Credo II (Morningside After Dark edit)

Three times a year — once in January, once in February, and once in April– a sympathetic and broad-minded crowd gathers in the basement of Morningside Church in Edina for a night of stories and songs on a particular theme. The event is free (donations to the church are always appreciated but not required) and always both life-and-spirit-affirming. 

Last night, I did my third MADark reading. I’m always honored to be included, but last night felt particularly special somehow. Anyway, here is the essay I read, a version of “Credo” I edited for last night’s theme: Growing Pains.


Lizzie on Henry's shoulder


First and most of all, I’m for love –the kind you need and want from the people who give it best.


I stand for Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. I am against mocking people for believing in God and I am against mocking people for not believing in God.


I believe in deep quiet, loons, and swimming with horses, which I tried once at Camp Lake Hubert the summer I was 15– it felt like flying. I believe in an Afterlife … not harps and fluffy white clouds so much as a clarity, an understanding, a lifting of all the veils that make us think our stubborn, self-destructive thoughts. I am for a Heaven that reconciles my vision and God’s, a big explanation, God saying “this is why and this is why and this is why.”


I’m for Grandma Betty, who kept rosaries in her desk and fed me soft, pillowy doughnuts rolled in sugar on Sunday mornings after Mass. I’m for the tiny, Technicolor strawberries she grew in her garden, which I picked and brought to my dad and grandpa in a metal pail, one by one.


I am for Grandpa Skluzacek, whose pickup truck smelled of wood shavings, tobacco, and the fish he caught alone in secret lakes and I am for Grandpa Thacher, who took me to get stitches on my chin when I was 4 and told everyone how brave I was when I wasn’t.


Camp Lake Hubert


I am pro-cabin, pro-camp, pro-canoe. I’m pro-Constance, who meets me at the back fence now and then to exchange lemons, eggs, sour cherries, solidarity. I’m for the teary girl I saw at the elementary school last October, willing herself down the hall. I was her once. I am pro-aloneness, anti-loneliness.


I am in favor of the simple, peaceful Lonsdale cemetery where my dad and other members of my family are buried, but against all the reasons it’s full. I am in favor of tough old ladies and soft old men and I am all in for Minnesota. I believe in flannel sheets, down comforters with the windows cracked, the romance of a December wedding. I would relive mine a thousand times if I could … I probably have.


Yes to my dad and stepmom, who honored me by dying when I was right there in the room and yes to my mom and stepdad, who spared me that sorrow. No to a crystal ball, though I badly want one. No because I would use it irresponsibly.


I swear by birthday cake for breakfast and I swear by my mom, who taught herself the Club Med line dance with a tape she bought at the gift shop and practiced in our living room until it was perfect. I am passionately pro-nerd.


43rd birthday cake for Brian 2015


No to mealy apples, no to fake vanilla, and no to both phone and in-person solicitation. Yes to bread, GramBea’s rice pudding, lake swimming, being up late at night. Yes to wilderness and protecting it.


I believe in the peonies my dad grew and brought to my house in vases each spring; the Eames chair where I sat in his lap when I was five, watching Little House on the Prairie on Monday nights; I believe in the bronze stars and purple heart he brought back from Viet Nam. I believe in anyone brave enough and wise enough to choose tenderness.


I’m for the brilliant nurse who helped me bathe my toddler at Children’s Hospital when she had wires glued to her scalp and I’m for the brilliant neurosurgeon who performed her brain surgery at Mayo when she was three years old. I’m against staying in the hospital with your child alone – don’t do it.


Sweet Brian and Carolinbe post EEG


I am for raising yourself as you raise your kids, I am for Dad, who worked at my high school and would make a convincing camel face for anyone who asked and I am for Mom, who called me Lamby and Lovebug right up until she died when I was 41.


Yes to GramBea playing piano out on her four-season porch as I was coming in from school, yes to the beautiful connection between my children, which is what I have always hoped for. Yes to the way my dad and his sister would laugh together in a kind of harmony and yes to letting your kids see you cry. No to anyone who makes you feel like you’re crazy for feeling too much.


Yes to reminding people they are not alone – including myself. Yes to growing up together, to people who are afraid but keep trying anyway.


