Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Through the Eyes of Grief

Thank goodness for the Writer's Collaborative in my city otherwise I might never get words down on paper. Our leader gave us a prompt called:
"Sweet And Sour"
Her instructions were to: Describe briefly a lake or a backcountry mountain trail (in other words, a beautiful natural setting) as seen by a person who has just lost a parent in a sudden, unexpected death. The last time this narrator saw the parent, they argued violently. In your narrative do not mention the death, the parent, or the argument. Do not tell a story. Simply show us what the lake or forest or street looks like to someone under these circumstances. 500 words.

When I was small we used to vacation up at Squam Lake in NH.  Those are some of my best memories but I also remember being terrified of the loons up there.  That terror is nothing compared to how I would feel about losing one of my parents.  I thought the loon was also an appropriate symbol because I would probably lose my mind if I lost my parents.  So, without furthur ado, here is what I came up based on this very very difficult prompt:) 

At dusk, a loon broke the water of Big Squam Lake.  His slick black and white coat stained the ripples with incongruous contrast.  It’s said that loons love shiny things.  If they encounter a human they’re likely to gouge out the eyes first, fixated on the gleam.  The teeth are next, depending on what condition they are in.  This loon had recently killed at least three minnows devouring the meat along with the sheen of their scales. 
The sun was setting now and the light made even the roughest rocks shimmer. The water slid off the loon’s back, eager to get away from his violence.  The loon dove again, slicing the dark water, pretending to disappear, only to pierce the surface just as the turmoil had settled.  A trout hung limply from his beak.  The bird’s eyes glittered like garnets. The beak itself shone and dripped. Each drop sunk back into the wake as the loon made his way to a pine needled shore.  
The yellowing sheaths of pine plants stuck to the bird’s flippers.  He threw the trout to the ground with a thud.  Dander of the wooded beach exploded upon the impact of the big fish.  It’s dead eyes no longer had a gleam but the beak of the crazed loon shot through the socket nonetheless.  The dagger beak then went to work impaling the body of the catch.  The gills ripped apart, the liver wrenched out, the heart cleaved into several pieces.  The red eyes served as fierce sentinels as the loon tore the body into mangled chum. 
The water lapped up to the blood soaked ground.  The remains attracted only scavengers.  They circled above, crept and crawled from below.  The loon did not bother to fight them off.  He turned away and returned to the glassy water.  The shore looked much as it had before, but the hum of scrounging insects twisted the land. The smell of fish just before rot drew crowds of vermin to the darkening waterfront.  The water too seemed unaltered but the war wail of the red eyed loon reverberated across the lake.  The warbling wail warned children to shut their eyes tight, to shroud that fatal gleam.  It commanded them to close their mouths around their pearly teeth, to protect their new found smiles.  
Night was fully formed on Big Squam Lake.  The loon’s white flecks reflected the moonlight and his black feathers faded into the shadows cast across the water.  Still, the gleam of red shone from his eyes and he wailed until the trout was nothing but a skeleton waiting to be bleached by the sun.  He called into small hours and beyond.  He whooped against the water that held him afloat.  And his signal went out to others, whose red eyes shone and whose voices hailed back the wail of the loon.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Animated Kiss

One of the most enjoyable parts of raising children is reliving what have become mundane everyday events as exciting “firsts.” 

I remember a friend telling me how awesome it was the first time her son saw a dog.  I mean, yeah, dogs are crazy creatures and so getting a glimpse of a lab for the first time must have blown his mind.  So, I try and watch out for these moments and while the trash truck is no longer the highlight of my oldest's week I am surprised by the things I forget he has never seen.

For example, when we watched his first Disney animated film with him , I, of course, picked my favorite; Beauty and the Beast.  I want to instill at an early age that brains are better than brawn or beauty.  I also wanted it to be extra educational so I rented it from the Library in Spanish.  This was very confusing since the story is set in France.  So we have like Frenglish going on.  I’m pretty sure that most of the story was lost on him.  But he loved the fight between Gaston and the Beast.  He has a strong sense of justice but a tender heart so the Beast exposing Gaston for the coward that he is yet not dropping him to his death was just right to him.  (Oops sorry spoiler alert).  

