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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Our Mess is Blessed

After four days on the road I return home to the nest.  It's trying to be Christmas in my tiny piece of this world.  The lights are all strung from the gutters with care but it's rain that pours down and cloudy skies everywhere.  It's trying to be Christmas.

I come home with a suitcase full of dirty clothes and an aching back from carrying my pack.  The tree is lit and tries to be Christmas,  but .......broken light strands and boxes of ornaments litter the room.  Not quite.  We're trying.  Because our family is fragmented trying to figure out the future.  We're trying to be Christmas. 

And in the midst of the trying we're growing and thriving and the man boy takes his drivers test in the worst of conditions and passes with a high five and a declaration that in the midst of the rain and the mess he will be King of the Castle for tonight.  And we declare it to be so.  Our mess being blessed.

And the young girl's plans fizzle and fade and together we bring bread and meat and cheese wrapped in paper into our little cocoon and hover over the crumbs while Taylor Swift brings us home on every station and we fade in and out of the crabby and the blessed.  And the lights they swing in the wind pounded by the rain, trying to be Christmas.

And we gather in our home, we center our hearts and we decide to be all that we can be.  We decide to be blessed in our mess.

And the movie is sad and the tears pour like the rain and I am cleansed knowing that we have what we have always had, we have the hope and the promise and the choice and we are blessed in this mess.

And the girl looks up at the tree of lights still scant on bulbs but high on intent and she sighs with anticipation, "I can't wait for Christmas."  And in that moment the hope swells and we know that we are blessed in this mess. And our mess is someone's else's blessing and while the future is unknown and the mind runs wild. We are blessed in our mess. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Thanks.. The Giving .. The Differences - May They All Come to Dinner.

It's Thanksgiving Eve and the preparations have begun full on in most houses around the country.  Pinterest is abuzz with the latest recipes and the grocery stores are alive with activity. 

Thanks ....... giving.   

So while I hope your potatoes are perfectly mashed and your gravy lumpless, I also hope you choose to spend your holiday this year in  thanks and in giving

Please for the love of God and all traditions...... be ...... thankful.  For all that you have and all that is possible in you.  For the tinyest of things and the largest of our creator.  Please put down the potato masher for just a minute and close the oven door and just breathe in the grace and the love and be thankful.  No matter your situations or conditions you can find a small sliver of something that you are truly thankful for.

And don't forget the giving.

Give of your praise and give of your time and throw mom a few bucks to chip in on the turkey and fixings for once.  Clean up the table, sweep the floor, carry out the trash.   Give an apology, give out praise, find a place to give.

And please for the love of the holiday and cranberry relish, do not spend the holiday bashing the groups who are unlike yourself.

Yes there is much in the news you could stew about and rant about and cuss about and all of that. This only contributes to the problem.  Everyone gathered around a table of people that look like you, act like you, worship like you and eat like you looking out at the others that are different with judgement and your idea of how things ought to be ....for them.  How they should dress and talk and respond.  While you sit unchanged.   And in your mind ....right.

And it's not just about race, or religion it's fundamentally about differences of any kind.  Because yes there is discrimination alive and well and it's not just saved up for the black versus white, I've experienced this still in 2014 with men in business who would rather work with a male consultant than me as a woman. No, they don't riot in the streets, but they make it clear.  Having "rights" shouldn't spill over into your right to judge and dictate that everyone should be more like you because differences make you uncomfortable. 

And the more we fear those differences and draw lines around those differences, the greater the gap becomes.  I love my country for the opportunity that it brings me but it also sickens me at times.  It doesn't take long when traveling outside of the US to find the "ugly American" ranting and complaining about something not being like it is "at home".  We are often ugly ungracious guests when we leave our cushy creature comforts.  We are entitled and secluded and we look ridiculous standing in the middle of someone's home complaining because it's not like our own.

As we sit in our neighborhoods full of "our kind" and watch the news just for our town or our country and make skinny little narrow minded judgments about politics and world views and how the others should fix their problems. The problems we've never actually seen except from the large flat screen that we stare at for hours each day. 

So please, don't sit around your beautiful table this year abundant with food and talk about the others in a way that evokes judgement.  Don't complain about the politics or the race riots or the guy that sits behind you at church and picks his nails.

Be thankful and giving and for the love of all holidays, plan some time to get outside of your teeny tiny little world. Plan a trip outside the country to experience the full breadth and depth of the human spirit. Turn off the tv news and go and get groceries for your elderly neighbor. Decide to take a long look in the mirror, staring deep into your eyes until you get to your soul and your own heart. 

Ask yourself who you are. You'll know if it needs work if you begin to justify your own actions and beliefs. Because we're all a bit of the problem.   Decide if you're willing to consider that you may not know everything. And that your ways may not be the only right ways.  And then invite those folks of a different race from across town into your home and welcome them and learn about them. Be open and vulnerable about their differences and their ideas.

If you have never left this country and most of your friends and family look like you, talk like you, and worship like you, then you don't get to vote on what's wrong with this country and the world because you haven't really seen it, heard it or tried to love and understand it.

When your world gets more colorful and full of views outside your own to ponder and consider and your heart gets open and you try some food you never thought you'd try and love it because you love the beautiful family that introduced it to you, then we're getting somewhere.  When your heart aches for the brokenness of all kinds and all colors, then we're getting somewhere.

Then we're closer to the thanks and to the giving. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Girls, Girls, Girls

It's Monday morning.  The coffee is poured and the conference calls have begun.  Those are the same as most Monday mornings. What is dramatically different is...... I'm fresh off a girls weekend.  I real  girls weekend with a hotel for a couple of nights and suitcases full of outfits we never wore but had "just in case".

