perfectly imperfect


I passed by a mutant pumpkin at the grocery store. I was running late, but this squash was calling to me. I liked that it wasn’t perfectly round, had a deformed stem and warts all around. I liked that it had some character, not a boring ol’ globe of orange. I had to go back and buy it.

As I put my purchase in the car, I thought about all the other seemingly imperfect gifts in my life: I chose both of my cats because they have extra toes and huge front feet. My dog was the runt of the litter that barely survived. My house is over 100-years-old and bears the scars of twenty years of parenting six children. Then, of course, there are the children themselves- three of whom were born with what some people would call imperfections. My beautiful daughter was born with a life threatening birth defect, as well as several other not-so-normal attributes. One of them is a set of very unique feet. photoSomeone once asked her if she would want to “get them fixed” and she just looked at them, perplexed, and asked, “Why would I want to do that?”  She loves her feet because she knows they add to the amazing package that makes up Grethe. She understands that her unique features make her special. 

Our imperfections make us extraordinary.

I can trace my appreciation for imperfection back to the birth of my third son, Kelly. Before Kelly, I was living a pretty average life: I had a nice, handsome husband, a lovely home and two beautiful, healthy young boys. Everything was neat and tidy and perfect.

But I didn’t have the capacity to fully appreciate any of it.

And then Kelly was born and he took my perfect world and gave it a good-ass shake.

Kelly surprised us with Down syndrome and forever shifted how I would be in the world. At first, of course, there was shock. Never in my life had a known a person that had a disability and I never cared to, to tell you the truth. People like that made me a bit uncomfortable. What was I supposed to say to them, anyway? And would they even understand if I talked to them? Easier to not take the chance and just walk on by.

Then, suddenly I was a mother of a handicapped child. How could this be?

It didn’t take me long to get over my self-pity, however.  After the initial shock of his diagnosis, our family concentrated on loving Kelly completely as he was. It was not a difficult task. Kelly was absolutely adorable and a delightfully easy baby. As he grew, we enjoyed Kelly’s differences and were never concerned when he didn’t meet traditional milestones. Kelly did things in his own time, in his own way. We already had two typically developing boys, so we knew what “normal” was supposed to be like. Watching Kelly grow was (and is) a delightful adventure. We never look at him as being disabled or handicapped. He just thinks and does things differently, and we happen to think that different keeps things interesting.

Having Kelly in my life allowed me to understand that we are all imperfect And while the word “imperfect” carries a negative connotation, it shouldn’t. Who wants to be perfect anyway? Our differences are what set us apart. Our differences are what makes the world go ‘round. Imagine what a dreadful place the world would be if we were all the same. So, why the hell would we aspire to that?

At some point after having Kelly, I heard something about parents choosing plastic surgery to alter the shape of their special child’s eyes. This astounded me. Why would I take it upon myself to alter this glorious being? And for what purpose, to make him blend in with the “normal” crowd? Changing Kelly’s eyes would not change Kelly, even if we did decide to put him through such a procedure. Kelly, at 14, has no typical teenage insecurities or angst. He is the most content person I know. Clearly, his imperfections are working for him just fine.

This amazing human’s entry into my life prepared me for the lessons that were to come, and there was a lot to come– just like there will be for anyone playing this game of life. We will all experience times in our life when things seems less than perfect. The key is to be malleable enough to redefine one’s definition of what is perfect. Having Kelly taught me that. He changed the way I looked at life.

And these changes made me stronger, they made me more resilient, they made me wiser.

I no longer yearned for everything to be perfect and I learned how futile it was to fight what came my way.  It was so much easier to let go and accept, no matter how challenging the circumstance, than to fight the unfightable.  I learned to have faith that what I would end up with would indeed be absolutely perfect- a new, revised version of perfect.

I learned to look at imperfections- in situations, in individuals, and in myself- as gifts. I’m telling you, this attitude makes life so much nicer, so much easier! And in my mind, nicer and easier is the way to go. Embracing acceptance and moving toward appreciation, instead of perfection, is my goal.

