Day Twenty-Six: Sometimes You Bend, Sometimes You Stand

“Life’s like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind”

This video came up in my memories on Facebook today. It was one of Grumpa’s favorite songs. It stirs up all kinds of emotions. Five years ago today, on Halloween, the kids and I hopped on a plane to move from Michigan to Oregon. I’ll probably share more about that adventure in the future, but during that time, I was amazed at how perfectly the details fell into place to make the move happen. We sold our Michigan home in a very challenging market, my company (at the time) created a territory in Portland just for me, and we were on track to build a new life closer to my family. For nearly nine months, the kids and I shared a bedroom at Granny and Grumpa’s house. It wasn’t always an ideal situation – I slept on an air mattress, and I was living with the parents (one being a step-parent even) after being on my own for almost 20 years. And it wasn’t easy for Granny and Grumpa either, but they so graciously shared their space and helped with the kids as often as possible.

In the end, the Oregon adventure was not meant for us, and we ended up moving back to Michigan, building a house four doors down from where we lived just a few months prior. And there were whispers, all kinds of talk and stories about our situation. Even people who didn’t know us, felt connected to the flashy story of the move that wasn’t. But I made the choice to do what I felt was best for the kids. I left my family, my job, and my dreams of raising the kids near my childhood “home”. It felt like an immense loss. Not to mention, I was back to the brutal midwest winter. If you know me, you know the Michigan winter is the toughest 9 months of the year for me. 😉

Many times throughout the multiple moves I shook my fists at the sky and asked God, “WHY??” Why would everything fall into place to make the move possible, if we just ended up four doors down from where we were before? A few short months after we moved back to Michigan, I got my answer. Our beloved Grumpa was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, and his time on this Earth would be limited. We suddenly realized that every moment of those months in Oregon (even the tough ones) were a HUGE blessing. The kids had become incredibly close to their Grumpa and that wouldn’t have happened without the move that wasn’t.

Red Rock Canyon. Vegas Trip, 2009

And three years ago, again on this day, our beloved Grumpa lost his brave battle with cancer. We weren’t ready to let him go; no one ever is. We miss him still today. “He was a big picture”, Granny would always say. He sure was. And that picture remains in our hearts – his love for cooking and baking was handed down to Emma. His passion for life and exploring was passed along to Grant. He lives in all of us, and always will. But life really is a highway, and while you’re here, you might as well lean into the adventures. We’ll lean in for you, Grumpa. ❤

In Loving Memory of:


Day Twenty-Five: The Legend of Online Love


I’m not really sure how it happened, but I once again got sucked into online love. It all starts out innocently as just browsing, and before you know it, you’re bringing them home to meet the fam. The suspect in question this time – the little spitfire in the picture above, Winne Mae (Cooper Lewis, to be exact). Yes like the character in the Wonder Years. She is some kind of wonder alright. It’s important to note that I haven’t had a dog since childhood. Not that I dislike dogs, but it just wasn’t a priority. The kids had been begging for a dog for years, and after a neighbor got a Shorkie, it just seemed like the right thing to do. No shedding, small breed (small dog, small poo), and family friendly. Problem solved!

We drove the whole way to middle of nowhere Ohio to get this little bundle of bountiful energy. When we arrived, there was a furball flying around the living room (the size of a hamster to be honest;) that we were told was our new family member. It was hard to keep an eye on her, let alone pick her up, but eventually we loaded her up and headed back towards civilization. It was a long trip home, and turns out, it would be a long process of getting our little love acclimated to our busy household. In hindsight, I might have asked the breeder to pick the puppy out of the litter that barely made it and was super calm and quiet (she has no shortage of energy, still, over a year later;)!

We’re not in Kansas anymore…

And it turns out Shorkies can be a bossy breed. Winnie is relentless in jumping, nudging, and even barking at times. She can be worse than a toddler strung out on Skittles. We’ve had to bring a professional trainer into the house to help set boundaries (again, not unlike a toddler;) and I won’t lie – I’ve even wanted to open the front door and “accidentally” let her make a run for it at least a dozen times. If you love something, set it free, right!? We’ve cleaned up countless accidents and she’s chewed mail, shoes and homework. We’ve even lost a few corners of some of our furniture and cabinets to her teething (no one told me Shorkies were part beaver;)!? Yet, somehow, I would make the choice all over again. I am completely in love with this little eight pound pistol!

