4.30.14 Great Expectations



Recently I was asked to write an essay based from the idea behind the notorious, “This I Believe,” NPR (National Public Radio) program.  Originally hosted by the journalist Edward J. Murrow, this initiative began in the 1950s, when thousands of Americans used to flock to their radio in the same delighted anticipation of hearing beliefs that either unified or made beliefs seem  more unique.  The support for this program was so strong, that a non-profit organization, This I Believe, Inc. was formed in 2004 to be, “A public dialogue about belief – one essay at a time.”  If you love to read for inspiration, it is really a site to visit (thisibelieve.org).  For my purposes, I was actually asked about what I believe, in love.   

Great Expectations

Even as a young girl, I don’t think I ever had a young girl’s heart.  I think it might be safe to say I was born an old soul, and carried inherently, in my being, a deep desire to love and be loved; it just took me a bit longer than childhood to discover what that looked like.  I can say, with assurance, however, that for as long as I have understood that love would be a consuming part of my life, I have aimed to define it, ironically, in the way a little girl would.  So often this image painted before me was rapt with imagining princes, grand gestures and “happily-ever-afters,”  all of which I still believe in, but the painting’s a bit abstract now.

Having been in love, (more than once) I believe a great deal about it.  But mostly, I have come to believe that it is not only a feeling, but a life-force that shapes us into the heroes, heroines or tragedies of our own stories.  I used to be somewhat naively narcissistic about love, wishing desperately for Charles Dickens’ line in Great Expectations to define my love story when he said, “You are in every line I have ever read.”  Every line.  In my fantasy I delighted to think, “That will be me, I will be her!” someday … when I fall in love in the forever kind-of-way.  But I was wrong.  I was selfish, and love, real-love, never is.

True love isn’t about falling in, or out.  It doesn’t revolve around how much I’m thought about or wanted or doted on.  Love doesn’t infatuate – it stays.  It isn’t always romantic, or candle-lit.  There aren’t often white horses or wind-swept beach walks or days spent where every waking moment is the two of you.  The truth is that love isn’t a fantasy … the reality of love is much, much more.

Sometimes, as un-romantic as it sounds, love is a full gas tank.  It’s a bed made – an extra twenty minutes of sleep or a, “you can shower first.” Sometimes it’s watching a movie you have no desire to see, or going somewhere you never would have gone before simply because you know you’re better there … wherever there is … with them.  

So I have come to realize that no, I am not in, “every line,” every thought, or every act.  Love isn’t pretend like that. It’s about what you give … who you become in the absence of yourself; the gift is in the loss.  When it comes to love, two halves don’t make a whole.  Being all in doesn’t mean you’ll give 50% it means you’ll give 100.  All of you given away, for the best version of yourself you’ll ever receive back.  True love isn’t in being the object of someone else’s desire, it is about realizing that you could never have become the kind of individual you have, without them.  Love is alive.  It will move and change and grow in directions you cannot predict but if it is real then one thing it won’t do, is end.  

So I now look to a different quote from Great Expectations, in terms of how I hope to be loved – still completely, but not blindly.  Because the reality is I’m not perfect, we’re not perfect, but love is.  It never falls, it never fails, and (thankfully) it isn’t rational … it just stays.

“I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be,” (Dickens).  

I pray you too, know love.

Literarily yours,

4.26.14 Three Questions



So … I just might be a genius.  Yeah.  I bet you didn’t see that coming–me either.  But alas, it may be true.  In pondering and thinking (perhaps too much, as I ‘m known to do) I have stumbled up on the answers to three of this life’s greatest questions!  And the best part is, I really think I’m right!  Now, I know I should just spit it out and tell you what the questions and the answers are, but … that’s not really my style.  In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, I am first going to have to help you, “live the questions,” or the answers won’t make sense.  So bookmark that thought, and follow along until we get to that metaphorical page. 

My children have a book called, The Three Questions written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth.  It is a great book about a boy and some animal friends who lead him on a very symbolic journey to answer the questions inspired by Russian author Leo Tolstoy.  His essential questions were: What is the best time to do things?  Who is the most important one?  What is the right thing to do?  For me, those questions were a little too easy.  The best time to do things is when they have to get done (in my case, right before they’re due). The most important one is whatever child is in my face shouting that they need me.  And the right thing to do is always the thing that will make my life just a little less crazy.  No brainer.

