Playing in the Redwoods

“Write this,” my friend Sandy said from her hospital bed to me two years ago. I followed her hand with my eyes as it gestured around her room. The plate of moon pies I had spent three hours making (my attempt to control the outcome of something) were sitting untouched on the deep window ledge. Flowers crowded the sweets giving the room at Research Medical Center a false sense cheer. Write this, she had said. But write what? Did she know she was dying yet when she said that? Write about dying or cancer or about her or about moon pies or about friendship?

I spent the last weekend at 1440 Multiversity in California at a writer’s retreat in some pretty awesome company. Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert collaborated to inspire and challenge a large group of us in living creatively.


I’m still trying to process it all (more later!) but one thing that keeps popping up is the idea of enchantment that Ms. Gilbert talked about. She described it as a visitor from without, like a kid who runs in the back door of her house and plops in a chair breathless to tell you – I’ve got a great idea. You could also think of it as inspiration or joy or even a visit of sorts. Will we listen to that excited guest when they visit?

When I shared an essay with Sandy that I wrote that I thought could fulfill her suggestion to ‘write this’, do you know what she said? Full of super-strong pain medication, her quick wit somewhat dulled, she said, “Good start.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I didn’t think that I had any more. I was so sad watching her die; I still am.

Last weekend in the redwoods – talking with friends, connecting with my creativity, absorbing nature – I thought of Sandy several times. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I made the connection between those towering redwoods and the tree that I wrote of at the conclusion of Pleading With a Tree For Sandy.

mollykrausewriterredwoods2.jpg (photo by Mayra Padilla)


Another thing Ms. Gilbert said to us – Start knowing. The grand trees, the thoughts of Sandy, the enchantment swirling about – here’s what I know. As Sandy told me to Write This, nature tells me to Live This. What we are holding in our hands, what is on the other side of a gestured hand, the eyes were are looking into. This is where our lives are. The trees I breathed in this weekend have existed far before me and will surely still stand when I will not. This time I have is fleeting, it is now, it is all that can be counted on.

Maybe you too need to hear to Write This or Live This or Start Knowing. Sometimes we need to go outside to have enchantment run to us. I like to think that Sandy conspired with the redwoods to remind me of the now I am in. So I am left with two hands full of gratitude that I reach out to give to you.

Love, Molly


Curiosity, Creativity & Courage

My memoir Float On was conceived on the mystical Greek island of Patmos. I was attending a writer’s salon and I’ve written about those two weeks, but in one word –  magical.


Cheryl Strayed, Brian Lindstrom, Rachel DeWoskin and Zayd Dohrn inspired and instructed us in an unmatched setting. I met a tribe of people with whom I connected on a level that spent little time on the superficial. Something in me shifted there. I started thinking of myself as a writer, not just someone who was trying out the writing thing. I gained confidence in reading personal material out loud to others. I saw how important our stories are, including mine. I witnessed transformation in myself and others through getting real with our words.

I left some residual shame behind in the Aegean Sea and came home to the prairie to give birth to my story. Float On will officially be born December 1, 2017. 

Next week I’m off to another conference in California headlined by Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed. I’m grateful for the opportunity and giddy with excitement. I’ll reconnect with some of my Patmos tribe, meet new friends and hear from the message titled ‘Brave Magic: An Invitation to Curiosity, Creativity and Courage’. Doesn’t the world need more curiosity, creativity and courage?

As we watch current events in horror and grapple with our response and the condition of our hearts, I think curiosity, creativity and courage may be what can save us. I’ll soak up what I can and share it with you in hopes that we can all accept the invitation to embrace brave magic.

Love, Molly


A Simple Question

“I’m working on writing a speech and this book I’m reading recommends asking the people close to you a question. Can you tell me what I’ve taught you?”

It was a risky question, especially to ask to my daughters. But it resulted in such an interesting conversation with my husband Robert that I decided to go for it. I sought out a quiet moment alone with each of them.


