Throwaway Hill

Bill once suggested to me that there was no such thing as a wasted year.

That when you looked back with grime and fog free eyes, you could see growth. You could see where the seams slid together and where the bulges and fractures fit to make the pattern more—not less—complete.

I took comfort in the idea. What if there really was no standing still? What if that breathless feeling after the sudden loss of momentum was just an illusion; like a theme park ride. What if the changing—the real changing—could be taking place at a cellular level and was safely away from the naked eye?

What if the last twelve months of my life were not a throwaway year? And the idea that I would throw it away offended the cosmos on a very personal level, because HELLO! Major shift happening down in your atoms, thank you very much!

This is something I've learned but apparently will keep on learning: Hindsight has a very powerful focus lense.

(I picture my team in the heavens shaking their heads in affectionate exasperation at me, already prepping the next lesson in Hindsight. Ah, our Stepper! She's so cute when she doesn't realise she's being dense!)

Even so.

Even so, this last year has felt very much like that feeling I get in dreams, sometimes, where I know I can fly but I can't seem to take off. I can feel it so deeply in my bones—I can fly!—and my desire to push myself away from the earth and shake off gravity's hold on me is so deliciously intense I am CERTAIN if I could just get up enough speed, if I could just jump at the exact right time and at the right angle I would feel the air push beneath me like a wing and I would soar! So high, so fast tears would stream sideways along my cheeks and into my ears. My teeth would feel cold from laughing in the high air. I've FELT this before. I KNOW this part of me.

But in too many of my dreams, I run with abandon down the grassy hill only to crash into the trees in frustration and bewilderment. The sky is mine. I know I belong above these tangled trees, moving with the beating breaths of the wind, but I beat myself against the ground trying. Why can't I JUST. TAKE. OFF?!

And then the world shifts and suddenly I realize that all along, I was just standing at the top of the wrong hill. For a whole year - just on the wrong hill.

MY hill is over here. And on this hill...I can fly!

NOV 08, 2016 - History Has its Eyes on You

I suppose today is historic, though to me today and everything leading up to today has been nothing but surreal.

I felt overwhelmed as soon as I left my car and began picking my way through groups of High School students to the front door of the high school I graduated from all those years ago. It felt weird to be back. It felt weird to be an "adult" among all of these perfect, hopeful teenagers - and it felt weird to see how invisible that made me to them. It felt weird to be walking toward this decision - having only a rough idea of how this was going to go down for me.

I took comfort in the anonymity of the crowd. I could stand in a line and think.

It both helped and made things infinitely worse to have Hamilton running through my head on repeat. Jefferson or Burr? Here comes the general! Rise up! I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT!

But as the fuzzy edges of my surroundings grew sharper and the line moved forward, I realized that I was being an idiot. There was no anonymity in this crowd. These were my neighbors. My community. I was STANDING IN LINE NEXT TO my neighbor, and another neighbor jumped in line right behind me. Ahead, I could see another cluster of my people - my old YW advisor, my kid's primary teacher, etc. etc. We all started chatting - the nervous chatter of people who felt a bit startled by the familiarity and the complete unpredictability of what we were doing.

I start thinking about George Washington. That guy was something else. And I'm thinking - was he one of a kind? An impossible standard? Or are we just not looking hard enough?

Then SHE came and stood in line with us. I don't want to use names because this whole experience to me felt abrasively personal - and I don't feel I have the right.

But SHE is 18. Absolutely stunning. I love both of her parents (her whole family!) so much - and I've watched her on Sundays -- how she is with the Young Women. This girl is gold. And here she was, her very first election. This political situation is what she's had to wade through for her very first election.

I have never been a very political person. I care - but I don't rant or rally or attempt to reason. I vote my conscience and that's that. I never tell anyone who I vote for. I don't even tell my cute husband who I vote for. But considering HER and how she was following me into the fray as she mused about the ticker tape and the electronic ballot boxes...I was swept away again by such a strong tide of emotion.

This keeps happening this election.

I was swept into a feeling of complete desperation. I wanted to protect her - protect all of these high schoolers who surrounded our somber line in the hall of their school. We were on their turf, making decisions that affected them, and here she was...girl of gold I was desperate to prevent from tarnishing.

It's a mess, I wanted to say. It's a mess and I'm sorry! It's not supposed to be like this - candidates for presidency are supposed to stand for something. They're supposed to be unselfish and serving. Sacrificing and sincere. Human and flawed, yes, but better than this. 

They're supposed to love this nation - in its own kind of young-adulthood - and want so desperately so many things for it. Not just things for themselves. There is supposed to be hope.

