Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Archive for April, 2014


“Ladies Home Journal” sent me an email last week to tell me that they did not select my essay. They had a reader’s essay contest. They received 4000 submissions. Mine was not chosen. So, I guess we all now know that the LHJ panelists are illiterate. Wait until I tell my Mom on them. They’ll be sorry.

I could tell right away that the email in my inbox was a rejection. You always can tell. I thought my feelings should be hurt, but they weren’t. I didn’t actually remember that I entered that contest, and I didn’t remember what I wrote.

I’ve entered as many contests, and have submitted as many articles as I could find time to submit in the last 6 months. There’s no calculated strategy involved with my submissions. I just search for opportunities that appear to be a decent match, crank something out, and hit send.

Given the scope of writers living on this planet right now, my writing skills are below average. Probably, less than below. I’m not being modest, or fishing for compliments. It’s true.

When I read a well written book, I think that those authors are gifted artists. The combination of words they use, and the way they are able to say things without saying them, is brilliant. It’s like those writers have access to more parts of their brain than I have. I don’t begrudge them their brilliance. I’m inspired by them.

Just because I’m not a brilliant author, doesn’t mean I can’t write. I love to write. I’ve been writing some nonsense or another my whole life. I’m going to keep searching for new opportunities. I think people are meant to develop and pursue the things they love doing.

Both my parents tried publishing a book at some point in their lives. Isn’t that awesome? I remember my Dad being bent over his typewriter for an entire summer. I love that memory.

My parents’ arsenal for success included a typewriter, white out and the postman. No wonder it never happened for them. They had no delete button, no blog, no on line submissions, and they had busy lives. The fact that they each put one book together, while working and raising 5 children, seems extraordinary to me.

I’m happy to carry the torch for my parents. I have a sister who writes too. I’ve always had a feeling that she will write a great book some day. It’s sort of a contest between her and me for our parent’s love and approval. I hope you’ll join me in praying that I beat her to it. Okay, don’t really do that. That’s mean. Just pray that she gets carpal tunnel syndrome. Nothing too painful. I’m always loyal.

When I die, I want my kids to remember that I tried to develop and pursue my God given talents and interests. I’m sure about that. If my kids know that I was rejected and discouraged, but kept doing what I thought I was meant to do anyway, that will make me even happier. Of course, I’ll be dead. So, happy in they way dead people are happy.

I found the article I wrote for LHJ. Now you can see for yourself what kind of nutbags run that operation. I don’t think organizing a boycott is going too far.


When our oldest son, Eddie, was born, he went “live” from the hospital. One day old and he had a microphone to his mouth. Eddie gurgled on cue, which was, of course, my first proof that he was advanced.

I worked at a radio station at the time in a small town in Iowa. I was a morning personality. There were likely a hundred or more people in the Hog County Capital of the world tuned into our musings every morning. I don’t mean to brag, but, you know; that’s a pretty big deal.

During my pregnancy, we held a county wide contest to see who could guess my baby’s due date. Now I look back and wonder if there is a chance I could have had an accident and hit my head some time after that period in my life. Did I hit my head so hard that I woke up a different person? The person I am today would not be okay with going live from my hospital room.

The “live from the hospital” scenario is not my only proof that I had a different brain in my 20’s than I have in my 40’s. I really DID think my son was advanced. I thought he was advanced the day he was born, and every day after that. I was so excited back then that I had invented child birth. I was sure I loved this chubby little creature in a way no mom had ever loved her child before; I just had to share, and share, and share. Yes, I was that mom. I’d like to apologize for that.

I was the Mom who was dazzled by her own life. I must say, my husband called it. One day he said, “You really think your kids are going to be perfect, don’t you?” No sarcasm, just a question based on the information he had gathered up to that point in our lives.

I said, “No. Of course I don’t.” I mean, what else are you going to say?

Eddie eventually started Kindergarten. After the first week, his teacher told me, “Eddie is the cutest, funniest little boy I have ever taught.” She had been teaching a long time. So, there you have it. I knew I had been right about him.

After Eddie’s first month of Kindergarten, his teacher called. She said, “Ah, we are having some problems with Eddie. He can be some trouble for me in the class room. He taught another boy how to spell a swear word.”