Girls are girls as long as they are "your girls".  My crew this weekend had an18 year age gap and lots of differences.  But our similarities are where it all counts. We are the same in our hearts and laughs and the protection of each other.  In the love.  In the intention of filling each other up.

And we succeeded on all counts this weekend.  So today's Monday also has giggles to myself about stories and laughs and the goodness of a few days with "the girls".

So if you don't have a set of girls that do this for you ... find them.... create them ... watch for them.  And mostly look in the mirror and ask yourself if you're ready to open your heart to people that will raise you up with honesty, out of love, and the perfect balance of knowing the right martini for the moment. 

What I saw happen this weekend was all about energy.  Everywhere we went we brought an amazing energy.  Shop keepers came around their booth with our receipts and thanked us for being the fun shoppers.  Others told us we were "perfect".  Which isn't at all true in the regular ways, but we are perfect in our energy.  We know we are responsible for the energy we bring into our spaces. It's not that we're without problems or concerns or scars or worries.  We have them all and we are each others salve for what hurts and hope for what has yet to come and in each moment there is a reason to toast.  To raise our glass in the moment full of gratitude. To celebrate those moments we can raise our energy to new heights just by being together. 

Photo Cred:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Feral Cat Called Fear

I don’t know your future path, you don’t know your future path.

Don’t really know if you'll get that job or if the diagnosis will be bad, or if your kids will turn out okay, or if it all works out. None of us really know what's next.

That’s the scary shit of it isn’t it?

Fear – of the unknown – fear in disappointing  fear of being disappointed - fear of failing -fear of never knowing.

Fear is an ugly nasty beast ………..  

Fear, the feral cat that whines and moans and roams the streets .... scaring us, wanting to be fed.  

Sure there is something familiar about this cat, it once was a part of a home, but now it's wild and afraid.  Don't let the lie of it's familiarity trick you.  

No use ignoring it.  So acknowledge the ugly beast .....briefly.   Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away – but by all means don’t feed it.  Don't feed the beast. Don't let it into your home thinking it's the pet that it may have once been. Don’t give it the power over you.  And whatever you do....... don’t acknowledge it as your truth. 

Don’t feed the feral cat called fear.

Fear can be a motivator and a driver or the bitch that takes you down – time to get motivated into your real truth –

Your gifts, your God, your heart and by all means, your gratitude.

Fear hates gratitude like the feral cat hates you spraying it with the hose. 

You are far stronger than your fears my friend.
Where are you using your gifts?  Don't wait until your big break or the invitation.  Using your gifts is a choice.  Baby steps, take just one today.

Where are you putting your thoughts, your vulnerability, your gratitude?

Write down the gratitude.  Write it in a pretty journal or in the fog on your windows, writing it claims it, proclaims it, gives it light and life.  Feed the light, feed the gratitude, give it life.

Remember this – Fear is the bitch that lies to you – don’t feed her – she’ll never leave your doorstep – let her be the wild that roams the alleys and the streets looking and searching - she may cry and moan and keep you awake a few nights– you can acknowledge her but don’t feed the beast, that feral cat of fear. 

When you take baby steps to feed the Gifts, the Gratitude and the Light, the feral cat slinks away in the night knowing you are shining your own light.

Friday, October 31, 2014

7 Reasons Why I Run

Well, here I am on another half marathon eve.  The night before a big race is always a time of crazed preparation and reflection.  It usually goes something like this, "what do you mean it's going to be 20 degrees colder tomorrow morning than anything I've trained in!"  and "Why the hell do I do this?".  So after several hours of crazed preparation I decided to jot down a few of the reasons that I run.

1. Therapy
Six months ago when I signed up to run 13.1 miles on the 1st day of November, I did it for forced therapy. I knew I was walking into the most stressful time of my life with personal challenges the size of Everest.  I said to my friend, "I think I need to sign up for a race so I run more than I drink to get through this."  And it worked.  Sure, I've had a few bottles of wine and cocktails in the last 6 months but it's always in the context of how will this impact my run. 

On some really challenging days, I ran twice in a day.  A run in the morning to get myself out of bed and facing the day and a run in the evening to cleanse my worried soul so I could actually sleep.

2. Self Discipline
You don't know self discipline until you've spent an hour or two alone on a road putting one foot in front of the other.  On days that are scorching hot, on days that you had to bring a flashlight because it's  dark-thirty in the morning, on days when your legs are so tired you can barely feel them.  And every time you do it you've fulfilled a promise to yourself.  You become more trustworthy.  And if all else fails in humanity, it would be nice to at least trust yourself.

3. Prayer Time
God and I do lots of chats while I'm running.  I know He's always there hanging out with me anyway, might as well use the time wisely and discuss some things.  And sometimes it's the chance to see the most beautiful sunrise, or the first few blooms of the season, or the fog burning off to start the day.  Running has shared God's creation with me over and over and over again.  And each time I say thank you, out loud.  And sometimes I'm thankful that I live in the country because I can sob and cry and scream and leave it all out on the road. 

4. To Hear Myself Think
Some of my best clarity on creative endeavors, business problems, or deciphering the world of teens has happened during a run.  When everything else gets tuned out and I can finally hear myself think.  My mind can be a scary place to be alone with for those hours on the road.  We wrestle and think and cuss and discuss.  And sometimes I dream and create and wonder and plan.

5. To Not Hear Myself Think
Some days the only thing I want to hear is a pounding playlist thumping through my earbuds and the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. No thinking allowed, just running as hard and fast as I can push my body to go. 

