A Letter to Myself at 16: To Whom it May Concern

Philosophy: What’s coming will come and life goes on…even if it’s the hard way.

I know you’re a nose away from signing the papers, but you’re not going to do it. In a year, or so, you’ll thank your lucky stars your dad told you the Air Force won’t let you paint your nails. After all, that’s really what kept you away…in early 2001. Nail polish kept you from being deployed to the Iraq war.

You’re running your heart out now, but you won’t take the offer to run for Walsh College. You’ll think back when you’re 26 and wish you had, but you won’t lose sleep over it.

You will run in the Akron Marathon one day. You’ll see the coach, even in the thousands of people running, that told you you would never have it in you to finish road races. You’ll remember that conversation in 7th grade and you’ll dig deep to pass her.

When you do, that’s what will give you the last wind you need to cross the finish line. You’ll also lose two toenails because of it. A small price to pay.

A smooth-talking professor will pull you aside and tell you you have a gift for Philosophy. He won’t tell you how impractical it is. Neither will your mom. When you ask her why she didn’t force you into business school, she’ll tell you it was because you liked what you were doing. You won’t understand that until you have a daughter.

Your dad knows what it looks like when you jack knife a trailer into the side of his F150. You know that, but you’ll still tell him it was a shopping cart. Even when you’re 35, you’ll wonder why he ever let you drive that thing with a trailer on it.

You’re doing your best to convince yourself you’ll have no problem replacing your first love who just left you for Ashland College. You’ll feel better in the years ahead, but you never will replace him completely, nor should you.

You’ll spend some time hell-bent on proving everyone wrong and living like you know it all. You don’t. But time spent living that way will come in handy later when realize you didn’t know it all, but you were learning most of the things that will get you through the hard times.

Even though you missed the Air Force, you’ll take flying lessons from an arrogant French instructor. He’ll tell you you can’t fly in high heels, so you’ll do it just to prove him wrong.

You’ll pray to die when he teaches stalls and he’ll call you ricochet rabbit because of the way you land. You’ll never get your license, though. You’ll never solo and you’ll wish you had.

When you leave for Texas, turn back around as you drive away. What you see waving to you is what will bring you back home in a year and a half.

Speaking of Texas, you’ll make it through the homesickness. You’ll graduate up at the top, but you won’t stick around to walk across the stage. You won’t regret that either. Oh, and about homesickness, don’t bother crying to your dad about it. He was in Viet Nam.

You’ll fall in love again. When you do, say yes. Even though it falls apart and burns worse than a wrecked semi full of diesel, say yes. You’ll get two of the most precious gifts you’ve ever laid eyes on out of it.

When you lose your grandpas, you’ll find it in you to write again and you’ll find it in you to stand up and deliver the words you owe them. So when your mom and dad ask you to speak, don’t think twice.

When you’re out on your own, doing the work of two people alone, you’ll resent the people and reasons that put you there, for maybe all of five minutes. There isn’t time to dwell on it. You’ll be content for the first time knowing what’s coming is going to come and life goes on.

And do it again. Fall in love, that is. Even though you know you shouldn’t. That time, you won’t break. And, you’ll get to raise a son the hard way because…

despite everything you’ve learned in all the lessons the good Lord gave you in the past 18 years, you’ll still insist on doing things the hard way.

I’ll Always Button Your Cuffs and Other Promises I Can’t Break

Philosophy: I’ll always button your cuffs.

My first husband and I wrote our own vows. Part of mine were my promise to him that I would always button his shirt cuffs.

He came to me every morning and asked me to do that one simple thing for him. After a while, he didn’t have to ask. He just came up to me with his wrists out and I did it. That’s part of the language of love; the things we say without speaking.

I forgot about doing this until the other night when Jack came up to me with his wrists out and asked me to button his shirt cuffs for him. It caught me off guard for a second. There was a little mini version of my ex-husband, dressed just like him, asking the same thing of me.

“Of course, Jack, I’ll always button your cuffs.” I think I said it out loud just to hear myself say it again. I made that promise once before. I had to break it.

Sometimes life is very ironic. The things that happen to me, I couldn’t make up if I tried. It’s worth taking a step away from yourself once in awhile and looking hard at everything around you. It’s worth looking back to see where you came from and ahead to how far you have left to go.

