Chairman Of The Board

Stress can kill you. How do you cope? You may exercise fiercely, eat nonstop or shop without reason. I feel helpless about global warming, the federal deficit and nuclear war. So I shrink my world to something I can control. I iron clothes.

The idea started when I was a teenager. The local newspaper in New Jersey offered free want ads to teenagers looking for summer work. Most of the girls picked babysitting but there were too many ads for the same job. Aiming for something different, I created the headline, “Ironing Piling Up?” My home phone responded like the gong at day’s end in the stock market. I had all the work I could handle. Often I walked to a customer’s home, ironed a few hours, then walked back home. They trusted me. Some left the front door unlocked and my cash payment on the ironing board.  I passed the time listening to hit songs on their plastic kitchen radio while I worked. Starched shirts hung like ghosts from every doorknob.

In later years ironing brought peace of mind when I was angry or depressed. It was my defusing and thinking time as the iron thumped back and forth.

“Uh, oh,” my husband would say, “What are you mad about?”

“It’s therapy,” I would reply. By the time a heap of rumpled clothes dwindled to nothing, my calmness and dignity were restored.

One morning, my mother-in-law interrupted my weekly routine with a phone call. “You’re doing what?!” she asked. “Honey, nobody irons anymore!” Well, this one does, and it borders on obsession. I love the feel of an ironed pillowcase under my face, the look of a neat crease in a shirt sleeve or khaki pants, the faint scent of dryer sheets drifting up with the steam. When someone enters our home wearing a crinkled shirt, I have to resist the urge to say, “Would you like me to press that for you?”

The only jarring element of the process is the horrendous screech emitted when the board unfolds and clicks into position.  From there the process is a rhythmic symphony in motion. A gentle swish of water from the spray bottle signals the orchestration to begin. Each garment is carefully spread open, and with long sweeping strokes of the iron every winkle and crease is smoothed. The folded finale is placed in a warm, sweet-smelling pile.

I am in control.  I have transformed chaos into order. I have made my contribution toward a smoother tomorrow. I’m ready to face the world!


Written by Ruth Varner


Through A Child’s Eyes

A few days ago I brought my “fancy” camera up to my bedroom.  To clarify, I should explain that “fancy” in my house means something that isn’t my cell phone. It’s a Nikon D80 and I have spent many hours over the past few years taking random photos with it. It’s a hobby, I guess?  I actually still don’t know what the hell I’m really doing but I keep trying and that should count for something, right?  Anyway,  I was in my room folding laundry waiting for the sun to set.  I’m kind of dorky like that. I wanted a photo of the sun setting before the spring leaves fill in on the trees.

Even though I was just minding my own business, it wasn’t too long before my children found me. And by the way, nobody ever told me that I’d never have one second of alone time once I had children.  Kids are like little bloodhounds.  It’s like they can smell peace and then they must seek and destroy.  Sadly, folding laundry is my peace.  Don’t judge. The first thing my 7- year-old noticed was the camera sitting on the bedside table.

“Why is this in your room?” Teagan asked.

“Well, I’m waiting for the sun to set.  I was going to take a photo.” I explained.

“Cool.” she said with a little giggle.

“Cool, huh?  Am I cool, Teagan?” I teased her.

Then more giggling as she clarified.  “Um…well..I meant your camera was cool.”

“Ya like that, huh?” I said.

“Yes. There are a lot of buttons. How does it work?” she asked.

At that moment, I saw her light up in a way that every mom dreams about.  She was smiling a genuine smile and I swear her big blue eyes had a little sparkle.  She was intrigued by something that also interested me and that makes my heart happy. Of all my children, I would consider Teagan my most artistic.  She just seems to see the world in a different way. I’m not saying she’s the next Van Gogh, I’m just saying she’s got an artistic side.  It was in that moment that I went against my inner OCD self.  I suggested what I had never suggested to any other child of mine.

“Would you like to learn how to use it?” I asked

“What!! Really?  Yes,Yes,Yes!” she responded eagerly.

I couldn’t believe that I was letting my 7-year-old use one of my favorite possessions. Nothing is sacred anymore. I put the camera strap around her neck.  If she accidentally dropped it at least this would save us from a complete and total disaster. As a new mom, some 11 years ago, I would have handled this situation differently. That person would have hovered over her and helped her hold it. I would have explained that this isn’t a toy. I would show her all the fancy buttons and how many great things it could do.  I would have probably done one with her as an “example” on how to frame a photo and we would have talked about angles and other crap that a 7-year-old is completely NOT interested in.  But I’ve changed. Maybe I’m already burnt out on raising children or perhaps I’m sick of hearing myself say the same things over and over.  Maybe I actually trust her or maybe I finally realize that kids need to figure stuff out on their own.   I don’t know what happened but I’m a changed women.  I gave her the camera, showed her how to turn it on and which button to press to take a picture.  That’s it. What happened next was one of those awesome moments you get as a parent.

She was glowing with pride and excitement. She had creative freedom and she took full advantage.  She took pictures of literally anything in her path. The bedside table, the reflection of herself in the mirror, a basket, Maggie making a silly face, the dog’s nose. I think she must have taken 100 photos within 10 minutes and I could care less because every single time she saw an image that she created, it built her confidence.  It’s a confidence that every child deserves to feel.  “Look at this one Mom!” “Isn’t this one funny?”