I lost a full night’s sleep after that conversation with Eddie’s Kindergarten teacher. First exposure to the real world is so harsh.

It wasn’t my fault. I blame my parents. They raised five daughters. I was the youngest. I spent 21 years in their house. That entire time they liked each other, they worked hard, were nice to other people, showed us affection, showed each other affection, and didn’t play favorites. That was a really mean thing for them to do. Because, then they just flung us out into the real world. I started my adult life with no real proof that the world would be anything but kind to me.

I guess I also have to blame my DNA. As adults, one of my sisters, who is also my best friend, has told me that there was something that really annoyed her about living with me all those years. When she told me what it was, I didn’t really dwell on it. She can be crabby sometimes. But, then my husband told me the same thing. They both told me that it is annoying that I wake up happy, and that I stay happy; especially that I wake up happy.

My husband and I have had this conversation more than once in our house in the morning. We are moving around well before sunrise. He’s very quiet. Too quiet. I say, “What’s wrong?”

He answers, “It’s 5:30 in the morning. That is what’s wrong.” He doesn’t sound very friendly.

One time my husband tried giving me a more scientific explanation of our issues. He said, “Listen Honey, we’re all different. Not everyone is born whistling ‘Dixie’ out of their behind when they get out of bed every morning. Some of us have to work harder at being happy.”

I can’t help it. I was born excited about life. I have always been genuinely optimistic that life is good, and fun, and full of interesting adventures. Between my pesky optimism and my dysfunctional, happy childhood, I had no real preparation or expectation that life would not go exactly as I envisioned.

I was so distressed over those calls from Eddie’s Kindergarten teacher, but I adapted. I began to predict what the teacher was going to tell me each year. Every conference was the same. The teacher would soften the blow by giving you the good stuff first. They would tell us Eddie is funny, smart and nice. One teacher even told us Eddie was going to be the next Jerry Seinfeld.

Just when we were feeling good about things, maybe even a little proud, the teacher would deliver the blow. “Eddie needs to pay attention. Eddie needs to be more organized. Eddie needs to stop distracting the other students. Eddie needs to stop stapling his fingers. Eddie needs to stop eating wood chips.”

I asked myself, “What are these people running here, a military school?”

So, Eddie was not going to be a model student. I learned to accept it. I even started to own it. After all, Eddie’s teacher did say he was going to be the next Jerry Seinfeld, right? Optimism.

Then, Eddie got sick. In second grade he had Strep Throat. He didn’t get better. He didn’t get better the next year either, or the next. He’s 17 now, and he’s still sick. He’s had fevers, infections, neurological issues and digestive issues. In seventh grade he started vomiting. He is a sophomore now, and the vomiting has not stopped. He’s missed most of each year of school, and his 8th grade year completely.

It started with Lyme Disease. The Lyme disease was treated, and treated and treated. After hundreds of appointments with Medical Doctors and Alternative Doctors, a 4 week stay at a fancy clinic in Wichita, KS that our community helped pay for, a trip to a respected Children’s Hospital and hours upon hours of our own research later, we know a lot of things we did not used to know. Eddie is still sick.

We’ve had periods of relief. Oh, what sweet, awesome relief it has been too. One year we rid our diet of grains, sugar, artificial sweeteners and preservatives of any kind (a really good thing we learned, and are still doing). That provided us the longest reprieve yet. Enough time for Eddie to break school records and place at State in Wrestling as a freshman in high school. Towards the end of the wrestling season though, Eddie was functioning on determination alone. Determination can only substitute as an immune system for so long. When the wrestling season was over, Eddie crashed. He crashed hard.

Over the years I have grieved. I grieve the loss of the life I had imagined for our family as a young mother. I grieve for the loss of all the things I wanted for Eddie. Sometimes you hear really mature people who have struggled with a crisis in their life say that if they had to do it over again, they would. Well, I wouldn’t. Given the choice, I would go right back to the world I made up for myself 20 years ago and live there. That was a really nice place.

But, no one is giving me that choice. So, I have learned to accommodate grief in my life. I have evolved into an optimistic, grief-stricken person. It’s conflicting.

When you have someone you love experiencing chronic illness, you have to learn how to carry grief with you every day. I’m so much better at this than I used to be. Even though I would not choose this path for our family, I can say with sincerity that this experience has given me new eyes and a brain that I like better than the one I had before. Sometimes optimism looks like arrogance; I think I needed to know that.

