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I’ve always admired my parents’ relationship with their friends, Don and Cyndy. They’re the kind of friends who will drive you to the airport at 3:30 in the morning, bring a sloppy joe meal when you just got home from the hospital, and touch base when everyone else seems to have forgotten. Last night, I was reminded yet again, that Don and Cyndy are my parents’ first responders.

“The person who arrives first at the scene of an accident or other emergency situation, for example a police officer or firefighter.” – Macmillan Dictionary definition of FIRST RESPONDER

As you may or may not know, my dad had a lung transplant three months ago. Since my dad just finished pulmonary rehab and it’s been three months since the transplant, my parents thought there was a good chance they’d be able to move back home this weekend or early next week. Unfortunately, this week, my dad’s lung function tests went down, and they found multiple antibodies in his blood that aren’t supposed to be there. He had a bronchoscopy yesterday morning, which is a procedure where they go in and collect fluid and tissue from inside the lung to examine, more closely, the health of the lung. The doctors told my dad that he would need to be admitted to the hospital after the bronchoscopy in order to do a “plasma exchange” to treat the antibodies they discovered this week. They didn’t disclose or promise a timeframe for the hospitalization. We thought it could be a couple hours, an overnight stay, or perhaps worst case, a couple days. But yesterday afternoon when my dad got admitted to the hospital, the doctor came in to let my parents know that he would need to stay for a minimum of 10 days and that they would be treating him for rejection through a “very difficult” pharmaceutical and plasma exchange treatment. If the 10-day treatment works and the results of the bronchoscopy are good, my dad will be able to go home after that. If the 10-day treatment does NOT work and the results of the bronchoscopy are NOT good, then my dad will need to go through ANOTHER 10-day plasma exchange treatment. This was disheartening and completely unexpected news, especially since my dad has been feeling well.



Last night, I stayed up late to get as much work done as possible before my dad begins treatment today. I worked on laundry and photo editing for my photography business. I also spent time writing a Caring Bridge post to update friends and family with my parents’ unfortunate news.

Around 10:00 p.m., I received a text from my mom’s best friend, Cyndy. Brief, but heartfelt, Cyndy wanted to let me know that she and Don are planning to visit my parents at the hospital around 4:00 p.m. today after she gets off work. She was bummed that they had to go through more when they’ve already gone through so much. Two sentences. That’s it. Simple. Thoughtful. Out-of-her way kindness. Who does that? A first responder. Don and Cyndy are my parents’ first responders.


In the past 12 years, I’ve been through a lot of unusually traumatic and stressful situations with my sister’s battle with addiction, mental illness, and two pregnancies as a single mom; my husband’s eye cancer; my dad’s lung transplant. I’ve had more than ample time and experience to recognize and think about the need for us to have first responders in life.

Who is your first responder? 

Who’s the first to send a text, email or Facebook message when you’re in need? Who will bring you a meal when everything’s going to pot? Who will offer you child care or a ride when you can’t drive yourself? Who will ask “How are you doing today?” and really mean it? Who will sense that you need encouragement when everyone else waits for you to say you need it? Who’s the first to forgive you when you haven’t updated them in longer than you should because you’re SO stressed and preoccupied? Who will show up to the hospital, the special event in your honor? Who’s the person who sends you gas gift cards when you’ve traveled back and forth to the clinic three hundred times? Who’s the person who actually cares what’s happening in your life? Who’s the person who consistently cares about what’s going on in your life? Who’s the person who responds in your time of greatest need?

That’s your first responder.

Today I’m asking us to think about one very important question.

Who is your first responder?

Perhaps you know the answer without thinking at all. Perhaps you need to do a little more thinking.

Who is your first responder?

Who’s there for you at the drop of a hat? Who’s there for you in the worst case scenario? Who shows up on your behalf?

I do believe there’s always someone. Perhaps it’s your spouse. Perhaps it’s a family member or someone from your church. Perhaps it’s an old friend, a new friend or a neighbor. I don’t know who it is for you, but there’s always someone who shows up in an emergency. Thank God.

