Ten Years

Ten years is a long time to be married to someone.  –Gwyneth Paltrow


Dear Gwyneth,

I’ve been married ten years in November and it has gone by in a silly blur. When we got married, my nephew Wyatt was a tiny bump under his mom’s bridesmaid dress. He’s going to be nine in June—nine!  Behind him came seven more grandkids in seven years and all of them are now walking and talking.

I don’t feel like I have aged a day, even though there’s a whole lot of gray hair and twenty extra pounds that give a lie to that story. Shea is thinner than he was on our wedding day, but the gray ghost has caught him by the chin and we’re going to make a lot of money in retirement hiring ourselves out as Santa and Mrs. Claus for parties.

We still fight over the same stupid things we fought over when we were dating. And we laugh at the same stupid jokes. Sometimes we look around at our three kids, two dogs and home that we’ve lived in for almost all of those ten years and say to each other “When did we become grown-ups?”

Before, I prayed for and waited almost patiently for this life. The last ten years have not always been joyful and we have faced some dark valleys, just like everyone else. But even when those folded up socks in the laundry make me want to scream and throw Shea over the mountain, I am grateful that he has given me this life.

So I don’t think ten years is a long time to be married. Not when we’re standing in the shadow of our parents, who have been married 30 and 46 years respectively. Not when I witnessed both my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebrations. Not when some of my closest friends, who are our age, have been married 24 and 19 years. Compared to them, we’re still rookies!

And Gwyneth, this idea of “conscious uncoupling” is dangerous. If it was a way to divorce without anger and resentment and with the children’s emotional and psychological health intact, I could get behind it-ish. We don’t speak divorce in this house, but there are legitimate reasons for it to happen.

But that’s not what you’re saying. You’re saying you got tired, distant, bored. That you’ve had enough and there isn’t any more you can learn from each other. That it just isn’t working.

You’re not saying much else, so we don’t know the nuts and bolts. And normally I would say that it’s not our business, except that the conscious uncoupling made it our business.

You want reform the definition of divorce and hide behind the “science” that humans are living longer and are not psychologically or emotionally equipped to be married for decades. That we should stay in our marriages as long as they have something to teach us, and then, like graduating from college, move on to the next experience with no guilt, shame or sense of failure.

Without even a nod to the mountains of research that tell us what divorce does to kids.

Look, if you aren’t willing to work on it, if your anger is too big and your ability to forgive too small, that’s fine. We’re human and we understand those emotions. We’ve all felt a like a five year old at one time or another.

But own it. Say that you have failed, let down your families and your children and yourselves. Be humble. Don’t whitewash it, like it isn’t a trauma.

And keep this conscious uncoupling stuff to yourself. You are entitled to your delusions. But don’t call my marriage and the marriages around me “exceptions” to your delusion, because we aren’t. Most marriages that make it ten years have more resilience in the long run. Not yours, I get it, but who knows what could have happened if you hadn’t put a limit on it before you even started.

Don’t drag the rest of us into it, even though misery loves company. We aren’t faking it, or denying ourselves personal growth by staying with our partners. We’re still learning and growing and our endoskeletons are just fine, thank you very much.


PS: You’re on a roll, with your conscious uncoupling and your comments about regular working moms, and not in a good way. I have found that when the world seems to be against you, that’s more about you than the world. Might be time for a rethink. Just sayin’.













Nightclub Lighting ~ Jen


IMG_20130827_072122There’s no better lighting in the world than in a nightclub: shadowy, mysterious, forgiving. It is no mistake that nightclub lighting is a thing, because everyone looks good in nightclub lighting.

But then there’s this: you hit the darkened ladies room at the club, where you see that your hair and make-up look great after hours of dancing. Woohoo, I look like a rock star!

An hour later you get a good look at yourself in the bathroom mirror at home. In bright light, your smoky eyes look raccoonish, you’re wearing your friend’s orangey shade of lipstick by mistake and half your hair fell out of your ‘doo. Dangwhy didn’t anyone tell me I looked like a mess?

Life can be like this too.

I lived my entire 20s in nightclub lighting, both real and figurative, so I know.  I wanted to be shadowy and mysterious. No one really knew me. Including me. Lots of unanswered questions.

