I am not a cook.  Or chef.  I don’t like the whole reckless/mess about it.  It feels like a science fair project where you don’t know the outcome.  You have a hypothesis.  Test it.  Analyze the results.  But, my results usually end in Meh.  Or better yet, comments from my kids like, “Well, it’s interesting.”  (Insert sympathetic look here.)

So, I decided to take a class.  I figured it couldn’t hurt.  And if I left with one solid dish that I could make for friends/company, it would be worth it.

The class?  The Perfect Ramen Bowl.  It was my initiation into a world both intense and foreign.  Exhausting and time-consuming.  We rolled the dough.  Braised the pork belly.  Pressed the noodles.  Pickled the daikon.  Soft-boiled the eggs.  Simmered the broth.  Chopped.  Cleaned.  Stood.  Watched.  Then, finally FINALLY ate.

The cooking world is a lot like the dating world.  It is time-consuming and foreign.  A world I don’t feel comfortable in.

I went into it thinking I could control it.  Thinking I could keep things clean and organized.  Follow the recipe.  If this, then that.

But, like cooking, it’s messy.  There are emotions involved.  Expectations.  I’m having a hard time trusting it.

I wonder if it’s worth it.  The time.  The effort.  Maybe because I know too much.  When you’re young, you’re not aware of the costs.  The hidden dangers.  But, once you’ve been burned, you’re rigid around the oven.  You’re cautious with the knife.  You don’t want to get hurt again.  And sometimes you wonder if it’s safer to stay out of the kitchen altogether.

Eloise off-handedly said, “Maybe you’ll be single the rest of your life.  And have nine cats!”  Who knows?  Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Then again, there was nothing compared to the ramen bowl.  It was pretty perfect.  Sure, it took time.  A lot of time.  Attention.  Work.

But it was worth it.  (I think.)


I remember standing in front of the eggs.  A year ago.  Helpless.  I stood there staring at the options on aisle three, completely overwhelmed.  It was my first time grocery shopping for me.  Just me – and I had no idea what kind of eggs to buy.  EGGS.  I didn’t know whether to buy organic or cage-free.  Brown or white.  Jumbo or generic.

It was an existential crisis.

What do I like?  What can I afford?  What tastes the best?  What feels the healthiest?  Heck, WHO AM I??

I’m pretty sure the constipated retiree next to me had a passing, worried thought – seeing me frozen in front of the egg cartons.  As he should have.  Because making decisions is what life is all about.  Our choices profoundly shape us.  For the good, bad, and ugly.

Lately, I’ve been getting some practice in making decisions.  On a whim, er, in a moment of pity/impulsiveness, I decided to sign up for online dating.  And let me fill you in on a little secret… online dating is like Narnia.  It is this secret world hidden from reality that is both magical and strange.  Heavier on the strange side, ahem.

Suddenly, I started receiving messages from total strangers asking personal questions about my thoughts on love and intimacy and relocation.  It is equal parts flattering and creepy.  But the thing is, I’m learning how to choose.

I’ve having to back away from the needy ones.  Not answer the old/odd ones.  Slow down communication between the unrealistic and this-doesn’t-feel-good ones.  (And a side note: false advertising.  A profile pic from ten years and fifty pounds ago is not being real.  Please.)  And for someone who is a pleaser and an accommodator, it feels very unnatural to say no.  And yet… so good!

In all this, I’m getting to practice saying a lot of no’s, because I have a stronger yes.   And that yes is me.

Which brings us back to the eggs.  After a while of trying all the options out there, I finally settled on the ones I like.  I chose.  It took some time and experimenting.  In the process, I had to say no to the familiar brands.  The expensive/unrealistic ones.  But, had I not tried, I wouldn’t have known.

Which is pretty close to dating.

Or maybe, exactly the same.


Earlier this year, when summer was still on the horizon and the leaves were still on the trees, we went rock hounding.  This was not just your casual-picking-up-stones stroll.  This was an intentional day trip to Richardson’s Rock Ranch –  a place as intriguing as it is remote.  Peacocks roam the parking lot and piles of exotic rocks surround the shop.

