1.25.15 Mute



 So God, in his infinite wisdom, I know, had a point to everything he created.  That being established, I cannot help but admit that if I were to have a conversation with The All Powerful, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from pointing out a few teensy items that I’ve come to call – design flaws, the worst of which involves not knowing when to STOP talking! 

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.”  I think that sums things up pretty succinctly.  There are way too many people who don’t know what is best and keep on talking anyway.  So in that conversation with God, if I were able to make one salient suggestion, I would ask to invoke the right of “mute!”  Imagine how many disagreements would be avoided if we were just able to quiet another person before they said something stupid and regrettable!  The world would be a happy place indeed. 

 Let me elaborate.  Men, for instance, (yeah, why stall, let’s start with the biggest issue here) need desperately to realize when not to say anything.  My husband is amazing, kind and intelligent, but all the attributes in the world haven’t stopped him from saying what shouldn’t have been on his mind in the first place (in my biased opinion). Like the time I was being sensitive about my looks and he said, “Don’t be silly, you could be just like that pretty lady from church.” 

“Oh could I?  Could I be that pretty?” I mocked.  

And then it registered, a blush rising right up to his ears as he realized what he shouldn’t have said.  

“Oh that’s not what I meant,” he tried. But of course, as any woman knows, once it’s out, it’s out.  And you can’t reel words back in, or trust me … he would have. 

Anyone who has been married form more than a month must have realized that while men need the occasional omitted statement, women need whole conversations blipped out.  (If only a kiss could keep our mouths busy more often.)  There’s an unknown quote I like that says, “If you think I talk too much, let me know. We can talk about it.”  I do talk too much.  I know it, my friends know it, my husband certainly knows it … but, in the words of Lady Gaga, “Baby, I was born this way.”  In complete honesty, I’d like to mute myself sometimes.  It isn’t my thoughts or opinions that get me into fixes, it’s my mouth.  Because for some ungodly reason (Another creation design flaw perhaps?) I am regrettably, passionately attracted to “the last word.” And so … I usually get it. 

Kids are another REALM of, “Wow you shouldn’t have said that.”  I literally have quote books for my kids and students of all the things they say, or shouldn’t say.  My personal favorites are all of the things they say when they don’t know you’re right there, or they know you’re there but think thirty-two is too old to hear what they’re saying.  I won’t get into what I hear 8th graders say … I like to keep my blog PG13 at the very worst, and some of these kids are fourteen now, so you don’t even want to know. 

The point is, God made us with an essential design flaw.  We have no mute.  We were supposed to have been born with a mute; I’m certain of it!  I really, whole-heartedly believe wars wouldn’t have been fought if we could’ve invoked the right of mute at the right time!  But then, there’s that free will thing (another potential design flaw in my opinion).  I guess that seductive last word is still busy ruining conversations all over the place. Why can’t we just resist it!?! 

So what about you?  I’d love to hear some comments of the best-worst things someone has ever said when they should have been muted.  I hope to spark some great conversation on what shouldn’t be said … is that a paradox?!?

My recent favorite is a conversation between my kids: 

Daughter: “Mommy, I think you’re always nice.” 

Son: “No.  She’s not always nice.” 

Me: “Wow. Thank you for clearing that up buddy.” 

Son: “Well …” 

Me: “Let’s be done talking.” 

Son: “Good idea.” 

So, now you know.  A comment too many and it’s out … I’m not always nice.  Finally a conversation I don’t want to talk about! Ha, ha. 


1.20.15 An Act in Two Parts



Grocery Shopping …

So it went a little something like this:


Act 1: (Scene One)

Mother approaches the grocery store at six-fifteen PM.  She has two children with her who, that’s right, have NOT eaten dinner yet … primarily because … she hadn’t bought it yet.

As she parks, you can hear the constant, chatter of little mouths with too much to say to possibly keep it inside.

Boy: “Can I get the cart?”

Mom: “No, they’re stuck.”

Girl: “Can I get the cart?”

Mom: “No, they’re still stuck.”

Mother tries to wedge the cart into the door before either child takes a side of the cart, nearly toppling it over before she can right it again and avoid running over the guy picking up a bag of chips.

Mom: “Guys, don’t rock the cart.”

Kids: “We aren’t.”

Mom: “Well … you almost took out that little girl with your back so …”

Boy: “No I didn’t.”

Girl: “Yeah you did.”

Boy: “How would you know?”

Girl: “I just do.”

Mom: “Okay guys, get off. You can help me grab food.”


Act 1: (Scene Two)

Mother starts to grab things and put them into the cart.

Boy: “Oh! Can I get sour cream and onion chips?”

Mom: “Definitely not, but thank you for asking.”

Boy: “Are you sure?”

Mom: “Pretty sure … yeah.”

