This is my emotional support gum

Whoo boy, has it been a while since I posted. My last post went up the day before my daughter’s 11th birthday, and now she is on the downhill slide to 12. She wears larger shoes and rings than I do. My son, who will be 8 next week, is catching up to us both faster than I care to admit.

Last time I posted, my parents were still living in the same little house they bought in my teens. Now my father is in long-term care relearning how to walk since his stroke and my mother is gone.

Things started to go sideways in September, when my parents contracted COVID. We thought when they both recovered that we could breathe easier. We’d been told over and over that COVID would kill Mom, but she lived. Dad was over it in mere days. What unbelievable luck.

Mom was in the hospital for a couple of weeks in late November, but she recovered. Dad had a stroke the day after she returned home. While our focus was on him, she grew weaker and weaker; she eventually ended up in the hospital once more. But we were still caught off guard when the ICU nurses told us that it was time to shift to palliative care. Four days later, she was just gone.

Now I am recovering from COVID (which we contracted the day after Mom passed, so that was a fun week) and readjusting to this new normal, which involves being my dad’s legal proxy and sole support system, crying in the shower almost daily, and navigating the strange waters of being a suddenly motherless daughter.

This normal sucks.

When people ask, I tell them she passed after a long illness, which is absolutely true and also fails to capture the abruptness of it. She was so alert, so clear, right up to the very end. She barely had time to register that she was dying. I, on the other hand, have time in spades.

Having Dad in a facility and Mom on my couch was hard on all of us, but we loved having her here. It was heartbreaking to bring her home to die, but I wouldn’t trade our last late-night conversation for anything. We used to have long, late-night talks when I was a teen and young adult, and I am so grateful we got one more.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to talk to her about this. I’m so lost.

So now you know why I’ve not been blogging. I’ve been posting in my old LiveJournal instead. I don’t have time or money for therapy, so venting in an online journal everyone stopped using over a decade ago will have to do. And I’m chewing my way through boxes of this Turkish gum — I found it through a Google search for nicotine gum sans nicotine. It has no flavoring or coloring, and is small like Nicorette. It’s missing that kick of nicotine, of course, but I can pretend. I’ve already broken a filling, and will probably end up with a Zac Efron jawline before this is all said and done, but it’s helping me keep myself together. I’ve found it’s really hard to cry while you’re chewing gum.

Mom would want me to keep going, so I’m trying my hardest to do that. She would not want me to get stuck in my grief. She told me over and over in those final days that I was the best thing that ever happened to her, and as a mother I feel that. As a daughter, I am thinking ahead to what my own kids will go through when I am gone. I am even more determined to make sure they have a happy childhood and a solid relationship. Some day all too soon, all they’ll have left are their memories and each other.

It’s just not enough time. Just a handful of decades, if we’re lucky. Some of them feel long, but none of them ever are.


I’d been manifesting for years before I knew it was called that. It occurred to me at one point in my 20s that I had achieved pretty much all of the life goals I’d ever wished for aloud — they just hadn’t turned out quite as I hoped. Still, inspired by that realization, I rattled off a long, detailed list of qualities I wanted in a man. Shortly thereafter, I met a man that checked off almost every box…but again, it didn’t turn out as expected. (We’re divorced now.) Turns out there were a few things I was unaware of that should have been included in that list.

Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.

I manifested again while we were house hunting. After stalking RedFin, Trulia, and Zillow for a while, I described in detail my dream house — an informed, educated manifestation this time. A few years later, I bought a house that for the most part filled the bill. So far, so good. I think I’m getting better at this manifesting thing. (I’m almost afraid to say that. But I do love my house.)

I don’t believe that saying things out loud magically makes them appear. But I do believe that thinking deeply about what you want and need and committing it to list form, either verbally or in writing, sets you up to wait for the best option rather than settling for something that’s a bad fit. In that spirit, allow me to manifest the job I’m looking for.

  1. 100% remote, with absolutely no required travel
  2. Flexible full-time hours
  3. Salary commensurate with my education and experience
  4. A stable position with a financially stable employer
  5. A truly family-friendly employer, who understands I can parent my kids and still do great work
  6. Opportunities for advancement
  7. Unlimited PTO — and the opportunity to take it
  8. Leverages most, if not all, of my skills
  9. Work in a field of strong interest to me — education (K-12 ideally, bonus points for learning disability content) would be nice, as I am deep in that space as a homeschooling mom already, but I have other passions too
  10. A supportive environment, where people help each other learn and grow — I’ve had enough micromanagement to last a lifetime, thank you
  11. Good benefits — bonus points for a home office allowance

This list may change over time, but right now this is a good summary of what I’m looking for. Will I get all of these things? Probably not. But a position that meets the top five and includes a sufficient amount of the rest would be great.