6. The Friendship
Not all runs are solo runs.  Sometimes it's not enough to have the self discipline, you need someone waiting for you at the corner at dark-thirty to get your butt out of bed.  And if you're training for a race and need to be on a schedule, you better have a buddy, and a reliable one.  And it helps to have a really positive person waiting on you at the corner that will be smiling the knowing  smile of, "yep we're crazy, now let's do this."  and someone that will see you struggling and say, "Come on, you got this." 

7. The Challenge
For tomorrow's race, I'll be running with my friend who will be running her first half marathon.  I've been with her for all the firsts of new distance.  The look on her face when she did her first 6 miles, then 8, then 10, 11 and 12 and tomorrow 13.1.  The determination and the strength and the joy, it's absolutely contagious.

And actually tomorrow's race is a bit of a gamble for me because I'm injured with IT Band syndrome and there's a possibility that after training for 6 months and pounding out hundreds of miles to prepare, I may not be able to run tomorrow at all.  But still, I go to the race expo and pick up my packet and I prepare like it's all going to be okay.  And tomorrow morning at 5am, I'll suit up, pick up my buddy at the corner and we'll drive to the start line.  Because life is mostly about showing up.  And if I don't get to run or finish the race, I'll still have gotten all the benefit from the preparation.

Monday, October 6, 2014

GMoney and the Fall Breakers - A Vacation Tale

Fall Break.  Three women, Two Middle Schoolers and a Four Year Old.  In the car ..... for 14 hours.  Seven stops for liquid leveling either putting it in or letting it out.

Sounds like a dream vacation doesn't it?

After what seemed like 3 days driving through the backwoods of Alabama, (I swear I heard banjo music coming from the woods.  On the upside you can buy crickets and pee in the same place $1.50 for 50. )  we finally pull into the outskirts of Panama City Beach.  Our first indicator this wasn't a typical week in PCB, a large flashing sign that read EVENT WEEKEND.  Translated means, Holy Crap Traffic.  But no ladies and gentleman of the road trip, not just any traffic ............... Bikers.

Two miles into town and we are the outcast SUV in a sea of bikers.  Every size, shape, gender, color, and nationality known to the universe straddled over their steel horse.  And here we are, an SUV full of moms and kids rollin in their midst.  We lean forward pressing our noses to the window trying to make out the tattoos on the young lady in front of us.

But it's okay, they have security.

Photo Cred: 

We find our condo which is just as beautiful as the website says it is except the pics on VRBO didn't show the tattoo shop across the street or the 5000 bikes patrolling out front.  We can't stop laughing. The noise is deafening.

We pull into the condo front and center to unload the road warriors and our stuff and pulling in beside us....none other than G Money from Detroit on the biggest baddest most beautiful white motorcycle I've ever seen that I'm sure cost more than my SUV.  He's blasting some home boy tunes from Detroit and carrying a pizza.  We hang with GMoney for a minute or two admiring his bike and then let him get on his way to enjoy his dinner.  Still laughing.  We load back up to find our own dinner with the giddy girls in the back making up a cheer about GMoney.  Who says the middle school white girls from the country can't appreciate some color and flavor to their lives.

We find a little hole in the wall pizza joint and order our food, sit down at the picnic table to wait.  The string of bikes on the street is so loud we have to lean in and shout across the table to talk while the girls clap their hands to the GMoney cheer which to the adults has lost it's allure. Every time the bikes hit that loud thunder clap sound on the street one of us jumps out of our seats and the rest of us roar with laughter. Laughing, yep, that's what we go on vacation for.  The sound scares the beejuzes out of us and gets our heart pumping and then we laugh, which is exactly what our hearts need.

Full of carbs and cheese, we park at the condo to find that we are directly across from the final concert night of the rally.  An AC/DC cover band perk. We didn't have to buy tickets, just parked in the garage.  #winning #laughing

We wake the next morning to find the bikers packing and moving out of our fall break vacation.  I head out on my long run to see them off and in act of spiritual alignment, my iTunes "shuffle all" provides far more heavy metal than usual, which is good for my soul and really good for my pace.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Because I Needed the Space, and Filled it With Grace

Today I needed the space.  And I took it without regret or guilt.

I laced up my running shoes and I ran until my legs grew weary.  Then I sat in mediation and prayer and where the physical release had cleared some space, I filled it with God's Grace.  Desperately needed, I lapped it up thirsty and grateful.  I let it fill all the spaces until it poured out of me like sweat from my pores.

Because children are being brutally murdered for loving the same Lord that I love.  Because Robin Williams is dead, strangled by the darkness.  Because my dear friend is lying in surgery as we speak to remove the cancer that has attacked her precious body.  Because the clot of blood locked in my mother's leg has her down for days.  Because young moms sobbed while their babies went off to school today.  Because my friend isn't getting her boy from Uganda like she had planned. Because while growing another precious child in the womb, my friend will always mourn the loss of the one that came and went far too soon. Because relationships lie in pieces at my feet.  Because people who once loved me are disappointed  in me.  Because the brokenness will never really end. 

And in the midst of brokenness, I knew I had to take the time to seek the Grace, the ever-loving Grace.  The Grace that fills the cracks and doesn't ask who caused them.  The Grace that knows the pain and knows the ache and acts as a salve to heal.  The Grace that is available to all who seek it. 

And I open the windows and let the breeze blow through my house, my heart, my mind.  And I am reminded that I am love, I am loved, I am forgiven, I am given grace.  Sweet, sweet, grace. 

I will move through today with a peace and a knowing and a grateful heart.  Grateful to openly praise and pray and love.

So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
Matt Redmon lyrics

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?

