Five Things I’m Determined To Do Differently With My Second-Born


This week, tending my newborn daughter in the small hours, I contemplated everything I did with my firstborn that I would like to do differently with my second. Miraculously, I only came up with a list of five. If you’d like to add to it, please share!

1. Let her use a pacifier.

I was adamant, from the moment my firstborn daughter popped out, that I did not want her to use a pacifier. I believed that if she was making a sucking motion, she needed to be eating, and I might miss this nonverbal cue that she was starving to death if her sweet little rosebud mouth was corked by a Gumdrop pacifier.

Now, I’m contemplating taking stock in those things.

2. Not obsess about her gaining weight.

My husband and I have a home video of our firstborn daughter when she was about eight months old. She was sprawled across the floor in our bedroom while wriggling her head back and forth across the ridges of the hardwood.

My husband zoomed in on her rounded tummy, straining against the bird-covered material of her shirt, and said, “And here mama’s worried that you’re getting skinny.”

Tis true: I worried myself sick that my child wasn’t getting enough. Therefore, I fattened her up to the point she could barely move. If our second born is a little more petite, I am not going to panic and try to make her look like a mini Michelin man with hair.

3. Pace myself.

Routine-oriented to a fault, I acted like I’d been shot out of a cannon after the birth of my firstborn daughter. I wanted everything the same as before: the house just as clean, the fridge just as stocked, my daily word count reached.

Now, I am still just as OCD about keeping the floor grit-free of coffee grounds and the left bathroom sink wiped down of my husband’s pepperings of beard hair, but I’ve also given myself a mandatory naptime, which is the same time my toddler goes down for her nap.

I usually just nurse my newborn to sleep and then put her in her bassinet before closing my eyes for thirty minutes. However, those thirty minutes help clear my head and give me the strength to tackle the rest of the day.

4. Not panic if it takes a while for my husband and me to find our equilibrium again.

In the weeks following a birth, my husband and I are both so sleep-deprived that we switch from spending quality time with each other to basic survival mode.

The past two nights, for instance, we’ve both crawled into bed—on opposite sides of the co-sleeper—and said “I love you” and gripped hands over the sleeping form of our child.

It certainly wasn’t a passionate good night kiss, but it was a way to reconnect after an arduous day and to let each other know that we’re in this together—for rest or for sleep-deprivation.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

One of my main struggles, as a parent, is my inflexibility.

Children oftentimes cannot be confined to a schedule, and I have to train myself to be okay with that. The other night, I was trying to sweep the floor when my (previously potty-trained) toddler had an accident all over it.

Meanwhile, my newborn was starting to awaken for her three-hour cluster nursing session, and I found myself starting to panic. So I put the broom down, and my husband and I cleaned up the puddle on the floor, then I fed my daughter.

The discarded pile of dirt was in the laundry room the next morning, but nobody knew it but me. Whenever I start twitching, needing to “conquer” my to-do list, I remember this poem, and it puts everything into perspective. I hope it helps you, too!


Readers, let me hear from you: how did you parent your second child differently than your first?


My Laptop Graveyard

crashedagain I silently cried in eighth grade while staring at the blank computer monitor because I didn’t know how to turn it on.

By my junior year of high school, I knew how to turn the computer on, but that was about it.

Two advanced students rotated in and out as my tutor. I still could barely keep up with the influx of knowledge that just plum baffled me.

I purchased a laptop with my graduation money (a Toshiba) but had no idea what to do with it. I toted it to and from my college classes, figuring it would give me some academic validity along with my purple, heart-dangle glasses (don’t ask).

I killed the laptop within the year, mainly because I would forget it was in my backpack and then chuck it across the room.

I double-majored in English and communication arts with a creative writing emphasis, so there was no shying away from writing papers. And to write papers, I needed to use a computer.

I still remember the day I discovered how to use a jump drive; you would’ve thought, from my elation, that I’d invented the epidural or sliced bread.

But then, my senior year of college, I took a computer class that required us to build a website from scratch.

My skin gets peppered with dots just thinking about it.

