Writing My Own Obituary – Take Two

I took a deep breath and walked inside a smallish meeting room that had been tucked behind rows and rows of books in a trendy bookshop downtown. A smattering of women had already gathered themselves in groups of twos and threes, and the hum of small talk and introductions started to rise. I strategically chose a seat in the back of the room, close to an exit so I could make a quick getaway the moment the workshop was over. I dutifully pulled out my notebook and pen, and tried in vain to feel like I belonged there. The seats around me began to fill, and eventually I was warmly drawn into a few typical hellos and how-are-yous and where-are-you-froms. I remained calm and steady in polite and superficial conversation. I smiled and avoided mention of anything that could possibly trigger the flood of emotions pent up from earlier in the day. Besides, I figured no one really wants to hear, “my children almost died today” from a complete stranger.

The workshop began, and to my complete horror, a free-write assignment was given immediately. I hadn’t written anything outside of my private journal for well over a year. And it had been even longer than that since I’d exercised even a particle of creativity. I was bone-dry. Lost in a world of math and needles, I had been stuck in survival mode, navigating my way through complex medical diagnoses and round-the-clock caregiving. I subsisted mainly on herbal tea and much-less-than-adequate sleep as I made my best attempt each day to keep my children healthy. On the drive over, I had repeatedly questioned aloud why on earth I had even signed up for a creative writing workshop in the first place. I knew in my gut that my experiences over the last couple of years would inform my writing on a deeper level, but on a day like today, it all seemed a little too raw and personal. The given assignment drew a few nervous laughs from around the room. We were asked to write our own obituary. To make the situation incredibly worse, we were given just ten minutes to write. And then we would read our piece aloud.

I stared blankly at my notebook for a minute or two and silently cursed at myself for driving all the way downtown to be humiliated like this. Then I frantically tried to piece together a few words. My mind grasped for some endearing anecdote or wise quote. But my nerves were still as rattled as they had been hours earlier, and all I could feel was a strong desire to actually die rather than read this crap out loud. If a better woman were writing her own obituary, she might have actually taken stock of her life’s experiences and thought about the legacy she’d like to leave for the world. Instead, I ticked off a short list of rather unimpressive achievements and places I had lived. I thought briefly about giving voice to my fierce and passionate love for my family. Then I remembered the part about reading our pieces out loud and I considered the powder keg of emotion behind that… so instead I listed the date David and I were married and the years our children were born. Ava-2006. Ella- 2008. Dallin-2010. Jack-2012. In the interest of time, I scratched out all of the dates, and simply listed their names. But even with the most generic of information about my children on paper, in my mind’s eye, I could see all of their innocent, squishy faces, and tears came dangerously close to the surface.

Love is an interesting thing. It is one simple word that is used to describe a whole range of extraordinarily complex and different emotions. One word. The same word that describes my deep and abiding commitment to my husband is the same word I use to describe what motivates me to bring dinner to a sick neighbor. It is what carried me through the whirlwind of learning to care for two young children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It is what brought me to my knees when my preschooler was diagnosed with autism six months later. It is what causes me to weep in the shower, and yet the same thing that makes me smile every time my daughters set up lemonade stands to raise money for charities and medical research. Love is in all of it. The grocery shopping for gluten-free foods, the endless laundry, the insulin injections, the books and bedtime snuggles. Love is in the apologies after an argument, the phone call checking in with a friend, and in the embrace with my husband as we kneel in prayer together at the end of every long, hard day. Mother Theresa once suggested that we should “do small things with great love.” This is the quote my mind was searching for when we were all informed that our ten minutes were up.

The class takes turns reading their individual obituaries. Most are incredibly smart and witty. Some are profound and wise. Mine is simple and straightforward and utterly artless.

After some solid writing advice from the workshop facilitators and a short question-and-answer period, the class ends, and I make a beeline to my car. I call home to check in with our home nurse, and, to my great relief, she tells me that all is well. She reports that both of my boys are stable and doing much better after an incredibly scary experience earlier in the day when not one, but both of my little diabetics nearly went unconscious from severe hypoglycemia – a condition that can be fatal without immediate medical treatment. I had been home alone with my boys at lunchtime when they simulataneously  started getting irritable and angry, then suddenly their eyes began to roll back into their heads, and both showed the telltale signs of being on the verge of slipping into unconsciousness. I tried frantically to pour juice into their mouths as they took turns spitting it out and clawing at me. I went from one to the other, holding their mouths open and forcing a sip at a time and desperately patting their cheeks; shouting at each of them and begging them to stay with me. They were in turn both irrational and combative. And with both of them on the brink of unconsciousness, it took every ounce of calm strength and determination I could muster, all of the faith and all of the prayers I could offer; it took all of God’s grace and all of the incredible love I felt for these children to care for them and eventually revive them. It had all happened so fast, and unleashed such a torrent of emotions, that my nerves were still shot a full ten hours later. In the two and a half years since both of my boys were diagnosed with this disease, we have only experienced situations like this a handful of times, and never with both boys at once. “Terrifying” doesn’t begin to describe it.

