Her Reflection

to my mom, on the 5th anniversary of her death

Her eyes smile at the corners. Her whole face is a smile. Even at rest, she exudes joy. Contentment. Comfort in her own skin. Her fingers expertly search the counter for deodorant, toothpaste, a hair brush. These are the items she uses daily, quickly, to prepare to face another day. She’s half dressed, leaving her shirt until the last preparations have been finished. Almost imperceptibly, she takes the smallest moment to check her appearance in the mirror. Her eyes dart from her brushed out wave of curls to her chest where a long maroon scar peeks from her bra. In one fluid movement she pulls her shirt over her head and leaves the space swirling. The strange stillness a distant memory erased by the nonstop momentum that will fill her day.

She lies down on a surgical table. Her right breast carefully placed and compressed through an opening under her. She holds her breath as they take picture after picture, making completely sure she is in perfect position. Her face is turned to the plain white wall. Her eyes are closed. She imagines herself lying on a warm towel in the soft sand, the relentless comfort of ocean waves greeting her ears as the medical aide allows her to hear the device that will shoot the tiny titanium clip into the place in her breast that could be cancerous. So she won’t be surprised or scared. It’s like the plosive scoff of a petulant child. She is not alone. She allows the tears to fall onto the table that cradles her face and prays for herself. For her children.

“You look just like your mom.” She studies the face in the profile picture. A face framed by defined curls, a painted ocean wave in the background. Spurred by one typed comment, she searches the picture for the familiar face of comfort in her own. The smile of the eyes, the mouth, her whole face. But all she sees is the tired pull of time and loneliness, her face lifted in a grin that doesn’t know it’s own happiness. She sees the similarities in the slope of the nose, the length of the hair, but mostly she sees the commenter’s desire for her to be the woman who isn’t. The woman they no longer can see because she’s passed on. Who they need her to be. How can she be? She is herself.

They will leave in the clip if it’s benign. It won’t be. It can’t be. Not with her family history. Just like her mom. She’s convinced of the result before the doctors conclude the biopsy. Her grief stricken resignation is contagious. They allow the tears to fall as she dresses and leaves, carrying the burden of her life and fears alone. They move on to another cameo in another patient’s story. She sits in the airy hospital lobby. The sunshine streams in. Every corner of the room is filled with life and people living: a caregiver helping an elderly patient to her seat; a man pushing quickly through the people only to have to wait for his Uber; another man sits at a makeshift cafe table office talking on the phone about the intricacies of the constitution. All the time people flow in and out, like dust on the air. She waits for her ride too. Nearby, a pianist glories in the music she makes. Sound amplifies the space with the echoes, bouncing from window to window. The tune is mysterious, familiar, then known. “It is well with my soul. It is well. It is well with my soul.”

She enters her room like a sigh. What has been held in is now released as she is greeted by familiar surroundings. Her bed. Her pillow. Her safety. She is alone. She allows herself to cry. She wills it. She needs to free the empty, gasping sobs, compressing her heart and lungs. She lays still. Time passes. After eternity she stands. She’s not wearing the right bra. Zero to one hundred, she sweeps into constant movement. Her comfort now is taking care of what needs doing. As she goes about her business, her shoulders reluctantly raise towards her ears. She goes to the mirror and carefully investigates the damage. She looks at her reflection. Unsupported. Unprotected. Unencumbered. Face splotchy, hair frizzed, she looks directly into her own eyes. Her gaze drops. She allows her focus to rest on her wound. She sees her mother’s scar, long and maroon. She remembers. She sees the same invisible pause, the same flurry of action, the same sudden awareness of her mortal flaw. She carefully dons the sports bra and goes to the kitchen for an ice pack.

Days later the bandages will come off and she will see clearer. Her wound is small, a centimeter long scar, red purple almost invisible, camouflaged by the bruises that surround it. She’ll look up at her own face. The lips pursed in worry, the lined forehead, the soft searching eyes. The curls framing her face. The sloping nose. This body is not her mother’s. She looks at herself. She allows herself to be. to imagine her own scar: one speck healing, an unobtrusive mark on otherwise healthy, aging, calcifying breast flesh. She imagines living years with her family. She imagines watching them grow and growing with them. She imagines doing. Being. Living. The scar is proof. She knows in that moment that her life is hers. She looks into her own eyes. Her reflection.

Whatever time is left for her, she will live it.


