Baths & Buns – A Short Story

It had been an adventurous few days for Thelma, Louise and Patty (the Nice One.) There were transatlantic flights; train/tube rides to a hotel in the London suburbs; a few days playing tourist in the city; learning to drive on the wrong side of the road in a rental car; trying to place an order at a Welsh café where the cook spoke no English. Even a visit to Stonehenge.

A few days into their trip, the ladies were a wee bit tired. And perhaps a bit cranky as well, but they were determined to soldier on and enjoy every last minute of their vacation.

Thelma slid their rental car into a slot in front of the Royal Crescent in Bath, England on the unseasonably warm November afternoon.

Once parked, the three set out to explore the town and marvel in the beauty of the old architecture and feeling of history that the town of Bath exudes.

Patty, who had been to Bath before, was anxious to share one of her favorite places in the town with her friends, Sally Lunn’s Eating House. She had been there on a previous trip to England and was anxious to tuck into one of their world famous buns.

Knowing their eventual goal involved food, the three began to walk through the town, enjoying the sites as they strolled through the cobblestone streets.

Bath is an ancient and beautiful city. It’s also one of the only places left in the world where you can see an original Roman Bath. Built in 70 AD, it has been preserved so well that it’s easy to imagine watching the people of that time enjoying a swim in the warm, spring fed pool. At least that’s what Patty told her friends.

“I’m not paying £15 to see dirty bath water!” exclaimed Louise when they saw the prices at the ticket booth.

A little taken aback by her friend’s outburst, but ever the pleasant one, Patty smiled and sweetly replied, “That’s okay, I’ve seen it already.”

Fixing a smile on her face, Patty returned to acting as the trios’ tour guide and headed in the direction of Sally Lunn’s. The thought of a warm bun and hot tea was enough to propel them forward and push through the fractious mood that had settled on the friends.

“It’s right around this corner. Oh I can’ t wait for you to see this place! It’s been so well preserved you can imagine eating there 300 years ago. And the food is amazing. You two will love it!”

Louise and Thelma (who was struggling with a knee that was determined to cause as much difficulty as possible) were heartened by their friend’s enthusiasm. They could almost smell the fresh baked bun and feel its pillowy softness in their mouths.

Patty turned the corner ahead of her friends and stopped dead in her tracks. Louise nearly toppled her over.

“It’s not here! I swear it was right here!” Patty cried out as she looked at the empty lot. “Where could it have gone?”

Patty, dumbfounded by her navigational mistake, nearly burst into tears. She was hot, tired, and stuck with two foul mooded, hungry women after all.

“Well, I don’t think an ancient building can just walk away…” Louise quipped.

“Ummm, where’s the bread?” asked Thelma.

Patty merely stared at her friends. She had no words, but her eyes conveyed her shock and sadness.

“You mean I hobbled all day through this town looking for some chick’s buns and now I don’t get any?” exclaimed Thelma.

That was all it took. It started as Louise giggled at Thelma’s statement. Thelma quickly joined her, much to the chagrin of a frustrated Patty. The giggles turned into guffaws, then the tidal wave of laughter began. Patty, at first annoyed by her friends, finally was unable to hold onto her outrage. She joined her compatriots as they laughed and laughed and laughed.

Finally, as tears streamed down all three faces, Louise turned to the others in her group and suggested, “Maybe we should ask someone where it is?”

And so they did. They eventually found Sally Lunn’s, grabbed a couple of her buns to take on the road with them, then walked back to their car. They left Bath in their rearview mirror as they continued on the pilgrimage to their self-declared motherland, Shrewsbury.

But to this day, if anyone asks them if they’ve been to Bath, England, the response is the same no matter which of the three is queried. “You mean the place with dirty bath water and some chick’s buns?”

The Prophylactic Power of Taco Bell

“If you’re going to get stoned, go to Taco Bell first.”

Every person at some time or another feels the need to blow off a little steam and have some fun. Get rowdy, crazy, out of their mind. Turns out that is a natural part of the human condition. Dr. Andrew Weil, in his book “The Natural Mind,” describes the phenomenon as it often manifests itself in children. They spin themselves in circles, hang upside down from monkey bars, roll down hills, etc. All done with the promise of a tiny window into an altered consciousness.