I laid on my bed half watching her as Maggie crawled all over me.  “Great job Teagan! I knew you would love that thing.”  She giggled and snapped more and more and more pictures until she was completely satisfied.  “I’m all done Mom.  Thank you! That was really, really fun!”  “You’re welcome Tea. You did a good job. Thanks for treating my camera nice.”

She took the strap off, placed the camera on the bedside table and skipped out of the room with Maggie.  I glanced out the window and it was pitch black outside.  I missed the sunset but that’s ok.  There will be another sunset tomorrow.  I plopped my head on the pillow and picked up the camera.  156 photos taken.  The number alone made me smile. Any adult would have walked in my room in that situation and walked back out.  It was THAT boring!  Any adult would have agreed that there was certainly nothing worth photographing but Teagan found 156 things.  I started thumbing through the photos and most of them were silly or boring but towards the end of her series they improved dramatically. One in particular stopped me in my tracks.  I paused and smiled.  My eyes filled with tears of joy.  There was this one photo. It sums up my whole life as a mom.  It was candid and it was real.  A truly genuine moment of happiness in my daily crazy life.  I love it.  It’s a moment caught on film, through the eyes of a child.

photo taken by Teagan age 7

I made a mental note to let my children fly and grow independently more often.  Life is too short to worry so much.

She’s All That And A Bag Of Chips- Donna



Donna: Age 54  Central Florida

Her Story:  Donna is the mother to two sons and one daughter.  On July 2nd 2002 her world changed forever.  Katie, her 15-year-old daughter, ate dinner with the family as she normally did.  She asked her mother if she could go out with some friends after dinner and Donna agreed as long as she was home by midnight.  Around 11:30 pm, a friend’s mother dropped Katie off at her home and watched her walk into the house. The next morning Donna was heading to work and noticed that Katie wasn’t in her room.  The lights and music were on so Donna figured she got up early to go to a friend’s house.  Donna went to work but when she returned home; Katie was still not there.  Donna called all of Katie’s friends and redialed the last number on her phone but could not locate her daughter.  She knew in her heart that something was wrong and reported her missing.

The next day, two men were walking in the woods and found a naked body laying next to a creek.  It was an unidentifiable young female who had been brutally raped, asphyxiated, burned and tossed on the side of the road like a piece of trash.  Sadly, dental records confirmed that the dead body was Katie’s, age 15.


Who committed this horrific crime? The police traced a phone call from our house at 1:03 am the night she went missing.  She talked with a young man for 12 min. Katie hung up the phone and met him outside of her home. He arrived at her house with a few friends in his car and she joined them. She thought she was going for a ride to get cigarettes but never returned. He was an acquaintance of Katie’s but nothing more than that. This phone call led the police to more evidence and eventually he went to trial and was charged with the murder of 15-year-old Katie.

Tell me about Katie. Who was she? She was a gorgeous 15-year-old girl.  A true social butterfly.  She loved life and everyone in it.  She was innocent and truly did not think that anyone would ever hurt her. It’s strange, just before Katie passed I had a conversation with her. I told her how I would have heartache for the rest of my life if something ever happened to one of my children.

How do you move on after something so devastating? Losing a child feels like your heart is being ripped out of you. But losing a child in such a violent way sends those suffering into an unspeakable level of grieving. This was not a sickness or an accident, ya know?

Initially, I kept myself busy trying to figure out who committed this horrific crime.  I spent my time at the police station, going to the trials and making sure justice was served.  Now, I think telling Katie’s story has helped me. It makes me happy when people remember her.  There is a small bridge over the creek where Katie’s body was found.  It’s a beautiful little spot and a few years ago they named the bridge in honor of Katie.  I think it goes without saying that I have also relied heavily on my faith in God for strength.  I know this may sound strange but there are moments when I feel her spirit and I talk to her.

I also make an effort to call families who are suffering the loss of a child.  I know from experience that these families need support but they usually do not have the strength or energy to seek help.  I have called complete strangers to let them know that they are in my thoughts.  It’s helpful to those grieving to know that they are loved and supported.

What do you want others to know? I want everyone to know that this could happen to you.  We lived in a good neighborhood and in a good town. We are a loving family. Trust me, I never thought I’d be on the news and I certainly never thought that my own child would be murdered.

One day I was in the grocery store and a young girl approached me.  She told me that she felt guilty for my daughters murder.  When I inquired, she confessed that she too had been raped by the same guy at the young age of 14. She thought that if she reached out and told someone, Katie might be alive.  Perhaps we need to encourage our girls to trust their instincts and use their voice. I don’t fault this poor girl though. She was terrified. Apparently, he threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone.  So living in fear, she kept quiet. Please talk to your daughters.  Let them know that they can always tell you anything! Let them know that they are valued and loved.  Don’t assume they know it, sometimes they need to hear it.  As parents, it’s a simple thing we can do and it may save a life.


Why is Donna All That And A Bag Of Chips? If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Donna, you will never forget her. Somehow she makes everyone in her life feel special and loved. She never makes your problems feel small even though in comparison..she easily could. Despite suffering an unspeakable, violent loss, she is almost always smiling. Her genuine honesty and kindness make her an excellent support for others suffering a loss.  She values life and has chosen to live everyday to the fullest. What can I say? The world needs more Donna.

