get stuck waiting for a train.

14. DO thank your lucky stars for indoor plumbing.

15. And DO thank God you made it in time.


There you have it. 15 REAL Dos and Don’ts for Juice Cleansing. 

Do you juice? If so, what would you add? AND what’s your favorite recipe? I’m looking for more ideas. FYI, I do not recommend the spinach, celery, carrot, cucumber, lemon combo… blerg.

Quick Poll re: Boobs

Jan 28 2014


Last night’s conversation between Greg and me:

Greg: You put a picture of your boob on the internet.

Me: Well, sort of. It doesn’t really look like a boob and it’s for mammogram awareness, so it doesn’t count as, like, putting a picture of my boob on the internet

Greg: Except that you put a picture of your boob on the internet.

Me: That’s not entirely true. I mean, yes. Technically, it’s my boob. But it’s the radio-active, x-ray version of my boob. Like what Superman would see if he x-ray visioned it. 

Greg: Exactly. It’s a boob.

Me: Which makes me feel a little sad for Superman for being maligned as a voyeur all these years. X-ray vision isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Obviously.

Greg: It’s still a boob.

Me: Yeah, but not a boob boob. I mean, it doesn’t look like a boob. It looks more like a jello mold with vertigo.

Greg: It’s a boob.

Me: Or a drunk jelly fish.

Greg: It’s a boob.

Quick Poll



Does this look like:

  1. a boob

  2. an anti-jello-mold campaign poster 

  3. a jelly fish who’s totally going to drunk dial his girlfriend and regret it in the morning




What do you say?

P.S. My next post will probably be about Jesus. This is your pre-whiplash warning. Also, thank God you and Greg put up with me. I am SUCH a weirdo.

P.P.S. Greg was laughing during our entire boob conversation. Horrified. But laughing. One time, when I was trying to convince him that life’s more entertaining being married to me than it would be if he’d married, say, a nice girl, I said, “SEE? You’re never bored with me!” And he said, “You’re right. I’m never bored. Never, ever bored. Frequently appalled. But never bored.”


5 Things I Learned During My First Mammogram

Jan 27 2014

I turned 40, so I had my first mammogram. It was WAY better than turning 10 and having a cute boy in my class pull my chair out from under me, sending me crashing to the ground and rushing for a hall pass to scurry to the bathroom to hide in a stall to cover my tears and serendipitously — SURPRISE! — discover my first period.

It turns out some rites of passage are more fun than others. 

To commemorate this special time in my life, here are…

5 Things I Learned During My First Mammogram 

1. They give you a cape! Like a superhero! Which you fling back to expose your breasts, like your super power is Boob Woman. I LOVE THIS. I only breastfed my kids for 5 months total, but STILL. Boobs are powerful juju, man. They’re the pillows of the chest (unlike the pillows of the butt or the pillows of the thighs), and they’re a symbol of LIFE and of NURTURING and of THE ONGOING CHALLENGE TO FIND JUST ONE SHIRT THAT FITS RIGHT, so they deserve to be celebrated! On the downside, the mammogram people don’t let you take the cape with you, no matter how much you beg. 


2. Mammogram techs LOVE to take selfies with their patients in the mammogram room. They don’t think it’s weird at all.


3. Mammogram machines also love a good portrait, but, fair warning, they don’t buy you dinner and they do expect you to put out afterward.


4. If you have a gazillion children, or just one who’s truly gifted at headbutting or elbowing you in the chest, you have nothing to fear from a mammogram. Nothing. Because your boobies are already made out of callouses and granite, and a gentle squeeze from a contoured plastic device built to cradle you and not contuse you won’t even register. I promise.


^^^callouses and granite^^^

5. A mammogram is not a mastectomy, and if you get those confused, your friends will totally overreact until you make the correction.

In conclusion, mammograms <-- highly recommend.

The End


On the Wilderness and Unexpected Grace

Jan 25 2014

Greg and I have arrived home from our stint on the Colorado River, and, as I mentioned, we were not kicked to death, even a little, by donkeys.

photo 2 (75)

I was kicked to death a little by my sleeping bag, but I learned, after grumbling secretly to myself for 3 nights about the design of my bag and basic things that any sleeping bag engineer should know — like the obvious fact that scratchy velcro tabs and pokey zipper pulls and strangley drawstrings would be more comfortable and less deadly on the outside of the bag — that it works better when you turn it right side out.

photo 1 (68)

Ah, well.