In many ways, I think Winnie connects me to the childhood that I missed on Robinson Drive. She keeps me close to 4 year old Tracy, who just wants to be carefree enough to color and make daisy chains. She reminds me to stop and smell the roses (she’s also half hound I think, in the way she relentlessly sniffs the world around her;).  And the way the kids love Winnie just makes my cup runneth over. She may test my patience and drive me nuts, but I know she will be at the center of every good story the kiddos tell from childhood. She will be the legend of online love. ❤


Day Twenty-four: What I Needed


Due to the fact that there just aren’t enough surprises in this world, we decided not to find out the gender of our babies until they were born. When I was pregnant for the second time, I secretly (and desperately) wanted a sister for Emma. I never had a sister, and always thought it was a good idea. I could get a second use out of all of Emma’s cute clothes, and they would be the BEST of friends. I was absolutely convinced that I was having another girl, and her name would be Sophia Mae. Since Emma favored her dad so much in looks, I pictured Sophia having more of my features (maybe even curly red hair). I had it ALL figured out. Besides, what in the world would I ever do with a boy!?!

The day I went into labor (right on my due date), my contractions started in the morning and then stopped. By the time Oprah came on in the afternoon, I’d had enough of the waiting, so I hopped on the treadmill and started jogging (as I’ve mentioned before, I often can’t get out of my own way;). Less than an hour later, I was headed to the hospital to have Emma’s baby sister and I just couldn’t wait! Needless to say, due to my treadmill shenanigans, my bag of waters was bulging by the time I got through triage, and I almost didn’t have time to get an epidural. In fact, the medicine never really kicked in before it was time to push, so I was able to feel most of what was happening. After only three relatively “easy” pushes, my little miracle emerged and my whole life flashed before my eyes. Emma’s baby sister had BOY parts!? Better yet, I would be “the mother-in-law”!?


No less than a million emotions coursed through me when my beautiful baby boy was born. He was absolutely perfect and he was healthy in every way. I was blessed beyond measure, yet I have to admit, I was sad. I couldn’t share it at the time (and I’ve shared it with very few since), but I was mourning Sophia. Didn’t God know that I was meant to have another girl? Didn’t He hear my prayers and know my heart? How did He NOT know that boys had really only caused grief for me in my lifetime, and I was TERRIFIED to raise one?

It took time to adjust to the idea of having a boy. It took time to work through the immense guilt that I felt over wanting something different from what God had intended for me. But now I understand – I struggled with having a boy because I was still carrying the grief of feeling rejected and abandoned by my own father and I was still trying to heal those wounds. Many of the other male influences and relationships in my life hadn’t been incredibly positive or fulfilling either and I just didn’t trust men. So being faced with the task of raising one, was overwhelming at best.

But I can tell you now, God knew EXACTLY what I needed. I needed the opportunity to write a different story about the men in my life. I needed the opportunity to raise this little man to be entirely different from the dysfunction that I came from and knew. Of course my little man will one day leave me, but it won’t be the abandonment of my past – it will be the reward of giving him the tools to go out into the world and make a difference. And he WILL be a difference maker. God sent me a wise old soul, with a huge heart, and the ability to captivate an audience. And I absolutely couldn’t love him more. I wouldn’t trade a thousand Sophia’s for even one moment with Grant.


Life is a highway, and I am blessed beyond measure to have this little man on mine. He was EXACTLY what I needed.

Day Twenty-Three: What She Doesn’t Know


Tween land sure was turbulent yesterday. It was a stormy weather pattern, and we had NO idea why. And no matter how hard we tried to change the current, we were swimming up-stream all day. As a protective Mamabear, I am often tempted to swoop in and try to rescue. I want to offer positive thoughts for creating her own sunshine and suggestions to turn it all around. I start pulling out stories of “when I was your age…”. But the truth is, she doesn’t see the relevance, and she’s convinced that I know zilch about being twelve. What she doesn’t know, is that I’m somewhat of an expert, really. Not only have I been twelve (and survived it, if even barely), but I can be transported back to that stage almost instantly when I pull up to the curb to drop her off at school, or when I take her to the mall with her friends. I revisit twelve every time I watch her wardrobe changes in the morning. Oh, I know twelve, little lady.

