Find Your Vacation

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This post is sponsored by Born Shoes.

There are two hilarious text threads with my friends that basically sum up our lives right now.

One is simple and goes like this:

Friend: Brunch this Saturday?
Me: Kids or no kids?
Friend: ROFL. Oh my God, NO KIDS. For the love of God, PLEASE. NO KIDS.

The other, expanded to include more friends in one invite, goes like this:

Me: Brunch next Saturday?
Friend 1: Sure, any time after 10:30. Soccer game.
Friend 2: I can any time before 10:30. House showing.
Friend 3: Piano lessons until 12.
Me: How about Saturday night instead–sunset?
Friend 5: We leave Saturday morning for the weekend, so I’m out. I can Friday night though!
Friend 2: Can’t Friday night. Dinner plans.
Me: How about Sunday morning then?
Friend 3: Birthday party. Can’t. I can after 2 though!
Friend 6: Can’t after 2. In-laws coming.

This needful, soul-filling, priceless thing–time with our friends–is so much harder to find with competing demands of our families and their schedules. But every time my friends and I fight to find the time, even if it’s enjoying a quick cup of coffee together after school drop-off, we admit we are restored in ways that make us better wives, better moms and stronger women. I recently escaped to the Bahamas with five other women for a wellness weekend of yoga, workshops and mediation, and do you know what every single woman said was her favorite part and the most important thing she’s taking home? The fullness we got from the time we spent talking to each other. It was a Deepak Chopra workshop, people, and GIRLFRIEND TIME BEAT OUT DEEPAK!

We women are good at that though–restoring, nurturing and empowering each other in the ways that we listen, support, relate, tell stories, admit vulnerabilities, and encourage with our “Me too”s and “It’s okay”s.

How do we keep these friendships strong? It’s less about finding time to be with our friends and more about making time.

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Last week, we made a friend mini vacation happen on the beach.

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We didn’t pack bags or stay overnight, and we all arrived at different times–fighting schedules, traffic and finding a parking spot–but we did get away long enough to have dinner together (tried those bacon deviled eggs), vent (this math curriculum!), laugh hard (“Heidi, tell that story again!”), get a bone break remedy (“Here, put these under your tongue”), be reminded that we’re not alone and that–though we might not need it now–there’s an army behind us, ready to show up at any time if we need it.

They come wearing cute shoes because our friends at Born Shoes are all about helping women find their vacation this season, and whether that’s sitting on the beach with friends or hiding from your kids in your own back yard for a 5-minute vacation with a box of Thin Mints and the new Us magazine, Born supports you…specifically your feet.

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We tried out some of their new spring styles–the Malena driving moccasin in fun spring color pops, the Havana heeled sandal (in the prettiest spring blush color!), the classic Bima, and the lace-up Dakar–and the verdict is? We love them. Comfortable, stylish and versatile–the perfect picks for your spring break suitcases.

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The best part about getting away with friends? You come home fuller, with more love to give.

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The Balance Bird

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In a fortunate twist of events that involves some beloved family and friends who seek inspiring adventures and a universe that sometimes delivers just the experiences we need, I found myself on a primitive island boat pulling up to an ashram in the Bahamas late Friday afternoon.

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A courtyard packed with tents and a serious daily itinerary that included mandatory meditation and “yoga church” participation quickly revealed this was the real deal, not the occasional Saturday morning class I’ve attended at our posh Naples studio with infused water and a curated boutique of “Spiritual Gangster” shirts and sports bras with elaborate webs of back straps.

A few minutes after arrival, I signed my name, committing to respecting ashram policies and held out my right hand for my bead string bracelet. “Now make an intention for the weekend,” the beautiful yogi instructed while she tied a knot at my wrist.

I whispered my intention to myself, thanked her, and then made a very purposeful decision before taking my bags to our room. I reached up and fumbled for the clasp on my necklace–the one I always wear when I travel without my kids, the one that holds their fingerprint charms close to my heart so I’m never without them–and I removed it.

If I was going to really listen to my own heartbeat over the weekend, I was going to need to remember that my heartbeat existed before the kids and that the foundation of my commitment to them is rooted in discipline and strength and love for myself. Because lately when I’m running and feel like stopping, I push myself to keep going by imagining I’m running for my kids–that somehow the proof of my love for them exists in another block of sprinting. And when I need willpower in its greatest form for anything in life, my first resort is to tap in to how much I love them and mold that love into some weird mind game incentive because it’s the strongest force I know. I don’t think that’s the healthiest way to find my own strength.