Live and learn, right?

Live and learn and be laughed at by your wilderness companions.

It’s all part of it.

It’s all part of it, and so are cold, dark nights, and zipping up tight, and huddling close for warmth, and finding it; and so is falling asleep, and waking sporadically to the small sounds of companions and creatures and the unexpected light of the moon; so are the star scapes, and the sunrises, and the slow thaw of ice in your kayak as you set off the next morning despite the cold because you trust the sun is coming. The slow thaw of ice in the vessel that will take you down river, propelled at times by the strength in your arms and your senses of direction and purpose, and at times carried by the current in straight lines and curves and swirls that sweep you where you wanted to go and where you didn’t want to go and where you didn’t know you wanted to go. 

Three months ago, I turned 40, and I celebrated here with you with 40 Days of Grace.

40 Days of talking about Sanctuary, and Radical Acts of Self Care, and Letting Those We Love Be Perfectly Themselves.

40 Days of Letting Failure Go.

40 Days of Kindness.

I didn’t know at the time that I wouldn’t be able to wrap it up.

That I wouldn’t be able to continue writing about it.

That I would need time to rest my soul and quiet my spirit and discover my discomfort and let myself be.

Because, you see, 40 Days of Grace had more grace to give me than I was prepared to receive. 

I am prepared, it turns out, to give grace to others. To upend the benefit of the doubt bucket and let it spill. To assume the best. To spread the news of Love and of Light. To be vulnerable and authentic and laugh at my foibles and unfold my flaws. 

But I am unprepared for surprise parties. And cards. And gifts. And attention. And eye contact. And being seen. It was a barrage of kindness, and my friends, Heidi and Grace, topped it off by giving me 40 gifts for 40 days.

Forty gifts for 40 days.

Something new every day. A scarf. A pillow. Earrings. Coffee. A note. A random act of kindness in my name. Chocolate. Socks. More.

It was… too much.

Too much attention.

Too much stuff.

Too expensive.

Too time-consuming.

Too extravagant.

Too generous.

Too much love.

Too undeserved.

And, at the core, I knew I’d never be able to reciprocate. I’d never be able to repay them. And it made me jittery and unsure, despite knowing they had no expectation of or desire for reciprocity.

I’d wait 3 or 4 days at a time, sometimes, to open my gifts, too overwhelmed to handle the task every day, and then, in a whirlwind of paper and envelopes, I’d rip through them all at once, like tearing off a bandaid.

Isn’t that silly? The inability to accept gifts? But there it is.

And then I’d sit with my stuff and cry. 

Sometimes I’d text a thank you.

And sometimes I’d say nothing at all. 

And then it occurred to me that this is what grace is. An extravagant, unmerited gift of love. And that this was my opportunity to accept it.

It was the well, shit moment of 40 Days of Grace.

Well, shit, I opened my mouth about grace, and then look what happened; I have to accept grace and not just give it. 

Well, shit.

Spiritual of me, yes?



But yes.

The gift of being extravagantly loved. The reluctance and feet-dragging and ultimate well, shit acceptance from me. This defines much of my relationship with God, as it turns out.

On Day 40, Heidi and Grace arrived with balloons. One for each of us. And we took them out to the fields behind my house and wrote prayers on slips of scrap paper with markers we found in Heidi’s car.

photo 1 (69)

I wrote in purple marker the lyrics to Nate Macy‘s song about grace. A prayer of grace for me. A prayer of grace for you.

photo 5 (18)photo 3 (54)

And then we sent our balloons up the sky. To God knows where. To litter the earth with our bits of mylar and ribbon and pieces of our hearts.

Grace’s Elmo balloon looked back at us for a long, long time, floating free.

So maybe you’ll understand the way I felt when I watched one of my paddling companions this week pull an Elmo balloon from the reeds on the side of Colorado River.

photo 3 (53)

And the way I held my breath ever so slightly.

And the way I released that breath with a quiet “oh” and a soft “thank you” and a happy “well, shit” whispered to the sky.

And the way my soul settled with the reminder of unexpected grace.

And the way I sang Grace to You — to you — the rest of way down the river. 

Grace To You "Grace To You by Nate Macy" "Grace To You"

photo 4 (33)

Thinking of you. And thinking of Grace. And of a Love extravagant and wild and free.