But then, Gaston sneaks up on the Beast and stabs him to death.  At this point I am a little uncertain about my choice to let him watch this.  But it’s okay because Belle is by the Beast’s side and tells him she loves him before the last rose petal falls.  Then, magic.  I am not sure how to explain this to a (then) three year old, so I said it was a type of special medicine where they shoot light out of your extremities until you get better and an added benefit of this medical procedure is that if you are a Beast the light therapy transforms you into a long haired French prince.  Again, keep in mind the movie is in Spanish and my son is 3 and not bilingual.  

Next comes the part that I had totally blocked from my mind.  G rated movies allow....gulp...animated kissing!  Horror.  What am I going to tell him about that?  My husband and I are not the kissing in front of your kids or anyone or ever type so my palms are sweating like crazy.  “Ugh No!!!”  I inwardly cringe and imagine all the awkward questions that will likely ensue.  All this as the Prince/Beast is spinning about.  

And then Belle holds his face, and he brushes away a stray lock of her brown hair.  The music crescendos.  Inwardly, I am in a fetal position trying to think of a distraction but I can’t seem to find my voice.  And then they kiss.  And somehow Disney makes the animated kiss just as sensual as a human one.  Their faces are practically one.  It seems to be lasting for at least 10 minutes.  I still can’t think of anything to say.  Then, at last it’s over and everyone is happy and all I can mutter is, “Why would they do that?” Like I don’t know what a kiss is. Like I haven’t conceived three children.  My approach is to play dumb.

What is that weird face smashing?  Must be part of the strange firework light therapy.  

Let’s never speak of this again.  

(Probably another bad mom moment)

Based on Prompt #2 from my writer's collaborative...Say It With a Kiss

Kissing uses all five senses, which makes it an extremely sensuous act. It is a beginning and an end—the kiss hello and the kiss good-bye. There are a variety of romantic puckers (passionate, wet, teasing, rough, slow), as well as thrown-across-the-room kisses, tentative kisses, friendly pecks, and the reluctant ones that children give relatives or parents' friends. The poet Tess Gallagher's book Portable Kisses evokes a buffet of smooches.

Your first kiss is often etched in memory, and so is the solitary, experimental kind that you may have practiced on your arm, your pillow, or up against the mirror. Do you remember when you first found out French kissing involved touching tongues? I thought I would gag if I tried it, and I couldn't figure out how adults, who were forever concerned about germs, would willingly do something that seemed even more likely to spread a cold than drinking from someone else's soda bottle.

Write about kissing. Besides being fun to write about, it is an especially good practice for writing scenes between two people. (Approximately 500 words)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bad Mom

Prompt #1 from The Writing Collaborative

"Word Choice: One Syllable Words

Write a response (fiction, nonfiction, a scene, a description of a person or place, ect.) that is roughly 500 words and is made up of ONLY one syllable words. This exercise highlights the importance of word choice and pushes the limits of your vocabulary. You may even have to break out a thesaurus! "

When we walk, arms full of books, I try to keep my kids with me.  But right now the boy is out in front and the girl is way far back.  I am torn in two.  I yell at the far one, call to the slow one and then turn my eyes to the baby I hold and my phone.  
       Her eyes are closed.  A smile plays on her small lips.  I grin and try to take a shot of her sweet small face when an old maid walks by.  Her hat is fur and her eyes dark lined. 
“Get off your phone and get your kids!”  She snarls my way. Her paint red lips look cracked.
I look in front, I look back.  Where I saw smiles and slow walks I now see the rush and threat of the busy street.  My heart beats with shame.  
Witch,” I think (but with a B), but I know she is right and it hurts.   My shame grows.  I feel the title mom turn into the curse “fraud.”  I cringe and call once more to my small one who has run out in front. I turn off my phone to grab the one in back.
But, a new plain clothes judge gets off the bus and shouts, “Whose kid is this?  Where is her mom?  It is a shame, a shame the way some moms don’t seem to care.”
“She’s with me,” I call, “She’s okay.”  My girl smiles and takes short strides my way. But she is too close to the bus.  She may fall or worse this new rat may snatch her up. 
“It is not okay” comes the reply from the cavy queen.  She vents her shock and rage.  I reel from the force of her cold call down.  Much of what she says is true.  Risks I can not count come to mind.  I can not keep them safe.  Three is more than I can watch all at once. What can I do?  I am flawed.  I fail.   At last, she gives me a shake of the head and a silent boo. 
I can not move.  A pain grabs my heart and my breath is short and weak.  
My kids still smile and make their way at their own pace.  The fast boy stops in his tracks at the red WAIT hand and the slow one hops over each crack.  I love them all so bad it hurts.  
I start to breath a slow plea to God to give me grace, to help me just to be.  I ask the Son of God to let me take one step and then the next.  I ask Him to take the blame, the guilt, the fear that hold my feet in stone blocks.  
And He is there.  He is real.  I pick up my small girl and hug her tight.  I walk to my first born son and hold his hand.  I look at my baby’s face and her eyes are still closed in peace and sleep.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Writing Update

Here is a letter I wrote to my friend a few days ago.  As I was writing I felt like I was writing to everyone who reads this blog, so I decided to post it.  