Yes to you, my friends from long ago and far away and yes to you, my friends from always. Yes to everyone who is here now and yes to those who couldn’t stick around for one reason or another.


I stand for you.
I stand for me.
I am for you and me.


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Between Two Years

South Carolina riverboat 082217


Have you ever felt stuck between two years? I do. The problem is this: 2017 was so scary and heartbreaking, from start to finish, that I think I’m afraid to enter 2018.  Despite the fresh sting of my dad’s absence, I had my loveliest holidays in a long time at the end of 2017. I made dinner with my step-sister Kerry for our family like we used to do at our parents’ house years ago and it was such a beautiful party. There were candles and fresh flowers, enough snow for a light cover, delicious food and easy conversation.


I miss that night already –I wanted it to last a lot longer. When dinner was over and we were all sitting at the long table, a vision flashed through my mind of us all in an old wooden boat, floating through a stormless channel between What Was and What Will Be. I felt less afraid for a while but as we crept closer to school starting up again, my fear returned.


I don’t typically get paralyzed and technically, I’m still doing what I need to do: I go to the grocery store, show up where people are expecting me, water the plants, feed everyone. Yet there’s a strange sense of life happening to me these days. Ordinarily, I make choices –good or bad– and my life, like water, finds its path around them. Since my dad died, I feel like the path is fixed and my choices have to find their way around the inevitability of loss and grief.


When my dad got sick two years after my mom died, I had a good cry, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. We talked every day on the phone about what he might be able to eat, how much weight he was losing. Sometimes he would tell me about conversations he had had with Father Pirkl, his beloved priest from church, about forgiveness and whether God would consider his choosing an easier chemo regimen a kind of despair (NO).  Once in a while, we mistakenly drifted into politics and had to spend a day or two licking our wounds. It was never more than that … we knew we didn’t have that kind of time.


I spent the first half of last year in waiting rooms, exam rooms, infusion rooms. Maybe because I’m an only child, maybe because I spent my childhood and adolescence moving back and forth between my divorced parents’ houses, my hobbies are portable. I would knit or write while my dad retreated into his own thoughts or slept in his chair. Last January, when he was in so much pain that it made him cry, I cried with him. I participated in the last months of his life. I walked him all the way through to the end and I never shrank from any of it.


I was in the room when he died, an honor both he and Linda, the love of his life, gave me and a sorrow both my mom and Steve, the love of hers, spared me. I am so grateful to all four of them for the way they departed, for sharing their most vulnerable selves with me. I had four anchors when I got married 18 years ago. One by one, they’ve been pulled and now here I am, trying to start my first year without any of them. It’s so strange, not being anyone’s daughter.

I read this poem aloud at my dad’s burial in the Lonsdale cemetery:


In Blackwater Woods
By Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


So that’s the work ahead of me this year and beyond – making the choice to love fully, despite the fixed path, the black river of loss. My original anchors are gone, yes, but my boat is filled with people I can love right now. It is a new year and we mortals are leaving the quiet channel together, letting go, choosing What Will Be.

Mom & Dad

Misty Park


Dear Wonderful You,

Have you noticed how some people seem to have these misty, soft-focus end-of-life experience with their parents? That’s not how it happened for me. To tell you the truth, both of them were giant pains in my ass.


My mom, with a brain tumor, had no business driving her Lexus Death Star in the middle of a polar vortex. She, of course, would not concede this fact, so while she was at the rehab center after her surgery, I took her keys – and her car batteries for good measure.


I confessed the day I picked her up to go home. I was loading her things onto a little cart to take out to my car and had to hold onto it when I told her I was keeping her car keys, my legs and hands were shaking so badly. She yelled at me, I cried and took her home. Once she was sure I had left, she dug out a secret set of keys, likely congratulating herself (again) for being way smarter than her daughter.


Of course her cars wouldn’t start, so she called to lecture me about my negligence in exercising them regularly while she was out of commission. Brian took the phone and I sat on the stairs eating my hands while he broke the news about the batteries, which he had hidden in our garage in case one of her friends decided to help her do a break-in.  We knew of a couple who might.


We fought near the end of her life like we had when I was a teenager, only the roles were reversed: she wanted to be allowed to take the car; I insisted on more supervision when she was home alone; she couldn’t believe how controlling and overprotective I was being; I said the way she was talking to me made it LESS likely I would acquiesce, not more.  It would have been funny if cancer hadn’t stolen her insight and fear hadn’t stolen mine.


