God sends you pebbles

I was married for 25 years to my children’s father. It was a horrible marriage. I know, you’ll say ‘Surely there were some good times!’….No. There were not. He succeeded in tearing down every ounce of self-esteem, trust, worth and joy I ever had. So after my divorce, when I thought about dating, I likened it to backing into a big ‘ol cactus.

We lived in a small town. Really small. I knew several single men, I’m using the term ‘men’ loosely. They all had a penis. So they WERE men. That’s where it began and ended.

I did know one man I had a sort of crush on. He was the father of one of Kade’s friends. He was handsome and had a job. He had never been in prison and his children loved him. Kade was best friends with his son and talked highly of him. So, when he asked me out, I said yes.

Our first date pretty much set the bar for the rest of our relationship. We went out to eat then stopped and got a 6 pack and hit the back roads in his truck. Yes, Yankee friends, that is actually dating protocol in the South. We had driven for about an hour, around and around, when he said, ‘I bet you don’t even know where we are’. Ha! Men think they are so clever! I told him I knew exactly where we were! My exact words were, ‘I do know where we are! If you go to the right at this split in the road, you go down a little way and you tee at the river. Bill and I used to come down here once in a while. It’s so pretty down here. There is this little house down here, more of a shack, really. I’ll bet there isn’t even running water or an inside bathroom. It’s so sad. There were these three little girls playing outside. None of them were completely dressed, they were all dirty. I felt so sorry for them, I can’t believe people live like that!’.

We turned the  opposite direction of the poor river family and our conversation turned to other things. I do remember thinking that this was all so comfortable and going really well. About thirty minutes after the split in the road, we were both kind of quiet, just enjoying the ride. It was cool outside, but nice weather for February and the farmers had already started preparing their fields. I was relaxed and taking in how pretty ir was on this old gravel road. And then, without warning, my smug ass got handed to me on a cheap paper plate.

“I can make you feel better about that house with the little girls.” my date said. Confused I asked “Oh really, how?” With a chuckle he said, “That’s my brother’s house. I assure you, there is running water and an indoor bathroom.”

I wanted to die. No really, if Jesus would have picked that moment to come back to Earth, I wouldn’t have been happier or more relieved. I was mortified. I was so glad it was dark, my face, I’m sure, was hot and red. I wanted to throw up. I contemplated just opening the door on the truck and diving into the field that moments before, I had been admiring. I wanted to cry.

To his credit, my date thought this was hysterical. He explained that his brother had some issues and the house was a bit old. As I kept apologizing, he laughed harder and harder. I finally regained most of my composure and tried to act non-chalant, jokes on me!

I had regained most of my poise by the time we got back to his house, but the fun had just begun. As each of his children returned home for the evening, he gleefully told of my redneck faux pas. The only thing I had going for me at this point was I knew all of his children and they all liked me. They all had a big laugh at my expense and I learned a valuable lesson. Don’t ever let a man know that you are aware of your surroundings. Just play dumb.

This particular relationship lasted almost a year. I gained four almost children that I still deeply love and have continued a relationship with. Everything happens for a reason. They were the reason.

I went on several other dates before I finally met and married the man God made just for me. All of them were equally horrible. I had one man ask me if I liked pedicures. I told him, I did, on occasion enjoy a pedicure and he said with frightening enthusiasm,’I do too!! I just had one today!’. He then flipped off his shoe to reveal tiger-striped toe nails. This was a big, burly man who worked for the railroad. I had to think of dead kittens so that I didn’t erupt into fits of laughter. I also had a blind date with a nut job. We were fixed up by a friend of mine whose opinion I respected. Nope. We went out one time. He spent the next month texting me and calling me and driving me nuts. I got messages that ranged from ‘I miss you’ (we went out once, remember) to professions of love and finally the most vulgar, gross-me-out messages I had ever seen. I asked him repeatedly to PLEASE leave me alone. I blocked his number and he just texted from someone else’s phone.

