Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Favorites - August 29

I have been off the grid on my Friday Favorites series, writing some very interesting stories for Airport Improvement magazine in the last month about special programs to help kids with autism travel more comfortably and radiant heating with geothermal technology (say what?).  These stories stretch my knowledge and help me learn new things.

I'm ready for the weekend, but I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer - my son starts preschool again on Tuesday. Here in Texas, we're kind of lucky in that the pools stay open (on the weekends) well into September, and since it's still 100 degrees, that's a good thing.

In case you missed it, I was at the Huffington Post last week with a story about appreciating the times between the busy:

And here's some great writing to take you into the weekend:  

From Shannon at Deepest Worth, musings on giving her daughter a good foundation in self esteem:

From Brenna at Suburban Snapshots, a gorgeous and heart-wrenching tribute to her friend Sarah.

This idea has been stuck in my head for a week, and I'm thinking that I need to start doing this too.

Have you ever heard of Safe Families? This essay from a guest writer at Rage Against the Minivan opened my eyes to this families who are helping so many kids in times of crisis.

My sister means the world to me, and this post from Rachel at Hands Free Mama is a great reminder for parents of siblings.

My son has one more year until kindergarten, and this post still made me cry like a baby, imagining my son all grown up.

Have you ever nearly lost your mind trying to help your child find a toy? This post from Arnebya of What Now and Why at Mamalode will seem very familiar to you.


The nice people at ThinkFun sent me a Robot Turtles board game for me to evaluate, and my verdict is that it's pretty awesome. The idea is to teach preschoolers coding at a very simple and basic level, and the way it's set up is creative and engaging. My son likes the concept of telling me how to move his turtle and overcome the obstacles in the turtle's path. I just bought another copy of the game for one of his best buddies who has an app-programmer dad, and I know they're going to love playing it together.

Robot Turtles is the most-funded board game in Kickstarter history, far surpassing its $25,000 goal with $630,000 in pledges. The concept comes from former Google programmer Dan Shapiro, who wanted to share his love for coding with his two daughters. Although many computer-based platforms for preschools are already on the market, Shapiro wanted to take the learning process offline with a traditional board game.


Last, but not least, I am excited to now have a live author page at Amazon! First up is the book My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends, which will be available next month.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brave: a father's love

Sixteen years ago, a little boy was born. Austin was happy and healthy, with a shock of soft red hair, and grew up like any other little boy in the Midwest. 

At the time, Austin was related to Brian by marriage; Austin was the son of Brian’s brother in law, his wife’s brother. Brian was a doting uncle with no children of his own, spending time with Austin and watching him grow up.

When Austin was two, his life changed, and along with that, the lives of everyone around him. Especially the life of his uncle Brian.

“Austin was more than my nephew,” Brian says. “He was the first baby that I had ever gotten close to, that I had ever loved so deeply. Austin was teaching me how much I wanted to be a father, to raise and help guide and mold my future children. We were very close.”

This next part is hard to read. Bear with me to get to the better part.

One terrible day, two-year-old Austin was shaken for thirty seconds with uncontrolled rage by his biological mother’s then-boyfriend. He was literally shaken to death; when the paramedics arrived, they performed CPR and revived him, and Austin was taken to the nearest hospital. After more than two weeks in a coma, Austin awoke and spent another five months in the hospital with significant brain damage. Ultimately, the right side of his brain was dead.

For more than two weeks, Austin was in a medically-induced coma while he fought for his life. His brain swelled beyond capacity, increasing the inner-cranial pressure within his head.  The brain swelling threatened to cut off his brain stem from communicating with his vital organs. The neurosurgeon placed a pressure monitor within his head to both relieve and monitor the pressure within his head. Thankfully, the pressure relief and monitor set-up worked.

While Austin was recovering, Brian and his wife Vickie started taking foster parenting classes, because they knew that Austin would not be returned to his biological parents.

In April of 2001, Austin came to live with Brian and Vickie. They determined that Brian would resign from his job and stay home with Austin full time.  He was now an instant father, the stay-at-home parent of a nearly three-year-old child with a significant brain injury.

“There wasn’t much ‘staying at home’, as every day was filled with various therapy appointments, doctors’ appointments, case managers, prosecutors, and then some,” says Brian.

For two and a half years, Brian stayed home with Austin. After that, Brian became a fireman, taking a schedule that would work around Austin’s schedule. Soon after that, Austin's adoption was finalized.

