It happened again.

Last week we took a family outing to drive through a Christmas light display. Since we were in the area, we took a trip down memory lane and drove through the village of Avon. After looping around a couple of side streets, we slowed down to look at the Avon Inn. As if she could grasp the concept, we explained to our two-year old that the big building with pretty lights is where Mommy and Daddy got married, and then we told her that time before her existed. As we laughed at ourselves and slowly pulled away, that’s when it happened.

Our wedding song started playing on the radio.

I noticed it first, this time. We smiled at the fluke, feeling eerie in the coincidence. Our smiles were immediately followed by heavy sighs. The not quite silent acknowledgement that this relentless clash of emotions is a substantial weight to bear. Things that once made us so happy, make us sad now. It’s the consequence of a tarnished memory. Our wedding song, for example, makes us a little sad now. Life in general, is a little sad now.

And that’s where we exist today. Within that subdued pause between the smile and the sigh. Where everything is left unsaid, because there are no words. On one hand we have this amazing life, happy moments abound, so much to be thankful for. On the other hand, we have loss. Loss of a dream, loss of a friend, and the loss of a life that we once considered normal.

Happy moments still exist, of course they do. They’re just as present as they always were. But I’m not as present as I always was, I can’t be. The truth is I’m tired of hearing about the good things in my life, as if they somehow make up for the bad. “You have a baby so that should help with losing a baby”. “You are lucky to have so many great memories”. And the kicker “it could be worse”. Obviously life can always get worse. It already has, a couple of times. But knowing that doesn’t make this phase better. Happiness cannot be exchanged like currency. That’s not the way it works.

So I’ve arrived at a crossroads. Naturally, it has felt a little disingenuous to write about happy moments while standing knee deep in shit, but I do miss it. Writing. Sharing small, silly, and seemingly insignificant instances of my life. Noticing if only for myself, the ordinary moments that combine to create an extraordinary life.

Hearing our wedding song on the radio did remind me of good times. Better times. Not of our wedding, but of the last time this chance occurrence happened to us. On the way to our 2nd anniversary dinner, around the same time I started the blog. When I eagerly proclaimed that “this phase will not last forever, and that tomorrow might be a really bad day.” The irony is not lost on me.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with the lyrics that keep bringing me back to where it all began.

And I wonder when I sing along with you

If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I’ll ever ask of you
You’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when

She sang




For one reason or another I always seem to take a hiatus from writing at this time of year. But I’m here at last to share a quick story.

Allow me to set the scene. I’m sitting on the couch, my husband is on the adjacent couch. We’re in our appropriately dark living room on an inappropriately sunny afternoon. My phone, which rarely rings, starts buzzing with an incoming call. The number is not familiar, but it is my area code, so I answer. The conversations follows:

“Hi, is Kiera there?”
“No, this is her mom. Who’s this?”
“Oh, well is she there? Can I speak with her?”

I linger here a little because at this moment my phone starts chiming in my ear with a couple rapid fire texts. I glance at the screen quickly but do not recognize the number, so I return to the conversation more adamantly, albeit a bit confused.

“No, Kiera is at daycare. She’s 20 months old, I’m her mom. Who is this?”
“20 MONTHS!? It says here I should be speaking with a 20 YEAR old.”
“Well, you’re not. Kiera is my baby, who is this?”
“I’m so sorry, I must have the wrong person.”
“This is for a patient referral.”
“Oh… but the person you’re looking for is named Kiera? And is 20 years old, not 20 months old?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
“That’s weird though, right? That’s not a very common name.”
“Right, I’m not sure how this happened. I’m so sorry to bother you.”

And with that I hang up the phone. I look over at my husband who had been following along. His expression, initially puzzled and confused, had now resolved into a smile with just a tinge of WTF? I shrug my shoulders, laugh, and then look at the texts I had missed. I find this:


What in the Sam Hill?

(Which I thought was sam hell my entire life, until literally right now.)

This was the most peculiar 3 minutes of my life.

It was as if someone saw me sitting there on the couch and said “hi there, I see someone kicked you while you were down. Here’s something to laugh at; think about nearly impossible coincidences, 20 year old Kieras, and crack for the rest of the afternoon.”

Admittedly I took the needed opportunity to do just that.

And I feel better knowing that if all else fails, at least I know where I can get some crack. Phew.

Being Santa

Bruegger’s is my favorite mommy/daughter date spot.

Our local chain is not very busy and we have a very relaxed routine when we’re there. We go in, order two breakfast sandwiches, and set up shop at a corner table for the 45 minutes it takes her to eat an entire sausage, egg, and cheese sammy.