Carol & Marta 1977


My dad, who had always been gregarious and considerate, became sullen, self-centered at the end of his life. He was embarrassingly rude to waiters and cashiers and claimed my time with neither acknowledgment nor apology:


“On the 24th, pick me up at 1:00,” he would say after the briefest of greetings over the phone. “I need to be at the clinic by 1:30.”

“Okay …you know the 24th is my birthday, right?”


“Okay. See you then.”


It was 23 minutes to his house in Apple Valley, then another 30 back up north to the clinic, another 20-30 of waiting to start the appointment, another 20-30 once we got in. Then I would go back out to the waiting room for two hours until he was done and drive him home in rush hour traffic. Sometimes I was able to run  to the grocery store or go home to check on my kids while I was waiting.


Those appointments were for stent replacements. Once he was diagnosed, in December of last year, he got a port and a more permanent stent and started chemo. He wouldn’t take pain relievers stronger than Tylenol, so in January,  he had a nerve block procedure to manage his pain. We accidentally entered the wrong building  and he walked 20 steps ahead of me all the way through the tunnel to the other one, never saying a word to me.


I could count on one hand the number of actual fights we had ever had until the year he died, but we were on opposite sides in the 2016 election. Our political discussions, which used to stop short of doing real damage, started hurting.  Once, while he was getting one of his chemo infusions, I (stupidly) asked him what he thought about Betsy DeVos being Secretary of Education. He was a public school educator and I wanted to hear what he thought about such a catastrophic appointment. It started out okay, but eventually he told me I should move to Canada or Europe with the rest of the snowflakes and I cried because he was being mean, he was dying, and I was ashamed I had started the conversation. The nurses attended to him without looking at either one of us. We worked it out, but I still get a stomachache, thinking about that day.


Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH


We hung out on the phone a lot. Sometimes our conversations were just like they used to be. We would talk for a couple of hours about raising kids in competitive, challenging Edina,  loneliness, how hard it is to believe that who you are is enough, how important it is to listen to God. I loved those conversations, but they became fewer and further between. More often, he gave me detailed accounts of what he was eating, his pain, how quickly he was losing weight.


I would do anything to have those two know-it-alls back.  I miss them all the time.


How are you? Do you feel like some giant drain has opened up and all the good is leaking out of the world? I hope that’s just me.


I’m glad we’re back in touch.

In love and solidarity,


Henry and injured Brown Cat


My (essentially) sweet, impulsive, emotional, affectionate, pushy, silly Caroline has elevated common sibling torture to an art form. Her performances are startling avant-garde masterpieces, at once spare and imaginative (“boop boop boop boop…Henry, listen to me! Boop boop boop boop boop…”).  Her artistic integrity is evident in each production as she tries to find the places where love and pain intersect.


Henry, who was already bitterly disappointed to see that the baby sister we brought home was not a baby elephant like he’d hoped (she felt like one), has not exactly warmed to her in the almost six years since. She has assaulted him, looted for candy in his room with Lizzie (“Dat’s Henny’s chockit,” they said soberly when I busted them shortly after Easter one year, their marshmallowy cheeks bulging with chocolate eggs and M&Ms. “Not yours!”), wrecked his artwork and books and toys.


It’s hard. We got him a lock for his room, which protected his things when he wasn’t around to protect them himself, but then one night when he wouldn’t let her in to look at his fish, she tore down the carefully drawn and labeled Egyptian symbols he had posted on the outside of his door. Nothing is safe, nowhere feels safe for him here. I know how he feels –she does it to all of us. We tell him her brain doesn’t work the same as other people’s, that she doesn’t understand how she’s hurting him. It doesn’t change anything  –life with a little sister who had brain surgery is really hard sometimes. Seven nights out of ten he prays for God to help Caroline’s brain catch up to everyone else’s.


He looked at us for a moment and I watched his righteous anger recede, gather force and volume as it  transformed, then crash to shore as regret.


A couple of nights ago she got a hold of his book of charcoal drawing paper and colored in it. It was a blank sheet –she left his beautiful drawings alone– but all the damage she’s done over the last few years has built up, given him a hair trigger, so he yelled and cried until she was yelling and crying herself, scared and confused about why he was mad at her for coloring on plain paper. She didn’t know.