I truly believe this desire is innate – we’re born this way (yes, Lady Gaga is right sometimes.) I even noticed it in my own child no long after becoming a mom. At the ripe old age of two months, my daughter loved to lie on my lap, then push herself away from me just enough to allow her to hang her head off my knees and see the world upside down. It was such a common occurrence that I would warn people holding her for the first time about her propensity to jettison herself off a lap. The warning was an attempt to protect both my child and my friend from a mishap.

There is no doubt in my mind that this impulse stays with us throughout our lives. And we all succumb to it in one way or another. Some use substances, others meditate, still others seek the adrenaline rush known as the “runner’s high.” There are myriad ways to alter ones consciousness in the world today. Furthermore, as technology increases our access to everything under the sun, the options continue to expand.

Perhaps at no time in our lives are we more susceptible to the temptation to give into this desire than during adolescence. New experiences, paired with the natural rebellious nature of teens and the allure of taboo substances is often too good to pass up. I can tell you from experience that, for some kids, no lectures, education, etc., will keep them from choosing to alter their consciousness with the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

Armed with this knowledge, I needed a way to make it clear to my kids that if they are going to make a decision like that, it behooves them to be as safe as possible about it. Akin to a lesson on safe sex, this is a lesson on safe, for lack of a better word, partying.

“If you’re going to get stoned, stop at Taco Bell first.” After all, pot leads to munchies, which leads to the need to consume large amounts of junk food. What a bummer it would be to smoke a blunt and then not have any food to eat, right? Talk about harshing a mellow!

Seriously though, the point is to make sure you have made your environment as safe as possible if you intend to imbibe. Secure a ride/driver, make sure you know and trust your companions, be sure you’re in a safe place, not some crack house down the street. Make no mistake, as hyperbolic as this may sound, even kids with the best upbringing occasionally make poor choices. I just wanted mine armed with the knowledge of how to protect themselves as best as possible. . A metaphorical condom for substance use, if you will. Thankfully, this condom comes with a reminder on many street corners in our nation; after all Taco Bell is a national chain.

Looking back, I guess I could have used the age old “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” But what fun is that?

Happy National Puppy Day

It’s National Puppy Day. In celebration I have written a thank you note.

Dear Stella & Boomhauer,

  • Thank you for the joy you bring every day.
  • Thank you for the warm snuggles on cold days.
  • Thank you for exuberantly greeting me each time I come home.
  • Thank you for circling back to offer thanks after I’ve fed you.
  • Thank you for keeping me flexible as I attempt to sleep in the tiny space you allot me on the bed each night.
  • Thank you for the acupressure treatment your paws provide as you walk across me at all hours of the night.
  • Thank you for helping me stay active by emitting such odiferous gas that I have no choice but to get off the couch and try to outrun the stench.
  • Thank you for sitting on the bathmat while I shower. Without you there I would get lonely.
  • Thank you for making me feel loved as you fight over who gets to sit with me each morning while I try to have my quiet time.
  • Thank you for keeping my food intake in check by intercepting snacks as I attempt to ingest them.
  • Thank you for helping me keep my floors spic and span by tracking in mud and grass from the backyard thus requiring frequent cleaning.
  • Thank you for providing the upper body workout that is filling in the holes you dig in the backyard.
  • Thank you for teaching me patience by making me wait to use the toilet until you’ve finished drinking.
  • Thank you for providing me with an extra layer of warmth by coating me in your fur.
  • And finally, thank you for loving me through both my best and worst days. I couldn’t ask for better companions.



The Touching Stone

When my kids were three and five, I embarked on an adventure with my friend and her two kids, aged four and five. I had driven from Texas to California with my kids and invited my friend and her boys to join us in Cali, enjoy a couple of theme parks and then drive home with us.

While many great things came out of that trip (including the discovery of a life long Tribe member) when I think back, one event stands out in my mind. We made a spur of the moment decision to drive several hundred miles out of the way and visit Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. That part of the drive has its own story to tell, but what happened when we were at the Cavern still amazes me and the lesson I learned remains relevant today.

Carlsbad Caverns is a true wonder of creation. It speaks to the power of the earth and its forces to create change. And beauty. It’s also incredible to think that the Cavern itself is alive. And that our behavior in it can lead to its demise.

Given that neither of us had been to the caverns before, we opted to go with a guided tour. Prior to descending the approximately 750 feet down in an elevator, a park ranger gives instructions to the group about safety, both of the tourists, and the cavern. One of the most important instructions is the admonishment to not touch the walls of the cavern or any of its structures. The oils and bacteria on human hands can cause death to the part of the cavern that is touched.

