Sunday, March 4, 2018 Victoria's Secret?

Last year, I was in a funk. A group of girlfriends with whom I'd been friends for over six years were together on a girls' weekend in Florida. But I was not there. I had moved to Washington State a few months before, and was too far to be part of their conversations, their daily Starbucks runs, their plans. The logical part of me understood why I was here and they were there; the emotional side of me was bummed. The pictures posted on social media didn't help, and my "Have so much fun!" plus smiley and thumbs up emojis masked the jealousy I felt.

Tired of me dragging my feet around and eager to see me feel better, my husband suggested I go to the mall. "Why don't you freshen up your lingerie drawer? Get some fun new stuff?"

Always happy to leave our three kids in his care and get some alone time, I said yes. I wasn't super into his plan, but I understood that getting out of the house might help me get out of my funk.

I drove to the Alderwood Mall, a fine but not-so-extraordinary mall twentyish miles north of Seattle and parked near Nordstrom. I strolled the displays there, tried on a bunch of things, and bought a handful. Then I headed to Victoria's Secret. I grabbed one of their mesh bags and threw some stuff in that I planned to try on. I was holding up some tiny pair of underwear when I looked out past Victoria's Secret's doors into the wide mall. Something caught my eye.

I saw people running.

Lots of people were running. Some were screaming. I could feel their panic. A few people ran into Victoria's Secret, and I heard the words you never want to hear: "He's got a gun!"

I quickly dropped behind the heavy display counters, cursing myself at the stupidity of being here and not home. Of "needing" overpriced lace in cute patterns and bright colors on this day. My heart beat out of my chest, and I could feel the adrenaline shoot through my body. Might I get hurt--killed?--in a lingerie shop?

The saleswoman who had just before handed me the mesh shopping bag crawled over to me.

"There's a back door! Come on!"

I followed this lady. We all did. We pressed ourselves into a tiny hallway. People pushed and shoved, some cried, almost wailing, unable to contain their fear inside. Mothers clutched children as hard as they could. Other mothers pushed their children, confused and clearly upset, in front of them, as if wishing them to get out first. Before them. I've never been in any sort of panicked crowd, and I do not want ever to be in one again.

We got out to the parking lot. To the crisp fall day. The sun seemed to promise safety. My hands were shaking--I could barely use my phone as I could not control my fingers. The only other time I have felt this sort of adrenaline was after delivering each of my three kids.

I thought I knew what relief was before this moment, but I rdidn't. I was so glad to be out. I was dazed from the previous five minutes--if the whole ordeal even lasted five minutes. I really have no idea. I texted my husband: "There is a shooter at the mall. I'm outside and I'm safe."

Because I was new to the area and had been to that mall only a few times before, and because I was completely shaken up, I walked around the entire mall looking for my car. Police swarmed the place, sirens blaring. I saw armed men moving quickly inside and was glad I was not there any more. It turns out that it wasn't a shooter. There was no gun. There was a stabbing in the food court; the police believed it to be an isolated incident where Person A went in looking for Person B and then stabbed him when he found him.

As I drove home that day, I said a thank you prayer. For keeping me safe, for keeping others safe, and for all of that craziness to have happened that day, and not two days before, when I had all three of my kids at the very same mall. I'm glad that they did not have to feel panicked and afraid like the other children I saw. And I continue to whisper prayers of please protect them because I know that stuff like that happens way too often, and I won't always be there.

And that scares me.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Patiently Walking to Spring

I'm sitting at the round table in my living room, big picture window in front of me that looks out to the Puget Sound. The Olympics are mostly covered with clouds, but this morning in the early morning light, their snowy peaks were clear and pink. The sun is shining bright--it looks like a summer day.'s not.

The temperature is barely 40, and being this close to the water means there's a constant breeze. And I don't mean a warm, Hawaiian breeze. I mean a bone-chilling wet breeze. This is the kind of weather where my kids and I get excited to go for a bike ride but turn around after a mile because we forgot how cold our hands and noses get in weather like this. The sunny view from inside tricks us into forgetting that we're still in Winter.

I'm not the most patient sort. I am always looking to the next thing. The week before a road race, I'm Googling for the next half marathon six months from now. This morning, right after breakfast, I got the slow-roasting pork that my family would eat for lunch ready for the oven. At the same time I mixed the meatballs for dinner, to let their flavors develop in the refrigerator while we played and tinkered the day away.

But here we are at the beginning of March. I'm proud to have made it past February, my least favorite month because of it's expectation-laden holiday and gloomy weather. Like the view outside, March tricks me into thinking Spring is here. It nearly is.

What if, this year, I enjoy these last few weeks of Winter? What if I tried to find the joy in the little glimpses of Spring without casting a growl at Winter for still lingering? What if I said a little Ann-Lammott-like prayer of thanks! every time I noticed the sky lightening earlier, or the sky darkening later?