Before that terrible day, 14 years ago, Austin was typical by most accounts. He was able to walk evenly, talk as well as any two-year-old, and use both hands equally.  He was happy and inquisitive, explored things eagerly, and enjoyed watching cartoons. He was just beginning to show interest in potty training.

Now, Austin has no use of his left hand and arm. He has a peripheral blind spot in his left eye. He wears braces on both of his legs to help him walk. He drags his left foot when he walks. He is 16 going on 6; a junior in high school, going on kindergarten. He has undergone thousands of hours of speech, occupational, and physical therapies to try and overcome his new disability, and relearn much of what he had already learned in the first two years of his life.  He had to relearn to walk, talk, eat and play.

Along his journey, enduring pain and frustration, anger and sadness, and even depression and anxiety, Austin has never let it keep him down, says Brian. He has an amazing sense of humor, and almost always has a smile and a laugh for everyone. He doesn’t know a stranger, and is often said to have “made someone’s day” with his smile, hugs, and love for people and life.

Austin spends the vast majority of his school time in a functional skills setting, learning daily living skills most of us take for granted.  He still can’t read or write at all. He has behavior problems that impede his learning. He takes a number of medications for seizure prevention, and ADHD. He also endures a number of other medical issues related to his brain injury; hospitalization for elevated ammonia levels and a bi-lateral hamstring lengthening surgery are just the most recent in a series of medical issues he has dealt with and will continue to deal with for life.

He has no use of his left hand, and very limited use of his left arm and shoulder; essentially, the bigger the muscle, the more use he has in that area. Essentially, he has no fine motor skills for his left hand.  He has endured a lot of therapy to attempt to regain use of his left hand, but his prognosis is weak.

Austin makes me so proud to be his dad, Brian says.  In spite of his significant brain injury, and all it brings to the table, Austin is very polite, caring, and engaged with his life. He tries hard to open and hold doors, he always says please, thank you and excuse me. He has a passion for life, and a sense of humor. He never lets his troubles keep him down, and always has a smile on his face.

Austin has three potential surgeries in the next 6-18 months. He has developed a case of hammertoe that can only be fixed through surgery, and is causing him some discomfort while walking. His left leg, the side most affected by his brain injury, is heavily rotated inward and causing him to have a very unstable gait. The correction for that is to cut his femur and rotate the lower leg to the proper position, yet another very major orthopedic procedure. The doctor has told Brian that this is something that can be done later in the future, but doesn’t want to prolong something that makes him uncomfortable and unstable on his feet. And third is his contracted left wrist and hand; they attempted to correct this a few years ago, unsuccessfully. This time they will fuse the joint in position permanently.

Brian puts on a brave face for Austin while his son goes through surgery and recovery, but he hurts for him.  Brian's Facebook posts are alternately grateful and hopeful, even in the face of so many challenges. Overall, if you followed his personal page, you would see a father who loves his son more than anything in the world.

Last year, Brian was invited to share Austin's story in Terre Haute, Indiana to a group of 200+ professionals from all over central Indiana. This was a training conference on the Period of Purple Crying as developed by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), and Brian was presented with the "Child Award" presented by the Children's Bureau of Indianapolis in recognition of his efforts to advocate for child abuse prevention all across Indiana. He speaks regularly on the topic and is an advocate for children everywhere.

Austin doesn’t know what happened to him, or why he is different from other kids. He also doesn’t question it. He lives his life as he knows it, happily sharing his spirit with family, friends and strangers alike. Even as he struggles to walk these days, he refuses to use his wheelchair, it removes his independence.  Austin is the reason I do the things I do.  I wouldn’t be a firefighter without having gone through this experience with him. I wouldn’t be an advocate for child abuse prevention. I wouldn’t be an advocate for people with disabilities and their families either.  

Here's the part that chokes me up:

And most importantly, I wouldn’t be Austin’s dad, the most awesome role I could ever ask for.

*  *  *

When I met Brian, we were just a couple of kids in high school. He ran on the cross-country team with some of my friends, and he was a nice, quiet boy. I'm so proud to see what he has become. 

For more information on Brian and Austin:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Six lines

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade.
At the time, the Russians were winning the space race. The U.S. needed a goal; something to aim for, both figuratively and literally. JFK set the goal nine years out to give the space program life… to tell the world that this is what we are going to do.

In 1969, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong was the first astronaut in the world to set foot on the lunar surface.

You can’t reach a goal unless you set one.

This year, in January, I approached my group of writer friends with a proposal: let’s set our goals together, publicly within our group. I needed a target.