Girl: “Hey, you’re reaching things and you said we could put them in the cart.”

Mom: “But you can’t reach those things.”

Boy: “Cereal!”

Girl: “Can we get some?”

Mom: “Yes.”

Boy: “This one!?!”

Mom: “No.”

Boy: “How about this one?”

Mom: “Still no.”


Act 2: (Scene One)

After putting two sensible boxes of cereal into the cart, the mother says that the kids can go find juice boxes, which, inadvertently, leads to running.

Mom: “Guys, don’t run … don’t run, don’t run! DON’T RUN!”

Store Worker almost squishes daughter on the grocery tile floor.  Mother rushes to girl’s stricken side, apologizing profusely to the worker.

Mom: “I said don’t run!”

Girl: “I wasn’t.”

Mom: “Yeah!  You were!  And you almost got crunched.”

Girl: “I’m okay.”

Mom: “Barely! You scared me!”

Girl: “Here’s the juice!”

Boy: “She was totally running.”

Mom: “So were you.”

Boy: “Not as much.”

Mom: “Still too much!”

Boy: “Yeah … let’s talk about that later!”


Act 2: (Scene Two)

In the home stretch and heading toward the checkout.

Mom: “Almost done guys, but we forgot vinegar.”

Boy: “What’s vinegar?”

Mom: “Its clear, and … hard to explain.”

Girl: “Oh, I know what it is.”

Boy: “No you don’t.”

Girl: “Mom! He said I don’t know what vinegar is!”

Mom: “You probably don’t.”

Girl: “Oh.”

As kids “help” put groceries on the conveyor belt, they simultaneously slide the contents across until they slam into the items before them.

Mom: “Whoa! Be careful guys!”

Kids: “We are.”


So … something like that happened to me yesterday, and something like that seemed like it would make an incredibly riveting, realistic, and theatrical portrayal of a basic Monday night.

According to Dr. Seuss, “Adults are just outdated children.”  This became apparent to me after our little production at the local grocery when I was exhaustedly putting away my cart, and saw a guy (not much younger than me) whizz past on a shopping cart turned airplane.  Nearly ramming into his pickup truck, I couldn’t help but laugh and wave as I admitted, “I love doing that too, glad I’m not the only one.”

So maybe things weren’t quite as bad as they seemed at the grocery store.  Maybe I just forgot to dust off my “inner-kid.” Maybe next time I will buy the marshmallow cereal (just once) and play tag in the aisles.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find myself hopping a shopping cart, and flying all the way home.

Be young.   Have fun.   Ride shopping carts!


1.13.15 Maybe Bad Days Do Exist



I tend to be an annoying optimist.  I like to believe in unbelievable things … I see the bright side … I don’t believe in bad days, only bad starts to good days.  But recently (Christmas Eve in fact) I had a terribly traumatic experience; and all at once, I was caught right in the middle of the bad day I didn’t want to believe in.

At five o’clock, we were at church.  At eight o’clock, we were opening Christmas presents.  At nine o’clock, my daughter couldn’t walk, and we were on our way to the emergency room.  Calm seas to a hurricane – just like that.  Fear wasn’t an emotion, or even a feeling … it was a predator that stalked, and caught, and paralyzed me.  Eight hours of swelled ankles (painful to the touch), a mysterious rash, three x-rays, a urinalysis, blood draws and an IV, and we had a confirmed diagnosis of something I’ve never even heard of.  It’s amazing what you aren’t afraid of until you’ve been improperly introduced. 

HSP: a tricky autoimmune response to a virus that wouldn’t go away until her little body decided to fight itself in the process of healing that just made her sicker.  I know I am vastly oversimplifying things, and I know the acronym stands for a complicated medical term, but basically, it is a scary combination of rashes, bruises and temporary inflammation of the joints. Good news?  It is mostly completely curable!  Bad news?  It is unpredictable and tricky and presents itself in all kinds of freaky-frightening ways that are enough to make mommy paranoid.

Will Smith once said, “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.”  I would like to say I agree with him, I do in theory … but theories and practices are not as closely related as they seem.  I hate the fact that I am a worrier.  And I try to squelch my anxiety whenever I feel it stretching long before me, dark and impending, but then – there are moments – moments that flex into hours, and days of a fear that grows from benign to crippling.  My daughter, thank God, is okay.  But just the seed of an idea that she might not have been, watered by tears and nurtured with cries of “I just want to go home,” solidified my fears, strengthening them from shadows to a living, breathing monster under the bed.

In the end it’s not the diagnosis … it’s that the whole event was a catalyst, a trigger, a tripwire into the parts of my subconscious I try desperately to ignore.  Then the questions.  Is she okay?  Why did this happen?  What do you mean it’s rare?  So she’ll be fine?  What do you mean most-likely?  Why can’t I help her?  When do we need to check up again?  It might come back?  And finally, why God did you let me bring precious people onto this planet when I cannot protect them from the realities of it? 

