Your walnuts are costing us a fortune,” my husband said. 

Gary watched me tape up another box. He thought we’d make money on our nut harvest, but he hadn’t counted on the “dad factor.” 
My husband and I found a walnut orchard for sale on the internet, sold our business in the Bay Area, and moved. Neither of us had ever sat on a tractor or had any idea how to prune a tree, but the view of the surrounding vineyards and towering mountains were irresistible.
I had just learned I was pregnant, and we decided to adopt a completely different lifestyle. “How hard can it be,” we thought. As serial entrepreneurs, we were willing to try anything. 
Our country lifestyle was as different as it could be from San Francisco, and some days while I watched the disker pull its way through our obsidian-rich soil under a sky black with swirling formations of crows, the moments took on a surreal quality.
That first harvest, I wandered out to the field with a caldron of spiced hot chocolate and a ladle, my oversized belly announcing my presence to workers huddled on the orchard floor in the cold. Our soil is rocky, so nuts have to be harvested by hand, one walnut at a time. It’s brutal work, and I was too pregnant to help.
I looked at those buckets of nuts and wondered how it would ever get done. We were trying to move an ocean one drop at a time.
But the nuts somehow made it to the processor and a few weeks later, our baby girl miraculously was born, so we settled happily into our changed lives. 
Then my parents decided to visit.
We looked forward to seeing them with a mixture of sweet anticipation and a little bit of dread, as probably most people do when extended family come and stay. My dad embraced our time together as a rare chance for conversations about business, politics and anything else that crossed his mind. He had always been a talker.
Somehow my mom managed to tune him out, but my dad’s tendency to go on and on seemed to get more pronounced as he aged. 
He would arrive brimming with ideas. Even before suitcases were unloaded, he’d corner my husband with newspaper articles, business strategies, even farming tips despite the fact that ours was the first farm he had ever visited. Thankfully, he always went to bed early. 
One October evening, after a long day of listening to my dad’s parade of ideas, my husband faced me in bed. “Please, take him on an errand tomorrow,” he pleaded. “Find something for him to do. Just keep him busy.” 
The next day, I took my parents to a local processing plant and showed them how walnuts are cleaned and dried. When we got home, I dragged a 50-pound sack of nuts and a cracker to the kitchen table. “I really need to get started on my baking.” I lied,   “Could you crack a few nuts?”  
Thrilled to help, my dad started right in.
A minute later, I heard the distinctive sound of shells cracking into pieces, then plinking noises as wooden husks hit a metal bowl. I plugged in a radio, tuned it to an AM station I knew he would like, and let him work. It was magic – my dad was occupied, my husband was happy, and I was getting shelled nuts.
An hour or so later, I checked on my dad. He was still in the same chair, happy. Pretty soon my mom joined him at the table, cracking and munching. A Benny Goodman song came on, and Lauren and I tried to jitterbug, her pigtails flying as I twirled her on the brown linoleum floor. That night we ate walnuts in our salad, over our pasta, and in our desert. 
As the years passed, my parents’ ability to travel dwindled. “Send me some walnuts,” my dad said. “I’ll crack them for you.” 
I visualized my dad at his assisted living complex in Lee’s Summit, Missouri eager for something constructive to do with his time.
So Lauren and I filled a box with walnuts and walked to the post office. “Thirty four dollars,” the clerk said. For $34, I could buy a lot of shelled walnuts or hire a neighborhood kid to crack hundreds of pounds for me, but I handed over the cash.
A few weeks later, a package arrived in the mail. There were my walnuts, shelled, bagged and neatly lined in a box. I looked at the return postage – twelve bucks.
That day after school, Lauren and I got out brown sugar, flour, butter and eggs. We baked cookie after cookie making sure each one was studded with walnuts. Then we wrapped them carefully, packed them in a box, and walked again to the post office. My husband grabbed a cookie and rolled his eyes. Another $18.
Over the years, walnuts made their way in various forms from California to Missouri and back again. I always worried that one of those boxes of nuts would spill like a load of ball bearings into the inner workings of the postal service, bringing the nation’s whole complex machinery to a grinding halt. But that never happened. 
Instead, postage fees prompted relentless teasing from my husband, and packages quietly made their way back and forth. 
Until they didn’t anymore.
My mom and dad are gone now. 
I watch our trees swaying in a strong wind and think about their unending cycle of life. At a different kitchen table, I plink walnut shells into a mixing bowl, gather the cracked nuts and sprinkle them on our salads. Lauren, a teenager, keeps me company with a parade of ideas. 
Like my dad, she’s a talker, brimming with enthusiasm, and she likes to make herself useful. And like my mom, I pull up a chair, the rhythm of our task keeping us company, memories of Benny Goodman silently echoing in my heart.
So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Nancy Brier

Nancy Brier is regrowing her hair with her balding husband in Palm Desert, California where they recently relocated. They have an 12-year-old daughter whose hair is perfect. For more of Nancy’s work, please visit

I Thought Our Friendship Would Be Unbreakable

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Two friends selfie

The message notification pinged on my phone. A woman, once one of my best friends, was reaching out to me via Facebook. Her message simply read, “Wanted to catch up and see how life was treating you!”  I had very conflicting feelings. It seemed with that one single message, a flood of memories surfaced. Some held some great moments and laughter. Other memories held disappointment and hurt of a friendship that simply had run its course. Out of morbid curiosity, I clicked on her profile page to see how the years had been treating her. She was divorced and still...