     So it has been entirely too long since we talked!  We need to catch up.

     No word on my Glimmer Train submission but I have been writing.  I hope you have been too!   If there is one thing I've learned from reading "The Artist's Way" this summer, it is that everyone has something to say.  I mean you can paint it, glue it, dance it, sing it or write it but I (mostly) loved the challenge of writing 3 pages every day.  It definitely forced me to be more disciplined about writing. And it opened my eyes to the opportunities all around me.  Most of them are at the library which I love!  #nerdalert

          I was really wishing you were with me tonight because it was the very first meeting of the Writer’s Collaborative I joined!!!  The way it is set up is in a workshop style which means each time we meet we have all read one person’s piece (at least twice) and written comments.  The one we read tonight was a totally spooky Stephen King-like horror story.  I actually liked it which is very unlike me because usually blood and gore are not my thing.  Probably the closest thing I’ve read to “horror” is Harry Potter.

       But this workshop was such a cool experience. Everyone got there super early.  I was on time (which for me now that I have three kids is super early) but I was the last one there.  Plus we had a prompt that we could write about as optional homework and everyone did it but me!!!  Help me not become a slacker.  The prompt was...

Word Choice: One Syllable Words

Write a response (fiction, nonfiction, a scene, a description of a person or place, ect.) that is roughly 500 words and is made up of ONLY one syllable words. This exercise highlights the importance of word choice and pushes the limits of your vocabulary. You may even have to break out a thesaurus!  

           Anyways, I really need to get serious and write something that I can put up for critique.  I mean it takes courage to write but then to sit (silently) in a room while 20 people discuss what they thought was awesome and what they found to be BS (baloney and salami) takes a real solid backbone.  The main thing I loved about the format was that it was like being in a book discussion and in a writing seminar at the same time. I was reading really good writing (almost everyone in the group is published, excepted yours truly and learning new writing techniques like new ways to hook my reader.

       So my next blog post will be my stab at the one syllable story prompt.  Until then....onward and upward!

( And I'm always looking for guest writers, so shoot me whatever you are working on if you get a chance:)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hold My Hand! Actually, Please Don’t By Jane Dietrich

Our blogger this week is my sister, the sculptor,  writer and one of my favorite guests on this blog (and in real life:)
Check out more of her work at

I’m walking along the sidewalk hand in hand with the man I love. It’s a beautiful day; 75 degrees and sunny. A light breeze carries the songs of the birds above to our ears. Our arms swing slightly with each step, telling the world “Hey! Look at this hottie. I’m dating him!”

Yet, something feels off. Is it the growing clamminess of my palm? No…(though that is a bit embarrassing). Is it that our steps aren’t quite in sync? I suppose, but there’s something more. 

It’s the feeling that I’m not centered. My internal compass feels askew. I want to walk a bit more to the right, but then he would be falling off the curb. Isn’t that better than me scraping my arm against the wall? Don’t I deserve to dodge pedestrians coming the other way on my own time?!  

Suddenly claustrophobia sets in. 

The buildings are too close. 
But on the other side l’ll run into the parking meters!
Our pace is too fast, 
now too slow. 
CAN’T YOU LET ME WALK AT MY NORMAL CADENCE?? People say I have a walk that is “so me”. 

Suddenly, the sidewalk situation morphs into a metaphor for my life. The spiral downward picks up speed.  

Is this what marriage is going to be like? Never having my own space? Always touching?   If I can’t get over this, how will I ever make it through a lifetime with you?! 

Now remember, I am madly in love with this guy and usually love him holding my hand. But there’s something about the sidewalk. It just doesn’t seem to be made for two. I need some independence here people. 

So there I am walking, internally freaking the hell out while Hunter observes how beautiful the clouds are.  Lost in my angst, 
I trip. 
Our grasp tightens and I don’t make a complete fool of myself. I snap back to reality.
I do love him. I do want to hold his hand. I can use my words like a five year old and ask to not hold hands for a hot sec. It doesn’t mean we won’t last together. When it comes down to it, I would always choose holding his hand than not having the option.