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She’s All That And A Bag Of Chips- Tabitha

Tabitha age 39 Myrtle Beach, SC

Homecoming Queen 1992

Homecoming Queen 1992

Her Story: I have had the pleasure of knowing Tabitha almost my entire life. Anyone who has ever met her has described her the same way. She’s beautiful. Absolutely stunning to look at and equally beautiful on the inside. Her smile and laugh could light up an entire room. She is the second oldest child in a family of seven. Her childhood was full of love, laughing, sports, dancing, singing, theatre and music. One of my favorite memories of Tabitha was in 7th grade. It made such a profound impact on me that I still remember it vividly today.  Tabitha saw a classmate sitting all by himself at a lunch table.  He hung his head low and seemed sad. He was a little nerdy by 7th grade standards but Tabitha certainly didn’t mind. She saw a soul in need of some company. With no explanation she excused herself and joined him. I remember it shocking me. She was so brave and kind. A true leader. Despite her immense popularity, she never let it get to her head.  She was always grounded and knew what was important in life.  She was only twelve at the time yet seemed wise beyond her years. She knew that outward beauty was only a temporary thing here on earth and that the truly beautiful things in life were much deeper.

At the young age of 18, Tabitha was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A disease that has unzipped her outward shell and allowed her to focus on the core of her inner soul.

When did you first realize that something was wrong?  It was a series of events. First I developed blurred vision but I didn’t think much about it. I got some glasses and they seemed to fix the problem. Then I started to struggle with school.  I was always a good student but suddenly math became almost impossible. In fact, it prevented me from graduating high school on time. Everyone thought I was goofing off and not focusing on my school work but it was more than that.  I couldn’t remember formulas and nothing made sense in the classroom.  Actually, the only thing in my life that did make sense to me was music, so I focused on that. I love to sing. Then one morning I woke up and my entire left side of my body was completely numb. I was only 18. That’s when I saw a neurologist.  Two weeks later after a series of tests, I got the diagnosis.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?  It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks your nervous system.  The nervous system is damaged with lesions disrupting the flow of messages from the brain. It affects everyone differently but the disease can alter your ability to walk, talk, see and think.  There are periods of time when my symptoms are better, it’s called remission.  And there are other times when the symptoms are worse, a relapse.

How did you initially react to having a chronic disease?  I was stunned.  Stunned mentally, physically and emotionally.  For years actually. The night I got the diagnosis I remember feeling so sad and crying. The bishop from my church came to my house and said a prayer with me. He gave me strength to put one foot in front of the other and reassured me that this disease was not a punishment or in any way my fault. That kind of support really helped me.

When did you accept it? I used to write a lot of poems.They helped me sort through my emotions surrounding the diagnosis. I also remember a life changing line in the movie Shawshank Redemption.  As silly as it sounds, it changed my outlook and helped me. The character Brooks said it best, “get busy living or get busy dying”.  So I figured I better get busy living.

What symptoms have you experienced?  I’m legally blind, I have sporadic neuropathy (heaviness and painful prickles) in feet, hands and legs, balance issues, forgetfulness, incontinence, dizziness, numbness, shakes and muscle spasms.  Basically my nerves are having a party and I’m not invited.  I mean, honestly, sometimes I beat myself up trying to brush my teeth. (laughs)

You have a good sense of humor, don’t you?  Yes,  you have to!  Everybody needs to laugh more! (laughs again)

How does this affect your everyday life?  It affects everything, everyday.  It’s something I have learned to accept. I can’t drive, I can’t read and it’s an effort to walk.  Daily living is a challenge. I have to focus on every movement and every breath but ya know what…it keeps me living in the present.

Do you ever feel isolated and alone? Yes.  I feel alone from the world I once knew.  I have no patience for people who seem to live on another planet.  Ya know?  So many people have no clue about what’s really important in life.  They get caught up in the material stuff.  So, yes, I feel like I’m alone when I hear people talk about meaningless  crap and I’m focused on living.

What makes you feel good?  Laughing.  Helping others . Singing. I love to sing.  God gave me that gift. I also like things tidy.  I think I became a neat freak after my diagnosis.  It’s something I can control.

What has living with MS taught you about life?  To chill out and put things into perspective.  Everything is not as serious as you think it is.  Give yourself a break. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do!

What advice would you give someone who has been diagnosed with MS?  Accept the disease, don’t fight it. You have MS; MS does not have you.  Learn its rules and how to live together. When you do this, you will find harmony.

How can we help others with this disease?  Be kind. It’s that simple. Offer help, be compassionate, lend an ear, share a laugh or visit.  Just make sure they have what they need and keep them safe. Use empathy and avoid sympathy.

As a patient, what would you like neurologists and doctors to know about living with this disease? Please treat me as a person, not a diagnosis.

Here’s why we think Tabitha is all that and a bag of chips

Although she has a whole bunch of reasons to complain, she doesn’t. She focuses on what she can do instead of what she cannot do. Sometimes when people “get busy living” they deserve to be recognized. Tabitha’s perseverance leaves me in awe every time we speak. No matter how bad my day is, she grounds me and keeps me focused on what really matters in life.  Thank you Tabitha! I know you have helped others by sharing your story. Hold your head high and walk proudly, there are others behind you.

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The Olaf Debacle

For at least a month (and that is no exaggeration) Maggie, age 3, has been begging me on a daily basis to wear her “Olaf with the carrot nose” costume.  And when I say daily, I actually mean several hundred times a day.  It became laughable.



“You have to wait until Halloween Mags” was my usual reply.  Routinely she followed up with a confirmation “Halloween?”

Yes.  On Halloween you can wear Olaf and you will be the cutest Olaf in all the land.”

“Ok.  Mommy.  When is Halloween?”