Keep Reading

The First 10 Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

In: Journal, Marriage, Relationships
The First Ten Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

We met online in October of 2005, by way of a spam email ad I was THIS CLOSE to marking as trash. Meet Single Christians! My cheese alert siren sounded loudly, but for some reason, I unchecked the delete box and clicked through to the site. We met face-to-face that Thanksgiving. As I awaited your arrival in my mother’s kitchen, my dad whispered to my little brother, “Hide your valuables. Stacy has some guy she met online coming for Thanksgiving dinner.” We embraced for the first time in my parents’ driveway. I was wearing my black cashmere sweater with the...

Keep Reading

To The Mother Who Is Overwhelmed

In: Inspiration, Motherhood
Tired woman with coffee sitting at table

I have this one head. It is a normal sized head. It didn’t get bigger because I had children. Just like I didn’t grow an extra arm with the birth of each child. I mean, while that would be nice, it’s just not the case. We keep our one self. And the children we add on each add on to our weight in this life. And the head didn’t grow more heads because we become a wife to someone. Or a boss to someone. We carry the weight of motherhood. The decisions we must make each day—fight the shorts battle...

Keep Reading

You’re a Little Less Baby Today Than Yesterday

In: Journal, Motherhood
Toddler sleeping in mother's arms

Tiny sparkles are nestled in the wispy hair falling across her brow, shaken free of the princess costume she pulled over her head this morning. She’s swathed in pink: a satiny pink dress-up bodice, a fluffy, pink, slightly-less-glittery-than-it-was-two-hours-ago tulle skirt, a worn, soft pink baby blanket. She’s slowed long enough to crawl into my lap, blinking heavy eyelids. She’s a little less baby today than she was only yesterday.  Soon, she’ll be too big, too busy for my arms.  But today, I’m rocking a princess. The early years will be filled with exploration and adventure. She’ll climb atop counters and...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband, I Loved You First

In: Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships
Man and woman kissing in love

Dear husband, I loved you first. But often, you get the last of me. I remember you picking me up for our first date. I spent a whole hour getting ready for you. Making sure every hair was in place and my make-up was perfect. When you see me now at the end of the day, the make-up that is left on my face is smeared. My hair is more than likely in a ponytail or some rat’s nest on the top of my head. And my outfit, 100% has someone’s bodily fluids smeared somewhere. But there were days when...

Keep Reading

Stop Being a Butthole Wife

In: Grief, Journal, Marriage, Relationships
Man and woman sit on the end of a dock with arms around each other

Stop being a butthole wife. No, I’m serious. End it.  Let’s start with the laundry angst. I get it, the guy can’t find the hamper. It’s maddening. It’s insanity. Why, why, must he leave piles of clothes scattered, the same way that the toddler does, right? I mean, grow up and help out around here, man. There is no laundry fairy. What if that pile of laundry is a gift in disguise from a God you can’t (yet) see? Don’t roll your eyes, hear me out on this one. I was a butthole wife. Until my husband died. The day...

Keep Reading

I Can’t Be Everyone’s Chick-fil-A Sauce

In: Friendship, Journal, Living, Relationships
woman smiling in the sun

A couple of friends and I went and grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-A a couple of weeks ago. It was delightful. We spent roughly $20 apiece, and our kids ran in and out of the play area barefoot and stinky and begged us for ice cream, to which we responded, “Not until you finish your nuggets,” to which they responded with a whine, and then ran off again like a bolt of crazy energy. One friend had to climb into the play tubes a few times to save her 22-month-old, but it was still worth every penny. Every. Single. One. Even...

Keep Reading

Love Notes From My Mother in Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Journal, Living
Woman smelling bunch of flowers

Twelve years have passed since my mother exclaimed, “I’ve died and gone to Heaven!” as she leaned back in her big donut-shaped tube and splashed her toes, enjoying the serenity of the river.  Twelve years since I stood on the shore of that same river, 45 minutes later, watching to see if the hopeful EMT would be able to revive my mother as she floated toward his outstretched hands. Twelve years ago, I stood alone in my bedroom, weak and trembling, as I opened my mother’s Bible and all the little keepsakes she’d stowed inside tumbled to the floor.  It...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Friendships End, No Matter How Hard You Try

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Sad woman alone without a friend

I tried. We say these words for two reasons. One: for our own justification that we made an effort to complete a task; and two: to admit that we fell short of that task. I wrote those words in an e-mail tonight to a friend I had for nearly 25 years after not speaking to her for eight months. It was the third e-mail I’ve sent over the past few weeks to try to reconcile with a woman who was more of a sister to me at some points than my own biological sister was. It’s sad when we drift...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the House That Built Me

In: Grown Children, Journal, Living, Relationships
Ranch style home as seen from the curb

In the winter of 1985, while I was halfway done growing in my mom’s belly, my parents moved into a little brown 3 bedroom/1.5 bath that was halfway between the school and the prison in which my dad worked as a corrections officer. I would be the first baby they brought home to their new house, joining my older sister. I’d take my first steps across the brown shag carpet that the previous owner had installed. The back bedroom was mine, and mom plastered Smurf-themed wallpaper on the accent wall to try to get me to sleep in there every...

Keep Reading