It is nice to walk on the sidewalk together… but sometimes, let’s not hold hands.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


I have this problem.  Well, my husband sees it as a problem...I see it more as a strength but... it can be a problem.  

I put myself in whatever book, movie or TV show I happen to be watching.  Hence, I may get a little too attached to the characters.  

So when my mother-in-law and sister-in-law introduced me to Heartland.  I immediately decided the spunky, talented and beautiful protagonist Amy could be my alter ego for the show.   Amy has an incredible gift of listening to horses and understanding what they need to be trained properly. 

The show is really very wholesome (it is Canadian after all).  And I just love to watch myself....I mean Amy.... work with the horses.  I love how she gets a random idea and tries it.  

I love how she listens. 

I want to listen like that. The thing is, I have no horses.  

I do however, have small children.  

So what would it be like if I really listened to my kids?

Here are some notes I took on Amy’s “method" and then applied to my kids, my husband, even to my relationship with God. (Heck yes I take notes when I watch TV.... lay off I have OCD.)

1. Amy pays attention to everything.  The smells that calm the horses, the food they like, the places they like to spend time.  She notices details.  A lot of the scenes are just her putting her hand on the horses neck or back.  (This may be why some family members aren’t as huge fans of the show as I am:)  

~Do I listen to my kids this way?  Do I give them hugs, do I let them sit on my lap? (even though it feels like I’m being smothered to death)  

~Do I listen to my husband at all?   I know he loves lemon chicken but I HATE making it, so I usually don’t.  (FAIL.) 

~ Do I set aside time to just be? To listen to God.  Not to laundry list pray about all my worries but to hear God? 

2.  Amy’s process is not linear.  It takes time.  She doesn’t rush or try to make the horse into something it is not.  She has to come up with tons of different ideas for each unique horse.  

~ Am I willing to SLOW DOWN? Ann Voskamp says, “Hurry hurts kids” and I find that so convicting because “hurry” is my default speed.  

~Am I willing to make a point to spend time with my husband?  Not time with an agenda where I barrage him with the info from the day that I have to pass along.  Time simply together. 

~  Am I willing to read the Bible slowly?  Not just get it done because it makes me feel better to know I did something “good” today (amidst all my failures) but to soak it in.  

I may never be a horse whisperer in real life... but I truly desire to become a better listener...and learn how to rock the heck out of cowboy boots.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I Get the Picture…. By Lynn Abbott

Today's guest blogger is a family friend who has impressed me again and again with her ability to capture truly candid photos of people and events.  I treasure the photos she's taken of our kids just having fun!  Below she's provided a little insight on just how she does it.  

Just want to enjoy the moment and remember the day?  You can do it with pictures.

-First and foremost… the camera….”don’t leave home without it….” This allows you to
capture even the images you were not planning to capture.  A magical moment that grabs you, a special event or even something newsworthy?  

-Sometimes two cameras are better than one.  Those darn batteries do run out and it is almost always just when that photo op pops.  

-You know how some people seem to get their shuteye during your picture?  That is why you might want to take several snaps of the same view…. Especially if there are several people in your picture…if you take your photos in multiples… you are more likely to get one that is good and has all “eyes wide open.”  

-What about that photo where someone has a distasteful look on their face, an unusual spot on their shirt or even worse they are having a “bad hair day.”  Why keep it, just delete it… few of us want an eternal memory of ourselves that just looks bad.  If you can’t dot out the spot with an editing tool that  leaves you with a complementary representative image,
then forget it….. give it up   …no need to embarrass anyone – keep it real, keep it nice…with few exceptions.  
-Kids and pets are usually an exception… no matter what they do or how much dirt they have on their little faces, they are still adorable and ….their pictures are most always precious before you edit. You might want to try a simple crop to give a close up or to better reveal the expression of the moment.  

-Speaking of editing, I do it all the time.  Not as in a complete redo or as we think of with Photoshop for instance, but to bring focus to the subject of choice.  That exit sign on the wall, those ugly electric cords  in the background, that glare from the light above or other such distractions can be eliminated with your edit tools once your photos are downloaded to your computer.  

