Category Archives: Happy Father’s Day

The Gratitude Drug

Today husband had four stitches put in his head.

As I drove him to the ER, my imagination went into overdrive as I imagined all of the worst case scenarios. I began to feel mad. How dare he get hurt? This was not on Monday’s schedule! Clearly, I need to get a grip.

Also: my impatience makes me a bad nurse. I like things to be “fine.” I am annoyed by sickness and injury as if they are personal weaknesses. Sigh. Bad nurse.

Impatience and mad finally gave way to a rush of relief. He was okay and so I was, too.

In the long run, it was a little thing, but you know, life changes as quickly as the flip of the switch. Flip. Your life is turned upside down.

There is nothing like spending the day in a hospital to give you perspective.The Thankful Tree, a physical manifestation of our  gratitude. If you’re looking for a family activity, I suggest this one! It’s fun. The kids think it’s great to glue thankful leaves on a tree branch. I’m going to write “Gregor’s Forehead” on a leaf.

I’m also thinking we should tell the people we love that WE REALLY DO LOVE THEM. Because the Thanksgiving table changes. People somehow get swapped out. This year I will have to make a giant paper Cope Cut-out.

Cope, we love you.

Life is good. We are alive and well. Even if our girl will be eating mashed potatoes in the Wasatch Mountains…sniff…(but Patrick and Natalie, I am SO GRATEFUL for hosting her!!!)

Small events like this morning are reminders. We are mortal. I’m grateful for more time. It’s a feeling that floods through me. It’s like a drug. Literallly.

Did you know? This relief, this thankfulness, this GRATITUDE activates a reward center in our brain: meaning we crave more. Read THIS Great Post! “When we feel grateful, we are programmed to seek out more experiences or things to be grateful for, more ways to feel that high.”

And guess what else? The more we practice gratitude, the better we get at it. The brain continues to seek after what made us feel so good (confirmation bias) so it keeps finding ways to be grateful, which in turn keeps rewarding us with feel-good dopamine.

But on the flip side: it could also do the opposite. If we look for ways that life is no-good horrible, our brain will keep finding more no-good horrible. We could actually train our brain to seek after the bad.

Fascinating, no?

I think I’ll stick with feel-good dopamine hits.

For starters: Sunsets

Children hopping off a school bus

The change of seasons

This guy. A scar on the forehead should just make him more fetching, right?

I’m thankful he’ll be at the table (and cooking the turkey and stuffing.)

There was another dopamine hit:

Starving, I went to the hospital cafeteria for soup and a Diet Coke (I know, a drug I’ve got to quit) only to discover they didn’t take credit cards. While fumbling through my purse to no avail, a man pulled out five dollars. “It’s the holidays,” he said, handing it over to the cashier.

Gratitude flooded through me right there in the check-out line. What kindness.

In turn, I wanted to buy someone else lunch. See what he did there?

Just think, if we were all so kind, the gratitude drug could become an epidemic. We could be swimming in happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.


Sunday Meditations: Happy Father’s Day

I love my Father. I see him everywhere.

I love my Dad. He’s one of the good guys. In a white shirt and tie.

I love Arthur. He’s one of the good guys. In a kitchen apron, making bread.

I love my boy, Nellie Mak. He’s one of the good guys. With duct tape.

I love Superman. Because who doesn’t?

I love our doggy, Tenny. He’s a good doggy.

I love my brothers. And brothers-in-law. Each one of them. They’re good fathers and men. And could have their own fashion face-off.

I love the good men who show my son what being a good man is all about. Who do the right thing. And help my husband laugh and cook bacon.

And I’m lucky that seventeen years ago (zowie!) my husband walked into a college apartment and it was love at first sight even though it took him a few months for him to realize that. He works so hard for us, can cook like a master chef, and loves his children something fierce. He deserves a back scratch, don’t you think?

He’s one of the good guys. And I love him.

To all the good guys: Happy Father’s Day!



It was late August, 1994.  I was nineteen years old and headed to Idaho to try out for the college 
cross-country team.  My life was shoved into a mustard-colored Nissan Sentra; mostly clothes, cheap 
jewelry, books and, of course – running shoes.  On my lap I held a CD player and a green plant the entire 1000 miles.

My dad and I drove eight hours through Nebraska, the golden corn lined up in rows along the highway, and into the desert of Wyoming.  I detested Wyoming at that time of day, in the middle of the afternoon when it was dry and pounding hot, along the highway with only semi-trucks and gas stations for miles around.  “I hate Wyoming,” I said.   At 3 in the afternoon it reminded me of serial killers and  overheated cattle.  But I could get over Wyoming – there was hope coming and I could see it.  In the distance, as if a mirage with snowy white caps, the Rocky Mountains were coming into view, and my pulse quickened, began to rise and fall with each point and valley.