“When the leaves turn orange and all the kids wear costumes.”

We repeated this conversation a few thousand times and just before we both completely lost our minds, Harborween arrived. Every fall we drive four hours to visit our friends in Vermont and celebrate something called Harborween.  It is a fun tradition.  It’s a pre-halloween celebration and a chance for all the kids to wear their costumes, carve pumpkins and trick-or-treat.  At last, Olaf could be revealed to the world.  I lugged the whole costume.  The fuzzy head with the carrot nose.  The snowman’s midsection, some white pants to wear underneath the snowman suit, the white shoes and a white turtleneck.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a child so excited to wear a costume in all my years as a mom.  We laid everything out the night before. When I kissed her goodnight I reminded her that tomorrow she could finally wear her costume.  She was delighted and fell asleep with a smile.

The following day I had a plan.  Trick-or-treating was scheduled for the evening hours so I knew I needed to feed the kids a decent meal before we left.  Food before trick-or-treating is absolutely necessary to keep mood swings and sugar highs under control. All moms know this.  Of course, this means that they have to eat before they put on their costumes to avoid the drama of spills.  I can’t even begin to imagine the scene that might happen if their only costume got ruined with a spill. GASP!  And because I suck at time management;  I fed my children in the usual manner before trick-or-treating…military style.

I must admit that I have a rhythmic way of pulling their chair out, ordering them to sit down and slapping food on a plate.  Then I linger to keep them on task.  I literally stand over them and monitor every bite with my arms crossed pacing back and forth like a drill sergeant.  Doesn’t that sound relaxing?  Well, let’s be honest, Halloween is not a time to relax.  We have a mission to complete.  I looked around the table.  All four kids were wide-eyed and focused on eating but for my entertainment I continue to taunt them,“If you want candy, you need to eat!  Let’s go little people!”

They shoveled their food in like good soldiers and one by one I sent them to get their costumes on.  Getting four kids ready for Halloween is no small task.  It is a well oiled machine with lots of moving parts.  There is always lots of stress.  Normally I am either barking orders or building their confidence, depending on each child’s personality.   “You look great, no really you do!  Just go!”  “You picked your costume, don’t blame me.”  ‘”I  told you it would be chilly.  You wouldn’t listen”  These are normal things heard in our house every single year.  There is always a certain amount of drama no matter how much you plan but this year I was caught off guard.

Maggie’s moment had arrived.  I took a deep breath and calmly approached my 3-year-old on one knee, “Maggie, guess what?  You get to wear Olaf now.”  

Her response shocked me. Perhaps it was my militant parenting style at dinner or maybe it was the mach 5 level of chaos in the room.  I’m not sure what it was but Maggie did NOT want to put her costume on.

“No!  I don’t want to!”

“What?  Of course you want to!  You have been begging me to wear this costume everyday for a month.  You love Olaf.”  

Then suddenly, without warning, Olaf was the devil.

“No!  NOOOOOO!  NO Olaf! I no like Olaf!  No mask!  I don’t want to wear a mask! I don’t like Halloween.”

Are you freaking kidding me?  What is this little brat doing?  She’s the one who begged me to buy Olaf.  My dumb ass actually spent money on a costume. I know better!  She tricked me. I wanted to spit venom and say evil things like ‘listen you little shit.  Put Olaf on and like it!  I’m not playing this stupid ass toddler defiance bullshit game.  You have been annoying the shit out of me for a whole month to wear this stupid snowman costume, now wear it!’ But instead I remained classy and spoke like a lady…

“Honey.  What’s wrong?  Look.  It’s your buddy, Olaf.” 

The thought of being forced to wear a mask with a carrot nose apparently traumatized Maggie.  Because we all know how terrifying a snowman can be, right?  (wink, wink) There was no rationalizing with my stubborn toddler.

“No, Olaf!   He’s NOT my buddy mommy!   NOOOOOO! I don’t wike him!  No mask-is (her word)”

I tried every tactic I could think of. “I’m getting your father.”  “We’re leaving”  “Do you want candy or not?”   “Olaf will be sad if you leave him here.”  “Please? You will look so cute!” “Come on Mags. You’ve been looking forward to this day” and then I finished up my very persuasive toddler conversation with my personal favorite,  “That’s it!  You stay here with daddy!”  This sent Maggie into a frenzy.  Apparently, watching football with daddy was not nearly as fun as trick-or-treating.  Who knew?  “No, no, no.  You hold me!  I want to go mommy but I don’t want to wear Olaf.”

I hugged her out of guilt because I was annoyed!!!  Then I sprinkled in a little sarcasm like all good mothers do. “Yes Maggie.  Look at Olaf with his carrot nose and fuzzy little head over there smiling at us.  He’s a very scary snowman, isn’t he?”

Unsure how to answer she slowly nodded yes and hugged me tight still muttering “I no like Olaf” under her breath.

“Yes, you have made that clear.”

I noticed the three older kids were getting antsy as they watched the clock tick.  We needed to get moving if we wanted any candy.  It was one of those mothering moments that I was forced to take a step back and put life into perspective.  I decided to give up. Olaf wasn’t happening.  “Ok, Maggie.  Get dressed. We will go watch the kids trick-or-treat.”  

Then everything calmed down and resumed to a normal level of chaos. I’ve never seen a 3-year-old so excited to wear jeans and t-shirt.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget this year.  Olaf will go down in history as the most expensive Halloween costume that I was ever conned into buying.  I moved on but I’ll have everyone know that I didn’t  Let it Go.