You can see all of the 40 Days of Grace posts here.

Grace to You by Nate Macy used with permission.

Grace To You "Grace To You by Nate Macy" "Grace To You"

photo 1 (70)

The Very Real Dangers of a Secret Chocolate Stash: A Parenting and Imperfection Post by Sarah Kooiman

Jan 22 2014


Good News: Greg, my dad and I had a fabulous time paddling the Imperial Wildlife Refuge section of the Colorado River this weekend and not even one of us was kicked to death by donkeys, which was more of a miracle than I thought it would be, considering that we camped every night in veritable heaps of wild burro dung. <– True story. 

Bad News: I can run away from children and the internet and cell coverage and wander into the middle of the desert, but no matter where I go on this beautiful earth, I cannot escape enormous piles of poop. Ah, well. This is, I am coming to discover, my lot, and so I shall embrace my continuing mission to accept the crap and the giant, adorable asses from which it comes. 🙂 

I will be back with you tomorrow or Friday with a new post of my own. For now, allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite email buddies, Sarah Kooiman, stasher of chocolate, briber of children, and writer behind the Arena Five blog. Oh, friends; you will LIKE Sarah because you will UNDERSTAND her. Cross my heart. I’m just thrilled to end this stellar 3-writer Parenting and Imperfection block (see Mary Beth’s beautiful post here and Stephanie’s poignant post here) with Sarah’s hilarious post: The Very Real and Necessary Dangers of a Secret Chocolate Stash.

Enjoy! And sneak a few M&M’s for me. 





The Very Real and Necessary Dangers of a Secret Chocolate Stash
by Sarah Kooiman

We all have weak moments in the parenting battle, don’t we? Those times when we are just so DONE with the whining, the stomping, and the tantrum-throwing in the middle of Target that we abandon all principles and opt instead for desperation.

Defeated, you blurt out the “T-word.” You know the one.


That’s right you darling child whom I seem to remember loving so dearly this morning as he kissed me good morning and then wiped his snot on my pajamas who now is about two seconds away from being traded to the nearest shopper in exchange for their Starbucks gift card….if you can stop acting like a lunatic so we can finish shopping for our toilet paper and votive candles in relative peace and quiet, I will give you a treat when we get home. And not like a “look it’s a carrot stick!” kind of treat, but a very real and very sugary kid-crack kind of treat.

candyIn a blink, your child who was so recently perfecting his audition for the upcoming remake of The Exorcist is suddenly trotting along next to that cart like a well-trained monkey. Feeling smug, you grab some throw pillows from the clearance end-cap and even take a pass through the shoe section for good measure, smiling ever so slightly at the woman using her “mom voice” with the little lady demanding the purple glitter flip flops.

I think we all know how this little story ends. Like all bribes, payment must be made. If you’re like me, you open up the cupboard above the stove that holds all the odds and ends you never really use – outgrown baby bottles, shattered Christmas candy canes, sugar free hot chocolate mix – and grab the Ziploc bag that contains all the leftover candy from Halloween/Valentine’s Day/Easter/Christmas or whatever candy-laced holiday passed most recently. It’s that same bag that you’ve been pilfering from when the coffee runs low, when the hormones run high, or when the day ends in –y.

What could be dangerous about handing over that mini-Snickers so you can unload your Target Treasures in peace? A precedent, my friends. A precedent has been set. Your kid is not stupid and you have inadvertently taught them that behaving like a crazy person in Target gets them a Snickers.

Well, crap. May as well skip the middle man and keep a few hidden in your purse, just in case. I can think of many days when I have behaved like a crazy person for one reason or another and found myself inexplicably drawn to the frozen balls of cookie dough shoved in the back of the freezer or perhaps to the pile of scarves in the closet under which is buried a very valuable treasure. (Note to self: Move candy stash before Husband reads this blog post.)


Then comes the awkward moment when your kid walks in unexpectedly and catches you standing in your closet wearing naught but your bra and undies with your arm wrist-deep in a party-sized bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms. Now you’re faced with a terrible conflict – do you share a couple morsels from your precious trove or do you maintain the integrity of your “secret” stash and try to argue your case by launching into some bull-crap speech about how this is “Mommy’s special candy that helps her get through the hard days.”

Great. Now I feel like a psycho AND a fat-ass.