After I remind myself how to breathe … after I close off the emotional side of my brain and click back to the logic setting, I know the answers.  She is okay.  This happened because sickness does.  I cannot help her because I am her mother not her creator, and I can only do what I was chosen for her to do – love her.  It’s not my job to protect her from life, it is my job to be there for her when life happens.  Plato, in his philosophic genius said, “We easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”  And the irony there is … I am sometimes.  I am not so afraid of the dark as I am the light of God reminding me that I’m not as “in control” as I think I am … and I never was.

The world is broken.  Our lives are broken.  And no amount of loving my children is going to protect them from the scrapes, the sicknesses or the scars they are meant to endure in their walk here.  What I can do, is walk beside them.  I can hold a hand, kiss an owie, tuck a blanket, or tell a story, but the only act of true consequence, is to teach them to walk in the light of truth, and not be afraid of it. 

Here’s to cutting the conditions attached to your prayers.  Here’s to saying “I believe” and meaning it.  Here’s to not letting pain become a paralyzer, or allowing fear overshadow your faith.

So maybe bad days do exist, but when the fear rescinds … the light’s not far behind.

Be fearless,



1.7.15 Mangy Santa and a Polish Prayer


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According to Henry James, “It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.” And as much as I hate to admit it … I think he’s right.  Traditionally speaking, my family is sort of weak at making traditions that stick.  I have this idealized version of things in my mind, I’m a hopeless romantic who loves the idea of “something we do every year that NEVER changes.”  But it’s just that – an idea.  In reality, there is very little in my life, or most especially in my holidays, that repeat themselves.

I think I’ll blame everyone else.  Why not?  If I were just me and didn’t have to worry about anyone else I know I wouldn’t change my schedule.  I’d do things my way … the best way of course. Just kidding, I’m not that pompous, but I do like to think that tradition would be much more of a tradition in my world if I could help it.

Sadly, I only have two things that I can truly label “tradition” in my family.  The first is a Polish prayer that my grandmother passed down to my mother and then to my sister and I.  Every time we have a birthday, we bless the cake in her “native tongue.”  I put this is quotes, because although she may once have spoken Polish in the home, I stopped trusting my language lessons from Gram when she told me that “chest” in Polish was “tit-ska.” HA!  Needless to say, I cannot speak it fluently, not even close, but I can bless a cake.  And so will my children … thus tradition lives on.

The second ritual is fairly young as far as practices go, but it is eight years in the running.  Every year my husband and I go to the same mall, to see the same “Santa” with our kids.  Our oldest child is seven, so we’ve had eight years now of pictures with the same guy.  Ironically enough, this isn’t the version of the “Jolly Old Elf” I would’ve chosen to place upon my mantle year after year.  He’s a bit mangy actually!  Some years his beard is puffy and white (and totally fake), some years it is scraggly and yellow-tinged.  One year he (I kid you not) was missing a tooth, and yes – he still smiled with his mouth wide open!  In another photo his hat is falling apart, the white(ish) cotton ball dangling from a string.  But regardless, he is our tradition, and loves to hear every year that we come back just for him.

I had to really think about the statement, “Tradition wears a snowy beard, romance is always young.”  Melancholy and yet endearing, this quote was said by John Greenleaf Whittier.  (You know you’re bound to be a poet with a middle name like “Greenleaf” either that or an arborist, but I digress.) I think he had it right though, tradition is an old man, he’s been around forever, and when I was a kid, I did have that romantic notion that tradition was all around me. But youth has a long memory for a short experience.  Doing something for a few years as a child doesn’t constitute ritual, but it feels that way at the time, doesn’t it?

On Christmas Eve we’d go to my grandmother’s house, then Christmas Day we would do NOTHING!  And nothing meant everything to me.  Hanging out, opening presents, putting on a fashion show of your new clothes or never changing out of your pajamas!  Nothing was a miniature tradition that I fully expected to last; then I met my husband and realized that his family celebrated with everyone on Christmas Day. And as much as I loved seeing everyone, that was the end of nothing.

The funny thing is, now our families live all over the map, and there’s no such thing as a Christmas that repeats itself.  We have celebrated in Colorado, North Carolina, Disney World and Hawaii all in the past seven years!  I’m not going to lie, I’ve learned to roll with the “whatever, whenever, wherever,” mentality, but there is something to be said about the novelty of always.  The thing is, I’ve realized the only always I can hold onto, is them.  The family I’ll celebrate around the world and break traditions for.  And can I note: they are worth every unexpected and spontaneous moment.

Here’s hoping you have lots of reasons to break tradition, and just a few you’re able to hold onto, even if all you’ve got is a mangy Santa and a Polish prayer.

Happy New Year,