I asked Madeline to write an essay about a book she didn’t like, and I gave her the liberty to choose any book; it didn’t have to be a book we’d read for school. She surveyed the bookshelves for a while reminiscing about different books she’d read. She’d pull a book out, turn it over, and flip though the pages to decide whether or not she disliked it enough to write her essay about it. Finally, she chose The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.


She looked up from the bookshelf, “Why? Is it too short? Do you want me to pick another one?”

“No! I’m happy you picked that one.”

I can remember reading it to the children one evening after one of them had received it as a birthday gift. I was excited to have the book because I liked the simple whimsical illustration on the cover and it seemed everyone in my mom circle thought it was such a sweet book. I read the book to the kids, closed it, and put it back on the shelf. I didn’t like it. The book has stayed on the shelf for more than twenty years. I never read it to the kids again. The kids have read most of the books on our shelves, so I guess at some point, probably enticed by the whimsical illustrations, Madeline picked it up and read it.

The kid in that book is a parent’s nightmare. Why would we read that book to our kids? Do we want them to grow up thinking it’s okay, even expected, for them to take, take, take and never give anything back?

Or maybe it’s a good thing that they read the book. Maybe it’s a litmus test of sorts. How will they react to the book?

We never learn the boy’s name, but through the illustrations we learn that his initials are M.E. — Subtle. We all have M.E.s somewhere in our lives: in the branches of our family tree, at work, and in our various communities. These people are exhausting. If we let them, they’ll leave us stumps. I wish I had some nugget to share about how to deal with M.E.s, but I don’t. Over the last couple years I’ve tried to take a few steps away from some of the M.E.s in my life which has been both good and sad.

If we let them, they’ll leave us stumps.

Madeline turned in her essay. It had some grammar and usage errors, and she might have misspelled “fertilized,” but she recognized that the kid in the story is pathologically self-absorbed and the relationship is unhealthy. Her litmus test revealed that she is wise and insightful beyond her years. I gave her an A+.

I think the kids are doing fine. Not because I figured out how to parent in that perfect way, but because these people I get to call my own are kind and loving people. I’ve never told them to thank me for dinner, but they do. I have told them a thousand times not to put their elbows on the table, and they still do. So it isn’t anything I’ve done. I’m grateful, though. I know what a gift it is to have the husband and kids I have. I hope they feel unconditionally loved. I hope they know that if I were to write a book about a kid and a tree the last illustration in the book would be of a well-watered and fertilized old tree surrounded by many kids, their families, friends, and other trees in a beautiful forest. Unconditionally loved. 

Aug 302014

Mother of pearl! I got tagged. I admitted out loud that I have a bad attitude about doing it. So the dinnertime conversation last night went something like this, “Mom, what if the first person who was tagged didn’t do it? Or what if she just donated money but didn’t tag anyone else to do […]

My boy left for flight school today

  He’s off on his next grand adventure. His car’s all packed and he’s loaded the directions on his phone. We all stand in the driveway and wave and call out, “I love you! Be careful! I love you!” as the car drives off, and we wipe the tears. The last 60 days went by […]

I'm getting old

In the last several decades the only reason I’ve been to the doctor is to give birth or have an occasional check-up. I’ve been blessed with great health. But I guess I’m getting old. I had a general idea what the word meant, but as soon as I got home, I looked it up. I […]


He would speed up. Slow down. Slow down some more. Speed up. Ugh. I glanced at the speedometer again feeling slightly annoyed by the truck ahead of me. I noted that he was now slowing below the posted speed limit and driving erratically. I hummed along to the tune on the radio and consciously counted […]


I’m about to completely ruin winter break for my boys. We have to do some math work before I leave town for a soccer tournament and I’m about to make that announcement. I’m going to be wildly unpopular! Oh math, so often I hear parallels being drawn between you and life. Math and God. Math […]

Jan 242014

The internet is a strange and wonderful place. It takes approximately three seconds to find out the average temperature in Phoenix in February, which is helpful when planning a trip to Phoenix in February. It takes about 15 seconds to figure out that the cat’s psychotic behavior doesn’t mean she’s demon possessed, but it means […]

Nov 162013
Stanley 2.0

We’ve moved a lot, so we have friends all over the country, which means that when our little friends around the country are in about the second grade and it’s Flat Stanley time, folks think of us. I’m flattered. They think we live in an interesting enough place that their second grader wouldn’t be embarrassed […]

Laughter and Napping

On the right side of my mouth where a molar used to live, I now I have a hole in my head and a throbbing pain. On the left side of my mouth I have a new inlay which took the duration of the entire movie Maid in Manhattan to place. Remember back in the […]

May 092013
Oh! Humanity

I’m kind of down on humanity right now. Someone smashed the driver’s side car window to bits in order to take what didn’t belong to him. The man from the bank said the thief had made purchases already. The phone’s battery was at 6%. Don’t put me on hold. Please, no! I can’t wait. Then […]

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