I spent hours upon hours trying to figure out this acronym called HTML, but it was no use. I was floundering and my professor knew it. He asked if he could look at my laptop—to see if he could fix the problem—and then his eyes spun behind his glasses as he looked at my disorganized folders.

“You’re not very linearly-minded, are you?” he asked.

No, I’m not, which works great for writing a novel but not so great for understanding technology.

Case in point: my laptop crashed this week, and I hadn’t backed up the edits on my manuscript since I turned it in to my publisher in June.

I tried popping out the battery and turning it on in safe mode, but beyond hitting it with a hammer or pushing all the keys at once, I was at a loss.

So I opened the cupboard and took out my HP, figuring I could at least work on blog posts and essays while my other computer figured out if it was going to give up the ghost or keep coming back for more.

Last night, however, I really felt like multi-tasking.

I was going to get a bowl full of coconut chocolate ice-cream with fresh raspberries, light some candles, and finish watching Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version) while wedging my nine-month-pregnant self in the bathtub.

But since we don’t have a TV, I use my laptop to play DVDs.

My Dell laptop was at the computer doctor, and my HP had mysteriously lost the ability to play DVDs around the same time it went flying off the treadmill this winter and split apart along the side.

So I again popped open the door to the cupboard and took out my other Dell laptop, which I got as a replacement after I killed my Toshiba in college.

My husband looked at my assortment of mangled laptops and laughed. “How many do you have?!”

“It’s like a laptop graveyard, isn’t it?” I said and then scooped up the Dell and took it to the bathroom.

“Don’t get it wet,” my husband called after me.

“It’s half-dead anyway,” I said.

“Then at least don’t drop the cord in the water.”

I reassured him that I wouldn’t, but once I was all settled in—condensation dripping down the mirror, candles flickering, and my bowl of ice-cream just perfectly melted—the DVD still would not play.

I popped it out, popped it back in, and considered dropping it on the floor to see if that would set things right, but then finally I just sighed and reached for my book.

Technology has just never been my thing.


How about you? Do you love technology or hate it?


Madeleine’s Birth Story

IMG_2196 Just like in the movies, the night I went into labor began with a storm.

Swirling gray and pink clouds were studded with bolts of lightning that had me scurrying—as much as someone nine months pregnant can scurry—up our gravel lane toward the house.

I sensed something shifting in the atmosphere as much as I could sense a shifting in my womb, and I wondered if the next time I walked that lane I would be walking it as a mother of two.

I was right.

My contractions started around nine-o’clock. I will never forget that sense of anticipation: cuddled beneath the warm covers with my husband sleeping beside me and my eldest daughter in the nursery next door as my youngest daughter was still safely cocooned inside my womb.

My husband, always a light sleeper, woke up when I started timing my contractions. He tossed some t-shirts and jeans into a backpack in preparation to go to the hospital.

Around thirty minutes later, I was standing at the end of the bed, swaying slightly to the metronome of my contractions as the rain lashed the French doors, when my husband told me a tree had fallen across the road and was keeping his sister from reaching our house.

By the time my sister-in-law arrived to watch our toddler, I was in shushing mode, meaning that no one could speak while I was having a contraction.

She took one look at me and agreed that it was time to go to the hospital.

I hemmed and hawed and dragged my feet while slowly packing toiletries in a bag.

My first delivery had been anything but idyllic, and I was not eager to repeat the process of interventions that stole a majority of the joy surrounding my firstborn daughter’s birth.

I had six contractions during the twenty-five minute drive, but I was so aware of the scent of the storm. Of the black sheen on the rain-polished streets. Of the ruby glow of the stop lights that were stopping no one but us.

I told my husband that they were just going to send me home—that I wasn’t actually in labor.

I was wrong.

I was already four centimeters dilated when I arrived at 1 o’clock, and my contractions were consistent, dilating my body a centimeter an hour.

IMG_2191 Around four, I told my nurse that I thought I might be in transition.

She grinned and said, “You’re too smiley.”

I thought to myself, You just don’t know me. I’m always smiley. I’ll be this smiley when I give birth.