On the drive home I rewrite my obituary in my mind. It includes fanciful assumptions that at some future date my boys will take place in groundbreaking medical research and will be completely cured of diabetes by the time they are teenagers. It speaks of my lovely daughters and how Ava will accomplish her dream of being an interior designer in New York and how Ella really will be the first female President of the United States, in addition to being a veterinarian, a reporter, a chef, an artist, and also the first female player in the NFL. It speaks of the adventures my husband and I would have as we travelled the world together, and how all of my children will serve faithful missions for our church. My new and improved obituary speaks of Dallin’s future career as a cartoonist and professional ninja. It mentions the fact that despite all odds, my youngest son, Jack, will marry his good friend Ruby Valentine, and with the love and support of their friends, family, and an excellent medical team, they will be expecting their second child together at the time of my passing. My obituary closes with requests for charitable donations to be given to starving children in Venezuela in lieu of flowers, and strict instructions for only my best and most flattering pictures to be shown at the services instead of the weird and very morbid practice of an open-casket viewing.

And as my nerves continue to settle on the long drive home, the end of my obituary reads like this:

Kimberly Tait lived a quiet life in a small town. She loved dogs and horses and Arizona sunsets. She cared deeply about her children, her grandchildren, her parents, her extended family, and most of all, her eternal companion, David. She was devoted to her family and her faith. She treasured good books, great music, and belly laughter with her girlfriends. She taught her children to work hard and be kind. She did hard things without complaining (most of the time). And throughout her life, she followed the sage advice of Mother Theresa. She did small things with great love.


On Math and Needles

It is 2:00 a.m. and here I am again. Hovering over my buddy boy’s crib and trying to gently wipe his finger with an alcohol swab without waking him up. I’m amazed by the fact that he can sleep through the entire blood sugar test now. Just last week when we were in the PICU he started whimpering whenever a nurse even walked into the room to do it. He sleeps through all of it now. The alcohol swab, the lancet pricking his finger, my squeezing a drop of his blood onto the meter and dabbing away the excess. I’m getting better at it now, too. And it’s only been 10 days.

It’s hard to believe that earlier last week I was blissfully unaware of what was going on inside Jack’s little body. His immune system had mistakenly decided to wage an all-out war on the insulin-producing cells in his pancreas. I thought he was just sleepy because he was going through a growth spurt. His body had been trying desperately to flush the excess sugar out of his system for weeks. I simply thought he was  peeing through all of his diapers because he needed a larger size. He was thirsty all of the time, day and night. I just thought he was a well-hydrated little guy. Finally, one night when he woke up four times and downed several glasses of water each time, I put two and two together and called the pediatrician in the morning for a blood test. Little did I know we would be spending the remainder of our week at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, eyes glazed over as we got a crash course in pediatric endocrinology.

Looking back over the last couple of days, I will definitely say I’ve had my highs and lows. Type 1 diabetes is lot to take in. There have been moments of unbearable anxiety for his future. Moments where I worry about his kidneys and feet and eyes and everything else. There have been phrases like “comorbidities” and “end-stage” that have nearly sent me over the edge. I’ve had moments where I’ve realized that playdates and trips to Grandma’s house will never be the same. And I have cried about all of it. But I’ve also had moments where my heart has swelled with gratitude for the outpouring of love, support, and encouragement we have received from friends and family. And I’ve cried about that, too. Meals provided, gifts and cookies and playdates for my older kids, flowers and balloons and phone calls and texts. Moments  of joy where I have gazed at my little Jack smiling and reaching for the bubbles I’ve blown for him and realized this could have been worse.

And now as I sit here in this half-lit room, gazing at Jack’s yummy round cheeks and his pouty lips wrapped around his thumb, I’m reminded that in this week of highs and lows, the highs have been resoundingly triumphant. They’ve knocked the lows straight out of the ring. There has never been a moment of despair that has not been immediately answered with a sense of calm. Not even once. There has been a consistent sense of peace that has gracefully laced it’s way through every doubt, subtly weaving the same phrase over and over again, “Kim, you can do this.” This, I know, is the answer to many prayers that have been so generously uttered on my behalf. This – as my mother-in-law so graciously reminded me – is truly the enabling power of the Atonement.  Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I can feel confident because I am in God’s hands. Jack is in God’s hands. We are not left to face this challenge alone. This is a source of strength that will continue to carry us as we face whatever challenges lay ahead.