“We’ll be there before the sun goes down,” my dad said.  

Hours later we passed the Idaho state sign just as my father launched into singing. “And here we have Idaho, winning her way to fame…” The Idaho state song was a song all my siblings and I knew since our months in the womb and there was no way I would get away without joining in.  So I sang and my dad laughed, and I looked out the window, at the ascension into what heaven would surely look like for me.  The air thinned as we climbed the narrow twisting highway.  The earth was golden; the sun hitting the burnt grass just the right way.  The yellowed wheat and cattails were untouched.  They covered every surface, interspersed with pine trees that climbed higher into the sky.  It was dry and brown but began to turn greener the farther North we went.

We blasted Carly Simon’s, Let the River Run through the entire Bear Lake Canyon and to this day, that canyon will always be singing that song.  Let the river run, let all the dreamers shake the nation…come…it’s asking for the taking…

My dad grinned at me, “Nervous?”

“A little bit.”

Actually, “A little bit” was a colossal understatement.  I was a good runner in high school.  Maybe even great.  As a skinny little thing, the coach placed me on the JV team after taking one look at me.  After I won the first race he grinned, “Looks like a varsity runner to me.”  I made State as a sophomore and my coach began talking junior and senior year, and college offers.  And then. Senior year I quit. To this day I can’t tell you exactly why except I was scared of a lot of things.   

And the thing about quitting, is that it feels rotton.  I hated that piece of me; my lack of mental toughness.  I avoided my coaches and teammates, dreaded their questions and my lack of answers.  I hated that I couldn’t trust myself.  I hated that I kept saying,”next year.”  I hated that every time I looked at my parents I felt badly.  Even then I sensed that most times you just can’t get back the things you give away.

If there was one thing I could do differently in my life, that decision ranks #1.

I quit.

I was so ashamed of the quitter.

Then, as a college freshman, I saw the cross-country team run.  And it just so happened that there was a girl who lived across the lawn from my dorm.  Her name was Tara.  Tara was the first girl runner I  saw spit while she ran.  She was brave that way, I always thought.  We had a small falling out over a boy, but that’s another story.  We began to run in the early morning.  This is where my obsession began:  the 5:15 a.m. run in frigid Rexburg, Idaho.  Every morning my alarm would go off.  The quitter was still hanging around.  Half the time I jumped out of bed, turned off the alarm, and jumped back into bed.  But it ate at me.  I could not be a quitter forever.

But slowly, over that year, I began to change.  A resolve took root.  There was a stirring in me.  I knew that time was not standing still.  If I wanted to run with a team, this was it – my last shot.  And I finally wanted it.  I wanted to run.  I didn’t want to be the quitter.  Fool.  Talent thrown away.  This was my chance at redemption.  Many an afternoon I watched practice; the intervals, the sweat, the time trials.  Later I moved to the bleachers and saw the bigger picture; the best runners, the strategy of a win, the kick at the end of a leg.  

At the end of the spring I gathered my courage and asked Coach for a try-out.  He was skeptical of my story, skeptical that I was even a runner (runners don’t quit!!)

“You’ll be trying out with some of the best female runners in the country,” Coach said.  He didn’t need to tell me; I knew they were All-Americans who competed nation wide.  They were hard core.
But Coach studied me and finally said, “Come back in the fall to try-out.”  He was giving me my last shot.

I went home to Omaha and trained all summer.  I had no coach, no training plan.  I just ran.  My parents were ecstatic.  Their daughter would be a college athlete.


When my dad and I got to campus we walked to the athletics department and through the gym, the spacious room reverently quiet.  Our feet hit the wooden court, and I tried to tiptoe, not disturb the silence as my dad’s sneakers squished quietly across the entire court.  Coach was there; a wiry, small-boned man typical of a cross-country runner obsessed with running.  

The next day we were to come back at 5 a.m. for the official team try-out.  My dad shook the coach’s hand; his dreams for me sealed with a handshake. 

“Oh, Amy, I love to see you run,” my dad said on our way back to my apartment.

My stomach began to wind tight.  

