Making Big


Two Fridays ago, we had another impromptu dinner gathering. Cathy and I tried not to smother Nicola and Jason with the devotional woo-AHHHH-ery we Anglophiles sometimes slip into.

Nicola, aside from being funny, charming, and FROM ENGLAND, had completed a triathlon earlier that day. We were all so impressed but trying to remain cool.

So it was to be an evening of being inspired and learning important things. For instance, at one point, late in the evening, Ryan rose to demonstrate how to help a neighbor herd some cattle in a pinch. Because, well, you just never know.

“You have to make big,” he described, waving his arms over his head. “And walk like you mean business.” Ryan had been scared of the cattle at first, which is honestly hard to imagine, but “if you make big, man, they actually move,” he assured us.

I instantly fell in love with the phrase, the idea, the gesturing, the whole thing.

Make. Big.

In one moment, you aren’t big or strong in the cows’ eyes. The next minute, you “make big” and then, wow. The cows will move because, with the right attitude, you *are* big.

I folded this idea in my dinner napkin and discreetly stashed it for later.

This past weekend, we went camping with Lil’ Salty’s family. We’d planned this trip months ago, at the beginning of spring, before the second coming of winter, which finally, finally yielded to some good old soak-down sun.


I’d been a little worried about the trip, how I’d hold up physically. It’s a lot of work, camping. Even if you have someone like Dennis doing most of the work, and little J helping, camping can wear you out.

But I decided to make big and see what would happen. I threw myself into everything, carried things back and forth, hauled dishes to the sink in buckets, and rode my beach cruiser around the lake to the perfect fishing spot.

I sported an athletic look and acted athletic, and just waited for the moment where I felt like I needed to be “realistic” and start to pull back. That moment never came.

I don’t know what it was: the fresh air, my new yellow bike, the vibrant, cheerful energy the kids flung around them like rose petals, but I felt stronger than I have in a long while.

I caught Lil’ J looking at me with what seemed like pridejoyhappiness when I lifted my feet off the pedals and zipped past him on the bike path, smiling. It felt good to have the pre-cancer verve that kept me going in the before-time. It felt even better to know Little J was bearing witness.

Lil’ J was in heaven on this trip. He had a playmates around the clock in Lil’ Salty and Zabby. And he followed around the pretty pre-teens, Pia and EQ, like a faithful puppy, sometimes standing with his juice box and just staring at them. Outside their tent while they read. Just staring.

“Is he still there?”


“What’s he doing?”


The only one of us who might not have had a perfect time was Dinospike Connor, the blue-belly lizard that Dennis caught and the boys kept in captivity for the worst half-hour of the pretty reptile’s life.


Caption contest, anyone?

I’m pretty sure Dinospike Connor got back to the good life the minute we let him go. We did. We washed hands then dug into Leigh’s famous campsite spaghetti and meatballs (I added the handwashing part. I think we forgot, or maybe there were wipes?). Anyhow, best spaghetti that side of the Sugartown Creek. Mmmmm. Hmm.

Now, today Little J’s at summer camp and I’m getting chemo. I still feel the campfire warming my legs and can hear myself sending Little off to sleep by singing him songs in the tent.

I’m hoping to make big all summer long, to take it easy when I need to, but to go ahead and ride once more around the lake whenever I feel like it.


Blurry but a keeper. Who wants to guess how old he'll be when his legs are longer than mine?



Ps: My “make big” metaphor is sort of a flawed one (Stephen). Unless you consider the cows are the cancer, or maybe my doubts about my physical abilities are the cows. But it somehow works.

And besides, I’m the kinda lady who accidentally forgets to take her bicycle helmet off for a really long time after a ride. Sitting by the water and enjoying a snack? Still wearing the helmet. Standing at the water’s edge in a cotton dress and hiking shoes, watching the kids swim? Yep, helmet on. And buckled.

I’m not perfect. Neither are my metaphors. But it’s ok, I figure.

  1. Scott McKuen’s avatar

    This sentence

    “I folded this idea in my dinner napkin and discreetly stashed it for later.”

    sounds *exactly* like something my sister would write. Just so you know.

  2. Jennifer’s avatar

    Yay! What a compliment. Thank you, Scott!!

  3. Jo’s avatar

    I so love the way you write, I felt like I was out there camping with you Jenn. What a great time was clearly had by all – apart from the lizard of course! ;-)

    So glad you’re feeling the summer spirit! ‘Make big’ … a great line, and a great philosophy to live by!

    I’m on it too!

    love ya

  4. Helena’s avatar

    I love this, Jenn. I’ve been thinking of you a lot—sending lots of love your way, smiling inside when I think of you. Must be all that summery energy, all that thinking Big that you’re putting out there. It’s big enough to reach across the ocean :) Love that last photo. So much Happy. So much love. Ah.

  5. Jennifer’s avatar

    Thanks, Helena. We’ve been thinking of you all, too. Hope you’re all well. Wish we could make the trip across the ocean to give you a hug and play!


  6. Jennifer’s avatar

    Thanks, Jo. I was thinking of you on the trip. There was one moment that would’ve left you breathless. Maybe heartbeat-less. I will stop with descriptions there as you probably know where I am going with this…


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