9.27.15 Love Differently


The famous Christan author Leo Buscaglia once said, “Love is life, and if you miss love, you miss life.” I think it would also be appropriate to add that in the midst of life, you might very well miss expressions of love. We tend to expect love, and signs of love to fit into tiny metaphorical packages, wrapped in fancy ribbons of comments and gestures we cannot possibly misinterpret. This simply isn’t so, because life doesn’t often leave much time for the wrapping of such gifts. 

Instead, we need to understand the dimensionality Edgar Allan Poe set forth saying, “We loved with a love that was more than love.”  There is an aged question of whether or not love is enough, and sometimes I think we are asking the wrong thing. It’s not that love isn’t enough, it’s that some of us fail to recognize love when it takes another form. 

I know in my own life, both my recognition and personal expressions of love have certainly widened. So just in case you were curious, (and even if you are not) I’ll give you a crash-course list of how to identify love in the crazy-busy, bustling days we live through. 

Recent ways I’ve said, “I love you:”

*Dipping my finger into Gram’s coffee to remove the two small fruit flys that landed there

*Holding my son’s spit-slick retainer while he plays soccer

*Pretending not to hear my family fart so they won’t be embarrassed

*Snuggling my oldest kitty even after he expelled his most recent hairball on my bed, causing yet ANOTHER load of laundry

*Calling my daddy to talk about nothing, which we both know, means everything 

*Deciding to hand-make Christmas cards with my sister and calling her to discuss paper colors

*Driving two hours to watch my one-year-old nephew smash his baby fists into his first cake

Recent ways others have told me they love me: 

*My best friend calling me to cry because she knew she could

*My son choosing family time over a soccer game when I actually gave him the choice

*Having my mom call me instead of going to bed like she was planning 

*My cousin continuing to play phone tag with me instead of giving up on me and my ridiculous schedule 

*Hearing my students moan in protest when I told them they’d be having a substitute 

*Seeing my daughter hold back her complaints and tears as I yanked through her snarly hair

*Feeling the weight of my ninety-three pound Burnese Mountain Dog on my back when I tried to relax on our outdoor lounge chairs

*Seeing the “likes” attached to my posts as my readers digitally do life with me through this blog

So “I love you,” might look a little different than it used to; but it feels the same – warm as a kiss of sunshine, true as a pinky-promise, and lasting as a memory made precious by the ones who gave it to you. 

Love long.

Love well.

Love differently.


9.20.15 “I’m Fine”



This week I received an email from a student telling me to check out a poem called “To This Day,” written by Shane Koyczan.  Any time a student cares enough to recommend a piece of literature to me, I try to care enough to read it, but this recommendation was a little different.  The poem was about bullying … about scars … and about realizing that sometimes, most times, our lives are built on the words that others have thrown at us, casting longer shadows for us than were meant to have.  I was struck especially hard by this work, because of the girl who asked me to read it.  Beautiful.  Bright.  Quiet.  She didn’t strike me as the type to carry the weight of the impact bullying could have, but then again, you never know.  

No one escapes childhood unscathed, but I think we need to stop acting like cruelty and intentional negative attention are some “right of passage.”  There is something we can do … listen.  Hear the words that aren’t spoken between the daily claims of “I’m Fine.”  Did you ever realize that no one who says they’re “fine” actually is?  There is always a better or worse slide of the emotional scale going on, but we rarely take the extra minute out of our day to ask for a clarifying definition.  

I know not everyone has a child in their life, but since when has harrassment been age-specific?  Not everyone has to watch the whispered battle of bullying commence on a daily basis … but we are all victims of shadowed words that still haunt us … and we can pay more to those who say they’re “fine.”  I wrote the following poem years ago, when I witnessed the undercurrent presence of oppression in middle school, and the numbing reality of surrender setting in.  Well, all these years later, I’m still not “fine,” and I do not believe that coping and caring are the same thing.  As Aeschylus once said, “I know how men in exile feed on dreams of hope.” So share your time, your heart and your intention with those who are anything but fine.  Whether fresh scars or healed … everyone’s shadow can be lessened with the dignity of being heard, seen, and cared about – so care. 