We went to bed early.  I set the alarm for 4:30 and slept fitfully, jumping up with the alarm’s first beep.  The desert always turned so cold at night and I shivered while peering outside into the darkness.  Only the stars were awake, twinkling brightly over my head.  I had slept in my try-out clothes, but before I laced up my shoes I dropped to the side of the bed and onto my knees.  I clasped my hands together and half-whispered, half-thought a prayer, “Please Heavenly Father, please help me run fast.  Please help me run my best…please.”  Cause I truly believed he could hear me, that he wanted me to run.  And if he wanted me to run, I might as well be fast.

I walked to the kitchen, my arms wound tightly around my skinny body and opened a can of Campbell’s Pork ‘n Beans, my new energy experiment specifically brought for this moment, hoping it was the perfect pre-race food.  

I began to eat the beans cold, mentally going through the way I would start my run:  go out fast but not too fast.  Don’t need to be first but keep up with the top of the pack.  To go out too fast would be a rookie mistake.  This was intuitive to me; I had understood it even as a kid.  I must be patient, show restraint.  My final kick was my strength.  Don’t let the first runner get so far ahead that you can’t catch up.  Watch the front runner.  It will take careful timing.

I could hear my dad in the other room.  Drawers shutting, water running.  I closed my eyes and hummed Carly Simon, “Let the river run…come, the new Jerusalem.  It’s asking for the taking… runnin’ for the water…”

It’s asking for the taking. Take it.


This is not where the story ended, but since this is a blog, not a novel, I’ll fill you in with two words:  I failed.

It was extremely cold that morning, and my legs reacted like taut rubber bands.  My time was off.  In the end, my name wasn’t on the list.

I suppose this sounds like a sad story.  For awhile it was, and then it wasn’t.  I didn’t make the team.  But there are two parts of this story that are important.  One is about making things right.

The second is that although this is a story about running and quitting and trying, it’s also one of my favorite stories about my dad.  My dad grew up a hard-working farm boy in Bear Lake, Idaho.  He was a runner too.  He loved that I ran; both my parents did.

They’ve seen me fail a lot.  

But even though I’ve failed, I’ve never felt like a failure – at least not for long.  I grew up with an unfailing knowledge that my dad believed in me; that with enough work, anything was possible. 

It is his belief in me, a comment he kept making over the years, that made me start writing; this story was one of them.  It was my mother’s validation that has kept me at it. 

And though my dad lives too far away, I know he’s there.  Still cheering.  When I think of him I see the kindness in his eyes, the smile that always comes to his face.  And every once in awhile he’ll say, “I’ll never forget that trip we took,” and then he’ll start singing Carly Simon.  Not everyone is blessed to have a dad like mine, so today I’m grateful.  So grateful.  Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

We love this guy.  So much.
Grandpa Art, we love you.

Picture entitled, “She Thinks He Hung the Moon.”

I’ve heard it said that the greatest gift a father can give to to his children is to love their mother.  My children are blessed beyond measure.  I love this man and the good father he is.

And someday, after all the training and the talking and the wrestling and the cajoling and the farting and burping, and dirty socks and the wise cracks and the lessons, and the failing, my son will be a father.  He’ll know what to do; he’s been given tremendous examples.
Today I am grateful for good fathers, and the great compliment they are to mothers.

Happy Father’s Day.  Dads, GG, uncles, brothers, men, boyzzzzz.



Catching a Falling Star

Some people have to work so much harder to get their baby.

There are empty nurseries and years of childless Christmases.

And some get pregnant completely by accident.  Stomp, stomp!  Not fair!
Heartbreak is sometimes the beginning of destiny.

Last week a young, teenage girl held her child close to her heart, then gave her to another mother.  My brother, Eric, and his wife, Cassie, became parents for the first time.
Good thing Eric’s other antics were kept so secret – whew!  Close call. 
But now there seems double the love:  A birth mother.  A new mother.  A new father.  Over the moon.

And while it is doubtful I will ever meet that young girl (who happens to look like Cassie and who I feel I already know), I love her forever for her gift, for giving us Scout Olivia.

Meet Scout.  Yes!  That’s her name!  It was obviously meant to be since Gregor would never let me use that name and I thought he was just being mean, but no, the name was just meant for this baby! Named after one of our most favorite literary heroines of all time, she’s meant for great things.  Can’t you just tell with those alert ears and thoughtful tilt of the head and intense pacifier concentration?

Catch a Falling Star – From Trafalgars Square on Etsy

And this is why I love blogging: Sharing news that changes your family forever.  Okay, I’ll be honest, I just wanted another baby picture on my blog.

Sometimes stars fall and only seem to land in other people’s hands.  But sometimes a star falls just for you, and you reach out your hands and catch it.