And last night, being twelve was tough when it was time to go to youth group and she made up her mind that she just didn’t want to go – “no one likes me”, she claimed. There were tears, there was a full-on confrontation, and at some point, there was an audible “I’m not going”. What she doesn’t know is that I love her enough to enforce what is best for her, and to push her outside of her comfort zone. I will love her from the sidelines, and I will give her the best tools I can to help her prepare for battle, but I refuse to rescue her unless it’s a matter of safety.

When my tween, force of nature was a baby in my belly, I read to her, and talked to her, and sang to her as often as I could. This was our song; my favorite song at the time:

When she was colicky and couldn’t be consoled, I would hold her close, and sing our song into her ear. It would slow her down enough to eventually fall asleep, if even for a minute. Then I could catch my breath, and build up patience for the next time she opened her eyes and was colicky again. She knows many stories of her days as the screaming banshee. What she doesn’t know is that I loved her with my whole being long before she took her first breath. She knows I would lay down my life to protect her, but what she doesn’t know is that I will ALWAYS love her enough to encourage her to “dance”, even when she hates me for it. I will continue to teach her to feel the fear, but do it anyway.


“Living might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’. Loving might be a mistake, but it’s worth making.”

Keep taking chances and making mistakes my sweet girl – that’s all part of the dance. ❤

Day Twenty-Two: Bingo and Little Debbies


It was Bingo Monday at one of my facilities today. To be clear – in the land of Assisted Living, Bingo is no joke. There are rules, there are prizes, and when you don’t draw Mildred’s numbers, there are audible sighs and serious eye rolling. I often joke that if I don’t call the right numbers, the residents will slash my tires. I’m only half kidding! There’s a way we do Bingo at Shady Acres (names have been changed to protect the innocent;).

And I’m also reminded, there’s a way we do friendship as females. This particular group of ladies takes me right back to my middle school days. On one fine Bingo Monday, one of the ladies picked out some Little Debbie snack cakes as her prize, and the gal next to her was kind enough to lean over and whisper to a neighbor (in the loudest voice she had), “like she needs those!” WHAT!?!? I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. And I was quick to set a new rule – no prizes to those who are unkind (like the Seinfeld Soup Nazi – “no prize for YOU”). I really struggle with this female dynamic, and not that I haven’t ever been guilty, but my goodness…this life is tough. Why in the WORLD do we as females make it more difficult by being so darned ruthless to one another!?

Another middle school dynamic that shows up on Bingo Mondays, is the cool kids table. Fran saves a seat for Letty Mae, but when Eleanor shows up, the table is suddenly full. I find myself moving walkers and wanting to knock some noggins when this happens, as there is ALWAYS room for more friends at Bingo!? We’ve all been there, when no one saves a space for us, but I was certain that this phenomenon would be solved by the time we landed in “the home”. Not the case!  In fact, in many ways, I’ve observed it to be worse. Filters are gone, and unkindness abounds.

So, what if we started, even right now (long before many of us are headed to “the home”), to be kind to one another? What if we started building one another up, instead of whispering and gossiping, and tearing one another apart? What if we saved a seat for one another at the table – and overlooked the Little Debbie choices that we sometimes make? What if we lead with love and acceptance, instead of criticism and shame?


“Only hang around people that are positive and make you feel good. Anybody who doesn’t make you feel good, kick them to the curb. And the earlier you start in your life the better. The minute anybody makes you feel weird and non-included or not supported, you know, either beat it or tell them to beat it.”

  • Amy Poehler

Day Twenty-One: Stay


I’m getting closer to the end of this daily writing challenge (I’m still several days behind), and this quote really spoke to me. I’ve had writing days when the words come easy, and I hit “publish” without looking back (explains some of my typos, huh ;)!? But, I’ve also had days when I sit and stare at this screen for hours and struggle to construct a single sentence. With a full-time job and busy kiddos, my writing time is late night/early morning. I’ve sacrificed sleep, I’ve picked up a killer, depths of my soul cough. I’ve struggled to eat (if you know me, you know that’s serious business;). This has been HARD.

