Sunday, December 22, 2013


I had lunch with a dear friend last week. We exchanged gifts and swapped stories about what's new in each of our lives. As we chatted, she said, "I'd like to share with you a tender story." This actually meant she was about to tell me something that would make me cry right into my BLT.

She explained that last week was her office gift exchange, a secret Santa. As staff opened their trinkets, she began to empty the contents of her bag. Much to her chagrin, her bag contained just two things, lottery tickets and an ornament. Even more disappointing was the fact that none of the tickets were winners and the ornament was purple...and covered in rhinestones. Not exactly something she planned to put on her tree.

She held up her ornament for others to see, sharing snickers and glances with her colleagues. There is nothing worse than making a good faith effort to bring a good gift and then end up with the booby prize. As she sat down at her desk, a co-worker approached. "So, what did you get?" as he leaned over her cubicle wall. "A bunch of losing lottery tickets. And this." She held out the ornament, waiting for his reaction.

She watched his face, waiting for him to wrinkle his nose in disdain, just as she had. "Oh, you did!?!?" He exclaimed, unable to mask the pride in his voice. My friend paused, confused by his reaction. "My granddaughter made that. She painted it by hand and glued on all of those rhinestones herself. Isn't it beautiful? She takes so much pride in her work." He went on to explain, "She's 12 and she has autism. In fact, she didn't speak until she was six. When she was little, her mother used to pray that she would one day call her 'Mom' -- now she talks all the time. We are so proud."

My friend sat, dumbfounded and embarrassed. She also has a grandson with autism. And he is six, and does not speak. And suddenly, that little ornament transformed into something magical. The strange purple hue was now vibrant and stunning. The awkward rhinestones were now intricate and hand crafted. What had been her biggest disappoint had suddenly become her biggest lesson.

In an instant, that ornament became a reminder, a reminder that things are not always as they appear. In an instant, that ornament became a symbol, a symbol of hope and potential. And in an instant, that ornament humbled her, humbled her in a way that will forever make her pause before she passes judgment on those around her.

And as I sat, indeed weeping into my sandwich, I couldn't help but think how timely her tender story was. As we sit around the tree this year, full of hope and excitement as we open gifts, I will be mindful of her ornament. I will pause to remember that each gift, each token, is a symbol of love and generosity, no matter how small. Most importantly, I will be grateful for the friends and family in my life, and for the people who constantly shower my daughter with love and support. For I know that those are people who would marvel at her purple paint and gush at her rhinestones.

 May your Christmas this year be full of wonder, and may you find magic in the most unexpected of places.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


I took these pictures of Morgan this summer, just before school started. It was one of those moments that was such a metaphor for life. She was climbing a tree, inching her way up the trunk and through the branches. She never hesitated, never asked for help. I just stood their watching, in awe of her confidence, amazed at her strength. In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to that moment.

Now that school has started, I take Morgan to school every Wednesday. It's our time together, when we talk about her day, her friends, even what's on the menu for hot lunch. Over the past three months, our conversations have evolved. No longer are they just about recess. Our relationship is changing, growing, catching up to the transformation I started to witness in that tree. 

Last Sunday, we did something we rarely, if ever, do. We went to church. And it wasn't even a holiday. The pastor talked about forgiveness and love, all couched in the recent passing of Nelson Mandela. I realized that we hadn't ever talked to Morgan about him, his message, or his legacy. 

On the way to school this week, I shared with Morgan a bit about South Africa and taught her the word apartheid. I told her that Nelson Mandela had been sent to prison for a very long time for trying to change the laws of his country but did not harbor hate or resentment against those who had imprisoned him. Morgan listened intently, finally asking why they would send him to prison when he was trying to make things better. I explained that people hated Nelson because of the color of his skin, something that still happens today. She was quiet for a long, long time. "But Mom, what does the color of your skin have to do with anything?" Exactly, my precious daughter. Exactly. You are wise beyond your little years. You teach me, every day.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Okay, fine, I haven't even seen Sharknado. But I can tell you that my child has provided me with the first indication that braces will inevitably be on our horizon. Remember when I mentioned that Morgan had her first loose tooth? Well, that little phenomenon went on for nearly a month. No progress. None. And then I figured out why. Her permanent tooth had popped itself right on up behind her baby tooth. And I fuh-reaked out. Then I did what any good parent would do...I Googled the shit out of it and discovered Morgan has what's known as "Shark Tooth". Not uncommon, not even an emergency, but still hella weird.

At first, Morgan pretended to be a shark at almost every opportunity. But then she decided that having so many teeth was more traumatizing than cool. And dinners became the world's most horrifying painful exhausting emotional experience ever. Consuming one piece of chicken We barely survived. And by "we" I mean me and two glasses of wine.

I was beginning to get nervous that we were going to have to get her tooth pulled. But then we went to visit my brother, who has 3 kids and has weathered many visits from the tooth fairy. Without a bit of warning, he reached right in her mouth and pulled that little guy out. And now Morgan thinks he's her hero. I might just have to agree.

$3.00 and one mini tube of toothpaste later, we are ready for the next round. If this experience was any indication, the tooth fairy might need to start bringing me a bottle of Merlot.