I’m glad I can now talk to someone who appears flat, and not assume something unkind. Now, I assume they must have troubles of their own. I’m glad that I have seen just how generous and supportive a community and friends can be to someone in need. I’m glad I have seen the importance of support and love from your family. I’m glad I have seen how faith gives hope. I’m glad I have seen and now know new ways to keep the rest of our family healthy and strong. And, I’m mostly glad that Eddie is our son.

Eddie’s life has caused me to learn a multitude of lessons I didn’t want to learn, but am glad I know. I look forward to the day when his body is completely healthy and strong. He’ll be fully grown and so wise from all the hard lessons he has learned. I just know he will be the best President of the United States our country has ever had. Optimism.

Eddie's warrior face


How I Inspire

Did you read my blog on Tuesday? Well, you should have; I’m trying to help you change your life. I can’t do that, if you won’t listen.

Tuesday’s blog was super deep and motivating. I told you about my long walks with my dog. I said I might make a bumper sticker to commemorate my dog walking accomplishments. My sticker would be a stick figure walking her dog with “1.5” on it. You don’t have to tell ME how cool that sounds.

The nicest people read my blog; some old friends, a lot of new friends. They give me good ideas. One of my friends said my sticker should say, “It ain’t no jive. I walk 1.5.” You get it? Jive and one-point-five rhyme? I know. I know. You’re getting emotional. It’s okay. Feelings are good.

I’d like to thank my friend (thanks, Wendy) for that good idea. Her good idea gave me another good idea. I think I need to make a poster. I was thinking that Scott could hang this poster in the wrestling room. The wrestlers (my sons included – because boys L-O-V-E, I mean LOVE posters of their moms) could look at the poster when they just needed that extra push. When they are feeling like they have nothing left to give, when they don’t know where they’ll find the courage they need to bust through insurmountable obstacles in front of them, and when they are tempted to give in, they can look at this poster.

One look at this poster, and the wrestlers will remember. They’ll remember what I’ve accomplished, and be inspired to reach their own goals. It doesn’t matter that they’re aiming for a State Championship, and I’m aiming for two miles. They don’t need to feel badly about having a goal that’s less challenging. What matters is that they have one. What matters is that they never give up. Like me. I never give up.

It’s no JIVE. I go 1.5!

walking poster

Random Stuff…

Sometimes I order my brain to come up with a good idea for a blog. My brain doesn’t cooperate. Sometimes I’ll start down the path, writing about a topic that’s interesting to me; then it isn’t interesting anymore. I get sick of listening to myself.

I have a heap of abandoned blog posts. That doesn’t surprise me. I’m nice to my brain; I let it off the hook when it refuses to cooperate.

I had an idea that maybe I could record my random thoughts. We’ll see how that works:

Do you like those stickers on the back of people’s cars that tell you about the races they’ve run? You know, they’re usually white and black. They’re written in a modern font: 13.1 and 26.2. The Ironman triathletes have stickers that say 140.6. Braggers.

running sticker

I have been measuring my walks with Reggie in the morning with this awesome new app Olivia downloaded for me. Surprise! I’m not walking nearly as far as I had imagined. My walks vary between 1.5 and 1.7 miles.

I was thinking I might get a sticker on the back of my car with a stick figure walking her dog. Above the stick figure will be “1.7”. Do you think that will seem like bragging? Sure, I’m proud of myself, but I don’t need to be obnoxious about it. It’s just that when you push yourself beyond what the average person believes is humanly possible, you want to commemorate that in some way. That’s why I thought the sticker might be fun. A tattoo would be another way to go.

People will ask what the tattoo means. I’ll say, “It’s just something I look at it when times are hard, and I need strength. I know I can get through whatever challenges I have, because I walk a mile or two. Every.Day.” Then I’ll whisper it again for emphasis, “Every. Day.”

That’s gonna choke people up. Maybe I should just go with the sticker.

Scott ran an Ironman when he turned 40. That was fun. The kids and I followed him around all day. We were nervous about the swim; mainly because Scott doesn’t know how to swim. Knowing how to swim is a super big advantage. Scott spent the summer before the race learning what most people learn when they’re 10-years-old, and in level 3 swim class.

