Side Hustles and Single Motherhood: A Rant on MLMs

Philosophy: it takes work. If anyone tells you otherwise, it’s a lie.

I tried the AVON thing and quit before I started. Maybe it wasn’t the right place, time, products…whatever, but I tagged myself a failure at sales.

From the time I was born, my grandma had an AVON lady. She overcharged her every two weeks and she was pushy. So, it came as no surprise that when I thought of Tupperware, Mary Kay…you name it, I thought of red lipstick, a bad perm and a West Virginia drawl talking about Skin So Soft.

Then I found “that Owl thing”. I met my Team Manager at an in-home party (I truly enjoy those) my best friend was having. The same best friend that steals Fiestaware with me.

I got hooked on creating Living Lockets. If I had to guess, it’s because they tell a story, and you know what a sucker I am for storytelling. On an Aqua table cloth, all lined up like little Swarovski soldiers, were these beautiful glass lockets in every shape, size and metal color you could think of. In trays around them were itty-bitty hand-painted charms.

I picked my locket, I picked a ruby, amethyst and pearl; a birthstone for Jack (and me), Elise and my mom. A set of silver angel wings, the scales of justice, a gold compass. I wanted everything.

A few years and 10 lockets later, Katie, my Origami Owl girl, got a hold of me to offer me a discount and the chance to sell these with her.

The discount came with a huge credit toward jewelry and a link to what could be my own virtual storefront. She promised me I didn’t have to sell anything. Heck yeah, I wanted the discount. Hell no, I wasn’t selling a thing.

I knew it was multi-level marketing, i.e. She gets me, I get two, they get two and so forth to build the pyramid. It gets a bad rap. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not a scheme. It just wasn’t for me. Afterall, I didn’t have a perm and I just wanted the Harry Potter charms for Elise.

So, for $19, I got her (and me) $155 worth of Origami Owl jewelry. Win. I wore my new stuff to a wedding reception. Six people asked me about it. I realized I loved telling them about the different things they could make that would tell their story.

Let’s cut to the chase. I started handing out my link and some catalogs. I started playing around with social media posts and strategies. I started building a team because I knew some people who also loved Origami Owl and really wanted the jewelry credit and designer discount for themselves. I didn’t even mean to do it, but it happened.

And, once it did, I realized I still had the ability to set a goal and crush it. So, I set another. Then another. That turned into a pretty decent stream of steady income on the side.

Is there a catch? Absolutely. Are there lies? Everywhere.

Here they are:

The catch: you have to work. It’s not called a hustle for nothing. But you better believe if a company basically gives me a blank check and pen, I’m going to work it to my advantage every time.

This is only possible, though, if you get creative, keep learning, have some patience and are willing to come out of your shell and try something new. It also helps if you really love what you’re standing behind product-wise.

The lie: All you have to do is wear it, use it, eat it, drink it, take it, post it and you’ll sell it. Lie, lie, lie. If you ever heard that, believed it, tried it and failed, let me tell you something. So did I. It never works. Here’s why: that’s only a third of the process of being successful in this space.

Of COURSE you need to promote your products, but you also need to show the ways they fit into your life. You need to show how you’re working your business.

People want to know who you are too, so they can associate your thing with you as a person. That creates desire and desire creates people wanting to try your stuff.

Next comes loyalty, then they make that huge fearful leap to host a party (why it has to be fearful, I do not know) and from there, they may even want to join you. Fancy that. But, getting to that point takes time and it takes w o r k. If anyone tells you otherwise: it’s a lie.

Then you build.

The work is work, but the beauty of a side-hustle with Origami Owl or any other Direct Sales company is that you truly do name your hours. You run your business the way you want to run it. Because it is. Your business.

I “work” (which isn’t work because I love every aspect of this brand and industry dearly) at all hours right from my phone.

I send messages while I dry my hair. I look up sale prices at red lights. I schedule posts to my pages and groups while I feed Tyler.

Because of social media, in-home parties are rare and I can host those on a Friday night in my pajamas smelling like baby sweet potatoes and Elise’s slime.