Eventually I realized two things: no one wants to marry a mystery and God wanted me to be my best real self. And yes, it was in that order. But whatever—I got there, is the point. I knew Nightclub lighting was not doing it for me if I wanted the things I wanted. I needed real, honest to goodness light. No shadows, no mystery.

I was 28 when I stepped out into the light. It wasn’t pretty. Tired eyes, wrinkles and extra pounds, both physical and spiritual. For a while, the light I stood in was harsh and unrelenting. Plenty of times, I wanted to look down or cover my eyes. But I knew that if I was going to be real, I had to face it.  All of it. Not “my truth”. The Truth.

If I had tried to do this without God, I don’t know what would have happened. I guess I could have been a boat bobbing on the sea of self-help, searching for a philosophical port of call. I get why people do this. It’s the Wizard of Oz syndrome: If I make a lot of noise over here—on my social media, to my colleagues, in my relationships—then perhaps no will pay any attention to the real me behind the curtain. Including me.

But I was raised with God, so I went home to God, like the prodigal daughter that I was.  I knew that God wanted me to be happy. I knew God wanted me to be married and a mom. It hadn’t happened because I wasn’t ready yet, and God is wise.

I stood in that bright light and looked at what parts needed work. I was rough, angry, loud. I was a big fish at work and it was making me cocky and disrespectful. I drank too much. I ate too much. I was complacent.

So I went back to Church. I started keeping a journal. I stopped drinking as much and started exercising more.

I changed jobs, which was humbling and knocked me out of my comfort zone. I needed that. It was a challenge.

I started a master’s program.

I tried to be more well-rounded. I stopped living at work, said no to unnecessary projects and didn’t feel guilty about it. I traveled more. I got a 403b and life insurance.

I acted like a grown up child of God. And slowly, the harsh light turned warm.

It didn’t happen overnight. I did my part. I worked hard. I didn’t become a perfect person—I still have sharp edges and motherhood has made me loud once again. But I know it now. I don’t run for the shadows to hide who and what I am. No matter how hard it is, I know what to do.

Stay with God. Stay with the Truth. Stand in the light.

The F Word ~ Lesley

Lesley is my person. And my cousin. When her Canadian husband stole her to Toronto almost ten years ago, it was a thing. Luckily, Brian is a very good man. We have survived by never letting 365 days go by without seeing each other. 

When she called and told me this story a few weeks ago, I knew she had to write a post. This is a SUPER parenting win, and a reminder for all of us that a little bit of prayer and thought goes a long way. I always listen carefully to her parenting stories, since she has been a mom longer than me–three whole weeks longer. She is wise.

Enjoy! ~ Jen

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My seven year old is my sensitive child, deeply aware of everyone’s feelings, especially his own. He’s also a rule follower, like his dad. So, when he steps outside the rules, he is very affected. In this case he was curled into the fetal position on my lap, head buried in my neck, making a confession that was broken and choked with breathy sobs.

“Mom, I have to tell you something.”

“Ok, babe. What has you so upset?”

“I accidentally said the F word.”

“How do you accidentally say the F word?” I ask. “Saying a word like that is a choice. And where did you hear this word?” I cringe, waiting for him to say he heard it from me. “Are you trying to be cool? That word is not cool.”

“I know. I am so sorry.”

I think.

“Wait. When and where did you say this word?”

The whole truth comes out. He tried it at school with some friends that he refuses to identify. They are not encouraging him to say it but he has used this language on the playground. And he confesses that he just said it in our basement before he came up to talk to me. My first concern was that he said it to his younger brother or sister.  But he was alone. He could not explain why he said it but he knew it was wrong and came to tell me.

It is one of those moments.  I need my son to understand that he has made a bad choice and there are consequences. But the only reason I know he used the F word is because he told me.

I breathe. Acknowledge that his conscience works. Celebrate that he came to me to unload his conscience. Provide meaningful discipline.


There are several feelings in this for me. Pride that he came to tell me, and that he has chosen to keep his friends out of it and only stand on what he did—no deflection to anyone else. Shock that my angel faced boy is walking around using this kind of language. Longing for the days when Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was a part of his present, not his past.

