Author Archives: Julie

On the Road

It was a full day of driving once I got on the road at 8:45, headed to a friend’s house in Toledo for leg one of my trip to Certificate 2 training in Geneva, IL.

Originally I thought I would rise and get on the road before everyone else woke up, getting a chunk of driving behind me and winding up at my destination in the early afternoon. It didn’t quite work that way, though.

I wanted to say a proper goodbye to everyone and didn’t want them setting pre dawn alarms and trying to get up before me. I decided to keep my usual routine and leave after dropping the girls off at school.

And walking Dewey.

Time in the car was long. I am grateful for Sheetz restrooms and turnpike service areas. I packed plenty of fruit, water, and protein bars to eat in the car. I’m listening to An American Marriage on audio book after hearing an NPR segment on it a week or two ago. A Contigo mug from home kept the coffee hot all day.

I arrived at my friend’s house at 5. Warm hugs and delicious stir fry awaited before we headed out to exercise. By exercise I mean enjoy the hydro massage tables and massage chairs and then decide we were really tired and ready to return home.

Hot tea and relaxing conversation, and I am ready to retire for the evening. I may stretch the kinks out on my yoga mat before hunkering down with a book to relax my eyes and brain. It is a luxury to be in my room by 9, one that I do not take for granted.

Thank you, Home front, for your tireless work to help this happen. I miss you all and am so thankful for you. Hugs and love!

Begin Again

Today finds me preparing to leave for Training Certificate, Level 2 which begins Thursday morning at 8:00 check-in. The road to this next step has not been without its bumps, and many are surprised to hear that I am doing this.

I didn’t know you were planning to do Level 2. 

Wow! That came up fast!

What are you doing again?

I was more vocal about my goal two years ago, when I applied for Level 1 and began the process. Stepping into the unknown, many stepped in with me, and the support was tangible and felt. I was, and still am, so grateful for that.

When I began this work, I was not aware of more, and at the time, there was not more.  Isn’t there always more, though? In this case, more looks like being in the second cohort to do this continued training in trauma narrative story work.

The opportunity presented when enrollment opened last fall, and I applied. That led to next, which I wrote about here.

Meanwhile there are the logistics. There has been such kind provision for this next step. I had a little over $800 left in my education fund after last year’s work. I used $500 to apply and then had a remainder of $1,800 left to pay in two installments. The first was due at the beginning of January.

I took the $300 that was left and rolled the dimes. That gave me $370. There was a $27 purchase I had made of something unnecessary that I returned, bringing the total to $397. Then, unexpectedly, I was given a check for $500. This gave me $897. I felt overwhelmed and content with *almost* enough, when that afternoon my daughter asked if I could do something for her, and she would pay me $5.

By the end of the day I had $902.  Just enough. A little extra.

As I embark on my journey tomorrow, I know that there is enough for this session, and there will be enough for the next. I just have to take one step at a time.

This time looks like driving instead of flying, while staying overnight on the way there and back with a friend to break up the drive. The training takes place outside of Chicago, so it’s not as far to travel. An unexpected change in lodging plans happened when I woke Saturday morning to the news that my Air BnB host had unexpectedly died, cancelling my reservation.

Thankfully, I was able to book another place that looks equally nice, or nicer, and it didn’t happen while I was a guest!

Preparation looks like leaving meals planned out and groceries in the house. It’s making sure everyone knows where they will be and when. It’s packing my suitcase and finishing my reading and printing out the story I plan to take.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers as I embark on this week. It will be an adventure, for sure! I look forward to learning more about engaging stories and about road-tripping solo.

In no particular order.

Becoming Baab

Last year my youngest son had a head cold. He kept following me around saying Mom, Mooom, in the whiny voice of a sick middle school boy, but it came out sounding like this, Bab, Baaab.

Somehow it stuck. The name, Baab, pronounced Bab. Rhymes with drab and flab.

Now all of the kids call me Baab, and sometimes even my husband lets it slip.

I have become Baab.

It’s a process I didn’t fully embrace until looking up its meaning in the ever-reliable Urban Dictionary  (not for the faint of heart, and possibly a very Baabish thing to do). I found it means Bad A$$ At Birth. That totally describes me, so I owned it.

Besides, I named each of them. It’s only fair they get a turn to name me.

Becoming Baab has meant embracing my aging self, as many Baabish things can be translated as old. It has also meant seeing myself as my children see me, as many Baabish things are annoying, funny, or embarrassing.

Becoming Baab has meant not taking myself too seriously and finding the humor in growing into a new season of life. It has reframed my experience of being teased and laughed AT to being teased and laughed WITH. There is a difference, and my children know how to walk that fine line.