Well, I was sure wrong about that, too.

By six, I was sweating and trembling and all but foaming at the mouth. I would move from the birthing ball, to the floor, to hands and knees on the bed. With every contraction, my husband put counter pressure on my lower back, and my nurse gripped my hands and helped me breathe.

When she had to leave for a few minutes, I asked my mother-in-law if she could be my breathing coach. She stepped right in and gripped my hands and breathed with me.

It was such a beautiful experience to have the support of my family, even as I was aware of going through some of the most intense pain of my life.

At 6:30, my bag of waters still had not broken. Because my doctor was scheduled to deliver a C-section at 7:30, she wasn’t sure if she could make it to pop my water, not to mention deliver my baby. Another doctor from the same practice—who I couldn’t’ve picked out of a crowd since we’d never met—was going to delivery my baby.

I was disappointed, to say the least.

But then, I heard the squeak of rubber-soled shoes across tile, and when I glanced up from a contraction—my sweaty bangs hanging in my eyes—I saw my doctor, a heroine in green scrubs.

She kindly waited for me to get through another contraction before popping my bag of waters. I thought the pain would increase after that, but instead I felt the most wonderful relief. I sighed and then groaned low in my throat.

Nobody was prepared for me to start pushing—most of all me. The doctor and nurses flew into action. I pushed and then felt resistance. I screamed, “I don’t know how to push!”

They reassured me that I did, and I pushed again. They told me my daughter was crowning, but I knew it without being told.

The doctor mentioned to the nurse that the shoulder was stuck. I felt her adjust the shoulder. They asked me to push again, and then the body slipped out.

The epidural I received during my previous birth had left me feeling so groggy, and my legs like slabs of cold beef, that I didn’t feel very present for the birth at all, which was my greatest incentive for going natural this time around.

Now, under those lights, I was aware of everything: of the blessed cacophony of my second daughter’s first cry, of the doctor kneading my womb after I delivered the placenta, of my husband kissing me on the forehead with tears in his eyes.

And I knew, staring up at him and then down at our perfect daughter cradled in my arms, that being a mother to two little girls was going to be one of the greatest joys of my life.

This time, finally, I was right.



Do you have a unique birth experience (good or bad) that you’d like to share? Please do!


Road Trips, Pregnancy, And Fortune Cookie Wisdom

images Flare ups of Braxton Hicks prevented us from traveling far on what was to be my last road trip before my daughter’s birth. But I reasoned that since it had taken me twenty-four hours to give birth the first time, I could certainly drive for an hour before fearing that I was going to give birth in the back of the minivan with my gob-smacked toddler as my audience.

So my mother, my best friend, my firstborn daughter, and I left my home at eleven and started driving up the mountain toward Rugby, Tennessee: a quaint Victoria village. The village itself is small. If you sneeze or yawn while driving down Rugby Highway, you are bound to miss it, so it didn’t take long for us to surmise that the village was closed.

I pulled over at the welcome center, just to be sure, but the tour guide confirmed my suspicions. It was lunchtime, and one hour before my daughter’s nap. She was also refusing to use the public restroom or the portable potty chair that I keep in the back of the minivan to make myself feel better about not putting her in Pull-Ups on trips.

Crossing my fingers that my toddler could hold it for a few more miles, we loaded everyone up and punched the city into the GPS that would lead us toward a restaurant recommended by the Rugby tour guide. We traversed the switch backing roads. I missed my turn and slammed on my brakes without checking my rearview mirror, almost getting rear-ended by a small red car whose driver was gracious enough not to honk at me.

Eventually, we arrived at our destination and tried the back door of the restaurant/boutique. It was locked. I held my daughter’s hand and waddled through a small park toward the front. The lights were off; the restaurant/boutique recommended by the Rugby tour guide was also closed.

Stomach growling, sweaty, holding the hand of a now tired toddler in need of a loo, we loaded up again and tried to find a restaurant smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

I pulled into one café and went to check it out while everyone else stayed in the car. The bell jangled above me. I blinked against the gloom compared to the impossible August brilliance outside. My skin was immediately coated with grease, and there were balled napkins and crinkled paper straw covers scattered across the dirty tiled floor.

