Sometimes, Mama, you are gonna FAIL

And it won’t be the end of the world.

I promise.


Daughter, age 2

Daughter, age 2

See that cute little toddler in the photo above? Now imagine a pair of snazzy pink and white sunglasses — that match her adorable gingham dress — perched on that wee freckled nose.

That’s what she was wearing, right down to those white sandals, the day I accidentally threw my trusting and precious child down the stairs.

Rick and I were living in San Antonio, working for the newspaper there. When we’d moved there in 2004, we settled for a rental, not wanting to buy a house until we became more familiar with the city. In 2005, a few months after our son was born, the four of us set out on multiple house-hunting expeditions.

Each Sunday, after church, we’d visit all of the open houses that caught our eye. One Sunday found us at a charming bungalow that had been fully renovated. A few things remained to be done — like adding a bannister to the steep, wooden staircase leading to the second floor.

On this particular home tour, Rick was toting our infant son in a carrier. So when I ventured upstairs, my 2-year-old daughter wanted to go too.

On the way back down, worried that she might fall, I insisted on carrying her.

NOTE: Stairs have NEVER been my friend. I have not only fallen down them, but UP them. Why on earth I thought I was better qualified than my toddler for a bannisterless descent is beyond me. Regardless …

I hoisted my little girl up onto my hip and started down. Which is when one of my cute, strappy sandals gave way. (Yes, the majority of my falling-down stories involve not only stairs, but ridiculous footwear.) Anyway, we weren’t even halfway down when that fickle sandal twisted and I stumbled.

As I lunged against the wall, trying to catch myself, Baby Girl was literally catapulted from my arms. I watched in horror as she hurtled forward, bouncing against each step.

So here’s Rick, strolling from the dining room into the living room. He sets the infant carrier down at the foot of the stairs to give his arm a rest.

Just then, he hears a thud. And then another thud. And then his daughter tumbles, head-over-heels, to his feet, sunglasses askew and eyes scrunched up in that pre-cry sort of way. Meanwhile, the thuds continue as I ping-pong from one wall to the other on my way down.

Rick was still leaning down to pick  up our daughter when I landed at his feet. “Oh my God! What are you doing?!” he shrieked.

NOTE: This question has been shouted/screamed at me countless times when I have inexplicably stumbled or fallen down. I reference an incident in downtown Memphis, when a panicked photographer yelled that very question as I tripped over absolutely nothing and fell smack on my hands and knees. He had to hoist me up by my coat collar. I then staggered, bleeding, into a restaurant to clean myself up.

Despite the numerous times frantic people have inquired as to what I was doing, I have yet to produce an adequate answer.

So anyway, back to that Sunday: Rick has just watched his toddler AND wife roll down a staircase.

Baby Girl was fine. Startled and crying, but fine. I, on the other hand, had bruises from ankle to thigh. The next several days were misery as I hobbled from one place to another.

Still, every time I remembered my little girl curled up in a ball at the foot of the stairs — having been launched from her own mother’s arms — I cried. I thought of those little sunglasses sitting crooked on her nose and just wailed.

Again, she was fine. I’m the one who bore both the physical and emotional injuries.

This, my fellow mamas, is part of motherhood. We screw up. But then we pick ourselves up — and, ahem, sometimes our children — and carry on.

You will never, ever be a perfect mom. None of us will be. But, just like our children, we are a resilient lot, who, BECAUSE we love our babies so very much, will plant kisses on tiny, bloody knees and plaster countless Band-aids on boo-boos. We will listen to tales of friendships gone wrong and try to explain the many injustices in this world.

And we will forgive ourselves, knowing that our mistakes most often are the result of the best of intentions. The key is in remembering to bandage our own boo-boos — to ask for help when needed and to allow for a good cry now and then.

Then, just like our children, we’ll pick at those annoying, itchy scabs, and continue a journey that, while often marked by pain and sadness, leads us to sweet moments of indescribable joy.



Dying? What matters most? Really.

So as someone who came within just a few hours of death — according to the doctors who got to deal with my severely dehydrated organs-shutting-down, “Gee, your kidneys have stopped working” and “There’s an ominous shadow on your lungs” and “You may have some heart issues” self  — I can say this:

I am in no position to judge anyone.

