Adventures in Imperfection

The Little Engine that Could


Right now this family is composed of three train cars plus me and Macy Grey.

In the sleeper car is my husband – sick with what appears to be influenza A. He’s finally asleep after a night of chills, fever and misery.

In the coal car is my son – drained and depleted from a week of wrestling, back-to-back matches, college prep math, and a world geography test.

Riding in the passenger car is my daughter where it’s a bustle of fun and spirited activity. Working, going to college, and managing a rental house full of alpha-female roommates. She does so with grace and sunshine on her face. And she hides the stress just like I taught her.


Macy is sleeping with BD right now, but she’s been worried about him all morning. Forgoing breakfast because there’s something not right with daddy. And for anybody who knows our dog, they know that’s a big deal. Macy NEVER misses a meal.


Me? I’m the engine and caboose. Trying to keep this train going from both directions as the track veers left then right and down a mountain. Not any different than what you may be facing on your side of the tracks.

Engineering this family’s train means helping Dane understand linear pair postulates while begging him to eat something, ANYTHING before wrestling practice today. These days require a healthy dose of self-esteem, endurance and white-knuckling just to get through…and that’s just the parent part. I honestly don’t know how Dane is functioning right now.

So, I pick up my shovel and throw fuel onto the fire of unconditional love and encouragement. I send my energy into his spirit and imagine red, silk strands of positive reinforcement and high protein snacks flowing from my brain to his. I say prayers for him all day and mentally walk him through the countries in the Middle East just a few minutes before test time.

Tanna has started out her second semester as a college junior much the way she starts the others – excitement mixed with self-doubt and the feeling of being overwhelmed. For a girl who used to appear to be my exact opposite, I can see my hidden anxiety in her…minus the wrinkles.

Time for pom poms and the perfect cheer.

On her test days, I send vibes west down Interstate 70. The femur bone is connected to the funny bone – wait, how does that go? Don’t listen to me, Tanna. My last anatomy class was twenty-eight years ago.

I mentally remind her that she’s smart, that she’s got this, that I’m proud of her, and that I don’t know how she does it all. Then we SnapChat through the day and I hoard screen shots of her face so that her smiling eyes are just fingertips away.

As the day goes on, I’ll throw more coal in Dane’s car and open the shutters in Tanna’s to let in the light.

But, what about the sleeping giant in the last car? I wasn’t very kind to him yesterday and suddenly, I feel responsible for his under-the-weather, under-the-covers disposition.

It’s not my fault he caught the bug, but I’m sure that my negative energy – directed at him- didn’t help the situation.

So, as the caboose, I’m gently pushing, back-tracking and trying to unsay things that I said. As for our set of parents who read this – don’t worry about us! It’s all good. We learned our forever-married skills from you guys. Ain’t nothing that a little love, communication, chicken broth, and Tamiflu can’t fix.

In all of this, I feel oddly invigorated. Being the engine and caboose energizes me. Pulling them along while pushing from behind. Giving them my love, energy and spirit from both sides. Blasting them with viral waves of hope, encouragement and poking them with the reminder that they are THE most important people in my life. Focusing on others tends to remove the self-pity that can permeate the pores on a rough day and really put life into perspective. Mountain ahead? Ain’t no thang…

Choo! Choo!

Choo! Choo!

Programming note: thank you for indulging me in an ‘extra’ post this week. In the quest for balance, posting will continue to occur on 2-3 Mondays/month and most Fridays. It’s an honor to me that you ever read my stuff and I don’t take this gift lightly. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

75 thoughts on “The Little Engine that Could

  1. Fun glimpse into your daily life, though sorry to hear about the man flu! It’s hard work raising kids. If we can just get through these years without leaving one another and beating our own selves up too bad. You’re keeping the train moving today, full speed ahead 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You speak the truth, my friend! Some days the insides of our house look like a prize fight in the Octagon (and that’s just what happens in the mirror!)
      I hope you are having a great week, Kristen!!


  2. Cool analogy Mama! Keep your wheels on the rails and coal in your hopper. Oh, don’t forget to stop at the next station Mme Engineer for water and a break. We don’t want the engineer too tired to keep the train together.

