How a would-be First Lady saved the day


Last November, I attended a Marco Rubio rally in Milwaukee with my mom and brother. Just as Marco was about to take the stage in front of a crammed room of supporters, my mom nudged me and said she was feeling faint.

Keep in mind, we were standing, packed like sardines, in the very front row. There wasn’t a chair in sight, and I didn’t think we could pick our way through the crowd to find one. As I was weighing the options, Marco began his speech. A few feet in front of me, a Rubio staffer herded a pack of photographers to the foot of the stage; I took the opportunity to tap him on the shoulder and quickly whisper the issue to him. No problem, he said, as he deftly helped her sit on the floor next to him, assuring me he’d take her to a chair momentarily.

After they left my sight, he did just that. Another staff member brought her cold water, and a volunteer checked on her often for the duration of the rally. She was incredibly well taken care of, and recovered quickly.

When Marco’s speech ended, he and his wife Jeanette chatted and took pictures with the crowd. It occurred to me that I had no idea where my mom had been taken or how to find her; I asked Jeantte, who I’d been talking with, if she might point me in the direction of who I should connect with to find out. She immediately offered to track her down herself. I started to protest, but she waved me off with a smile, insisting it was no problem. And then, the would-be First Lady set off to find my mom.

As it turns out, my mom found us instead. As I was telling her that Jeanette Rubio was off looking for her, she reappeared. We laughed about it together, Jeanette made sure my mom was feeling alright, and we thanked her for her kindness and the superb care given by the Rubio campaign staff.

Our experience with Jeanette gave me some valuable insight into the Rubios themselves. Because while theirs is a family that’s been catapulted onto the national stage, they haven’t lost the human touch that makes them so relatable. The moment I sheepishly explained my predicament to Jeanette, she went into “mom mode.” As a mother myself, I recognized it immediately. Suddenly, the most important thing was reuniting a lost little 31-year-old girl with her mommy, Presidential campaign or not.

While I sense Jeanette Rubio to be a bit of a reluctant campaigner, I’m certain she’s an invaluable asset to both her husband and the campaign itself. She’s compassionate. She’s kind. She’s a problem solver. She’s a mom.

She’s a woman all Americans would be proud to call their First Lady.


The Love Box

Parents: what is going on with Valentine’s Day boxes?

When I was in grade school, we made them too, of course. I remember cutting an opening on a discarded cardboard box, drawing hearts and arrows, and setting it on my desk during a Friday afternoon class party. We passed out two-inch Hello Kitty and Power Rangers cards with cherry heart-shaped suckers stuck through the sides.

Photo: Amazon.com

But 2016 is not the 1990s.

We got a note last week in my first-grade daughter’s backpack:

“Bring a handmade Valentine’s box for our class party on Friday!”


I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in 2016, “handmade” does not mean finding an empty Amazon Prime box and covering it in construction paper. From the photos I’ve seen online this week, it involves hours spent meticulously designing and executing exact replicas of Elsa’s Ice Castle.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud you moms and dads who can craft live-action puppies that eat Valentines and wag their tails after each deposit. I admire your industriousness! I envy your creativity! I marvel at your dedication!

But I think it’s a teensy bit insane.

I have three kids who keep me running from morning until night. They’re great kids, but they’re young and needy. The first-grader needs help with her homework, and to tell me about how Lily chased Charles on the playground today, who by the way broke his pencil during math, and Mom! Are you listening, Mom?

The preschooler needs a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—but not that jelly, and why is it cut in two pieces instead of four like he so clearly meant to order during the second episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse this morning?

The toddler really just needs a nap.

Point being, my house is bustling with childhood. These three little people keep me busy and crazy and utterly fulfilled.

It’s why, when I remembered that Valentine’s Day assignment, we dug through our supply of stickers and markers and pom poms at the kitchen table and made the most of it. We laughed at the funny faces we could make glueing googly eyes onto glittery hearts. We searched for elusive vowels in the box of alphabet stickers. We stamped patterns onto construction paper greetings.

We didn’t stress about making The Greatest Valentine’s Day Box of All Time.

Our kids don’t need our perfection. They need our time. They need our attention. They need us.

And that’s something we all can give.