And yes, I make real money. I also earn credit toward jewelry, which is a perk in itself. But, I get real money, to deposit in my account, every single Friday.

How much? That all depends on hard I work the week before. Sometimes it’s a little. Sometimes it makes a car payment and buys groceries. With three little kids and a full-time job that pays the bills, but just barely sometimes, what a blessing it is to have a gig I can work whenever and wherever I want.

Besides being tempted by earning some extra money here and there without picking up a minimum-wage part-time job that calls for nights out and a sitter, the thrill of a challenge hooked me.

There are ranks and I always thought climbing them was some impossible, lofty goal that suckered people into selling without ever rewarding them with a promotion. I was wrong. It’s more than possible to reach the levels and earn even more.

That challenge is addicting. For me, anyway. There are worse things to be addicted to. That’s a discussion for a different day.

The rant? It makes me mad when people don’t give things a fair shake. It makes me wonder how anyone gets anywhere in life when they buy into a promise that seems to good to be true, then give up when it is without a little sweat first. It makes me mad that they let themselves be spoiled on the idea forever because they’re scared of trying something.

If this was easy, everyone would do it. It seems like everyone has tried it and not many have truly succeeded, whatever success is anyway.

I’ll settle for meeting and exceeding my goals. It’s learning something new that I can implement to get ahead of the pack. It’s getting to use creativity to create a story with some charms.

If you’re up for following me on this journey as a single mom with a side hustle to see where I end up, you can follow me at

I continue to carve my niche, even though it’s winding. That’s okay. Carve it, I will. Who’s with me?

Where to Find Grace: A Lesson Learned by Eating Slowly

Philosophy: Slow down and keep your hands steady with your pen, hammer and prayers.

Lunchbox got his first taste of baby food a couple weeks ago. It was a huge hit. After he got the hang of the spoon and the rhythm of his tongue down, the little chow hound was off to the races. I couldn’t shovel it in fast enough.

Tyler has my last name and I see a lot of Doak in him. He’s fairly laid back. He likes to study things and watch them work. He’s happy. His happiness makes me happy. It’s contagious.

The speed at which he eats, however, is not Doak, I learned. Since I lost my grandfathers, I find them with me in the strangest, most subtle places. My Grandpa Doak was the absolute slowest eater I think anyone ever saw, and I loved it.

He was always the last one to finish and everyone knew it. My dad is the same way. When my dad was a baby, it took him so long to eat, he fell asleep. My grandma had to flick the bottom of his feet to keep him awake.

I had the honor of delivering the eulogy at my grandpa’s funeral. It was the second one I’d done in four months. Writing those words was quite possibly one of the hardest things I’ve done and not for the reasons you might think.

It’s always hard to say goodbye. We trick ourselves into thinking we have time; that there will be tomorrow to learn what we need from the ones we love most. We’re also experts at fooling ourselves.

Goodbye was only part of the hard part. The worst of it was trying to take the huge feelings a man of his caliber created in my heart – in all our hearts- and put them into words on paper. I did my best.

What lasts when a person passes away are the lessons they leave. The way they carry on is through the tools we use that were once theirs. My grandpa left me with so many beautiful things in my head, my heart and my home.

I have some of his screwdrivers and a rake that was his. I have a clock he made and an Acme Thunder whistle that was in his drawer, but the only thing I truly wanted was a framed picture.

It was a reprint of Grace by Eric Enstrom. I remembered seeing it hang over his kitchen table when I was little and when I think of him, it’s what I picture. It’s just a man, with a book, praying over bread. It’s that simple. So is life according to Bob Doak.

It’s not, at least life doesn’t feel that simple, but he made it look that way. His philosophy was not complicated. Drink your coffee black. Find the right tool for the job and get to work. Take your time when you eat and especially when you cut in with a paint brush. Keep your hands steady with your pen, hammer and prayers. Your age does not limit you. Wear out your Bible and break in your patience.

I wish my kids got the chance to learn from him the way my cousins and I did. I wish they were old enough to have fun with him and to watch him tinker with things until he achieved a level of perfection only he could master. I wish they knew that when he passed, so did a little bit of the last generation of grace. They may never get to see that anywhere else.