If someone told me when I was writing those vows how important that particular part would be – not because I was promising them to my husband – but because years later, we would be divorced and I would be promising my son the same thing instead, I would never have believed them.

I had no idea where our life would take us after we walked back down the aisle that night, but it certainly wasn’t here. The best laid plans…But I took the time to think for a minute about all the little things that happened between then and now.

I had kids, I lost loved ones, I hurt and I made it out alive. All of those things led up to the moment when Jack reminded me a promise I made that I had to break.

I always tell the kids I will never break a promise to them. That’s true. But, when I say that, it reminds me of all the promises I’ve had to break over the years.

My mom used to tell me it wasn’t okay to break a promise. I believed that for a very long time. I disagree with it now. It’s always okay to break a promise if it means you simply can’t carry its weight anymore.

Sometimes the weight is worth trying and sometimes, no matter how much you want to or how hard you try, you have to let go to carry on.

I’m glad I get to keep some form of them, living here Somehow. They have a different meaning, but they surely carry more weight.

Jack’s cuffs, I’ll always button. Jack’s cuffs give me hope that promises have the potential for keeping no matter what.

Co-parenting: 5 Skills to Master

Philosophy: Choose your battles.

By no means am I an expert on relationships. I just have three year’s worth of real-world experience at co-parenting.

Co-parenting is hard to navigate at first. There are almost always hard feelings and open wounds to work around. It’s so easy to break up and distance yourself from the other person in order to heal. But kids are a lifetime commitment, so is handling their other parent.

Although it’s not easy to do, there are a few skills to master when it comes to dealing with this new version of a relationship.

Letting Go

Surrender some control right now. It might even feel good. No longer will you be able to have 24/7 control over what goes on at home when it comes to the kids. If they’re happy and safe, all is well.

They may not be eating exactly what you’d make them or wearing exactly what you’d put on them, but if they come back to you and they’re healthy, it’s all good.

Choosing Your Battles

If there are some things you can’t let go of, choose your battles. Certain things like how and when they take medicine is certainly a battle worth choosing. What kind of cereal they eat probably is not.

It means more to have a good working relationship with the other parent than to pick fights over trivial things. You have to talk. A lot. As hard as it is, removing feelings from the equation usually lends a better perspective. I hate confrontation, and, unless it’s something critical, I take a deep breath and let it go.


This one is tough. This one takes remembering the kids are always watching in order to master. Make it a point never to talk badly about the other parent or their family or anything that is important to the other parent in front of the kids.

I work hard at making myself indifferent when it comes to those things anyway, but if something strikes a nerve, I always side with their dad and try to explain his reasoning for doing what he’s doing.

Some day they will be old enough to make their own decisions and draw their own conclusions about him and his family and my own family and me. When that time comes, I don’t want them to form opinions shaded by my own hurt, anger or resentment.


I had to learn not to suck at this one and the single best way to do it is to remember one thing: it’s all about the kids. At first, it’s especially hard. There are so many things to say and ask that have nothing to do with the kids. Forget. Them.

In order to co-parent successfully and remove emotional ligatures (if that’s what you want to do), keep it all about the kids. Keep it strictly texting and email if need be. That way, there’s time to process questions and answers before saying something that will be regretted later.

But keep it all about the kids. If the other parent can’t seem to do that, it’s OK. Don’t respond to anything unless it’s regarding the kids and feel free to tell them up front that’s what you’ll be doing.

There’s an ebb and flow to this sometimes. The cuts will heal and small talk finds its way back. Something may happen and all you’ll talk about is the kids again. It’s ok. Doing this protects your sanity, which is especially crucial for co-parenting.


This is especially true if you have an exceptionally nosy 8-year-old. You may not even need to ask questions. You may get all kinds of information. Most of it is little half-truths.

Kids hear things. They have great imaginations. They also spill every secret you tell them. Those are things worth remembering. If there’s a question about what’s going on at the other parent’s house that seems like something you should know (and not from your 8-year-old), ask. That’s why it’s important to keep communication open and working.

Doing this also lets the other parent know what the kids are focusing on and how they’re interpreting what’s going on around them.