As I lay dying — DYING, people, in the the desert and even in the hospital — I wasn’t worried about whether my gay friends were ruining the whole stupid romanticized and fictionalized Biblical concept of marriage. I didn’t concern myself with how legalized marijuana might totally corrupt our country.

I didn’t ponder the circumstances under which abortion should or shouldn’t be allowed.

Because really? It doesn’t matter what other people do or what they believe. It’s none of my or your business. God loves all of us. And because he loves us — AS WE ARE — he doesn’t expect us to judge our fellow human beings or to render “punishment” as we see fit.

We are all human. We are not God. We have NO RIGHT to judge ANYONE for what they do or what they believe. Period.

When I was out there, in the desert, I thought only about how I had lived. How I had loved. Whether or not I had been a good person.

Because, really? That’s all that matters.

Have you loved people for who they are, regardless of what you or they believe? Have you tried to help people, regardless of what you or they believe?

Are you kind? ARE. YOU. KIND?

Are you NICE to people?

Really, that’s all it comes down to. You can read the Bible from Genesis to the very, very end and the ONLY THING THAT MATTERS is whether you were a kind and good and non-judgmental person.

When I was sprawled out there, under that mesquite tree, I didn’t worry about anything but this:

Was I a kind and loving person? Did I use my talents for the better good?

That’s it, ya’ll. That’s what it comes down to.

What. Did. I. Do. To. Make. The. World. A. Better. Place.

Your hate, your condemnation, your ugliness? It means nothing. It’s not scoring you extra “Heaven” points. Sorry to disappoint. You just come across as an asshole. That’s all.

If you look at your friends and colleagues and strangers on the street with judging eyes and a judging heart — well, guess what?! YOU ARE NOT GOD. You don’t get to decide who is good or bad. You’re just an average, run-of-the-mill, sinful human being.

Sorry. But it’s true.

One day, when you find yourself facing your own mortality, you will realize that. And it may or may not be too late to rectify your thinking and your hateful, horrid actions.

We are asked to do one thing: Love one another. That’s all. We don’t have to  point fingers. Or judge. Or tell everyone else what they’re doing wrong.

Because when you lay alone in the desert, and you realize that you are probably going to die, and you look at God and hear God and understand God — you totally understand that YOU ARE NOT GOD.

So get over yourself. Be kind.



My desert scars

Even now, seven months after getting lost in  the Chiahuahuan desert, my body is a testament to our ordeal.

I’m still shedding needles.

Every time I think the last of them are gone, another blister forms and another teeny-tiny needle pops out. I’m beginning to think that I’ll still be plucking little cactus spines from my butt when I’m in my 80s.

My torso and thighs are dotted with purplish-red spots. These represent where the biggest needles were embedded.

My legs are a latticework of scars. My thighs and calves are criss-crossed with white lines. These are reminders of the cactus plants that scratched our legs without leaving needles behind.

And then there’s my left arm, which still bears the scars left by a three-inch, fixed-blade knife. Those scars show where I tried to cut into my veins, hoping to drink my own blood.

The strange thing is that I don’t find any of these scars ugly. I’m actually quite proud of them. They remind me of what I endured. They remind me that my body didn’t quit on me. They remind me that I survived, that I am here, that I am with my family and friends.

This year, for the first time in … I don’t know … ever, maybe … I bought a bikini. Not just one, but TWO.

I’m no longer in possession of a 20-year-old body. I’ve had two kids. One was born via an emergency C-section.

And the desert left an even more indelible marks on me. I’m scarred. Probably always will be. And not just physically.

But I’m proud of these scars. They are proof of strength. Proof of miracles. Proof of God’s mercy.

I don’t mind showing them off.

Several months ago, I went to my dermatologist for my annual checkup. I didn’t talk about the desert. And he didn’t bring it up. But I could tell that he knew. It was the way in which he traced the scars on my arms and legs. He was knowing, yet gentle. I almost felt he was paying homage to them.

Or maybe that’s just my own interpretation.

Because not a day passes that I don’t look at my scars and marvel over the fact that I am alive.

The marks all over my body may not be pretty. But they remind me that anything is possible, that some things just cannot be explained.

And I am so, so grateful.

My legs. In the hospital in El Paso.

My legs. In the hospital in El Paso.

Blisters on my fingers. Each blister harbors countless tiny, hairlike needles.

Blisters on my fingers. Each blister harbors tiny, hairlike needles.


The scars on my legs.

My legs in March. Still scarred. But oh well.