Okay, so that may not have been the answers Tolstoy anticipated, and they’re certainly not the answers the boy in the book found, but for now, in this whirlwind of a life … they’re true enough to me.  Imagine, if you will, a boxing ring.  In one corner, weighing in at forty-four pounds, we have the puffy-pout-cheeked four-year-old, crying with a complete lip-tremble for effect.  In the other corner, weighing in at fifty-two pounds, we have the gap-toothed grinning six-year-old whose almost-apology might have been believed had it not been for his equal-parts-charm-and-mischief smile.  Judging the opponents we have, “Hang on I’m on the Phone,” Mommy!  Weighting in at … yeah not a chance (it varies depending on level of stress and proximity to holidays).  Trying to determine the incoherent he said she saids between, “What? I can’t hear you,” chiming in on the line is nearly impossible … let’s just say the match ended in time-outs for everyone–including Mommy.  I know, for a fact (because I was there when I said it) we’ve talked about this!  Being nice, being kind and BEING QUIET when someone’s on the phone are the cardinal rules;  yet they don’t seem to register … ever!

Then things are insane at work, well not things, people.  Okay not people, middle schoolers.  Spring is coming and kids are unhinging everywhere.  Bad words fly along with pencils, excuses and unmet expectations.  Regardless of the conversations, the motivational speeches, the notes of encouragement and the amount of time I dedicate to growing these young people, every Monday seems like the daunting beginning lineup of a marathon.  Twenty-six point two miles-worth of inspiration we all train for but never get used to.  No matter what your job is the two day recovery of a weekend doesn’t quite match the exertion of the other five days does it?

Then there’s me … and him, the love of my life who I never seem to have time for.  Anyone in a relationship has to know this feeling of being torn and pushed away from the person you want to hang out with the most because you know they’ll actually wait for you, unlike the rest of your demands.  Then, you get two seconds together and what happens?  Attitude.  At least I know mine does.  Confession?  I can be really annoying sometimes!  And demanding too!  Do you ever hear yourself in the middle of a conversation, or disagreement and pause just long enough to think, man I’m being a jerk.  I do.  And I’d like to say I snap out of it then and do something different–change my tone or point-of-view, but typically I don’t, because by that time I’m too far in.  The worst part is, we are usually disagreeing over nothing of consequence, we just don’t know how to push the stuff-of-life far enough away to admit that the real problem is … we miss each other.  

So here we are–back to the bookmark, like I promised.  You’ve lived the questions with me and are ready to hear them … and the answers.  In my day to day these are my three questions, my Tolstoy enigmas that are mysteries of life to me no more. 

Is it supposed to be this hard?    Yes.

When is enough enough?   Never.

What is the point?   Love.

I hope this isn’t a let down.  I know the questions are deep and my answers are simple, and the thing is–I always over-complicate things, but not this time.  These are, in my opinion, the right answers.  Our lives were never meant, or promised to be easy–that doesn’t mean they’re not worth it.  Enough is never enough if you believe in what you are doing and who you are doing it for.  And the only point to everything we accomplish or leave behind is love.  It is the greatest gift and commandment and I believe, if it’s pure, is our only unblemished legacy worth anything at all.  

All kidding aside, I know I’m no genius.  More likely, I’m just figuring out what others have known all along.  Still, I’m going to need a lot of practice in order to actually live the answers … but I’m almost positive it’ll be worth the effort.  So–what are your three questions?  And did you live your way into the answers yet?

Literarily yours,



4.23.14 Sick



So this week, I got hit with the flu … hard.  I guess that is somewhat of an oxymoron, because does the flu come on any other way?  It isn’t like all of a sudden you hear a tiny whisper saying, “I’m just going to come on nice and slow, easy so you know I’m coming and can take all necessary precautions.” No way.  The flu smacks you in the face like a clothesline.  5:00 in the morning and wham!  A sudden roll of nausea, a gut-wrenching race to the bathroom, one sick-call in to the boss and down for the count back in bed.  Before he left, I reached out a pathetic hand to my husband and asked, “I’ll get better soon right?”
    “Of course hun,” he replied somewhat patiently at my hypochondriacal-tendency of thinking the worst. “You’ve just got a bug.”
    “You’re sure?  I feel really awful,” I asked.
    “I’m sure, but I’ll call you okay?” he asked.
Probably to make sure I’m still alive, I thought to myself.  Then, turning over in a moan, I had to laugh when I thought of the quote from Redd Foxx that said, “Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.”  Sadly, that statement is totally me, but yesterday’s chills, achy-bones that made me feel one hundred, and enough bathroom trips to clear out our supply of toilet paper could’ve fooled me.  I felt like death, and looked like it too from the disheveled troll I glanced in the mirror.