Ever had these words thrown at you?  Usually it's in a spirited debate.  Lately there's been interesting dialogue about who a person really is versus what they post on Facebook.  Facebook is often your highlight reel.  Isn't that how you really want it to be?  Do you really want me to post about who I really I am, especially the ugly parts.  The true epitome of #nofilter.

A recent spirited debate got me thinking about who I really am.  Lest there be any confusion from the beautiful hydrangea pictures that I post or the funny quips and quotes from my kids and the snippets from my morning scriptures, I am much more than that.

I could quickly borrow lyrics from Meredith Brooks and quote:
I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother
I'm a sinner, I'm a saint, I do not feel ashamed
I'm your hell, I'm your dream, I'm nothing in between


But maybe I should be more specific. I stood back and looked at some of my posts and pictures and can see how one would misconstrue the true fullness of me.  I live in a beautiful home that I sometimes wonder if I deserve, I have a job that I love and kids that so far are looking like they might turn out okay.  It's still really too early to tell.

However, much of what I remember about who I am started in a mobile home, or a trailer as we called it, plopped down on an acre of land given to my parents by my grandparents with a gravel driveway and the most beautiful dandelions a kid could want. Where my mom would stay up late and wait on my dad to get home from night shift, eating the hulls from the popcorn so he could come home and enjoy the good parts.  A place where a can opener in the window would bring my favorite cats screeching from acres far and wide to come and nest and eat and purr.  Where sometimes the animals we loved wouldn't make it home from acres far away, either eaten by survival of the fittest or squashed on the road by crazy Sadie that drove way too fast on our country road. 

I grew up with people that crawled under your house and often in your crap, literally, because my grandfather did plumbing and heating and lots of other jobs that you paid for because you never learned how to do.  You needed him and I learned about hard work and being paid for it.  I learned about sacrifice when many a family meal, he would get up and go because your toilet didn't work or your heat stopped working on Christmas Eve and rather than honor our Christmas meal, he left us and made sure yours was warm and good and dry.  One year, when I was old enough to "do the books" in the family business I charged double time for a holiday visit which had never been done before.  My grandfather scolded me and told me that we didn't do those things and explained to me that those people didn't have that kind of money.  My grandfather curses like a sailor in pain but knows the value of treating people well.

I grew up with a father that worked his way up from a night shift mechanic to a well paid engineer and was too busy working that he skipped that college education part.  Many of his young colleagues fresh out of the frat house and laden-ed with student debt probably didn't want to know that.

I've seen scuffles and fights among family and addiction gripping their very souls and all gathered round the plastic table cloth at grandmas house out of love.  I've seen my mom build fence and take out brick chimneys while my dad was at work and follow the ambulance when our baby cousins were born too early and she didn't want to miss the only breaths he had in case there weren't enough.

I've seen money change hands when we didn't deserve it but just because we needed it without shame or judgement or fear, only out of love.  I've seen many a candle lit on a sheet cake covered in chocolate icing. My language is salty, learned carefully over the years as a generational art form.

With my uncle's permission, I've driven a car long before the BMV thought it was okay and cut Christmas trees on the side of the road in the dark of the night.  I've drank sugar in my milk and stirred it like coffee just like the grandmas and aunts, listening to stories of the factory.  I've watched family take their factory money and turn it into mounds of security and others drink their paycheck before church started on Sunday morning.

So yes, I post the beautiful and the inspirational and the funny and the good.  Not because I don't know the darker sides, but because I do. Because I've cried myself to sleep with hurt and anguish and pain, because I've huddled on my closet floor afraid to face the day, because I've had the awful manager at the fast food place threaten me as a young girl, because I've seen the hurt in my child's eyes from my own words and anger. Because I've gone on the jail visit to see family on Christmas Eve, because I've broken the refrigerator door in a bout of anger.

Because  .....
I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother
I'm a sinner, I'm a saint, I do not feel ashamed
I'm your hell, I'm your dream, I'm nothing in between

And because I know the dark and the light, I will continue to share the light and the beauty and the funny and inspired.  Not because it's all that I know, but because it's all that I seek. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mystery Solved: I Figured Out What's Wrong With Kids These Days

A beautiful sunny warm Saturday afternoon.  Nearly perfect really.  The only thing that would have improved the day at all is if I was in my own yard instead of out running the few errands that this day required.  Everyone is smiling and happy, this weather has been well earned after a long Midwest winter.

I pull into a crowded parking lot with other smiling happy white legged Midwesterners doing their Saturday shopping.  It's spring in the Hoosier Heartland. I stop behind another vehicle that I think is letting a lady and her granddaughter cross the street.  The lady leans down and puts her arms around her little girl smiling and then waves the truck in front of me to go on.  I assume she's waiting on her husband to pull the Oldsmobile around to pick them both up.  I smile thinking how sweet that grandma and her granddaughter are out buying some new spring gear and probably going out for a nice lunch.  I creep past them as the truck in front of me starts to move forward.

Then I realize the truck in front of me has been sitting over the top of one of those Stop signs that are painted on the pavement.  Just as I realize this I hear from behind me, "Nice stop, lady!"  In the bullying voice of a Midwestern grandma.  What!  I look in my rear view mirror to see sweet little grandma with her arms still wrapped around the young girl as she's giving me a piece of her mind!

My first thought is to pull around and pull next to her and get out of my truck to say, "I'm so sorry.  I honestly didn't see that stop sign.  Are you two okay?"  and then I would lean down and give this young impressionable child a genuine smile of concern. Someone has got to model better behavior for this child!  I try to get turned around and traffic won't permit it and I've lost the site of them both.

So there you have it.

Mystery solved.