I eventually confided in Kennedy that this crazy wouldn’t leave me alone and that I was beginning to become concerned. If you know Kennedy, you know how this went. She sent him a message, introduced herself and told him in no uncertain words that if you messed with a Soden, especially the Soden mom, bad things would happen to you. She ended the conversation by telling him that if he bothered me again, she would see to it that both his thumbs would be broken. I was lost, his thumbs?? ‘That’s what you text with, Mom.’ Oh!! Ok, that was pretty funny. The scariest part of this whole story? He never bothered me again. He was scared of my 17-year-old daughter.

I was very leery about dating after all of this. I was going to be single for the rest of my life. So God sent me a pebble. His name was Ken. I knew within minutes that this was the man for me. Sometimes you have to wade through the chicken shit to get to the pretty flowers. It wasn’t easy, I almost gave up. That just makes me appreciate Ken all the more. I finally know the kind of love and respect that God always wanted for me.

Shhhh…Don’t tell anyone, but I did ask Ken if he liked pedicures on our first date, he said ‘Not personally, but if you’d like a spa day, I’ll treat you to one!’ Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.1005766_10203326162501488_2053285484_n

Willie G Davidson

If you know us at all, you know we have an unreasonable amount of dogs. We didn’t plan it that way, it just happened. It has suddenly occured to me that I used to say the same thing when people asked how many children I had. Oh well, I like adventure and surprises, and a little chaos keeps us young.

We started off with Willie, the best weiner dog in all of Powhatan. That’s what Ken calls him and it is now his professional name. Ken is  House Supervisor at the hospital. He makes rounds and flirts with all the nurses. He is charming and has a magnificent sense of humour. He can dead-pan quicker than anyone I know. I call him ‘Slutty McSluterstein’. This tends to annoy him, he is the most faithful man I know, but I like giving people crap. So…As he makes his rounds, he talks about our life. Everyone knows Willie. Willie suffered a back injury before Ken and I got together. He has a disk disease that Doxie’s are prone to. Ken took him to the University of St Louis to have surgery. Now Willie is Willie the wonder dog. He has had a few instances of paralysis, but we always bring him back around. Everyone always wants to know how Willie, the finest dog in all of Powhatan, is doing.

Willie is a character.He loves to chase squirrels. Ken encourages this by screaming ‘SQUIRREL’ and winding Willie up. I just feel sorry for the squirrel. I follow Humans of New York on Facebook, a man whose picture was taken on a bench in Central Park said, “People say they are animal lovers. Then they bring their dogs to the park and let them chase squirrels. Squirrels are animals too, dumba**, and you are scaring the sh** out of them.” I think that pretty much sums up how I feel about Willie and squirrels.

We live on a lake. Willie freaks out at waves. He will run as fast as his short, crippled legs will carry him, stop just in time, before flying head first into the lake, and bark at the waves. He will do this for hours. He means it! He will bark, bellow and bawl nonstop. He is furious at this splashy phenomonom trying to crash itself into his territory. When we finally scold him and tell him we have had enough of his fury for the day, he kicks his back legs and gruffs around as if to say “Aha!! I’ve kept you at bay another day, you contemptable arse.”DSC_0118

Oh, and Willie is British in my head. When the kids and I talk for him, it’s always in a British accent. He is very regal, he can look down his nose at someone to rival Prince Charles. So, if you ever meet Willie, he will like you a lot quicker if you bow during the introductions.