I remember my friend and I giving each other the, “Uh Oh,” look. After all, we had four kids, five and under, with us. The thought of keeping them from touching anything was daunting. Let alone something as new and fascinating as a cavern with its stalactites, stalagmites and rivulets of water running down its sides.

Admittedly, I lacked the confidence that we could keep their hands from the rock walls, but we persevered none the less. As we exited that elevator, we reminded the kids of the possible consequence of their touching anything, and set out on our tour. To the astonishment of both my friend and me, we made it through the entire cavern tour, with nary an incident. Several times they were tempted, especially the youngest, to touch, but we would hear a, “I can’t kill it,” or a “Hands in my pockets,” muttered under their breath as they reluctantly stepped away from the object of their desire. They knew that inserting themselves into the life of the cave could have dire consequences.

Their restraint and self-control were rewarded at the end of our tour. Back at the ranger station there is a piece of the cave on display that’s sole purpose is for visitors to touch. I’m not sure that rock was prepared for the eight little hands that ravenously descended upon it, but it survived their assault. They caressed that hardened piece of earth as if it was the most fascinating thing they had ever seen. I’m not sure it had ever received that much affection in such a short amount of time. It was difficult to tear them away from it, but we eventually managed to and hit the road again for the long drive home.

To this day, my favorite picture from that incredible trip is the one of those four kids touching that stone. Not even Disneyland and Lego Land, with all their merriment, seemed to fulfill them the way touching a piece of the cavern did.

That experience, of watching those kids deprive themselves of something they desperately wanted because it wasn’t best for the object of their desire, has stuck with me. Sometimes we need to step away from a situation, keep our hands to ourselves, in order to preserve the beauty of it for others. However, just like the Touching Stone rewarded the kids, our restraint is usually rewarded. We may get the thing we were longing for or it may come in a way we weren’t expecting. Regardless of what the reward is, we will see the fruit of our labor. And in the end, the patience and perseverance often pays off in ways that defy even our wildest dreams.


Breathing Room

I was sitting in church when the pastor started to talk about the human need for breathing room. We have a tendency, especially in this fast paced and constantly plugged in world we live in, to fill our life so full that there’s no room for air. We are literally suffocating ourselves with busyness.

It left me determined to lean in and identify what my life would look like with room to breathe. How would my relationships change? How would my stress level change? How would the people/things I need to pull back from accept my need for air? Is there some area that I need to give more attention to that brings me fresh air?

I’m in a time of transition and find myself a little unmoored as I adjust to the need to alter how I manage my time. My life has gone from a constant stream of requests for immediate, physical attention, to one spent in the carpool lane of life where it feels as if I spend more time in the driver’s seat of Mom Van than anywhere else. That and in waiting rooms.

My own kids are nearly grown, with one away at college and one headed there soon. My bonus kids are at the stage in life where they mainly need transportation. My parents are in need of transportation, the occasional post-surgical nursing care, and another set of ears in things like doctor’s appointments. It seems as if life should have gotten easier, but I’ve found, in many ways, the opposite to be true.

Between shuttling kids here and there, transporting my parents & sitting in on their appointments, spending as much time as possible with my traveling husband when he’s home, I let my To Do list grow so enormous, that I forgot to leave myself time to take care of my own needs. But every time I started to feel overwhelmed, I then felt guilty for being selfish because when I look at my list none of it seems beyond what is reasonable. After all, I have friends that have careers and kids that seem to manage just fine. What is my problem?

Thanks to a very well timed sermon, on top of a couple conversations with a few Truth Telling Friends, I came to the realization that when you constantly share your space with others, meeting even just their transportation needs, it’s very easy to let them have your oxygen as well. I realized that I had yielded all my time to others. And on the rare occasion I had time to myself, I was so exhausted that I barely had the energy to change into pajamas and lay on the couch. I was suffocating myself with busyness. And even busyness for all the right reasons, like helping others, exacts a toll.

So now what? How do I approach making the changes that I so desperately need? I have begun to slowly remove things from my To Do List. Letting go of responsibilities that belong in the hands of others. Encouraging my parents to reach out to friends and even Uber for some of their transportation needs. Prioritizing quality time with the people I am closest to. With the husband that may mean letting the dishes sit and watching an episode of Lethal Weapon or taking the dog for a walk. With the kids it means spending time doing things we like to do together, not just chores. With friends it means forgoing the “I’ll get back to you on when we can get together,” to actually adding an activity to my calendar.