During the race, Scott’s friend was stationed near the water. The kids and I were at the point where the racers were just taking off on their bikes, after the swim. We kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting to see Scott. We couldn’t find Scott. At first I felt okay. He told me that his swim would be the weakest part of his race. After what felt like a long time, we started seeing the great grandmas in the race. They would peddle by on their bikes with baskets and a horn. I started getting nervous.

Eddie had been telling me that he thought he saw his dad on his bike when we first got to the race. I said that wasn’t possible; that was too soon. Scott said he’d be passing by later than that.

Scott’s friend called me from her spot over by the water. She asked if I had seen Scott. She told me she never saw him get out of the water. I continued to ignore Eddie. Instead, I listened to my own irrational, anxiety induced theories. Why wouldn’t I? Those theories never steer you wrong. Scott had drown. I started crying.

I called Scott’s sister to tell her Scott had drown. Scott’s sister is, seriously, like my favorite audience. We both agree that it’s always safest to assume the worst. She started crying too. She was able to check his progress from her computer. Oops. False alarm. Eddie was right. Scott had finished the swim portion much more quickly than he expected. That was actually him taking off on his bike when we first got there. Sorry kids. Dad is alive. Let us rejoice!

Scott’s sister, her family, Scott’s parents, and mine all eventually made it to the race. The atmosphere was so exciting. My brother-in-law kept us updated on Scott’s times, and how he was doing. The swim is 2.4 miles and the bike race is 112 miles. Then you get off your bike, and finish by running a marathon.

Scott was doing better than expected on the bike portion of the race too. We were cheering. Then my brother-in-law informed us that Scott was getting to the last half of the marathon. He was moving at a 12-minute-mile pace. Eddie and I looked at each other in shock. Something must be medically wrong. We both knew that Scott just couldn’t run that slow. We didn’t understand what was happening.

Scott finished the race with an impressive time. Better than he expected. Eddie and I couldn’t wait to ask him what happened out there. Did he break his leg? Did he have to carry one of those Grandmas on his back? When we saw him we said, “You were running a 12-minute-mile pace. Did something happen?”

Scott answered, “Yes. A 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride happened.”

We said, “Yeah, we hear those excuses, but you were running really slow. we mean, really slow.”

Yes. I’ve been known to pull off a 13-minute-mile myself, but we’re not talking about me. We’re talking about Scott. I don’t think Eddie and I thought it was possible for anything to slow him down.

Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I should have helped train Scott by taking him on some of my dog walks. I didn’t think of it then.


I like watching my family do cool things, whether it’s the Ironman or State Wrestling. Do you know how parents feel when their kids wrestle at State? High. Those parents may as well be on crack. The amount of adrenaline flowing through a parent’s veins at State is enough for them to be able to do all that weird stuff you read about. Moms could lift a car off a human at state, and Dads could leap from the parking garage to the Kohl center. Pupils are dilated, and it’s go time. What you can’t do with all that adrenaline is focus on silly details, like keeping your van away from cement polls. I know that for sure.

The first day of the State Tournament I drove Zeke and Olivia in the minivan. We got into the parking garage. I turned a very, very tight corner. I mean VERY tight. There has to be hundreds, maybe even thousands of vehicles that didn’t make that turn that day. We heard a bad sound as I turned the corner. Zeke yelled, “Mom, you’re too close!”

“No worries, Zeke,” I said. I stopped the van, and put it in reverse. Oops. There was that sound again. Whatever I didn’t scrape and dent moving forward, I scraped and dented in reverse. The minivan door looks like King Kong grabbed it and crumpled it like a piece of tissue paper. It’s ugly.

The craziest part of that story is that at the time, I could not even be bothered with that hideous damage I had just created. When we got out of the van, Zeke and Olivia looked at me like they expected me to be shocked or disgusted with the situation. My adrenaline was too high. It didn’t register with me that we had any kind of problem at all. Eddie was at State. Yay!!!

Scott must be better at handling adrenaline. That dent definitely registered as a problem to him. I’ve told you that he rarely drives, so I thought there might be a chance he wouldn’t ever notice, if I didn’t tell him. But, guess what? Blabby McBlabber mouth couldn’t wait to share the news.