I’ve spent a good deal of my professional life settling because I was unaware of my worth, or was aware of it but was so desperate I would take work that was beneath me because I needed the income. Now I am in a position to be choosy, and make deliberate career moves. I can be patient.

(But I am really quite tired, so sooner would definitely be better than later, please and thank you.)

Just breathe

Long drives — windows down, stereo blasting, singing at the top of your lungs — have been crucial to my mental health since I was young. In my teens and early 20s, I slid behind the wheel whenever I needed to process big feelings, or step outside of my life and blow off some steam. In those days of cheap gasoline, I would drive until I could not feel my thighs. I spent a good deal of my early 30s letting the wind blast tears from my cheeks, though sometimes it necessitated using a credit card to buy the gas. (I do miss those 90s gas prices.) Some people go to therapy; I hit the back roads.

There is much to be sad/tense/angry about these days, but that is not the palette I want the kids’ childhood painted with. For my part, being aware that an unavoidable sorrow lies just beyond the horizon makes me doubly determined to stave off the tears and do my best to enjoy the time before its arrival; there will be plenty of time for grief later on. So I am making a point to infuse as much simple joy into our days as can be done safely.

One of the routines we have established is the weekly grocery pickup run. Early on a weekend morning, we treat ourselves to Starbucks and some windows-down driving on the way to and from picking up groceries. I used to not let the kids roll the windows down because of our allergies, but so long as we all stay well, I’m willing to indulge us. We mask everywhere we go; it’s nice to be bare-faced and just breathe.

Music is key on these drives. Taylor Swift is in heavy rotation, though we do not have the same favorite songs; they are fans of “No Body No Crime” (which is fantastic), while I am loving “Cruel Summer” and “Getaway Car.” But I also add old favorites to the mix sometimes, to broaden their horizons and share a bit of Young Mommy with them. The other day, we took a sunset drive while listening to Melissa Etheridge’s “All the Way to Heaven” and it felt like we traveled back to 1996 for five minutes. They don’t like all of the music I introduce them to, but we have found some new favorites this way. (Kai is now a huge GGD fan, which makes me so very happy.)

I’m not from here — I wouldn’t even say I’m of here — but parts of it belong to me. The honeysuckle-drenched shade of tree-canopied country roads. The warm, dusty smell of hay fields at sunset. The bathwater dampness of the air before and after the heat of the day. Stacks of incandescent cumulonimbus clouds against an eye-wateringly blue sky. These things are as much a part of my DNA as the vast plains of my childhood, crops bursting from row after orderly row as far as the eye can see; cool, breezy summer evenings under a dazzling starlit sky; majestic watercolor sunsets washing everything in pinks and oranges. In these strange times, I’m finding it more important than ever to share these pieces of myself with my children. Though we sometimes feel at odds with this place, we still belong. And it still belongs to us.

Beauty and peace and stillness can be found even in hard times, I tell them. No matter what is going out outside this car, inside it is healing in the form of music and sunshine and sweet perfume. Sometimes you need to shut the rest out for a little while and just breathe.

Heavy conversations

Usually I write these posts days in advance, and reread them several times before posting. I can’t, for obvious reasons, bring myself to do that this time. I apologize if this is a rambling, nonsensical mess.

“My grandmother is terminally ill,” Anya explains, her mouth rolling carefully around the word terminally.

“That means she is really sick and will die,” she adds.

For the longest time, I skated around this truth with the children. I’m not sure what I thought I was going to accomplish. When I was growing up, children were shielded from disease and death and dying. No sense dragging them into such sad subjects. Then the world gave us a global pandemic and hard discussions became de rigeur. My kids know more about deadly communicable diseases than I did in February 2020.

It’s painful, bringing Mom’s health out into the open like that. Their questions are like daggers. It’s gut-wrenching when Kai tries to find a way to fix her, because he is little and does not want to lose his Mimi yet. I don’t want to lose her either. That’s my mom.