But perhaps this question begs for some soul searching, or at least some stand up and noticing. What kind of relationships are we fostering with others to the extent that we actually SHOW UP for one another in times of great need? This is a question worth pondering. I promise you it’s a question worth pondering TODAY, whether you’re in need or not.

Who is your first responder?



I brought my girls and a friend to the beach yesterday, and happened to plop myself in front of a group of three moms and their kids. Clearly, they knew each other and had the afternoon planned well in advance. Based on the conversation I overheard and behavior I observed (one of the moms took 20 minutes to test her daughter on time tables), I deduced that these three were homeschooling moms.

“Sorry, you get a front row seat to all of this,” said one of the moms after lots of kiddo action transpired three feet from my beach towel.

“No worries,” I said. “I have another one at home who’d typically be adding to our chaos if he was here, so I totally understand. No problem at all.”

“How old is your son?,” she asked.

“13,” I replied.

“So you know way more than we do,” she said.

“Well, looks like two of yours are boys, so you’re quite experienced as well,” I added.

And that was it.

That was my interaction with ONE of those THREE moms.

After that brief interchange, we went about our own business. She continued conversing with the two moms. I continued chilling on my beach towel, watching my two girls and a friend play in the water.


I’ve been a mom for nearly 14 years now.

In the first 12 years of motherhood, I experienced the whole realm of working motherhood. I worked FULL-TIME, FOUR days a week, THREE days a week, TWO days a week, and ONE day a week at some point or another during those 12 years. All things considered, two and three days a week seemed to be the best fit for me.

But then I was called to step away from my work as a speech-language therapist to pursue writing and photography. In order to make a real run at writing and photography, I KNEW I needed to stop my therapy work entirely. So for the past 18 months, I’ve lived this very ODD life of being a full-time stay-at-home mom AND a mom who’s trying to launch two work-at-home careers.

Let me tell you, I’ve learned a great deal about stay-at-home moms during these past 18 months. More than I ever thought I’d learn. More than I ever cared to learn. Enough to give me a TRUE perspective on what it’s really like to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.

First of all, staying at home full-time in America is NOT a cake walk. For the most part, it is NOT valued by our capitalistic, work-centered culture. I don’t know the statistics and no need to go into the details, but everyone knows that the majority of modern-day moms work outside the home in some capacity. And most of the moms who stay home full-time have children on the younger side. So if you’re a mom of children of mixed ages like me (13, 11 & 4), the whole stay-at-home mom situation gets even more awkward and makes you even more of a rare bird.

In America, if you’re not actively making money, you’re not as valued. We like to believe we value full-time stay at home moms, but to be honest, now that I’ve experienced full-time stay-at-home motherhood, I’m not sure we do.

In America, if you can’t answer the question “What do you do?” with a real, active job title, you’re up a creek. “You stay at home full-time? Oh.” (Awkward pause. Person doesn’t know what to say. Person wonders what you DO with your day. Person wonders WHY you have an education but you’re not using it. Person wonders WHY you have solid experience in the workforce and aren’t “working” anymore. Think I’m making this up? No way. It’s humiliating and humbling.)

In our neighborhood, streets are pretty much EMPTY during the daytime. I’d go so far to say that our neighborhood streets are pretty much EMPTY during the daytime, even in the summer. When I’m home alone with my daughter during the day and she wants to play with kids, I can’t guarantee even ONE child will be available in the neighborhood. Maybe yes? Probably no. Let’s just say this…I’ve resorted to texting the neighborhood daycare lady so we can meet at the neighborhood park once in a while.

In America, if you’re a highly educated woman who’s staying home full-time with her children, you have days where you feel incredibly vulnerable. Is this really the right choice for me and my children? Am I wasting my college degree? Are my children really better off with me at home, or would they be better off at daycare or day camp where all the other children are having fun socializing and doing fun kid stuff together all day? Honestly, most of the time, I’m not really sure.