We were in the suite at the Kohl center. Everybody was all smiles and having a good time. Then Olivia said, “Dad, you should see what Mom did to the van.” Scott can quit smiling super fast.

I looked at him and said, “Eddie made it to State. Yay!”

I took in many-a-drawn-out-lectures from that point forward. My precious husband wanted to make sure I understood how horrible the van looked. I was hoping he’d let up, but then daylight started lasting longer, and he started getting home a little sooner from work. There that ugly, damaged van would be, ready to remind Scott to run through all the tips he has for being a good driver; Just in case I had forgotten from his morning lecture. It was tiring. Then Olivia had a new friend over.

Scott was heading out the garage door with the boys to go to some wrestling event. At the same time Olivia’s new friend and her Mother were at our front door. The Mom was introducing herself to me, and we were chatting when Scott came to the front door too. He said, “Hello.”

The Mom said, “Oh, Hi. I’m so and so’s mom.”

Scott smiled and said, “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Olivia’s Dad. I just backed into your car in the driveway.”

We’re getting the van fixed, but we don’t talk about it any more.

What is Your Fantasy Church?

Our church needs a new name. I’m on our church naming committee. I think they made a mistake. I’m not creative or inspired. I’m practical.

Scott and my friend, Lisa, can spend hours poring over logos, color schemes and themes for the Wrestling Club. They love the details, and they’re so good at it. I’m thankful for Lisa. Before she joined the Wrestling Club, Scott would ask me about colors, logos and themes. I could hardly even pretend to care. He wasn’t impressed.

For a while there was a suggestion box in the back of our church. Anyone could suggest a good idea for a new church name. I think there were four suggestions in one year.

Half of the suggestions in that box were from my children: The first was, “Poop”; signed by Eddie, actually written by Olivia, pretending to be Eddie. The other was “Brothers Understand The Truth Society”, or “Butts”, which was written by Eddie for real. And that’s the story of how you get elected (forced) on a committee when no one else volunteers. Thanks for the shenanigans, kids.

Right now the name of our church is, “Sauk Prairie Evangelical Free Church”. Really rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? That’s not a good name. It’s too long.

Our church isn’t the only one with a name problem. I’ve heard others. Some Catholic churches go out of their way to include every spiritual word they ever liked in their name.

Have you heard of, “St. Francis National Evangelical Spiritual Baptist Faith”? That’s a Catholic church in Canada.

When I hear these super long names I want to say, “Can we all just calm down? Please. Let’s just calm down.”

Some of the other members of our name-changing committee are marketing gurus in real life. That’s what they do for a career. They talk at length about the implications of finding the right name. They talk about things that have never, and would never, occur to me.

If I was the only person on the name changing committee, we’d need one meeting. We would be quick about it. We’d choose something like, “The Brown Church”, “The Cool Church”, “The Not so Churchy Church”. I like things straight forward.

On vacation our family had a lot of time to kill in the van together, Scott and I started having some fun with this name changing challenge. The game started with me admitting I had no real talent for coming up with something clever. He wanted to help.

When we ran out of legitimate ideas, we started offering up names for the church based on whatever caught our eye:

Culver’s (That franchise started in our town. So it makes sense.)

Tubby’s Tavern (I can see some problems with this one)


Kwik Trip

Ozark Autoparts

Traffic Cone

Wow. Those were a lot funnier after ten hours of riding in a van together.

All the talk of church names led me to ask my family another question. This is the kind of question you can only ask your kids when they’re trapped, and can’t get away from you. I asked my family to describe their ideal church; their fantasy church. I said that I wanted to know what kind of church they would be excited to get up in the morning to attend.

Olivia said something about a place that handed out perfume samples and hot fudge sundaes during the service. I told her that isn’t exactly what I meant. Should I expect more from someone who suggested “Poop” as a church name? See, she looks sweet, but you gotta watch out for her.

I said, “Church is a place you go to connect with God in a meaningful way. Church is also a place to encourage and be encouraged by other people who believe the same things you do. Most importantly, a Christian church is not JUST a place to learn about the Bible. Church is a place to feel what the Bible teaches. Church is a place for people who have faith, and people who have lost their faith. If Church is right, then people who’s souls hurt can find relief there.” That’s what I said to my family. And then I added, “But perfume samples are a good idea too.”