But talking about it just might help prepare us for the day that is coming on us way too fast. Hiding from it makes it seem unbearable. So I have begun to talk to them about Mimi. I tell them she will someday be gone. We have discussed where they would prefer she be buried. We talk about all the ways we can make the most of the time we have with her, because we do not know when that time will run out. Sometimes I cry as we talk. I try not to, because it distresses them, but I don’t want them to be afraid to feel or show emotion. Sometimes they cry too.

In this house, we talk about hard things. Things other people may consider inapproriate for children to know about. I don’t just mean disease, death, or even sex — though they can tell you exactly where babies come from. I’m talking about about racism and sexism, hate crimes and genocides, climate change and Chernobyl. We’ve talked about Ruby Bridges and Black Wall Street, the truth of the first Thanksgiving, and Matthew Shepard. They know about the boy from a neighboring town who hung himself in a school bathroom this year, and the classmates who recorded it.

But I cannot bring myself to tell them about Uvalde.

Anya knows school shootings have occurred, of course. She has participated in as many active shooter drills as she has fire, tornado, and earthquake drills. She knows that I watched coverage of Sandy Hook while sobbing into her baby-fine curls. She knows I had planned to homeschool her until she begged me to send her to school. She knows how reluctantly I agreed to let her go.

They both know about the mass shooting in a grocery store 30 miles from here. It’s not one we shop, but we frequent other stores in that area. Mass shootings are not a new concept to them. It breaks my heart to type that.

If I were to tell them about Uvalde, would they ever feel safe in a school again? In a store? On a playground? Should they? How am I supposed to tell them that a bunch of kids their age were identifiable only through clothing and DNA tests? What are they supposed to do with that? How are they supposed to live with that in their heads? How are any of us?

So I haven’t told them. I’ve cried in showers, in closets, in the morning before they wake up. They sense something is off, but they don’t know what. And for once, I’ve not explained.

I talk to my kids about the hard subjects. And I tell them that, in spite of all the pain and hate and unfairness in the world, there is still beauty in it. I tell them that they are part of that beauty. I tell them that it is their responsibility to spread that beauty, to bring light to the darkness, to leave the world better than they found it. I tell them that love triumphs over hate. I don’t know how to explain to them that there are strangers who would shred their tiny bodies with weapons of war just to make a point. I don’t know how to explain to them that there are people who would enable these murders in exchange for money, votes, and power. I don’t know how I can continue to believe that love will win over hate when we keep allowing people to slaughter our babies. And if I don’t believe it, why should they?

The morning after the Uvalde shootings, I enrolled them in homeschool for the coming year. Maybe it’s cowardly of me to do so. Plus I’m beyond exhausted, and probably failing them academically. But my burdens are nothing compared to those faced by parents whose babies will never come home from school. Our challenges pale in comparison to those faced by the family, friends, and teachers those babies left behind. This is a small price to pay to keep them safe.

I will have to tell them about Uvalde at some point. But for now I’m content to carry this weight alone, to shield them from this particular darkness a little while longer. I need them to keep the light going. Hopefully they can lead me back to it.

Can crying be considered a hobby?

I was sobbing over a scene in A Million Little Things when Anya walked in. I tried to discreetly clean up my face, but she caught me.

“No watching sad stuff! I am not happy if you are not happy! Watch something funny — that’s an order!”

I laughed, but I know where she was coming from. There was a time when I was deeply uncomfortable watching things that make me cry; I avoided serious shows and serious books and even serious conversations every chance I got. Aside from the occasional Fried Green Tomatoes or Steel Magnolias rewatch, I never deliberately watched or read anything I knew would require tissues.

Now? Crying at the screen is how I let off steam.

Life these days is…heavy. All of my former outlets are currently lost to me. I don’t have anyone I can unload on without judgement, or the time to find someone, or the time to talk — or the will to, really. And I’ve never been able to just sit at home and feel sad and cry. But lately I need to cry on a regular basis, and I can’t always hop in the car and drive out to the middle of nowhere to bawl. Which is why I watch shows like Million even though they sometimes feel like a contest between writers to see how many dramatic developments you can feasibly cram into one episode. If I saved all my crying for the shower, my water bill would be outrageous. Plus I’m not a fan of long showers, anyway.

I am not a stoic parent. I believe stuffing everything down and never allowing the even, calm exterior to crack, intended to make kids feel safe and protected at all times, sets them up to view adults as all-knowing, all-powerful, unbreakable powerhouses who never ever make mistakes. Then when the kids make a mistake, they feel like a failure. (Or was that just me?) So I have made a point to model a range of emotions — some intentionally, others not so much: Joy. Sorrow. Frustration. Anger. Hopelessness. Determination. They watch me get knocked down, and they watch me get back up. They have seen me fall into deep despair, and they’ve seen me pull myself out of it and push on. It’s messier this way, as they view me as the fallible human that I am rather than a pedestal mom, but I think it’s a better way to parent. I suppose time will tell if I’m right.