Iʼm Fine

You ask me how Iʼm doing,
and Iʼll always say, “Iʼm fine.” But you have to know the truth of what is weighing on my mind.

In truth Iʼm bruised and broken.
I am tired and distressed.
Iʼve been bullied, Iʼve been beaten, Iʼve been crying and Iʼm stressed.

Tears are tearing up my inside while Iʼm busy looking out. Others pass me without knowing of my fear, and grief and doubt.

I am past the point of hoping
for a change to come my way. Because though the truth is spoken, nothing changes what they say.

Itʼs okay to deal with sometimes, itʼs just something we go through. But I wish that being just myself were just enough for you.

I have dreams and goals and visions. I have talent, and I care.
Though you never seem to notice,
I am sadly much aware.

But thatʼs just a part of growing, right? Just keep your head down low?
Keep your thoughts in, numb your feelings play it tough – put on a show.

Soon I know things get better,
I know things will be alright.
But not now or here, this moment. Looks like one more lonely night.

So youʼll see me in the morning, as I pass you in the line,
and youʼll ask me how Iʼm doing and Iʼll lie and say, “Just fine.”

Praying for healing,


9.13.15 It’s a Boy



Dear Boy,

In the book series we are reading together, (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling) a secret map will only show itself to the main character when he says, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”  I think you may have taken this phrase too literally.  Because it has come to my attention, as of late, that your single-handed purpose in this life might very well be to make me crazy – only I have news for you … I am not so easily lost.  You’ll find, that when push comes to shove, mister-handsome-face, I can rightly be as stubborn as you … if not more-so.  Where do you think you got this wonderfully-terrible characteristic from anyway? Let me tell you my darling – it was me.

And so I think it only fair that I tell you a few things you might want to remedy, as you claim daily, to have no idea why I get frustrated, though I am pretty certain I have said these things to you before.  Please, boy … try hard to remember not to climb absolutely everything!  There is no need to make every single step an obstacle course.  Though I appreciate your premature knowledge of the fact that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, you still might NOT want to climb up the kitchen chair, (as it precariously tips, momentarily making my heart stop) to then jump onto the sofa which you have been repeatedly asked not to stand on. And after you make it to that couch – why must you insist on taking your socks off just to throw them in a corner for me to later find?  Will you forever refuse to put them in the laundry basket?  I do not think you capable of spite boy, but I glean a sort of trickery in you that is unlike anything I’ve yet come up against.  Still – I’m not giving up, and there are a few more things.

When you shower, can you please try to take more than three minutes washing your entire body!?!  Your father and I have come to believe that this is not an adequate amount of time, and we aren’t even sure which parts you regularly miss cleaning. Then, when you jump out of the shower, maybe you might make an effort to get dressed in a reasonable amount of time – for as quickly as you shower, is as slowly as you get dressed.  I know and appreciate your “free-to-be-me” perspective on clothing, but my boy you are getting older … and there are just some things your little sister doesn’t need to see.

Speaking of sight, I must say it is quite unfair of you that you use yours against me.  I know I do not have a chance when those bright-blues turn into crescent moons of mischief, and your smile curves only half-way up your face, as if you’re trying to hide what we both already know … that you’re hiding something I will inevitably uncover.  More than likely, you have trapped our cats in the closet again, or taken a toy of your sister’s.  Maybe you took yet another bag of goldfish from the pantry and conveniently “forgot” to ask.  Of course it could be that you’re harboring a secret Nerf war against our dog, pretending not to have any homework (when you know you have some), or are preparing another failed attempt to ask me to play on the iPad.