Once inside, you’re given specific instructions on where to find the famous thunder eggs.  And with pickaxe, bucket, and high hopes, you set out to the dig site.

It was like a grown-up sized sandbox.  Sitting in the gravel, digging away, searching for the eggs/rocks.  The kids talked smack about the size of their eggs as the sun scorched down.  Like a treasure hunt, the discovery of each thunder egg was thrilling and new.

Eventually, though, we had to choose.  Knowing that we had to pay by the pound, we sifted through the bucket and only kept the biggest rocks.  The best ones.  Then, for a little extra, we had our thunder eggs sliced open.  The lure of the unknown, convincing us to commit.  No turning back.


And it was the strangest thing, because there was no pattern, no reason, for the beauty of the inside compared to the outside.  Some of the biggest, roundest rocks were dull and lifeless inside.  Others, small and forgettable on the exterior, were simply stunning on the interior.

But you don’t know the value, the beauty, until you break it.  Moreover, you’re stuck with the decision.  In choosing one, you inevitably leave behind the others.

It’s like that with love.  You set out to the dig site with hopes of finding the right one.  And you choose – based on the the time and the place.  You hope for the best.  And sometimes you luck out.  You choose well.  And sometimes what seemed like a good one turns out to be not-so-good.

My married friends have been talking a lot about love and marriage and how hard it all is.  And my single friends have been talking a lot about love and relationships and how hard it all is.  Which means, it’s all hard.  Love/life is hard.  It’s not a scripted RomCom that ends happily ever after. It’s complicated and messy.  A dangerous cocktail of pleasure and pain.

I’m still trying to figure it all out.  Whether there is actually one perfect one out there, or lots of this-will-do-just-fine ones.  Whether God or fate or whatever plays a part.  Or if it’s just the luck of the draw.  And what happens when the prized one, the right one, is buried beneath layers of time and experience?  Or what if it’s right under your nose and you step over it, completely unaware?

I wish I knew.  I wish I had an answer.  But until then, I’ll just keep searching.  Sitting in the dirt.



The first time someone told me I was lucky, I froze.  It was the last word I would use to describe my situation.  How was being a single parent lucky?  How was divorce something to be grateful for??

But I’ve heard it several times over the past year.  Women who are older, wiser, tell me that I’m lucky that I’m still young.  That I still have time.

It’s funny, isn’t it?  How our experiences frame reality?  How our attitudes change depending on our age?

Recently, I was at a grape stomp with a friend who is in the middle of the storm.  She can’t see past the pain, past the rejection.  We talk a lot about our stories.  Where they overlap and where they diverge.  And how we didn’t sign up for this life.  We didn’t want to be thirty-something and single with kids.

But here we are regardless.

I jokingly asked her what the winery experience might symbolize.  “Something about stomping?” She said coyly.

I laughed knowing that she was serious.  Stomping does seem appropriate when you’ve been blindsided by life.  But, as I thought more about it, I realized that she was right.  Transformation starts with stomping.

Grapes are just grapes.  But wine… well, wine is something altogether different.  Something, in fact, better.  And the first step in making wine is crushing the grapes.  Of course, stomping has been replaced by machinery – but both involve the smashing of the grapes.  It’s the only way to get the juice.  Then it’s fermented.  Aged.  Bottled.  And enjoyed.

So this is what I’m thinking.  What if the pain, the struggle, the unexpected hardship actually is the process of changing us into something different?  Someone better?

At least that’s what I tell myself when pity peers in.  And I play the melancholy music.  Again.  I have to remind myself that change starts with destruction.  But, it doesn’t end there.  With time and the right conditions, something nuanced and complex and beautiful is created.

Maybe we are lucky.  Because time is something we do have on our side.

We just have to wait.

We have to trust the process.

Accepting the No

We had been talking about it for a year.  At least.  And I promised her that we would go.  By god, would we go.