As I was talking to a friend of mine the other night and explaining the complex mathematics used to determine Jack’s insulin dosage, I was joking with her that the Lord has made me face my two greatest fears: math and needles. Although, I feel the need to say that I don’t really fear math, I’m actually pretty good at it, but it’s like laundry and dishes, just another chore. Needles, on the other hand, are a genuine fear that I am still working on overcoming. But as I laughed nervously with her over the phone, the thought came again, and with more clarity than ever before. The phrase gathered above and shielded me like a peaceful shade on a hot summer day…

“Kim….you can totally do this.”




November is an interesting month for me. As all Arizonans know, our November is basically equivalent to the first blissful days of spring in many other parts of the country. The weather is getting beautiful and it is time once again to venture outdoors. The dreadful heat of summer has finally subsided, and everyone seems  generally happier with the world around them. It is the month that is home to everyone’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving…and to make matters even better, it’s also my birthday month. Yay me.

But my November is also a time of reflection. Twenty-two years ago this month I lost my older brother. It was a weird industrial accident. He was 25. I was 13. His wife was pregnant with their first child.  It was terrible and tragic and unexpected and heartbreaking.

I remember being called out of class and finding my Dad in the front office at my school, his voice wavering a little as he tried to explain that Gregg had been in an “accident.” At the time, he knew it was serious, possibly debilitating, but he had no idea the accident had been fatal. We drove home in an eery, nervous silence. When we pulled into the driveway, my Mom came out of the house, crying and as she shook her head, all she could say was, “He didn’t make it…” As she was shaking her head and weeping and telling us, it was almost as though she didn’t even believe it herself.  “He didn’t make it…” Growing up in Southern California, there had been many times I had unwittingly turned my back on the ocean and then been thrown down by an unexpected wave and tossed underwater by the fury and unyielding power of the sea. That is exactly what those words did to me. We hugged each other and all fell to the ground, right there in the driveway, bawling our eyes out for all the neighbors to see.

Now that I am a mother myself, I think back often to what that day was like for my mom. What a punch in the gut it was. What that day was like for my sister-in-law, 8 months pregnant with their baby boy. What that day was like for my sister, who was much closer to my brother, in age, in looks…in every way, really. Being at least 10 years junior to all of my siblings, I felt very much like an outsider looking in on their grief. I shared it, but I never felt real ownership of it until I was much older. I was in shock, just like everyone else, but it was a superficial cut. It sunk deeper over time. I didn’t imagine then that 22 years later I would be sitting at a stoplight in my Suburban with four children in the back, tears streaming down my face because of it.

He didn’t make it. He died. It was a cold November day in Utah when we buried that brother of mine. His son was born in January.  But as I sat in my car this morning, crying on my way to the gym and missing him something fierce, I did something I don’t often take the time to do.

I looked up.

I looked at the sky and it’s perfect shade of November blue. It didn’t make my heart hurt any less, but it did help me breathe a little deeper. It felt too far away. But it did help me remember the hope and joy and peace that always lay ahead, just like a cool, crisp fall after a long, hot Arizona summer.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


A Light in the Darkness

At the end of every day, each of my kids gets a little special one-on-one time before bed. Usually it consists of a back tickle, some snuggling, and talking about their day. Unsurprisingly enough, the kids like to draw out this time as much as possible to avoid actually having to go to sleep. Last night was no exception. My daughter Ella was especially persistent. She kept insisting on “more special time…”. I kept reminding her that if I didn’t wrap up our special time, then I wouldn’t get to have my special time with Daddy.  Over the past eleven years, I’ve learned through hard experience that if I don’t protect that last hour of the day with my husband, a man for whom an 80-hour workweek is a commonplace thing, that we can go weeks without ever having a conversation full of complete sentences, or more than 10 scattered minutes to ourselves before falling asleep. So, our “special time” is a must. A time to reconnect and talk about the day without little voices interrupting. A time to read and pray together. A time to watch all of our Facebook friends take the Ice Bucket Challenge on the iPad. You know, the important things.

Last night, our conversation kept coming back to all of the chaos and unrest in the world at the moment. Civil unrest in Ferguson. Tyranny and terrorism by ISIS. Death tolls rising in Liberia. To put it mildly, the world is a scary place right now.

The thought kept coming back to me…my children are so safe and protected in this little cocoon we have provided for them. This home is a refuge and a place of peace. And I’m scared for them to grow up in a world of cruelty, violence, danger, and heartache.

I was so frightened, thinking (as I always do), of how I would feel if my children were in any of the circumstances across the world that appeared so terrifying. I dreamt horrible dreams about it. I thought about it when I woke up this morning and as I helped them get ready for school and pack their lunch boxes. I thought about it as they bounced out of the car and into their school building. I thought about school shootings and pedophiles and kidnappers. I thought about it on and off as I ran errands, right up until the point that I started folding laundry this afternoon.