What to do? I decide to pull a page from someone else’s Momma-wisdom and use it as my own. I believe that if a Momma shares a bit of wisdom with you, that is implied consent for you to use it as you own. I took this page from Glennon at Momastery. I’m sure she would approve.

I tell him “Babe, you know how your heart is hurting and you are so upset? That is God telling you that you made a bad choice and to come talk to me or Daddy. I’m really glad you listened to God. That is hard to do sometimes, but it is very important.

“You made a bad choice. That language is not allowed in this house. I understand there are lots of words you will hear from your friends and you will know some of them are not ok to use. You can always come talk to me. But the rules don’t change and so bad choices have consequences. What would be a consequence for this?”

He chooses, bravely, to lose his favorite possession—the DS. We spend a few minutes talking about if losing his DS would help him make a better choice the next time. There was not a good answer for that, from either of us.  I used my favorite Momma card and deferred a decision until I could discuss with his dad.

I believe that bad choices are necessary for good choices to happen. But that can only be true if the consequence includes a mix of humility and a better understanding of the impact of the bad choice. It is not always easy to find a consequence that meets these criteria, but I do think the big lessons are worth a minute of reflection to find one.

My son and I had had a big important discussion. It was an opportunity to grow. I knew that losing his DS did not feel like the right consequence. So I percolated, which in our family means I let it bubble gently on the back burner while I went about my business. I have superhero guardian angels who help and guide me. I knew the right answer would arrive. I just needed to make some space for it to come in.

Sure enough I became aware of that voice in my head, chewing on the issue. Foul language. Ugh. Garbage. How do I keep my babies from that? And…there it was: If my son was going to dirty the world with garbage out of his mouth, he could pick garbage up to make it clean again.

Cue the hallelujah chorus.

My son spent the week picking up litter all around his school and taking out garbage for his class. It took me a few minutes to write the needed letters. My son provided the letters, with his own explanation for why he was asking to do these tasks. His principal, teacher and after-school care providers were all onboard.

Humility, check.

Then we talked again about how using curse words makes the world an uglier place. We talked about how some words hurt and why it is important to know what the words you use actually mean.

Which, thank God, did not lead me into the definition and explanation of his chosen curse.

The F word. Ugh.

We Are Raising a Man ~ Jen


A few weeks ago, I watched a young boy hitting and tackling and tattling his way through a party. His dad refused to intervene, saying “The other kids have to stand up for themselves. When they’ve had enough, they’ll hit him back. It’s no big deal. Boys will be boys!”

There’s been a lot of conversation the last few weeks about what that phrase means. You know, in places like Steubenville, OH.

So here’s my two cents.

Before Gabriel was born, my experience with boys came from teaching 16 year old boys: smelly, crude, hopeful, strutting, foolhardy, proud.

The cinnamon challenge, after all, was invented by boys.

A few years back, Eric came walking into my first period minus his left eyebrow. The whole thing. His team lost the Super Bowl, so he lost his eyebrow. He was proud he had paid up on his bet. That strip of pale skin was a badge of honor.

Shea has some stories, too. He grew up on a sugar cane plantation on Maui, climbing banyan trees, swimming in irrigation ditches and sleeping in caves. He’s been bitten by scorpions, geckos, centipedes, crabs and a parrot. He fell out of the tree in his front yard and broke his nose. Twice. His mom told him to put some ice on it and shake it off.

And the apple did not fall very far from the tree. Last week, Gabriel went downstairs to get a pillowcase out of the laundry room and didn’t come back. I yelled down the stairs to find out what was taking so dang long.

“I can’t get past the dog gate.”

Why didn’t you ask for help?

“I was trying to build a bridge over the gate.”

My sister-in-law reminded me of the family party when her mom heard the boys yelling “Walk the plank! Walk the plank!” They had taken the flimsy cardboard sandwich board and stuck it between the bed and the top of the dresser. When she caught them, Gabe was just about to take the first step.


And there are six boys across the street from us. The youngest ones are Gabe’s favorite accomplices buddies. Mostly they play loud and rough, with the older brothers to referee. It’s when they get quiet that we worry. Like when they concocted a plan to turn the lawn red. By the time we caught them, they had the red dye in the water, ready to go.

All of this is in my wheelhouse as the mother of a boy, along with dinosaurs, rock collections, bug catchers, and pee in the trashcan right next to the toilet.