The thing about being a parent is, you don’t really get to be sick for long.  Because by three o’clock of the same day, it was time to pick up my loves from school and they weren’t about to drive themselves.  It was a good thing I was mobile at that point, because about two hours later, my husband surpassed my weak-kneed queasiness with his full-blown version of what I’d developed twenty hours before.  All I could think was, “Aww, man! No early-to-bed for me.” Single parent functioning at 50% was not how I hoped to end my day.  I could’ve punched Henry David Thoreau in the face when I remembered he once said, “‘Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.”  Here I was, moving at a zombie’s pace, only fit to step into public after a heavy application of foundation to hide my after-life complexion, and Thoreau had the nerve to tell me this was healthy?  I realized then, that he was a brilliant idiot and forgave him for not having a fricking clue.  

But then, (ah yes, there is a but here) a few moments after picking up my kids, one of their teachers asked if she could pray over me.  She touched my shoulder and asked for healing and protection of God’s angels to keep our children safe.  She then went on to tell me that my daughter had prayed for us today to be healthy.  Suddenly, I didn’t feel so much sick as guilty.  Here I was ready to sucker-punch one of the greatest American authors in history for annoying me only moments before, and I had beautiful, heart-felt prayers cast upon me that I didn’t deserve.  The moment of reckoning stretched on when I realized that, in a small way, I was already beginning to feel better.  Sure I was only half-way there, but how many people who are sick … really sick, can say that in a twelve hour period?

This past summer my favorite cousin in the world, my sister for all practical purposes was diagnosed with cancer.  Mother of a four-year-old and four-month-old at the time, I’ll never forget how strong she was when she told me.  She only looked at the positive side, that it was treatable and they’d found it early.  I sat beside her, trying (and failing miserably) to be strong for her, but the truth is–it wrecked me.  It wasn’t fair, she was young and strong and healthy and good and caring and everything that sickness should stay the heck away from.  But cancer doesn’t discriminate; I wish to heaven it did.  It is now about seven months past the diagnosis, and treatments and surgeries later, she is in remission … the cancer is completely removed and I am divinely grateful.  I, who can’t handle the flu.  

The worst part of it is, when I mentioned I wasn’t feeling well, she was one of the first to call, text and check in on me the next day.  Thoreau was completely right.  It is healthy to get sick sometimes.  It reminds you that: a) you’re human, b) you’re meant to slow down and, c) you have a lot to be thankful for.  So I know this post is just a post, I know it isn’t really equipped in importance enough to warrant a dedication, but I’m going to give one anyway.  This post is dedicated to all of those whose 50% days are their best.  I am so sorry that it takes my “sick” days to remind me just how much you go through.  Forgive me, as I pray for you today … and much more often from now on.

If you have someone you’d like to lift up, feel free to do so … digitally, or in a wireless prayer to heaven.

Literarily yours,

4.20.14 Twas the Night Before Easter


Twas the Night Before Easter and as it would seem, my children were wrapped in a jelly-bean dream.  While my husband in his hoodie, and I in my shorts, sat down to fill baskets (while he checked out sports).  Wait, what?  That’s not the way it is supposed to go?  Funny … because that’s exactly how it went.  I sprawled on the floor of our living room, candy treats and toy treasures spread out around me as my husband sat beside me–spacing out.  A little part of me questioned this layout.  It wasn’t really the ideal family fantasy you envision when you’re thinking about holidays. But over the years, I’ve found that fantasy can really suck the fun out of the ordinary.

If things were perfect, I’d have had the Easter baskets stuffed for weeks … ready to be easily taken from a tall closet for the morning bunny delivery.  But that is not what happened.  Instead, I was up until about midnight, eating way too much candy to keep me buzzed long enough to remember which pieces went in the his and her baskets.  Of course, I also realized that I must’ve been on some sort of hallucinogen when I bought the items for my children’s baskets, because at the store they all seemed so much smaller than they did when I was at home trying to shove it all into a two-foot wicker circle.  We ended up needing to put the baskets on top of the toys we bought.  If things were perfect, this never would have happened; but then where would the fun be?  

The cutest thing about it is, my children have no doubt what-so-ever about the Easter bunny.  They never thought to question him, his choices of gifts or how something (supposedly small and furry with no hands) could carry four baskets busting-to-the-brim with items that still had tags on them!  In fact, this year when I suggested we think about what we might want to find in our Easter baskets this season, my son said, “I think I’d like to get him something, since he is always getting things for everyone else.” So the day before Easter, my kids took turns drawing pictures and writing cards for the famous Peter Cottontail.  