We told him as gently as we could that he had overdone it, that no harm had come to anything important and we could always buy him more paper. We told him we understood why he was mad at her for taking his book but that she had no way of knowing it was any different from the other paper in our house; he should go apologize.  He looked at us for a moment and I watched his righteous anger recede, gather force and volume as it  transformed, then crash to shore as regret. He lay back on the floor, tears dripping onto the carpet. “I feel so horrible,” he said in a broken voice that has rattled around my mama’s heart for all the days since. “I’m the worst brother ever.” He lay there for a few minutes, his twiggy little shoulders shaking, far more devastated by what he had done than by anything that had ever been done to him.


A few minutes later he went up and apologized. She pardoned him without hesitation, returned his hug, happily accepted his invitation to watch Shaun the Sheep. But even after she and Lizzie were already heaped on the couch giggling at the goat who eats bricks and drinks out of the toilet, we heard Henry crying at the top of the stairs. We coaxed him down and he curled up on the living room couch with me. “She loves you,” I whispered, “and of course you love her. She makes mistakes, you make mistakes. You forgive her, she forgives you. The only part that’s missing is you forgiving yourself.” I whispered this to both of us in the semi-darkness.


“It’s hard,” he choked.


“I know, Peanut, but forgiving yourself is really important. Otherwise your mistakes get in the way of you accepting love.”


Forgiveness is the only place where love and pain intersect.

Investment Strategies for the Only Child

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I, like Pebbles Flintstone and Cinderella, am an only child.


Everyone thinks only children are spoiled, but it’s not at all true; my parents bathed me in tap water and everything.


I do have to concede that I enjoyed some damn good birthdays and Christmases, though being the product of a broken home didn’t hurt in that department, either. I went to camp every summer for a month each time (my friends called it Camp Condo, but a lot of them were those freaks who like to wander around the wilderness carrying canoes on their heads, so you have to take their assessment with a grain of salt). My bedrooms were pretty, my clothes were pretty, and the places my parents took me on vacations were pretty. I regularly attended symphonies and plays and musicals, was encouraged at adult dinner parties to share my ignorant adolescent opinions on a range of subjects, and my parents never called me by the wrong name.


I would have willingly sacrificed the material trappings of only childhood (though not the privilege of pontificating at parties) for a couple of siblings.


But I was lonely –sometimes I’m still lonely. I had cousins with varying levels of interest in taking on sibling roles, step-siblings with absolutely no interest in taking on those roles, and truly remarkable friends, but if you have siblings (or, I guess, even if you don’t), you know it’s not the same. It’s not the same when you don’t have allies on the playground, it’s not the same when there’s nobody to tell you to stop wearing your original puffy paint sweatshirt creations to school in 10th grade, and it’s not the same when both of your parents lose their spouses from cancer in a year and a half and there’s nobody but you to love them (and yourself) through it.


I know plenty of Onlies who didn’t mind their solo gig and even a few baffling weirdos who seemed to love it, but I would have willingly sacrificed the material trappings of only childhood (though not the privilege of pontificating at parties) for a couple of siblings. Obviously, if my parents had only been ABLE to have one child, then I wouldn’t be whining right now (or would at least be whining about something else), but there were no real impediments to their conceiving another child other than the fact that they could barely stand to be in the same room at the same time. So okay, I understand. Anyways, by the time I arrived it was already too late, because I wanted OLDER siblings, not some annoying brat who would take all the attention away from my mediocre clarinet playing and practically inedible homemade éclairs. I know, I know, that’s totally something an only child would say –see what they did to me?


My friend Julie has accused me more than once of romanticizing siblings. Not true –why shouldn’t I assume that any big brother of mine would be a lot like Albus Dumbledore (only without the late-adolescence power obsession)? For my fantasy sisters, I’m less fanciful; Cate Blanchett and Nigella Lawson would do just fine. Really, all I’ve ever wanted was a brother who would tell me which of his gorgeous, thoughtful, brilliant friends to date and sisters who would share their amazing clothes and crush my enemies.