-What about the hidden gems??  It is always nice to find treasures!!  With digital photos and high pixel counts, you can often successfully crop a background image by duplicating your photo and cropping the second copy to highlight another scene of pet(s) or person(s) within.  
-Oh yes, I meant to mention… what about you?  Are you the family historian who takes the pictures behind the scenes and rarely gets in the scene?  Why not offer your camera to someone else in the crowd for a while…. Just take a break and allow someone else to be the photographer for a bit!   A different eye, a different point of view… the pictures taken could very well include YOU.  You might also want to practice the art of taking a selfie or play on your computer with “Photo Booth” or similar programs if available.  It is amazing what you can learn just by doing.  

-The best is in the sharing.  If you love working with photos, chances are you will want to share.  You might want to select an App that allows you to upload, add music and create collages, slideshows or scrapbooks.  You can craft great gifts by printing and framing or can simply make someone’s day with the touch of the send button on  your computer. Whatever you do, however you do it, you will likely have a good time in the process and bring smiles, stories and lasting memories to life.  
-That’s the magic, that’s the fun…. when all is said and done.             

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Life Together

This is one of my favorite photographs of all time.  

         I am sorry that I didn’t post last week...but only a little sorry because I had the rare and awesome privilege of spending some real quality time with my best friend celebrating our 20 years of friendship.  I would blog about that but we pinky swore we’d never tell any of each other’s secrets but I can tell you this...
         As we sat and caught up,  I was reminded of how much it can hurt to grow up and how much it means to have a friend or two by your side.  I was reminded of other friends that I have since lost touch with, and some who I see occasionally.  I wrote this for them, and for myself.  


You had another life once.  A long time ago.  It’s hard to remember now.  It seems almost unreal between the diapers and the sleep schedules.  You had a life where you were only responsible for you.  You were so funny, and shy, and spontaneous.  You spent your mornings catching up on teenage romances in the offing, and your afternoon at practice, running till your lungs burned and then running some more.  And then the fun, yes there was the homework but somehow that always got squeezed in between the ice cream runs, the movie nights, the skinny dipping, the AIM chats, and the bonfires.  But above all, there was prayer.  I’m not sure where I would be if not for your prayers.  Remember that.  

We had a life together once.  We were so young, and all we wanted was to know God’s will, to lead exciting lives that brought glory to him.  We really wanted that. 
I'm pretty sure no one looks their best in this pic but I just love the people in it.

We didn’t know that we were already on the adventure.  We were so curious about what was to come.  And had we known, we may have turned back.  But we didn’t---not in the face of friends lost, not when our hearts were broken, not when we had to wait and wait and wait for what seemed a simple pleasure or even a God given right.  We didn’t turn back because neither height, nor depth, not even anxiety disorders or broken families can separate us from God’s love.  As Peter said, “Where would we go?  What would we do?” 

And so in the dark hours when our wounds would not stop oozing, we went back to prayer.  And on our knees  our hearts began to heal.  All that rejection, all that disappointment, all those we’ve lost began to wash away until we came clean again.  In older, stretched and injured bodies our hearts are still young.  Laughter and faith keeps them that way.  

I miss you my friend.  When we are together I remember what friendship is all about, the adventure.  The pursuit of holiness, not for ourselves (although, we have sworn to enjoy the ride) but for His glory, for His kingdom come, for a LOVE that heals and restores and reunites.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Holy "No" by Marion Dietrich

Somewhere along the line in our lives, we embrace the idea that it is better to say yes when asked to do something than to say no. Teens,young adults, and middle-aged people find themselves, due to this constant willingness, exhausted, unfocused, and even resentful when asked to do yet another "thing.”  And before we go any further, let me say that I was and am guilty as charged of saying yes too often. However, a wise friend taught me an invaluable lesson and it is my goal to introduce you to the wonderfully freeing habit of saying no.

When Joe and I had been married a while, we were extremely active in our church, doing missions work, as well as teaching Bible studies, leading worship, and teaching Sunday School.  Oh yes, we also both worked full time. Our parents were all alive and we lived in the same town, so naturally we were invited to family get togethers.  I have a clear memory of telling my mother on a September morning that we did not have a free weekend until Christmas.  This information was not given in a sensitive manner and was received very poorly.  This is NOT an example of a holy no, and much damage was done by our zeal and passion.  It took years to restore our relationship.