A friend asked why I’m supporting Marco Rubio for President. This is what I said:

I first took notice of Sen. Marco Rubio when he gave a speech at the Reagan Library in 2011, which is worth the watch to learn what he stands for: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BypW8Ev3lM

The difference between Rubio and someone like Donald Trump is that Rubio is truly principled–a conservative through and through–whereas Trump is the definition of a populist. Do I think Rubio has a chance against that? To be honest, I’m not sure, because so many people fall victim to the sheer entertainment value of a guy like Trump. I genuinely hope Rubio can win the nomination, because it can be dangerous to have people in power who are so easily swayed by opportunism and ego. Of course, I recognize all politicians, inherently, possess a certain level of both–but in Trump’s case, that’s basically all he is. Read a transcript from one of his campaign rallies, or even his responses in GOP debates; when you take away the bravado and bombast, his words are worryingly empty.

What do I like about Rubio? To me, he represents the direction I want my political party to go. He’s young, principled, articulate, unapologetically Christian, and deeply committed to American ideals of freedom, prosperity, and strength. He’s strong on foreign policy–not someone who would make weak deals with terrorist nations, or put up with any shadiness from them. Domestically, I am a huge supporter of his view that the Department of Education should be abolished, and Common Core torn up and thrown out. He’s an advocate for states’ rights, which is what our founders intended in so many instances that are now handled (often badly) by the federal government.

Rubio is not perfect–no candidate is. I think he had a misstep with immigration reform in 2013 in the Senate, but he openly admits it was a mistake. But here’s the thing: give me a candidate who I might disagree with on some policy issues but is honest about it and I am much more willing to concede our differences and still support him. That’s in stark contrast to a candidate like Ted Cruz, who tries to be all things to all people and comes across as pandering and slippery for it.

Ultimately, I like Rubio’s energy, his ideals, and his passion for the American dream. It doesn’t hurt that he’s the only candidate polling above Hillary in potential general election matchups, either. I want a conservative in the White House in 2017, and he’s the best shot we have at making that a reality.  It’s likely his bigger battle is winning the primary, especially with a guy like Trump sucking all the oxygen out of the room and endless attacks from “establishment” candidates like Jeb Bush and John Kasich.

If ever there was a candidate who could weather all that–who could survive the circus the Republican primary has proven to be–it is Marco Rubio, and I’m proud to support him.

Debate Details: What You Don’t See on TV

Tonight, leading Republican presidential candidates will take the debate stage in Las Vegas for the final contest of the calendar year. I’ll be tuning in from my living room, but last month, I was in the audience of the Miluwakee GOP debate—and saw some things that don’t translate onto your TV screen.


My take on the candidates after watching them in person, in the order they’ll appear on stage:

John Kasich 

Wasn’t his campaign rumored to be folding up weeks ago? It should have. On the debate stage, Kasich came across as the annyoing, slightly out-of-control obnoxious uncle at the wedding reception. When he wasn’t interrupting, he was trying to, his hand waggling at the moderators in an attempt to insert himself into every conversation. While there is something to be said for being an active participant in these crowded affairs, Kasich’s perpetually low standing in the race doesn’t exactly give him the authority to do so. By the end of the evening, the crowd audibly groaned and rolled eyes at each other when he spoke.

Carly Fiorina

Remember the Carly Fiorina we saw in her primetime debate debut back in September? She’s gone. I was struck by how soft-spoken and reserved she played her performance—neither of which did her any favors. Part of what made Fiorina rocket up in the polls was the no-nonsense force she displayed in the first two debates. While she’s still formidable on substance, her new strategy to come across softer and gentler is ill-advised. She was easily forgotten in the crowd, and mildly frustrating for how completely she disregarded the answer time limits.

Marco Rubio

If ever there was a candidate who looks at home on the debate stage, Marco Rubio is it. From his oft-struck stance behind the podium (one foot forward, one back on its toes) he exudes confidence under the lights. He also seemed to have the best read of the physical crowd, cracking the occasional joke (like plugging his website after Ted Cruz had repeatedly—and somewhat annoyingly—done the same, earning a genuine laugh from the audience) and feeding off its energy effectively. His name was the one I overheard the most as I left the venue.

Ben Carson

If Kasich is the obnoxious uncle, Carson is the affable relative you’re always happy enough to see, but find your conversations with to be a little irrelavant. He’s so nice he’s almost boring. He earned plenty of applause, but it wasn’t the raucous cheers some other candidates generated, and he, too, faded into the background of the overcrowded stage.