The reason we have bullies in our schools is because we have bullies in our homes, in our grandparent's homes and in the parking lot of our favorite stores.  I should have been a detective.

Look people, if you want to know what's wrong with the world, look inside your own heart first.  You may not have to join a task force or go on a mission trip, you may just have to be kinder, gentler and more patient and then pass it on to your kids and your grandkids.  That's a start.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I Let My Daughter Fail ........ On Purpose

The book was to be read by today.  She's known since before Spring Break.  She left it in her locker,  quite possibly on purpose.  She told her teacher she left it in her locker over Spring Break hoping she'd get more time.  She didn't.

She loves to read.  She didn't want to read this book.

Procrastination and bad choices eating away at her.

It's down to the last weekend.  The weather is warm and sunny for the first time in months. Spring Fever takes over her heart and her head.  She goes to her friend's on Friday night, they laugh, they play all day on Saturday.  Warm, sunny, wonderful days of play.

Saturday night the hangover of procrastination station is throbbing in her head.  She says, "I have to read this book by Monday."  I glance over, remind her that Sunday is Easter and we will be with family all day.

Easter comes, He is Risen, it is warm and beautiful. Church is good, the candy from the bunny is good, the dress looks good with the shoes.  Lunch comes with Grandma and Grandad in tow. We eat, we laugh, we enjoy.

Evening comes still warm and sunny. The bike and the skateboard and the sidewalk chalk call us out to play.

She states her intentions, "I'm going in at 8pm to shower and read until bedtime."  Sounds good, I reply, reminding her that it is Spring and 8pm will be as bright as day.  She sighs.

It's 8:30 with wet hair and jammies she climbs the stairs to pay her dues.  I braid her hair and watch her settle in.

I leave her to her work.

At 9:45 I tell her 15 more minutes and she's going to have to give it up for the night.  She's crying, crying for me to come and save her or comfort her or just share in her angst.

I climb the stairs and there she is, my small girl clutching the book with far more pages to read then minutes left in her world.  And there on her cheeks are the tears, big balloons splashing down her cheeks.

The remorse spills from her lips with excuses she knows are untruths but she says them anyway trying to comfort her pain.  I listen and tell her I'm sorry she's in such a bad spot.  She smells my "told you so" even though it's not been spoken.  It reeks and fills the room.  I wave it away and earnestly tell her I'm sorry she's in this place.  I help her decipher the magnitude.  How many pages, how much time?  There's the car ride to school, the first prep period before she must meet her judgement day.  She swallows hard.   I swallow hard.

I wanted to try and save her so many times.  I mentioned the book, she fought back.  I chose not to take on the battle with her and for her. I decided it's time to learn a different way.  The harder way, the kind that sticks.

This transition for my baby girl to young woman, what a beautiful mess.  Her trying to navigate the ways of the world, me trying to decide when to drive and when to ride along.  We stumble, we fall, her messes and lessons leaving matching scars in me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My First Day of Forty-Eight

Woke up this morning on the first day of my 48th year.  Blessing number one, I woke up.  My jaw aching from the problems that churn there while I sleep and stepping on the scale revealed that my extra pounds of pneumonia weight had chosen to stick around another day. I wake the girl and find that her morning crankiness has decided not to celebrate my birthday through its absence but is also alive and well today.

I feed all the fur babies and smile and tell them it's my birthday.  I look out to find a perfect moon still shining and sunshine on the horizon.  I'm alive.  Not perfect, not without problems or extra pounds but I'm alive.

My daughter has begun to count my birthdays as a count down.  "Two more years til your Golden Age birthday"  She's also now grounded until then. 

It's these middle of life birthdays that have me counting more backwards then forwards.  When we were 9 we couldn't wait to get to the next one and even added the half mid year, "Yes, I'm 9 and a half and I'll be 10 in 6 months".  Now I look ahead and I think, "I've got a lot to do, I better pick up the pace."  I've got books to write, schools to start, kids to raise, and travel to do. 

I want to live fully alive.  I'm not afraid of aging and the wrinkles and gravity taking over, that's a battle you can't win easily or cheaply.  I'm afraid I won't get it all done.  I'm a dreamer and a doer and there's so much more I want to do and see and know and be. 

In the words of my favorite humor author, Erma

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.”
Erma Bombeck

So if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to living, dreaming, doing and using up more of what God has given me.  No resting on my laurels, I think He's still got big plans for me and I don't want to miss it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why Don't We Ask?

A beautiful spring run.  Elated, strong, happy.........and thirsty.

I come back into my hotel room after a nice run. I remember that I drank my last bottle of water before I started out on my run.  As I come up the elevator my mind is thinking about the water that's in my car, and then I'd have to go to my room, get my car keys, then go back up - blah blah blah - I'm thirsty but not sure I want to go through all of that.

Then I come down my hall and there is the maid's cart.  I think, "maybe I'll just ask her for another bottle of water."

Immediately my 7th grade inner voice says, "but I'm not sure you're allowed to have another bottle of water, and what if they're supposed to charge you for it."  And then I argue back to my 7th grade inner voice. "But I'm a Marriott Platinum Elite member, doesn't that qualify me for more water?"

Then I smile to myself thinking, "this is the most ridiculous inner dialogue for a beautiful Sunday morning, geez, it's water for crying out loud."  So with an apologetic smile, I say to the nice young lady with her maid cart, "Could I have another bottle of water?"  Of course I say "another" because I don't want to appear ungrateful for the 1st bottle of water that I've been given.  I think I've been on this Catholic College Campus too long, the guilt seems to be seeping into my pores.