I could let that make me sad. I don’t. Instead, I try to pass a little Bob Doak onto them through me. Afterall, we’re part of him. When I use his tools, I show them. When they’re fascinated by watching me paint or strip wallpaper, I tell them how good Papa Bob used to be with his paint brush (my version of painting includes swearing and taping, his did not).

Lately, though, I find him the most when I start wishing karma would get to work. When life feels especially unfair and I have a second to stop and think about how I got to where I am right now, I try to stop myself from wanting to make the people who hurt me, hurt just as bad. I think about Grace.

I’m able to pray and I have things to pray for. That’s my grace. That was Grandpa’s grace. That’s the grace I find in Elise’s tenacity, Jack’s quirks and Tyler’s smile. I get to teach them all about life and there’s no better lessons than the one’s Grandpa left with me.

One thing he never missed was my birthday. I got a card every single year, right on time. I remember thinking on one of our trips to see him at the hospital that it would be the first year in 32 I wouldn’t get a card from him. I had a hard time accepting that. He died three weeks after my birthday.

It wasn’t long after that, I grabbed the mail one day and saw a pink envelope with his handwriting on the front. It was my birthday card. He signed it in the hospital, my uncle mailed it and somehow, it took that long to get to me. I prefer to think that it was just a little wink from him to show me he was with me.

Tyler’s high chair sits underneath my Grace print. I feed him his baby food there and tell him to slow down. I tell him dinner is nothing to rush through.  I see it every time I feed him, every time I head out the back door to leave and start another day. It reminds me when I start to lose my place or patience, there is grace everywhere and it’s so simple to find if you look.

Just like Bob Doak.

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.

An Open Response to The Invisible Workload of Motherhood (From a Happily Single Mom)

Philosophy: I do it for them; even when my nerves are shot and my mind feels like the junk drawer I don’t have the wherewithal to clean, even when I feel like nothing more than a pack mule in heels.

I’m sitting at my desk, screaming baby on my lap, dog barking at someone jogging, dishwasher running (it won’t be emptied until it needs refilled) and all I can think about is missing my daughter’s soccer game today.

I missed it on purpose. I missed it because I’ve run myself ragged since Wednesday, stopping only to sleep, and I needed a day with as little to do outside of home as possible. Sure, her dad was there. But I missed it for selfish reasons. I know I don’t get this time back.

I’ve been reading a lot about the invisible workload of motherhood in the blogging world lately. It’s true. Us moms do everything for everyone but ourselves and rarely get noticed. But I disagree that it’s killing me. It’s the reason I live.

It’s precisely because I don’t get this time back, because of this highly visible “invisible” workload that I sat today’s game out. I not only don’t get this time back with the kids, I don’t get this time back to sit on the couch while the baby sleeps or go to the store with only one child in tow. I don’t get this time back not to be on a schedule for one or two days.

My day goes like this when I have the kids: Get up, brush my teeth, take the dog out, feed the baby, change and dress him, nag Elise and Jack to get dressed, shower while singing to the baby to try to get him to stop crying, nag Jack one more time to get dressed, hair, makeup, breakfast (for them not me), medications, lock the dog up, pack the bookbags, head out the door, work 8 hours where I could be in any one of two locations in any one of three Courts doing any one of 6 jobs, pick up the kids, nag them about homework (at least 5 times), take the dog out, change, unpack backpacks, sign papers for school, force them to sit down and DO HOMEWORK, pack lunches, get Elise ready for soccer, pack the car, pack the baby, sit at practice for an hour and a half, come home, throw laundry in, help with baths, eat somewhat of a dinner, collapse into bed, get up because I forgot to feed the dog, and finally, lay down for good.

That’s just the standard format. That doesn’t include doctor’s appointments, birthday parties, sorting bills, the constant texting to arrange and rearrange schedules when their dad is out of town. That doesn’t include folding the laundry, cleaning up dog puke, shoe-tying lessons, or gagging as I pour out spoiled milk when I finally get to the store to replace it.