While you use your pleading eyes well boy, your ears seem more decorative than useful.  I have tried to pretend, for my own pride alone, that something was wrong with your hearing … fortunately or not, I have asked the doctor to check, and you’re perfect. This means that every time I call your name you hear me, but choose not to.  Did it ever occur to you that I do not particularly enjoy hearing myself on repeat?  I know that you have endless things to do and accomplish in your wonderfully-busy year of eight, but I’d love to be on the same team.

I could go on and on my tricky-trickster. and yet I think I’ll bring this letter to a close … because you and I both know how things will go.  You will keep on being every-bit-of-you, and I will be me … and you will try to drive me crazy, and you will succeed.  But there is one thing you don’t know boy, we will always be okay.  Even when I can’t handle you for another second, I could never handle one second without you.

You are a prankster … a lover of jokes and jests, and sometimes – most times maybe – you utterly exhaust me.  But you are mine, and worth each wrinkle in my brow you’ve given me.  It’s true you make me crazy, but I love you way past crazy, and I have since the very moment I was told, “It’s a boy.”

Yours forever,


9.7.15 Here’s to You … or, Well … Me



         There’s something about birthdays that make me retrospective; its like one day a year, I am able to appreciate my age instead of projecting frustration at it. When you see those candles gleaming, every flickering light feels earned somehow, and I am reminded to feel blessed by the glow. While I’m not humble enough to willingly accept my few threads of gray, I do enjoy the confidence that comes from age alone.

         A few years ago, I read a book from Ellyn Spragins called What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self. In it, she challenged numerous guest authors, mostly famous personalities, to pen a letter to themselves in years previous, when they would need to hear it most. I’ve always thought it would make the most wonderful writing assignment, but it wasn’t until today – the day before my thirty-third birthday, that I thought of assigning the provocation to myself.

         I think the most challenging part of this exercise was figuring out when I would most need to hear from my future-self. There were so many times that it might have been helpful to know that “it will all be okay,” with certainty. Then, like a mental flip-book, sifting through awkward, faded pictures in my mind, I saw her. Seventeen. Somewhere between here and there … moving on, and holding on while parts of my life were trying to let me go. It was hard. Even in the best parts, I found myself doubtful, and often more than a little lost. So here’s to you young one. Or here’s to your future – “me.”

Dear Girl:

I want to begin by telling you something I need you desperately to know. It’ll work itself out. All of it. All of the doubts and insecurities and “what-if’s” you obsess over will find a way to knit themselves into the right places of your wonderful life. Trust a little more. Worry a lot less. Try to live in the moment because here, from the other side of you, I can tell you with assurance that none of the fears chasing you have ever caught up, and you’re wasting your precious time running your mind in circles the way you do.

The people who truly love you now, will still love you “when,” (I cannot say “then” for I am now). And what’s more? Even when love changes titles and directions, it doesn’t leave. There’s no use in fearing loss, because one thing you’re good at is holding on to people that have your heart. But believe it or not, those that someday will take up the most space in that heart of yours haven’t been born yet. He will have your mischief, she will have your eyes, and both will have their daddy’s kind heart. Give it time. You’ll know it’s right when you meet him, because it will feel like coming home. And even better, he’ll feel the same. Destiny and heaven together have taken good care of you … so trust them.

        The last thing you need to do now is be patient. Don’t doubt yourself so constantly, because your fear of mediocrity trails you like a shadow and lengthens, masking the brightness of the sun around you. Others need the light God planted in your being to love them with, and you rob them of joy when you self-deprecate. If you can’t appreciate you for you yet, then at least appreciate yourself for the person others need you to be.

         There is a writer named Sylvia Stefanova who speaks of stars and dreams, saying, “In the stillness of such infinity and completeness, LOVE will radiate from that billion-year-old light, the most genuine sort of love I have ever known – the one that comes of being fully open in each present moment and giving unhurried, closer attention to the meaningful things in life.” You haven’t accomplished all of your dreams or ambitions yet, but you also haven’t lost your wonder or inspiration to keep trying. So carry on.

         Be thankful. Pray often. Love with abandon. I believe in you.

Me, who was once … you.