Saying Yes to the Mess: a letter to my son

You have been around for seven months and this is the first time I am getting around to writing in your baby book because, well, new beginnings are hard.

Filling out this baby book is particularly hard because it wants a nice, tidy storyline. You know, the kind that can easily be penned on ‘fill-in-the-blank’ lines from prewritten prompts such as:

“When your parents first met, we_____”

“We knew we were ready for you when_____”

“When we found we were expecting you, we celebrated by_____”

Look, I can’t answer these questions. Our life doesn’t follow this script. There are not enough lines in this whole book to do your beginning justice. After staring blankly at the first page for several minutes, I got flustered and ripped it out. In its place, I’ll insert this first life lesson for you:

It’s all messy—life, words, love, hair, bed, heart. All of it.

Here’s the thing, baby boy. When your parents first met, we started down a long, hard road to heartbreak. We were never ready for you. You were, quite frankly, a big oops. When we found out we were expecting you, we lied down in a dark room for hours and cried guttural, ugly, “my life is over” cries. This is not exactly the heartwarming sequence of events I would like to recount on the pages of a book decorated with tiny, smiling clouds and animals, but this is how your story starts.

My love, when your life goes off script (not if, when, because at some point it will) and you find yourself playing an unexpected part or trying to navigate an epic plot twist, own it. If there is anything that life and a love for stories has taught me, it is this: the messy, the mistake, the imperfection of the thing…that is what creates the beauty of it.

Someone asked me the other day if I could imagine my life before you. I laughed. “Oh yes, definitely,” I told her. I paused for a moment and then finished, “…but I can’t imagine my life without him now.”

That is the magic of the mess. The tears I shed the night I learned of your impending arrival were real and warranted. My life as I knew it was over and I had every right to grieve it’s sudden, unexpected finale. But the thing that you think will ruin your life is actually what transforms it. The end of one thing is always the beginning of something else. Saying yes to the unknown, saying yes to the hard thing, even when I’ve had to drag my own feet (or, in this case, grow my own belly) has only ever resulted in various forms of goodness and growth.

Your beginning was complicated and hard, unexpected and initially uncelebrated, but you were an epic plot twist that I owned. You are a change that I still choose to embrace with each new day.

This is the part of the letter where I feel like I should elaborate on all the ways I have become a better person and how you’ve transformed my life and made it so wonderful. Instead, I’m going to admit that I’m still learning and uncovering those things while being very tired, consumed by your spirited energy and trying to take care of both of us.

On really hard days, I remember that the goodness of you, the ways that you grow and cause me to do the same, will only enhance my story. I know that saying yes to you will impact me in ways I cannot yet fathom. I wait with great anticipation to see the beauty of our story, of your story, unfold. I promise to always try and find the magic in the messes you will make.




Photo credit: Ivory House Photography



I am very excited to share this with you:  See Through Stories

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You see, I’ve had several life ties to Alzheimer’s disease: personal (my grandma was diagnosed), professional (I worked as a CNA on an dementia unit), and academic (this was my research topic for my dissertation). In grad school I had this idea to start a story-telling project with people diagnosed early onset and well… I ACTUALLY MADE THE IDEA HAPPEN. Or got it started, anyway. And that’s the hardest part, right?

This has been slowly growing over the last few months and today I am officially launching the website for See Through Stories. There are only two features so far, but I’m hoping that all of you will help me spread the word so I can make connections to more people interested in taking part. I think if there can be anything beautiful about having dementia, it might be that it forces people to live fully present in the moment. I think we could all learn a little from that.

I don’t know if this will last one year or 50 years. I don’t know if this will stay a project or become and organization. I don’t know if this will just feature people where I live or if I’ll be fortunate enough to hear the stories of people with dementia all over the globe. I don’t know if I’ll work solo or if I’ll be lucky enough to form a dream team. There’s a lot I don’t know.

It’s new. It’s figuring itself out. I’m going to be patient and present with it. No matter what it becomes or doesn’t become, I’m proud of myself for at least seeing the idea through. And I expect that I’ll enjoy every bit of the work immensely because it has me all like: damn, people are beautiful.



Extra special thanks to:

The Alzheimer’s Association in Des Moines for connecting me to the wonderful people I’ve interviewed so far // My family, for literally everything // Ryan, who helped get this off the ground from every technical standpoint and was my brainstorming partner// Sarah, Rachel, and Lewis for consistently insisting I must do this, from the very beginning // Andrew, for being my sounding board.