My friend texted me a few weeks ago after her yoga class. She has four kids and like so many of us spends her days making them breakfast, getting them off to school, e-mailing teachers, driving them to dance practice and hockey games and play dates. Worrying about how they’re absorbing the world, if she’s doing her job right, equipping them with life tools. Ever so slowly pushing them out of the nest while tickling their backs, kissing their foreheads and whispering life wishes for them as they fall asleep under sheets she had so much fun picking out for them. We text pictures and videos of our kids back and forth to each other and have built so much of our friendship on how similarly we mother…on how much alike we love.

“I just had the worst metaphor jump into my head for my life and what I feel like is happening. I was lying on my yoga mat and I thought”…

I waited for the end of her thought that arrived in a separate text a few seconds later.

…”I’m being erased.”

“There, now you have to deal with it,” she wrote. “Like the brother and sister in the photograph from ‘Back to the Future’, remember?”


“With every day…I’m just going going going…gone,” she wrote. “How can we feel so invisible while making so many marks a day? I write all their shit in permanent marker,” she ended…

“…and I write mine in pencil.”

“We fight the eraser,” I texted back.

She didn’t need advice, and I had nothing to offer because I know how this works–like everything else in motherhood. Nobody has the balance game down pat. The weight of everything in life is constantly shifting; scales tip. There’s always either a little too much to the left or too much to the right, and we make it work. When they’re tipped too far, we’ll know–a cup of spilled milk puts us over the edge during the witching hour, a little voice speaks up in yoga class. We reevaluate our schedules, make room for date nights, get up early to meditate, run, read. We write in journals, plan a girl’s weekend, eat better, drink less. We feel good, clear, balanced, able to see our own stuff written in permanent marker…until we realize the demands of life slowly faded it to pencil again and we begin another cycle of weight redistribution.

I think moms are a lot like that magic balance bird toy. Have you seen it? It’s a plastic bird with a weighted body that magically balances on the tip of your finger from the point of its tiny beak. Dash has one and always laughs, positioning himself to catch the bird, waiting for it to fall…but it never does. Unlike objects of uniform shape, the center of gravity isn’t in the middle, and the wings are specifically designed–heavy enough and extended far enough–to withstand the weight of its back. Motherhood is as far from uniform shape as you can get–our unique situations and schedules and family circumstances in constant motion and the love we feel for everyone, an overpowering force. You know how the law of physics works for finding the center of gravity in non-uniform objects? Trial and error. Every day.

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The love we feel for our families is so deep, so complex, so intense, it’s only natural for it to tip us off balance sometimes. And then when you add the other things we think about–our work, our hurts, our future, our finances, our parents, our friends, our community, our world–it’s no wonder we’re able to get off the ground at all. But we’ve got wings that stretch far–farther than we can ever comprehend–to withstand the love and weight on our backs. So we fly.

Coincidentally, my mom instincts had me running after Dash the other day to keep him from walking into a parking lot, and I lost my balance. My foot snapped at the edge of a curb, and I fell and broke it. I’m off-kilter now for the next 6 weeks, finding new strength in my right side, learning ways to slow down.

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Trial and error–the very definition of motherhood. And yet still, we fly. Or clomp in a moon boot air cast.

A Great Grandma is to Love

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It was the first resolution I conquered last month–choose one of those dreams I keep saying “One day soon, I’m going to…” and make it happen. Or else it never will.

So I pick up the phone and call my 87-year-old grandma–the only grandparent I still have.

“Grandma, are you still able to travel? If we found a direct flight, would you be able to make the trip down to us?”

“Oh honey,” she says, “I might be tired when it’s over, but when I leave this life, God’s going to have to take me out on a stretcher. I don’t say no to being with my grand kids or adventure.”

So we book a flight. Make some arrangements. Exchange calls about what to pack. “Comfy clothes,” I tell her.

She arrives while the girls are at school, so Dash and I wait in the airport, his little sign held high above his head.

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“Keep watching,” I tell him. “She has white hair. She’ll be in a wheelchair. I’ll tell you when I see her.”

…and then…my heart skips a beat as I see her appear.

“There she is. There she is, Dash!”

And a hug to erase all time.

I once again explain the order of birth of a great grandma to the kids, and the number of years and stories and sequence of love it took to get there feels so grand, I almost can’t grasp it myself.

“Remember, she’s my mama’s mama,” I say. “All those memories you’re making your grandpas and grandmas–I made them with her when I was little like you.”