My list was short: only 6 lines.

1)  Win a VOTY in 2014.
2)  Be chosen for a spot in the HerStories friendship anthology
3)  Choose a direction for a novel and get at least half done before the end of this year.
4)  Get a children's book published
5)  Go to the gym 2x a week and fit into my clothes better
6)  Be published on Brain, Child
7)  Submit an essay to Precipic

Each goal looked like a small mountain; in fact, the very first goal was one I saw as a major stretch.  Last year, when I sat in the audience at BlogHer and listened to Adrienne Jones, Ann Imig, and Kelly Wickham as they made me laugh and cry, I knew that I wanted to be up there, too. I didn’t think for a second it would happen a year later.

When I got the message that one of my essays had been chosen as a BlogHer Voice of the Year, I picked up my son and twirled him around. Out of 2,500 essays, they picked mine as an honoree. And what was even more amazing to me was that it had been chosen to be one of twelve to be read on stage at the annual conference.  I had purchased a ticket with hope in my heart, but I wasn’t at all sure I could swing the trip without a good excuse. It was a thrilling moment, and my friends online were incredibly supportive and shared my celebration from the moment it was announced.

Last year was the first time that I had attended BlogHer, and I loved it. When I walked into the hotel lobby, the first person I spotted was Lizz Porter of Am I a Funny Girl?  I walked right up to her and gave her a bear hug.  She’s a hugger, see, so she didn’t mind. That one hug set the tone for two days of connection with people I never knew I needed. But I do.

This year, I walked in feeling confident and excited. Maybe a little too excited, because my nerves were on high alert on Friday before my on-stage reading. I dropped several things in the room while getting ready, because my hands were shaking. During the day, I know I was more distracted than usual, and I’m sure I missed out on meeting some wonderful people because I was stuck in my own head. Luckily, my friends rallied around me and walked me through it all.

Support system:
Top row: Kristin, Angela, and Greta
Middle row: Jennie, Arnebya, and Tonya
Bottom: Elaine, Jennifer, Katie, Leigh Ann, and Poppy
Photo by Elaine Alguire

Backstage during the Voice of the Year presentation, I got to meet some amazing women that I have admired from afar, and it is a privilege to now call them friends. Their stories were riveting and beautifully crafted. Their photos were haunting and gorgeous. And when I took the stage to read mine, I started out fast and then remembered how I had practiced it, and eased into a rhythm. I worked hard to keep my own tears in check.

The women themselves lined up to hug each speaker after her time on stage, and the support and love was tremendous. Women, catty? Not there. Not anywhere that I saw. In fact, maybe it’s the company I keep, but I met scores of talented and beautiful and sweet women (and one man, Neil Kramer, who has the most amazing Instagram account).

The exhilaration of reaching this goal feels so good, and last week, when Scary Mommy published my essay on her site, more than 30,000 people shared it.  Perhaps it struck a nerve.

This is what my goals list looks like now:
1)  Win a VOTY in 2014 – Check!
2)  Be chosen for a spot in the HerStories friendship anthology – Check!
3)  Choose a direction for my novel and get at least half done before the end of this year – in progress
4)  Get a children's book published – Scheduled for fall 2014
5)  Go to the gym 2x a week and fit into my clothes better – well...
6)  Be published on Brain, Child – Check!
7)  Submit to Precipice – Check! And chosen for a spot in the book to be published this fall

It’s time to create some new goals.

* * * * *
Jamie and Casey - new friends.
Amazing women.

Please don't miss reading all of the VOTY posts here.
So much amazing work all in one list.

At the risk of sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech, I want to say thank you to some special people: 

Thank you to Leigh Ann for leaving a session early to give me a hug before I left for rehearsal. And my other two roommates, Angela and Greta, who brought gifts and smiles and hugs.

Casey, for the voice of experience and encouragement.

To my tribe, for supporting me before, during, and after the event.

Kate, Sarah, and Stephanie, who gave me their precious time to rehearse via FaceTime. 

Jamie and Jill and Kim, who went out of their way to find and meet me.

All of the other VOTY winners, plus Elisa and Alexandra and Rita.

All of you, who cheered me on.  Thank you. 


Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Favorites: August 8

Hello, and welcome to August!  My little boy is going to be 5 soon, and I can hardly believe that.

In case you missed it, I was at my friend Laura's blog this week, with a contribution to her marriage series.

Other essays I have loved this week:

Playing in the rain, by Lisa Allen. This post captures the bittersweet feelings of being the mother of kids who are almost fully grown.  It's beautiful.