    Great post Mama and a wonderful pic of your daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this post Michelle….
    if you posted every day i would be happy…schedule, schmedule!
    please, when you’re loving and caring for the man stay a decent amount of space away….the caboose and the engine don’t need to get sick!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thanks, Michele. I can’t wait to get caught up over on your site, too. When I wrote the word “anatomy,” you popped into my head.
      Good call on staying away from the sleeper car…if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!
      I hope you are having a great week!!xoxoxoxo


  4. Love the train analogy. When the man-flu is over and hubby feels well again, he can become the engine and let you relax and sight see as just another car on the train for a while. Hang in there for now! You’re doing great!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Awwww, I love this post Michelle, it’s just gorgeous – and therapeutic, I’m sure, if you’re anything like me: just have a burning desire to write 😀…..and the coals just have to be thrown on that fire! For sanity! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome wife,mother& daughter-in-law. You have it all . I promise your train WILL get back on track . Sickness, tests & college challenges will all be back on perfect track soon !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mama Marie! Your son is up and around…he’s at that part of the day where the flu tricks him into thinking it’s gone. It’s just there lurking and waiting for the evening. Maybe he’ll have a quieter night. Love you!!


  7. No not worried I just remember those times. Just so the engineer don’t have to pull into the station to refuel and stop herself. Moms never get sick—do they? Love you this too shall pass. Great blog.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nope! Moms don’t get sick…in fact, I can’t remember any times you were sick when we were younger. We were probably wallowing too much in our own misery to notice. Love you, Mom!!


  8. You’re on the right track for Project Recovery, Michelle. All the pulling and pushing you do is a marvel. The starving wrestler son, the closet anxious collegiate daughter, the flu-downed dude, they feel your locomotion.

    And hey, you don’t have to stick to any blogging schedule, you know?! You write, we read, Mama. 🙂 At your time of need.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this, well, except for the Husband flu, which is not nice for anyone. You are a marvel, Michelle, and an inspiration. Sending good vibes and extra energy your way.

    P.S. The Little Engine That Could has always been a favorite book of mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sending the extra energy, Mary. I’m a bit more frazzled at day’s end than when the metaphorical mood hit this morning. All’s good.
      I’m so eager to get back over to your site and read your latest.
      This will make you laugh…I was actually reading Shiny Objects while sitting in the bath tub last night. The light was bad and the iPhone was small. Clearly your words deserve better attention, so I put the phone away, soaped up and went to bed before I got to revisit….maybe tonight 🙂


  10. Just a thought for that man flu Michelle. I’ve been taking an Elderberry extract for the (flu and cold) virus and found if I took it as soon as the symptoms appear it would reduce it to 3 or 4 days (or less) instead of the 7 that it normally takes. I’ve never seen something work so well before on a virus. Other stuff just seems to cover the symptoms.
    But whatever you do, don’t cook it up locally as it can be poisonous if not cooked correctly or you accidently get other parts of the plant in the batch (leaves etc).
    Over here is is in our local Chemist (is that drug store for you guys 🙂 ), in a product called Sambucol, Cold and Flu. It must have at least 5.7g per 15ml’s of extract. It even tastes good 😀 And it’s a natural product rather than some chemical concoction.
    Great post by the way, I enjoyed the Central Station theme of your household. Good luck with your timetable 😀 Mark xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mark 🙂
      Always great to hear from you. I LOVE Elderberry and remember using it way back in the day when I worked at the hospital and was exposed to germs every day. Thankfully, the hubs got a good night’s sleep and felt well enough to jump out at me in the dark and yell “Boo!”
      My heart hasn’t stopped palpitating yet!!
      I hope you are doing well, my friend and thank you for the elderberry reminder. Michelle

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Obviously he’s feeling much better 😀
        The test will come when you ask him to do some housechores…if he starts moaning and saying he doesn’t feel too well…he’s fine 😀
        Good energy coming over anyway, take care. Mark

        Liked by 1 person

      2. He’s hanging in there!
        I read your latest post (while sitting at a wrestling meet last night). LOVED it! I’ll be over there to comment later.
        I’m giggling though…you are probably aren’t surprised in the least that it felt like your post spoke directly to me – Mr. ESP 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Big Mama was right on when She put you into my heart as “lil mama”…cudos, sis…blessings too.

    oh, and don’t forget the oh so intentional and carefully planned “accidental trip” over to the sleeping car, when you know you won’t get sick but he doesn’t, and thus feels so worthy…

    yeah, you know the drill.

    much love, and deepest thanks

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Weeeelll…I “might” know my way around the train a bit…lol!