Come Mid-August, we would be at the County Fair and Rodeo.  We would see the livestock.  Ride the rides.  Eat the cotton candy.  Spend too much money and stare to long while people watching.  It would be classic Americana.  Colors/lights.  Fried foods and nauseating sweets.

The fair began on the tail end of our family vacation, and needing one day to recover, we decided to go on the last day.  Sunday.  I checked and double-checked the website to make sure the fairgrounds would be open.  Then, we picked up dinner to eat on the drive, and extra cash for all the rides.

You could feel the excitement as we drove.  The kids chattering/giggling while I sang along to the car radio.  I couldn’t wait.  They couldn’t wait.

As we pulled into the fairgrounds we laughed at our luck.  Gosh, this was the time to go!  Hardly anyone was there.  We would have the entire fairgrounds to ourselves!  No lines.  No crowds.  No waiting.

But then we noticed that no one was at the ticket counter.  And the gate was wide open.   I led the way in, while the kids suspiciously followed behind me.

I tried to cover my doubt, but I knew deep down that it wasn’t good.  We shuffled towards the rides and noticed they were empty.  The only other people were employees.

And of course you know where this is going.

Devastation.  The realization sunk in, as the tears slid out.  We had missed it.  The county fair was over.  Closed.  And we would have to wait an entire YEAR before we could go again.  I didn’t think Eloise would ever forgive me.

We wandered around the livestock barns only to see a handful of sheep and a lonely cage of rabbits.  The drive home, a drastic change to the drive there.  Eloise sobbing.  Duke silent.

And I thought about all the times things didn’t go the way I wanted them.  When I had expectations for ______________, only to be disappointed.

I’m trying to teach my kids to Accept the No.   It’s hard, because our culture preaches to “never give up!,” and “keep trying” and all that positive-speak-diligence-crap.  And while I’m a firm believer in NOT giving up, I also understand the difference between what I can control and what I can’t.

And instead of arguing and whining when things don’t go their way, I want my kids to accept the no.  To change their attitude when they can’t change their circumstance.   Because we won’t be able to do ______________.  Or we’ll miss ______________.  Or the timing will be wrong.  Or whatever.

Some things are out of our control.  And that awareness is the best place to start.   There’s a freedom in letting go.  Accepting the no.  And moving on.


A friend of mine told me about this podcast.  He compared it to therapy.  But cheaper.  And it was like giving language to an experience.  Like when you learn the word déjà vu and you sigh with satisfaction because it all makes sense now.

In the podcast, Rob Bell interviews Peter Rollins – two intellectual lightening bolts who start wildfires with their words.  In it, Rollins talks about love and its theological, political, and personal implications.

It’s a subject I’ve been thinking a lot about.  A subject that I can process because I’m finally able to swim.  While before I was frantically trying to keep my head above water, now I can tread.  And float.  And look around at the landscape.  And I see everyone swimming with a partner.  Some are affectionate and teenagery close.  Others are distracted and distant.  But almost everyone is with someone.

And the more I think about my singularity, the more I want a swimming partner.  Someone to share in the experience.  To splash around with.

Rollins talks about the idea of desire.  He says the object of our desire isn’t what we we desire.  It’s the desiring, the pursuit, the struggle.  Because once we get what we desire, we no longer desire it.  (Mind.  Blown).

Timothy Keller says it another way.  In a sermon entitled “The Two Great Tests” he quotes Cynthia Heimel as saying, “I pity celebrities, no I really do – Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Barbara Streisand, were once perfectly pleasant human beings. But now their wrath is awful.  I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you he grants you your deepest wish and then laughs merrily when you realize you want to kill yourself. You see Sly, Bruce, and Barbara wanted fame. They worked, they pushed and the morning after each of them became famous they wanted to take an overdose. Because that giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything OK, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness had happened and they were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable.”

Keller, Bell, and Rollins would agree that only God can satisfy the desire.  Rollins says that Christianity is the only place where we find an intersection between getting the object of our desire and the impossibility of getting it.  “In the very struggle of life, you touch the absolute.  The object of your desire and the object cause of your desire.  Satisfaction is found in the dissatisfaction.” In other words, only God, or love, gives you the object you desire, and a lifetime to explore the complexity of it.