Do you think that a Venus Flytrap ever thinks it’s a flower,
soaking in sunlight hour after hour?
Or do you think that it knows,
it’s not just a decorative reason it grows.
That any moment one small trigger and SNAP!
A morsel comes close and sets off the trap.
It’s part of its being.
It’s part of its name.
do you think that it ever longs,
to ever be more than the insects it wrongs?
To be seen for it’s tendrils reaching up toward the sun,
interlacing in grateful prayer when the deed has been done;
For the power to shock, to open and close,
(much more dynamic than any old rose).
Wearing its flaw for all to see,
except for the unsuspecting susceptible bee.
Do you think that it regrets each choice,
or do you think in each capture it finds its own voice?
The weaknesses that others may say us defines;
We are the ones in control of our minds.

photo credit BBC News

When My Heart Failed Me

And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, (wo)men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.” D&C 88:91

I don’t remember when it started to happen. But it started. Dramatically.

The breathlessness. The uncertainty. My heart felt like it was doing somersaults in my chest.

I feel it especially in the afternoons in the transition from nap to the last hours before my husband returns from work. In the transition from 1 back to 2 boys. I feel my heart extend, stretching in strands like silly putty. When I am suiting up the boys in all the winter wear; when I’m deciding if they need to be wrestled into masks to walk to the car; when I’m bending over carseats to buckle back-arching reluctant participants; when we’re grocery shopping. Grocery shopping with just me and two preschoolers was daunting enough already without having a worldwide pandemic on top of it. “Keep your hands to yourself” or “Don’t touch anything” has a little more gravitas.

I feel it when Black Lives Matter; when I scroll through the witness of immense need and sorrow; when I recognize my own entitlement and how I am part of the problem; when I hold the grief of a pandemic unacknowledged and witness others holding that burden alone, ridiculed instead of ministered to. I feel it when I allow hope to leave.

I never identified myself as anxious. It took me to the hospital.

I always feel at home there, in the hospital. It comes from rounding with my mom, an OBGYN, at an early age. Maybe I just wanted to feel close to her? They held me all night in the ER even though once I got there my difficulty breathing had stopped. Nothing was showing up as physically wrong on the EKG, X-ray, anything. I broke down crying as 5 am rolled around in my curtained off portion of the hallway, not a room just a space. Not because we couldn’t find the origin of the heart fluttering but because in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a human rights crisis when people are literally fighting for their lives on too many fronts, when we are all hunkered down in our homes, and abuse is skyrocketing, me, a middle-class, white woman requires medical professionals to give of their time and resources, because my heart was failing. I needed others to take care of it. I should be able care of it.

“I don’t want you to worry about that.” Dr. Quash, my black cardiologist told me, “For years women have been told it’s just their emotions, we are going to operate under the assumption that it is physical.”

The embarrasment of the viritual visit when he told me it was not. Physical.

Since this issue came to a head this summer, I have been working to find peace in a path more clear by the exhaustion of every possible physical cause. I was directed back to myself to my heart, the feelings within me that I need to learn recognize and allow.

I embrace my heart. The commotion. The fear. The loneliness. The pride. The entitlement. The anger. The hurt. The sorrow. The grief. The need. The joy. The love. The hope. I forgot how to feel. I am learning again.

I met so many others who held these things in their hearts as well. Women who feel the weight, flutters, and stretching thin as I did. Women who find ways to live with and through it.

I find peace in faith, in the searching of my broken heart and contrite spirit, in the prayerful offering where I am in the moment back to my Savior and asking for His clarity and help as I still have to complete the daily tasks that seem insurmountable with any ‘less than pure joy’ feeling. I have been lifted where I am.

I have missed this blog and the original intent of its creation: to find purpose amidst the chaos of every day life. It helps me have an outlet, an anchor, and a public reminder that I feel that purpose daily.

I see the pride of my last post “My life in Quarantine.” I was basically challenging the world, saying I could handle the unprecedented, unfamiliar situation. I was using this platform to stand up to, shout at, and almost lecture the world. I have been humbled.

My goal for 2021 is to write a post once a month; to use this blog as it was intended as a space to ground me, to recognize my purpose, to see and take stock of my heart. To write. That is a part of me that needs to exist as well.

I pray you find purpose and peace in your own heart this year.

My Life in Quarantine

“That stinks.” I heard myself say it rather than speak it to the phlebotomist checking my qualifications for donation last Saturday. “I hadn’t heard schools are out for a month.” Not that it changes anything for us. She adjusts the blood pressure cuff as she asks, “What are you going to do with your kids out of school?”

Our day to day hasn’t changed. I guess I live my life in quarantine with two kids under four. No one’s in preschool yet. Next year. We cook, clean, and explore. Every rock and drain is an adventure while commuters pass by us on the sidewalk walking to the metro and going into the world. Nine hundred square feet of apartment, grass in front of a parking lot, two boys, and a cat. This is my world.