I turned without making eye contact and walked back out.

In a mostly abandoned strip mall we saw a sign for a Chinese buffet that looked like they might have cat heads in the bins out back. My best friend clambered out of the vehicle. “Don’t make eye contact!” I yelled as the van door slid shut behind her.

She came back a minute later and shrugged. We walked inside, having driven two and a half hours to do nothing but eat at a knockoff Chinese buffet. The waitress led us to a table and took our drink orders. I was glancing around and cringing, contemplating how to spray everything down with a cloud of Lysol without making it obvious, when my toddler licked the table top.

“Children have excellent immune systems,” my best friend soothed, just as my toddler turned and licked the high chair for good measure.

I screeched, and my mother laughed so hard that she spewed water from her cup all over my daughter. My daughter looked up at her grandmother, frowned, and patted her shirt front. “Wet!” she cried. “Wet!”

We all laughed until we cried.

Thirty minutes later, our bodies digesting a diet of fried rice and MSG, I cracked open my fortune cookie and read, “Life’s about the journey, not the destination.”

I tucked the slip of paper into my wallet and knew that I would always remember—and cherish—my final road trip before my second daughter’s birth because of all the detours on the way to our destination.

Have you ever taken a road trip that “flopped” but was somehow more enjoyable than if everything had gone according to plan?


Letter to My Firstborn Daughter


I sit here at the kitchen table, listening to you playing in your crib when you’re supposed to be asleep. But you can get away with just about anything these days, as I contemplate how quickly our lives are going to change when your little sister comes into our world.

Every ten minutes when you are out of that crib, you look up at me with your fountain ponytail dangling over one brown eye and pout out those lips. “Hold you,” you say. And I put down the dish or the broom or my book or my laptop, lifting you up where you can wrap your legs above my big belly.

You and I have had such a journey these past two and a half years. We have cried and laughed and giggled and painted our toenails matching pink. We have waded in the ocean and hiked until sweat saturated our temples (well, I hiked; you just rode along); we have splashed in the fountain and read a library’s worth of books, only to start all over and read them again.

How many diapers have I changed? How many hours have I spent training you to not need diapers only to have you stare at me through the toilet paper roll you treat like a telescope? How many nights have I sat up rocking you as your fevered body felt like a furnace in my arms? How many times have I kissed your dimpled knees and elbows, soothing away the imaginary “owies” that were really just another excuse to be held and for me to hold you?

There are a thousand and one moments such as this, a thousand and one memories I hope to entrap in my heart and mind: you calling me “Honey”; you dragging your blankie across the grass like a train; you acting like you have the strength to wrangle the leash of our akita, when I barely have the strength to do it myself; you playing so gently with your stuffed animals and dolls, insisting on “yotion” so you can rub their feet; you telling me “Good job!” whenever you barge into the bathroom when I really wouldn’t mind a little privacy; you patting and kissing my belly and saying, “Hi, sissy.”

I could continue listing until you wake up from your nap (for you are now quiet!) and still not cover everything that makes you who you are. You fill our house with such joy, little one, even when you wake up at 6:00 a.m. like this Saturday and call for me until I come and bring you to our bed.

I will never forget your blond curls spilling over the shoulders of your monkey pajama shirt as the two of us made waffles this morning. As the fog hung over the mountains and the fresh cut hay hung heavy with dew. I will never forget you wanting to help me by tasting the blueberries and the chocolate chips I was placing on the waffle batter. Or how you watched every move I made, waiting to duplicate it one day when you have a home of your own—when you have children of your own.

And I pray, for this reason and for so many others, that I do right by you. That in all your lifetime you will never once doubt just how loved you are, for though our lives are going to change in the coming days, my love for you will remain as constant and as unchanging as the moon.

I’ll love you forever, my daughter,

Your mother (or “Honey”)


For Better or . . . For Change

This seven-year-old picture is a great depiction of how my husband and I approach large change.

This seven-year-old picture is a great depiction of how my husband and I approach change.

