How to be brave (hint: it's simple but not easy)

Well, you just show up. I think that's all there really is to it. You just show up and then you show up again and again and again. And then you go home to your nice, warm bed.

Sometimes I forget how lonely it can feel in a crowd. And how exhausting it is talking about books I've written. I love writing but talking about what I've written makes me so uncomfortable and anxious. Still, I did it. I went to my book party. Seeing all your smiling faces made everything all better. I liked that.

I also liked coming home afterwards.

I can feel my shoulders relax as I pull into my driveway. I smile at the kid stuff strewn across the lawn: scooter, bike helmet, skateboard, basketball. The dogs hear the car door slam and they are already at the door, waiting for me when I come up the walk.

I open the door and I can smell the tater tots that James baked for himself. Sometimes there are brownies. Jewel is in a brownie-baking phase.

I hang my keys on the hook and set my purse on the dining room table. I can hear the TV on in the living room—somebody is watching Shark Tank. I kick off my shoes and go to the kitchen sink. I don't know why but I always wash my hands when I arrive home. A kind of baptismal ritual.

"Mom?"

It's Jude, coming round the corner with his school iPad in hand. Oh, those iPads. I wonder when the school district will regret having bought them. There are constant problems with these things: missing keys, cracked screens. Jude wants to show me his grades. I fill a cup with water and look at the digital grade-book he's pulled up. Almost all A's. I give him a hug, tell him I'm so proud of him.

There are several crafts on the table. Jor drew multi-colored strips across a round piece of cardboard she'd salvaged from a used pizza box. Joss glued a bunch of found items onto scrapbook paper.

My house is very lived-in. It's not dirty. The floors, the stairs, the drawer handles all show signs of wear and tear. Each one tells the story of a big family growing up together, progressing unsteadily and messily but always progressing.

My kitchen counter and sink is cluttered with a few dozen dishes. Sometimes this bothers me. Most of the time it doesn't bother me at all.

I walk upstairs and check on the twins. They are asleep, sprawled out and tangled in their sheets, their favorite Randy Travis CD is playing softly. They've left the closet light on because sometimes being brave means leaving the light on.

I walk down the hall to my bedroom. The dogs follow me. I close the door gently behind us.

I am home now. I am safe. Everything will be alright.