She smiles back and needs more clarification, words are not going to be our best form of communication and I hold my hand up like I'm drinking a glass of water and smile again.  She smiles back with her eyes that she understands and goes into the closet for the water.  She comes back with a pack of water and asks me how many.  "Oh just one" I hold up my finger and smile again apologetically wondering how she could ever find me so presumptuous to ask for more than one extra bottle of water.  She smiles a sweet smile and hands me not one but two bottles of water.

How often do we do this?  We want something, maybe something we won't die without but we want it and we sort of need it but we're afraid to ask. We go about figuring out how we can handle it ourselves.  Often it is the lack of courage that holds us back. And if we do in fact get the courage to actually ask for help, we're often surprised by the generosity we receive.  We get more than we asked for.  And isn't this because most of the human spirit, in spite of our often vast differences, wants to help us.  We just need the courage to ask.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Erma Bound! 4 Reasons I'm Stupid Excited!

I'm packing again.  Honestly I just dumped the Spring Break bathing suits and sunscreen in the middle of my closet floor so I can re-pack for another trip.  This one I've been looking forward to for over a year.  I'm attending the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop in scenic Dayton Ohio starting tomorrow through the weekend.  I'm stupid excited.  Here's why.

1. I'm a writer. I should invest in my craft. I just started owning this about myself a few years ago.  I spent several years waiting for someone to grant me the title officially and since my certificate never showed up in the mail I decided to just own it.  I can't NOT write.  I've tried.  It wells up inside of me and threatens to explode my heart.  I'd like to blame the stuff that hangs over my jeans as writer's bloat too but that's pushing it.

2. My writing needs it's own space and time. When you are a writer the entire world is seen through descriptions and feelings and words.  Everything.  The odd character in front of you at Starbucks, the way your cat is curled up in the sun, the seething anger at your loved one that you can only process through your journal.  Writing is not my full time occupation which I used to think was what needed to happen before I could call myself a writer.  But I've let that go because writing is my entertainment, my therapy, my passion, my heart and my soul.  When I'm standing in the kitchen putting away the dishes, my brain is processing how I would write about this simple activity and what's on my heart in that moment.  I can't NOT write.  Not all of my words make it to paper or screen and there are days that threatens to send me over the edge trying to find the space in the chaos of life to let the words out.  You don't get to see all of the words here, some are just to release the pressure and heal my own heart.

3. I will be among my people this weekend.  I've not met them yet but I know they're my kind, my tribe, my kindred spirits.  Those lovers of words and the human spirit that can't NOT write.  I'm not even concerned about who's a better writer, it's the thrill of the year to be in their presence feeding off their spirit and passion.

4. We will laugh from the depths of our guts and into the far corners of our hearts.  Real laughter.  We've already begun the laughter from our social media introductions and comments. Erma Bombeck celebrated every day life in her writing.  She found the humor in the mundane and raised us all up.  I'm hoping for a killer ab workout from all the laughter and a few days to soothe the soul and heal some of the wounds that have built up over a long hard winter.  We will laugh not just because we're at a "humor writer's" conference.  I believe we will laugh because we all share the same passion. As writer's we've learned to see what others don't always see, the story behind the story and the absurd tucked beside the ordinary.

See you all next week when I'll be filled up and inspired into greatness or recovering from an abdominal tear.  Maybe I should do some quick research on the Dayton hospital. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

3 Things I Learned About Love from Sybil and Paul

Still living it up on Spring Break 2014 with my girl and a group of girl friends.  Still meeting people and loving their stories.

Yesterday my lessons on love came from Sybil and Paul.  Sybil and Paul have been married for 18 years, a second marriage for both.  They have 6 kids between them and 10 grandchildren.

Sybil met Paul in a bar but he didn't contact her for a month after they met, guess that's a new twist on the 48 hour rule!  When she agreed to go out with him, all of her kids were there to check out this guy that was taking her mother out!

Here are the 3 things I learned about love and relationships from Sybil and Paul.

1. Dating is a family affair if you have children.  They should be involved with you and your dating. Sybil felt loved and protected by her children and wanted to find someone that honored them too.

2. When I asked Sybil what the secret was to their marriage she said, "You know what?  He brings me coffee and breakfast every single day."  It really is the little things and the consistency isn't it?  Most women don't really want the big presents and elaborate trips and dates we just want men that are sweet and kind and consistent.  I could see Sybil's eyes light up when she talked about this simple yet daily act of kindness from Paul.  To know that every day he will show up with coffee and breakfast is comforting and kind, a true act of love.

3. When I asked Paul what the secret was to their happy marriage, he said, "I just really like her.  I like to be with her."  Single men and ladies, are you out looking for someone that you just like to be with?  Or are you over complicating it?  Are you investing in being the kind of person that someone likes to be with?

I love the message of simplicity and kindness that I got loud and clear from Sybil and Paul.  It's a sweet and simple message, one we all need to remember.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

7 Things You Need to Know This Vacation When Traveling with Moms of Young Kids

I'm on Spring Break this week and one of my observations every year is the "moms".  As the mom of a pre-teen and a teen my heart aches for the moms that are hauling a truckload of gear from the beach to the condo every day ....... twice.  Once in the morning before nap.  Again in the afternoon after the nap.   It's exhausting and while I say a little prayer for them, my heart says, "thank God that's over".  Now I point to my kids stuff and say, "Better grab your stuff."

So today I want to have a little chat with you dads, granddads, grandmas, anyone that's traveling with these moms of the wee ones.  Here's the real truth.

These moms desperately wanted to come on this vacation but there is nothing restful about it.  Nothing.  Traveling with young children is like a game of survivor and there is no million bucks at the end.  In fact, there's a hole where your savings used to be.