Maybe, God created a world and an existence in which we not only need struggle, but in fact thrive under it.  Because we are most fully alive in the struggle, the stress, the desire.  The struggle for what we want is what we want.  We want the easy button, but that’s not what we need.

Which brings me back to love.  I’ve heard a handful of women blithely say in their singleness, “At least I have Jesus.”  And while the sentiment is sweet and honorable, I kind of roll my eyes.  Because the last time I checked, Jesus doesn’t spoon.  Or watch the kids while you sleep off a migraine.  Or excuse himself from the table when you tell that tired joke at the dinner party.  Again.

But maybe what they mean is that they’re trying to be content in their situation.  That their life isn’t empty just because their bed is.  Maybe love is bigger than that.

Honestly, it’s confusing.  I was so set on being strong.  Independent.  Bold/badass.  (I mean, who needs a man when you have YouTube to help you fix everything?)  I put walls around my heart.

Then desire tiptoed through the back door.  Sure, I can swim by myself, but now I don’t want to.

And maybe what feels like weakness is actually humanness.  Because God created us for connection.  For love.  For desire.  So, I’m left in the tension.  I’m learning to embrace the struggle, the stress, the dynamic.  To be content in the midst of the journey.  To live in the singular and the plural.

The rapids

I have this giant hourglass that used to belong to my grandfather.  It reminds me of him: poised, stately, round, and steady.  I’ve never actually timed it to see if it takes an hour for the teeny tiny grains of sand to fall through.  But, I do know that once you turn the hourglass, you can’t rewind it.  It’s not like a stopwatch.  The sand moves in its own time.  And in one direction.

As life does.  Time moves in one direction.  

I remember when I was younger hearing someone describe time as an accordion.  How some moments drag on and on and on while others pass in a flash.  Of course, you wish you could control the perceived pacing of each.  Like, you wish you could fast-forward through the lonely nights, and slow down the first encounters.  Skip the contractions and pause the newborn-hand holding your finger.

I’ve also heard that time is like a river.  And I have never been more aware of the time/accordion metaphor than while rafting the Deschutes River.  You see, there is nothing steady about it.  Floating doesn’t flow to the beat of a metronome.  Instead, you are at the mercy of the rocks and rapids.  Channels and eddies.  Often, you get thrown into a rapid with little warning or time to prepare.

Our guide yelled commands like “Paddle two!,” “Lean in!,” and “Now THREE!”

And without hesitation, we followed his directions – fooling ourselves into thinking we could actually control this inflatable raft.  Adrenaline pumping.  Water surging.  Muscles flexing.  It was heightened senses and insanely fun.  (Which is why they call them rapids.)

But, how much did we actually control and how much was perceived control?  What if it’s all an illusion?  Because sometimes you can’t steer the raft where you want it to go.  You don’t get the guy, or the job, or the dream house, or whatever.  Despite your hardest paddling and line-picking, the current wins.  You float along.

Looking back at the experience, the rapids lasted maybe five minutes out of a sixty minute trip.  The majority of the time was slow.  Unassuming.

It’s funny, isn’t it?  We yearn for excitement, adrenaline, romance, and adventure.  Yet, that’s not how life works.  And frankly, that pace is not sustainable.  Life is lived in the slow waters.  The laundry and to-do lists.  Netflix-binging and online bill pay.  The headaches and broken hearts.  Oil changes and emails.

And if we’re lucky, we’ll experience both types of life.  The dull ones mixed with splashes of excitement.  The slow water and the rapids.

With the illusion of control, we’ll steer.  Paddle.  Give in to the mercy of the river.  And hopefully float through unscathed.