But these are the things you don’t see in the pristinely-crafted Pottery Barn catalog shots of the Spring season.  You see matching crocheted place mats, but not wrappers strewn in evidence of a good bellyache!  You see crystal goblets and Fabergé-style eggs, but not the smelly, half-cracked hard-boiled egg with your kid’s crayon signature.  Our life may not be on a magazine cover, but the pictures I take serve my soul.   It’s so much more precious to me to remember my four-year-old daughter squeezed my hand tight, than the fact she was too afraid to participate in the Easter egg hunt at the local church.  I swelled with pride at seeing my son give her half of the candy he collected, instead of counting his spoils like the kids around us.  And I just had to laugh at myself when I realized that during church, to keep my son entertained, I actually said, “Play tic-tac-toe with yourself and then tell me who wins.”   (He did … go figure.)

We’re far from perfect … far from photo-ready at times, but this ordinary life is so much more beautiful than pretend.   Evangelist Dwight L. Moody characterized the kind of Christian I want to be, the kind I want to teach my family to be.  He said, “We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does.”  Jesus was perfect … but he didn’t call attention to himself by making others feel guilty or judged. He drew ordinary people to himself by loving them in an extraordinary way.  Love is the only necessary ingredient this Easter, and I hope you too find plenty of it in your basket.  

Literarily yours,


4.17.14 Love is a Frozen Worm



The great comedian Charlie Chaplin once said, “We think too much and feel too little.”  Please tell me I’m not the only one guilty of this.  I think and I toil, my mind spins and I continually strive to figure things out … I am a problem-solver after all.  Tonight in fact, was a grand design of thinking and planning.  When my husband wasn’t going to make it home due to a commitment, I started thinking of all the things I had to accomplish–alone.  In my mind, I plotted out my day as it went along and it went something like this:  leave work to pick up kids, stop home to change clothes for soccer practice, leave home to go to soccer practice, stay late at soccer because coach was late, get home and make a quick dinner, get kids in the bath, forget the bath until tomorrow so I can just survive, put in movie and sit to write while kids watch, yes … I think I can do it all, I think it will just be enough time! But then, after I finally finished thinking and refining my way through the night and almost inched away with my modified plan, a little hand tugged on mine and asked me to, “snuggle up.”  

And just like that, all thoughts filtered into oblivion as I scooped up my daughter and held her.  Love and compassion for a four-year-old who didn’t want to share her mommy with a laptop won my time; and it was worth it.  My feelings were way more gratifying than my thoughts.  Feelings should always win out in the end, but sadly, I don’t think they always do.  I think that too often, way too often actually, we tend to let the world desensitize us to a certain degree.  We watch the news to the point where political scandals and border wars across the globe no longer make us bat so much as an eyelash.  We hear about internet frauds and government leaks and drug cartels and missing people and poverty levels and natural disasters and gang activity and new illnesses and lack of resources and national debt–until one day… we realize that we’ve heard and seen so much, that it no longer means anything at all.  

I think that apathetic numbness is what I fear the most, because I see it.  I see it on the glazed faces of my peers when they talk about the news, the monotone voices of radio hosts who announce numbers of killings in the city like stock scores, and even on the mask-like faces of middle schoolers who have forgotten how to care.  I know … it sounds brutal, dismal in fact, but it makes me remember a quote that, though I don’t know who said it, always brings me back to a sense of resolve.  It says, “Everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.”  

We need to remember this–believe it, and act on it.  It isn’t the end.  This, isn’t the end; so we might as well do something here and now to get ourselves on the path to being human again.  Today we had a, “Day of Compassion” at work, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  The time was dedicated to helping our students realize that they need to look outside of themselves and their circumstances to realize what might be below the surface personalities they perceive.  Writer Mary Ann Evans (pen name George Eliot) said, “What do we live for; it if is not to make life less difficult for each other?”  As well as the day went, and as much as I do believe the kids gained from the scripted Powerpoints and presentations, I couldn’t help but think how easily I could relay compassion to them in one beautiful story … about worms.

The other day, it snowed … again.  Yes, it is April and I live in a place where Spring has been (yet again) detained by the wet, sticky flakes that have continually taken over my life since November (a dramatic, but nonetheless–true statement).  So it is safe to say that I was less-than-thrilled about this two inch drop, my son, on the other hand, was delighted.  He was literally buzzing with energy and smiled widely at the kitchen table saying, “It’s snowing again, I LOVE snow.”
    “I know,” I rolled my eyes at the kitchen sink, “I know you love snow buddy.  But don’t you think that it is time for Spring now?  Haven’t we had enough Winter?”
    “Nope,” he said, bouncing on his chair.  “I love it.”
At this point, I just wanted him to level with me and see that even mother nature was proverbially being less-than-nurturing.
    “Buddy look out the window,” I said.  “Do you see all of those worms on the ground?  They came out of the dirt yesterday when it rained, thinking it was time to come out and now, they’re freezing.  They don’t have coats like us, or fur like our pets.  They are cold and stuck.”
    “Are they dying?” he asked.
    “Mhmm,” I mumbled, continuing on with the dishes.  