For myself, it means a few different things. First and foremost I have set aside 20 minutes every morning and 10 minutes each night for a quiet time. Reading, writing, meditating, and praying through Scripture. I’ve found when I have set my spirit straight first thing in the morning, the entire day is less suffocating. Over the weeks since I’ve started this, the time I spend in this activity has begun to frequently stretch beyond what I’ve scheduled. Amazingly, instead of making me feel as if I have more to do with less time, I’ve found the opposite to be true; I often have more energy and feel less stressed. When I take the time to center myself, my time multiplies.

Often the first thing to go when I am over-scheduled, is self-care. As such, I have attempted to return to taking better care of my physical body. Making sure the fuel I ingest is optimal, setting time aside to exercise, attempting to get more sleep. A well cared for body, pays dividends and is worth the time it takes. Again, in this area, a sacrifice of time, has turned into a time and patience stretcher.

Additionally, I have taken the first, tentative steps to realizing a long held desire – one that has percolated on the back burner for most of my life. And the product of which you are reading right now. It may never go further than this blog, but at least I have taken a step in the direction of realizing a dream.

All of this change I am attempting to make hinges on one key principle. I have to give myself permission to pare down my To Do List without feeling guilty. The realization that the only person that can release me from my feelings of guilt, is me is both freeing and frightening. But it is important that I push through and do it. I have to give myself room to breathe. No one will do it for me.

So I am embracing a life full of my fair share of oxygen. It will take patience, determination, forgiveness, and a myriad other things, both on my part and on the part of those closest to me, but I will persevere. Because the reality is we all need room to breathe.

Cauliflower – It’s Not Just A Side Dish

“You Don’t Want Cauliflower On Your Junk”

This may be on of my more famous, and shocking, Power Points. I know it’s one of the more memorable of the bunch. And it speaks to the importance of choosing wisely when it comes to sexual choices.

When I was growing up, we were shown a video in health class about sexually transmitted diseases, now known as STIs. The entire thing was a cartoon. It depicted the various infections as rebel soldiers, marching towards an invasion of your body. They even wore red coats because of course, they threatened your freedom. It talked about building good defenses, with pacifism (abstinence) being the most effective. I remember the entire class laughing through it. No one took it seriously because it was so incredibly silly. In its attempt to deal with the topic as gingerly as possible, it failed to make an impact or convince us that STIs are a thing to be taken seriously. As a result, the STI rate in my generation was fairly high.

While in college, I was required to take a Human Sexuality class to complete my Bachelor’s degree. The class was interesting & also horrifying. At that time a rather large scale research study came out that examined the average Sexual IQ of high school seniors. The large number of young adults that had no clue about the realities of birth control, STIs, etc. was astounding. One 18-year-old girl surveyed actually believed that if she stood up in high heels following intercourse, she could prevent pregnancy. Seriously? When the questions turned to STIs it became clear that the current course of sex education going on in this country was insufficient. With the rise of AIDS, the days of just telling kids not to do it until they were married were past.

When we got to the STI section in the text book, I found the most convincing reason to be sexually responsible. Pictures. The pictures of venereal diseases were disgusting. These were not the red coats coming for our nether regions, these were real life, scary looking things that grew in and even on you. And one of the pictures reminded me of a staple of the dinner table, cauliflower. I decided right then and there, that my textbook for that class would stay in my library. I knew that those pictures would become part of my arsenal in the campaign to educate my future children.

(This is where I have to put in a disclaimer that yes, I know all these things are now available on the internet. However, I’m so old that the worldwide web was in its infancy then. In fact, I had one of the very first .edu email addresses on campus due to my research work, but at that point we had no idea how the internet would one day rule the world. And replace my textbook.)

Cut to many years later, and it was time to deal with the heady subject with my children. And of course, in my all things blunt manner, when we got to the subject of STIs I blurted out, “You don’t want cauliflower on your junk.” There was a little shock, lots of laughter, and then a long, frank discussion about what I meant. We talked about all the options available when it came to your sexual decisions. After making it clear that the very best possible course of action, to protect yourself & your partner, is to wait until you have married, we continued on. We talked about abstinence, unplanned pregnancy, infection rates, the differences between treatable infections and lifelong ones, etc. My outburst, and the ensuing giggles, opened the door for a meaningful, edifying time. And it continues to do so.