I’m new to this staying at home space, and won’t be here much longer. Only 14 months of staying home full-time before all three of my children are in school full-time. Once they’re all in school full-time, I’ll be focusing solely on writing and photography and other related PAID and UNPAID endeavors during the daytime hours. So honestly, I’m not really seeking long-term answers for myself. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have experienced stay-at-home motherhood, and when I look back at this time of my life, I know I’ll never regret it.

But here’s the thing.

Many days, I wish I could step outside to a village full of moms and children doing this motherhood and childhood thing together. The moms would chat about all the things that matter and don’t matter. Perhaps they’d begin dinner preparations together, or enjoy lunch together. The children would run, play and entertain themselves. There’d never be a shortage of kids, because staying at home to raise the children would be the norm. You’d always know that if you stepped outside, the village would be waiting. Kids here. Moms there. Support everywhere. People who understood your stay-at-home mom lifestyle everywhere. (I’m unrealistically optimistic, okay? I fully realize I’m not in Africa anymore.)


Since we don’t live in villages in America, it’s imperative that we not only embrace, but adopt and whole-heartedly support secret societies of stay-at-home moms that are already in existence.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms at the gym.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms at Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) groups.

Secret societies of stay-at-home homeschooling moms.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms doing playdates together.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms at the maze on Monday, toddler Tuesday at the mall, the park reserve on Wednesday, swimming at the pool on Thursday, and the zoo on Friday.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who bring meals to one another when life gets crazy.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who can lend a hand for an hour or two when you just can’t do this anymore.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who get it, who understand it, who can say “yep, been there, done that, I totally get it!”

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who can love and support and care for one another in the best and worst of times.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who do life together, who honor one another’s hard, hard work, who understand that this lifestyle has value and worth beyond measure.




I think I was sitting behind a secret society of stay-at-home homeschooling moms yesterday at the beach. Good for them! I’m grateful they have a space to joke “We need to go to counseling together,” and “I get so agitated with her dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD.” I’m grateful that one of those moms felt comfortable enough around the other moms to scold her child “Stop kicking that sand, move away, it’s getting in our faces!” and NOT feel like a “terrible mom.” I’m grateful they were able to eat lunch together and chat while their children played in the sand. I’m grateful they had an opportunity to feel supported and loved and cared for. I’m grateful they created this secret society for themselves.

Stay-at-home moms. Rise above the mainstream. Keep up those secret societies! Build them. Support them. Nurture them. Invite other moms to them. Never, ever forget that America’s in desperate need of secret stay-at-home societies. Never, ever forget that moms are in desperate need of secret stay-at-home societies.

If staying at home full-time has value and we want it to be more highly valued in the United States of America, we MUST find a way to support our stay-at-home moms and children.

Secret Societies of Stay-at-Home Moms.

They’re a solution to an epidemic of a problem.

Moms and children need support. Moms and children need community. Moms and children need love. Moms and children need to know they’re not going crazy. Moms and children need to know they’re making good choices for their family.


End of story.




Dear Friend,

I sigh as I sit down to type this letter. Do you know why? Because I’ve neglected you. I’ve outright neglected you. It’s not okay. It’s simply not okay.

Back in the day, we were best friends. You’re so humble, kind and gracious to have still called me best friend this past year. But I’m afraid I haven’t acted like a best friend. AT. ALL.

Back in the day, we were active friends. We lived together. We did lots of stuff together. We shared our deepest, darkest secrets with one another at the dinner table. Long walks and late night conversations bonded us forever. Not to mention all the crazy fun we had together. Honestly, I’ve never had so much fun as I did with you.

You made me free.

You made me laugh.

You made me feel special.

You noticed all the little things.

And you always had the capacity to go deep.

Back in the day, we spent a lot of time together. In fact, I’ve spent more time with you than 90% of friends I’ve had in nearly 40 years. Time. It’s worth something. It means something. It meant something to me. Time means we went deep. Time means we were true. Time means you saw me, and I saw you. Flaws, beauty and all.