I started thinking about my own fantasy church. Here it is: My fantasy church meets outside. Yeah. That wouldn’t work in Wisconsin, but we’re talking fantasy here. So, don’t bring me down.

I have always felt God’s presence more keenly in nature. Never one to wax poetic, but have you seen a sunrise lately? Have you seen the sun reflected on the water and smelled the air after it rains? Whenever I am in nature, my reflex is to thank God. Gratitude is a great way to start church.


At my fantasy church people wear what they want. If they like to dress fancy, they can dress fancy. If they want to wear sweat pants and no shoes, that’s good too. Nobody’s paying attention.

We’re heavy on the music at my fantasy church. God gave us nature and music. For so many of us these gifts put us in God’s presence like nothing else can. What can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up like music? Music leads me to a genuine state of worship. God asks us to worship. So, we’re going with lots of music in my fantasy.

After the music someone brings the Bible to life for us. They teach us what it says, what it means and how it’s relevant in 2014. Then, one person will share a story with us. They’ll tell us about a challenge they’re facing right now, and how God has spoken to them and helped them grow. That’s the God I want to hear about. The God I believe is alive in real time. The God I can talk to; who is affecting our lives. Right now.

We’re not big on rules at my fantasy church. We do have a few. One of our most important rules is: NO pretending aloud. Nobody does anything for the purpose of impressing others, got it? Everybody is authentic, sincere and says what they mean.

If you’re addicted to pain pills, scream at your kids too much, hate your mom, pour vodka in your morning coffee or are stealing money from your boss, it’s safe to say so at my fantasy church. They’re not surprised by that; they expect it. They know people are messed up. They know that’s why people need God.

It will feel good to share our troubles with people who love us at my fantasy church; they will listen and they will care. They will care enough to tell us the truth. The truth won’t always tickle our ears. The truth might make us do things that seem hard or even impossible: saying we’re sorry, confessing our secrets, practicing self discipline we don’t think we have, forgiving, trusting, letting go. At my fantasy church only the truth will be spoken. The truth will set people free.

I think that’s it. Oh, one more thing. No. Two more things. Nope. I guess I’ve got three more things. Hey, this putting a church together stuff is more complicated than I thought.

In my fantasy church you can’t be offended. Well, you can, but not for long. You can’t sit in the pew and feel sorry for yourself because you don’t like the music or the preaching. And you DEFINITELY can’t go home and complain to your family about it.

In my church, if you have an idea that could improve anything: the service, the music, a relationship, you go right to the person who can make it happen. You tell them your idea in a positive way. You become a part of the solution.

If I hear you’re nursing your offense, I’m gonna have to do something dramatic. I’m gonna hit the eject button. That’s right. In my fantasy church, you can get ejected right out of your pew for behavior like that. We don’t mess around.

We’re quick to laugh in my fantasy church too. God filled life with things that are funny; we appreciate that. Super serious people won’t like my fantasy church.

The last thing is that we’re not going to carry on all day at my fantasy church, okay? I’m sorry. This is my fantasy. My rules. At my church we cater to folks with the attention span of gnats (me). We let all those smart, note-taking, teacher’s pets (Scott) carry on after church to discuss things in greater detail. We’ll let them get the extra credit, while we chase butterflies.

If the person in the front is taking too long, guess what we’re gonna do? That’s right. Hit the eject button. Don’t worry. They land on a trampoline. It’s not like I’m mean.

Would you like my church? Some people would HATE it. I have a friend who told me she loves the formality at her church. Most of the service is sung in another language, and she says it soothes her soul.

Another friend told me he just wants to go put his time in at church, and then just get the heck out of there. He doesn’t want to make friends. He said he doesn’t want any more out of his church than credit for being there. That’s his fantasy church.

I can think of name for his church. I’d call it, “The Church for the Super Duper Lame People Church”. Wow. Maybe I’m better at coming up with names than I thought. That was just very clever. Now I have to ask for forgiveness.

God gave us all unique preferences. I prefer things that feel real. I don’t want a church name that sounds rigid or intimidating. I don’t want a church that feels that way either. I got some real life going on here. I need a “Church” that is going to help me through it. What does your fantasy church look like?

Here’s a song we’re definitely singing at my fantasy church:


smiths at Johnah

I.LOVE.VACATIONS. Not everybody is good at vacation. I’m really good at them. Super talented.