About a minute later, my son asked if he could pray.  Thinking he was about to pray before the dinner I’d just set before him, I said, “Of course, you can always pray, anytime … you know that.”

And he said, “Dear God, I am so sorry that I bragged about the snow.  I didn’t know it wasn’t time and now the worms are hurting.”  

I looked over and he was sobbing, big, salty-tears rolling down his cheeks as he struggled to go on.  Moved at his compassion, I went to him, wrapping him in a huge hug and squeezing tight while I told him there was nothing wrong with loving snow and it was not, in any way, his fault that the worms were cold.  After a couple of minutes, I saw that he understood, but felt no better … so I had an idea that came, not from my head, but my heart–because there’s no way it was something I would’ve voluntarily thought of.

    “Go get your shoes on,” I said, and opened the back door to the patio.  In the next five, below-freezing minutes, my six-year-old, filled-with-compassion son and I picked up about twenty, half-alive worms.  At first I was moved with nausea at their writhing and slimy forms, but soon found I became more worried about their cold, purple color and how slow they moved.  After getting them all, we found the warmest spot we could under the bush where the soft leaves were piled and the dirt “probably” wasn’t too hard for them to get under.  I decided then and there, with dirt and slime-crusted hands, my love language to my son had become saving a frozen worm … and the hope and joy in his sparkling blue eyes made that absolutely okay with me.  
Don’t forget to feel, remember that the key word to compassion is actually, passion.  So find some.  Soon.

Literarily yours,

4.13.14 In the Storms



I don’t remember when it happened, the transition from fear to fondness … probably when I realized the beauty in them–but I absolutely love storms.  There is something reassuring about the overwhelming strength of nature.  Somehow, storms have the ability to make me feel small; as the world performs, I become tucked in … forced to be still and realize that the universe exists outside and beyond me.  There is a certain splendor in the neutral, even way storms find us all.  

Last night, where I live, we had our first major thunderstorm of the season.  And may I say, it was worth the wait.  The flicker of electricity across the sky, constant like a light bulb that needs changing, brightened against the night before the growing rumble broke, splitting the dark.  I smiled, pulling the comforter around me as I stared out the rain-pelted window … thankful, for once, I didn’t sleep through it.

It is sort of sad to me that some people get frustrated or even annoyed with storms, highlighting their inconvenience like the rain was created to dampen their personal parade.  Instead, I enjoy Shannon Alder’s perspective that, “God doesn’t put that much prep into something that is insignificant.”  Let the image resonate … can’t you just imagine the time and precision it takes to orchestrate such magnificence?  A master of composition and choreography, the maker of wind and sky, light and water–sets them to dancing in turn.  Sometimes elegant, sometimes violent, but always passionate, the elements wait for permission to fall.  

Though I can’t recall the exact time I became too enchanted to be afraid, I do remember the way my daddy always waited for storms.  Sitting on our porch until the wind nearly carried him away sometimes, I’ll never forget the wonder-filled twinkle that would catch his eye the moment that heavy stillness came; I think that was one of his favorite parts.  Like a boy seeking adventure, this fascination is something he’s never outgrown, and I’m proud to now share in the awe.  I’m not sure if it works that way genetically … if you inherit character elements along with chromosomal pairs–his nose, her eyes, his love of storms.  Still, that was how it happened for me.  I suppose it is one of those nature versus nurture questions for psychology to distinguish.  But for me, it was my father’s nurturing love of nature that solidified my admiration.

The Turkish playwright Mehmet Murat Ildan said, “Storms give you a chance to surpass yourself!”  So the next time one comes upon you, internally or as a performance of nature, try to marvel … to be still … to feel small.

Literarily yours,

4.12.14 Book Signing



Today I had a book signing … and it was wonderful.  It was wonderful because for two whole hours, I was able to observe and speak with people who shared a love of words.  A bookstore, after all, is a sanctuary of language used to its greatest potential.  Though mostly fleeting, the conversations I had were rich and sweet … just like the cup of cocoa I sipped between delicious chats.  The company was varied, to say the least, but each, in his or her turn offered me some bit of comfort, perspective or inspiration. 