This summer has been one of the best of my life, and this post from Lisa Rosenberg captures the sights and sounds and smells of summer perfectly.

Do you have any book lovers in your life?  I thought this was a great list of gift ideas.

This story, about extending kindness and humanity, is lovely, and it made me think about ways I can help.

My sister and I are very close, so this post from Kim spoke to me.

This CEO stepped down from his high-level job to be a better dad. I love that he knows what he wants and he knows his own limits, and I respect his choice.

If you don't have it on your reading list already, add Anna Whiston Donaldson's Rare Bird. It's a book about loss - she lost her 12-year-old son in a flash flood a few years ago - but it's also about hope. It's stunning.
Here's her book trailer:

And this... this is my newest bucket list place. Gorgeous

Have a fantastic weekend.


Sunday, August 3, 2014


A new friend of mine, a beautiful, caring, compassionate woman, sent me a message after I posted "To All the Maggies of the World" a few weeks ago.

"I had no idea you had been through this," she wrote. "I am so proud and in awe of your ability to speak so bravely and openly.  I feel strangely...comforted that another strong, intelligent woman I know has actually experienced this too."

She said that she had been trying to write about her own experiences for years and couldn't get the words out, but she was inspired to do so after reading about Maggie... and about me. She isn't ready to own her words publicly in her own name, but she wanted to share them to attempt to help other women feel less alone in a similar domestic violence situation. She is already stronger and braver than she knows.

I honestly hope this does not resonate with you, if you're reading this. [*Trigger warning]

But if it does, know that you are not crazy. You are not weak. You can get out of this situation. One foot in front of the other, until you're out the door. If you are nodding your head to any of this because it sounds so familiar, at the bottom of this post, you'll find links to national organizations to help you if you. Let someone help you.

* * * 


Because he was handsome, and charming, and smart, and hilarious.

Because he spit in my face, and told me I was worthless, and I stayed for seven more years.

Because he was adventurous, and full of fun, and brought me along for the ride.

Because he called me a whore when I got upset that a complete stranger at a crowded bar grabbed my crotch.

Because he planned romantic surprises.

Because I felt so very sorry for him, but my sympathy wasn't enough to keep him from turning on me.

Because he was strong, and I felt like he could protect me from anything.

Because the first time it happened I let the red marks show, hoping someone would notice and validate me and tell me to get out.

Because he was driven and ambitious and hardworking and wanted a better life, and I could relate.

Because after the first time, I hid the bruises and silently, sadly, joked to myself that I could tell people I "fell down the stairs."

Because when I looked in his eyes, I could see the sweet little boy he once was.

Because my brain was fully aware, but my ego let me think I could be THE ONE whose cycle of abuse didn't proceed in a textbook fashion.

Because he always sincerely, enthusiastically complimented my cooking.

Because he pushed me backwards out of my chair when I was angry that he wouldn't turn down his video games while I was studying.

Because we were inseparable.

Because he found ways to let me know I was lazy, and fat, and unattractive more times than I can count.

Because he made sure I had birthday and Christmas presents, even when my own family forgot or could not.

Because he hated his estranged abusive father, but began behaving eerily the same.

Because I knew in his heart he was a better man.

Because a random guy in the Applebee's parking lot said "That ain't right, man. GIRL. That.ain't.right." as those strong fingers squeezed my neck.

Because he had so many friends who saw him as such a great guy.

Because he drunkenly and angrily ran us off the road after a baby shower in a residential area, and I was sick with the thought that he could have killed us or, worse, an innocent bystander.

Because he could be a really wonderful and loving big brother.

Because I spent money I didn't have to prove my love with a birthday party, and he repaid me by bruising  a one square foot area of my right hip and thigh.  And I deleted the picture proof.

Because I knew he had plans to be a really great dad someday, and I thought he could be if he really tried.

Because every joke was at my expense.  Like the one that fractured my tailbone.

Because he indulged my love of the sappy romantic comedy.

Because he distrusted every negative thing our couples counselor said, merely because she was a woman.

Because he loved to snuggle.

Because I was an uptight, humorless bitch if I asked for respect.

Because he told me I was wonderful, and beautiful.

Because I told the neighbors they didn't need to call the police, and they mercifully ignored me.

Because I know I have my flaws, and we both wanted to be better people.

Because he dragged me inside the house and, when I wouldn't stop arguing, slammed my head against the wall.

Because he tenderly and tearfully bandaged me up when he found me half conscious.

Because I lied to the police, but they took him away anyway. 