Scott used to be bad at vacation. We’ve been married long enough now for me to know that he needs to be mentally prepped for fun and relaxation. He has this hard wiring that makes him question whether vacations are completely responsible.


When there is a blizzard, and school is canceled, Scott makes someone in our family walk down the street to look at the highschool. He wants someone else to confirm that there are indeed no cars in the parking lot. He wants to make sure his worst fear has not come true: he didn’t show up for work.

Scott’s Amish attitude can kind of ruin your fun. Not any more. I’ve worked my powers on him. After many years, he finally gets it. Yes. Vacations are expensive, but the return they give you in precious memories, bonding and relaxation makes each vacation a worthwhile investment.

If I was 20-years-old and writing the script for my life, I would include vacations to tropical islands and interesting places overseas. We would take the kids to New York City, Spain, San Francisco and Amsterdam. But that isn’t the life we have. That isn’t the life we can afford. Our life, instead, will include chapters on vacationing in Branson, Missouri.

Scott and I never thought we were a good fit for Branson. Branson has a lot of entertainment that includes singing, plenty of thick make up and big hair. Truthfully, I’ve never even liked musicals. I’ve always thought “Wizard of Oz” would be a great movie, if we didn’t have to stop for all the singing. Get on with it already.

I’m not sure Scott and I really had a choice though. For some reason Branson had its eye on us from the start. We were given two nights to Branson on our honeymoon 21 years ago. We didn’t see any shows, but we played a lot of tennis and enjoyed the scenery. Then, my parents bought a condo in Branson. We have vacationed with Scott’s whole family there and my whole family too. That was magnificent fun. Now we spend every spring break with my parents in Branson, and our children love it. I guess Branson is kind of ours.

(On our honeymoon in Branson.)


One year when Zeke was much younger, he made a poster for a school assignment that told people who he was. The poster included a picture of Branson. He said, “I vacation with my family in Branson, Missouri every year.”

I read that and thought, “We do? Oh. I guess we do.” I guess if our children think their Branson vacations are as important to mention as the color of their eyes, the sports they like and name of their pet, then those vacations are important and special.

We were craving a vacation this year. This winter was especially hard for Eddie. He was sicker than usual. Some how he managed to knock out a really impressive wrestling season. It didn’t end the way he imagined it would though. Like all tough kids who end on a loss, he had a sore heart because of it. Eddie is nothing but resilient. On the way out of the Kohl Center at the State Tournament he said to his Grandpa Dale and me, “At least we get to go see Grandma and Grandpa in Branson.”

I love you, Branson.

I’m not sure my parents were planning on coming to Branson this year. They’ve been to Branson for 23 straight winters; now their bodies are starting to resist their sharp minds.

Nobody’s talked about it, but I’m pretty sure Grandpa made a quick decision when he heard Eddie use Branson as motivation for beating the disappointment of losing. I’m pretty sure Grandpa decided right then that one way or another he and Grandma would get themselves to Branson this year, even if they had to strap themselves to our van to get there.

We spent a week in Branson. We had some silly fun too. We always do. The drive down is always part of the adventure. Scott does 90 percent of the driving. He doesn’t really trust me. He doesn’t trust me because I do wasteful things. I’m careless with the blinker. He says I turn it on well before it’s necessary, thereby causing wear and tear. The blinker then needs to be replaced sooner than if I had used it more modestly, as Scott does. I guess I just thought blinkers grew on trees somewhere. I’m spoiled. I grew up thinking that I’d never run out of blinkers. It’s just another by-product of being a spoiled American. I’m not even going to try to make excuses.

I apologized. I said that we just come from two separate worlds.

Same thing is true for the brakes. Scott informed me on the way to Branson that it is not his fault that we are going to need new brakes on the minivan pretty soon. He walks or rides his bike to work, but he says when he does drive he uses the brakes spar-ing-ly.

I said, “You rarely use the brakes? I never considered the brakes optional.”

He told me that you just have to coast and only apply the brakes in the final moment before you stop. That’s how unspoiled people use the brakes. And, it was pretty obvious that I could learn a lot from Scott.

Scott got us to Branson in record time with little use of the blinkers or brakes. It was a fun week.