It takes Dash all of a millisecond before he falls into her lap, taking her hand and rubbing it on his cheek. “Grandma, look!” he yells as he does a funny dance. “Grandma, come here,” he says as he leads her to his room to show her his garbage truck. “Grandma, don’t go,” he cries six days later as we pull back into the airport to say goodbye. It’s like he’s known her forever, like she’s been here every day of our lives…because in a way, she has.

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“Kel,” she says as we drive to get breakfast one morning. “I watch you–all my grandkids–and your lives, and I just feel so proud. I’m a part of this. I’m a part of all of you. I suppose that’s not very humble,” she laughs, “but I get to own some of it too, right? Because I see myself in you.”

“Grandma, if you only knew,” I tell her. “I watch you, and I feel so lucky that you are a part of me. You are the coolest grandma I know.”

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I ask her if she wants to come to a baby shower with me over the weekend. “Doll me up!” she instructs. So I run to my closet and pick out my favorite skirt, a sweater, some pearls.

“She needs a hat,” Brett adds.

“And red lipstick,” Heidi says.

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Grandma whispers, “Now no one’s going to know this is your skirt, right?” as we walk into the baby shower. Two seconds later, my friend hugs her with “So nice to meet you!” followed by, “Oh my gosh, that skirt! I borrowed it from Kelle too.” We all laugh.

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We eat lunch by the ocean, trade stories over coffee at the kitchen counter every morning, watch Property Brothers next to the fire on one of Florida’s rare cold nights. We flip through photo albums together, drop the kids off at school, pick them up, run errands. “I want to see it all,” Grandma says. “I want to meet your friends, see the kids’ school, hang out with the neighbors–so I can picture it all when I go home.”

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I wake up one morning to find a large bowl with a few popcorn kernels left in it. “Your grandma woke up at midnight,” Brett explains, “so we watched T.V. and had a little popcorn party together.”

It feels like the love we have in our home just tapped a new source, and it’s flowing so fast now, I can’t ladle it up quick enough.

Dash borrows her walker to practice roller skating.

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And later bends over naked and yells, “Grandma, look at my butt.”

“Oh dear, Grandma! I’m so sorry. He likes that potty talk.”

She laughs hard. “Redeemable garbage!” she calls it. “The things we carry around in us that we’re not proud of.”

We talk about redeemable garbage a lot more over the week, but in that moment, I grab my phone and text my sister. “Dude. Dash just bent over naked and told Grandma to look at his butt. I’m dying.”

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Mostly, I feel proud of where I come from. And though I constantly lament over how fast these days are going by–how big our kids are, how quickly things change, how the world so unforgivingly reminds us how old we’re all getting–I am reminded this is exactly how it’s supposed to go, and it’s beautiful.

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I ask Grandma one morning if she slept well. “Well, I woke up in the middle of the night and started walking around your house looking at all your things–Dash’s art on the walls, the pictures on the fridge, all these cute little trinkets you have. I have to tell you Kel, it was making me so happy, my kite started to fly away.” I laugh, familiar with all these phrases she’s made up over the years. “I think my blood pressure was getting high just from the excitement. I swear I’m going to end up in the ER someday, and when they ask what happened, you all are going to have to tell them my kite flew too high. I just get too excited!” To delight in the world so much at 87 that you fear it might the end of you? I hope that’s where I’m headed.

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We talk a lot about politics, women’s roles, religion, raising kids and what absolute truth means to both of us. She’s conservative, I’m liberal. We differ on a lot of things and lovingly get fiery over the ones that are close to our hearts. We listen and smile and admit we love each other’s fire.

We sing a lot over the week, sitting side by side on the piano bench, flipping through an old hymnal to find the songs we both grew up with–For the Beauty of the Earth, And Can It Be, Amazing Grace. I can only play the treble clef, so she plays the bass and together we make music, sometimes overlapping fingers to create the harmonies. We FaceTime my mom to give her a concert. We call my sister and put her on speaker phone so she can sing with us. I text a video to Brett’s dad, so he can see my grandma playing his grandma’s piano.

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Over the week, I sharpen my explanation to the kids on who a great grandma is.

There’s a tiny page I tore out of the children’s book  A Hole is to Dig (I regret ripping it out) and one of Maurice Sendak’s illustrations from it framed in my office. A simple sketch of a group children sitting under the stars is accompanied by the words, “A dream is to look at the night and see things.”

A great grandma is to anchor who you are becoming. 

A great grandma is to love.

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A great grandma is to never forget.

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Grateful for heritage, stories and the unshakable source of love from which ours flows…how ever far we may go. To kites flying high.