Each guest who took the time to speak with me left a small imprint on my writer’s heart, reminding me why it is I take so much time to relate to people through writing.  Though I can’t name all, there were so many precious miniature conversations that I won’t soon forget.  Among the most memorable, was a group of three girls on a play date. They came in to spend some of their time looking at books, (bless them for it) and ended up asking me a trail of beautiful questions, to which I returned the favor. I asked them what grades they were in, what their favorite subjects were, and (most importantly) where they went when they jumped into their imaginations.  There is no such thing as too many questions, especially when a young person finds worth in you–the least you can do is return the favor. I spent the longest amount of time with these young girls and I know it was an investment.  One asked what it took to be a writer, how to get started, and when  she later asked me for my autograph, I asked her for her name so I too could be sure to buy her books someday.  She twisted her pretty, wind-strewn strawberry hair as she smiled with hope at the thought of it.

Oscar Wilde suggested that you should, “Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary,” and I agree. For truly, aren’t each of us one-of-a-kind? Isn’t everyone really just waiting to share a bit of their own unique story to someone willing to listen?  Even though it was less than five minutes, I spent time chatting with two, bright-eyed, lovely mothers who, despite the nature of their sleep-deprived lives, (having had three and four children respectively) found time, somehow, for me.  We shared a few comparisons of our bulging calendars, and smiled at the blessing of having more to do in this life than we had time for.  I know that in the everyday, conversations (real ones at least) just don’t happen.  We don’t make the time for anything beyond the meetings, the updates and the must-knows, but today was different. Today, I was able to make a thin blanket of words to wrap, as comfort, around those who came to know me.  From the couple married thirty-two years, to the pride-filled grandparents of a new baby boy, the ambitious 21st Century seeker of technology ideas, to my angelic niece and cousin who drove hours just to support me … I was the one who was blessed.  From their presence, their requests and their interest in my company, these individuals made me feel anything but ordinary, though that is exactly what I am.

I am a simple person, who desperately wants to live for something bigger, and longer than my own life.  Writing, speaking and communicating with others allows this for me, and that is why I’m so ambitious to make it a larger part of my life.  Of course I want to publish more books, of course I look forward to my future signing and speaking engagements … but I seek these goals mostly because they give me a chance to remind people, from any and all walks of life, that they matter, they are significant, and they are anything but ordinary.  A friend recently said something that, though quoted in no book, will not soon be forgotten by me.  He said, “Remember that words have no expiration date.”  I realized today that I’m counting on this to be true.  I just pray my words might be worthy of their weight on the bookshelf, time in the classroom or text on this blog.  I’ll continue to do my utmost to be sure they are, now that I’ve had the pleasure to encounter some of my dear readers.

Thank you again to all who supported me today in thoughts, prayers and visits. You make these sleepless, type-filled nights ever-so-worth it.

Lots of love,





4.9.14 Not the Way I Want To



My daughter had a tantrum tonight … a bad one. It was one of those irrational, unconsolable, no reason except I’m over-tired types. It stunk. Aside from cleaning up a cyclonic wind-strewn pattern of toys, three bathrooms, dirty dishes, muddy floors and making dinner … I now had a colossal meltdown to deal with. Did I mention this was before a Bible study we were hosting in an hour? Believe it or not, it all started over two measly chicken nuggets. Of course, logically, she could have just eaten them and left the table with no issue, but why would anything ever just be easy on a hard day? Instead, she chose to wait until the chicken was entirely cold and we had ten minutes before company arrived to get herself so worked up she, in her words, “can’t stop crying.”

I was frustrated, to say the least. Of all the things I was dealing with, this was such an avoidable waste of time. My daughter is such a beautiful, sweet girl, but sometimes, like any of us girls, she can become a stereotypical emotional roller coaster. But even through the worst of it, the sobbing hiccups, puffy-eyed-tears, red-blotched-cheeks, and snotty-sniffles, I wouldn’t back down. I couldn’t. It wasn’t about the chicken … it was about keeping my word, and even when she doesn’t want to hear it, I need her to know that I always mean what I say–that she can trust me.

 My sister recently said something that resonated deeply (and this is what I tried desperately to remember tonight). She was having her own mommy issues and said, “Sometimes the hardest thing is when you want to love them a certain way, but they won’t let you.” That is how I felt tonight … how I felt with my son last week … how I felt with my husband the last time we didn’t see eye-to-eye. And I think the truth in her words is honestly the most difficult part of relationships–it’s the disappointment that you don’t get to be what you’d envisioned for them, or to them. When I was a new wife, I thought I’d get to spend all this time with my husband, but the reality was, we were both totally involved in our new jobs and rarely saw one another aside from the latest of hours and weekends. When I was a new mom, I envisioned all lullaby nights and sweet cuddles (and while plenty of them happened) there were also unbelievably challenging hours where I dreamed of a return policy. Thankfully, light always came in the morning … and with it, a renewed definition of what love is.