And then it hit me.

A song I’ve known since childhood. A song that never really seemed too extraordinary or special to me until that very moment.

“The Lord is my Light, then why should I fear?

By day and by night, his presence is near. 

He is my salvation from sorrow and sin

This blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring. 


The Lord is my light

He is my joy and my song

By day and by night

He leads, he leads me along.”

There is so much sorrow and wickedness in the world. But there is hope and joy to be had, too. There are good and kind and helpful people who love each other. There are honest politicians and brave police officers and brilliant doctors and loving parents. There are bright and imaginative children. And behind every terrifying mask of wickedness (in all of its varieties), there is a single soul, a small and simple human being with a human heart that will be judged by a perfect and just God.  And now I feel a renewed sense of hope for my children. There is, after all, the peace that comes from knowing that good will always prevail in the end, and light will always overpower the darkness.



The Only Way to Peace

I sat at my breakfast table on Thursday morning and cried over the stabbings in Pennsylvania. Not one to typically talk to the TV, I couldn’t help but say aloud, “Why? Why would someone do this?!” The brutality of it was just too much.

Later in the day I found myself reaching for my phone, checking social media to keep updated on a friend of mine, who’s precious baby girl has been in the hospital since Monday. My heart breaks a little to see so many tubes attached to that sweet little face. She is sedated and paralyzed and a machine is basically breathing for her. Another tear rolls off of my cheek.

Then the phone rings. It is a friend of mine from my old neighborhood. A mom whose daughter went to kindergarten with my oldest. She tells me that her husband of 22 years is leaving her. She recently discovered that he had been having an affair with a woman he met at the gym. Now she is facing a mountain of debt and is planning to move  herself and her three daughters back to her native homeland, Holland.

It’s a lot to take in in one morning.

Human suffering takes so many shapes. A young man so broken and emotionally unstable that he commits gruesome, unfathomable violence. His victims – blindsided, and literally stabbed in the back. Precious babies, innocent and hurting. Mothers, fathers, family and friends who feel so helpless as they look on. Sadness, fear, anger, loneliness, betrayal. Heartache in all its varieties.

From Thursday until Saturday night, my heart was hurting for friends and family members – and even strangers across the country – in so many ways.

And then on Saturday night I had the opportunity to visit the Gilbert Arizona Temple. My perspective changed and my mind was put at ease. My heart was changed. But I wasn’t able to find the perfect words describing that change until Sunday morning.

At church, the bishop of my congregation and shared some thoughts. He spoke about his son, and how he was watching from a window as his son struggled with some chores outside. He said his first inclination was to rush out and help him. But he didn’t right away. He said his heart was stretched out to his fine son because he kept at it. He didn’t give up the struggle. And he was made stronger and wiser in the process.  Then my bishop shared one of my very favorite scriptures. It is a scripture that, for me, perfectly sums up the joy of the Easter season.

John 16:33

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have  overcome the world.

It’s worth reading again.

So there you have it. Every heartache in this world – whether it comes of our own doing or we are hurting because of someone else – every single physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional hurt can be healed by the power of Christ’s atonement. He is the way out of darkness into the Light. He has borne all of our suffering in a way that I can not fully comprehend. The sad truth of this life is that we will all have tribulation. We will all face trials in one way or another. But there is happiness and hope and light ahead. And He alone is the way to peace.


Image courtesy of lds.org

Wishing you all a lovely and beautiful Easter.

Planting a Seed: Making Peace a Priority

Ah, physics. You get me every time.

I’m assuming you are familiar with the term “inertia”? You know, “…an object in motion tends to stay in motion, while an object at rest tends to stay at rest…“? Yeah. Inertia. I’m blaming the laws of physics for my extended absence from the blogosphere. I took a rest during December (which, for the record, was awesomely busy), and I tended to stay at rest until now. April.

During my little hiatus, I have had several life-lessons on the subject of peacemaking. Funny enough, the most recent one involved a complete stranger yelling at me in the parking lot at Sprouts (I do believe my last post involved a lady showing me kindness at Sprouts. Weird.) and the sheer willpower involved in not yelling back. Okay, I may have raised my voice a LITTLE TINY BIT. But it was not nearly as much as she deserved. So I think I need some credit for that.

The sad thing is, since I haven’t been thinking about peacemaking on a daily basis, I haven’t fully been living it on a daily basis. And this, I think, has been my greatest lesson over the past four months.

As the wonderful Stephen Covey puts it, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

Several years ago. I randomly picked up a book while staying at my sister-in-law’s house in Chicago, and ended up reading the whole thing in one night. I can’t remember the name of the book to save my life, but it was basically a tutorial on how to become a writer (I still have no idea…but hey, we all have to start somewhere, right?). The first step in becoming a writer was this: Create a space for writing in your life.