Jump forward a number of years.  We still are very involved in our church, still have no children, still have parents we are trying to honor, still working full time. The phone rings and it is the husband of a family we know who do have children and he was calling to see if we could babysit for them.  Imagine a long awkward silence on my end. I informed him that I would have to talk to Joe and would get back to him shortly. When Joe and I looked at our calendars for work, church, family, alone time there was barely a space to be had.  The one crack on the ongoing litany of activity was, naturally, the time we were being asked to babysit.  We decided that no was the appropriate response in this instance.  So, I called back to deliver our answer. Imagine the long awkward silence on the other end.  Then came the sermon on carrying each other's burdens, caring for one another, etc. That relationship was also scarred for many years, but it is an example of a holy no.

As the years went by, we got asked to do more and more things.  Some fit nicely with our skill sets.  Some not at all.  My favorite request didn't even come to me directly. There was a need in our daughters' school for a girls' soccer coach for the JV team. Our oldest daughter, Katie, was at that particular stage. All the parents waited and prayed for someone to step forward. I thought my husband would have been a good coach or one of the P.E. teachers.  No one heard the call until one fall morning I had an alarming thought,"You do it!"  “What? I had never played organized sports in my life. I knew nothing about soccer. I didn't even own athletic clothing. But the thought persisted. So I volunteered. A friend wrote out drills for me, my husband did chalk talks, but I was the coach. And I got it in my head that I needed to be able to do whatever I was asking the girls to do. I ran with them, juggled the ball (terribly), demonstrated the drills for them, and we all laughed until we couldn't breathe. I am not sure if we won any games, but it was a winning season because we learned and progressed. This is an example of a holy yes.

The next fall, Katie and a few of her cohorts, were asked to play on the Varsity team and the coach asked me to be the assistant coach.  I was elated, overjoyed, thrilled...and I instantaneously said yes.  As the season began, one of my dear friends asked me how Katie felt about my new position. I hadn't asked her, but assumed she was fine.  However, before preseason started I asked her point blank, "Are you OK with this?" Again that long awkward silence for which I was completely unprepared. Her answer cut me to the quick. "It is all about what side of the line you are on, and I really would prefer that it is not the same side as me. I want you to be behind the line that defines the field."  I was dumbstruck. My husband worked at the school, her siblings went to the school, I volunteered at the school.  

So the choice came down to honoring her request or abiding by a decision that made me feel needed, sporty, helpful, seen. This is an example of a holy no.  I chose my daughter over my ego. I chose to hear her instead of forcing my will. She needed a place where none of her family members were right beside her.  So I said no to coaching and yes to Katie. And I knew I made the right choice. 

These days we are asked to do multitudinous things.  We still look at our lives and our calendars, and we don't say no just go get out of doing things we don't do well, but to be good stewards of our time . An answer of no is just as holy as a call to say yes. And one extremely helpful hint: if whomever is asking you to commit to something can not wait for an answer, say no. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Who am I?

So about half a year ago, just before my little baby was born, I went to something called the “IF:Conference”  

Nobody could give me a straight answer of what it was exactly about except that it was a gathering of woman who wanted to get to know Jesus.  They didn’t want to know more about Jesus (trust me I know a lot about Jesus as a Religious Studies major....and as a historical figure and person he is baffling) but a gathering of women who believe He is still alive (and not like in a weird Elvis or TuPac Shakur way) but alive as GOD in heaven.  

I went to the event and I felt so validated in who I am.  I felt like God was saying “Yes, I am the great Creator* who made you in my image and yet totally unique.”   After this I began to read some of their studies online at IF:Equip and then fell into this amazing group of women who wanted to study The Artist’s Way* by Julia Cameron which also has a ton to do with identity and our concept of God.  

Then, a week or so ago the questions in the Bible study were “What part of the body of Christ are you?” and “How can you build your part of the wall?” (You’ll have to read the crazy story of Nehemiah to get the wall reference but it is worth it.)  I got mad reading this, annoyed, frustrated, just uncomfortable because I don’t feel that I have a place... in the church, in the analogy, in general.  But then I read this paragraph from Julia Cameron and I felt this small seed of faith start to open up.  