I was hoping they would at least participate, maybe even come up with something like – always try to make it to the toilet if you think you’re going to barf or how to separate a yolk from an egg white. But their answers blew me away and made me a little weepy.

(Before you think I’m just tooting my own horn, I want to present Exhibit A and Exhibit B as reminders of my public parental failures. And if you read my upcoming memoir Float On, you’ll have more opportunities to discover my past failings.)

The daughter who I thought wouldn’t play along at all thought about it for a bit and said, “To treat others how I want to be treated.” The other daughter was more expansive, “Literally everything…manners, how to socialize…” Then she stopped and said, “Last year we had the word altruistic as a vocabulary word and I remembered it by thinking of you. That’s how you are.”

I felt like getting my timecard and clocking off – my work here is done! It’s not, of course, but I will cling to these thoughts because parenting teenagers is hard. I know that I will need to remind myself that something is sticking when I encounter the attitude, the evasiveness, the other things that I won’t even mention.

This question also causes me to think about what others have taught me and what a beautiful thing it can be to share with someone. So I want to tell you readers that you have taught me that being deliberate to share my words with you brings me connection and joy. Thank you.

Love, Molly



Pay What?

My semester teaching has started at The Lawrence Arts Center and lucky me – what a great group of students! Fourteen of us come together on Friday mornings to read, write and talk about the power of our stories. These are some of my favorite things! The authenticity and energy of everyone is infectious. I want to end all my sentences in this post with exclamation points!


As much I love the time in class, preparing for it every week is satisfying too. I’ve been reflecting on that and realize that teaching causes me to pay closer attention. To interesting pieces of writing, circumstances I’m in that I may want to write about, the funny expressions on my dogs’ faces, the way the fallen leaves look on my moss-tinged patio, the conversation around the table at a new restaurant with my family.

I’ve been busy with preparing my memoir Float On for publication on December 1st. It’s exciting! Going with the momentum is fun! Planning a party for its launch feels almost the exact opposite of how much of the writing did about painful family memories. But I don’t want to miss any of it by not paying attention. Is there anything you need to pay closer attention to?

Love, Molly


Float On

Towards the end of our paddle yesterday a bald eagle swooped past us, its unmistakable white tail feathers catching the light before lifting far above into the blue sky out of sight. It was a surprise and a gift seeing Al (what I’ve named any eagle I see at Lone Star – ask me about it sometime) and one of the many reasons why I love paddle boarding. “Put yourself in the way of beauty,” Cheryl Strayed said – I suggest getting on the water.

I have lived the majority of my life in a landlocked state. Yes, there are lakes and rivers in Kansas. No, I haven’t been much interested in them until I got my paddle board two years ago. From the water, going slowly using the strength of my arms (and sometimes wind), I experience a viewpoint unlike any other. I’ve been startled by blue herons, delighted by jumping fish, surrounded by butterflies, intimidated by eagles, fascinated by snakes and welcomed by the sun. I’ve heard the music of breaking ice, forged ahead through the dense fog and sweat so much into my eyes I felt blinded. I feel so lucky.

Conversation while paddling has an unhurried quality; there are no ringing phones or new texts to distract. Small talk falls away and we have time to explore ideas or question deeply. I have two paddling partners and I cherish the time we have on the water together. Paddling alone is where I’ve had some of my best ideas. Have you ever thought about creating a space where you can think? For me, it’s on my paddle board. I feel so lucky.

I’ve been so moved by my time on the water that I gave my memoir the title Float On with a nod toward it. I float on the Kansas waters putting myself in the way of beauty. I float on through circumstances that threaten to pull me under. I float on appreciating the moment I’m in and looking forward to the one to come. I can’t help it – I feel so lucky.

Love, Molly



Families of Topeka & Book Launch

I went to an interesting event last night at the Lawrence Arts Center in anticipation of the upcoming documentary ‘Not My Father’s Child’. It features the stories of Nate, Mark and Dortha Phelps, their escape from abuse and how they learned to love those whom they were taught to hate. Readers from Kansas are all too familiar with the story of Fred Phelps and his hate-spewing Westboro Baptist Church with their awful signs. These three adults all left their family and church many years ago – as many of their nieces and nephews are doing now in droves – and they opened themselves up to a crowd of people to share their perspectives on their upbringing and their infamous (and hated)  father. It was both inspiring and heartbreaking.