Love is malleable, yes, but withstanding. It can be disappointed, beaten and changed, but not broken … not completely, if it’s real. Real love can hurt and slight, but it can’t end. And with those I love, even when they don’t let me show them the way I wish I could, I never stop. The poet Pablo Neruda put my feelings into words better than my own. He said …

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”

That is what I want to show–what I want to feel. And I’m so thankful, that even on nights like tonight, the messy ones, I can still tiptoe into my daughter’s room, kiss her hand and feel her small fingers curl around mine, as we both dream of another day–to love.

Literarily yours, 


4.6.14 No Filters, No Boundaries



According to Socrates, “An honest man is always a child.” Embarrassingly, this is completely true … painfully so sometimes! I happen to have two children, and they happen to be brutally honest at the least-convenient of times. Once, when we were in Walmart, there was a young man with a black sweatshirt on in the line in front of us. His hood was up, he was fairly tall, and I paid him no notice whatsoever until, that is, my three-year old son (at the time) decided to shout, “Mom look! It’s a bad guy!”

From being a babysitter, to a nanny, to a teacher, to a mother, I’ve noticed a few indisputable truths about kids–they have no filters, and no boundaries. The immediate assumption is that this is bad, and I admit it has not necessarily served me well every time. My niece once made a point to tell me, when I came downstairs for breakfast, that I looked way better with my makeup on. To this, I had to smile and agree, because I know kids, and thus am not easily offended.

They don’t mean to be like they are, they’re just too innocent and honest to have let the world jade them into being politically correct. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue with niceties and white lies … I fully expect my husband and best friends to continue to tell me I look great when I know I’m in troll-mode. But there is something endearing about the blatant honesty of kids you can’t get anywhere else. I was at my daughter’s dance class once, and a little girl, waiting with her mom came right up to me, pushed my side-braid off of my shoulder and proceeded to poke the freckles on my neck. “You have a lot of moles,” she said, continuing to examine me. I large smile lit my face.
      “Actually, they’re freckles,” I told her.
      “How do you know the difference?” she asked me.
      “Well, freckles don’t pop out, moles do,” I scientifically explained.
      “Oh … like that one?” she asked, poking my arm.
      “Yes, exactly like that one.”

By this time, her mother (busy with her other child at the time) tuned in and apologized with flushed cheeks. But there was nothing to be sorry for, really. The girl was just being observant, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think we tend to be so immersed in our, “culture of correctness,” that we don’t always give people the chance to tell the truth. Sure, I don’t need anyone telling me how many freckles I have, but sometimes I wonder if people become so closed off because of the years and years we’ve spent training them into generic appropriateness. I wonder if people even know how to tell the unfiltered truth anymore.

You wouldn’t believe the look my middle school students give me the first day of class when I say, “I’m going to give you the next five minutes to ask me anything you’d like to know, just be prepared that after, I’ll get to ask you.” For the first three minutes at least, they just stare at me like, “can we get in trouble for this?” The younger grades don’t do this. They immediately come up with fantastic questions about my: age, height, weight, favorite color, favorite food, favorite animal (They’re into favorites, can you tell?) best friend, worst enemy, etc. The list goes on and on until we’ve spent way over ten minutes learning everything uninteresting about me. But the sweet thing is, to them, it isn’t uninteresting. It’s fascinating that someone (an adult no less) has opened the Pandora’s Box of opportunity to answer things they were told never to ask a grown up.

I think I’m writing about this today because I want you to remember what it feels like when someone takes a genuine interest in you. When someone gets past either their or your boundaries and tries to know more about you. Disconcerting as it may seem at first, it’s also kind of flattering. Everyone likes some attention, and many people would love to give it to you, but they feel afraid to–afraid they’ll cross some invisible line or go too far and that, in my opinion, is sort of sad.

You know why kids have so many friends? It’s because they don’t hold back. No filter, no boundaries, no problem. Dr. Seuss, a kid-genius gave this advice to youth, “Be who you are and say what you mean, because those who don’t mind matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” It is a refreshing thing to give a compliment, even if it seems uncomfortable at first. You’ll be remembered because of the generosity of your kind worlds. Or, when it feels like the right time, give that hug. Offer that prayer. Take that walk. Go out to lunch. You’ll never miss out by honestly enjoying someone’s company and breaking down the barriers that keep you from relationships with others.