Hopefully this will help me slow down and appreciate today instead of simply looking ahead to tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that...

Friday, March 2, 2018


As a stay at home mom with three young children and a husband who works way too much, I have to confess: I love Monday mornings. On Monday mornings, I wake up early to walk the dog before the business of lunchbox-packing and breakfast-making begins. My husband often leaves before the kids wake up; if I'm looking to be an extra good wifey I'll pack him a lunch that involves rice and some sweet-salty Korean-ish meat. I throw on work out clothes and brush my teeth in the last seconds before the kids and I dash out the door. They chatter and I try and keep my patience during the 15 minute drive to school. I drive up through the carpool lane, and they get out.

And then it's quiet.

Oh. So. Quiet.

Friday afternoons are the opposite of Monday mornings, of course.

But on this Friday afternoon, we all took the dog for a walk together--me on my feet, them on some sort of wheels they got from the garage. The weather is cold and dreary, but if the dog has to be walked, why not encourage them to come along? My two boys are playing basketball with the two neighborhood boys, and my oldest daughter has been sitting on the sofa--reading, helping her little brother (before the basketball began), and now is taking a turn on the iPad before dinner.

I've been quietly making jerk chicken. Mixing the cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, cumin, cardamom in a little bowl, then rubbing it onto the chicken breasts. I've prepped tomorrow's Kalua pork, a recipe that makes me think of a luau we went to last year during a vacation to Maui. My mind lingered back to those times as my hands worked, cleaning the kitchen for the third or so time of the day.

And now the sun is setting out my window--somehow it's found a clear patch in the sky amidst all the dark clouds that threatened rain all day.

It's quiet now, because it's just me and my girly. When the boys come in, their bring in their energy and excitement, but the talk will soon turn to what movie we're going to see over the weekend as we dig into the jerk chicken and corn and cole slaw.

I guess Fridays aren't so bad.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Family Book Club

A few weeks ago, my oldest son Ben suggested to his big sister Lorelei and little brother Kiefer and me: "Let's have a family book club."

The suggestion hung in the air; I waited to see if his siblings would match Ben's enthusiasm or strike down the request. As a giant book lover and devourer of books, I held my breath and hoped. Would they support their brother in this out-of-left-field suggestion, or might they chuckle at the random suggestion that create homework for themselves?

"Yeah!" they agreed.

I let out my breath. I patted myself on the back for whatever hand I had in this sincere appreciation for books and thanked my lucky stars for these cool apples who definitely fell close to this tree.

(Honestly, the reward for reading the book was really having permission to get on my laptop and do a PowerPoint presentation as a final book report/presentation to the rest of us. Nothing is cooler than PowerPoint right now to them...if that's not chuckle-worthy, I don't know what is!)

Ben got slips of paper and asked for help in remembering different genres of books. "What's a genre?" asked first grader Kiefer. Fifth grader Lorelei filled in the blanks for him, and we threw out a healthy list of categories: nonfiction, fiction, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, biography, graphic novels. He folded the slips of paper, grabbed one of his many baseball caps, and let Kiefer do the honor of choosing the first genre.

"Biography!" Kiefer declared.

They happily started looking for books and talking about which person in history was interesting to them. They Googled and looked to see if our library had the books they wanted. Kiefer became quickly overwhelmed by the number of options within the "Who Was...?" book series. While I observed them and chimed in to help, I began to wonder who I would choose.

A few days later, I got a notification from my library that it was finally my turn to listen to the audio version of Grant by Ron Chernow. The decision was made. I'd listen to this book and learn about this important man and also do my book report on him.

While I faithfully review almost all of the books I read on Goodreads, listening to Grant with an ear towards lessons for my children on this leader has been unexpectedly fun. Should I share with them that his first name is actually Hiram, middle name Ulysses, which created the initials "HUG" for which he was teased mercilessly in grade school? Should I tell them, especially my equestrian daughter, of his horsemanship? In addition to these two things, here are the things that stand out to me as very worthy of teaching them about Ulysses S. Grant:

  • He was a kind-hearted, tender leader who once walked among the wounded in the Mexican-American War and gave water to a wounded enemy after walking the battlefield to look for his own troops.
  • He was a successful military leader early on, but then got out of the Army to pursue civilian life with his wife and children. But he was a failure at all things agrarian and business. Yet these failures meant he was looking for an opportunity, and when southern states seceded and military leaders were needed, he was in need of work--and this was his kind of work.
  • Many believe he was an alcoholic from a young age; Chernow argues that he was disciplined with his alcohol abuse and kept it from affecting his family and military career. He was a private man who took seriously the positions he held, but was undoubtedly unable to shake this addiction altogether.
I'm looking forward to listening to the rest of the book--which is a good thing, because I'm on part 7 of 38 parts!--and I'm looking forward to my own PowerPoint presentation to my trio at the end of the month.