        Lemme see…

        *Charissa carefully checks tray with honey-ginger tea laced with Cayenne and a snifter of favorite libation on the side, a small dish of lightly scrambled eggs laced with chives and sharp cheddar cheese, toast smeared with favorite orange marmalade jam, and all covered with my crocheted tray cover from my Grandma…then checks her make up so carefully hidden to appear “not there”…nods, deep breath and prayer to Mama to keep the germs away and “make me hawt…giggles and turns knob*

        ❤ s lil mama and much much respect and love…truly love that throbbing jubilant indomitable heart in you

        Grace and Peace, Charissa

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh dang, I’m so sorry. We ladies might make fun of the man-flu and such, but I bet your girls enjoy taking care of you as much as I enjoy taking care of mine.
      Hope you are feeling better and heading into a restful weekend. Thank you so much for stopping by…I always appreciate seeing you here.


  12. LOVED this! Such awesome writing! Keep it up Michelle! I have great admiration for you!! 🙂 ❤

    ps… if you haven't watched the TedTalk Ann had on her last blog, you so so need to see it! It is about a reality TV Show in Norway with a train! I left you a message on there to check it out, but didn't know if you saw it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, my friend! I’m afraid that I’ve been so busy writing this week that I haven’t been a very good friend and reader. I will definitely check out the video (thank you!) and pop over to your site. I hope you are doing well!!


  13. Well done you 🙂 I find it very hard to keep going and keep giving, sometimes, and I end up really quite resentful. It sounds as though you’ve avoided that (or at least, have got some proper perspective going on in your mind) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh…I’ve definitely struggled with that resentment piece. My only advantage is that I’m old!
      The resentment that used to be directed at doing so much for the family is now directed at giving too much at my day job. Back in the day, those roles were reversed. My energy and enthusiasm was spent at work and then I had nothing but brooding and grump left for home. Once I finally figured out (duh…it took almost 40 years) that my energies were being spent in the wrong place…this house became a lot happier.
      All this said, I can’t imagine anything but gratitude and glitter coming from that sweet heart of yours 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You hold me in entirely too high regard! This is the protection of the screen – I am often very snarly and uncharitable and distinctly lacking in compassion. Particularly towards Husby, bless him, because he’s THERE and gets on my nerves, and things are difficult. But today I love him completely and know that he’s The One. So I need to learn to be a better wife, which I think is probably a thing which doesn’t stop being a work in progress.

        I had a job like the one you describe. It sucked me dry. I’m SO lucky with the job I have at the moment. It’s a real blessing. And hey, I’m glad you figured it out. I shall consider you a trail-blazer, and do my best to learn from you 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Oh yes…the husby! It never stops being a work in progress, does it. “But today I love him completely and know that he’s the One.” We grasp to the those days and remember when life has us feeling the opposite. You always have a way of making it real, my friend. xoxoxo

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes – I guess there are reasons we get those moments of stillness, where we know that somehow, on almost a cosmic level, we are the right person in the right place, at the right time. Thank goodness for them!

        And really? NEVER stops being a work in progress? Ach! Sometimes I think all the girls should live together and the boys should just get visiting rights…

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Hehehe I suspect that would happen, but meantime the commune would be clean and fun and everyone would look out for one another, and no-one would leave their mug on the chopping board or the seat up on the loo, or STUFF EVERYWHERE or…or…or…


  14. That engine certainly could.

    Love the paragraph on shovel on fuel. And thanks for the honesty about how you’d related to the sleeping giant the day before. I feel less small next to you. =)

    So can I say it? Women are amazing! But thank God we are not the Conductor and He will pull us through the inclement seasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many wise words from a woman who knows – a great reminder that I need to put everything in His hands. But the comment about feeling “small” next to me. Oh goodness…I operate on paper way better than real life 🙂
      I hope you are doing well, my friend. I think of you often and send you love hugs and across the airwaves. xoxoxo


  15. You are adorable and insightful. Mindful and soulful. And I am lucky to know you and call you friend, Michelle. If I ever become a mother, I will remember that there isn’t a recipe for perfection, that it’s an illusion just like the body of water a man sees after wandering around a desert dazed and wanting. Rather there are opportunities: for growth, for learning, and for loving. Breathe. And continue to be your family’s engine and caboose. If I have my chance, dear one, I will do the same.

    With loving friendship,

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your friendship and kindness continue to humble and strike me right at the heart – that’s where you naturally reside.
      I send you prayers and love everyday as well as the very same wish that you’ll be a mother someday. I was just talking about you in church yesterday…hoping you felt that extra surge of love from the middle of the country.
      Love you, my friend. You have me a bit speechless and sentimental this morning. xo

      Liked by 2 people

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