On the way down to Branson I was thinking about something my brother-in-law, Tom, said a few weeks ago. Tom had a surprise party for my sister. He gathered all the guests together and told them how much he loved my sister, Gail. Tom and Gail lost their son, Ryan, in a climbing accident two years ago on Easter.

Tom told the party guests, “You don’t wait until people are in a box in the ground before you tell them how much you care about them.” Tom has walked through fire. I believe what he tells me. His words were indelicate, but sometimes that’s how it is with the truth.

I think Tom and Ryan would say the same thing is true for adventure. You only have one shot at adventure on Earth. I’ve passed up a lot of adventures. I’m going to try to stop doing that.

Our whole family went zip lining in Branson. This was a 3 hour adventure that involved crossing rope bridges and riding zip lines above the trees. We also had a pretty sweet jeep ride through the woods. I shocked my family when I told them I would be joining them for the fun. I think it made them happy.

I couldn’t get the timing down right on the zip lines. Your brake system involves pressing down on the cable above you with your gloved hand, and we all know I sure don’t know how to use the brakes. The first run I pressed too hard. I was so scared, and I wanted to slow down. I slowed down enough to stop completely before the landing. The guide had to reel me in to the tower. That’s annoying for everyone who’s waiting for the whole group to finish so they can move to the next line.

I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. The next time I didn’t apply any brake at all. I made such a fierce landing, with such velocity that Scott said both towers at the start and end of the line were shaking. The guide seemed to laugh a bit nervously when I exploded on to the scene and almost knocked him off the tower.

I jammed my ankle and my knee on that landing. Eddie says you can’t jam your ankle and knee. I beg to differ. Mine were jammed. My ankle was swollen. I know because I kept inspecting it, and I was sure to show it to anyone who was interested, or sort of interested, or not interested at all.

I had to limp quite a bit for the next few days. People asked me if I was hurt. I told them, “Oh, it’s no big deal. Just a zip lining injury. I’ve had plenty of worse injuries. It’s just something you get used to when you live for adventure.”

smith zip line

I was a little proud of myself after we did the zip lining. Especially when I saw some other moms who stayed on the ground to take pictures of their families. Another lady in our group made me look super athletic. As soon as she started down the zip line, she would start flailing her legs and bicycle kicking in a state of panic. It wasn’t pretty. She quit after the second tower.

zip line

It was an incredible week. We shopped, hiked, saw some shows, played Trivial Pursuit, tennis and cards, and ate a lot of junky food. It was so fun.

Did you know that people get depressed reading about other people’s vacations on Facebook? That makes me feel badly. Everyone has their own cool story to tell. Our story isn’t special, it’s just ours. If you need proof, I can tell you all sorts of things that will not impress you.

Let’s start with Eddie. Eddie’s 17 now. He’s old enough to pack for himself, isn’t he? Well, he had a duffel bag when he left the house. I’m not sure if he had a giant teddy bear in there, a coffee maker or a 8 loaves of bread. What he didn’t have was clothes that he could actually wear. He spent the whole week in Zeke’s sweat pants. We called them his sweat capris. He wore mismatched socks and my very mom-like tennis shoes. He only brought a pair of Crocs. Mismatched Crocs.

We made Eddie go with us to buy him a pair of tennis shoes. It was probably his least favorite part of our vacation. He and Zeke found ways to entertain themselves. I really think they make these looks work.


Our family also doesn’t always get along. We have our fights. The boys fights get a little crazy. One day they were doing a work out. They finished their workout with some wrestling in the grass. As is their habit, someone lost their temper, and the wrestling turned into a precious and loving fist fight. Olivia came running back to the condo to tell me the boys were trying to kill each other. Turns out they were scolded by an employee of the development. That sounded great to me. I hope that guy scared them too. If he could help me figure out how to set them on a path that doesn’t involve a future in MMA fighting, I’d be mighty grateful.

I did my best to punish the boys by playing a nice April Fools joke on them. We told them that the condo develpment managers were going to kick their Grandparents out of their property because of the boys misbehavior. That was mean. I saw some serious fear in their eyes.

Yep. It’s real life on vacation, but it’s still just so good. I love hanging out with these people. I love these people. I’m so grateful to have the luxury to hang out with them in such a fun place. We’re going to do it now; when we’re in a box in the ground, it’s too late.


fus ball smiths

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