If you look around at the moms in a group on vacation, the moms aren't smiling all that often.  There are short bursts of smiles and laughter squeezed in between exhaustion, negotiation, anger, and frustration.  There are screaming toddlers with sand in their butt and sand in their ear and sand in their nose and sand in their eyes.  These kids are over stimulated, not getting enough rest, probably a little sun burned and have you ever spent much time with sand in your butt?  There are consequences.  Yes, the term "That chaps my a$$"  came from a toddler on the beach.

And yet, we moms are a resilient bunch, we will endure the hours of frustration and exhaustion for the handful of cute pics of that toddler with their sand castle or splashing the waves, or riding around the pool in their pink dinosaur floaty ring.  We will endure.  There will be fun, no matter the cost.

So if you're the one traveling with them here's what I want you to know.

1. They need some rest.  They will insist they're fine and don't need it and we lie, we all lie because we're afraid that we're the only one that needs the rest and no one wants to be the mom that couldn't hack it.

2. Help them get some rest but you've got to be really careful how you play this one.  Never say, "honey, you look tired, why don't you go up and get some rest."  Nothing evokes the rally of a mom shamed like that statement.  No matter how tired she is, she will book a dolphin excursion on the spot, or order the cabana boy to bring a round of Mai Tais to prove that she's still got it.  Partly because we don't want to admit defeat, partly because we're afraid we'll miss something and partly because we're afraid we must be doing it wrong if we're so dang tired.

3. Because of #2, you've got to sneak it in. Make it about you, not her.  Ask if you can take the kids for some one on one souvenir shopping if you're the grandparent, if you're the dad, ask if you can take them to see _______ enter whatever she cares nothing about into that space.   Or ask them if you can take them to the store to pick out their favorite snacks, or walk them down to the pier.  Use your imagination.  Offer to take them somewhere that doesn't sound like something she'll miss out on.

4. Stick to some routines if you're taking the kids off for some fun.  If little Suzi and Johnny usually eat all organic, don't take them to the Golden Arches and the ice cream shop for your little treat, and then drop them back off for hours of freak show poop and raging screams of sugar buzz.  And if they nap around 2, then take them to your place and let them nap or drive around in the car for 2 hours while they sleep, don't take them back exhausted and scary.  That's why we don't ask for help, we've lulled ourselves into believing it's easier to just do it ourselves.

5.  Know what she likes.  If she's a Sun Loving Goddess from the days of her teens, then take the kids during the best part of the day and hand her a People Mag and order her the Mai Tai and then cart those kids away before her ice starts to melt.  If she's a sleeper, cover those kids mouths and sneak them out to waffle house at the break of dawn and keep them out til lunch with a note that says, "Lounge Away Baby, you deserve it because you're the best mom this side of the Atlantic"  With lots of hugs and kisses (those are X's and O's for the note writing challenged).

6. DO NOT come back from your adventure with how cute and fabulous it was.  Buffer all that down a bit.  She wanted the break but will be devastated if something amazing happened without her.  Wait and show her the cute pics when you get home.  Or don't tell her that little Suzi took her first steps with the waitress at the Waffle House.  You won't be the first parent to do a first step "fake out".

7. And most of all, take pics of her and the kids when she's not paying attention.  Lots of them.  Don't ask her to pose because she will refuse and try to suck in her gut and stage the whole thing for Facebook.  This isn't about Facebook.  This is about capturing the love of a mother for her children.  There are too many scrapbooks and shoeboxes of pictures without mom in the scene.  Don't let that happen to your beautiful wife or daughter or friend.  She'll love you a thousand times over someday when she's no longer obsessed about the baby weight that most of us never lose but just learn to accommodate.

Happy Traveling.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's Never Too Late. Until It Is.

I'm on a Spring Break girls trip this week.  Not exactly Girls Gone Wild of my younger years but a sand truck full of fun and a couple of coolers of libations for the beach. This is a group that ranges from me the oldest at 47 to the cutest 3 year old on the beach.  (I'm trying not to obsess over being the oldest, but, you know)

The best part of this trip for me is, I have never met most of these girls.  It's kind of like being on The Bachelorette without an annoying guy and weekly rose ceremonies.  I've always thought the best part of being on that show would be living in the mansion with the girls and hanging out at the pool every day.  Luckily there are no TV cameras so I don't need to do my hair or suck it in all day.  That's a bonus.

 I get the week to explore these beautiful people, a baby, pre-teens, teens, 30's and 40's and their stories.  I love to hear people's stories.  I love to watch them be moms and friends and the young ones figuring their way in the world.  And there is nothing better than seeing the beach through the eyes of a 3 year old.

Last night we were invited to dinner with another friend of theirs from back home that is also here on Spring Break.  This man has the most compelling story of all.  Just 6 months ago he lost the love of his life for 28 years to his worst enemy, cancer.  Leaving him with their 3 children from 10 to 16.  I sat across from him at dinner last night and was amazed at this man and how he's handling his story.  The story that didn't have the happy ending that he wanted for him and his family.  He talked openly with his friend about the pain of losing his wife and lovingly about the circle of friends that lifted him up and continues to carry him some days through the trials.  The trials of raising teenage girls without their mother and finding his own way through the grief.

I only sat with this man for a few hours but in that time I learned a few things about his story.  One is, he's now acutely aware that he needs to take care of himself.  He feels the weight of the world on his shoulders to care for these children.  He's exercising and making some changes.  We do that don't we?  We think everything is going to be all right .....until it isn't.  And then everything comes into crisp clear focus about what is important.

I wish we could learn to do this without tragedy.