I am learning to embrace their humorous selves.

I don’t want to say too much more, and thus hijack Riley’s column. It would be Baabish to go behind and overexplain. You will get a clearer picture of Baab as time goes on.

Mostly I wanted my readers to know that I am Baab, and I approved this new column.


Composting the Fart: The Weekly BAAB

Welcome to the all new edition of COMPOSTING THE FART!! You know how people always say ‘people on the internet are not what they seem’? Well Baab sure isn’t someone you would think wrote this Baabish BLOOG (maybe she is….. she is super cringey and baabish on her blog….). How many subscribers does she have? Oh wait, does someone like her even know what a subscriber IS?? Anyways, Composting the Fart will be the weekly compiling of all Baab’s Baabish moments during the week. I hope you enjoy this first edition!! -Riley (Guest Poster and Editor of Composting the Fart)

AHEM. First off. It’s an ordinary day, you come downstairs and you’re getting ready for school, and you’re halfway through breakfast. You’re eating cereal peacefully while others at the table are eating their breakfast, too. Suddenly you hear GALUMPH. GALUMPH. GALUMPH. And BAAAB walks out of the kitchen wearing her BAABISH BATHROBE. Then you hear her saying, “I wish my eyes would wake up.”, and you sit there thinking, Baab….. your eyes have woken up. (0.0)

SECONDD!! It’s Valentines day and you come downstairs and you see some chocolate at your table spot. ‘For you’. And you are happy and you’re walking around until…. SUDDENLY….. You realize the mantle…. IS COVERED IN BAABISH DECOR!! (Notice: I said decor because that sounds like a Baab trying to be hip). There’s flowers (mostly dead), weird animal things you made two years ago with your nestmates (yes, Baab keeps those weird things), and that one weird picture that has nothing to do with Valentines day but Baab pulls it out anyway (That rhymed. I’m studying to be a poet.).

Here is the third BAABISHLY BAAAAB. You’re riding home from Water Works listening to ‘The Greatest Showman’ because it just so happens to be a good musical. You’re favorite song from that comes on (I don’t know what it is called, sadly, but it’s the one where the dude is making a deal with another man at a bar). You’re listening to your favorite song and singing along in your head, when…. SUDDENLY…. BAAB starts snapping her BONY TENDRILS (AKA fingers) to the song! You’re favorite song is now ruined. Maybe you’ll start liking classical music like a BAAB (Yes, if you’re a Baab you’ll have a hankering to listen to your BAABISH BEATS.).

Finally. Best for last, I always say. If this ever happens in your home, somewhere there’s a Baab. It could be you. Anyways, you wake up from your nap and realize you need to rotate the wash so you’ll have some clean clothes for tomorrow. You walk upstairs to the laundry room to do so. You lumber on over to the drier (like a Baab) to open it. The drier doesn’t have a handle, so you either have to painfully pry it open with your fingers, or you have to take forever to use this weird yellow thing to open it. You manage to get the drier open and there….. you see with your very eyes….. one of THE MOST Baabish things in the history of BAAB….. all of Baab’s SWEATERS. “I had to wash them for my trip”, Baab says. “Like I always say (Note: never listen to Baab’s advice) always come prepared!” Maybe Baab should decide not to scare the fashionistas away this time…. Maybe Baab could crochet a new sweater from all the lint that collected in the drier from that load. After I wrote this, I realized…. no WONDER the drier doesn’t have a handle!

Drier: (Sniffle) I will never feel the same way again…..

Anyways, that’s it for this week’s WEEKLY BAAB. Thank you for reading, this is COMPOSTING THE FART!


Friendship Friday ~ Esther

I know what you do in your spare time. 

Esther’s knowing eyebrows move up and down rapidly. She says this each time I tell her, or she overhears, that I have eight children. She seems to know what everyone does in their spare time. When a portly man passes us on deck she looks to me and says, I know what HE does in HIS spare time.

Esther is 88 with bright eyes and a foggy mind. Attentive to her appearance, her thin white hair is updone with various clips and combs, topped with a black floppy bow. This gives the appearance of a crown which helps me to remember her name. Queen Esther. The black bow is a fixture of her look each time I cross paths with her.

She introduces herself as Esther the Pester, but I cannot bring myself to call her that as so many passengers do freely. Hey, Esther the Pester! To me she is just Esther.

She is the one who ends up with the heartiest portion of food at our plated dinner each evening. While my plate arrives with a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables, Esther’s is piled high with pasta, topped with a chicken breast or two.