Olaf can kiss my ass.  Stupid effin snowman.

She’s All That And A Bag Of Chips- Beth

Beth age 39 Norfolk, Massachusetts

Beth Reilly



Her Story:  Meet Beth.  Isn’t she cute?  Beth is happily married and has an adorable 8 year old son name Braedon. All was normal in their life until they tried to conceive a second baby.  After two miscarriages and seeing an infertility clinic, they were finally pregnant with their second child!  You can imagine how blessed they felt to be pregnant and when they found out it was a girl; it seemed perfect.  This pregnancy went well until the 20 week ultrasound revealed something different.  After several weeks of follow-up tests, it was clear that Beth had an unusual hole in her uterus. Despite plans for bed rest and attempts to keep the baby in utero; she made her grand entrance much earlier than anyone could have anticipated.  Kate Anne was born on December 21st 2010. She was 23 1/2 weeks old and weighed 1lb -7 ounces.  She was admitted to the NICU immediately .

For the next two weeks Beth spent endless hours at her bedside showering her premie with motherly love. Every minute spent with her felt like a gift. Kate had good days and bad days but nobody could argue that she was an amazing little soul. How could someone so tiny make such a big impact in the world?  The NICU staff became an extended family to Beth and she looked forward to her visits daily. Beth knew that if she survived, she would have challenges but she never expected to hold a lifeless baby.  On January 7th 2011, Beth held Kate for the first time as she said goodbye. Kate Anne died and she took a piece of Beth with her.  It was hard.  Really hard.  Nothing can prepare a mother for the loss of a baby.  Nobody wants to hear about a baby dying. Nobody knows what to say and Beth was no different. “Friends and family pull you through the darkness” says Beth.  Tears welled in her eyes as she explained to me about how important it is to support those grieving. “There were at least a hundred people who made the effort to attend Kate’s funeral and say goodbye with us; some of them were the doctors and nurses who cared for her at the hospital.  That meant a lot. I’m forever changed as a person. The grief never escapes you but you learn different ways to cope.”

What’s your biggest fear?   I’m afraid that as the years pass, Kate will be forgotten.  I am also haunted by the fear that something will happen to my only living child.  I find myself protecting him from everything.

What’s your advice to other Mom’s suffering with the grief of losing a baby?  Don’t be too hard on yourself.   Losing a baby is an emotional roller coaster and everyone deals with grief in their own way.  It’s normal to have bad days and feel angry or sad.  Allow yourself the time to heal. If someone reaches out to help you, grab their hand.  It helps to know you are not alone and to talk about how you are feeling.

What’s your advice to someone who wants to support a grieving friend?  Just be there and listen.  Small gestures make a big difference.  A hug, a quick text or a phone call is often a ray of light on a dark day.  Your effort matters, despite the reaction you receive at the moment.

What are some things you do to remember Kate?  Sometimes when I’m thinking about her I do something simple.  I might wear pink or buy some beautiful flowers.  We also donated some rocking chairs to the NICU and engraved them, With Love For Kate. Some of my favorite moments with Kate were spent in the rocking chair next to her isolette.  I read her books to pass the time and bond with her.  One of my favorite books to read was called  On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman.  After Kate passed, we donated over a hundred copies of this book to the NICU. One day recently I went to visit the NICU and saw a little girl reading one of the books we donated to her premie sibling.  It made me smile.

What did Kate teach you? I know this sounds cliche’ but it’s so true.  She taught me to live life to the fullest and love wholeheartedly.  Every minute of this life is valuable and every child is a gift. Your circumstances can change in an instant and you never get that time back.

Here’s why we think Beth is All That And A Bag Of Chips: Despite suffering an unimaginable loss, she continues to move forward and help others who have also suffered.  Beth volunteers countless hours of her time working with the March of Dimes.  She helps organize a walk to remember other babies who lost their lives, speaks publicly to raise awareness and participates in an annual charity golf tournament.  “Sharing my story with other mothers who have endured the same pain is very healing” Beth explains.

Way to pay it forward Beth!  We love you!

be kind quote




She’s All That And A Bag Of Chips

A few years ago I was mentally in a bad place.  I was having a real pity party feeling sorry for myself. It’s out of character for me because I’m usually spewing insane amounts of awesomeness. (cough) This time I wasn’t feeling so awesome or smiling.  In fact, I felt pretty crappy.   Trapped in circumstances beyond my control.  It wasn’t one particular thing, it was the combination of many.  We moved to a new place, my marriage was struggling, my husband lost his job, we were dealing with a law suit with a corporate giant, we lost money in real estate and we had a baby in NICU that we were not prepared for.  I remember the moment clearly.  I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom.  I heard my three small children bickering over a toy downstairs and all I could think about was Maggie, my fourth child.  She was my newest addition that was stuck in the NICU with PPHN.  She was the sickest baby in the unit.  I was not allowed to hold her.  I picked up my phone and called the NICU.  I thought an update would ease my mind.  It didn’t.  I hung up with the nurse.  Nothing has changed was my update.  Great.  She’s still sick as hell and I’m still here….trapped in the chaos. I was surrounded by cardboard boxes that were stacked to the ceiling.  The movers dropped them there and they didn’t move for a month.  Life was tailspinning.  I tried to motivate myself because it felt like the right thing to do. I got up and found a pair of scissors to open a box.  I cut the masking tape off and inside I found at least thirty sweatshirts.  I grabbed the one on top and folded it perfectly.  I needed order in my life.  A closet seemed to be a good place to start.  I had a vision of stacking each sweatshirt in a neat pile but when I walked into the closet I was overwhelmed by the mountain of boxes blocking my way.   I threw my folded sweatshirt on the floor, flopped on my unmade bed and cried my eyes out.  It was too much.