Because his puppy loved him and missed him when he was gone.

Because I woke up with my hair glued to the pillow with dried blood.

Because I loved his family, and didn't want them to be disappointed.

Because the white shirt was so bloodstained even my beloved Oxi Clean couldn't save it.

Because I thought he was my best friend.

Because I bailed him out with student loan money and felt guilty he spent his birthday in jail.

Because he had become my family.

Because he knew himself well enough to know he probably couldn't ever forgive me, but he wanted to try.

Because he loved me intensely, more than he'd ever loved anyone.

Because he hated me intensely, more than he'd ever hated anyone.

Because he left me sweet notes to start my day.

Because I couldn't sleep at night knowing he had guns.

Because we had a hundred soul-touching, happy, fun, loving moments after that night in jail.

Because he grabbed my arm in anger yet again.  And we both knew what was coming next.

Because I NOW know what it feels like to be truly respected and loved and unafraid.  No matter any mistake I could possibly make--unafraid. 

Because I got out alive, when so many do not.

* * *

Love, Kristin

Do you need help? Here are some ideas:
From Violence UnSilenced: Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
In Austin, Texas:

If you're new to my blog, this will explain my passion for supporting women in domestic violence situations:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Learning to fly

The robin is plump and strong, her orange-red breast flashing across the yard to the nearest tree when we approach the front door. She built her nest there, above the porch light, while my parents were on vacation. It is made of sticks and straw and spit, and it is here she has chosen to have her babies, and launch them into the world. We have peeked inside to find three blue eggs, more beautiful than three nestled boxes from Tiffany’s.

My sister, my mother, my nieces, my son, and I watch and sneak looks into the nest, careful not to touch anything. I lift my son onto my shoulders so he can look, and we are awed when we see that one of the eggs has hatched, two days later. The newly-born baby bird is moving around the nest blindly, his beak wide open, waiting for mama to return.

It is here, in the house where I grew up, that I was a baby bird too. It has been a long time now; decades, even, since I grew up and flew away to feather my own nest. A series of memories flood my mind in this space, and one in particular reminds me of the ways I learned to fly.

In this memory, I am standing with Tina and Angie in front of Angie’s early 1980s-model Corolla in her driveway. It wasn’t particularly road worthy or exceedingly safe, for that matter. But it was the newest car of the three of us, and the most likely to take us on our journey without incident. With any luck.

Who knows how the start of the idea of this trip began; perhaps in the hot tub at Angie’s parents’ where our ideas often germinated. Big, grand ideas came from sitting in this hot tub with our girlfriends, relaxing into the steam and dreaming of our short- and long-term futures late into the night, long after everyone else had fallen asleep. In any case, the three of us decided that our high school graduation present to ourselves was a week on the open road.

Tina and I were already 18, having turned the milestone earlier in the year. Angie was still 17, and we planned to celebrate her birthday while we were traveling. In that picture in my head, I can see our smiling, excited faces to take that week and make the best of it.

At least two of our other friends were not permitted to go with us; I felt lucky that my parents said yes. Just a couple of years before that, they said no to me driving down to Indianapolis, three hours away, with friends to see U2.  See, mom, I told you I’d never forget that.

Our parents saw us off from Angie’s driveway, and we waved until we couldn’t see their faces anymore. Armed with travelers’ checks, cash, maps, snacks, and the best mix tapes we could create, we headed east.  Times were simpler, in a way, because we didn’t have cell phones, and our parents knew that we could not be reached in a moment’s notice, as they can now.

Angie collected money from each of us in a Ziploc bag for community funds for things like fuel and hotel rooms. On a very tight budget, we had planned on only one or two hotel room nights and plenty of gas. We dangled our arms out the windows and laughed and talked all day.

Starting in northern Indiana, we drove all the way from our hometown to Delaware, our first stop on the map, where we stayed with Angie’s uncle. 

672 miles down the road, with many more to go.

Making our way up the coast, we cruised by the New Jersey shore, but didn’t have a place to stay. We decided to veer over to Philadelphia for the night, and convinced a hotel clerk to rent a room to three teenagers with cash in hand. It took some convincing; we didn’t have any other option but to find a hotel or sleep in the car.

The name of the hotel has long since left our memories, but the sign had a large red apple atop the roof. We had a balcony, and we took the chairs from inside the hotel room and set them up in the hot summer air, each drinking a beer we had procured before leaving Indiana.  We felt so grown up.