The book made the connection to gardening, and to me – although I know less than nothing about gardening – the logic of the metaphor was immediately clear.

Before a single seed can ever be planted, think of all the time and preparation involved in creating a suitable place for that seed to grow. What area of the yard is best? What soil is best? Again, I don’t know enough about gardening to keep this list going, but, you know…I’m sure there’s a lot of other stuff you need to know about where to plant a seed before you plant it.

The point is, you have to create a suitable space.

As a stay-at-home mom, I have never had a more packed calendar than I do at this point in my life. Like most mommies, my schedule is ruled by the precious little people in my life. Between school, homework, ballet lessons, swim lessons, piano lessons, potty-training, playgroups, cheerleading practice, church activities, and trying to feed everyone and then keep my home and the people that live here relatively clean….it can make for a long day sometimes. And I’m sure it will only get busier.

So if I want even one second of my 24 hours for myself, I have to carve it out of that hectic day and hold on to it like crazy. This is not rocket science. But that little garden analogy served as a great reminder to me that time is a valuable resource, and if we ever want to succeed at something, we have to carve out a place for it – a set time amid our daily routine – and make it a priority.

After attending a garden party last week for the women’s group at my church, I was reminded very clearly about the writing analogy I had read so many years ago, and the immediate need to create a space for the important things in my life. So, the law of impetus was put into motion, and now here I am, in front of my computer screen once again.

So there it is. My first post in a long while. Impetus has finally conquered inertia. For today anyways. Here’s to hoping that momentum can take it from here. 

Landscape with Olive Trees



Game On: Stepping into the Holiday Spirit, One Bag of Deli Meat at a Time

I was halfway home when I realized what had just happened. My eyes flew open and I gasped in the same sort of panic you feel when you oversleep on an important day. My bag. My entire bag full of groceries. I was so preoccupied watching two strangers arguing in the parking lot at Sprouts, that between that and buckling in my little guys, I totally forgot to put my bag into the car.

Now, let me say, it is a very rare event that I have only one bag of groceries to contend with, especially during the week of Thanksgiving. I’m not going to tell you how much I spent on groceries this week, but I promise it’s a number that would knock your socks off. And the only reason I tell you that is to reinforce the point that I never have just one bag of groceries. Ever. But this was a very important bag that required a special trip to my favorite store, Sprouts. I’ve become something of a deli snob over the past year or two and I can’t eat deli meat from just anywhere. Hubs forgot this very important fact when he went grocery shopping last, so, long story short, I really, really needed this particular deli meat (especially with family coming into town to stay with us and picnics to pack for the day after Thanksgiving). I had big plans for this deli meat. Not important to most people, but on this day at this time, very important to me. After an entire morning of running errands, my trip to Sprouts had been my final stop. We had made it through brilliantly. The boys were exceptionally happy and well-behaved. I had checked everything off the list, and even made the comment to Dallin as we were leaving the store, “Let the holidays begin! Game ON.”

But my hopes of a perfect morning had been dashed when, while driving down Greenfield Road, I realized I had just spent X amount of dollars on a bag of deli meat that was now sitting in the parking lot at Sprouts, about 4 miles behind me. My hopes were even more dashed when I went back to the store and asked if anyone had returned said bag. The employees at Sprouts were all very nice and went out of their way to help me. Two young men went outside to canvas the parking lot. The cashiers all asked one another if anything had been returned. The manager got involved, and all came back with the same “I’m so sorry, Ma’am” expression. So, I walked dejectedly back to the deli section.”Hi there! Didn’t I just help you a few minutes ago?” Yeah, yeah…same order please.

Then things went from bad to worse. You see, it was now pushing 1:00. My little trooper Dallin was getting hungry, and my sweet little Jack was tired. And those two ingredients usually spell disaster in a grocery store.

So there we were. Waiting in a line that had grown tenfold since I was there 20 minutes ago, all three of us on the verge of tears. I just wanted to get home and start making the blasted pies I had planned on making that afternoon. Precious time was ticking away. I was not exclaiming “Game ON!” in the face of the holidays anymore. Suddenly they seemed like a burden.

But something kept coming to me in the back of my mind.

“There is a reason this is happening. There is a lesson here.”

A Relief Society lesson a few weeks ago, combined with two very great talks given in church recently had had me thinking about gratitude. Gratitude not only when things are easy, but gratitude when things are tough. And trust me, I know that an extra trip to the deli counter at Sprouts doesn’t even come close to qualifying as “tough”, but…bear with me. Anything feels tough when a screaming two-year-old is added in. Gratitude is a state of mind that can occur under any circumstance. We only have to change our perspective to see it.