Who are we kidding? All that’s left to do at this point is to cough up a few M&Ms, put on some yoga pants, and move the bag to a new location lest the meddling little stinkers come back looking for more.

Yes, keeping secrets is dangerous. But it’s also necessary. Don’t get careless and actually trust your family to leave your sweets alone. That’s a rookie move that will only lead to disaster. Next thing you know, you’ll see an Instagram photo from the night you left your husband in charge of things for the evening proudly displaying the incredible dinner he made for the kids using only ingredients found conveniently tucked away in the pantry:


Keep it secret. Keep it safe.


SarahKooimanSarah used to be an English teacher and a waitress and now she’s a mom who hopes to still go back to teaching someday, but in the meantime is still also a waitress most nights and weekends. She pretends to be a writer, but mostly is just tired and sarcastic, especially when the coffee runs out or someone poops their pants. Guilty of trying to cram too much stuff into every day, sometimes she recommends just blowing everything off in favor of a glass of wine and a good book….or Downton Abbey or The Walking Dead depending on the kind of day it’s been. Sarah can be found on The Huffington Post from time to time, but mostly she blogs at Arena Five about the battle she wages every day to raise her children not to be serial killers.


You can see all of the Parenting and Imperfection series posts here.

On Releasing the Way Things Should Be: A Parenting and Imperfection Post by Stephanie Gates

Jan 20 2014


Greg and I are still on the river, assuming, of course, we haven’t met our untimely demise or murdered each other over our tent erection differences. You can pray for us.

In the meantime, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Stephanie Gates, blogger behind A Wide Mercy, who’s sharing this space for the first time. I love Stephanie’s perspective, the words she uses and the ways she champions other mamas. I hope you do, too. 

x’s and o’s, friends… always,






On Releasing the Way Things Should Be
by Stephanie Gates

Can I tell you a secret?

I’m tired of breastfeeding.

I hesitate to admit it, even to myself. Before I get the words out, I hear the reprimand in my head. Women spend years trying to have a baby. YOU waited for years for your babies!  Remember how long you prayed for a baby to nurse? And how many new mothers work so hard to breastfeed their infants, and their bodies just won’t cooperate? You should enjoy this extra time with him!

I should. But I’m not.

I love my baby more than I can say. Nursing him this past year has been a lifeline, connecting us to one another during an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable time. I am unspeakably glad to be his mom, and for the time both nursing and bottle-feeding requires us to spend holding our  little ones. But I birthed four babies in five years. My body has been keeping another human being alive since 2006. When I began this endeavor, Barack Obama was a newbie Senator from Illinois, and the housing market was booming.  

I could have earned a PhD in growing and sustaining humans by now. I’ve been either pregnant or nurturing a baby for a long, long time.

Now I’m tired. I will always carry sweet memories of snuggling my baby in the middle of the night, or falling asleep on the couch with a newborn curled against me.  I’ve loved nursing my babies, I really have. But I’m ready to move on.

Only, my baby just won’t wean.

More importantly, he won’t sleep through the night because he still wakes up to nurse. Twice a night, at least. Every single night of his life.

He’s over a year old. He sits in his high chair, signing “eat” and downing chicken, pasta, fruits, and yogurt just like his brothers and sister. He’s old enough to throw books from the shelf and to pull his sister’s hair when she encroaches his personal space. He is at the age when a baby should naturally wean.

He should. But he just won’t.

I have cried, I have pleaded, I have prayed. I’ve complained to my husband and asked every  friend for advice. Nothing has worked. That stubborn baby refuses to give up. I tried reasoning with him, explaining he is getting to be a big boy and really doesn’t need this anymore. He didn’t buy it. I tried reasoning with God, insisting I would be a better mother if I could just please, for the love, have my body to myself again and get a decent night’s sleep. Nothing changed.

So I did the next most rational thing. I asked Google for help.

It’s been years since I turned to Google to help me parent. But last night, as I dreaded the thought of another night of sitting up with my baby to nurse him in the wee hours, I typed in “13-months-old sleep?” and “weaning over one year?” I scrolled through the results and remembered why I stopped asking Google in the first place. The first website bemoaned my selfishness, that I would even consider weaning a baby his age. They insisted it was good and natural for 13-month-olds to wake up numerous times at night to nurse. What isn’t natural, they said, is a mother who expects her baby to sleep twelve hours at a time.

Moving on.