At least in our family, laughter is often both the best medicine, and conversation starter.

Afraid To Be Loved

We have a new member of the family. She is a 7 month old, supposedly Lab/Rottweiler mix, rescue puppy. Her full name is Stella Ginger Brown, and she has stolen my heart. I admit my Instagram will be dominated by her, at least for a little while.

Adopting a rescue dog is always fraught with the unknown. She’s not our first rescue so we were prepared for the possibility that it might it be a difficult transition for her. She was found wandering around a small town in Oklahoma, spent a couple of days in a garage as the people that found her attempted to reunite her with her owners, then finally spent 6 weeks with a foster family before joining our family.

She is an incredibly sweet girl, but very timid. Particularly with the guys that live at my house. It took her a few hours to warm up to me, but she eventually did. Her first day with us she would hardly come near my husband. She was a little better with our son, but still very wary of the male gender. It’s obvious that somewhere in her short past, she was hurt by a man. But unlike some dogs, she didn’t cope by becoming aggressive and lashing out. Instead, she finds herself afraid to be loved. And at the same time she is desperate to be loved. You can almost see her inner conflict as she decides whether or not she will take the risk and allow herself to be loved.

Watching our sweet little puppy trying to cope with her dichotomous feelings, it struck me that her conundrum is a common one. Admittedly, I’ve been in her position myself. Needing to be loved and accepted, but afraid to allow someone close enough to fulfill that need. Afraid of being hurt, abandoned, etc. Love takes risk, no matter whether you’re the one offering love, or the recipient of an offer from someone else. It takes courage to love and be loved.

I’ve seen many different reactions in people that are afraid to be loved. Some of us have the tendency to run away and shut ourselves off completely. Others take the smallest of steps towards the possibility of love, only to retreat at the first sign of trouble. While many of those find the courage to take a step forward again eventually, sometimes it’s too late. Still other people will throw themselves into a relationship with someone other than the right person in order to avoid having to take the risk that a truly intimate relationship requires. That may be the saddest choice of all. But the bravest of this bunch, will conquer their fear and take the risk.

I can say from experience, that it is worth the expense of courage to conquer the fear of being loved. To be truly loved and accepted is worth the chance of being rejected; of being pushed out of your comfort zone and encouraged to conquer other fears you may have; to allow it to help you offer it to someone else as well. The decision to be loved may be the most rewarding decision of your life.

As we wait for our sweet little Stella to fully embrace the love we all offer her, and we’re certain that she will, we will patiently continue to offer ourselves to her. To give her attention as she is ready for it, to provide comfort when she needs it, and even at times allow her the space she needs to prepare herself to take the next step. In the end, we know it will enrich all our lives.



“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” – Adapted from a poem by Robert Burns

When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I set the goal to post twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Until today it’s gone quite well. But here it is Monday evening and I am just getting around to opening my laptop.

If this had happened a few years ago, I would have found myself in a self-berating spiral of negativity. Thankfully, I have matured a bit since then, particularly when it comes to setting priorities. And today was all about appropriately placed priorities.

Tomorrow is my girl child’s 19th birthday. So instead of spending my morning hard at work, Mom Van and I hit the road to go see her at college. I didn’t want to let my To Do List take priority over time with her. She’s so much more important.

I’ll be back at it later this week, but for the moment, I’m going to relish the next couple of days of girl time. I hope you’ll take some time to enjoy the people you love too. After all, the To Do List will always be there tomorrow.

The Shopping Trip – A Short Story

Jenna was exhausted that day. It had been a trying week. The stomach flu had left her entire family decimated. The house looked like three tornadoes had run through simultaneously and both Jenna and the dog were in desperate need of baths.

Jenna spent her entire day trying to bring some semblance of order to her household. Even managing to get both herself and the dog a quick shower. Just as it was time to head out the door to pick up her kids, and the kids she watched, from school it dawned on Jenna that she may need to feed her family supper that evening.

Jenna approached her refrigerator with a sense of dread. She knew what she would find. Nothing edible. Her pantry was in the same state. With a sigh of exasperation, Jenna had to admit the awful truth. She needed to go to Costco for provisions. And would have to take her entire afternoon crew with her.

Jenna climbed into her trusy Mom Van and headed out for the first of three schools. At each stop she picked up kids until nearly every available seat in her van was taken. Once they were all loaded into the car, Jenna broke the news.