So I began looking for the lesson. Little did I know I was seconds away from finding it.

It was finally my turn to be rung up by the cashier, who had obviously had a long day already, too. I just had to ask one last time.

“Hey, I was in here just a few minutes ago. Do you know if there were any grocery bags returned from the parking lot?”

“Is your name Kim?”

“Yes. Did someone find it?”

“No, I’m so sorry. My manager came by and told us to keep an eye out for it though. I’m really sorry, Ma’am. What was in it?”

“It was just one bag. Just some deli meat.” At this point I motioned to the large amount of deli meat sitting on her conveyor belt, and shook my head and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “Oh well…”.

She pulled the meat over and put it in a bag. “Here you go,” she said. She smiled at me with the warmest smile, and so help me, her eyes actually twinkled. She wasn’t charging me a single cent.

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” I immediately responded. I had every intention of paying for that meat. It was my silly mistake. There was no reason I shouldn’t pay for it.

“Oh yes you can.” She looked at me, then at my two boys. Jack was now fast asleep on my shoulder, and Dallin had actually quieted down, but his eyes were still red and his chubby little cheeks were tear-stained.

This woman. She was showing me a kindness.

It was such a small moment, but I hesitated and looked at her right in the eyes. I wanted her to know how much it meant to me. Not the free meat. But the kindness.

It was so small! A speck on the seashore, maybe. But in that 2 seconds, her heart and my heart connected briefly and felt something good. She had the opportunity to do something kind for a frazzled mom. And you could see it lift her. It elevated her. That small kindness made her day better.

I, on the other hand, had the opportunity to receive kindness. It softened my heart and made me appreciate what it means to be a part of the fabric of humanity. It made me actually hope that somehow, someone who really needed it had found my bag of deli meat in the parking lot. And if I had the day to do over again, I would have done it exactly the same way. I wouldn’t change a thing. In the middle of the day on a Tuesday, I had simply felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. In a season where charity and service and gratitude, can sometimes feel like stressful, burdensome work, I had received a small gift that had changed my perspective.

This is it, Kim. This is the lesson.

Kindness is often small, usually quiet, and many times unnoticed. But kindness touches hearts. And that is what is important.

And this time, as we left the store, with a small smile on my face, I said again (only this time to no one in particular….), “Let the holidays begin. GAME ON.”




Avoiding Blowback: Four Ways to Cope When Your Kids Are At Each Other’s Throats

One of the main reasons I started this project was to help my children learn how to be peacemakers. I didn’t want to assume all of the responsibility for bringing peace to my home myself. I wanted my whole family to share in that process and be invested in it.

So you can imagine my concern when, during our family prayer the other night, my daughters were not-so-quietly throwing punches at each other and yell-whispering “I HATE YOU, STUPIDHEAD!” while fighting back tears over a bracelet, and my two-year-old buddy boy was chiming in, taking sides, and just generally making the situation worse.

Did I mention we were trying to say a prayer?

And you can continue to imagine my concern when, the next morning as we were leaving for school, the kids were fiercely arguing (again) over (another) something of passing significance.

So, I decided to do a little research (and by research, I mean asking my friends on Facebook) to look for ways to cope with, and hopefully minimize the conflicts between my children. I simply asked, “What do you do when your kids are at each other’s throats?”

What I found was very interesting.

The responses from my parent-friends to this question seemed to fall into two categories. Those that were rooted in emotion and those that were rooted in thought. The emotion-driven responses seemed to be more reactionary, whereas the thought-driven responses were apparently decided upon and developed ahead of time (before the conflict began).

As I processed these responses, I realized maybe these little sibling-rivalry spats wouldn’t be so bad if Mother Dearest was some saintly, perfectly calm, emotion-free thinker….cool as a cucumber and always in control.

Oh, you sweet children. Having an argument again are you? Oh dear. Let’s take some time to process this. I’m going to calmly access all of the best parenting methods I have available to me to help you facilitate a resolution.”

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

But unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Moms do have emotions. We are subject to the very same neuroscience that our children are subject to when they become frustrated, irritated, and uncontrollably angry. Hopefully, as adults, we can process our thoughts and feelings in a more disciplined way than our children can. That’s the goal, anyways…right?

So, to be honest, the real problem (for me) behind my children’s arguments are not the arguments themselves. Kids are kids. They will have conflicts. That is part of growing up and learning how to function in a family. That’s what siblings do. The problem is this: When kids flip their lids, sometimes it makes their parents flip their lids, too.

After some further research, I found there are basically two portions of our brain. The “downstairs” brain, located toward the lower back of our skull, is responsible for primal thought and emotion. Ever feel your heart beating fast, jaw clenched, and your fists ball up? Downstairs brain all the way. The downstairs brain can not access logical, rational thought. The downstairs brain is primitive and instinctual.