She wrote, “I may be a good cook, a rotten housekeeper, and a strong artist. I am messy, disorganized except as pertains to writing, a demon for creative detail, and not really interested in details like polished shoes and floors. To a large degree my life is my art, I may poke into what other people think of as dead ends: a punk band that I mysteriously fall for, a piece of gospel music that hooks my inner ear, a piece of red silk i just like and add to a nice outfit, thereby ‘ruining it.’...There is a connection between self-nurturing and self-respect**.  If I allow myself to be bullied and cowed by other people’s urges for me to be more normal or more nice, I sell myself out.  They may like me better, feel more comfortable with my more conventional appearance and behavior, but I will hate myself.”  (p.180-181)

And as I read this I thought, “I still have no idea what part of the body this correlates to but I too am a mash up of contradictions and frustrations for those who try to put me in a box.  I am smart but have no common sense.  I love beautiful outfits but hate spending money on clothes.  I value coffee above showering, writing above sleep. I crave people’s affirmation but I also choose to speak my own mind.”  All this and God uses me still.  I may not know what part of the body I am but God knows.  And maybe it is the sort of thing that changes with the seasons of our lives.  But God knows that too.  He knows the plans he has for me and they are plans for good.  He never promises “normal” or “nice” but he does promise “abundant life” and that is the way I want to live.  That is the way I want to build my wall.  #nehemiah 

**for more on this I recommend the blog

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Guest Blogger: Koi and Momas

Today our guest blogger is my good friend Stephanie.  She is the author of the blog (which I always enjoy reading) and the mama of two precious little ones.  I'm so grateful that she'd share her thoughts here.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I do:)

Last week, over a shared meal that never disappoints to bring up random conversations, the subject of labels entered the scene.  One of my friends who raised three boys through high school diplomas said, "Isn't it funny how you say you never want to give a label, but then it just happens anyway?"

We spent the next chunk of time laughing and giving examples of how true that is.  Beucase... well... people sometimes just ARE certain ways!

Koi has always been more of an introvert and keeps to himself while Momas says hi to everyone in his path whether we are going on an after dinner walk or just waiting in the chiropractor's office.

Koi is more cautious and meticulous about things.  He was perched on a stool helping me in the kitchen since he could stand with a decent amount of balance.  Momas thinks it's hilarious to do a side-step-bounce over to Koi's neat line of cars while picking his foot up and giving a raised eyebrow glance to Koi.

Koi HATES loud noises and takes a while to recover from being startled while Momas may or may not hear a noise and dismisses it as quickly as he heard it.

The question I've been asking myself lately is, "Is it nature or nurture?"  So far my answer is that it's a bit of both. 

I do think that their are certain qualities we are born with.  Koi wakes up with the sun and has more of a difficult time staying asleep at night, and I'm usually waking Momas up for the day around ten.  We didn't do anything drastically different with their sleep aside from Momas being in our bed longer.

I definitely think Koi's introvert personality is something he was born with, and we help him find his words to address people while making sure he's not too overwhelmed in crowds.  He could also be more comfortable in the kitchen because he is the first born and I had the undivided attention to teach him how to stay on his chair and pour and mix ingredients.

It's easy to feel like I'm depriving Momas because he's not getting the same one one one attention as Koi had, and the guilt can creep in when Koi's big plans for playing get interrupted by "Tomzilla", as we affectionately call Momas.

Instead of letting the guilt become paralyzing I choose to look at what they each bring to our family.  Koi teaches Momas that things have a place, and loves when he can be the one to sit down and read Momas books.  Momas leads the way in saying hi to people and, if the reaction is positive, Koi is right behind him.  Yesterday the loud revving of an engine sent Koi bolting into the house in a hysterical state that took me at least five long minutes to calm him down.  Those five minutes preceded ten minutes of Koi asking me if it was going to happen again, and not wanting to go back out to play.  He finally found Momas and sweetly asked him if he wanted to go out, too.  Momas happily followed Koi outside and Koi was happy to have his brother there as a buffer from the noise, should it happen again.
Instead of trying to steer clear of labels, I think we should embrace the way we were created and celebrate our differences!  Instead of ignoring the differences in our children we should help them put a name to things, and affirm them for who they are and the qualities they have.  In a positive way, of course.  I can give some examples of labels I was given, unintentionally, that I played into because I thought that was just me....but we don't need to go there. :-) 

How sad would it be to realize you never helped your children, or those around you, reach their fullest potential because you were afraid to put them in a box so you steered clear from calling out their strengths and helping them see and work on their weaknesses?

Let's be quick and genuine to affirm.  
Let's be even faster to apologize when our words hurt.
Let's love and build up those around us.
Let's teach our littles how to appreciate the differences in others!

Monday, August 24, 2015

A guide to Fantasy Football for Haters...and Spouses

So, tomorrow is my husband and my 9 year anniversary!  Nine years!  It’s hard to believe all the adventures we’ve had and how quickly the time has gone by. 