Day For Dad

In preparation for Father’s Day, I was working on a talk I gave at church today.  
Brynne was preparing by catching a frog.  She named him Froggy-FooFoo.
She put him in a watering can with grass, covered it, and fell asleep in our bed.  Froggy-FooFoo spent the night next to Brynne’s daddy, on his bedside table.  When he came into the bedroom he said, “What is that thing doing in here?”  
The next morning Brynne let Froggy go because she felt bad for him.  It happily hopped away, and so began Father’s Day for Froggy-FooFoo and the daddy in our house.

It is always best to get a picture before church, when everyone is tucked in and hair is cute and combed, but we were running late so I made everyone go outside after church.  Picture after picture…

This is the best we could do.
But oh man, we sure love this guy.

After a fabulous Sunday nap, cards were given

Brynne made a robot

Our gifts for Dad seem to revolve around food.  Maybe we should circle back to socks and a tie.

For the second year in a row I gave Gregor a 2011 scrapbook I made on-line.  It was supposed to be done in January, but I’ve decided June is a great Father’s Day goal.  I love how it turned out.  Never going back to all that tape and cutting and paper and page protectors…

And then we set up for a late picnic as the sun was beginning to set.  
And had good company – Arthur and Heather and Eddie from Brooklyn, New York.  We called my dad in Arizona and said, “We’ll be seeing you in two days!”

Arthur.  We love our Arthur.

“Grandma!” Paige cried.  “I can’t find my loose tooth!”

The sun set and the air turned cool.  But still we were happy as we contemplated the love we feel for the dads in our lives.  Yep, we’re some lucky kids!


Father’s Day

I am very blessed to have such good fathers in my life
A father-in-law who raised good boys to become wonderful fathers and husbands.  We’re trying to make Art a man of leisure but alas, he likes to work, he likes to serve.  His is always feeding someone, bringing them bread or clam chowder.  He lets his grandchildren bother him in the kitchen even when he’s really busy.  He makes time for people.  He’s quiet but can engage anyone in conversation and then he’ll actually listen.  He doesn’t scan the crowd for someone more important to talk to.  He’s perceptive, intelligent, recognizes the spiritual connections in life.  He’s also very funny.  I sure do love this guy.

And a wonderful father who raised good brothers to become good fathers.  When I think of my dad, I think of him standing on top of a hill while I scanned the crowd to make sure he was at one of my track meets.  I think of him teaching me how to drive, sitting on the edge of my bed giving me advice, eating popcorn and loving his root beer, helping me move a million times, buying me saltwater taffy, employing me to clean his office, taking me to lunch, being on the stand at church, delivering messages filled with the spirit, a faithful man always.  My dad is always kind, always makes me laugh, and doesn’t like new cars or to appear that he has more than anyone else.  And I’ve grown to really appreciate that.
I don’t see my dad often enough but I bet I think about him everyday.  Happy Father’s Day.  I sure do love and miss you!
And then there’s this guy…
I told Cope to get a picture with me biting him, but she got me wiping the spit off his face.  We were arguing about who was taller.  He insisted he was.  Ok, I’ll give it to him.  It was father’s day, after all.

I think this is my new favorite picture.
For Father’s Day Gregor got me a new phone…(because I’m technologically challenged and don’t really care).  I know, I’m supposed to get him things.  He got exciting presents such as socks, root beer, homemade crafts, and the 2010 digital photo album I made.  I sure do love this guy.  After church we went to visit our neighbor in the hospital and then he took the kids to fly a kite, and then we visited his dad.  He didn’t even get his special father’s day dinner because it was so late, but he said that was okay.  We ate lava cakes once the kids were in bed.  Thanks for being such a great dad.  When you get married, you don’t really know how your spouse will change or really be with your children.  It’s a great leap of faith.  Everyday I feel lucky.  Our children love daddy.

We happened to see Art in the parking lot at church and after several attempts, this was the best we could get.  Cope is super sore from a bad sunburn, Art has sensitive eyes to the flash, and Gregor did attempt to smile.
Thanks to all good dads.  And Happy Father’s Day.

Into the Wild Blue Yonder…

We’ve had our share of trips…many many field trips.  Each class goes sometime during the last two weeks of school.  Gregor went on all of them this year.  First with Nelson to Odion Point in Maine.  Gregor was reminded how tight a school bus is.  

Then he went with Brynne to Squam Lake Science Center.  We were low on food and he got Brynne-size portions in a Barbie lunch box.  Oh it makes me laugh to see him eating his tiny chicken nuggets next to the other parents.

Paige was mad she didn’t get to go too.