I once told my students I didn’t wear orange because it looked terrible on me. A few months later, I had a burnt-orange shirt on beneath a sweater and one of my students said, “You’re right Mrs. H, you don’t look good in orange.” Hilarious (and true). Be real. Be honest. And be okay with others who take the chance to do  the same.

Literarily yours,

4.3.14 How About …



I was recently in a Bible study where we focused on the teachings of a man named Bob Goff. He wrote a great book called Love Does, about really living a life of action and intention towards others. Inspired by it, I immediately began to think of all these elaborate ways that I might be able to apply “love” as a verb … and then, reality took over, and the idea of thinking of ideas took the top rank on my, “Someday” list. (I’d like to call it a, “To Do” list, but “Someday” is much more realistic and honest.) Nevertheless, I didn’t have an in-my-face opportunity … until now.

A few days ago, I received an email from one of my students, telling me that CeCe, (or so I’ll call her) would not be in class that day. The girl wrote that today was CeCe’s mother’s birthday; and her mother died last year. Struck by the sad note, I thought of the poem by Edna St.Vincent Millay, “Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies.” There is a line in it that says, “Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies that matters,—mothers and fathers don’t die.” Except hers did. Her mother was gone … and in the moment of the email I didn’t let myself feel it; I let myself think–how sad, but anything beyond it I avoided, for pain’s sake. My mother and I are incredibly close, and my whole life I’ve known absolutely, and without a doubt, that I could never have made it without her.

So, I was incredibly surprised when eighth hour came, and in walked CeCe. It felt like I was seeing her, this sweet, thirteen-year-old girl with the quiet smile I’d known all year long, for the very first time. Before the class started, I walked over to her and said, “I heard today was a tough day,” and hugged her … tight. I held on, and then she held on … tighter. When I finally pulled away, she looked up at me through misty-eyes, too aged with sadness for her young face and said, “You give really good hugs.” The rest of class went by … the rest of the day went by, and I came home … to my mom, who happens to be visiting right now. I told her the story and we did the only thing we could do, pray.
Today, before eighth hour, CeCe met me in the hallway, greeting students and said, “Um, Mrs. H, do you think I could have another hug?”
“Of course,” I said, pulling her in. Students and teachers shuffling around us I asked, “How about I’ll just be your school mom?” And she smiled a watery-smile before nodding.

It wasn’t long before I came to remember something Bob Goff said, “I used to think you had to be special for God to you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” So I think it’s time I say it. I may not be able to change CeCe’s circumstances, but I can show up … like love does. So tomorrow, I’m giving her this.
Dear CeCe:

      I wanted to take a minute to tell you that you’ve been on my heart, and in my prayers. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I can’t even pretend to relate, but I do know what it feels like to miss someone until your life just aches. I agree with author John Steinbeck when he wrote that, “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” I didn’t know your mom sweetheart, but I know you … and if she was anything like you, then I know the light you must miss.

      I wish there was something I could do to fix the pain, but sometimes pain is love in reverse, and there’s no cure for love. What I can do, if you’d give me the honor, is be there. Not always, like she would have, but sometimes … for the moments no girl should ever have to do alone. So if you’d give me permission, how about we do a checklist for life–together. Though I can’t predict the future–where you or I will go or move, how our lives will change, how about I commit to be your mom-substitute, in just these few special moments. If you want to add to, take away, or change the list … I can be there for that too. But for now, here’s a start …

       A dinner date after your first day of high school
       Practicing with you the day before you try out for your first club or sport
       Going with you to pick out your prom dress
       Taking you for ice cream the first time things don’t work out with a boy who has your heart
       Any mother/daughter days that you didn’t see coming
       To make you a birthday cake for your sweet-sixteen
       To get celebration pedicures on the day you get your license (you’ll drive of course)
       To sit in the audience when you graduate high school
       To help you write your letters of interest to college
       To sit in the audience and cry over how beautiful you are on the day of your wedding

      These ten times are yours my sweet girl. They’re an insubstantial gift of time to help ease the time that was taken from you too soon. But I need you to know that you are brave, strong and filled with a light of amazing promise. You will be more than okay. You are a victim, but you’re also a survivor … and I’d be honored to walk with you on this bittersweet journey we’re a part of. Pinkie-swear. 🙂
       Mrs. H

So readers, I would love to hear how you are “doing” love. Please thread comments below and let’s encourage one another to think, and pray, and do.

Literarily yours,