In contrast, the “upstairs” brain is the part of the brain that is responsible for clear, rational, complex and creative thought. You know the Mother Dearest described above? That was her upstairs brain talking.

Unfortunately, sometimes we get angry, and we seem to “flip our lids.” Our downstairs brain takes over and rational thought goes out the window.

(For more information on the neuroscience behind this, I highly recommend this link. It is amazing. Dr. Siegel’s new book, The Whole-Brain Child is next on my reading list!)


(Oh dear, I really have to figure out how to make a link work on WordPress. Until then, you may have to revert to the very primitive method of cutting and pasting. Trust me, this link is worth the extra nano-second it takes to do that.)

When our buttons get pushed in just the wrong way, our upstairs brain literally turns off. This is what happens to our children when one takes a bracelet from the other and then punches are exchanged. Their little brains flipped their lids. This is also what happens when parents are subject to reactionary behavior. You know, the “IF-YOU-DON’T-CUT-THAT-OUT-THEN-YOU-ARE-REALLY-GOING-TO-GET-IT!” impulses. Not that that ever happens to my husband or I. We are totally perfect.

But you know, for the benefit of everyone else, I decided to make another handy-dandy list of ways to cope.

And as I was making this list, it dawned on my that the very first response to my Facebook question was my very favorite.

“Make sure your involvement is as minimal as possible. Conflict resolution is part of the human experience, and the best way to learn is in a loving home.”

It also made me realize that when we interfere in every single argument our children have, we are denying them the opportunity to fully learn from it. We may also be causing blowback if we handle the situation poorly.


Photo credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3a/Flame_of_fire.jpg

Are you familiar with the term “blowback”? Side note: I’m a fan of Ron Paul. There, I said it. Don’t hate me. Blowback is a term he uses to describe the unintended consequences of meddling in the affairs of other countries. I believe this term is directly applicable to meddling in the affairs of our children. When we stick our noses in every argument, there WILL be unintended consequences. Why make ourselves the bad guy when we don’t have to be? Not to mention the damage we may cause if one child feels that we are repeatedly favoring another? Ok…that being said, let’s get to the list.


1) When your children get into an argument, repeat the following: “This is not about me.” Although your kids may be flipping their lid, you don’t have to.

2) Take a deep breath. Then say, “This is not about me” one more time, just for good measure.


3) Offer a simple limited choice, “I can see you two (or three, or whatever) are upset. Do you need my help to resolve this, or can you handle it on your own?” (If your kids are like mine and the prospect of my getting involved means sitting on the “Friendship Bench” and holding hands for a while, they will most likely decide to resolve it on their own.)

4) Have a list – like a real, paper, printed-out-and-hung-on-the-fridge type of list –  of possible solutions that you AND YOUR CHILDREN have come up with ahead of time. Practice these methods of conflict resolution when the upstairs brain is in control. So really, I cheated a little because the “Fourth Way to Cope” really consists of a myriad of ways. But the goal is to have possible solutions decided upon ahead of time. Only then do we stand a chance of ever accessing them when our lids are momentarily flipped.

We have a family meeting every Monday night, and I am really excited to talk with my kids tonight about what we can do when we get into arguments with one another, and when we feel our lids starting to flip. I’m excited to tell them that I will not be responsible for solving all of their problems. I’m looking forward to teaching them, training them a little, and then turning over the responsibility to them.

Because really, that is exactly where it belongs.



“It’s OK, I Don’t Like Me, Either…”: Taking a Closer Look at Self-Deprecating Humor

I’ve had a problem with self-deprecating humor for quite some time now. I don’t chew my nails or crack my knuckles, but I have a serious habit of laying into myself from time to time. Now, I don’t pretend to think that makes me very different than most women in America. Sometimes it seems to me that, as women, bashing ourselves is actually one of our favorite pastimes. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get how women use this kind of humor to be relatable and approachable with one another. We want to make others comfortable. We want to make others laugh. We want to be humble. I think the intentions in the use of self-deprecating humor are usually very good ones. As women tend to do, we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of those around us.

But, while driving home the other day and looking back on a recent encounter in my mind, I had a realization that changed my perspective completely.

You see, I’ve noticed recently that I put myself down with much more exuberance and panache with people I am particularly uncomfortable with. I think it makes me hilarious (and I’m not going to lie, I probably am). I should go on some stand-up tour with the jokes I come up with about Kim Tait. Or, more particularly, what a goof Kim Tait can be. It’s usually all in good fun. And I do think being able to laugh at yourself is actually a really great quality to possess. For the most part, it keeps us sane. If we are not able to laugh, many’s the time we would surely cry.