Willie loves riding the 4-wheeler, the mule, going to see Uncle Jim and Aunt Ellen and their pup, Pocket. However, the thing that Willie loves most, is fishing. You can simply ask him, ‘Willie, do you want to go FISHING?!?!”. The exuberant, frantic, hysterical response leaves no room for doubt that he is, indeed, ready to go fishing. He races down to our dock, leaps into the boat and takes his rightful place at the helm. He rides proud and tall, ears back and stands steady as a rock until we get to our favorite fishing hole. When Ken finally gets the rod in his hands and casts the first cast, Willie starts barking. He barks the whole time. It seems he will surely run out of breath and give it a rest. No. Such. Luck. When Ken finally reels a fish in, Willie is in a total state of delerium until Ken gets the fish in the boat. It doesn’t matter in the least the size of the fish, Willie attacks with a vengence. Ken has a 10 pound catfish, slippery, horned and pissed, flipping and flopping, trying to free itself from this death hook. Carefully trying not to get barbed by the fish, stuck with the hook and fighting Willie off, Ken eventually gets the fish to the live well and slams the door shut. On every trip, Will gets to keep a small fish. He firmly plants his feet on the tail of the fish, rips it’s head off and scales the fish. Oh yes, he scales it. Finally, his sushi dinner. Then we start all over again.

There is never a dull moment at our house. In the chaos of it all, Willie is the leader. He lets everyone know, in no uncertain terms, that he is the pack leader. It doesn’t matter that he is small and kind of crippled and a bit over the hill, he is still the boss.


I’m so glad you got to meet Willie, you’re life will be better for it. He will teach you humility, tenacity and love. He has the biggest heart. His sense of adventure is contagious and his curiosity will most likely get you into trouble. Cats, snakes, turtles and fish. He will want you to tag along with him.We love all of our dogs, but the general concensus in our home is that Willie is number one hound dog.

Will you visit me please, in cars…..

We have talked a lot in our house these last few weeks about friends. The kind you have when you are 13. The friends that know all of your secrets and will take your side, even if you are so wrong.  As an adult, I have very few close friends. I’m not good at being friends. I like to stay at home, I don’t feel good a lot and sometimes I just want to be by myself. Actually, I prefer to be with the kids and Ken. I like when Mother comes and I love going to Indiana and seeing Kendall. I think that this craving for isolation stems from so many years of being a stay-at-home mom. It’s my comfort zone.

However, when I was young I had so many sweet friends. People I went to school with, people I went to church with and their friends, people I went to church camp with. We went to the Roll-a-Rena every weekend. We went to the mall. I collected boys phone numbers like some people collect baseball cards. I was boy crazy!

When I was in the 6th grade, I had a best friend, Jonna Arnold. Jonna Hackman now. I was so intrigued by Jonna. First of all, I knew no one else named Jonna. She was beautiful, smart, so sure of herself. She had more clothes than anyone I knew. Her mother was sophisticated and striking. She flitted around with the same self assurance that Jonna exuded. Her little sister, Alicia, who drove us crazy. She told on us. A lot.  Her father, Bill, was just plain scary sometimes. Ha. He wasn’t afraid to say exactly what he thought. And he usually did. I can remember going on a trip one time with them and him telling me to ‘Spit my gum out now!’ because I had been popping it. He was also kind and funny. At 12 years of age, I was in awe of the whole family.

Jonna and I spent every minute together. Every Sunday morning before church, we would go to Dunkin Donuts. I always got Dutch Crumb, she always got Bavarian Cream. When I go home now, the kids and I always go to the same donut shop and I still get Dutch Crumb. My girls have heard about Jonna and I being there a thousand times.

We also used to eat Bob Evans a lot. Jonna didn’t like the outside of her biscuits. We tore our biscuits open, I at the outsides, she ate the insides.I told her I preferred the outside. I really didn’t care, I loved all food, even back then. I would have eaten the whole biscuit. Somehow, I thought it was better to share this quirk with her. We had a routine that was ours alone, no one on the outside even noticed. That’s what friends do.

Jonna played sports. She played all sports and she played them well. I couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a basketball and the only way I could have hit anything with a tennis racket is if I threw the racket at it. I didn’t care though, because her playing sports meant that when the cute guys were outside playing basketball, we could join in. I was just embarrassing but she was good enough that we could at least score. One of my favorite memories was playing basketball in her driveway with Phil and Tony Reynolds. My goodness. I actually got a boyfriend out of this particular game of horse. All because of her!