The depths

From the top, it is utterly surreal.  Like a postcard, it is both glossy and pristine.  Greetings from Crater Lake!  Caribbean blue against rock and evergreens.  It is breathtaking and beautiful.  And then you step close to the edge and see the cliffs diving hundreds of feet below.  Your heart rate quickens, as panic/awe races into your blood stream.  One slip, and death is there waiting.  L’apple du vide.

So you step back.  Slow your breathing.  Talk yourself off the ledge.  Life is safer standing at a distance.  And prettier.  From afar, you don’t see the blemishes and bruises.  It’s filtered and fun.  Glossy and bright.  Superficial.

There’s one, lonely path that winds down to the water’s edge of Crater Lake.  The sign states that the hike is strenuous.  It warns of the danger involved.  The inherent risk.  But the thing is, there is always a risk in going down to the depths.

Recently, my sister was saying how she felt my writing had gotten better this past year.

“Really?  I don’t feel like it’s changed,” I replied.

Then my sister-in-law chimed in, “Maybe it’s not how you write, but what you write about.  It feels more vulnerable.  Less superficial.”

And I couldn’t argue with that.  I think I stopped pretending.  Because you can’t hide divorce like you can a meh-marriage.  I used to think you could fake it till you make it.  As if by forcing a smile, you can trick yourself into being happy.  Or if you take enough photos, you can capture the good times and ignore the bad.  And now, I’m walking slowly into the deepest parts.  The painful ones.  The hidden ones.  And being at this level, I have a whole new perspective; I see how far I’ve come.

When we finally reached the water of Crater Lake, the cliffs no longer looked scary.  Like a fortress, it felt safe.  Secure.  We scrambled over the rocks to a 15 foot cliff and this time we talked ourselves over the ledge.  We touched the void.  Jumped into the water.  Over and over again.

These days, I still find myself faking it, but in a different way.  Now, I think that if I act brave, maybe I’ll feel brave.  Or if I hold my head up, maybe my body will follow.  Fragile courage.  Wobbly strength.  And maybe that’s all you can do on the journey to the depths.  Know that’s it’s strenuous.  Dangerous.

But worth it.


There’s this tree that I love.  It stands alone among the lava rocks.  Bent by the wind.  Stunted because of the landscape.  But still, it stands.

Every time we go to Lava Butte, I have to see it.  It’s stark and strong.  And it makes me wonder so many whys.  Like why did that tree find a way to grow when others couldn’t? Why did it end up in the path of a volcano, of destruction, when others, just a hundred yards away, were untouched?  Why it?  Why then?


The thing is, you can drive yourself crazy asking why questions.  Because there might not be a good reason.

Some say we often don’t know the reason why God puts people or experiences in our lives until later.  It’s only in looking back that we can connect the dots.  But what if some dots don’t get connected?  What if some things have no explanation?  No lesson/moral/theme?  What if we only assign them meaning to make sense of the world?  What do we do with that?

While we were driving home from dinner with a friend who has been asking a lot of why questions, I kept thinking of how the older I get, the less I understand.  I’m afraid I was a terrible help, because the only hope I could offer her was that her journey will get easier.  But she’ll never have all the answers.  And that she can only focus on what she can control.

My driving/musing was interrupted by my kids’ backseat fighting.  Snap back to reality (oh there goes gravity).  In my frustration, I decided to drown out their bickering with music.  I rolled the windows down.  Cranked Jon Bellion up.  And miracles of all miracles, it worked.  Not only did they stop fighting, they started singing.  Singing.

We sang at the top of our lungs as we cruised into the neighborhood.  Then we sat in the driveway until the song ended.  The chorus still swirling in my mind, hours later.  The lyrics go like this:

…Although I guess if I knew tomorrow
I guess I wouldn’t need faith
I guess if I never fell, I guess I wouldn’t need grace
I guess if I knew His plans, I guess He wouldn’t be God
So maybe I don’t know, maybe I don’t know
Maybe I don’t know, maybe I don’t know
But maybe that’s okay…


I love that my kids know the words.  I love hearing their innocent voices sing along.  And I wonder if they know the feeling.  Do they understand the meaning behind the melody?