Then God did something.  He sprinkled good people into my life when I needed them most.   Actually, they were people that have always been there but this time I opened my eyes.  I looked around and realized that I wasn’t alone.  Everyone has a story..everyone. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, a disease, a divorce or a job loss but every single person in your life has something. We all walk through thick, heavy mud at some point in our lives.  Sometimes we get so buried in mud and escaping on our own seems impossible. Like so many, I needed help. I needed a firm, genuine grasp of a strong hand to pull me out. At one point, I also needed a couple of hands behind me to nudge me forward but guess what?  I got out.

mud shoe

Now I’m standing on the other side watching friends and loved ones walk through their own mud.  I often reach out to those I love and care about.  Sometimes it’s all they need and I know first hand how much it helps.  Once you’ve been through it, you walk more cautiously. The muddy bank is slippery.  I  believe the expert’s call this the cycle of life.  And for every human life, there is a truck load of bullshittery (great word) dumped in every garden of goodness.

As women, we are too judgmental.  Ladies, enough of the jealousy, cattiness and competition. We should help our friends when they are down and celebrate them when they are up.  That’s why I am starting a new segment called  She’s all that and a bag of chips.  Yes, I know…what a title, right?  So 1990 awesome!  Let’s be honest. It’s one thing to be All that but when you throw in a bag of chips; things get REAL!   Each week I will celebrate chicks in my life that deserve a pat on the back.  It’s a spotlight on everyday women who go above and beyond and make the rest of us scratch our heads wondering how they do it.  Each one is special and I have chosen to celebrate them for different reasons.  Some are survivors and some are warriors.  Some are completely selfless and some are leaders.  One thing is for certain, they all deserve a little love.  Join me next week and let’s all hug it out.

If you know of a female who deserves some sugah let Mrs. D know about it.  Send an email to telling me who it is and why you think she’s all that and a bag of chips.


It Never Ends

It’s an average spring day in May at my house.  3/4 of the kids are at school.  The laundry is spinning, the sink is piled with breakfast dishes and the dishwasher is loaded with clean dishes that need to be put away. I’ll get to those eventually. I’m sipping my coffee with one hand and logging onto my bank account with the other.  My 2-year-old, Maggie, is begging me to paint.  She pleas her case over and over again as she swings on the dining room chair legs in a rhythmic fashion.  She has already mastered begging.  Her tone and persistent whining are like fingernails on a chalkboard to an exhausted mom searching for a few moments of peace.

“Can I puwease paint somefing… anyfing..puwease Mommy!

I talk to myself.  Why paint?  Paint is messy.  Attempting to buy myself a little time, I respond. “Maybe later honey.  Why don’t you color?” 

“Nooo!  I don’t wike colors.”

I ignore her nasty attitude and study her.  Her arms are crossed tight and her eyes are angry but there is something adorable about her.  I love the innocence of her problem.  It makes me smile. I think psychologists call this motherly love. I call it happiness. I’ve learned that fighting with a 2-year-old never goes well. It’s best to smile and watch their bad attitude dissolve.

Ted is literally laying under my feet and slowly rolls onto his back.  He needs me to rub his belly with the heel of my foot.  I oblige and he thanks me with his chocolate-brown eyes.  


The sound of a new email snaps me out of my daze.


Subconsciously that subtle bing sound gives me a mild panic attack.  Who is it this time? Perhaps it’s the team mom or the class mom. It doesn’t really matter I suppose.  Much like a child screaming “Moooooom!”  The fact that someone needs me for something I really don’t want to do makes me instantly annoyed. I mentally respond to emails with the same attitude I give my children when they cry my name.

“Whaaat? What do you want?”

I finish paying a few bills and then click over to my inbox and check my new message.  The title alone makes me cringe, “class sign up” It’s that time of year again when I am forced to donate obscene amounts of time, money and effort into school parties, sports, after school activities, teacher conferences and random celebrations.  Every single email requires some type of commitment from me.  I open the email that was sent less than 10 minutes ago, yet I am the last parent to sign up.  And by the way, how the hell does that happen? Did the class mom call all of her friends and warn them that a sign up email would be sent and to get ready in 3-2-1?  I mean really?  Ugh.  The only things left on the list were cupcakes and cookies.  Go ahead and call me an overachiever but I was kinda praying for napkins or paper plates.  I stared at the screen hoping another parent would magically sign up for both items right before my eyes and all the motherly guilt would be lifted from my soul but that did not happen.  The only mom’s left to sign up were the slackers; myself included. Sigh.  Should I do cupcakes?  No, Maybe cookies? Hmmm…distracted by another email.


Mrs. Doherty,

Will Flynn be at baseball practice today?

And then another, Bing

Mrs. Doherty,

We are asking parents to send in a donation for the teacher gift?


Mrs. Doherty,

Will Molly be at soccer practice tomorrow?


Mrs. Doherty,

Will the 2-2:30 time slot work for our parent/teacher conference?


All dancers will need a hair bow to match their costume for the dance recital.


Just a friendly reminder that we have you signed up to bring orange slices Saturday.


Have you paid your team dues yet?   They are due this week.  Thanks so much!