We went to King’s Island one year with my parents. We had ridden so many rides and we were kind of worn out so we decided to ride the rail cars because they were in the shade and it was hotter than the inside of an oven. As we were standing in line, two guys noticed Jonna. They were flirting and she was being coy and they were all laughing. I stood there like a dolt. Big goofy grin on my face, I’m sure. But I didn’t care. There were two guys after all, I’d end up with one of them, it didn’t matter to me that she got the pick of the litter. She was  the one who garnered their attention, after all. We spent the rest of the afternoon riding railcars with two strangers. We had a ball.

Jonna and I went to church camp together. Our adventure, one year, included a man who had escaped from a jail, I think, and showed up at camp. I loved the drama of it all, it scared the crap out of Jonna and she went home, I was lost the rest of the week without her.

One of my very favorite memories was Jonna’s 16th birthday party. Her parents surprised her with a new car. A ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ car, no less. I remember Gary Pierce handed her a model car that matched it and told her Happy Birthday. She was crest fallen. Then her dad led her out into the garage and there was the real thing. I was so excited for her! Well, and for me. I mean, who do you think was going to ride shotgun!

Jonna introduced me to  Gary Numan. She loved the song ‘Cars’. We listened to that record until it was warped.

As we grew older, our interests differed enough that we slowly drifted apart. We still went to church pitch-ins and raced to get a slice of Grace Felzine’s butterscotch pie. We went to the church dinners we had at Killbuck park and hung out with Rex and Virginia Kendall and their group. They were older than me and I thought I was so cool. Rex loved Jonna, he always did. He was so pretty! I was never jealous though. I was never jealous of anything about Jonna. I just loved her.

I haven’t seen Jonna in probably 30 years. I was so thrilled when I found her on Facebook. It was so sweet catching up and seeing her family. When I got on FB a few days ago and saw a Caring Bridge post concerning her, my stomach sank. I’ve had her on my mind constantly since then. We go through our every day lives, dealing with our own every day chaos and we lose sight of what is important. I’m going to add her to my bucket list. I want to sit with her and talk about all the silly times we had. I want to talk about all the boy’s hearts we broke. I want her to play the piano for me. I’m sure it will be a little while before these things can happen, I’m kind of exhausting. Maybe she can try to teach me to play tennis again, the first time was a total failure and I’m pretty sure I peed my pants from laughing so hard. Whatever we end up doing, it will be fun. Everything we ever did was fun and I can’t wait.

Boys on the side

I clearly remember when I was 13. I remember sneaking out with Lynnetta for the first time and getting caught. I remember meeting Kendall for the first time and how I felt so smug for ‘going with’ a boy four years older than myself. I remember being absent from school for a week with the flu and when I went back a rumor had gone all around the school. Apparently I was very promiscuous with my best friend’s brother and my boyfriend, Patrick Swinford broke up with me in Mr. Hefflefinger’s first period class in front of everyone. I can still feel the sting of embarrassment and the betrayal and hurt that my friend would have said this. Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t an angel, I did make out with a LOT of boys when I was going with Patrick, but Jeff Hudson wasn’t one of them!

My parents got a divorce that year. I remember feeling like I had been let out of jail. I was free. I remember all these things with a clarity of having just experienced them. Don’t ever tell your children that they will ‘get over’ something that, at the time, was heartbreaking.

My daughter is 13. She is so ornery. She is loud and has an oddball sence of humor, that sometimes gets her into trouble. She is a cheerleader and a good student. She loves the water and she loves animals. She isn’t afraid of anything. Well, except people in white vans, she is sure she will eventually be kidnapped. I’m serious. She also has a best friend.

On March 16, Belle got a phone call as she was climbing out of the shower. Her best friend’s house had caught fire. Everyone got out except Ashlynn. In just a moment, her whole world changed.

