My Finest Moment

The girls and I were laughing about an incident from the past when I had lost my patience and my composure. The silly incident was behind us now, but the girls like to bring it up every now and again to remind me of my faults. As I drove, they recounted the incident from the backseat, bleeping out the cuss words I had uttered.

“Yeah, that wasn’t my finest moment,” I said casually to end the conversation.

“What was?” Maddie asked from the backseat.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“If that wasn’t your finest moment, then what was?”

“Ummmmm…. oh. Well…..” I stalled.

Maddie and Katie bantered in the backseat, trading moments to see which one fit. Maddie talked about getting into the gifted program at school and performing a skit at the Talent Show last year. Katie talked about gymnastics milestones and getting her most favorite stuffie. I was glad for the distraction because my mind was racing.

I’ve had plenty of fine moments, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had countless moments of pride and pure joy. (Far more than I deserve really.) But what I was thinking as I drove the car towards home was this: what if my finest moment hurt somebody else?

What if there was a moment in my life when I made a decision that freed me? What if that one moment allowed me to speak truth into my life, but then affected the lives of everyone I love? What if my finest moment tore apart a family?

“I think it was probably when I got my teaching degree or my first apartment,” I eventually lied when the girls insisted on an answer.

“Mine was when I was a duck in the Talent Show,” Maddie declared. I laughed and smiled at the memory, hiding my finest moment in my heart for now.

P.S. Want to join this community of writers with me? Consider this your invitation.

Bath Time

Katie still takes a bath most nights. She is perfectly capable of showering herself, but she prefers baths. Half the time I’m annoyed because there’s much to do around the house and I have to sit on the edge of the tub and help her wash her hair and time is precious.

Maddie just stopped taking baths one day and started showering all by herself. She didn’t give me any notice. She didn’t warn me that the last bath I gave her was the last bath I would give her. Surely if she would have warned me, I would have taken my time, treasured the moment, let my hands linger in her wet hair. I would remember our last bath time conversation and I would have memorized the smell of the soap on her body. I would have, right? I like to think so because time is precious.

So, I sit on the edge of the tub (even though I’m annoyed half the time) and I wash Katie’s hair and I watch her play and I listen to her endless jabber and I giggle at her giggle. Sometimes I am tempted to sneak away for a moment to throw the laundry in the dryer or load the dishes in the sink or sit on the toilet in silence. But I don’t. I sit on the edge of the tub because time is precious.

The Messy Middle

I only know one way to write. Real and raw. I write about my daughters and our beautiful life that isn’t always beautiful. I write about my aging mother and her gray hair and how sometimes I can’t recognize the person she used to be. I write about a classroom that doesn’t always feel like home and teaching that doesn’t always shine. That’s me, real and raw on the page. 

So I guess when your truth becomes hard and your stories are so raw they hurt, you might stop writing them down. You might stop writing and doing other things you love. You might try to pause your own story.

It is the eve of Easter as I sit typing this. It is Holy Saturday, the day of in-between. The middle of the story.

I sit with my feet propped up in the recliner listening as the girls play in the background. This is a typical evening for the three of us. Them, happy and playful. Me, weary but grateful. I know we’re in the middle of our story. I didn’t want to write about the middle. I was waiting to write the happy ending.

I take my eyes off the screen to look at Maddie and Katie. They’re oblivious to me typing but I’m acutely aware of their presence because they are my beginning, my middle, my everything.

I haven’t written in a long time; we’ve just been living in the middle. But I think this part of our story needs to be told too…the part on the way to the happy ending.

Maternal Instinct

We had our 3rd Annual Neighborhood Campout this weekend. We stayed up until after midnight and by the time the girls and I arranged our sleeping bags, stuffed animals, and pillows right where we wanted them, we were Tired with a capital T. It didn’t matter that I was on an air mattress in a tent in my neighbor’s backyard, I drifted right into a deep sleep. I slept so well, in fact, that I didn’t hear all the ruckus.

I didn’t hear my neighbor snoring loudly in his tent next to us. It was reported the next morning that the snoring was so loud it sounded like an approaching grizzly bear, but I didn’t hear it.

I didn’t hear Maddie’s friend complaining of mosquito bites, and I didn’t hear her and her mother exit their tent to find itch relief cream in the wee hours of the morning.