“Next stop Costco,” Jenna announced. She expected to hear groans and complaints from her myriad passengers. Because really, what kid relishes a trip to the grocery store? However, she heard the exact opposite.

“I love to go to Costco!” Justin shouted from the very back seat.

“Me too!” “Me three!” “Me four!” “Me lastly!”

Instead of the grief she expected, Jenna was shocked to hear each and every one of them express great excitement at the thought of a trip to Costco.

While Jenna was relieved, she was also quite curious. “Why in the world do y’all want to go to Costco with me?”

“Because they give you free food!” exclaimed the youngest, Emma.

Cooper, the bibliophile said, “I like to look at all the books.”

“I like to push the cart and will do it for you.” Mia explained.

And finally, the answer that puzzled Jenna the most, was that of the oldest child, Ava. “I like the way people look at us when we’re all together.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?” implored Jenna.

“Just wait. If you pay attention, you’ll see.”

Puzzled by Ava’s response, and curious all the same, Jenna headed in the direction of the local Costco. After parking and placing Mia in charge of pushing the cart, Jenna gave Justin the list she had scribbled out on an old envelope and they were off.

As they got to the book section, Cooper ran over to the kids’ table and began to comb through the bounty on display. At that same moment, a woman in a business suit began to peruse the offerings on the other side of the table. When Jenna and the rest of the kids caught up to Cooper, she noticed the look of disbelief and even a little disdain on the face of the woman at the table. Assuming they had merely surprised her with their abrupt arrival, Jenna didn’t think too much about it.

Having satisfied Cooper’s request, they began to tackle the grocery list. The deli area of the store was a virtual treasure trove of samples. Emma was in heaven, especially when one of the offerings was fresh baked cookies. Several times during the sampling, Ava nudged her mother to bring her attention to the reaction the group received from other shoppers. Jenna began to pay close attention to her fellow Costco members.

There were a great variety of reactions. Some were big smiles, some were a bit sympathetic (especially from other moms toting a gaggle of kids around with them), some were puzzled, some were quick to look away, and some were even a little rude with their long held stares. While the majority of the shoppers greeted them with big smiles, there were several other reactions that left Jenna a little perplexed.

Jenna and the kids finished their shopping, checked out and headed for the parking lot. As they were unloading the car, Ava walked up beside her mom and asked, “Did you see the looks people give us?” Jenna replied, “I did notice. And I see what you mean now. We managed to illicit a lot of different reactions from the other shoppers. I really don’t understand why.” Ava giggled a little as she said, “Seriously mom? Look at us. Take a step back and imagine how someone seeing us all together for the first time might be a little…surprised.”

Baffled by her daughter’s assertion, Jenna stopped and looked at her crew with a fresh set of eyes. Looking at each child for a couple of seconds, it dawned on her what Ava was talking about and why their little group stood out in the store.

Jenna first looked at Ava; 15 years old, tall, green eyed, with creamy white skin and bright red hair. Next up was Justin; 13 years old, blue eyed with shaggy, dirty blond hair and a healthy sun-kissed glow from long hours outside. Mia, the other 13 year old, was average height, with hazel eyes, and beautiful mocha colored skin. Cooper, whose parents had immigrated from India, was 10 years old with deep brown skin and eyes and short jet black hair. And finally, 9 year old Emma, who was actually taller than Cooper, had bleach blond hair, blue eyes and freckles visible on every inch of her skin.

Even though a couple of the kids were actually related, not a single one looked like they came from the same family. They were as diverse as the occupants of any metropolitan subway car. But they all had one thing in common – they were Jenna’s (even is just for a small part of the day) and she loved every single one of them. Just as importantly, they all loved each other.

On the ride home, Jenna and Ava discussed their shopping trip and the reactions they noticed. Midway through the drive, Ava blurted out, “Can you imagine what people must think when they see the big bag of rainbow colored Skittles that tag along with you on your errands?”

Immediately, both mother and daughter broke into a fit of laughter, creating a tidal wave of inquiries from the backseats of the van. Once Jenna had gotten ahold of herself, she told the kids that they had a new name for their little makeshift after school family. “We’re the Rainbow Skittles Crew.” A rousing round of approving hoots and hollers broke out in the entire vehicle, along with a chorus of, “Skittles! Skittles! Skittles!”

In that moment, it didn’t matter that Jenna had had a rough week. All that mattered was the unmitigated joy she felt at the thought of her van full of rainbow colored Skittles.