I chose it. You didn’t. That’s huge.

You’re just a week in. I’m 4 years 16 days and 1.5 hours into this. It’s lonely. It’s an echo chamber. It’s monotonous to the point of pointless. It’s confining physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s necessary.

It is a sacrifice, but a sacrifice worth making. Your choice to stay in discomfort and social distance, could literally save lives. We don’t want to spread this pandemic more than it is already spreading.

I’m not saying that being a work-from-home mom is saving my kids’ lives, but it is a sacrifice that I consider worth making and is right for me and my family at this time. Do I remember this every day? No. Most every day? Definitely not. I let the tantrums and the toddler tunes get to me.

Most days I wake up wanting more than social distance. Some days I wish I chose a career where I could get up, get out, and have a life outside of quarantine. But I also remember hours spent building Playmobil families or filling Sim homes with as many babies as the game allowed. When I had the ability to choose, this life in quarantine is what I dreamed of: finding my people, making a family. So, this is where I led my life. I get to live my dream reality (and it is much more reality than the dream I created when I chose it), raising, teaching, searching, and learning with these boys while writing and (sometimes) being blessed to share my experience through plays I create.

But that’s not always what my echo chamber reverberates back to me.

It helps when friends or family reach out, but it’s also not strange for a week to pass with my husband being the only contact I text or call. I’m not trying to elicit pity, but for me, a young tending toward introvert mother who has moved every year since she lost her own mother two and a half years ago while adding children to her life who require more from her, making friends/putting myself out there isn’t always the top priority on my to do list.

I often remember my mom talking about how there are seasons for friends. Sometimes she’d have to drop everyone and focus on her family or her medical practice. But she always said the good friends would still there when you had time for them again.

I’m grateful that this has been true in my life. Even when sometimes the distance isn’t governmentally mandated, but because I can’t look past my own piles of unsorted laundry and negative thoughts.

So many people have checked up on me this week. I’m so grateful. I’ve felt spoiled. I’ve felt cared for. I’ve felt remembered.

You are remembered too.

Thank you for what you are trying to do. It’s not easy. But it’s worth it. Especially if it’s out of love. Love for yourself, for others, for our ability to make a difference, for our world. It’s no one’s fault. It’s no one’s choice. But we choose what we make of it.

Consecrated Ground

Wood and springs shift under our weight, creaking like an old ship in the dark. Waves lapping the sides while timbers settle. My toes lengthen and release. Legs tense then relax as we rock back and forth. You are cradled in my arms. Sometimes still, sometimes squirming, sometimes cooing or biting, crying or looking into my eyes seeking comfort, connection, acknowledgement, understanding. Hours spent in twenty minute increments. Preparing a lifetime, finding respite from another.

Or confusion.

Day after day. Same time. Same place. We creak back and forth. The wooden arm rest presses into our sides. It bonks elbows and heads, acting as a platform for searching little feet naively feeling their way to push off into a dive to the floor. We sit in the same place, in the same chair my mother before me sat. There are years of milk, formula, sweat, tears, smiles, and snores stored in the cushions. They stain the wood.

Alone. Together. Thoughts shift back and forth. Mother and child. Mother or child. I am one. I am both. (I am neither). Thoughts come. Confusion. Peace. So much change in the same place. Conversation. Quiet. Railing back and forth. Questioning. I listen to what no one else hears.

I am nothing. I am everything (to you).

I feel Her close here.

Heavenly Mother,

Are you really there? Sometimes it is hard to tell. You never voice the need for recognition and few (in this life) recognize you. Talk about you. Acknowledge you. How do you do it? How do you exist in a vacuum? Your children constantly sucking up all the love you can, do, will give freely. How do you give (with no reservations)? Does the need ever get too much for you (like it does for me)? Do you need a time out? Fresh air? Some chocolate? I do. Too often. You are Mother to every single person that has, is, and ever will be. You are what it means and yet, where are you?

Consecrating. Every. Moment. Every inch of your being and brain space.

How do you keep everything straight? Everyone. And how do you hold everything in your heart? Alone. Together.

We share this moment. Me holding you. Her holding me. You. Us.

The chair creaks as I hum and lay you down to rest.

Where I Am

I sink into the tired leather seat close to the gate desk and hug my carryon close. The chair is in the middle of everything but it’s the least occupied area (surprisingly) and the last thing I want to do right now is make small talk. My eyes dart around checking the time, the flight number, the restaurants, and passengers. I let my bag slip from my lap and the stress from my shoulders. The race to the gate is over. I made it with… half an hour to spare. My eyes dart up again. I finished the initial scan, now time to fill in the picture. A mother points out parts of the plane to her young son who jumps eagerly up and down. A family picnics on the floor, fast-food remnants strewn everywhere while the father compulsively checks his watch. An elderly couple read comfortably next to each other, only assumed together because their arms share a rest. A man whispers in a woman’s ear, his arm around her.