I have always thought of siblings as a kind of peer relationship insurance policy. It’s expensive, but you’re not denied based on your history of self-destructive, irritating behavior and someone will always make them pay if they try to opt out. Friends, of course, are more like stocks and bonds –the shortest-term ones are the highest risk, and all you can do if the bottom falls out is have a stiff drink and try to absorb the loss. Sisters and brothers can’t throw you away, even if they’re tired of your intensity or your whining or your complete inability to handle violent movies. They know they’re going to have to face you at Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day or at least next summer at the cabin, so they have to keep trying. They HAVE to.


I have always thought of siblings as a kind of peer relationship insurance policy.


I don’t have insurance; nobody in my life has to put up with my shit. My darling Julie did not have to come over and help me clean my house when I returned home after a weekend away at my cousin Kyle’s memorial service to dead flowers on the counter, laundry everywhere, dishes in the sink.


My cousin Jessica did not have to blaze all the way down to Mayo Clinic from Minneapolis to deliver a salad and giant piece of cake to Caroline’s hospital room, where I was stuck alone with my three-year-old, waiting for her to have a massive seizure so we could figure out where it was coming from. My friend Michele did not have to call my favorite bakery (which doesn’t deliver) and talk them into delivering a huge box of pastries (she made sure to buy only the stuff that would last several days) to my house before Caroline’s surgery.


My friend Mary does not have to call me every time things go radically south in my life and tell me exactly what she would do, step by step, to take care of me if she were living in Minneapolis. My friend Betsy does not have to sit on the phone with me every Thanksgiving and Christmas, going over the WHOLE menu, telling me the best way to roast asparagus, cook bacon (I can never do it right), or tweak the recipe for her mother’s chocolate cake, which is my perennial birthday cake, to make it exactly right.

None of them have to do anything (that’s not at all an exhaustive list of my phenomenal friends or the beautiful things they’ve done for me, by the way –if you weren’t mentioned this time, you can bet you will be eventually). They don’t have to keep me around, they don’t have to listen to me lecture and cry and long for the jerks who don’t care whether I’m in their lives or not. They just do because they want to, because they love me and they know I love them and usually try give as good as I get.

See? It’s not the same. If I had brothers and sisters, the insurance, they would be expected to take care of me by doing what insurance will usually do for you –the bare minimum. Maybe they would do more, but they could just as easily do only what they were obligated to do, resent it, wear me down, demand proof of my claim. Stocks aren’t like that — choose good strong ones and they’ll always pay because that’s how it’s set up. Once in a while, I’ll invest a lot of energy and heart into a relationship that seems good, strong, promising. But they get busy or bored and drift away, run away, throw me away. It hurts; every time it happens with a friend I really value, I wish I had the insurance. I wish they didn’t have the option to take everything I’ve given them and run. I wish I could MAKE them stay.

But I don’t really. Obligation is not a good insurance policy. I want my investments to value me as much as I value them, to strive always for loyalty and transparency and innovation. When they don’t, I have a stiff drink and absorb the loss. Then I call my stocks and bonds –a good portfolio has always been the best insurance.

House and Home



You hear a lot about what it takes to turn a house into a home; I’m trying to turn my home back into a house. Turns out everyone buying a house these days expects to live in a Pottery Barn catalog.  So says my fashionable, market-savvy, trend-conscious, relentlessly positive real-estate advisory panel (you have to have one or you might as well give up before you start). The idea is to help the potential buyers envision the American-dream-meets-global-glamour lifestyle they will only enjoy if they choose your house. So no personal photos, no installations by your artist uncle who makes sculptures out of garbage. No baby-tooth-jewelry collection.


When the young couple tours your house, their expectations warped by evenings watching House Hunters and Property Brothers, you’re supposed to help them dream up a lovely, stylish existence for themselves. You do this by artfully positioning the furniture and accessories they will remember as part of the property but which will not, of course, be sold with the house. Think of the toys advertised during Scooby Doo and Superfriends on Saturday mornings. Only after you opened the box on your birthday or Christmas did you realize how few accessories came with the main thing, how much more you needed to fill in to enjoy the full effect.