There have also been plenty of blessings. Blogging has facilitated a connection with many people (some strangers from across the world even) that I wouldn’t have expected. The phrase “me too” has been more healing than I ever imagined. To know that I am not alone in the struggle makes me feel more human, more accepted. And yet, there’s been a temptation to stick to the easy stories; the stories that won’t make you look the other way when I run into you at the grocery store. In many ways, this blogging gig has been a daily lesson in humility. It’s like walking around without any skin, after I’ve peeled back the socially acceptable layers to show all of my uglies. Blogging has even impacted many friendships – it’s easy to walk beside funny Tracy, who jokes and smiles and keeps it light (I’m quite fond of her also). It’s NOT so easy when the subject gets real, and you find yourself in the middle of one of my “valley moments”. Not everyone will choose to stay; that’s the risk I take. And I get it – there have been plenty of times where *I* haven’t wanted to stay!?

But I would do it all over again, and (spoiler alert) I will CONTINUE to own and share my story. The moments I’m proud of, and the moments where I fail, and fall, and struggle to get back up. I’ve recently leaned on this song when I find myself in a valley moment:

The next time you find yourself saying “me too”, it’s my hope that this will also bring you comfort. And I hope you choose to stay. ❤

Day Twenty: Snapshots

Fall2010 035

I took the Littles to the park this week to capture pictures for the annual Christmas card. It had been several years since I had even taken my camera out of the bag. It had possibly even been since the above picture, which was taken about 5 years ago, right before we moved to Oregon (and back). I strolled through the pictures left on the memory card and found countless snapshots of various ages and stages. One picture of my Grantman in a onesie, accessorized by a scarf that his beloved Granny made – I could almost hear his toddler giggle, and could feel his little arms around my neck and I remembered the way he would nuzzle in when I picked him up.  Another picture of a birthday party at our last house, where Emmabean was helping 2 year-old Grant blow out the candles (because surely ALL Birthdays belonged to her;). I remembered the way she would purse her lips to blow, and inevitably create a shower effect for a half-mile radius. “Fo ME?” she would say. Yes, my sweet girl, the world is yours.

Fall2010 031

Holding the camera in my hands again, and capturing my beautiful babies from different angles and perspectives, made me fall in love with them all over again. It’s a (mostly;) daily phenomenon for me. It also reminded me of how much I enjoy breathing in the beauty of life through the lens. Maybe it’s in pausing to notice Emma’s eyelashes, or to rediscover the few faint freckles on Grant’s cheeks. This week in the park, it was all about the vibrant fall colors and the way the trees were breaking up with the leaves, literally, before our eyes. I was at peace, and absolutely in the moment (frame by frame) with that camera in my hands.

While getting re-acquainted with my camera, I was reminded that life really is a series of snapshots. Some moments leave you in awe of the beauty that this world can hold, and others leave you breathless at how sharp the edges. Obviously, I’ve recently been revisiting the sharp edges of my early years. Trust that I know – I’m not defined by those moments. Those moments were chapters in my book, but they don’t get to create my title. I’m not still stuck in that grief. I’ve handed the moments that I can’t make sense of, over to God, but I can’t just erase or bury those snapshots and pretend they didn’t exist. I am entirely aware that I am holding the camera. I get to create and choose my snapshots for the future. I don’t have all the answers, and I haven’t planned every frame, but I know without a doubt, my snapshots will be beautiful. They will be good.

Day Nineteen: Worry About Yourself

When I first saw this video, I laughed to tears. This little girl is priceless. Her struggle, real. And I can relate to it on SO many levels. First of all, I can relate because she and I are kindred spirits in the “I do it myself” battle. I do NOT need your help, and even if I try (and fail) at something a jillion times, I’ve got it. If you offer to help, there’s a good chance things will get ugly – “No Kank You” (for reals). Part of my stubborn personality is certainly the nurture side. Robinson Drive gave me the tenacity to keep chasing the dream and fighting the fight. Knock me down, and I will get back up; wounded, but never defeated. And part of that personality is nature – the way God made me. When I set my mind to something and when I have a fire in my belly – look out!!

The other part of this video that I can relate to is the “worry about yourself” portion of the show. I am endlessly preaching this to my kids (and therefore do my very best to live it). I don’t give a rats rear that Jimmy gets three Twinkies in his lunch every day. Different house, different rules. And so-and-so may have a TV in their room, or no restrictions on social media, but this mom is cray cray, and will coach you endlessly about not being able to “unsee” things, about wearing leggings responsibly, and about being a good friend both online and face to face. We need to be far more concerned about our own opportunities for growth, than to be finger pointing and judging. Worry about yourself, and say “no kank you” to measuring others, or you will be endlessly fighting your seat belt on the struggle bus.