This type of thinking invites the most brilliant kind of alchemy; right there in front of you, the things that once seemed flawed, transform into objects of beauty-

Objects that have been patiently waiting for you to wake up.

photo by Anna Stockwell

photo by Anna Stockwell


We have a beautifully restored theater in town. It attracts live performances as well as wonderful, independent movies. Playing now is “Boyhood”, an American coming-of-age drama, written and directed by Richard Linklater. It’s remarkable because it was filmed, with the same cast, over the span of 12 years.

I’ve been meaning to go see it, but haven’t found the time. Tonight I watched the trailer to see what I’ve been missing:

I got about 8 seconds in and I broke into tears.

I can’t go watch this movie. I have already lived this movie twice. I do not need to pay money and sit still for 166 minutes and be painfully reminded that I’m going to do it again.

And again.

I am living Boyhood.

As I brush my teeth, I turn and see the backs of two scrawny 7-year-old boys in their Scooby-Doo unders, arms draped around each other’s neck, shoulder blades sticky out at sharp angles, talking to each other into the mirror.

These are the babies that I rocked to sleep simultaneously while drinking in their milky scent, feeling their delicious weight on my lap. It all happens in such slow motion, that when I take a moment to stop the wheel, I’m a bit shocked to see what has unfolded right in front of me. As John Lennon said so eloquently in Beautiful Boy, (Darling Boy): “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

Yes, I know that is what this movie is about. I know what happens next. I do not need to be reminded, thanks very much.

I want to stay right here-where their gangly limbs have yet to grow muscles, their big teeth don’t quite fit their faces. I want to stay in this place of giggles and need. I don’t need to watch it all change in a little over 2 hours, no matter how big of an endeavor the film project was.

The real-time minutes are moving too fast as it is.



...becomes this

…becomes this









...becomes this

…becomes this


















...becomes this

…becomes this



“The only way to make sense out of change is to

plunge into it,

move with it,

join the dance.”  

~Alan Watts

Happy Birthday to me

Last Friday was my birthday. It was lovely, and delightfully uneventful; my husband made me a dinner of lobster and corn (accompanied by some bubbly!) and for dessert we had Jebmade blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream. I went to bed happy.

The next day, I decided to run away. I like being alone, but rarely get to experience it. Luckily, I married well and my husband understands when I need to go. I escaped to a lovely mountain town in Vermont about 90 minutes from home. This place is special to me for a few reasons: my mom used to meet me here for lunch, two of my siblings married here, and it is absolutely beautiful.

When I pulled into my lodging for the night, I heard the ding of a text. The message was from Jeb. He had managed to get all of the kids together for a photo. With Luke living out of the house and Cal an independent teen, this is no easy feat. The last time this happened was three years ago. A lot can happen in that time, especially when puberty starts working its magic.

The photos instantly brought tears to my eyes.

My children are beautiful. Stunning. (I love how this works. We are so blinded by love for our children that we are convinced they are the most magnificent things on the planet. We would be shocked if others didn’t quite see what we see…love goggles).

And they all came out of a spark between Jeb and me. Remarkable. Our love created these human beings. That is amazing. I stare at these captivating images and I can hardly wrap my head around what they represent. These are my children. Without me, they would not exist. Without them, neither would I.

When I left for this excursion, Jeb locked me in a strong embrace. Nicky was holding onto my leg and I had just received a hug from Kelly and about twenty-five kisses from Drewzie. As Jeb released me, he said, “You sure are loved.”

Yes, one thing I know for sure: I am loved.

When that thought came into my head, I felt the most lovely feeling wash over me: contentment. Right now-this very second- I have absolutely everything I need. My life is filled with love, and when all of the other noise gets distilled down, there is nothing left but that.  

To love and to be loved. It is why we are here.



Mission accomplished.


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