Bing, Bing, Bing...

It never ends.  Slowly but surely my calendar fills up and my bank account is depleted.  All I did was check my email and my mood completely changed.  I went from having a great day to feeling overwhelmed and broke.  I close my laptop to hide from the world.

“Mommy?  Can I paint now?”

“Yes Maggie.  That’s a great idea.  Let’s paint.”

Suddenly, painting sounds like an amazing idea.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I cannot wait for the summer.  I have absolutely nothing planned.

Clearly, We Love Each Other

This past weekend was Flynn’s 10th birthday.  In my mind, 10 is a big one.  We have entered double digits and he is now only a few short years away from the dreaded teenage years.  I did what every mother does on their child’s birthday.  I asked myself the age-old question “Where has the time gone?”.   My eyes filled with tears as I  looked at baby photos. Look at this little cutie pie!


Basically, I sent myself into a maternal emotional roller coaster that scared Flynn.  The morning began when I forced him to hear about the joy I felt when I became a mother and held him for the first time.  I could tell by the way he stared at the floor and continuously changed the subject that my story inspired him.  The poor kid couldn’t walk anywhere near me all day without me grabbing his arm and pulling him in for an awkward bear hug.

I love to taunt him when he is trying to avoid me.  One day he will learn that his life would be easier if he would just give me a decent hug without making me beg for it.

I have to say; I’ve become a good hugging coach.  “Come on buddy.  Wrap your arms around your mom.  You can do it.”

If I am persistent, I can still get a real hug out of him but usually it’s a no-arm leaner.  Sigh.  I’ve been working on him for a decade and I’m not about to quit now, damn it.  I have dreams of him coming home from college and giving me a completely voluntary hug.  Is that sad?  Normal people dream about going to Fiji or winning the lottery not a good hug. Right?

Anyway, Flynn is a total guy.  If you ask him about his day he responds “Fine”.  He hates to be the center of attention and usually requests that I don’t surprise him at school with huge cupcakes and my famous tambourine solo (just kidding).  How does this child have my DNA? It has taken me 10 years to learn that planning a birthday party for someone who prefers not to have one is a waste of time.  So this year, I respected his request and kept his birthday simple but that didn’t stop me from being a big mush all day.  By dinner time he was rolling his eyes when I repeated “I can’t believe you’re 10!”

“Mom!!!  Stop!”  he kept saying.

“Aw, I’m sorry.  Am I annoying you?  Listen kid.  It’s devastating for a mother.  Pretty soon you will be too cool for me and you won’t hug me any more.”

He was so annoyed with me. “Mom!!”

“Just promise you will always hug me and I’ll leave you alone. Ok?”


“And I want a picture of you with your cake today, OK.”


Fast forward to cake time.  I don’t know what it’s like at your house but at ours, it takes a small miracle to get everyone looking at the camera and smiling.  I wanted a nice picture of Flynn and his siblings around the cake.  Armed with my camera, the drama began.

Me:“OK Flynn.  Smile.

He looked miserable.  So miserable that it made me laugh.

Ming: “Flynn.  Smile for your mother.”

Molly: “Dude.  Smile”

Flynn: (now angry and screaming) “I AM!”

Take 1



Molly helping Flynn smile

Me: “Ok.  I need all 4 kids next to Flynn for a quick picture.  Maggie?  Where’s Maggie?  We just need Maggie and then I can take the picture.  Wait?  What’s going on? Teagan, why are you crying?”

Teagan: (screaming) “Flynn is pushing me!!!!”

Me: “Flynn!!!!  Leave her alone.  I mean it.  Since when do you push a girl.  Honestly!”

Flynn: “I’m not pushing her, she’s breathing on me.”

Me: “Breathing on you?  What are you talking about? Molly, look at my camera not daddy’s.”

Molly:  “Let’s hurry up and take the picture!  I am excited!  I love cake!  I want a big piece.  Can I please have a big piece?  Please. Please.  Pleeeeeaaase?”

Me: “Molly, it’s not your birthday.  Settle down.  Ok, if I could get everyone to stop crying and look at me, that would be great.”

Teagan: “It’s not my fault.  I can’t stop crying.  Flynn is making me cry worser.”

Maggie: “I can’t see.  I want cake too.  Can I have cake pwease?”


Flynn didn't want Teagan to breathe on his cake

We are a happy family!  Very happy!

Teagan: “Flynn!  Mom said I NEED to get closer to be in the picture.”

Flynn: “No.  You are fine right where you are you little pip squeak.”

Teagan: “Mom?  He called me a pip squeak!” (more tears)

Me: “Oh my God.  Flynn, please let her in the picture.”

Ming: “Come on guys.  Let’s go!  Knock it off.

Me: “Ew Molly.  What are you doing?”

Molly: “What?  I like icing.  I just want a little lick.”

Flynn: (shoves molly) “Get away from my cake.  That’s disgusting!”

Take 3

Flynn is distracted shielding Teagan's breath and Molly sees an opportunity

And then I said the words that confirm that I am the world’s most patient and amazing mother.

Me: “Ok.  Nevermind.  Let’s just sing happy freakin birthday and get this over with. You guys really know how to ruin a perfectly good birthday.”


Clearly, we love each other and I am an amazing mother.