But I went a little too far in this one particular encounter and I really bashed myself good.

What hit me on that drive home afterward was this: When taken too far, self deprecating humor can be a way of saying, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to feel bad or uncomfortable if you don’t like me. Because I don’t like me, either.”

Wow. That one hit me hard.

I have always had a tendency to evaluate myself based on what I think other’s perceptions are. It’s a terrible habit that I’ve had since childhood. But now as an adult, only now am I able to fully recognize how that affects nearly every interaction I have. And when I believe that someone does not fully love or appreciate me for who I am, I tend to respond in like kind, with a whopper of a self-inflicted put-down.

Ever since the aforementioned realization came flooding over me, I knew I wanted no part of that type of inner-monologue. For me, making a decided turn away from self-deprecation does not mean giving up my sense of humor. It does, however, mean reclaiming my strength. It means sitting, grounded and firm in a field of “I am good enough.” Even if the person or people I am around don’t know that yet. It means holding my tongue and offering myself the same kindness I strive to give so freely to others. It means owning who I am, no matter where I am. It means bringing that peace to any given situation, and letting that be what draws us together. Because self-deprecation will never be more than a superficial bond. A depthless connection that crumbles without the slightest effort. I want to build something more. I want to build myself and the people around me. I want to know the lasting joy that comes from purity and strength and kindness and love unfeigned.

I want others to know that their names are always safe in my mouth…and so is my own.


Holding it In, Letting it Out: A New Take on Emotions and Peeing

A few weeks ago I read a blog post that was intended to be funny, and it was, but it also made me really stop and think.

The post was written by The Orange Rhino, a mom of four young kids who made a goal to go one whole year without yelling. When I first found her blog back in March, I was mostly irritated because I had the same idea in January, and I felt like she was taking away all of the potential I had to blaze some new trail (ha ha, like I’m the first mom ever to think of that!). Anyways, I got over my knee-jerk reaction to secretly hate her and started following her instead. In a recent post, she describes how she was on a road trip with her kids, and well… she had to pee really bad. She made the connection that keeping herself from yelling was just like keeping herself from peeing. She had to “hold it in”. It was a funny article that made a few good points – you have to notice your body’s warning signals when you are feeling angry, just like you do when you have to go to the bathroom, etc. You can read the post here: http://theorangerhino.com/learning-to-hold-a-yell/

But the one thing that kept coming to my mind was this: What happens when you wait too long to go to the bathroom? The answer? It’s accident time, baby. Sooner or later, it’s coming out one way or another. I don’t care care who you are or how much self-control you have, no one is capable of holding it forever. And the longer you hold it, the more of an emergency it becomes. Which explains why earlier in the year – when I made the resolution to NOT YELL – what is now known as The Grand Blow-Up of Day Three shall go down in history as a day of infamy. I simply held it in for two days too long.

It’s funny, because I see a lot of myself in the Orange Rhino. She’s very regimented and has similar goals to mine. But what makes us different is this: Have you ever seen a kid riding a bike and warned them about something in their path, only to see them focus so carefully on avoiding it that they run straight into it? Yep, we’ve all seen it happen. Many’s the time I feel that happening when The Orange Rhino focuses on Yelling so much. When that’s all we think about, it’s all we want to do!! That’s why my initial inclination to make this blog about “Not Yelling” turned into something more like “How to Live Instead”. Have you heard the song, Brave by Sarah Bareilles? I absolutely love it. It is my favorite. Some of the lyrics are, “Say what you want to say, and let the words fall out…honestly…I want to see you be brave”. I think that honoring and giving voice to our true emotions requires a great deal of courage. Instead of holding in those feelings it’s more about getting to the root of the problem, and then finding an appropriate time and place to release them. For me, that’s way this blog has become about being something, as opposed to not being something. I want to become more peaceful, and everything else will hopefully fall into place.

Landscape with Olive Trees

Last week I focused on beginning a more specific journey towards inner peace, and I made a few baby steps in the right direction by acknowledging some of the stumbling blocks in my path and accepting myself for who I am right now. As I laid in my bed very early last Friday morning, I contemplated where I was in the process, and where I stood in my own personal journey. And as I laid there, the most glorious thing happened. The dawn broke over the mountains just east of my house, and ever so slowly, morning light filtered onto the wall in my bedroom. It was a new day, and I felt ready to take it on. Ready to accept the challenges that lie in store and face them with a smile. Ready to persist in the right direction until something happens. Ready to begin anew.

That day I got out of bed and went to the store and bought the book The Happiness Project. I have a feeling I’m going to secretly resent this woman, too, for blazing a new trail I wish I would have. But today, I might actually start reading it. And then, who knows. I may love it. Either way, I’ll let you know.