This past weekend, my sister-in-law let us each take a personality quiz on her computer. I got a great kick out of standing behind my husband’s shoulder and mentally (and sometimes verbally) agreeing or disagreeing as he selected various choices.

Earlier, I had taken the same quiz and admitted that I was pretty inflexible. My husband, on the other hand, believed that he was flexible. My sister-in-laws and I rolled our eyes and smiled behind his back, for he is as routine-oriented as I am—if not more so.

However, since I’ve taken the quiz I have realized why we each believe we have different levels of flexibility.

My husband is greatly flexible when it comes to the large changes in life, whereas large changes almost debilitate me.

I’m so afraid I’m going to make the wrong mistake that I have a tendency to never make a large change at all.

For instance, my husband was sure we were meant to be together almost from the instant that we met.

I was not so sure.

I had distinct moments of clarity where my spirit seemed to be confirming where our lives would one day end up: the summer day he rescued me when I almost toppled over a waterfall, the Sunday afternoon I watched him get baptized in the creek beside his uncle’s church, when he taught me how to shoot a revolver in the sun-shimmered field ringed with mountains, hiking together in the rain, sitting on the roof and looking up at the stars in Bogota, Colombia.

And then reality would clamp down and I would panic and run so fast in the opposite direction that my feet would leave a Road Runner plume of dust in my wake.

So marrying my husband really came down to an issue of relinquishing my control and knowing that to join my life with this tall, quiet-mannered man would be one of the best decisions I would ever make.

And I was right.

Nevertheless, almost six years later, the two of us remain as different as night and day—and not just because I am rather short and . . . well, not so quiet-natured.

Right now, we are on the road for a last minute babymoon. I considered postponing the trip a few days because our toddler daughter, fighting a cold, had such a rough night. But my husband didn’t want to change our hotel reservation along with our other plans.

I took a sip of my decaf coffee and gave him a rueful look over the rim. “Didn’t you click ‘flexible’ on that personality quiz?”

“Actually, yes,” he said, acting miffed. Then the two of us laughed and decided we would pack up our bags and head north. And so we have.

Every once in a while, he stops flipping the radio dial and glances over at me. “You okay? You need to stretch out on the mattress or something?”

Then I just laugh.

Before we left, he placed a gigantic blow up mattress in the back of the minivan so I could “stretch out” whenever it suited my pregnant fancy.

And again I know that we might be as different as night and day—tall, short; dark, fair; introverted, extroverted—but for all of our various approaches to life, we are indeed the perfect fit.



You Might Be Nesting If…


Two weeks ago, my toddler daughter pointed to the kitchen window and said, “It’s waining.”

I stopped cooking and glanced over at the speckled glass. “It’s not raining, Baby,” I said. “The window’s just dirty.”

To be honest, I could care less about windows, baseboards, and organization.

And yet, the funny part is that I am very clean. I sweep the floor daily, wipe down the countertops, make sure the toys are picked up and pillows fluffed on the couch before I can switch off the lights in the living room and head off to bed.

However, now that I only have a month left until my due date, something’s switched.

I have started nesting and therefore have become a compulsive organizer.

So, if you’re expecting, here are some signs that you might be nesting, too:

1. Your husband has become accustomed to you verbally adding things to your to-do list, even if it’s midnight, and you’re both in bed.

2. It’s suddenly essential that you clean your baseboards when you’ve never paid attention to them before.

3. It’s not enough to vacuum the carpets; you must clean them with equipment borrowed from your mother-in-law.

4. You cart all excess to Goodwill and then shop for baby items that counter what you purged.

5. You can’t put a fork away without organizing the whole silverware drawer.

6. The refrigerator has never been so clean.

7. You throw away half of your husband’s socks because they have holes in them.

8. If you don’t do something productive toward the arrival of the baby, you feel like your entire day’s been wasted.

9. For the first time in your life, you want a squeegee so you can wash the windows.

10. Almost all of your “to-do” list gets checked off by your husband, who is more mobile than you are. Very, very convenient, let me tell ya. ;)

Any other signs that someone might be nesting?