Is it by choice or by chance that I’ve taken on this workload? Both. I chose my children. I still choose them, every time. But chance led me to do this all alone… in a way.

It doubled the work and halved the partnership. I cut my own grass. I take my own trash can down and bring it back (man, I miss having someone else to do that chore). When it comes to choice, in that regard, I don’t have one.

Some mornings, I’m sweating so much by the time I actually get to work, I could use a shower again. Some mornings, I feel like I’ve already fought a war, especially when one of the three just will not cooperate. Some days, work is a break for me. Some nights when I pick them up, I resent the fact that I don’t get paid for this second job I do and I don’t have time to get a second job that pays me because of it.

I can tell you this much, though, I’m not angry that no one notices. There’s not really anyone here to notice besides the kids and I don’t expect them to understand the amount of work that goes into running a household. The no one I’m talking about is a husband.

I used to be the mom that did all these things, ran the ship, battened the hatches, surfed Pinterest for cute holiday snack that never turned out, all while trying To be a good wife. Let me say, I was much unhappier then. I was unhappier because there was also another adult I was caring for who also didn’t bother to notice this “invisible workload”. He made sure his workload was very visible and very noticed, but mine was just…expected.

That’s why I don’t mind doing these things and doing them alone. I did them anyway and did them alone even with a partner. That’s the worst; feeling alone when someone is right next to you.

So, I think all us single moms are the lucky ones. Sure, we don’t get noticed and rarely appreciated, but that’s understandable and expected. It’s not like they sit in pre-k circle time meditating on how grateful they for the PB&J you slapped together that morning.

At least our invisible workload isn’t unnoticed by the ones that are supposed to be sharing it but aren’t. This work that I do is to keep three tiny humans that depend on me alive and well; it’s not for fame, glory or praise. It means I’m making a place in the world for them and they’re watching me do it.

In other words…I’ll carry the weight of it. In heels if I must. I might complain about it sometimes, but in the end, I do it all for them. We all do.

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.

Why I Don’t Practice Self-Care Even Though I Want to

Philosophy: We can only relish the calm if we’ve dared to revel in the chaos.

Ahh, self-care. So elusive for single moms, parents, people in general. If you’re reading this and you’re about 22 with no commitments or little dependents, heed this advice: relish all those quiet, empty seconds you have to read or soak or shop alone.

I used to take it for granted, getting as much time as I wanted in the dairy case to pick out yogurt. Now, I sometimes surprise myself with what I bring home. I didn’t know Yoplait made a Dunkin Donuts flavor, but it’s in my fridge and I guess I bought it. If I get the time to try it before it expires, I’ll let you know if it’s any good.

The lady I used to see for counseling would tsk-tsk that. She was very much about inner-peace and harmony. Namaste. I am too. It’s just a luxury for me to be able to practice it right now.

The thing about self-care is that it’s like everything else. If you wait for there to be time, there never will. You must make time.

I was cursed (blessed?) with a quite vintage-looking tanning bed in my basement. When I moved into my house last November, I had plans of getting rid of it, but I was single a few days after moving and then winter came and then…it just stayed.

It works. Kind of. On its best day, I’d call it broke-down. Some of the bulbs are shot. I replaced the ones I could get to easily and gave it a try one day while Tyler was napping. It was every bit of the guilty pleasure I remembered it to be. It wasn’t quite stealing a plate, but then again, nothing is.

When I was younger and skin care/age spots/harmful rays/SPF 4000 wasn’t as much of a thing as it is now, I tanned all the time. It used to make me feel good. It relieved a little anxiety back when all I had was a little anxiety.

Now that I have a boatload of anxiety, 20 minutes enclosed in some ultra violet light with a Podcast and the white noise of a fan running is just shy of Eden. Forget that the tanning bed is broke-down. It serves its purpose just fiiine.

I’m certainly not promoting laying in the sun and I know all the risks and hazards, and that tanning beds are no-good, very-bad killers. Guess what? It doesn’t stop me. It’s just another one of my many vices.