As she stood there, wet, trembling and crying, I called my husband to come back home.  Having just left minutes before, he said he would be right here. Belle and I paced and prayed and wondered aloud if this was a HUGE mistake. We lived about a quarter of a mile as the crow flies from Ashlynn. We hadn’t heard any sirens, we couldn’t smell any smoke. This was obviously a mistake.

Minutes later, Ken called us back. There was no mistake. There was a fire. Ashlynn’s parents, brother and three others had escaped. Ashlynn didn’t. She was gone.

How do you comfort your child at a time like this. I was as raw as she was. We cried and felt sick and prayed for comfort. Any comfort. Anything to take the pain away. She was just lost.

Over the next two days, we heard so many stories. So many variations on what happened. People love to share gruesome details and they delighted in sharing them with my daughter. Belle was frightened and confused and horrified. We told her that unless she heard it from Ash’s parents, to ignore it.


Ashlynn and Belle met the summer before their 5th grade year. They became fast friends. For the next four years, these girls were inseparable. Ashlynn became ours and Belle became theirs. Holidays, hospital stays, rough times, sweet times, birthdays, broken heart days. All days. They were there for each other.They didn’t quarrel and fight. They got into a bit of trouble once in a while. They simply enjoyed each other and each depended on the other to be there no matter what.

In a second, it was gone. One phone call and it was over.

It’s been a very hard couple of weeks. Belle spoke at Ashlynn’s funeral. She told stories of their friendship and got to have a few minutes of joy in the middle of the darkest cloud. She shared with everyone her love, friendship and grief.

She has spent time with Ashlynn’s family. That seems to be the one thing that comforts her the most. Being with people who also have a hole. She and Ashlynn’s parents seem to cling to one another to keep from drowning. No one has had any time to even begin the healing process. Right now everyone is just hanging on.

I posted on Facebook about this tragedy several times. On one of the posts, someone said, “She’s young, she will get over it quickly and forget she even went through this”. That person has been throughly cussed and deleted. Forget? Why would you even want to forget?? All the precious memories and the sweet times and the orneriness? My daughter is so much bigger than that. She will always remember. I did. I remember my pain at that age. She will too. She won’t forget. Her pain will lesson and she will remember the good. She will never forget the pain of the last weeks. I don’t want her to. Pain helps us grow. Would I do anything in the world to take everything back? Erase and rewind? Have our Ash still with us? In a New York minute. I can’t do that. What I can do is help this to make my daughter a better person. Make something good out of something bad.

We will all celebrate Ashlynn now. We will tell funny stories, make fun of that dumb song she listened to and keep her secret crush a secret. We will love her and miss her and cry for her. That won’t ever go away. She will always be here. As she should be. She will always be my Belle’s best friend.


God’s has a sense of humor….

Have you ever jumped off of a high dive? You climb up the ladder, each step making you feel more and more panicky than the last? When you finally reach the top step, it takes an incredible act of courage to step off and onto the narrow board. Shuffle-walking to the end of the board, you are finally, incredibly, standing on the edge looking down. You feel all swoony and the wind is blowing and everyone is so small but so LOUD. The only thing to do is jump. Do you feel that? You catch your breath, or maybe it was knocked out of you. Your stomach is up around your ears and the fall feels like it takes an eternity. When you finally hit the water, you smack with a sting and rush to the bottom. When you reach the surface and you have your face wiped off and your breath back, you’re almost ready to do it again. That’s what parenthood feels like to me.

I had my first, Kendall, when I was only 19. I was married and divorced and pregnant and finishing my senior year a year late because I lost my mind over Kendall’s dad. I was so scared. What kind of mother would, could, I be? I had created quite a lot of chaos for two years. To say I was reckless is a bit of an understatement.