But violence? Nope. Even when he was hitting at age 3, we doubled down and put a stop to it. We never ever shrugged our shoulders and said “What can we do?” And we surely never expected someone else’s older, stronger child to “teach him a lesson”.

The problem is that we still box boys into two categories: “all boy” and “mama’s boy”. We stopped doing this to girls 30 years ago. But boys are either strong or weak; winner or loser; hard or soft. Worse, we confuse physical aggression with physical strength. Somehow, we feel better if our short son socks the taller boy right in the face. We think this proves that he has “guts”.

And we confuse physical strength with godliness. At a football game a few weeks ago, the opposing coach apologized to Shea in advance for how badly they were going to beat us. “My son is ranked in the Top 100 of five year olds in Junior All-American” he said.

Dad was 5’7” in his cleats and mom was a petite little blond. I am 6’1″ and Shea is 6’5″. Gabe had his Top 100 son by four inches and 20 lbs. Dream on, I thought. We’ll see how they’re ranked when they’re 15.

See? Even with the best of intentions, it’s hard not to get sucked into the competition.

Whether my son plays the violin or football, he has to learn to be a good person. No one will cheer louder than me when he sacks the quarterback fairly. Or wins the violin competition. But that will not be the measure of my success as a parent.

When he reaches down to help the quarterback up, or shakes the other violinist’s hand, then I will know I am on the right track.

When he loses gracefully, cheers for the winners and knows that his wins and losses do not define him as a man, then I will know I have succeeded.

Real men believe in God. They do not use their fists, feet, or weapons to make their mark. They respect themselves, and others, and show courage for what is right in the face of danger or censure.

Maybe boys will be boys. But I didn’t marry a boy. And we are not raising a boy.

We are raising a man.

The Committee ~ Jen


My cousin Lesley had just gone through some mess in her life, held up by all her friends. She was feeling the love, how we all surrounded her and made this trial easier to bear. She said “Everyone helped me in different ways. Like each friend has their own special gift that they bring.”

So true.

Every good friend in our lives has her reason and purpose for being there. God puts the very people in our path that we need. I call them my Committee. They have special gifts: The listener, the counselor, the mentor, the cheerleader, the historian.

We are good, strong women. We have our issues, but truth is our core value. We love each other in spite of and through our flaws. We make each other solid and reflect back love. That makes it easier for us to go out in the world and love others.


Only girlfriends need apply for these jobs. The men in our lives keep us accountable and happy for sure, but they are from Mars. My husband is not going to answer the email I send him from Macy’s that says “Shea, Jennifer thought you might like these boots!” He does not want to discuss The Real Housewives of New Jersey. He wants to pretend that shows like that don’t exist. But The Committee loves to reflect and learn from other women’s foibles. Preferably over lunch and Margaritas.

It’s not important why women need this. We just do. It makes us better women, to feel connected and solid.


My 20 year old niece is having a hard experience. Some girls who she thought were her people are turning out to be transparent—maybe someday, they will solidify into honest, trustworthy, happy women, but right now they are not. And she feels bewildered, because she believed them. Even though she’s 20, she’s pretty solid herself. She is part of my Committee, for sure. Every Committee needs a youthful perspective.

She made a big investment with these girls. She was all in, which is her sweet way. They know things because she trusted them. Now she wonders if those things will be used like weapons against her.

I worry that if they wound her, she will learn the wrong lessons, that no one is trustworthy and that she has to protect herself from others to stay safe.

So here’s what I told her:

A true friend holds you up, prays for you, pushes you to be your best version. She demonstrates her love and loyalty over and over until you would be crazy to question her. She holds your hand and tells you the hard truths, in your life and in hers. She makes room for you, and respects your boundaries. She asks nothing and everything, all at once. You never ever have to wonder if you are getting more than you give.

She loves you into solidity—in your heart, in your mind, in your soul.

There will always be transparent girls in your life. Some of these girls will grow into solid women eventually.  You will learn the difference. What is important is that you keep searching until you find your women and gather them around you.

It’s powerful and necessary, this type of friendship. We should never turn our backs on it. It is a special gift from God.

Today I am thankful for the amazing women God has placed in my life.