Only once did I make the rookie mistake of ordering one sandwich for the two of us, foolishly thinking I could share with my 12 month old. She ate the whole thing and I was left with the tough outer shell of a bagel as my only sustenance. You live and you learn.

I took her there yesterday for an early lunch. We had a busy week ahead of us and I wanted to spoil her a little bit. We went about our usual routine. Ordered food, sat down, said “hi” to everyone there 6 times, and then got down to the serious business of eating.

A half hour later, when she finally looked up from her plate, she noticed that an older woman had (quite intentionally) cozied up to us at a nearby table. We all said hi to each other of course. I took the break in Kiera’s eating marathon as a sign that she might be ready for some conversation, so we talked about our day. About how Daddy was on a work trip. About how she and I would be going to Aunt Sarah’s for a Christmas party. Then we talked about Santa. As Kiera smiled and whispered “Tanta Tause” under her breath the woman next to us could no longer hold back.

“Does she know SANTA?!?”
“How old is she?”
“Oh my gosh she’s so young, that’s great!”
“She’s so big!”
“Does she like Santa?!”

The flood gates had opened. It was as if the “S” word was a secret password that gave us access to an exclusive Christmas club. A club in which an old woman, a young toddler, and a 32 year old believer were the only members. At least for the time being.

Kiera nibbled at the rest of her food while the three of us sat there and talked about Christmas. She told me about a Santa that visits a local chain every week night. I feigned interest; she tore a schedule and coupon out of her newspaper that she was reading and gave it to me.


Just then an employee walked by and the woman abruptly stood up and said “excuse me, I have something to do”.

I watched her walk over to the employee and start doling out goodies from her bag. She had brought treats to give to the Bruegger’s employees. As they stood there discussing people’s work schedules, so that she could come back later in the week, I had a feeling of déjà vu; this has happened before.

But it hadn’t. Not to me anyway. It had happened to a friend, and she described it so well in her guest post that I was momentarily confused whether it was her memory or mine. That day, two years ago, she got to be a member of the Secret Santa club. Today, it was my turn.

I let myself think about how funny life is for a second but then quickly dialed back to present day and took this window of opportunity to start packing up our things to leave. I took Kiera out of her high chair and told her she could run around while I put the chair away. But she didn’t run around. She grabbed her coat and marched directly to the older woman, arms out asking for her coat to be “on”, before I had a chance to object. The woman happily obliged and as I hurried over to say thank you and pick up my billowy toddler, the woman whispered something to Kiera.

“I have a present for you today”.

She pulled out a baggie of M&M’s and said “I brought them for the workers who aren’t here, but you’re a good girl and I think you deserve them instead”.


And then it dawned on me.

This woman IS Santa.

Here I am, just dipping my toes into my lifelong dream of having the official title of Santa Clause, as this woman was (presumably) long ago faced with the unfortunate milestone of retiring as Santa. But she chose not to hang up her Santa hat. She simply found somewhere else to wear it.

“Find somewhere to grow
Grow somewhere we’re needed”
(Hip lyrics for those following along)


I want to be just like her when I grow up!

Since this blog is slowly developing into a personal account of things I want to remember and things I want to be, I’m letting it evolve and adding this to my list of life goals.

I will remember this as the day that I realized I will always be Santa, because I always have been Santa. And that a small piece of me is even a little excited for the opportunity to someday be this example for someone else. When there is time, and money, and sleep. I will remember this as the day I got to be a part of the Secret Santa Club, when I was simultaneously united with a stranger and reunited with an old friend across the distance of two years. And I’ll remember this as the day I let my daughter take candy from a stranger, because she wasn’t a stranger at all.

She was Santa.

Happy Holidays everyone! If you’re out there being Santa, feel free to comment and share.

Extraordinary Moments

I’m going to piggy-back off of my last post to tell a story about a recent, happiness-causing, event. So you may want to read that one first if you haven’t, but it’s your call.

My husband and I were on our way to our anniversary dinner the other night.

Picture him, in the driver’s seat, repetitively clicking the scan button on the radio searching for something at least mildly entertaining to listen to. He pauses for only a few seconds on each station, glancing quickly my way before deeming the station unworthy and moving onto the next option. And myself, as the passenger of course, staring off into oblivion at nothing in particular, with a million unrelated memories clouding my brain. So disconnected from the situation that I offer no opinion or visible reaction to the stations he pauses on, forcing him to assume that I do not like the song. He makes an off-handed comment about the poor driving skills of the person in front, next to, or behind us. Or, more likely, all of the above. I try my best to ignore the comment, and make no indication that I have even heard him talking.