I Was Here ~ Leaving Our Mark Through Oral History

i_was_here_by_rachelcroft015-d47n9cl Last week I received a letter from a ninety-two-year-old war veteran—written on his forty-five-year-old Smith Corona—which asked if I knew how he could go about recording his life.

He shared with me his highlights, his history, and it brought me a little sadness to see ninety-two years reduced to a page when that span of existence surely deserved a book.

Nevertheless, weeks away from giving birth to our second little girl, I knew there was no possible way I could tackle a project such as his while also working on my own novel and taking care of a toddler.

So I wrote him back with information for a friend of mine, who would possibly be interested in ghostwriting his story. After I mailed the letter, I smiled while remembering my husband’s grandfather Amos Stoltzfus, who’d also wanted his life placed in a book.

Grandpa Amos didn’t let his eighty years or Amish background stop him from recording his story through a voice recognition system that translated memories into pages.

He passed away before all of his life history could be recorded, but I believe it was the process itself that brought such fulfillment and not the satisfaction of having reached the end.

And then I wondered what it is about our human nature that causes us to yearn to preserve our past as a bulwark against the rising tide of mortality.

What drives us to create? What drives us to record? What drives us to leave our indelible mark on the shores of civilization? We were here; we were here; we were here. . . .

As a mother, I am aware of leaving my imprint on the world through my child and the child I’m about to birth. And yet, the need to create even beyond reproduction is still there.

Each day I sit on the front porch with my laptop and work on a story, it’s as if I am fighting to mold something larger than myself—something that will outlast the rigors of time.

And at times, though I am ashamed to admit, I miss having a day spread out before me to write on the front porch for six hours instead of two. I miss reading literary fiction instead of the thousandth reciting of Goodnight Moon.

However, when my daughter lays her reflective-gold curls against my chest and snuggles in deep while sucking her thumb, I begin to tell her a story about when I was a little girl. And in this oral history, I can feel the bulwark being fashioned against the relentless tug of life’s tide.

And the sweet simplicity of it is far more beautiful than any composition.



Why I Write

10336594_766854816700487_3390029812252542009_n My writer friend, Susan Cushman, who hosted me when I went to Memphis for a television interview and book signing last year, tagged me in a blog series that asks three questions. I hope you enjoy my answers and please share your own answers in the comment section. I would love to hear from you!

(1) Why you write.

I write to better understand our world and my place in it—something I’ve done since I was six years old and kept a diary with a tiny gold locket and a picture of cherubs on the front. I write because I’m always watching for characters and listening for stories, and – when I find them, which I often do – I feel compelled to write these stories down, though I change the names to protect the innocent . . . and the guilty. I write because I want to offer others hope as they search for fragments of beauty in their life’s ashes.

(2) What you’re working on.

I just turned in the first installment in a three-book series that revolves around the Anabaptist (Mennonite/Amish) belief of Pacifism, or non-resistance, which will release with my publisher, Tyndale House, in spring 2016. The following books will release around every six months. The belief of Pacifism means that no one will take up arms to defend themselves, even if this means giving up their lives. However, when a cataclysmic event takes the 21st century back to the Stone Age, and the foundation of civilization crumbles, the Old Order Mennonite community of Mt. Hebron in Montana must come face to face with their corporate beliefs and decide if those beliefs of non-resistance are their personal beliefs because they are just or because they have never come up against anything which caused them to resist them.

(3) Your writing process.

I like to follow a loose synopsis but not an outline, and I guess I’m structured in the fact that I try to write and read every day. Monday through Friday, I get up at 6 and write in the living room with a cup of coffee. My two-year-old daughter gets up at 7, so my husband prepares her breakfast and has some special time with her until he leaves for work around 8. I do social media and respond to emails during her bath time, then I start writing again at 11 when she takes a nap, which sometimes lasts until 1 or—miracle of miracles!—even two. On the weekends, I sleep until 7, take a break from social media, and spend my daughter’s naptime working on blog posts or interviews, like I’m doing now. I read at night, until 10 on weekdays, 11 on weekends, averaging about three books and two audiobooks a month.