Back in the day, I’m sure we would’ve never imagined that you’d move there and I’d be here. SO far. Yet so close.

What does this mean for us?

It means I haven’t seen you in something like seven years. Maybe more?


I’m sighing again, friend.

That’s too long.

Distance made me immune. Distance caused me to believe we’ll never recapture the essence of the friendship we once had. Distance made me believe it’s okay to NOT respond in a timely fashion. Distance made me forget your awesome, beautiful, gracious humanity. Distance told me “Hey, no worries. It’s not like we can go out on Saturday night, anyway.” Distance made me inconsistent and terribly unpredictable as a friend.

I’m not nearly as awesome at friendship as I once was.

And I’ve proven myself to be a horrible long-distance friend.

I’ve neglected to return phone calls. Worse yet, my best excuses were “so busy,” “too busy,” and “too crazy around here.”

I’ve neglected to return emails in a timely fashion. You’re AMAZING at email, and I’m hit and miss when it comes to responding to personal email of any length, width or depth. It irks me beyond belief that you sent an email wishing me Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary last July 4th, and I found it in my inbox a couple weeks ago, realizing I likely never even responded.

I neglected to acknowledge your 40th birthday with a call or card.

And yeah, back to email. It seems like every time I throw you a tough one, you respond immediately, with depth, sincerity and love. And I don’t respond for another month or two, three or four. What’s up with me and this long-distance friendship thing? Clearly, I did MUCH, MUCH better when you were in my daily physical space.

I’m running myself into a rut, and I know this isn’t what you would want for me. You always want the best. You always love, even when it’s not justified. You always send the sincerest, even when I’ve been more selfish than I care to admit. You’re always honest. Always kind. Always true. Always loyal. Always FULL of grace. Forgiving. Thoughtful. And humble.

Sighing again, friend. This is weighing on my heart.

I don’t know what to do.

Honestly, I hate talking on the phone. I just need to get better at email. And somehow…we need to see each other again and maybe more often.

Seven plus years is too long.

We need a night or two together.

Girl’s night. Just you and me.

Then maybe another girl’s night with some of our old friends.

Then an afternoon hanging with our kids at the park. They play. We chat. We eat picnic lunch. However long it takes.

No rush.

No distractions.

Just us.

Catching up. In real life. In real time.

Yeah, that would be good.

That would be awesome.

I’m sorry, friend.

Please accept my apologies.

I know I’ve already addressed this up and down, and I know you’re filled to the brim with GRACE, GRACE and MORE GRACE, but I’m wholly convicted. I’ve not been good at this long-distance friend thing.

I don’t have a great solution, but one thing’s for sure…you’re worth more than I’ve given.

This, I need you to know. 

You’re still in my heart. You’re still there. Nothing’s changed deep down.

Above all, I pray you find a true heart hidden in this letter.

A heart still loyal.

A heart that still calls you friend.

A heart that remembers the best days, treasures the bond, and expects hope and a future. For us. As friends. For now…LONG, LONG-distance best friends.





loveletters2This is part of a month-long series on friendship titled Love Letters to Friends. To read the rest of the posts in the series, CLICK HERE and you’ll be directed to the series introductory post. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll find all the posts listed and linked for your reading pleasure.


Dearest You,

I’m pretty sure you wanted to be friends with me. You reached out to me. Personally. On more than one occasion. FOUR times to be exact. I’m quite embarrassed to admit that I declined all four invitations.

Why did I say no? I don’t know.

I’ve likened myself to you more than once. I see myself in you. You and me? We’re kind of the same. You’re the high action version of me. The version of me that achieves and accomplishes and knows everyone. The version of me that’s smart and witty, lovely and involved. The version of me that “does it all,” and does it all well.

But for some reason, that version of me isn’t working right now. I’m all pooped out. I’m all worked out. I’ve achieved. I’ve done it all. But yeah. I’m kind of tired.