I think part of the appeal is the process of making the time to get down there and use it. It’s a race against the clock and a challenge to rig everything just right so I can buy the maximum amount of time.

If Elise is playing Barbies in her room, I have at least 45 minutes. I get Jack comfy on the couch with his chocolate milk and set him up to watch his favorite police procedurals on YouTube. Tyler comes downstairs with me to his bassinet once he’s changed and fed.

It took me awhile, but I caught on to Tyler’s fascination with mirrors, so I attached one to the hood of the bassinet. He jabbers to himself if he doesn’t fall asleep. That buys me a good 15 minutes, if he’s awake, before he starts winding up to cry.

Voila. Fifteen minutes of me-time. I only partially wonder what the thud from upstairs was. There’s really very little anticipation of whether the baby’s cooing is slowly turning into crying. Anymore, even if the dog barks, it only takes me a minute or so to talk myself out of wondering if someone is at the front door and whether it’s the UPS guy or a serial killer.

All-in-all, I get about five solid minutes of thoughtless bliss. Maybe it’s more like three because without fail, I feel a hand reaching in to tap my arm. I’d normally be startled, but I see two blue eyes staring back at me through the gap. “Mommy…Sissy took my iPad.”

Two minutes. Two minutes of me-time is enough. Time to shut it all down. I throw on my robe, scoop Tyler up and when I hit the landing, right on cue… “Mommy…the dog drank Jack’s milk and threw up on the carpet. I tried to clean it up but we’re out of paper towels.”

Tyler’s cooing-turned-crying-bordering-on-screaming stops. My shoulder gets warm. Spit up. I go for the paper towels, but…there are none. A dish towel it is. What’s a little more laundry at this point?

The truth is, my “me time” is their time. My self-care is caring for them. That’s the sacrifice I make as a mom. If I’m forced to choose between them and me, I pick them every time.

 One day, I’ll have all the peace and quiet one person can stand and I’ll hate every minute of it. It’s not that I don’t want a half hour every now and then, it’s just that things rarely work out so I can take that time for myself. That’s just how it is right now.  

Maybe I’ll get rid of my broke-down tanning bed. Maybe I can make a few minutes to go the store alone this week. Maybe while I’m there I’ll get some sunscreen and call that self-care. Maybe I’ll remember the paper towels this time.

To My Daughter: 26 Things I Want You to Know

I always dreamed of having a daughter that was a little extension of me. Now that I do, I wish I could take some of the me out of her. Even though she got my rigid perfectionism, she also got a lot of things I wish I’d had at her age.

She keeps me grounded. Her eight-year-old logic astounds me at times. Maybe that comes from pure childish innocence that we lose as adults. If so, I think a little regression would do us all some good.

She helps me in ways she may never know, and sometimes, I admit, I rely on her too much. She’s my extra set of hands in this single mother life, and I always make sure she knows just how much I appreciate her.

Like a young me, she thinks she has all the answers. As much as I can, I let her learn things for herself. It was hard to learn to choose my battles, but sometimes, you just have to let them fall so they can learn how to get back up.

One thing I have always told her was that I don’t know much, but I’ll always tell her what I know for sure. For Elise and all our daughters, this is what I know for sure:

I could not do what you do at your age. You’re brave and beautiful. You have stars in your eyes and flames in your heart and you don’t care who sees them.

Read 14 Things I Love About Being a Single Mom

You will be jealous of your friends. Just remember you also have traits and talents they don’t. Life is a lot more fun when you learn to build people up instead of tearing them down. I promise.

Less is more. Unless it’s mascara, in which case, more is never enough. But you don’t need mascara anyway.

Speaking of mascara, don’t pay more than $10.00 for it. Ever.

You should stay up all night at a sleep-over, but don’t take it out on your mom when you’re tired the next day.

You’ll feel defeated every now and then. It’s ok. Walk in like you own the place.

Find a hobby and get good at it. The time is going to pass anyway. You might as well have something to show for it.

Be nice to your siblings. Someday, they’ll be your only link to your past and the only ones who lived through the same memories you did.