Because the world is full of unanswered questions.  Full of volcanoes.  Lonely trees.  Destruction and growth.  Unconnected dots.  Mystery.

Any maybe we won’t know.
But maybe that’s okay.

Old tapes

We drove away from the big-box stores and suburbia and straight towards the mountains.  Rolling over pavement onto gravel until we reached the country.  Our friend had invited us over for horseback riding, and without hesitation, we said yes.  Her home oozed out adjectives like homey and warm.  Quilts draped on couches, family photos grouped on walls, bible verses engraved on horse paintings. Like mulberry and vanilla; 90’s style and sugary sweet.

Right away, we met the animals.  Nosey goats and aging horses.  Chickens, rabbits, cats, and a dog.  It was like a real-life Little People farm – complete with a tiny tractor and movable pens.  Later, the kids got to ride her Palomino named Issac.  But before they did, my friend told us his story.  A local ranch had rescued him from an abusive home.  His previous owner had tried to control him by power and fear, rather than trust and relationship.  And after a trailer accident, he ended up with a broken nose and worse, a broken spirit.

My friend had acquired him a few years ago in the hopes of rehabilitating him.  She warned us that while he was a good horse, she couldn’t guarantee when/if he would panic.  When something would trigger feelings from his past.  Past trauma.  Past hurt.  Scars that still festered that would cause him to react.  Loud noises could startle him.  Sudden movements could agitate him.

And I couldn’t help think of how much we are like him.  How are experiences shape us, stifle us, motivate us, and paralyze us.  How our pain is part of our story.  And you never know what/when/who will trigger those feelings.

Recently, I started talking to someone from my maiden-name-days.  A conversation was started and we decided to catch up over coffee.  Days before D-day, I was a nervous wreck.  I worried that the anticipation wouldn’t match the reality.  That one/both of us would be disappointed.  That we actually liked the idea of the person more than the actual person.

Then, some poisonous feelings surfaced unannounced and uninvited.  I was talking to my girlfriends, and I told them how I couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in me.  And if they were, well… it wouldn’t last.  They would leave.  They would find someone else.  They would figure it out.  And then, I would be left alone.  Again.

As the words and tears slipped out, they listened.  They encouraged.  Rallied.  They told me words that mattered: that I mattered.  Yet, the old tapes were still there.  The experience of betrayal still lingered.  I thought I had buried those feelings at least six feet under.  I thought the scar tissue was strong enough.  And I was wrong.

I wonder how many of us have these old tapes?  Tapes that say things like success is only measured in dollar signs.  Or, beauty looks good skinny.  Or, failure is not an option.  Or, the exterior matters more than the interior.  Or, men don’t cry.  Or, good moms raise good kids.  Or, fill-in-the-blank.  How many of us go through life, pushing these tapes down, only to hear them surface on one random, uneventful day?

I’m going to guess, all of us.  Every single one of us.  Some of us just have better masks.  Or push them under thicker rugs.  But, we all have issues.  Hurt.  Broken tapes.

And by being aware of them, we learn to deal with them.

My kids spent the afternoon riding Issac.  My friend even let us help give him his very first bubble bath.  Miraculously, there were no incidents or reactions.  With tenderness and awareness, we navigated the entire ordeal.  Does that mean he will never react again?  That he has been healed from the trauma?  No.  But, at least we know the trigger points.  And we are fragile with his sensitivity.

I think maybe that’s all we can really ask for from others.  That they know our story.  And that they tread gently around the edges.

During the reunion coffee date, and while giving the CliffNotes versions of our lives, I apologized to this guy for unloading such heaviness into the conversation by bringing up my divorce.  I had every intention of keeping the conversation light and airy and fun!  (No one wants to hear about baggage, do they?)  But instead of dismissing the recap, he reminded me that it’s part of my story.  That it would be hard to disconnect it from my life.  From ending up here.  Now.

He’s right.  Perhaps our vulnerability makes us more human, after all.  When we own up to our past.  Recognize our pain.  Our old tapes.

And with awareness, move forward.