But I don’t always want to share the cause of my tears. Sometimes I’m crying for them. Sometimes it’s because of them. Sometimes it’s just for me. Other times, it’s because of things I’m not ready to discuss with them yet: The horrors this world dishes out. The evil people are capable of. The hurts for which there are no easy answers. The way things change and change without getting any better. My fears for their future. So I hold the tears in. And when they won’t be held back anymore, I cry at a screen.

Watching shows that make me cry isn’t pandemic-new for me; I’ve watched This Is Us since the beginning. But that show is hitting waaaay too close to home with Rebecca’s illness, so it is not the catharsis that soapy shows like Million are. I need drama that in no way resembles my life.

As the awful drags on, I’m finding that I spend a good deal of my free time crying. It’s hardly a hobby I’m going to list in my bio, but I find it useful nonetheless. Letting sadness come out as tears beats bottling it up and watching it come out as anger or depression. And crying at streaming shows is a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy.

So what if this is what I want?

Moms are under a lot of pressure these days to pursue their passions. Is it because Gen X’s kids are mostly grown up, and today’s moms missed out on being latchkey kids? Perhaps. When I talk to people about how I’ve centered my life on my kids, they always get this look. I can’t tell if it’s pity, bewilderment, maybe even slight revulsion. But it’s clear that I am Doing It Wrong. I am supposed to be following my bliss. Writing my novels. Taking classes. Climbing the career ladder. Going on date nights and outings with friends. Asserting my right to my self and my interests — not spending my free time hanging out with my offspring. Motherhood can’t be ALL I want, surely.

The truth is that the moment I looked into my daughter’s sweet, perfect little face, I felt for the first time in decades that I had come home. The years of lonely aimlessness had finally led me to somewhere real. Everything I have ever worked for came together in that moment.

This IS what I want.

Is it all I want? Hell no. But I realize that this time is fleeting: Anya’s half grown already, and Kai isn’t far behind. I also realize that this time will color their view of me forever. We keep coming back to childhood in our memories because it is the era of firsts, the origin of everything — our sense of self, our approach to life, our understanding of home and love and life and family.

It often felt to me that my parents and I were isolated from the rest of our family. Tensions, history, circumstances, distance. But there was never a time when I didn’t long for a larger family. People with larger families often scoff at that, telling me stories of tensions and drunken arguments and battle lines. And yes, I’ve sat at more than a few tense tables myself. But in my heart is burned this image of a long dinner table for the holidays, piled with food and wreathed with stories and laughter. Of family picnics in the spring. Game nights and movie nights and Sunday brunches. Of an open door that kids walk through on a random Tuesday, just to say hi. I don’t want the first couple decades of their lives to be the only ones I am a part of.

This morning I slept in; a toothache has derailed all but the most pressing of weekend plans, and I thought the more pain I slept through, the better. So I snoozed my pre-dawn alarm, waking later in a sun-drenched bedroom to my children stroking my cheek and squeezing me tight. “Mama hugs,” my son said, beaming. I hope these are the memories they hold of me as they get older and begin to pull away — not me at my stressed-out worst, but the snuggles, the games, the bedtime stories, the impromptu parties, the holiday traditions.

If I were to vault up the career ladder, or become a best-selling author, or find some measure of success through any of my creative outlets — hell, all three, let’s shoot for the moon — but only saw or talked to my kids on major holidays (if then) because my calls were an obligation and visits were a chore, I would feel like a failure. If I die having achieved nothing more than having a close family, I will die a happy woman. Looking at my own family, I would say that a great first step is to put the kids first now. Later is often too late.

Maybe family isn’t all I want, but it is all I need. The rest is icing.

So this wasn’t the best Christmas

My mother is dying.

If I needed further evidence of this, I need look no further than the photo of my grandfather’s last birthday. Mom looks so much like him in that photo. Only he was 10 years older than she is. It’s so unfair.