Which reminds me of one of my all time favorite Vine videos:

Click here to see a video





The Not So EZ Pass

Marriage is a funny thing.  Newlyweds seem to start off as two individuals learning how to live together and then over the years you find yourself merging like a bad traffic jam, sharing the same thoughts and quirks. Sometimes you don’t even realize that what you are doing is different or strange until an outsider lets you know.  Let me give you an example.  Years ago in our life before kids, my husband and I lived in a town house.  The most exciting thing about that town house was the fireplace.  We absolutely loved that fireplace!   We were young and we really couldn’t afford to buy tons of firewood to burn so we improvised.  We would go to the local grocery store and stock up on fire starting logs and burn them sparingly.  We would burn them one at a time never adding real wood to the mix.  When the starter log burned out, then the fire was over.  It was cheap, easy to clean and lasted just about the right amount of time.  It never occurred to us that our little habit was strange until one night our friends came over for dinner and laughed at our pitiful example of ambiance.  It was an embarrassing eye opener but I know we aren’t alone.  Couples all over America fall victim to weird habits of cohabitation.


Recently, Ming (the hubs) and I went for a little weekend getaway to Maine and we witnessed our friends Scott and Aviva displaying one of these weird quirks first hand.

For those of you already familiar with EZ Pass; please forgive me for a moment while I explain it to the rest of the group.  EZ Pass is a small device that drivers mount on their dashboard.

ez passIt’s about the size of a deck of playing cards and it’s designed to make life easier for drivers who use toll roads.  It is very simple to set up and automatically deducts money from your online bank account as you pass through a toll booth.

ez pass works

It saves time.  You don’t ever need to look for spare change while driving or bring your vehicle to a complete stop.  IF…you use it correctly.

Now where was I?  Oh yes…

Ming and I were in the backseat of Scott’s car.  Scott was driving and his wife, Aviva, was riding shotgun.  We were heading north through Maine when it happened.   There, on the horizon, was the first toll booth.   Tension picked up in the car as we got closer and closer to the toll booth.  Aviva made eye contact with Scott and you could tell by the look in her eye that it was game on!  She quickly opened the glove compartment and began fumbling through its entire contents.  Things were flying left and right as she searched for something specific.

Scott kept his eye on the road and carefully picked a lane.

“You got it Aviva?”

“Yes.  It’s ready to go.” she was a little short of breath at this point.

Ming and I watched in awe from the backseat.  We couldn’t figure out what these two were doing.

Then Aviva, now sweating, quickly unwrapped the EZ pass out of the original foil wrapper and held it up to the windshield.  She looked uncomfortable stretching in her seatbelt as she leaned all the way forward.  As we entered the toll lane Scott slowed the car to almost a complete stop and assisted his wife.  Together they held the EZ pass towards the sky as if it were a chalice of wine during a holy communion.

Please accept my EZ Pass!  Please accept it!  Please!

Please accept my EZ Pass! Please accept it! Please!

They waited patiently praying that all would go well.  Finally, the toll light turned green and they had confirmation that their EZ pass worked.  Success!  They gazed at each other the way couples do after a good therapy session.  They were on the same page, working together as a team.

“What the hell was that?” Ming whispered in my ear.

I shrugged my shoulders confused and in disbelieve.  “I donno.” I answered.

I asked Scott and Aviva the plaguing question, “Was that the first time you ever used your EZ pass?”

“Oh no!” they answered in unison.

This confused us “No?? Um what?” We laughed a nervous laugh trying to make sense of the scene we just witnessed.

Ming couldn’t keep quiet “Why do you keep the EZ pass in the original wrapper inside your glove compartment?  Please tell me the rationale behind that one.”

I thought this was a fair question and we listened intently.

“We don’t use it that much.” Aviva responded.

“Then why did you buy it?” asked Ming

“Because we used to need it quite often.” she answered with confidence.

Scott added his opinion as if it would clear things up “It never works right. We have to keep it in that wrapper so it doesn’t demagnetize.”

“Umm…demagnetize???  Like a hotel key?  What are you talking about?” I added.

“Yes”  Scott answered with confidence.  “And we leave it in the glove compartment so the GPS can’t find us.”

Ming busted out laughing.  He couldn’t take it anymore.  “Oh my God!  You’re an idiot!”

Scott looked out the window pondering what he had just said out loud. He now wondered if he really was an idiot. The thought of spending the rest of the weekend with Ming suddenly felt like a chore.  He knew this was going to be a long day.

Ming continued to belittle Scott, “If you go to the trouble to register an EZ pass and to have it in your car, doesn’t it make sense to put it on your dashboard so that it’s easy?”

Without any hesitation at all and with great passion they both answered in unison as if his suggestion was a ridiculous one.

I chimed in “So, you two think it’s a horrible idea to mount your EZ pass on your dashboard?”

Scott defended himself. “Absolutely! I’m not mounting that on my dashboard permanently.”

Ming and I couldn’t stop laughing.  We couldn’t figure out why they were so against mounting the device.  It made no sense.

“Yes.  Why would one EVER mount something on their dashboard permanently?  Oh, the horror!”  I was laughing so hard at this point I was cracking myself up. “It’s not like it’s your high school graduation tassel.”

Scott continued to drive and ignore our bantering.

I continued “Ya know what Scott?  We should call your EZ pass the not so EZ pass’!”

Ming recapped their thoughts out loud for all of us. “So instead of mounting it on your dashboard like the rest of the world.  You find it easier to keep it inside the wrapper, inside your glove compartment and hold it up to the windshield every time you go through a toll booth.  Is that correct?”

“Yes!” they confirmed.


Well alrighty then….

Do you and your spouse have any bizarre quirks?  Please share!