Day Eighteen: Awana Wednesdays


Wednesdays often remind me of the Awana years. I’d don the red vest, climb into the car and we’d make our way to the Baptist Church. Dinner was usually rushed, either beforehand or on the way, and as a working mama myself, I have nothing but compassion for that struggle. The other part of the struggle was the family clunker. We had one car (a Caprice, I want to say?) that had been involved in a storm before it came to us. The pleather roof was peeling (which made for fun sound effects), and I’ll never forget the day we were headed to Awanas and the driveline fell out, right there on Robinson Drive. Nothing to see folks, nothing to see. Character building at it’s finest.

I don’t remember a ton about Awanas – the vest for sure, and memorizing bible versus to add jewels to my crowns. I imagine my crowns were mostly full – that would have been important to Tracy of Robinson Drive. And I remember my Awana leaders – the people who welcomed me with open arms each week, and prayed with me, and for me throughout my childhood (and beyond). But, somehow, church was still a tough place for me. Even though I wore the same red vest as all the other Sparks, I sure felt different. It was probably the shame that I carried from home, but I never felt good enough to walk through those doors. And that’s the irony that I experienced with church – it should have been the safe zone, and a place of grace, but it often felt like the judgement zone and all my sins (and my father’s) must’ve been written out on that red vest.

I had the same experience when I moved 2000 miles away from Robinson Drive to attend a small, Christian College. I STILL felt like I was hustling the red vest, and just couldn’t get enough jewels in my crown to ever be good enough. I was surrounded by all these “Christians” and felt so utterly alone, and isolated, because this little light of mine had been snuffed out by shame, by the feeling that I would NEVER be worthy. And that’s the thing I’ve learned about grace – it isn’t earned like jewels in a crown, and it isn’t null and void when we mess up. Grace is free, it’s new every day, and it is WAY more powerful than the judgement of others. This (not so) little light of mine, I AM going to let it shine. On Awana Wednesdays, and always. 🙂

Day Seventeen: Bathroom Mushrooms and Built-in Watering Systems


It’s pouring down rain here tonight, and that sound always reminds me of Robinson Drive. I imagine the house wasn’t always in a state of disrepair, but as the years wore on, it became harder to ignore. For instance, in the bathroom, either the pipes were constantly leaking, or there was some botanical force at work, as there were actual mushrooms (we affectionately called them the “bathroom variety”) growing along the floor boards near the toilet. Wish I was kidding. There were rumors that the entire house was held together by steel wool and duct tape, in an attempt to keep the mice out. “No self-respecting mouse would come crawling through those holes”, Ken would say. Mice must need lessons on self-respect.

And then there was the “don’t touch anything that isn’t nailed down” feature of Robinson Drive. The top shelf in the fridge was held up by the red pitcher (many an unsuspecting guest would reach for that pitcher, only to have the entire contents of the shelf cascade to the floor). Even my bed – it broke at some point, and I tucked a handful of encyclopedias under the broken board to hold it up. Pretty sure that’s how I became the valedictorian of the Class of 1994; wisdom by osmosis. I had to carefully choose what subjects to write reports on throughout the years as it was quite the process to switch those bad boys out!?

But, my all-time favorite feature of Robinson Drive had to be the way the ceiling in my bedroom became “pregnant” (the roof was in severe disrepair, and the drop down panels started to bulge from all the leaking). I told Ken that my ceiling was pregnant, but he just shook his head at me. Every time it rained, I would get so nervous that the bubble would burst and Ken would throttle me. And sure enough, one magical, rainy day, my ceiling gave birth. Ken came UNglued, and wasn’t especially amused when we took a plant from the living room and placed it under the leak, as a built-in watering system. “You have a sick sense of humor”, he would say. You kinda had to, to make it through those years on Robinson Drive.

So the house that built me caused plenty of tears and scars. But it also gave me determination to make the most of even the darkest moments, and quite the sense of humor (yes, a slightly sick one;). Besides – where else can you study plant life and/or practice the culinary arts, all while going to the bathroom??

In so many ways, the house that built me, was truly a gift. Today, when I hear rain pouring down, I smile at the simple blessing of a ceiling without a skylight. 😉