Donald Trump

For as bombastic as he is on the campaign trail, Trump was oddly lackluster in person. When he spoke, you could actually sense the crowd leaning in, waiting to react to some outlandish statement or off-color jab. When he rarely delivered either, the audience grew irritated at his lack of entertainment value (which is, let’s face it, his role in the race). The guy sitting behind me muttered in obvious disgust more than once, “There’s your frontrunner, folks.” He sells books from a giant bus with his face plastered on it just outside the venue (tacky). Perhaps most notably: in person, the hair is quite terrific.

Ted Cruz

Overall, Cruz was received well by the audience. He’s a skilled debater and it shows. He jumps in and delivers memorable lines very effectively, and along with Rubio, had the most measurable crowd reactions. His weakness in this arena is his tendency to slip into “frustrated televangelist” mode but that kind of approach panders to his base, so it’s undoubtedly a conscious stylistic choice.

Jeb(!) Bush

Memo to Bush staff: work on this guy’s posture. Slouching behind the podium, Bush appears disinterested and distracted from what’s going on when it’s not his turn to speak. He’s easily the least self-aware candidate on stage; when Carson was delivering his very sobering closing statement, Bush was grinning and waving at someone in the audience and it illustrated perfectly his disconnect in the race. He’s there, but is he really there?

Chris Christie

Relegated to the undercard debate in November, Christie was the clear winner of his debate heat. Another skilled debater, Christie—perhaps better than anyone else in the field—is able to wrap up an issue and put a tidy little bow on it in his frank, no-nonsense way. If Trump were not in this field, Christie would be occupying his space as the outspoken, bombastic East Coaster, but instead he’s dangerously close to becoming an also-ran.

Rand Paul

In a word: exasperated. The feeling from Paul is that he’s perpetually irritated—about his low standings in the polls, about being picked on by Trump, about not getting enough camera time, etc., etc. What’s most notable about Paul are his followers: college-aged guys who love making noise more than they do paying attention to what’s actually being said. I sat by a few of them, and my ears may still be ringing from their continual hooting and hollering.

Some things to look for in tonight’s debate:

-Will the candidates turn on Trump and openly attack his increasingly fringe positions?

-Will Cruz focus his attacks on Trump or Rubio? He’s done both in recent days and it’s two very different campaign strategies.

-Will national security questions all but eliminate Carson’s viability as a candidate? It’s reportedly the reason for his rapid slide in recent polling.

-Will Rubio have a breakout moment? The consensus is he’s performed well in previous debates, but he needs to make a real run for the top at some point.

It will be an interesting one to watch, no doubt—and even more interesting to sniff out the details we won’t see on TV tonight.


The Call That Saved Thanksgiving

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

My husband and I had been married for just over three months. We lived in a cute little one-bedroom apartment a few hundred miles away from our families. We were busy—he finishing up graduate school and I working odd hours at a local television station—but we were making our first home together, and we were happy.

Maybe I felt a little too overconfident, still basking in that “honeymoon phase.” Maybe I just didn’t think it through. Either way, for my first Thanksgiving as a married woman, I volunteered not only to cook a meal with all the trimmings—I’d invited my in-laws to join us.

Which, as you might imagine, included my mother-in-law.

Who, as you might also rightly guess, is a darn good cook.

No pressure there, new daughter-in-law. 

Cooking your first Thanksgiving turkey can be unnerving

I made a plan. Prepared side dishes ahead of time. Unboxed the wedding china and serving dishes. Cracked open my Better Homes and Gardens red and white checkered cookbook.

But, there was one glitch I didn’t count on: the turkey.

I’d selected it carefully at the grocery store earlier that week, my new husband humoring me as I pawed through a freezer full of shrink-wrapped Butterballs, looking for one that spoke to me. I’d thawed the winning candidate slowly, and when Thanksgiving morning dawned, unwrapped it, cleaned it meticulously, and slid it into the oven on a satisfied note of triumph.

I’ve got this.

When my in-laws arrived a few hours later, the hearty scent of slow-roasting turkey greeted them at the door with me. They gushed. We hugged. I swelled.

It didn’t last long.

As my husband and his parents settled in to the living room a few feet away, I grabbed a baster and opened the oven. I squeezed the bulb—and looked in horror at the liquid I’d just drawn up. It was pink. Pink! Something was terribly wrong.

I figured I had two options: fix it, or ask my mother-in-law for help.

I closed the oven door, grabbed the phone off the counter, and hurried into the bathroom. Cheeks flushed in shame, I dialed the number my husband and I had laughed over when we’d unwrapped the turkey hours before. 1-800-BUTTERBALL.