Cope went on a whale watch in Boston but no parents allowed!
The last day of school.  Wow.  Another year older.  A middle-schooler next year!
And since it’s almost Father’s Day I’ll tell you a funny story.  
Last month I made a very impulsive purchase.  I’m blaming it on  Do you know it?  It featured some very fun Williams-Sonoma Star Wars pancake shapes for only $19.99!  What fun we would have – what JOY Nelson would feel opening the present and making pancakes with his mother.  When Gregor asked what I’d bought and I told him he said, “Frivolous purchase Amy.  Very frivolous.”  And I did feel a bit guilty because of course I had to buy the little pancake shaker thing to make perfect Star Wars pancakes and then the shipping…
But then, the other morning Gregor said, “Do you remember me asking you a question last night?” Hmmm.  Nope, couldn’t remember.  He said, “Sailboat?”  And then I did remember.  He came up while I was SLEEPING and said, “Amy there’s a sailboat on Craig’s List.”
“No.”  I remember saying this even with my eyes closed.
“Uh-uh.”  I remember shaking my head and falling back asleep.
So I said, “I do remember!  I was sleeping and I said no!”
Gregor smiled and said, “Since you were sleeping we’ll just chalk that up to clouded judgement.”
Gregor has wanted a sailboat for years and he finally found the right boat for the right price.
This baby is heavy.
After mowing the lawn in the 88 degree heat, Nelson and Gregor went out for a 3 hour sail.  Seeing Nelson bound off shrieking, “Daddy fell off twice. It was AWESOME!” was pretty great.  I have yet to sail but I can’t wait.  I think this will make for some great memories.  And I think Gregor got off easy.  Way too easy.
We tease our Daddy but we love him so.

We had Art and Heather over for dinner.  I love seeing Gregor and his dad converse.
Happy Father’s Day.  I love these guys.
I get to see my own Dad as we make the big trip west.  Whenever we’d go on a big trip he’d belt out, “Off we go into the wild blue yonder, off we go into the…” something or other.  We leave tomorrow night and drive straight through to Omaha.
Then we hit Bear Lake.
“And here we have Idaho, winning her way to fame.”  My dad grew up on a farm there and all of us kids know the song by heart.  The only state song I know.  Love that dad.
Then we’ll be camping in the Uinta Mountains in Utah.
Can’t wait to hit the point of the mountains and know we’re almost there. That dry desert heat.
Love it.  It’s been too long.
So until next time-
Off we go into the wild blue yonder!

Big Bad Dad

Happy Father’s Day
to a Great Daddy!

Gregor’s biological children 🙂
“Why do you love daddy?”
Cope:  Cause he plays octopus with us
Nelson:  I don’t know.  Cause he’s nice
Brynne:  Umm, he tickles!
Paige:  Love daddy, uh huh

Gregor’s other kids.  Some of our boys came back for a bball dinner/reunion:  Victor Gomez, Jerome Dyson, and Ulysses Veras.  Gregor loves these boys.  They are all doing such great things; working hard and getting close to college graduation.

We love you, daddy!


I’ve spent some time thinking about the fathers in my life.  They are  both really great men.  Wonderful examples of hard work, compassion, and wisdom.  They both know the scriptures well, pray often, and are both people I like to talk to when I need help or answers.

Here is Arthur Makechnie at his latest birthday party.  As you can see, my children love him.  He still runs the dining services at Proctor Academy as the Top Chef.  The kids run to find him as soon as they are done eating (and often sneak away before they are done).  He is always so busy but he makes time for them by giving cart rides, a cookie, or setting them up to bake bread.  Art is a very intelligent person but he’s humble; you would never know the number of degrees he has or the schools he has attended – like Harvard.  He cooks because he likes to serve others.

This is a 2004 picture of my dad, mom, and baby Brynne.  When I think of my dad I think of him smiling.  He is a person with unconditional love.  And I don’t say that lightly.  The last time I remember him being angry with me was when I was 16 and racing my brother up the street in a car.  That was a long time ago!  When I was insistent I wanted to be an actress and move to California he said, “Then you should do it,” and just like that my stubbornness melted away and I didn’t run away to CA.  But he showed support even when it wasn’t a great idea.  Both of these dads are very unmaterialistic.  My father’s former business partner arrived at work everyday in a Jaguar and would laugh at my dad’s older Buick, “Why don’t you get a better looking car?” But my dad didn’t care.  Appearance doesn’t matter to him.  
These dad’s really do have a lot in common!
We are blessed they are healthy, active, and making memories with us and our kids.
Happy Father’s Day!
Gregor, you are next!