The next site smugly declared how easy it is to get a baby to wean – and, by extension, sleep – at his age. “Within a few days, he should be happy and adjusted to his new schedule,” it said. Apparently my baby never read that article, because I’ve already tried their approach. It was a spectacular disaster. Every time I dropped a daytime feeding, he woke up once more at night. He was happy all right – happy to wait until 2 a.m. to declare his displeasure at our new arrangement. At one point he wasn’t nursing at all during the day, but woke up screaming every two hours at night. Maybe he can adjust to that change in our schedule, but I cannot.

Another site gave a list of common mistakes mothers make. Perfect! Please tell me what I’m doing wrong.  If I’m wrong, then I can fix my mistake, and if I can fix it, I can wean him. I read the list eagerly. Not a single thing applied. Not one. According to this site, I was doing all the right things for my baby.  Damn.

I sighed and closed the computer. I closed my eyes, and suddenly a thought occurred to me.

Maybe fatigue and nursing isn’t my problem.  Maybe my problem is how tightly I’m holding on to the idea of the way things should be.

Instead of changing my circumstances, maybe it is time for me to change my expectations. Maybe I need to accept where we are, and let it be okay. I am tired of breastfeeding, tired in general. I would give anything for just one night of uninterrupted sleep. But my baby needs me anyway. He’s happy and healthy. He eats and drinks well, yet he still needs to nurse often. It doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes, and it’s nowhere close to where we should be. But it’s where we are.

Maybe it’s time to ask for a different sort of help. Instead of asking God for an escape, maybe I need to ask that He will widen my capacity. Help me to be gracious to my baby in the middle of the night.  Help me to dig deep and be patient with my other children on the days when I’m especially tired. If you won’t make my life easier, God, then please help me find grace, and offer it to my family, in the middle of my exhaustion.

I am so ready to move into the next phase of life with small children. But this stage just won’t end. Maybe, instead of clutching all the shoulds, it’s time to ask for the grace to live where I am.



I am Stephanie – mom to four beautifully rambunctious little kids and wife to a guy who still makes me smile. Last spring I moved to Colorado, where I fell in love with the mountain air and the Anglican church. If you have ever abandoned religion in search of faith, ever had to leave your hometown to find your home, or ever climbed to the very tip-top of a jungle gym to rescue an overzealous toddler, come sit by me.  We’ll talk.

You can follow my story at A Wide Mercy or follow along on Facebook.  


You can see all of the Parenting and Imperfection series posts here.

On Honoring Our Inconvenient Passions: A Parenting and Imperfection Post by Mary Beth Danielson

Jan 17 2014


I’m leaving this morning to go on a 3-day paddling trip with my husband, my dad, and friends, several of whom I haven’t met yet. At some point in the last 6 months, Greg and I thought this would be a GREAT way to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary, despite the fact that we’ll have to erect a tent together THREE TIMES without harming ourselves or others. Our track record so far on that front is somewhere between Pathetic and Abysmal.

If you have children, you’ll understand that I’ve spent the last week busy, busy, busy and busy getting ready to go, mostly with imaging all the heinous way I’ll die, including but not limited to plane crash (both the Plane I’m In and the Freak Plane Crashing Into My Kayak options), drowning, flash flood, car crash, tent asphyxiation, and being kicking to death by a donkey because once, in an effort to assuage my fear of dying by plane crash, my father, who’s a pilot, told me that more people die annually being kicked to death by donkeys than die in airplane crashes. 


But the thing is, I want to go on this trip. I want to spend time with my dad. I want to spend time with my husband. And I want to spend time with the water and with me and with a great book. All of which are terribly inconvenient, you know, but I’m struck by the fact that this time I have while my children are small runs consecutive to the time I have while my parents are still agile runs consecutive to the time I have with Greg in our 40’s. And while I can’t do all the things all the time with all the people, I don’t want to squander this time, either. 

And so I go.

To pursue my inconvenient passions. To set aside the things that make sense so I can embrace the people and pursuits that are important.

Which is why I’m grateful for Mary Beth Danielson’s addition to our Parenting and Imperfection guest writer series today. Mary Beth writes about kayaking. And the water. And our children. And the way we live our lives. 