I was calling the turkey hotline to save Thanksgiving dinner. 

The friendly voices on the other end of the Turkey Hotline saved the day

A cheerful voice answered. “The juice,” I rasped urgently. “It’s pink. It’s the first time I’ve cooked a turkey…and it’s pink.”

“Oh don’t worry! That’s a very common problem,” she answered kindly. “Did you remove the neck from the cavity before you placed it in the oven?”

“Well, of course I—,” I faltered. The neck. Oh no. The. Neck. Had I even known I had to fish that thing out first? “Um…what if I forgot? Is it ruined?”

She gently assured me it wasn’t, told me to remove it now and cook the bird a little longer, and no one would be the wiser. Thanksgiving dinner, she soothed, would not be a turkey-less feast.

Thankfully, she was right.

Now, almost a decade after that anxious phone call when so much of my confidence as a new wife and daughter-in-law was riding on a misbehaving turkey in my tiny oven, I wish I could talk to the woman from the Turkey Talk-Line again.

We would laugh together at the absurdity of it all, at how I’d panicked over something as trivial as a turkey when my table was filled with so much love, acceptance, and support. 

I’d thank her for talking me down from the edge of fear, for coaching a new wife through a harrowing moment in her early marriage.

I’d even boast a little about how I’d made pan gravy from scratch, earning points with my new mother-in-law that boosted my confidence in my fledgling domestic abilities.

But mostly, I’d say thank you. Because whether she knew it or not, that woman—that voice of reason—saved my first Thanksgiving.

And I am forever grateful.

This post also published on 11-25-15 on Bison Booties

Convenient Lives Matter

Last night, the winter finale of the ABC show “Scandal” aired. Twitter is abuzz over the episode, which centered around the filibuster of a bill that would have cut funding to Planned Parenthood. The show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, frequently takes on hot-button topics in the show’s provocative script, but defending Planned Parenthood (which tweeted out its giddy gratitude over Rhimes’s support) wasn’t the most ostensibly sickening content of the script.

The main character had an on-screen abortion.

Accompanied by strains of “Silent Night.”

And a soliloquy by the character’s father saying, “Family doesn’t complete you…it destroys you.”

And fans of the show practically fell all over themselves swooning in its aftermath.

Just hours ago, many of the same people were sputtering about the possibility of the United States halting resettlement of Syrian refugees within our borders. Indignant Facebookers were slamming the “un-Christian” view of the world this kind of closed-minded hatred obviously exposed. “What would Jesus do?!” they cried. “Their innocent lives matter!”


Enough of this disgusting double standard that has seized American society.

Enough of the twisting of Scripture. The bending of morality. The marginalizing of right and wrong.

Why do the lives of Syrian refugees matter but the lives of unborn babies don’t?

Why does the politically charged plight of a war-torn nation and the glorifying of a taxpayer supported baby-killing organization launch throngs of righteous armchair quarterbacks onto an unchallengeable soapbox of moral and religious authority?

I read a commentary on last night’s episode of “Scandal” today that might be the single most morally depraved essay ever written. The author spoke of how thrilled she was to see the show cast abortion in a positive light. How finally—finally!—the small screen had gotten it right. How the character had seized her feminist right and terminated the unwanted annoyance inside her without the ridiculous pretense of an agonizing decision, or an ounce of guilt or shame afterward. How brilliant she was to skip the painful discussion with the fetus’s father about whether or not to be bothered with birthing the thing. How she was empowering women everywhere to take matters into their own entitled hands—ethics and conscience be damned.

But perhaps most disturbing, this writer wished this simplistic portrayal of ending a life had been the prevailing message years earlier when she agonized over and eventually had her own abortion—an act that sent her spiraling into admitted anguish. If only this episode had aired back then, she reasoned, she would have been spared the bother of that nagging voice crying out for life. She was just a kid in college, after all, unfit to raise a child.

Of course, that child was never given the chance to find itself a mother who was fit for the job.

Where is the voice for the millions of unborn babies dismissed as pesky, ill-timed parasites? Where is the morality and religious authority so quickly invoked in public discourse over Syrian refugees?

Where is our humanity?

Its absence exposes a gaping black hole of wickedness masked by slick television scenes and flowery Facebook statuses, and one dirty little secret those same people will never admit: all lives don’t matter.

Convenient lives matter. Socially wronged lives matter. The lives they want to matter, matter.

And it is completely indefensible.