I didn’t hear the teenagers creep out of their tents at 2:00 am to sit on the patio and tell ghost stories. They were hot, they said. They needed some air, they said.

I didn’t hear another neighbor come home from his shift as a State Trooper at 2:00 am and come by to check on us. Apparently he came at the exact time the teenagers had decided to venture up to the patio which scared the daylights out of all of them.

And I didn’t hear Tinley, the faithful pup, who also spotted the visiting State Trooper and barked in alarm, running around our makeshift campground like only a good watchdog would.

I didn’t hear any of it. Like I said, I was in a deep sleep.

What I did hear though was the faint sound of our tent zipper opening at 3:00 a.m and the shuffling of Maddie pajamas pants. She was sleepwalking, as she has a tendency to do. When I bolted upright, she was halfway out of the tent, heading who-knows-where.

“Maddie!” I whispered in alarm. “Get back in here!” Maddie turned around and looked at me in a sleepy haze.

“Okay, Momma,” she whispered as came back in the tent and snuggled up against me once more.

I breathed a sigh of relief. That, I heard. Thank God.


3rd Annual Neighborhood Campout


As If

I walked down the driveway towards my car and gave my neighbors a friendly wave. Their kids were running through their lawn sprinkler, shrieking with delight at the spray of cold water. I felt that ache I am growing accustomed to every other weekend, that ache of missing my own kids.

“Miss Dana! I getting wet!” yelled two-year-old Anthony.

“Yes you are!” I giggled in reply.

“Miss Dana?” asked Emilio from his front porch. “Where are Maddie and Katie? Are they with their dad?”

Their dad.

It stops me in my tracks every time.

Their dad. As if he is some removed person, unconnected and unrelated to me. As if he is theirs and not mine at all. As if he doesn’t really exist in this world we’ve created – in this neighborhood, on this block, in this new house. As if he is a foreigner, a stranger.

As if him and I are strangers.

I blinked and caught my breath.

“Yes, they’re with their dad. They’ll be home Sunday,” I answered with a smile.


Share your own Slice of Life Story every Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers.

Take It to the Trail

There is a 2 1/2 mile limestone gravel trail across the street from our new house. I’ve spent a lot of time on that trail this summer. You see, when we first moved in, I was hurting. There were personal and professional wounds to heal. Many days I took it to the trail.

Sometimes I ran the whole way without stopping, music blaring in my ears, leaving all my anger and hurt behind me with each step.

Sometimes I tried to run the whole way but couldn’t. I would walk for a bit, catch my breath, and give myself a little grace.

Sometimes I jogged, but stopped at the crest of the hill to wipe my tears. Like I said, there were wounds to heal.

Sometimes I walked and talked to my mom. Sometimes I walked and talked to God. One time He answered.


Sunset on the trail

Anyway, I spent a lot of time on that trail this summer. That trail holds all my secrets.

Last night, on the eve of starting a new school year as a classroom teacher after nine years in another role, I took it to the trail one last time. I ran the whole thing, no music, just the sound of my feet hitting the gravel.  I thought and I prayed and I ran.

And I felt happy.

The Summer of Yes

This was meant to be the summer of no.

No to cheerleading camp and dance class. No to daycare and camps. No to conferences and workshops and classes. Just no. The girls and I, we needed a minute. It’s been a hell of a year for us, and we needed to catch our breath. We needed to settle in to our new house, our new neighbors, our new life. So I decided to say no.

Instead we spent our time doing things that really matter with people we really love. There were pizza nights and sleepovers and playdates. There was ice cream and after dinner walks and jumping on the trampoline. There were lazy mornings and fun afternoons. It turns out that saying no gives you the space in your life to say yes.

All parties must come to an end though. The summer of yes is ending and yesterday brought dentist appointments, grocery shopping, a pick up at the library, a stop at the bank, and loads of laundry to do.

We were enjoying a late a breakfast and getting ready for our day of errands when my phone binged.

Do you and the girls want to meet us at the pool at 11:00?

I set down the phone and looked at my grocery list. I mentally skimmed the day’s To Do list and considered whether the library and bank would be open tomorrow. I couldn’t.

But then I looked at Maddie and Katie, sun-kissed and smiling from our long summer of yes.

Sure! I texted back.

“Girls, go grab your swim suits.”


Slice of Life Story every Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers



Day 31: It’s Like Riding a Bike

Last summer Maddie learned to ride her bike without training wheels. It was tough for her, and she struggled with fear and doubt. She did it though, and we celebrated with kisses and cheers.