Today doesn't feel hopeful so much as it feels like we're all roping ourselves down, hoping the storm passes without causing too much permanent damage.

I know not everyone feels this way - for some today is thrilling and feels like the culmination of important work. For some today contains the hope of something bright.

But me?

I look at my awesome kids, and I think...we are on their turf. And I am woefully unable to keep the gold from tarnishing.

Once More With Feeling!

Hi, My name is Stepper!

Yes, Stepper.

It is unusual, thank you curious person.

Thank you, I like it, too complimentary person!

Oh, you think it's weird, grimacing person? Well, that's allowed; though I think it's no weirder than many of them names you hear on them streets nowdays!

Stepper. Like the song. Like the exercise equipment. Like the mechanical doohickey.

Not Steffer (ugh!).

Not Deborah (???).

If you knew me when I was Stephanie, call me that! If you knew me when I was Sunni, call me that! I seriously love it! I love hearing my names from people who knew me during different times in my life. It makes me feel closer to you.

My parents and my siblings (and certain other family members and close friends) get to call me whatever they want! They've earned that right because they know all the me's.

It doesn't feel weird for them to call me any of my names.

But if we've just met? And you do a double take because my name is WHAT now? I'm happy to repeat it for you, and pleased when you repeat it back to me to get it right - but please don't decide that you don't want to call me Stepper because it feels weird to you, so you're going to call me some cute variation on the theme because obviously I don't care if I'm going around being called random things.

It's not random.

It's my name.

And I do care.

Thank you and high five! (Where did my nickname come from? I'm glad you asked! learn about it HERE.)

A Working List of the ABSOLUTE WORST Ways to be Woken Up


  • Your bony 8 year old launching himself (complete with sound effects) onto your bed and, consequently, your ankles.
  • ANYONE uttering the phrase: "Mom, can I play on your iPad?"
  • The sounds of the garbage truck...when I forgot to take out the garbage.
  • The sounds of something crash-breaking in the kitchen.
  • The sounds of kids arguing/fighting.
  • a fly/bee/mosquito buzzing near your head.
  • The realization that you are very late for the important thing you were going to wake up early for needling its way into your subconscious and slamming a book down in your brain.
  • ANYTHING when you were just getting to the good part of the dream. 


  • Your neighbor's pool party that carried into the wee hours, and the screams of delight are turned by your twisted sleeping brain into the horrified screams of your children.
  • The phone ringing
  • The apocalypse.

My Pregnant Climb into the McDonalds Play Structure

A true story.

Once upon a time, I was expecting our Hattie with enormity. By that, I both mean that I was hugely excited, and also that I was huge.

I give you: exhibit A.

Bill had a work meeting in a far off land (Ogden), so the kids and I got up very early in the AM to drop him off at the train. So I decided as a fun impromptu treat to take the kids to McDonalds for breakfast and to let them play for a while.

We got there so early that there were no other children—but more than a few senior citizens—and so after their breakfast, the kids got to play alone on the play structure (what Bill calls the "big toy") for a good 20 minutes before more kids came. It was such a treat for me! A quiet play experience at McDonalds? Nirvana!

Finally, other kids did show up. But the kids that come in the morning are MUCH calmer and nicer than the lunch crowd, I've decided.

Henry decided in an impressive burst of courage that he wanted to go on The Big One. The large "two story" twisty slide that began at the top, bypassed the middle, and ended all the way back at ground level next to the shoe time-out. Wyatt kindly offered to show his brother how to make the climb. Henry followed him all the way to the top where he promptly dropped to his stomach, clung to the plastic, porous floor and was stuck.

Henry is afraid of heights. Like me.

When he got to the top, and he could look down and see how high up he was (Was that Mom way down there, peering up at him, the size of an ant?) and the big dark gaping O mouth of the slide, Henry got wise. There was no. Freaking. Way.

He hugged himself to the platform, his little fingers clinging through the little holes, and cried.

I was, if you recall, NOT the size of an ant. I was the size of a whale.

I tried sending both Wyatta nd Daphne up to help him, but Henry is nothing if not stubborn, and only shrieked louder for all their attempts.

There was even a nice older boy who saw our situation and offered to carry him down, but Henry screamed at him when he tried to approach. If you are a boy who is older, but still pretty young and you are met with a terrified and SCREAMING Henry, nobody blames you for backing slowly away. Henry's screams pack a mean punch.

The thing that made me screw up my face the most, however, were the other moms. There were a few of them, grouped together on the other side of the seating area. They watched me and sniggered. It wasn't the gentle laugh of understanding that often passes between mother to mother strangers when one of the children is causing the kind of trouble that is all to familiar to all mothers. The hang in there Mama, you've got this and we've all been there! laugh.

