I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and so I have a thing for trees. Always have. But there is one tree in particular that I have wanted to see since I was 9 years old: the Survivor Tree in Oklahoma City. The day of the OKC Bombing, I was home sick from school watching what could only be terrible day time talk shows (Maury?!?). My terrible TV watching was interrupted when images from the bombing popped up on my screen. I was 9. I had no idea what terrorism was, but I did quickly realize that there was a daycare in the building and that babies had been killed. Mommas. Dads. Brothers. Sisters. All told, 168 people died that day and it was the day that I began to understand that danger really could be anywhere. I suppose that what little I had left of innocence by that time also fell away that day.

The best thing I remember from that day was the tree. This one random tree that was right by the blast but was still standing. It was the craziest thing I have ever seen. I forgot about that tree until I watched Elizabethtown years later. I have probably watched that movie over 20 times and I still cry every time. The scenes with him dancing with his dad and this darn tree are my favorites. It's a great movie. So, when I knew we could possible re-route our trip to go see my tree, we did just that.

It was the day before Memorial Day (appropriate when on hallowed ground me thinks), and it was so, so very quiet with a slight breeze in the air.









My tree. She is just so beautiful and hopeful. A survivor.




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20140527-134317-49397999.jpg I kept it together through the chairs and the reflecting pool. I even managed to handle the fence strewn with loving rememberances. But when I saw this sentiment about "eternal gratitude" in the midst of such horror, the tears came. Appropriately so. 20140527-134320-49400330.jpg

The Parentless "Child"- My Messy Beautiful

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE! Me and my brother at around 7 and 9.

So yeah. I am not a child-- I am knocking on the door of 30 and marrying LB this summer. I own a house. I am a lawyer who does law type goodness during the day. I have sat on this essay for a good week now, not knowing if I should post it. If I should really explain what it FEELS like to come from something so messy that sometimes I have lost sight of the beauty of it. And then I say F it. I owe the world nothing but my vulnerability (and you, kind reader, don't owe me anything, but if you would be nice, that would be great).

The questions started as early as I can remember: "Why do you live with your grandparents? Where is your dad? What do you mean you don't know him? What about your mom? I feel like I have seen her before." And the biggest one, the one that hit me like a mac truck every time it was asked: "When is she coming back to get you?"

I get that kiddos ask questions. But I didn't have answers for these kiddos' questions. So I would just say: I don't know my birth dad at all. I am pretty sure I know his name, and that he did drugs. And birth mom is still doing drugs but she says that she is coming back... soon... I think.

Unfortunately, this answer changed one day in 5th grade when out of nowhere it hit me. I remember practicing my cursive (EVEN THEN I had no art skills) and just sobbing out of nowhere. I knew that she was not coming back for me. That I was alone. That my brother was already doing drugs (the fact that he was killed while riding his bike sober and happy was beauty in itself). That my chances of being like ALL of them were really high. And mostly, that the person who birthed me didn't want to be my mom.

Unfortunately, my birth mom is the villian of my story because I "knew" her. She would show up and say all these wonderful things about getting my brother and I back. She was clean. She was going to do it this time. And then... she would dissapear. I knew that I had another half-brother by a different dad, but that was complicated and weird for me at 9 years old.

And so, I moved around... a lot. Between 2 and 16 I think that I lived in about 12 different places. You see, my grandpa was alcoholic and my grandmother loved credit cards. Bad combo. The grace, the BEAUTY in all of this is that I loved school and I loved Jesus. And I went to a Jesus school that took pity on my brother and I. I got to stay in the same school throughout all of it. Throughout the beatings at home, the sobriety, the relapses, the hope and the despair. I used to lay awake in my bed and repeat Romans 8:28 over and over and over again. "For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him." I had no idea how God was going to get me out of this... and MAN did I want out. I wanted my brother to join me in trading in our crappy situation for something better, but, for reasons that are all his own, he just couldn't. I wanted to be a normal kid, a normal teenager, a normal college student, a normal adult. Here's the brutiful fact:


I have had to work incredibly hard to be a "functioning" person (whatever functioning means). Case in point: I had a day of family drama just last week that would knock most people on their arses. (We're talking shades drawn, Oreos in bed... mint ones... kind of drama.) I cried for a solid 2 hours, and let myself sit in the meadow of grief that is necessary when you are again reminded that you are a parentless one. But then I went and got a pedicure and sanded the shit out of a table. And man, that thing, my toes, and that day were beautiful.

I suppose that my message with this cliff's note version of my story is this: even if the emphasis is sometimes on the messy, you MUST feel the mess to get through/around/to the next beautiful thing. Because it is out there. Trust me. I'm a parentless child who is going to walk herself down the aisle in a few short months. But the beauty I've seen in my short 30 years on this planet... sheweee... now that will knock you on your arse in the best way possible.

*Another example of beauty: some of you have asked who my mom is that I talk about on this blog. That is my Aunt who took me in when I was 16 and saved my little keester.