He also learned about his circle of true friends, their care and compassion.  We don't always know who those people will be that will drop their own needs and wants and care for you when you are unable to make it through the day and weeks ahead.  We should really look at our circle of friends and be sure we've got a couple that we can point to and say, "I think they'd be the ones."  The ones that would rally when the bottom falls out. And ask ourselves, "who needs me today?"

During the conversation, I can't even really remember the specifics, I think it was about quitting smoking and I said, "It's never too late."   To which he calmly and without judgement, but with kind eyes said to me, "sometimes it is."

I just smiled back, not embarrassed by my remark that suddenly felt off center, but receiving the gentle reminder from this kind man living in grief, that in fact sometimes it is too late and today is really all we have.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Show Not Tell - Adventures with The Girl

The girl and I have embarked on another journey.  With the teenage years lurking around the corner anxious to envelope my baby girl, I give them the "side eye" and tell them to hold on, I've got a few months of preparation to do.  This is crunch time, every moment counts.

I've finally succumbed to the reality that I can't protect my baby girl from the woes and challenges of the world.  I must move from protection to preparation.  I probably started too late in this transition but who doesn't really want their baby girl to stay in pigtails and My Little Pony for as long as possible.

This year's journey of ours reflects these changes as we incorporate some of her peers into our adventures.  This glimpse of my girl as she interacts with her best friend shows me the face that she shows to the world when she's not under my protection and quite frankly my "side eye".

I see her test the waters of how to maneuver this transition.  Typically her days are spent with the lines clearly divided, the school bus as her transition from home girl to pre-teen friend girl.  At school and activities where she spreads her wings and tests out some things.  Where sometimes she laughs and grows and other times pulls back with caution unsure of how her wings will carry her.

There is so much I want to teach, but I know I can't write it out or present her with a powerpoint presentation on how to grow up and what to expect.  It must come carefully with well placed intention.   How do I teach her not to emulate some of my biggest challenges that she's watched.  Did I ever tell her which of those things she witnessed I'm not proud of and don't want for her?  Did I carefully underscore those things I'm most proud of that I want her to live again and again?

In just a few short hours I learn of the "crush", the one she hadn't told me about.  I smile and tell her that's awesome and I want to know about this lucky boy.  She looks at me cautiously to see if she's safe.  Then later she comes to show me the boy's Instagram photo with a huge smile, happy that for a brief moment her worlds are colliding.  I so want this girl of mine to feel safe with her fears and frustrations and happy crushes of boys with crooked teeth and cowlicks in their hair.  I now know that I've made things more difficult for her with my outspoken views of right and wrong, accidentally telling her that the gray area is a dangerous place.  I must correct this and show her that most of life is living in the gray.

Maybe I've overprotected, maybe our home has been too busy and tumultuous to let her feel truly safe and to show this vulnerable side of her most fabulousness.  I'm working hard to bridge the gap, not too hard because she senses when things are too planned too structured afraid she won't get it right.  This cautious and compliant girl of mine.  So different from me but with eyes that match mine and I hope a heart that matches mine too. I realize that parenting is more about showing than telling and I'm also trying to find my way.  I must find a way to join hands with my beautiful girl and let us help each other navigate this gray.

I must show not tell and be her love and support and her guide through braces and bumps along the way and boys with grins a mile wide.  Less telling more showing, the lessons on our journeys are more for me I understand.  A chance to pull away from the mad dash to the bus and the fray of life to see her, really see her and fall in love again with my beautiful baby girl.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Girl Took My Hair and I Want It Back

Today as I stroked my preteen's locks and ironed it straight into glossy strands of awesomeness, I was hit not with the love of a mother but the jealousy of a woman scorned.  While this pre-teen, Jennifer Aniston in training, is a loving offspring born from my loins; I have said that I would give her my life but I'm not sure I agreed to give her my hair.

I had this hair once. This full shiny crown of sun kissed blonde. All natural and full of "touch me I'm beautiful and carefree and fabulous".  And I'll be damned if I didn't know to covet it when I had it.  The way I could twist it up casually with barely a thought and poke in a pin or two and it looked like something from the cover of "Teen Goddess Magazine".   Or a few rolls of the curling iron and I was the belle of the ball.

And even though I abused it a few years with vats of chemicals and pink elastic hell in the name of spiral permed fashion, it never turned on me.  It always reclaimed it's place in the world of healthy awesomeness.  I miss my hair.

I didn't know it was going away.  Like a dear friend that goes off to college and you think you'll stay in touch, until you don't. Sure I knew I'd probably not wear a 26 inch waist Levi forever or rock the string bikini on spring break in my 40's but no one ever put up the warning flare that I would lose my hair.  Not literally like chemo lose your hair, but lose the awesomeness of teenage hair.

No one would tell me that now when I casually throw my hair into a twist on top of my head that there are just 4 strands left sticking up and out in ways that scream awkward and unkept not sun kissed and carefree.

No one told me that I'd spend hours sitting in a chair so my stylist could foil me up like a baked potato every 6 weeks to retain that sun kissed glow.

No one told me that my long locks would really be stringy wet noodles that begged to be cropped into a more appropriate length for my age.

When I bitched and moaned to my stylist about my longing for my hair of my teens and twenties she casually suggested I try extensions.  Dear Lord, I don't change my earrings, I doubt I'm a candidate for hair changes that require pinning and clipping the length of my youth.

So this morning I bite the inside of my cheek as I stroke and iron the sun kissed locks of my youth now firmly planted on this child of mine.  I suppose I should relish in the knowing that I have passed on one of my better traits to my girl.  She'll probably get my bra size too so I smile a sarcastic smile,  happy that life isn't perfect.