No, this was the self-righteous no kid of mine would ever create that gawd-awful sound, glad I'm not you type of laugh. No comaraderie. No apologetic glance. And, more to the point, NO HELP.

Finally, faced with no other option, I hauled my adult-sized pregnant-bellied self up the winding play structure, doing my best to ignore the now fully audible sniggering below me (in full view, I feared, of my currently unforgiving backside), and saved my son.

His little fingers only released their power grip on the platform when they darted toward me to cling around my neck. His wails turned to sobs. His face was red and his eyes were wild. His hair sweaty. Descending the play structure with my boy wrapped around my unyielding frame was no easy feat. By the time I made it back to my booth, I was exhausted, red faced and sweaty myself.

We sat there together for a time, holding each other. I spoke soft and low in his year, I've got you. Your'e okay. I get it, I don't like heights either. And his softening sobs unknowingly whispered to my heart, I've got you, too, Mom. Those moms over there might have thought you were ridiculous, but not me. Thank you for coming for me.

And it came to me then, one of those unsuspecting life lessons. I knew in that moment that no matter who was watching or laughing, and no matter what impossible obstacle; I would always be there for my kids if ever they found themselves a little bit stuck.

Just a Comma, Not a Full Stop

I haven't quit.

100 days of blog posts. But, okay - perhaps not exactly consecutive days. Because here's what I've realized:

Sometimes, you gotta take your family to Zion National park and wander around the weird feather-brushed bubble rocks and marvel at the Three Patriarchs and throw rocks into the river while mom does her very very best to STOP imagining flash floods.

Sometimes you have to unplug.

Sometimes you decide to take a week for yourself after said unplugged time to just...mentally breathe. School is out. The kids are now officially ALL MINE for the summer.

I've been indulgent.

And when it came time for my evening posting...that little voice in my mind would say "not just yet" and I'd happily comply because it felt good. It felt right to just...hit the pause button.

But not the power.


100 posts is the promise. And NEARLY every day, I think, is a do-able time-frame.

And away we go!

Tales from the Crib


My Secret Minecraft Crush

I've got a weird, inexplicable obsession with Minecraft.

Okay - I am late to the party or whatever. But Wy started to learn about it when he began going to public school CLEAR BACK (two years) in Kindergarten.

I'd heard about it before. My cousin's son dressed up as Steve for halloween one time. I was like, Oh, yeah, Minecraft. With the square people that carry around pickaxes, right?

But I wasn't interested.

In my defense, I also knew that ZOMBIES were somehow involved. And these green explody guys that always looked just really really MAD at you.

That sounded stressful. No thanks.

But - Wy started showing interest, and—ever the dutiful mother—I allowed him to choose a minecraft how-to type of book for his one pick during the book fair that year.

And I mentioned to the husband that we maybe oughta look into what this minecraft game thingy is because Wyatt was into it. What gaming platform is it on, anyway? Because I don't think I can handle my kindergartner playing on my super awesome MAC.

Enter iPad versions.

I sorta watched from the sidelines. Peeking over his shoulder as he and his siblings poured over the endless expanse of the Minecraft terrain. They were finding things and building things and...




I could not GET on board with that fast enough.

Enter: Stepper purchases the bona fide version for her Mac.

And oh, I love it! It's so relaxing!!! And weirdly validating...I build these really cool estates for my adventurer with stables and gardens and...

...I've mentioned I really want a house of my own, right?

Anyway. I may or may not play Minecraft more than the kids.

And the suggestion of "lets have a minecraft party and all play in our worlds at the same time!" each Sunday may or may not always be made by me.

The kids might have had a minecraft themed birthday party last year wherein we made perler bead pickaxes and swords and creeper heads. I may have made a bunch more for the heck of it after the party was over.

I might actually get really annoyed when I'm deep into my world finding DIAMONDS among the lava pools and whatnot and I have to stop and ADULT because it's bedtime.

Stupid bedtime.

If you're shaking your head at me right now, may I remind you: I AM A NERD and have never professed to be otherwise, so really none of this should shock you. It's like you don't know me at all.

(Come over! We'll get to know each other, better. Maybe play a little Minecraft! You know. If it comes up.)

Dear Mere, I Fear My Spots Are Showing

Dear Mere,

I have been thinking about you a lot, lately. You've been gone for a year, now. One year two weeks three days. It makes me happy to think of you, freed from your failing frame and all fiery and red, again. I imagine you look like the pictures of you I used to study, tucked away in photo books. You looked like a movie star in those photos! They were always in greys or sepias, but Grandpa told me so many stories of your auburn locks that I always only ever saw them in color. Warm auburn hair and cheeks rosy with all the thoughts that twinkled behind your eyes.