Oh my, I’ll never be able to eat all of this. Do you want some? This question is rhetorical, as Esther begins cutting into chicken and sliding pasta onto my plate. She comes from a time when it was a sin to waste so much food. I agree that it is wasteful, but how did I end up the starving child that Esther must feed?

I take the food onto my plate graciously, for along with the generous sharing of her food is the generous sharing of the wine she has brought on board. It is not a bad tradeoff. My glass is filled and refilled copiously.

Esther was a beauty in her day, I am told. I believe it. Her eyes still sparkle, and her smile is free. The deep wrinkles on her face give her character and don’t seem dour at all. She, or someone who loves her, is attentive to her appearance. She looks attractive and smart in her dress.

Each night the photostaff takes several pictures of our table. Esther looks lovely in every picture. She really does. This hints that she looked pretty good once upon a time.

I used to live in Hollywood at Hollywood Studios when I was younger. Several other girls who lived there became actresses in movies. I could have, too, but I wouldn’t cooperate. She says this with that up and down eyebrow movement of hers. It’s pretty clear that cooperating would have involved sleeping with someone somewhere along the line.

This conversation took place eight years before its time, back in 2009. The media had not yet exploded with Hollywood (and beyond) sexual harassment allegations. If hashtags were even a thing, they were not yet mainstream. I was just a young woman listening to an old one relate her life experience and a part of her story.

I assure Esther that I’m glad that she didn’t cooperate or we might not be sharing a table on this cruise ship. I have no other words to offer. Only presence. We sit.

If I get ice cream for dessert will you have some? What flavor should I choose?

Something in me senses that Esther is a Butter Pecan kind of girl, which is exactly what I request for her.

I am right!

My Real Valentine

From the first day
I saw your face
I hoped that we would be
More than friends
I wanted you to see

That I found you special
Uniquely designed
And in your eyes
And in your smile
I saw that you were kind

You brought such joy
Into my life
Such laughter and such fun
And deep inside
I wanted you
To be the only one

That I would walk next to
To have and to hold
And I believed
With all my heart
Our love was strong and bold

But fragile was
The seed of love
We wanted it to grow
Impatient and impetuous
We simply did not know

That you cannot force love
Demand it be strong
And after many lonely years
We found where we went wrong

We’re standing now
Together here
We’re facing each new day
With boldness and integrity
We’re learning how to play

 It’s knowing what we’ve lost
That helps us be found
Our hearts are drawing close again
We’re coming back around.

Happy Valentine’s Day ’18 to the Love of My Life who has made me laugh and feel safe from day one. You are a gift, Steve McClay. Thank you for becoming more real with me through all the seasons, especially those winter ones. Something beautiful is growing from all of this compost. I just know it! Something beautiful already has. Our love.

This image created with Wikki Sticks was stuck to my car window by Steve in 1987. I saved it in my scrapbook for posterity.

***The header image is from a helium balloon that I deflated and saved to remember the playful love of my then boyfriend, now husband. Thank you for your steadfastness, Babe. You’ve always been the best Valentine.***

January’s End

January’s end finds me sitting in a quiet house breathing in the savory aroma of a roast cooking in the Crock Pot. A dog curls up beside me, shifting from dead sleep only when I make the slightest move. It is a constant trigger and practice for me to remember that a dog is not the same as a newborn.

My nerves are still in recovery from years of newborns and sleeping babies.

There hasn’t been much quiet this month, so the level I am experiencing in this moment feels delicious. I struggle to breathe in and focus on the now, rather than allowing my mind to back up or race ahead.

Now is all there is. It is such a gift.

January’s end brings three teenagers living under one roof, again. It finds me marveling at the passing of time, again. It reminds me that February is coming, and I have story work to do, again.

January’s end carries me to a place of provision and uncertainty, of endings and beginnings, of sunshine and cloudiness. It brings acute awareness of the tension that I live in daily and the freedom that I am learning to embrace.

I have described to many that this season feels strangely familiar, yet so very different.

Familiar is the fridge that is never full, the hot water tank that is always low, the towels and washcloths that can’t stay stocked, the hair conditioner that is empty. It is the after school routine of endless driving and dropping off and errands, even though we try to keep plans and activities simple.

Different is the small car I drive during that routine, unlike the large white van filled with car seats and preschoolers, along for the ride. Different is the quiet I can sit in while waiting or the music I can choose to play. It is not entertaining and chasing after little people while waiting for big ones.

It’s being ten years older and feeling it. Everywhere.

January’s end brings wisdom and further clarity and hope for what is to come while honoring what has been so very good.