Reading inspires my writing process like nothing else. I keep a book next to the bathtub, one next to the bed, one in the diaper bag and/or my purse. Since my daughter’s birth, I haven’t had quite as much time to read, but I’ve made up for that by listening to audiobooks in the car or while I’m cooking. Hearing the story rather than reading it is almost more rewarding, in a way, as so many of the performers put their entire heart into the work (like the wonderful narrator, Tavia Gilbert, in The Outcast and The Midwife; I love working with her!). If I’m ever having a dry time creatively, taking a day or two to read or listen to a quality piece of literature refreshes me completely. For instance, I read The Orchardist while I was working on the first draft of The Midwife, and those lyrical passages reminded me that writing is an art form, and we should give it the respect and time that it deserves.



The Beginning of Our Lasts

DSC_1489 This week, I started the nonfiction audiobook by Anna Quindlen, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Of course, I was only half listening due to the fact that my toddler was in the backseat demanding snacks and water and for me to hit the play button for her DVD of Curious George.

However, one section stood out to me. The section about girlfriends. Quindlen said—and I’m merely paragraphing here—that if you ask a woman how she gets everything done, she will claim that answering emails while getting her hair cut is the ticket. Or that having a to-do list is the way to go.

You get the idea. Quindlen ran down through a whole array of suggestions, and then she said, “But if you ask a woman how she gets through her days, she will have one answer: girlfriends.”

DSC_1481 I thought of that sentence last night as my book club sisters and I sat around the outdoor fireplace at our home.

We have been meeting for almost six years, and we love each other deeply, but we are about to disband.

We have continued meeting despite moves and job changes and babies and life. Yet now our unofficial leader is moving overseas in the fall, and there’s no way we can continue to go on.

And so we have made out a list of lasts: one last hobo pack/s’mores night at my house, complete with a slumber party and a pancake breakfast; one last sushi and ice-cream night; one last pool party with all the kiddos running around in their ruffled bathing suits and multi-colored floaties making them appear to have mutant arms. . . .

One by one, we are slowly but surely checking off these “lasts.” Each are bittersweet, and yet I feel that we cherish them all the more because we know another won’t come around again.

DSC_1510 This morning, after our pancake breakfast, I hugged my book club sisters goodbye and called my mother, who is in Pennsylvania with her younger sister, who has been battling cancer for over a year.

“Jolina, Cheryl went to be with Jesus this morning,” she said, and I was so shocked, I just stood barefoot on the porch and looked at the detritus of the previous night’s festivities: foil, charred logs, a sodden graham cracker, which my toddler daughter attempted to eat until I absently drew her away.

“It—it happened so fast,” I stammered, not even able to cry, for we had all remained optimistic until the cancer spread to her brain. Still, I did not think she would lose the battle so soon.

“I watched Little Women last night,” my mom said, weeping. “I forgot about that scene where the sister dies.”

The tears began streaming down my face then; I had not forgotten.

When my best friend was diagnosed with cancer, we watched that movie together—one of our favorites—and during that scene, I laid my head carefully in her lap and wept as she stroked my hair, praying that she would not be taken from me.

My best friend has not been taken from me. She is actually on her way here, as I sit on the front porch and feel the drizzle of rain on my face and listen to the birds calling to each other in the distance, a near-perfect requiem.

And I am reminded of what Anna Quindlen said: “But if you ask a woman how she gets through her days, she will have one answer: girlfriends.”

She is right, and when my best friend arrives, I am going to hug her and hug her and hug her—drawing comfort from her warm presence and thanking God, once again, for letting her remain in my life, where each day is a new beginning and not the beginning of our “lasts.”

My mother and her sister, Cheryl, back when they sang together.

My mother and her sister, Cheryl, back when they sang together.

This week, I challenge you: if you have a sister, a best friend, or a group of girlfriends who are like your sisters, take some time to call them, or write them a letter, or swing by their house for a hug. You don’t need a reason. We just need to share the love that composes this blessed, fleeting life.