I need time to explore the creative side of me. I need time to determine if my dreams have meat to them, or if they’re just puffy clouds of cotton candy high in the sky. I need time to breathe and be, and figure out what life’s gonna look like through and far beyond my forties.

You and me? Yeah. We’re kind of the same.

Deep down, I wonder if you remind me of the person I “should” be, the person I “could” be, the person I believe the world would prefer me to be. Yeah. That’s probably right. Totally right.

Honestly. Shame on me for putting my insecurities in the middle of a friendship you wanted to forge. I should have just been myself, ALL of myself, and said YES to every one of those first four invitations.

But before I go off the deep end and dramatize this as if it’s a done deal…

I did reach out once. (It went well.)

And I did say yes, TWICE, to your most recent attempts to include me in something super cool. (I give you major props. It was as super cool as it seemed.)

But truth be told, we’re much more acquaintances than we are friends.

That’s my fault. That’s my insecurity getting in the way of friendship.

Please accept my sincerest apologies.

If you ever reach out again with a personal one-on-one invitation, perhaps I should seriously consider a YES.





loveletters2This is part of a month-long series on friendship titled Love Letters to Friends. To read the rest of the posts in the series, CLICK HERE and you’ll be directed to the series introductory post. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll find all the posts listed and linked for your reading pleasure.


Dear Friend,

From day one, I knew there was something special about you. We were kindred souls somehow.

I found out you were from Canada, took a couple glances at your husband, and proceeded to initiate our first conversation with the most absurd question ever. “You don’t happen to know who Ann Voskamp is, do you? Because your husband looks exactly like Ann’s husband. I thought there was a remote chance they’re brothers.”

Stupid, okay. What was the likelihood of me meeting my favorite writer’s brother-in-law thousands of miles away from home? 0% chance, I’d say. I don’t know what I was thinking. Sorry for the stupid question. Totally geeky, I know.

But I was onto something after all. Of course, your husband wasn’t Ann Voskamp’s brother! But you were fully aware of Ann and a huge fan of her writing. That connected us, like that, from day one. Without saying another word, we “got” each other, we understood, we both loved Ann’s writing and that’s all we needed to know.

Our friendship blossomed and we forged a friendship in six days. Six days total. That’s all the time we had. We ate dinners together. Conversed together. Asked hard questions together. Experienced beautiful moments together. Experienced GOD together. It was rich, life giving and life changing.

I’ll never, ever forget the day we sat in a circle and told stories and I felt like a fool telling my own. “This is just really important to me,” I sobbed. You put your hand on my leg, looked into my eyes with the deepest sincerity I’d ever seen, tilted your head in the kindest of ways, and said quietly “We love who you are.” I’m sure I cried some more. Only this time, I knew it was okay. Somebody understood. YOU understood. You got me.

We were kindreds.

Before we parted ways on the last day, we hugged and agreed to stay connected on Facebook. Then you handed me that infamous letter, the letter I didn’t read until later.

Yes, friend. You gave me two of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given. First, the gift of feeling completely KNOWN, UNDERSTOOD and ACCEPTED for who I am. Second, the gift of the most beautiful letter I’ve ever received from a friend.

In it, you expressed the most endearing words. Words of truth. Words that spoke deeply to my heart. Words that mean the world to me.

I’ve kept that letter in my Bible for two years now. Folded with the beauty inside. Just as you handed it to me. Every month or two, I take it out and read it to remind myself WHO it was that YOU saw those six days. You saw the real me and you loved me. Thank you, friend.

I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again this side of heaven. But every now and then, you pop into my Facebook feed with your incredible words of love and encouragement, and I remember how amazing you were, how amazing you ARE.

Sisters are the best.






loveletters2This is part of a month-long series on friendship titled Love Letters to Friends. To read the rest of the posts in the series, CLICK HERE and you’ll be directed to the series introductory post. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll find all the posts listed and linked for your reading pleasure.

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