That boy next door. 

I can see the front of your house where you and your bestie Naoma would park yourselves so you could get a look at that boy next door, and, more importantly, so that he could get a good look at you.

Grandpa really didn't stand a chance! Did he?!

I heard another story a few weeks back that made me wonder, again, about guardian angels. Which, naturally, made me think of you. I think you'd like nothing better than to have that job on the other side. Guarding your precious children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. I don't know how jobs get assigned on the other side, but I'm sure Grandpa would agree that if it wasn't your first assignment, you'd likely find a way to convince them!

I have wondered if - and like to imagine that - you are Hattie's guardian angel.

I know you died after she was born. You knew her (though in the failings of your well-worn mind, you always thought she was a boy. But she clung to you and smiled at all of your compliments on her handsomeness just the same. Funny how it didn't seem to matter to either of you, the particulars of gender or names - you were just absolutely in love with each other). But I imagine whomever was assigned to Hattie waved you over, showed you the ropes and said, "I've kept the bench warm for you" or something like.

I wonder this because every time I sing Hattie her lullabye, "Manhattan", I feel you. Maybe it was our shared love of music, or the way she watches me as I sing (a lot like the way you used to watch  me every time I played the violin for you - quiet pleasure). But I sit on the edge of Daphne's bed and press my cheek to hers, and in that moment everything is calm and safe and love - just like your house. I sing my song, and I imagine you nodding in approval that I took my time. No rushing. No skipping verses. Let the song live. And Hattie doesn't rush me either. Just quiet patient pleasure, and the veil feels so very, very thin.

And Hattie is our little sunspot. She is happy to the point of it being remarkable. So it follows that you're hanging around, watching out for her safety, but also doing that thing you do that always made us all feel so safe and loved and capable of absolutely anything. That thing where you made me feel like I was the most amazing, talented and special person that ever lived. Hattie seems to have that calm assurance that the future is bright and soon there will be peeled apple slices or homemade spice cake with pinoche icing. Any minute now.

So I like to think your'e here, just here over my shoulder, brushing a strand of her golden locks away from her ear as I bend over to count those glorious long black eyelashes.

I like to imagine your smile as we sit in the church pew and Henry lies in my lap and asks me to trace his face, the way you used to do that I loved so much, taking extra time around the lips.

I like to think it's you calming her when hattie startles in the night but stops crying before we can get there.

At the same time...I wonder. If it's you...I can't help but wonder if you're hanging out with my little sunspot all the time if you've seen me. I wonder if you've seen me when I'm not a very good mom. When I lose my cool with a tantrum. Or give them cereal for dinner because I'm too tired and apathetic to create a meal. I wonder if you see me spend too long scrolling through Facebook and get up too soon from playing on the floor with my girls. I wonder if you see me get actually angry at other drivers when they make a bad call on the road. You always thought I was so sweet, such a good mom. I can't help but wonder if you'd be disappointed to see me at my day-to-day mediocre.

I don't play the violin you loved so well nearly as often as I'd like.

I don't paint with my kids...I cringe when they use sidewalk chalk because of the mess. We don't generally have well thought-out and crafty Family Home Evenings. We just did when we had them with you, because it was special. I give my kids suckers in the car. You always hated it when any of us would walk around with a sucker stick hanging from our mouths. What if we fell! I keep cutting my hair short, though I promise I still have red-head pride! I know you loved it long. And Mere, I drink WAY too much diet coke!

I'm just not amazing. Not the way you always made me believe I could be. Not yet - though I do try. So. I suppose that's something. I hope you are not too disappointed. Though, as far as guardian angel gigs go, you really couldn't do much better than Hattie. Because—as I'm sure you're aware!—that girl is HILARIOUS!

(But perhaps we could work together on her obsession with cats?)



A Good Read

Today, if I may, I'd like to refer you to an awesome story I've been thoroughly enjoying: A Rose Mary Stretch of the Imagination. 

Get this.

It's the story of Watergate told from the perspective of Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary. Which is fascinating enough - but THEN you add the fact that it's being told via the title tracks from the Built to Spill album Keep it Like a Secret, and it's just a whole thing.

PLUS it's written by my cute husband, Bill.

Who is a wonderful storyteller.

He just published "track 9" (Temporarily Blind).

Collect them all!

1. The Plan
2. Center of the Universe
3. Carry the Zero
4. Sidewalk
5. Bad Light
6. Time Trap
7. Else
8. You Were Right
9. Temporarily Blind
10. Broken Chairs (coming soon!)