My vision blurs. I blink back the emotion. Don’t think about him. It. Distract. Maybe I should get some food. I turn my hand over to check the time and my phone vibrates in my palm. I swipe Mom’s text away just as another fills its place. Swipe. Fill. Swipe—Kayleigh joins the notification frenzy. Mom and my best friend doing their best to comfort, be there, or just discover what is going on from the source. You can’t avoid this. It’s not your fault. How did this happen?

“I don’t want to date you. OK?”

My eyes meet his across the terminal. The people eating, reading, hustling, talking fade into just him and me on a sidewalk at midday, cars zooming pass, arms full of empty boxes.

I shake it off and the noise returns. The passengers. The airport. I don’t want to go back to yesterday, so instead I plug in my earbuds. But as the crooning voice of some lovelorn boy band streams into my ears, so does he.

“Allison. Allison! Wait up!”

“We’ve got to get these boxes back. Closing check is in less than an hour and I still have to clean the bathroom.”

“Then we better get going!”

David hefts the awkward boxes higher on his shoulders and tries to double-time it. I laugh as he passes. We trudge in comfortable silence. My boxes begin to feel heavier.

“This is stupid. We should have broken them down or—”

“Don’t be silly! No time! Besides, Kayleigh gave them to you good to go. Why take an extra step on each end?”

“People are staring…”

“It’s June in a college town. What do they expect? Now quit stalling and catch up… if you can!”

We hit the gas again and the sun seems brighter, the boxes lighter, and the question more distant. I will miss him so much.

“I can’t believe I fly home tomorrow.”

“That depends on if you’re packed.”

“Have you thought about… us? Being apart I——”

“I don’t want to date you. OK?”

Sudden. Curt. Crushed.

A wailing tenor and warm, wet trails down my face bring me back to reality. I wipe my eyes slumping deeper into my seat, hoping no one noticed. Why do I have to go through this in public? Can’t all this… emotion… just stay contained for a few more hours until I am safely burrowed face first in the covers of my childhood bed? I turn up the volume of the music until I feel it more than hear it in my ears.


I jump in response to the whisper at my elbow. David slips into the seat beside me, his goofy grin inviting me to ask what game he is planning.

“Why are you here?!”

The bearded stranger who has just brushed my arm while trying to squeeze too much of himself into the seat next to me blinks back at my question in surprise.

“I’m sorry, were you saving this——?”

“No. I——”

Hurriedly, I remove myself and my stuff from the situation I’ve created. I splash water on my face in a nearby bathroom. Predictably, David appears in the mirror behind me. I spin on my heel, step onto the sidewalk outside of my apartment complex, and into the memory.

“Hurry up!”

David drags his feet behind me. At this rate, he’s going to be more of a hindrance than a help. Maybe I shouldn’t have called him. But… he’s my boyfriend. He’s supposed to help with this sort of thing right? I should ask for his help? Why won’t he pick up his feet? Why doesn’t he seem to care about anything?

“Closing check is in less than an hour.”

Nothing changes his pace. What is up with him?

“Are you feeling ok? Maybe I shouldn’t have called, but I—— It’s our last day before the whole summer apart and I—— wanted to see you.”

“You were going to see me. Tonight.”

“You didn’t have to come.”

David hefts the boxes higher on his shoulders and continues more determinedly. I stop.

“You don’t have to be here.”

“Let’s just get this done. I thought you were in a hurry.”

“Were you even going to call me to hang out tonight?”


“I fly home. Tomorrow. Do you even want to——”

“No. I don’t want to date you. OK?”

I find another seat, this time near the windows and watch the little luggage carts putter all around the tarmac. They all have a purpose and a place. A job to do. My eyes drift to a plane pulling away from the gate and then upward to another taking off into the freedom of the open sky.

He was just holding me back.


The call is distant. Step, step, lift, lift, step, step. Hhhhvrmmmm. Another car passes.

“Allison wait up!”

I glance back and then turn. David drags the boxes behind him on the sidewalk. I drop my load and run back to check the boxes.

“What are you doing?”

“Moving the…”

The cardboard is worn smooth in places and the tape is fraying.

“I was going to use these!”

“They were already used. Kayleigh——”

“My stuff is going to fall through!”

“We should have folded them up.”

“How would that have——? We were saving time. I still have to clean the bathroom.”