I wrote an entire book that weaved my family story with that of the Phelps family. We are all children of Topeka and even though our upbringings couldn’t be more different (I mean really), I was drawn to their story. In some crazy way I felt that something about understanding them could help me understand myself better. I ended up cutting all I had written about the Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church in order to give space to tell my own complicated family story.  But my interest in their story remains, and as I was listening last night I became aware of a common thread – shame.

“Shame is a soul-eating emotion,” psychiatrist Carl Jung said. It was only recently that I realized much of my silence over the years has stemmed from its destructive core. But as Brené Brown wrote in her book Rising Strong, “Language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.” So maybe I can identify with these Phelps family members because of some kernel of shame we all swallowed through the experiences of our unconventional (although vastly different) families. Maybe I identify with them as I too seek to give language to my story in order to destroy any lingering shame. We are all just people in the end, after all, trying to find our way despite where our circumstances led us.  I feel empathy for those still in their family’s church who must feel shame and fear. I feel grateful for the speakers last night for being vulnerable with strangers about what they have gone through. I look forward to seeing the documentary ‘Not My Father’s Child’ and hope that it is widely viewed.

There is a lot to prepare for as my memoir Float On launches on December 1st. Here’s a little video with some details. Love, Molly

That day I ran over my own beloved dog…

This morning Facebook reminded me of something that I’d rather forget. One of those ‘remember when’ posts from four years ago popped onto my screen of a picture of my dog Lucy.


I adore Lucy. We adopted her as an adult and she immediately became my shadow. Before we got a second dog (the adorable Desi), I took her everywhere with me, including in the Jeep we had at the time, pictured above with its detachable doors securely on. But seeing this picture makes me think of the gorgeous Spring day when the doors and top were off, the day that Lucy jumped in the back and I for some reason thought it would be a good idea to have my twelve-year old daughter hold on to the other end of her leash from the front seat.

Why I am telling this story? A story where I am not proud of my decisions and how this particular ride unfolds? Well, I want to practice. My memoir is coming out in a few months and readers will be privy to many more intimate moments from my young life. Consider it the practice of putting myself out there.

As I slowed down for a stop light, one block away from the dog groomers where we were headed, Emma screamed and I felt a terrible thump behind my back left tire. Had Lucy fallen? Or jumped out after a squirrel or something? Please tell me that noise wasn’t her; I thought I might puke as I put the Jeep in park. Cars in all directions stopped at the busy intersection as I jumped down from the Jeep and ran to Lucy. I couldn’t believe how far away from the car she was. She looked up at me, some blood on the concrete – coming from where, I had no idea. She tried to pull herself up but failed. I sat down in the middle of the road, unsure what to do, as my daughter joined me.

We huddled around Lucy and when I glanced up, I saw strangers approaching with creased brows and judgement smeared all over their faces. They looked at my doorless Jeep and back at my injured Lucy. Maybe they snickered at each other or maybe I imagined it. I wanted to both scream at them to go away and cry that I didn’t mean to do it. I did neither. I didn’t cry until my daughter told me that she was sorry she had let go of the leash. Can you imagine? She thought it was her fault.

A man came up and asked if he could help and when I nodded yes, my hero lifted Lucy gently up into the back of my Jeep and told me, “These dogs are tougher than you think.” And Lucy was ok, just some stitches but no broken bones. When I think about it now, instead of beating myself up about what a reckless moron I was, I try to remember the kindness of strangers. I remember the unconditional love of animals. I remember the mercy extended that prevents me from getting what I so clearly deserve. I remember that in sharing our stuff we feel more connected.

So maybe someday I’ll tell you the story of how I considered using dog food as a reward in potty training my daughter.

Love, Molly