Remembering the Other Parent

Just because your relationship with them ended, does not mean your children’s did. If the other parent is willing and capable of being a co-parent, try to be grateful that your children have someone else in their lives to love them. There’s no such thing as too much love.

I always try to get small gifts for the kids to give their dad for Christmas, birthdays and Father’s Day. Not only do they want to have something to give him that they can’t go get all by themselves yet, but it shows them I still care that he’s their dad.

I know this is easy to write and easy to read and really hard to do. I know every situation is different. Some parents are better off not being in their kid’s lives period. That makes for an only-parent situation (I’m also intimately familiar with this one) and that’s a whole post in itself.

But if you’re fortunate enough to have a co-parent who’s willing and able to do their share, I hope some of these skills help get you through the tough times. There will be more ahead for all of us.

No one said it would be fair or easy, but we’re all in it together.

Full Disclosure

Philosophy: “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone…” – Bob Dylan

Motherhood – especially single-motherhood – is a brave art, indeed. If raising a child takes a village, I’d like to know why I feel like I need a metropolis.

Then again, I do know why I feel that way. Enter: my impossible expectations. Yes, perfectionism. When I became a mom, I was going to be the perfect balance of imperfect. I sat in college, pre-motherhood and logically, I knew perfect was impossible, but man oh man, I was going to nail being a mom.

Elise was born in June 2011. Jack followed in February 2013. My marriage destructed piece by piece the way a rocket ship disassembles when it heads for the moon. After a 2016 dissolution, I lost equal parts of my mind and inhibitions, got remarried for 68 days and had Tyler in May. That marriage also destructed, but it was one big explosion…more like the Challenger than Apollo 11.

So, here I am. Eight years later. Three kids. Two failed marriages. Not what I had in mind when I set out to be perfectly imperfect, yet here we are, living despite it all.

Elise mastered pitting one parent against the other very early on, so most everything that leaves her pretty little lips has to be cross-checked between her dad and me. She’s too smart for her own good and at times, her eight-year-old logic trumps my well-thought reasoning, without question. 


All 36 pounds of Jack is spitfire, comedian and aspiring policeman. He’s hyper and spirited and knows how to drop a swear word in the proper context just when I least expect it. He’s almost always in some form of uniform, complete with duty belt and toy gun. When I’m too tired to argue, he even wears this to bed. Choose your battles and all that.


And sweet Tyler, my lunchbox baby, just wants to nurse and take it all in. While I share Elise and Jack 50/50 with their dad, I get Tyler all to myself, courtesy of an ugly mistress whose name is Addiction.

My Ty

Sure, I had resentment. At first. I was on my own trying to figure it all out. Then I learned how to cut-in with a paint brush and use power tools and mow grass (even though Jack had to show me where the gas cap was) and maintain an in-ground pool and juggle bills and schedules and doctor’s appointments.

I also learned what an overwhelming responsibility it is to care for three kids and a house. Oh, and a dog…and we can’t forget the guinea pig. I spent a lot of guilty time worrying if I was keeping the kids happy enough. I already felt at least half responsible for landing them in a broken home. They didn’t ask for that. Was there enough of me left after working full-time and doing all these things to keep us going?

That worry was misplaced, though. It’s not about happiness. It’s about wholeness. If I do the work of motherhood correctly, my kids won’t always be happy. Happiness is a side effect of wholeness. So is anger and disappointment. So, the question becomes: is what I’m doing making them whole? And, I think it is.

I forget what it’s like to be little. I forgot what it’s like to see every little thing for the first time and what it’s like to get excited for Christmas and winning a goldfish at the fair. So, I remind myself to get down to their level, to acknowledge their fears without dismissing them. It’s up to me to try to teach them the right time and way to clean messes, disagree, apologize, make chocolate milk, paint fingernails, tie shoes.

My parents deserve to be canonized as saints. They help whenever and wherever they can. So do my friends and co-workers. They’re my village. There aren’t enough jewels in the world for their crowns.

It took a lot for me to start writing again. Then I thought about who I would be if I didn’t show Elise, Jack and Tyler that it’s ok to chase after the things they enjoy, that it’s ok to try things that seem too big and see where they take them and that in order to grow and change, they have to dive in and start because the time will never be just right.

I hope you keep reading. I hope my words hit you somewhere and stick. We’ve only just begun.



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