The long winter months have left Maddie’s bicycle sitting unused in the garage, so at the first hint of spring I said, “Maddie, let’s go outside. You can ride your bike!”

Maddie was reluctant. She pedaled slowly and swerved down the sidewalk, stopping every few feet to get her bearings. She was unsteady and unsure. I followed close behind spurring her on with encouraging words.

We made it around the block and we were approaching our house when we saw a neighbor who had stepped outside to enjoy a bit of the sunshine herself. I stopped to chat and Maddie waited nearby, perched on her bike seat, her toes keeping her balanced on the sidewalk. I could see Maddie out of the corner of my eye slowly inching herself closer to home.

I guess she became impatient because when I said good-bye to the neighbor, Maddie was gone.

My eyes searched the horizon. There was Maddie, soaring down the sidewalk on her bike, her hair and her confidence swirling around her.

“Maddie!” I called as I ran to catch up. “You did it!” We celebrated, again, with kisses and cheers.

“I did it, Mommy! I did it!”

Of course you did, Maddie. Of course you did.


Thirty-one stories in thirty-one days as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.


Day 30: Joy is A Little Trot

My children have filled my life with joy. There have been big joyous moments over the years of course: celebrations, milestones, their first this and their first that. But the real joy, the purest joy, comes in the small moments every day.

For instance, I was standing at the stove stirring a simmering pot of soup when Katie approached.

“Mommy, I’m playing dolls in the basement. The two dollies are on the horse. They’ll go for a little trot, and then I’ll change them into their swimsuits for the beach,” Katie told me before skipping away.

A little trot.

What an interesting choice of words for a five year old, isn’t it? She could have said they’ll ride the horse or go for a ride, but she said they’ll go for a little trot.

I stood at the stove smiling to myself as I stirred the soup.

These are the moments. These are the moments scattered throughout my day which I gather up like fallen leaves. And at night when I lay my head on the pillow, these are the moments that send me drifting off to sleep with a smile.


Thirty-one stories in thirty-one days as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.

Day 29: A Picture Perfect Movie Date

Maddie’s Girl Scout troop was hosting a “She and Me” viewing of the new, live action Beauty and the Beast movie at our local theatre. I threw on a sweatshirt and some yoga pants and tossed my unwashed hair into a sloppy ponytail. As I was rummaging through the cabinet for our tickets, I saw the event flyer amidst a pile of papers.

She and Me Event
Beauty and the Beast

Purchase a snack pack for $4.00.

Photos will be taken before the movie!

Photos? I looked at myself in the mirror. I certainly looked more beast than beauty. Suddenly, I imagined the scene: Little Girl Scouts parading around the lobby of the theatre in their dress-up Belle gowns. And the moms -you know those moms – perfectly outfitted in the trendiest outfits, not a hair out of place. Some of them would probably be wearing coordinating She and Me outfits. Well, it was too late to change now. We’d have to go as we are.

Maddie and I chatted all the way to the theatre. She shared some first-grade struggles she’d been having with her friend recently, and I told her I’ve had similar struggles myself. I was so enjoying Maddie’s company that I had almost forgotten about the photos when we arrived at the theatre.

There was a long line to get your She and Me picture. Sure enough some of the girls were wearing Belle dresses and some of those moms were there, but I didn’t much care because I had Maddie by my side and when was the last time I got to hang out alone with Maddie?

“Do you want to wait in line for a picture, Maddie?” I asked.

“Nah, let’s get some candy,” she answered. We stocked up on popcorn and candy and pop, chatting and laughing all the while.

We soon settled into our seats and the lights dimmed. We were riveted to the screen. We sang all the songs and snuggled close when the movie got scary. I don’t know if Maddie saw the tear slip from my eye when Belle and the Beast finally danced in the ballroom.We yelled “Kiss him! Kiss him!” when the final rose petal was about to fall, and we clapped when the movie was over. Maddie and I loved the movie.

By the time we exited the theatre, the ‘professional’ photo opportunity was gone, so we stopped to snap a quick picture in front of a banner.

I glanced at Maddie in the rear view mirror on the way home.

“I had fun hanging out with you at the movie,” I said.

“Me too, Mom,” she replied.


Thirty-one stories in thirty-one days as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.