Good evening, Hopespotters! It has been awhile. Is there no greater equalizer than the passage of time and the inevitable busy-ness of life?


I bring you greeting from Hilton Head Island. My husband, boys, and I had the opportunity to get down here for five days leading up to the fourth. It has been extraordinary.Yesterday, I returned to the lovely home where we are staying. To be clear, it is a gift from the best friends I’ve ever had: right on the beach and with a pool. It is luxury beyond our wildest dreams. And we are so grateful for the kindness of our friends who share this home with us.

I returned after a “training run” which I was ill equipped to do in the 90 degree heat. My run was more like an attempt to avoid calls to 911 from the others on the trail. But I persevered and made it home. To the chaise. Where there was a breeze. And I had a wonderful book. My boys were playing in the pool and I was intoxicated by all the blessings around me. It made me very sleepy. Very. Sleepy….


“I DID!”








I awoke to a “spirited” sibling dispute. Ryan and Sean were having a dunk contest in the pool hoop Kevin built and there was a “disagreement” about Sean’s last attempt.  Foggy, I reminded myself that they needed to work it out. Ten minutes later, I was in full on Mom-psycho mode. The banter continued, neither retreating, and ended with Sean full on crying about hating his brother. While these scenes play out universally and daily, I lost patience for the interruption of peace. Both boys were sequestered and clear that Mom was angry.


With expletives deleted, a truce was reached and an agreement to go to lunch in South Beach. Knowing I still needed to “chill”, I opted to ride my bike and meet the boys there.


Allow me to explain: I love to ride a bike. I’m no cyclist, but give me a beach cruiser with a basket and I can really take on the world. When I was a little girl, I had a bike called the “Ramblin’ Rose”, complete with the Shop Rite flag, daisy adorned basket and horn. I would ride that girl up and down the streets of Chatham, New Jersey, pretending I was Wonder Woman and my invisible jet was in the shop. Even when I would visit my grandparents in Arizona, and the adults would be enjoying cocktail hour, I would be tearing up the flat terrain, attending to a “very special out of state mission”.


So hopping on the bike was an act of power on my part. I needed to channel my inner Wonder Woman after the hideous brother battle. As I pedaled through the Sea Pines bike trail, I calmed. Then I heard them, long before I saw them.


What I heard was wailing crying, and a Dad scolding. As I rounded the corner, I came upon the family. Dad, two beautiful blond girls, probably 7 &9, and Mom pulling up the rear, I didn’t know them, but at the same time, I did.


This gorgeous family, in a time of momentary upset, was less recognizable from their social media profile. I could have bet that the beautiful blond girls, crying with open mouths and shooting tears, have matching Lily Pulitzer dresses that they will wear for a Friday evening family photo at the beach. Parents will wear coordinating plaids and the perfect product will wind up on their Christmas card. The accompanying letter may even reference the family trip to Hilton Head, but for sure, it will not mention the trail of tears bike ride. The card might even say #blessed.


But my encounter with them was brief and I was only able to make a very few real observations. Girl #1, for example, wore a t-shirt that said, “Sunshine Girl”. Girl # 2, the louder crier, wore a shirt saying, “Sun-day, Fun- day”.  As I smirked at the irony or their shirts, I was delivered a double dose as Mom pulled up the rear. Carrying the inner tubes and beach bags, the stoic faced Mom biked along in a t-shirt that read, “Blessed”.




As I chuckled at the ultimate irony of her t-shirt message, I started to think more about its meaning.




Over the years, many of my patients in hospice have helped me reframe the meaning of blessed. As a young nurse, I couldn’t understand families that I met on the pronouncement of their loved one who could only tell me how blessed they felt. Really?, I thought. Your loved one is dead in the bed upstairs and you feel… blessed??


Those experiences, with the ironies of yesterday’s bike ride, led me to the following thoughts:


Maybe blessed is not the absence of disruption? Maybe blessed doesn’t exist without conflict or doubt? Maybe blessed, in its best form, is imperfect but coupled with a hearty dose of resilience?


As I thought deeper, blessings are originally from God above. God, taught us best about blessings. God understood that loving his children was difficult, followers would waver in support of Him, and maybe blessed is just enough to support and belief to endure suffering.  






I’m humbled tonight as Ryan and Sean play amicably and imagine the family on the bike path is preparing for their Friday night photo.


And the rest of us… may we be blessed..with perfect and imperfect and resilience.  AMEN.

"Don't Walk me In!"

HOPEspotters- be gentle with me. I’m tired. Today was a milestone morning. Ryan, my first born (14 y/o) left for his 8th grade trip. 60 hours away touring the state of Georgia with his classmates and some very saintly teacher chaperones. The itinerary would make a Navy Seal question personal stamina, but it is a long awaited “privilege” for the graduating middle school class. So today was the day and there was a mixed bag of emotions for both Ryan and me: anxiety, excitement, concern, joy. But at drop off time of 6:30 AM, we were just doing all we could to get there in one piece.

A disclaimer: I recognize my well prepared, well protected son was going on a school field trip and not leaving for Afghanistan. I get that. Really, I do.

Preparations for this trip began months ago and I’ve had off the charts anxiety every step of the way. My anxiety was really not at all rooted in Ryan’s safety or homesickness or anything other than, “Dear God, don’t let me miss a deadline, forget an essential item he is assigned to bring or do ANYTHING to mess this up.” That is the essential prayer of most middle school moms. It varies a little, but not much.

In the last week I have been scurrying around as if Ryan was going to Pyeongchang, driving the bus, with no possibility of communication or enduring any discomfort for 5 minutes. Yep, I fell in the trap. Guilty as charged. Helicopter Parent Buckley, reporting for duty.