Besides the reason for it, which was to get to the restaurant to celebrate 2 years of marriage, it was a completely ordinary drive. A very typical snapshot of life in the car with the Karpens. There is nothing exactly wrong with, or bad about, this situation. But there is nothing remarkable about it either. It is our routine of getting from Point A to Point B. Simply coexisting.

Finally, he settles on a station where the DJ was talking. A good indication that they were just coming back from commercial break, and would soon be playing a song. I pick up my phone to, again, look at nothing in particular. And then, something completely un-ordinary happens.

Our wedding song starts playing on the radio.

He recognizes it first, smiles, and comments that they’re playing our song. I actually hear his comment this time, look at him and smile, and extraordinary happiness ensues. I am abruptly pulled away from the million other thoughts in my head, whatever they might have been, and for exactly 4 minutes and 11 seconds am able to think about nothing else except for him and I, and the fact that we are together, living in this moment.

I immediately recognized it as another one of those appropriately timed coincidences that force me stop over-thinking life, and allow me to just enjoy it, exactly as it is.

The thing about moments, of course, is that they’re fleeting. Before we arrived at the restaurant, he was commenting again on the mistakes of a neighboring driver. I, after enthusiastically singing along to our song, gladly retreated back into my cloud. This time with memories of us and our wedding, our family and friends, and happiness etc.. But the fact that the moment was gone didn’t diminish the fact that it happened.

This extraordinary moment is now a happy memory that we both share, and that I am now sharing with you.

For me, this doesn’t make the ordinary moments in life suddenly inadequate. As evidenced by my previous post, I enjoy those too. I laugh, literally out loud, at myself when I think about spilling beer while getting my morning coffee. And I do, completely and entirely, enjoy just coexisting with my husband as we go about our daily routines. But it is the extraordinary moments in life that make this all worthwhile. They throw me into a state of complete consciousness and let me know that I may just be doing something right after all.

So I’ll just be here, enjoying all of my ordinary moments, so that I’m able to recognize and enjoy the next extraordinary one whenever it comes along.

P.S. To Ben and Brendan: Thank you for playing our wedding song, and for generally just being awesome at life.

Be Happy


This past October one of my nearest and dearest friends gave me a box of Be Happy Pop Open Cards for my birthday. They’re cute and fun, something we’ve all seen at various gift stores. I took them to work with me so that I could open them in the place where I most often need encouragement to “Be Happy”. There are 30 quote cards in the box so, being the miser that I am, I opened a card only when I truly needed it. And if I ended up opening one every day, that was fine too.

Outside of my professional life though, I find that there are very few moments when I need reminders to be happy. I have an incredible amount of happiness in my life. It has always been there, but throughout the past year or so I’ve been embracing it more and more. As life has been moving quickly (in some cases too quickly) around me, I’ve put forth the extra effort it takes to slow down and savor every happy moment. As a result, I’ve realized that almost all of my moments are happy.

That’s not to say I haven’t had bad days (or weeks, or months), those closest to me know that I’ve had my fair share, we all do. But at the end of each bad day, I’m still ok with it all.  It’s a shift in mindset, and I know with 100% certainty that it’s directly caused by the amazing people I have chosen to surround myself with. My family, and my family of friends.

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family, or so they say. But in my life the line between family and friends is so blurred that it is almost non-existent. I have chosen to make my close family members into my friends, and my friends are absolutely and undeniably my family. Our mantra over this past year, has been to say “not everyone gets this life, not everyone gets to be this happy.” And while I do realize it is sometimes cheesy to say so, it is true. Not everybody does.

So this box of Be Happy cards that started it all, and the excess amount of happiness in my life, are my inspirations for starting this blog. A collection of thoughts, quotes, words, pictures, videos, links, and anything else I encounter throughout my day that makes me smile. I want, and need, to share my happiness with others. I hope that if you’re having a bad day (or week, or month) I can provide you with just one moment of pop-open happiness.  I’m also doing this for purely selfish reasons. Optimism does not come naturally to me. I’m a realist who knows that this phase will not last forever, and that tomorrow might be a really bad day. I will, at some point, need to reflect on these moments of happiness just to get myself out of bed in the morning.

In the end, the box of 30 Be Happy Cards helped me through about two and a half months of tough days at work. Moments that I needed reminders to focus on the big picture. I recently went back through the cards (to find one to send to all my snapchat friends of course), and I found one that had never been opened, it must have gotten lost in the mix. It may have been a sign from the universe or it may have just been an appropriately timed coincidence, I’ll never know. Either way I’ll leave you with that quote today.

“How simple it is to see that we can only be happy now and that there will never be a time when it is not now.” – Gerald G. Jampolsky