My mother is dying, and she knows it, and she is saying goodbye to the world. This fall brought her abundant birthday wishes, beautiful weather, vibrant leaves. We had a wonderful family photo session, and the photographer captured memories we will cherish for years to come. She has spent this holiday season immersed in wonderful memories from our past. Me as a child. Family gatherings large and small. During a recent visit, we went through all of her photo albums and she told stories about her childhood. Pointed out photos of me and Dad she particularly loves. She wants me to have the stories because she is the last to remember many of them. Some she has already forgotten.

I am glad she is remembering the good times. All I can think about are the bad ones. The Christmases I refused to spend with them as a teen because I was angry about the move. The times she wanted to hang out with me and I was too busy. The wasted time. So much of it.

She is as peaceful as one can be about it all. I…am not.

I am beyond burning the candle at both ends — at this point, I am basically a flaming ball of wax. That cup I am supposed to fill before I fill everyone else’s? I don’t even have one anymore. Every time I think I can’t possibly take on one more thing, life throws something at me I am unable to turn down. This is the place from which I am attempting to cope with my mother’s decline.

The logical thing would be to spend as much time with her as possible. We have the opportunity: She is close by. I work flexible hours, all remote. But there’s this pandemic. This disease that many people are treating as a joke. A disease that would assuredly kill my mother, probably in a matter of days.

So I am the virus patrol. We go almost nowhere. We mask, distance, sanitize. I have denied my children trips to parks, to stores, to restaurants, to parties. We have passed up parades and tree lightings and trunk-or-treats and playdates with friends. And they have coped with my haphazard homeschooling efforts for two years now. We are both closer than ever and weary of each other’s company.

I am growing extremely resentful of people who do not take precautions against the virus. It’s gone from exasperation to a white-hot rage. Perhaps they do not deserve this anger, but it’s got to go somewhere or I will burn alive.

Today at the garden, my son yelled out to a group of unmasked people: “You there! You just go the other way! You aren’t wearing masks!” And I realized that this tension I feel is filtering down to my kids. I hate hearing that part of me come out in their sweet little voices.

I am in the middle of my first vacation all year. I took last week and this week off both jobs. (Still freelancing. I mean, this is me. But I don’t have a bedtime right now.) I had hoped to spend time with Mom — playing games, putting together puzzles, baking, listening to her tell stories.

Only it looks like the kids and I are sick now.

I am just so damn tired.

All we want for Christmas

Anya gave me her list for Santa yesterday. It was initially a top 10 list, but I had her add a few more items after I saw what she’d asked for.

She wants a cat (she knows I’m allergic). She wants a car — a real, grown-up automobile. For her, not me. She wants COVID to go away. As we discussed her replacement items (“Gee, honey, I don’t think a car is going to fit on the sleigh, and anyway you’re 6 years away from being able to drive it”), her top pick was a COVID shot.

This child asked for a vaccination against a global pandemic and 15 packs of gum in the same breath. What a world. What a childhood.

I get it, though. Recently I entered a Christmas wish list contest. I do not win contests, but what harm, right? After much hemming and hawing, I asked for:

  1. A new car
  2. New kitchen appliances
  3. New living room furniture

It felt all kinds of ugh, asking for stuff like that. It’s not even really what I want. What I want more than anything is this:

  1. My mother to be well again
  2. This stupid pandemic to go away so my kids can have something resembling a real childhood
  3. Peace, time, and/or hope. I’m not picky.

So…I mean, a car is a big ask. But compared to my mother’s health, it’s nothing. Hell, she could buy a car in what she spent on medical bills last year. I’d pay twice that for just a little more time with her. Ten times that.

What I want for Christmas is for it to be a good one. We need it to be good. I need it.

The grocery store song

The other day, which was maybe last week and maybe last month (time has lost almost all meaning), R brought home a papaya. I’m still off fruit and almost all sugars — more on that in a later post, but short version: I feel so much better now — so I did not partake, but it was interesting to see the inside of a papaya after hearing about them my whole life. The seeds are gray and squashy and look vaguely insectile. I didn’t hear any calls for buying a second papaya, so I’m thinking it wasn’t a favorite. Or maybe they just need to eat it two or three times.

Anyway. It triggered a memory, long faded, of how my mom and I would sing “Lone Palm” by Jimmy Buffett in the grocery store. The first line is “My garden is filled with papayas and mangoes,” and as we walked by the produce, one of us would start humming. We’d usually get to the chorus by the time we reached the canned goods, singing in harmony while getting side-eye from other shoppers. Over time, we began to refer to it as “the grocery store song.” I had to Google the lyrics to find the title just now, because I’d forgotten what it was really called.