Tomorrow is also important because it is my husband’s fantasy football draft. Now, to all you haters out there I used to be a hater too.  And then I got pregnant with our first child.  And I got really really sick.  Sick so that I could not move from the couch without being violently ill.  I spent my days watching ESPN because even changing the channel was just too much for my feeble mind and body.  

I realized that learning about sports was like learning a new language... and ESPN is a really really good teacher.  Seriously, if we covered common core curriculum like ESPN covers sports....making shows that all discuss the same things but in slightly different forums (i.e. Sports Center, Around the Horn, and Pardon the Interruption) we’d have a lot more kids passing standardized tests.  Anyway, I started to care about this new language I was learning.  

Also, I realized that sports are a great outlet for people who, like me, love to argue.  Sports debates can go on endlessly.  So, I am eager for my husband to go pick a killer fantasy football team because it will be a subject of great conversation all fall long.  

So, just in case you want to join in that lively debate this fall, I’ve written this post covering the basics of Fantasy Football (because let’s be honest...half the hate comes from feeling left out)... Ok 

Step 1: A person must pick a team name for their Fantasy Team (a team they dream up as all the perfect players from various real teams coming together to play as one for them an imaginary owner/ manager) The naming of teams may be the last bastion of literary wit among sports fans (besides sports writers/bloggers).  Puns, word play and allusion are all welcome.  My personal favorite comes from a NY Giants fan we know.  His team gave a clever nod to the Giant’s coach Tom Coughlin and to prostate health. It was called “Turn your head and Coughlin.”  

Step 2: You must have a draft.  All of this is done online and like the real NFL draft you have to wait your turn to pick the player you want.  You get to pick between 15-18 players.  The usual combination (according to Fantasy Football for Dummies) is as follows:
~2 quarterbacks (who throw the ball or hand it off or run with it if they are athletic enough) They receive points according to the number of yards they successfully pass or run the ball AND get points for every touchdown they throw or run in)
~4 running backs (who take a handoff and run the ball) They receive points according to the number of yards they successfully run the ball AND get points for every touchdown they run in)
~4 wide receivers (who catch the ball) They receive points according to the number of yards they successfully catch and/or run the ball AND get points for every touchdown they catch and/or run in)
~2 tight ends (who...I had to look this one according to wikipedia.....“is often seen as a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide receiver.” Basically a blocker and a runner.) They get points the same way a running back would.  
~2 kickers (who kick the ball in between the “uprights” to earn 1 or 3 points depending on the situation) They get points for how many points they score kicking the ball between the two yellow poles.  
~2 defenses/ special teams (Now, this is a little confusing because you can’t pick defensive players you have to pick a whole teams’ defense...I don’t know why , that’s just the way it is.  I suppose there must be a limit to the amount a person can dream even in Fantasy Football.) They get points based on how many interceptions they get, sacks they make (in other words how many times they bring the quarterback down while he has the ball), and points they score running the ball in for a touch down.  

Step 3: Research.  Really this is step 1 or 2 and should be done first but it wouldn’t have made sense before all the other stuff. I tried to keep this very brief because it c
~Names to Know: 
Aaron Rodgers
-Quarterbacks: While Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) and Tom Brady (New England Patriots) will undoubtedly make their way into the Hall of Fame as the best players of our time they may not be the optimum fantasy pick.  (Tom Brady because he will be suspended for the first four games). Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) has actually held the number one spot for fantasy football the past few years.  
Adrian Peterson
-Running Backs: Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings) is freak of nature when it comes to running.  Although he has made some very bad moral choices that got him suspended last season he has a heartbreaking back story that makes me want him to be the best version of himself.  
-Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson (goes by Megatron and plays for the Detroit Lions)
-Rodger Goodell- The NFL Commissioner (in other words, the boss who decides all things pertaining to professional football.)
~Terms to know:
-Touchdown- When the ball crosses over the plane of the end of the field (i.e. over the painted white line or the orange pylons at the edges) a team scores 6 points.   The team can then choose to try to score another touchdown which is only worth 2 points or kick a field goal which is only worth one point.  Note: If a team doesn’t even try to make the first touchdown but goes straight to kicking a field goal they earn 3 points for a successful kick.
-Sleepers- Players who no one expects to do well but end up earning a ton of points.

So, to bring things full circle, tomorrow along with a mushy card, my husband will be receiving my strong suggestions on who he should draft.