Venturing onto the old streets of Philadelphia, we happened across a palm reader in a tiny house on a side street and impulse drove us inside. Walking in the front door, bells jingled and beads tickled our heads on the way in. Madame Palm Reader gave us our readings separately and told us our fortunes; we compared notes in the car later and gave each other our own fanciful readings as we drove north toward upstate New York. None of us could have dreamed how life would really turn out.

In upstate New York, we stayed with Tina’s grandparents, relief etched on their faces when we pulled up the gravel drive. After spending the night in bustling Philly, the cool forest soothed us, and we stayed for two nights to soak it in.

We left New York and approached the Canadian border with our driver’s licenses in hand, because we could do that back then. None of us had or needed a passport, at the time. The border crossing was uneventful, and we noticed the beauty along the highway on the Canadian side, all green and gorgeous. We kept going and going and going, opting to drive all night. We didn’t want to finish our vacation sleeping in the car, and we were out of money.  After some discussion, we agreed to a plan.

Motoring back across the border into the U.S., we arrived on the other side of Michigan at Warren Dunes State Park, a place we knew well from Senior Skip Day and so many other weekend days as teenagers; we stopped and stretched. 

We slept on the beach at sunrise, huddled together in towels and sweatshirts against the cool morning.  Peering into our plastic community bag, we had just enough to buy breakfast. Tired, happy, spent, we ate quietly, readying ourselves for the transition back to our safe nests.

One week. 1600+ miles. Three teenagers, flying on their own.


Angie is now the mother of eight, and I see her every summer when I go home to Indiana.  Tina lives in Texas, a few hours from me, with her beautiful family. They are still in my heart, often.

I asked Angie’s mother, when I saw her last weekend, if she had been nervous to let us go.

A little, she admitted. But I knew you were going to stay with a couple of relatives along the way, and you promised to check in.

It’s hard to let go, isn’t it? I said, inclining my head toward my four-year-old, building a sand castle next to me. I’m trying to learn how to do that even now. 

It is very hard sometimes, she said. But it’s necessary to give them wings to fly on their own.

I thought of those baby birds hatching above the porch light, pink and new and mouths open wide. Soon, they will get their feathers and fly, and their mother will watch them go, proudly, if all goes as planned.
I thought about this gift of freedom we were given to explore and wander.

As my son grows, one of my greatest challenges may be to learn to let him fly, little by little. I may not always like it. I will worry, and there is no stopping that. But I will boost him onto my shoulders and let him see the world and what it has to offer, and he will decide which direction to go.

It will be terrifying.

And exhilarating.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Friday Favorites - July 4

Happy 4th of July! My Italian grandmother had a way of saying that phrase with an exaggerated accent, and every year my mom and I call each other and say it in the same way and laugh.

We're headed to a family reunion next week in New Jersey, to see family I have not seen in more than 20 years, in some cases. I can't wait to see my cousin Kelley, who has gotten married had two kids since I last saw her six years ago. I look forward to seeing my aunts and uncles from my dad's side, and my cousins from my mom's side. It's going to be a whirlwind of travel, but we're ready.

In the meantime, here is some excellent reading from around the web for your long weekend.  

When I was a kid, my family took some epic road trips - this post from Angela at Jumping With My Fingers Crossed made me smile: 
"Give me a map, a minivan and a few kids with a sense of adventure and I am good to go."

If you have small children, this post from Arnebya of What Now and Why will resonate with you now. If your children are grown, you might miss these days

How do you define beauty? Jennifer's words:
"Beauty is in the way that we love. It is the shoulder that we cry on and the arms that embrace us. It is not the shape of our bodies or the color of our eyes. It is the fire in our hearts that lights us from the inside."

Speaking of beauty, check out these gorgeous photos of children playing around the world:

I loved this post from Kiran at Masala Chica about finding the positive in a tough situation:

This essay by Candy Schulman reminded me of the relics from my grandmother's past, and is a beautiful reminder of passing on a legacy to our children:

Looking for travel ideas for the rest of the summer?  Great post at National Geographic:

In the past few months, I have helped a few moms who are returning to the job market with their resumes. This is great information, and important for anyone who wants to stay connected to the job market while raising little people:

One of my favorite quotes right now:

"Above all, don’t ever change just to impress someone who says you’re not good enough.  Change because it makes you a better person and leads you to a brighter future.  People are going to talk regardless of what you do or how well you do it.  So worry about yourself before you worry about what others think.  If you believe strongly in something, don’t be afraid to fight for it.  Great strength comes from overcoming what others think is impossible."


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