And I’m especially grateful for way Mary Beth honors the inconvenient passions. 

x’s and o’s,





Seventeen Minutes of Kayaking
by Mary Beth Danielson

It was late a late afternoon in March and I was sitting at my computer, quietly tapping away. My son was on the other side of the table doing his homework. For several minutes we were both silently focused on our work.

Then my son looked up. I felt his eyes on me. I tried to ignore him.


I sighed. “What?”

“When I’m done here, will you drive me to the lake so I can kayak?”

I briefly closed my eyes in that gentle, prayerful way parents know. It’s March outside. The temperature is 36 degrees and falling. Its 4:20 already, the sun will be going down soon, not that it will make much difference since the sky has been a sullen grim gray all day. 

I look at my son and I sigh so deeply my shoes move.

“If you can get the kayak onto the car, I will drive you over there.”

“You’re the best, Mom!”

Hah. I’m the best alright. Best pushover in three counties. I have no problem saying no to these kids when they ask me for new clothes, toys, and gizmos. But when they ask me to help do nutty and inconvenient things that seem connected to their very spirits, well, I figure this is why we signed up to be parents.

It took ten more minutes of Algebra, then nearly an hour of getting organized (the kayak hadn’t been out of the garage since October) before he had it tied onto our car and his equipment tied onto himself. As I stood out there on our freezing driveway at dusk, I wondered why I couldn’t have gotten one of those kids who like to hack computers. Those moms don’t have to drive their kid to a lake in March.

The lake was not cheery. I parked the car, climbed out; let my son untie the kayak while I watched sloshing, frigid, white-capped waves. I was quite surprised at how much ice still clings to the shoreline. I saw seagulls that were shivering.

Just then my husband showed up, still in his office clothes. He helped my son carry the kayak down to the lake. After that we all stood around trying to decide which sheet of ice looked most promising for kayak launching.

My husband gallantly offered to stay with our son; I instantly gave him my hat and gloves. My hat is a brown velveteen cloche — which I thought made my husband look very Dr. Zhivago. He said I better not put this in the newspaper.

They were back 45 minutes later. Our son got to paddle his kayak for about 17 minutes — and he was very, very content. A content teenager is one of earth’s most marvelous creatures.

What I loved about this whole goofy episode was this. It so clearly shows that what most of us need is simply to pursue the things that move our individual souls. We don’t necessarily need to dazzle or triumph; we just need an occasional interlude to do the thing that reminds us who we are.

I was thinking of my writing and how inconvenient this was when our kids were little. I stayed home with them, money was tight, time was tighter, and since we never seemed to get the kinds of infants or toddlers who sleep through a night, we were always exhausted.

What an inane time to try to become a writer.

We found a neighborhood teenager (actually, Michelle found us, but that’s another story) who started coming after school several times a week.

Those puny six hours per week were when I wrote. (If you want to read what I composed back then, there’s an out-of-print book called “Reinventing Home.” I’m one of the six authors.)

I barely made enough money to cover Michelle’s wages, but I got to pursue the inconvenient thing that happens to nourish my particular soul. Now that I have years of perspective on that time, I can see that those hours were quite possibly the ones that made the rest of our lives work. Those hours are also why, when a kid says he needs to kayak, well, I know about cumbersome avocations that nourish the soul.

I think we need to honor our inconvenient passions. Too many of us have bought the message that we should spend our time doing only sensible, sane, and justifiable activities.

We don’t take piano lessons because, well, why would a middle-aged person take up something that costs $15 a week and has “no future”?

We tell ourselves to not bother joining the church choir. Why make a commitment to something any international power-monger will tell you is a lame activity?

Why join an intramural volleyball team when you could be enhancing your career by learning business software programs?

Why write when it’s so hard to get published? Why carpenter splendid wooden toys for your grandchildren when plastic ones will occupy them just as well?

Why indeed.

We need to remember that the human spirit is programmed to create, to explore, to discover. We need to connect our hands, our minds, and the breezy world around us in the blessed, squirrely ways that preserve our souls. And I bet you anything that these have always been the hours from which the rest of the best of our civilizations have grown.

It’s just joy, 17 minutes at a time.



headshot of MB from LL 12-13

Mary Beth Danielson has been writing and parenting since the early 1980’s. Her kids are now young adults living good lives of their own. She currently lives in Wisconsin where she coordinates a program for the Racine County Jail that helps qualified inmates get jobs. Her website is MaryBethDanielson.com



You can see all of the Parenting and Imperfection series posts here.