It feels like another life, me and mom singing in a store. Those years were overall not happy ones for me, but there were good moments. In-jokes and routines and silliness. Singing about fruit we’d never eaten, without a care about who was listening.

On the heels of this memory was the realization that, some day all too soon, I will be the only person left who knows what the grocery store song is, and it was such a lonely feeling. So I decided to share it here, so someone else will remember with me.

“It’s okay to cry. You’re still a good mom.”

I’ve heard that the best way to support a child through rough feelings is to name and make space for those feelings, but I admit it always felt a little hokey to me. “Aw, you feel sad. You wanted [blank], and you are super disappointed. It’s okay to feel bad. You are still a good kid. Just let the bad feelings out.” I say these things, sure, but I was skeptical of how much good I was doing.

A nurse in a drive-through COVID testing center showed me just how effective it is.

It was a busy work day for me. A busier week. I had a rush project, the house was a wreck, the kids had done precious little homeschooling, and Anya had been feeling bad for a few days. Most likely allergies, because we don’t go anywhere and no one else was sick — the family that cosleeps shares allll the germs — but she’d been complaining of ear pain and yellow sinus drainage, so I had to rule out an infection. For added fun: When her sinuses drain into her stomach, it causes GI distress; i.e., vomiting and diarrhea. The only bright side in all of this: She’s now old enough to barf in the toilet.

It took two days to get her in to the doctor because COVID is burning through our schools. We can usually get in within a couple of hours.

The doctor was concerned about the GI issues and sent us for a COVID test. Just as a precaution, she said. She assured Anya that even if she did have COVID, she’d almost certainly be okay. She’s a healthy girl. She’d just feel a little sick.

Yeah, but there’s a little girl in our area who had no symptoms at all, and she’s in the ICU on life support. Also, we saw Mom the previous weekend, two days before Anya got sick. Mom absolutely would not survive COVID. My mind started racing, trying to figure out what we did wrong, how she could possibly have been exposed. Speech therapy? They keep their masks on the whole time, but it’s the only place we ever go inside. Could R have brought it home from work? Was it on the pizza boxes? The groceries?

After I struck out several places trying to find a drive-up testing center that would administer a rapid test that day, my parents hooked me up with a local drive-through center. I called and made the arrangements while driving home from the doctor. (It’s an hour drive. I was on hold with them for 20 minutes of that, listening to a couple warbly snatches of Enya mixed with plugs for their services. Which didn’t help my fraying nerves.) By now I was several hours behind on my work day, and taking the afternoon off was not an option, so I snagged my tablet in case we were there for a while. Plus the cord and the AC adapter because of course it wasn’t charged.

Forgot to grab the insurance cards, though. Starving (we missed lunch), sweating (half stress, half being dressed for a cool morning on a hot afternoon), and with a throbbing finger (I mashed it between the AC adapter and the gear shift), I found the place and got in line, mowing down some orange cones to do so; the entrance was not clearly marked, and my patience was at that point completely gone. That’s when I saw the signs asking for insurance info. By this point it was mid afternoon. I didn’t have time to go home and get them. I’ll just pay cash, I told myself.

I had that much cash on me, but good lord! When R had the test, it was free. I started crumbling around the edges.

The nurse saw this.

“It’s okay to cry,” she said. “This is so hard. Just let it all out. You are doing so well.”

My eyes overflowed, as if they were waiting on permission to do so. “I…I have done everything right!” I blurted out. “I am just so tired!” I then proceeded to blubber all over myself.

“You are such a good mom,” she said. “This is so scary and so hard, but you are doing a great job. We will find her info. We’ll get this taken care of. Don’t you worry. I will do anything I can to help. Do you need to cry for a little bit? I can always come back to you. Take all the time you need.”

“No, thank you” I said, sobbing. “Just give me the forms.”

I thought about that nurse all evening. How just that little bit of compassion helped me deal with one of the scariest days I’ve had in a while. How much it helped hearing from someone else that it was okay to feel whatever I was feeling. How much better I felt letting some of it out. How much I needed someone to tell me I am a good mom, that I am doing a good job.

Anya’s test was negative. You don’t want to know how long I had to sit on hold to find that out. I can’t be mad about it, though. I got the assurance I needed, both in the test results and in the emotional support I received from the testing center nurse.

Now that I know the power of naming and making space for feelings, I’m going to work harder at doing so with the kids. With everyone. We all need a little empathy. Especially these days.