Last night, Ryan and I packed together and proceeded to, of course, argue. “Why do I have to bring that?” “Why can’t I bring that?”  And the ever popular, “OH MY GOD, MOM!” Don’t even know why, but it was said A LOT.

So the school sent multiple messages for absolute clarity: DROP OFF IS 6:30 AM. FAILURE TO BE AT THE SCHOOL AT THIS TIME MAY RESULT IN YOUR EXECUTION. I exaggerate- but not much. Again, my primary goal was not to mess up any part of this for my beloved first born.

Ryan isn’t great at waking up. (Holy understatement) So I spent the night waking up every hour on the hour making sure I wasn’t late in working to get him up and in the shower (yes, I do, in fact, keep my helicopter in the backyard. Thanks for asking). When my alarm finally went off at 5:20 AM, I was up and working on the traveler. Lights ON! Shower ON!

And remarkably, we were ready on time. While he got ready, I felt like I did some really incredible things. I changed out of pajamas. I put on a bra. I brushed my teeth AND put my hair in a ponytail. I double checked that everything was packed and labeled his bags with his name. Still don’t know why the Mother of the Year award givers haven’t come to find me today. But, whatever…

We got in the car and it was a lot like a regular morning: Ryan on his phone and me listening to sports radio. Typically, a morning like this would conclude with me pulling into the carpool lane and with attention to alacrity, Ryan would jump out of the passenger seat, get his backpack from the back seat and say goodbye while heading into school.

Today, however, was a milestone day and I could sense the specialness. So when I arrived at the school, in the cold dark, at 6:20, I made some observations.

The first thing I observed was somewhat shocking. As I got closer to the front door and observed parents getting out to help their student with luggage, I saw many mothers IN OUTFITS. They were dressed. And I think they were wearing makeup! Who are these magic people? Did I mention it was 6:20 AM? Were they leaving here to appear on the TODAY show? Perhaps they don’t appreciate the subtle, yet thrilling, art of driving in the dark with one eye glued shut from yesterday’s mascara. This was shocking to me. I was reeling. Was it not enough that I put on yoga pants AND A BRA? Serious, M.Fing overachievers.

The next thing I observed was that to which I paid close attention. This drop off wasn’t like regular carpool with the school resource officer waving you on so as not to create delay. “Eject your student and proceed, please.” And I am nothing if not a rule follower! But what I watched in the cars that went before me was an undeniable pattern: student AND parent left the car. Parent handed luggage to student, student hugged parent, parent returned to car and the next in line was promoted.

I was not going to mess this up.

So when Ryan and I pulled up to the “departure slot” he got out of the car, and opened the back seat to get his bags. I put the car in park and walked around the front of the car to approach him. I extended my arms, ready to say, “have a great….”


And with speed that can only be compared to Usain Bolt, Ryan darted in the front door.

I stood there with arms outstretched for only a second, but I probably looked like Frankenstein. Given the hot fear that one could see in Ryan’s eyes, that must be true.

I messed it up. I messed it up.

And in the next second, God winked at me with the all the humor and irony that only God can deliver. Embarrassed, I dropped my arms and smoothed my jacket. I glanced into the windshield of the driver behind me and, of course, it was her. OF COURSE, it was her.

Who’s her? I don’t know her name. I’ve seen her one thousand times since Ryan was in kindergarten but I swear we’ve never met. She stood out to me on this morning because two weeks ago at the MANDATORY parent planning session for this trip, she asked a question. This anonymous woman raised her hand and asked, “When do the students get to pick their roommates or when will they know who they are rooming with?”

When this loving, probably tired, trying not to mess it up Mom asked this question, many of us looked at our feet. Oh my goodness. They chose roommates one month ago. That’s already decided. Doesn’t she know? Well, even I was aware of that.

And I swear I did NOT judge her - but I will confess her lack of knowledge on this point really made me feel better on the scale of “how much do I know about my tween?”   

So on this morning, in the cold, when I dropped my Frankenstein arms and caught her eye, I understood. This mothering of growing up kids thing is really hard. And sometimes awful. But always hard.

I drove home humbled. Profoundly humbled. And I prayed for the wisdom to let my son grow with grace and faith and not fear and white knuckles, which seems to be my approach. I’ve been blessed beyond measure with a son who seems to have a limitless future. My original mission was right in its simplicity: don’t mess this up.

So I came home in time to put my 11 year old son on the bus, who let me walk him RIGHT UP to the stairs and I said a silent prayer of gratitude for that. And then I got on the treadmill and soothed myself with the following knowledge:

Dear Ryan:

I am sorry I messed up the goodbye moment. Rookie mistake.

You left so quickly I didn’t get a chance to tell you that I wasn’t planning on actually walking you in. Even I know better than that.

But I need you to know this: I will ALWAYS “walk you in” because from the day you were swaddled and placed in my arms, we became a team. I really hope I’m not going to be one of those creepy boy moms (your aunt will make sure I’m not) but if you think for A SECOND that I am not with you every step you take, you are mistaken. More and more, I won’t physically be there, but I am in your heart and you are in mine.

I’ll walk you in to high school, to college, to your first job, to your wedding chapel, to your future. I will remember my place and I’ll keep my Frankenstein arms at my side, but be clear on this, my love, I will walk you in.

And tonight, when you are bleary eyed exhausted and put on your pajama pants, you will find a note in your pocket. It says, “Hope you are having a great time. I love you. Mom.”

You can roll your eyes all you want. I’ve walked you in.

Peace out, Mamas. I think today reminded me, if nothing else, you CAN'T mess this up because there really is no way to do it “right”. Just do it with love.