Luckily, the Millennials have never watched commercials –they’ve all grown up with DVRs– so paradoxically, marketing tricks work particularly well on them. You want her to think this is where she’ll have quiet Winter moments sipping designer coffee by the fire, the children playing quietly nearby with educational wooden toys made by socially responsible companies in Scandinavia or Vermont. The fact that I have had not one quiet moment in the last five years of living here will not be a marketing focus. You want him to think this is the basement office where he’ll make his winning Fantasy football draft picks and/or develop his idea for vitamin-infused beer (go ahead and laugh –it’s gonna be huge).


You want her to think this is where she’ll have quiet Winter moments sipping designer coffee by the fire, the children playing quietly nearby with educational wooden toys made by socially responsible companies in Scandinavia or Vermont.


Whether or not either of them knows how to cook or bake (probably not –that’s what Trader Joe’s is for), a gourmet kitchen is crucial. Granite on the counter tops, stainless steel appliances, a pantry just large enough for a week’s worth of organic macaroni and cheese and a fridge that can hold plenty of kombucha. Good, good, they say to each other with their eyes behind the realtor’s back. They don’t want to live like that poor, broken couple they saw on HGTV who spent all their renovation money on mini-golf for the basement. Awful — they had had to live with a tacky kitchen for an extra six months while they talked their Boomer parents into another advance on their inheritance. Shudder…moving on.


This family room is just right for Superbowl parties and book club meetings. Superfun! What should she wear? Would he, theoretically, be allowed to smoke cigars with his buddies just ONCE in here if the Vikings ever won a Superbowl? No. That’s cool –still a good room.


We won’t tell her this, but the living room is where she’ll go to nurse her babies at 4:00 in the morning, snow spinning outside the windows, that feeling of being both essential and invisible, connected and alone filling up her rib cage. We can’t tell him that he needs to come down with her once in a while, lie on the couch with her, say nothing, just be with her so she doesn’t forget herself. There’s no room for that in the marketing brochure.


No matter how carefully we stage everything, they may sense somehow that our life here was less Pottery Barn catalog, more medical journal. They won’t know about our little daughter’s seizure disorder and subsequent brain surgery. They won’t know that the small boy who lived in this house blew bubbles for his little sister every night for ten weeks to distract her when she was getting mean steroid shots in her marshmallowy little thighs. They won’t know which room my cousin Kyle stayed in a month before he died and they won’t know my favorite spot for crying about how lonely a kid with special needs can make me feel sometimes. But I’m guessing they’ll sense that we lived a real life here. Good.


I will bring with me the hours I have spent snoozing like a cat in front of the gas fireplace, one or more of my children curled against me.


There’s no turning this home, where so much life has happened, both good and bad, back into just a house. I’m sure whoever buys this place will sense at least some of the loss, the fear and confusion and all that we did to try and love each other through it. Why hide what we tried to make here? We’re all –both the sellers and the buyers of this world– trying to make something beautiful with garbage, so why hide it? Do we really think they’ll be fooled? Even if they can be tricked into thinking we’re selling them nothing but a pretty, semi-stylish,  HGTV  lifestyle, don’t we want to teach them however we can that there’s nothing especially beautiful about that?


I do. I want to sell this house, so I’ll stage it, make it as fashionable and impressive as I can for their Superbowl parties and book club meetings. But if an echo of what our family survived here bounces gently off the freshly painted walls, I’m going to let it. If I’m going to tell the next young family a story about life in this house, then I insist on allowing both light and shadow into it. I insist on artistic integrity.


I have done almost everything the realtor and stager have told me to do –painted this and retiled that and moved this piece of furniture to that room and taken down all of the family photos. But we’ve left our mark on this house and it’s left its mark on us. I can’t really de-personalize it; it’s more up to the next owners to re-personalize it. And I can’t change it from a home to a house until I move out of it. Even then, it may take a while to really leave it.


That’s fine…it’s all fine. Most of the life I have lived here will come with me. I will bring with me my favorite Christmas Eve with Brian in the year Caroline was diagnosed when we listened to mix tapes we made for each other, drank Bailey’s and vanilla Haagen Dazs milkshakes, and assembled the girls’ play kitchen.  I will bring with me all of the rounds of “I love you more than…” that I’ve played with my Henry before bed at night and I will bring with me the hours I have spent snoozing like a cat in front of the gas fireplace, one or more of my children curled against me. None of that is for sale with the house –they’ll have to fill in what they need to get the full effect.