Then there he was, Kendall Stephen Soden. He was a wonderful baby. He was so easy. He didn’t cry unless there was something very wrong, usually he was too hot. He learned to walk at 9 months. He talked in complete sentences, clearly, by the time he was 18 months old. When he was 2, I potty trained him in a day by purchasing the Mickey Mouse underwear he wanted. He did what he was told, usually the first time. He loved animals, his Nana, Lady and the Tramp and he was kind and curious. He was also beautiful. He did well in school, all the teachers bragged on him. Everyone bragged on him. What was the fuss? This parenting thing was a piece of cake. I had this bought and paid for. I was an AWESOME parent…..but God has a sense of humor and he sometimes knocks us off our pedestals.

When Kendall was 3, I reunited with his dad, Bill. Our relationship was every negative conitation you can use to describe a relationship. Using our superior decision making skills, we decided to get pregnant. It took 3 years and when Kendall was 6, we had our sweet Kade.

Kade is an amazing young man. His heart is enormous. He loves so deeply and is loyal to the bone. We have a strong relationship and he is very close to his brothers and sisters. Kade is smart and artistic and imaginative and funny. I mean he is hysterical. All that being said, when he was born, he put my fabulous parenting skills right into the wood chipper. My confidence, self-assurance and conviction were sprayed all over the dairy farm that Bill worked on at the time. It mixed in with the cow shit of a relationship that Bill and I had and formed a pool of maloderous sludge that I thought I might drown in.

Kade was born and quickly became jaundiced. When we finally got him home, things were fine for about 6 minutes, then he started crying. That might not accurately describe what I mean. Screaming, wailing, sobbing. This ear splitting, clamouring, insistant call for comfort began at 6:00 pm every evening and ended at 9:00 pm every evening. Bill would take Kendall to the Dairy Queen and I would sit in a rocker in our bedroom, trying to comfort this poor child. At the end of the spell, we would both be red amd sweating and exhausted. This lasted 3 months. It stopped as suddenly as it began. Whew…

This was just the beginning of years of ornery. This was also the beginning of an obbessive compulsive disorder that I had no idea even existed until Kade was almost grown. Kade always felt out of control and he had an irrational fear of a lot of things. I thought it was me. The anger and the bad behavior, I thought he needed tighter boundries. He hid from me until I thought someone had taken him, a few times. He emptied a can of comet and a bottle of powder all over Mother’s bathroom in one day. He drove the car into the side of the house at 2. He was afraid of ‘bad duys’ and wouldn’t sleep alone. He would become very upset over things we thought were no big deal, someone eating his lunch at school, for instance. This was so overwhelming. I often felt so spent. Couple that with my crazy marriage and I eventually just sort of let Kade go. I quit fighting with him. When he was 18 and had graduated high school, I finally made him leave. There is nothing harder on a mother than that. I felt at times that I had given up on him and I felt like a horrible mother. Then something started happening. We started talking. We started figuring things out. When he was about 10, we took him to church camp with his brother and sister. He flipped out. I made him go anyway. As we started talking, he told me what it felt like when I left him there. How afraid he was that something would happen to me while he was gone. I had no idea. We prayed a lot. I read and he listened and we eventually ended up where we are today. We still have bad days, but who doesn’t. We are still learning, but Kade has grown leaps and bounds in the last 2 years. I am so proud of the young man he has become.

Parenting isn’t easy. It’s hard every day. I have 5 children and 2 bonus children. Each of them are so completely different. You do the best you can. You cry and scream and throw things and laugh and clap and cheer. My parenting had no more to do with the personality of these boys than it did the changing of the tides. I wish I would have realized this when they were small. I took everything so personally. I was always defending myself, defending them. I wish I would have just relaxed. They are who they are. You lead and guide and try to set an example, and in the end, you hope and pray for the best. I am a good mom. I have good sons. They are as different as night and day. My children love me and love each other.

I am about to have a grandboy. He will call me Birdie, a story for another day. I will be a good grandparent, I will try to lead and guide and set and example. I am also going to sit back and smile. He is part of the legacy of my mothering. How cool is that….