If you’re ever on the fence about cutting your hair, do it. It grows back.

If you think your nails are dry, wait one minute longer than that before trying to use your hands.

Every little thing that makes you self-conscious now will turn into your greatest assets later. Appreciate them before age takes them away.

Weight is nothing more than a number. Being healthy is far more important than the size you wear.

Take care of your favorite dolls and books. Someday, you’ll want to give them to your little girl.

Read Full-Tilt Boy: The Wreckage of Raising Sons

Slamming your bedroom door will get you attention. It just won’t be the kind you want.

I know you’ll make fun of me and the music I listen to and the clothes I wear. It’s a rite of passage for daughters and moms. But, just remember, someday, your kids will do the same.

If you’re thinking of using hair dye of any kind, pay someone at a salon to do it and please, oh please, pick a natural color.

You have more courage than I do when it comes to singing and dancing. Don’t lose it.

You’ll swear there are days I don’t love you because I keep you from going somewhere or doing something you really want to. It will always be my job to protect you first.

On those days, you’ll tell me you hate me. You’ll think you do, but you don’t really mean it.

You don’t understand why your dad and I are divorced. Someday you might know the reasons, but I’ll pray you never learn the lessons first-hand.

If there’s a breath in me, I’ll worry about you.

Find other ways thank skimpy clothes to get people’s attention…like your mind.

You don’t have to be the loudest girl in the room to be heard.

Never underestimate a good bubble bath and a good French manicure.

It will always feel like yesterday I held you in my arms for the first time. No matter how old you are, how big you get, how far you go, I will still see you as my baby.

You’ll never know just how much I rely on you. You’ll never know how many times you kept me from being scared or losing my mind. The boys are the reason I have no choice but to be grounded, but you help me figure out to stay there.

You’re so good at doing some things I should be doing for you. One of these is understanding when I don’t always have enough hands or enough time.

On the days I have exceptional doubt about myself and my abilities to make anything good, one look at you proves I did something right somewhere to deserve to call you my little girl.

Mortuary Science School Drop-Out

Philosophy: Sometimes you have to try quitting before you quit trying.

You just gotta know when to fold ‘em. That is, of course, courtesy of Kenny Rogers, which, I’m not too proud to say I’ve heard a time or two thousand. My love for Kenny comes straight from my dad’s old vinyl records.

Speaking of my dad, he didn’t raise a quitter. He tells me this often. He always knows exactly when I need to hear that straight from him, too.

I knew during my freshman year at Kent State that I wanted to major in philosophy. I had huge plans of being a professor surrounded by books or graduating at the top of my law school class and opening an office (also surrounded by books). But…well…life.

Philosophy sustained and interested me, but what always fascinated me was death. Of course, death is part of philosophy, but I’m talking about funerals and science.

I happened to listen to Three Minutes That Will Change Your Life by Alan Watts when I was between the anchor of marriage and the freedom of divorce and it compelled me to think about what I would really love to do if money were no object.

If I could drop everything and be anything I wanted, what would it be? A funeral director. I had always wanted to own a funeral home. While it sounds creepy and weird, it fascinated me.

When I had my temporary lapse in sanity, just prior to my second marriage, I enrolled in the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science online. I loved it. I loved the classes, I loved the feeling of working toward something I never thought I would do. I loved arranging places to intern part-time on the weekends.

Then I woke up early one morning (literally) alone and pregnant. Not only did I realize I couldn’t financially afford to stay in school and care for three kids, I couldn’t afford the time it would take away from them to have to intern and be called out in the middle of the night.

I quit.

I quit three quarters of the way through a term. Didn’t even see it through until the grading period ended. I quit.

I thought I would be too embarrassed to admit that to everyone who started asking how school was, but the truth goes a long way. My money and time were going to be needed somewhere else and there was nothing wrong with that.

In that sense, I wasn’t quitting anything. I was just rerouting.

Yes, I’m still a mortuary science school drop-out. But if there’s anything that sounds cooler than mortuary science school, it’s adding drop-out to the end of it.

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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