“They’re heavy. Awkward.”

“Now they’re unusable.”

“So what? Should I just leave them here?”

I let the box I’ve inspected fall to the ground and sigh.

“Not unless you see a dumpster.”


We trudge in silence, the dragging cardboard scrapping the sidewalk like the annoyance of a lame leg. Each step reminds me of the stupidity of his choice. What a waste of a walk. Why does he do this? Why did I call him? Why am I with him?

“So… have you thought about us? Over the summer.”

“You want to talk about this now, Allison?”

“When do you want to talk about it?”

“I thought we are in a hurry.”

“I fly home tomorrow. Do you want to date or not?”

“No. I don’t want to date you. OK?”

“OK. Sounds good to me.”

The gate attendant pulls the microphone off of the wall. A wave of attentive silence sweeps across the gate and then suddenly there is shuffling as a plane full of individuals ready themselves to be squeezed into a metal tube for a four hour cross country flight. I join in. It doesn’t take long to gather my belongings. I haven’t spread much. The last thing to go is my phone. I can’t help glancing down. How did this happen? still glares back at me.

The pit in my stomach grows as I edge my way into line. One halting step forward, one more step away from a future that will never be. A relationship I no longer fit, but a path that, if I’m being honest, I did want and dream about for a long time.


The line moves on. One flash of the scanner and delayed computer chime at a time. He’s still standing at the other end of the terminal, not getting closer or farther away just there. Like he always will be. To me. Different aspects of the same man, the same moment, the same me.


“I fly home tomorrow.”

Why did I say that? Why didn’t I just say what I meant?

“I don’t want to date you. OK?”

I made him say it. I made him take the responsibility that was mine. That is mine. That even if he said the words, I made happen. This was my choice.

I hand over my boarding pass and millions of memories flood into my mind. Waiting for him to order at a restaurant even though I already know what I want. Going to another superhero movie because I couldn’t work up the courage to suggest Pixar. Asking him why he hadn’t kissed me yet, was there something wrong or repulsive about me? Resenting quietly when he didn’t ask for my opinion, when he did things the way he wanted to. Dragging the box.

He’s not a part of my life anymore. But I am.

I step onto the plane.





I’ve lost it somewhere in the five hundred and thirty-seven loads of laundry
buried in piles of toys and papers
lists of things to do.
in a mind too tired to hold onto any one thing
but constantly turning each over
unable to admit its malfunction.
Empty over time.
Looking for Purpose.
Christ says we must lose our life
(for His sake)
to find it.
Step One.
On to Step Two.

lost your life
on the cross.
but also
in every choice
every word
every action
For someone else.
For everyone else.
There was no time for a life.
It was your life.
What life should be.
If I could be perfect.
but I get lost,
a different way
without purpose
And they say You’ve felt that too, but,
Could you a
human making
choices fulfilling a
plan from Heavenly Father who was always with you
until that one moment
(why have You forsaken…?)
can You understand not knowing?
Taking a wrong turn
losing Purpose.

I think about You walking in a sea of people.
Listening but not hearing.
You having to give
Knowing the end from the beginning
and no one WITH you
(except for God)
Did You feel alone living here?
Getting lost in the miracles
in the politics
in the people
just NOT getting it.
not seeing You.
no matter what you do.
(I think)
You teach
doesn’t mean not tempted.
Never lost
doesn’t mean not alone.
Having answers
doesn’t mean not having questions
getting lost
is usually when the right questions are shown.


Becoming Domestic

I wrote this poem in 2012, but it has been coming more and more to my mind. I thought I’d share it…

“Becoming Domestic”

I like to make bread.

Destressing by messing with dough,

Punching, pulling, tearing, teasing, letting go.

Taking out aggravation in my station,

While at the same time making it so.


Becoming Domestic.

Just because I’m a baker naturally makes me a great homemaker?

I want to do more with my life than to bake or to clean or to become someone’s wife.

I have thoughts, I have feelings, I need to express.

Don’t lock me in one talent I have to impress.


I am a person. Divine and unique.

Don’t define me, confine me,

it’s much more oblique.


Yes, we have been sent here to spread the leaven,

But more is required to get into heaven.

Jesus Christ is the word, the bread, the staff of life,

There’s so much more to being a wife.


Waves crash in the sand.
in and out
in and out

Trying to pull the land,
in and out
in and out

Days change.
Waves crash.
in and out
in and out
all appears the same.
Something that just happens,
Nature’s fruitless little game.

Waves crash in the sand.
in and out
in and out

Doing nothing great or grand.
Waves crash,
in and out
in and out
guided by an eternal hand.