12.24.16 Winter Stars



I love the stars at winter.  More than any other time of the year.  I realized, long ago, that even while we may shy away from the cold, the stars embrace this time of year, as if following the command of Psalm 37:7, “Be silent to the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”  Its as if they are frozen in the glorious memory of the purpose they served over two thousand years ago … to light the path to a baby, so that wanderers might no longer seek a destiny, but a person. 

Mother Theresa understood that finding our faith required attention to the details of life around us. “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … We need silence to be able to touch souls.” 

Well, the stars have always touched my soul – and I hope that this Christmas you find time to look up … time to let yourself be embraced by the glow heaven casts, and time to reflect on the wonder and majesty of the one who put them in place.  Merry Christmas to all.  I pray my words be a gift to you today, as your readership is such a treasure to me. 

Winter Stars

There is something magical about winter stars – the way they hang just a little bit
brighter, reminding us

that even at the darkest time of year, light will not be vanquished,
but distinguished in the heavens … set in place by divinity’s hand

Somehow, they know
frozen in the ancient majesty of what was, that still all these millennia later
we would need their company
their guidance each night
to reassure us that regardless of the chaos


And so these winter stars
illuminate the inky depths with their promises of constancy immutably protecting all beneath them,
glowing more brilliant with the wishes they absorb
and the prayers they translate
to the one who listens above

Radiant of the skies, resplendent gift
glisten on,
and restore these dark days with a hope only you know

12.18.16 People are the Point After All


img_1609Yesterday I was gone Christmas shopping from nine o’clock in the morning, until seven o’clock at night.  Anyone who has the gall to tell you that shopping is not hard work is not only a liar … but also an idiot.  If you don’t believe me just think about the fact that: A) it was six degrees where I live B) the smell of the mall is a wicked combination of fruity-perfume, farts, and french fries  C) the first store, and the second may not have what you need, but the third … yeah, it also won’t D) asking where the blush is will somehow translate into, “sit here for this makeover you didn’t ask for or want” E) you won’t have time to do natural things like eat or pee, because you’ve masochistically adopted the mantra, “One more store!” and F) your heart will flutter with anxiety-ridden palpitations as you realize that is the fourteenth time someone asked you if you needed a gift receipt.

Yes, shopping is not for the weak of heart or mind.  Even for us seasoned pros, it is a challenge.  But as I rested my toes in a rose-water bath at the end of the day, greeted not with candles, but my daughter’s array of happy, plastic-toy faces …  the song the twelve days of Christmas rang in my mind, but I was signing to the tune of the memories of the amazing people God gave me the opportunity to meet, and just then, my sore feet were no longer an issue.  Thomas S. Monson once said, “The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness.  It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things.” 

  1. Roz: He was the Indian gas station attendant, who told me I had a pretty smile.  I asked him if he had a family, and he shared with me that his daughter was getting married, and he was also blessed with a son and a beautiful wife.  I told him about my family, and then I told him my name and we shook hands.  Before leaving, he gave me two lollipops for my kids, and asked that God would bless me and my family.  I told him I’d pray for his as well, and we parted … changed.
  2. Bo: The one-year-old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed little buddy that greeted me at Michael’s craft store when his mother and my cart danced around one another.  I must’ve bumped into them four times around those crazy crafting aisles … and each time, I was greeted with an unguarded giggle and chubby hand, waving at me. 
  3. Lisa: The sweet cashier, who shared a little football cheer with me, even though we were in enemy territory.  As I chatted with her, she mentioned that she’d never been in World Market, the store I’d just came from, and so then and there, I made her pinky-promise me that she’d go and explore just for fun.  We giggled like long-time-pals, and she said when she finished at three, it would be her first stop! 
  4. Stefani: The awesome worker at Ulta, who helped me to become un-brainwashed by the product-overload I’d just been wrapped into with one of the tellers.  When I opened my overrun hands, she literally took things I didn’t need away, smiling like we shared a secret, as she took them back to the appropriate aisles so I wouldn’t get trapped again! 
  5. Levi & Kalia: The sweet empty-nesters, who chatted with me about their ambitious college boys, as I showed them proud-as-a-peacock pictures of my kids.  They reminded me how fast it goes, how much boys will eat you out of house and home, and how a line that wraps half-way around the store is nothing if you’re in good company.
  6. Francesca’s Cashiers: The three girls who floated with me around the little boutique to help me find a purse since the one I’d bought there broke, back in September. Though I had no receipt or tags, they looked it up online and traced things back to giving me a full refund, then covered up for my blunder when I put my foot in my mouth, saying how the hideous cat poster was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen, right as the girl beside me was getting it!  Again … laughter covers over a multitude of blunders!
  7. Picture Book Guy: The gentleman who gave a full-tooth smile and gift of, “Thank you sweetheart,” just because I shared a coupon I wasn’t using at Barnes & Noble. 
  8. 37-Year Married Couple: The aged, gray-haired, elbows-linked couple hobbling together as a single entity in the parking lot, who I said I wanted to be just like in a few more years.  Despite the cold, they paused to tell me how long it had been, and congratulate me that I was on the same path, albeit over twenty five years shy of their mark.  
  9. Target Tommy:  This guy was the six-foot-three (yeah, I asked) Target cashier who laughed heartily, and shared that he was the tallest member of his family. I warned him that he might be adopted, and his parents just didn’t know how to tell him. He smiled, red-ears and all, and told me he’d be prepared for the conversation that was coming. 
  10. Game Stop Geeks: Let’s just say when the first and second attempts don’t work … these guys at least have the patience to answer the gaming questions I didn’t even know I should be asking.  Caught somewhere between new-age hipsters and middle school mentalities, they must’ve covered every option for my son’s Christmas gifts, in-between discussing how Nintendo is a corporate pain-in-the-bean bag chair, and what Lego Dimensions are worth my time. 
  11. Best Buy Mike: At my wit’s end, and near a breakdown, this was my last tech-attempt of the night.  I met Mike, and quickly shared with him that my son said he, “Wouldn’t give up on Santa,” though the dumb gaming system he asked for is no longer being made, and costs a fortune!  We sat, arms folded considering  for a good ten minute conversation. It included Mike role-playing a nine-year-old Christmas reenactment.  He laughed, I laughed, and though I still didn’t have everything “done,” I felt alright with the world once more. 
  12. Beth: The smoothie maker at Costco, who asked to show us a demonstration, then when I said we didn’t have time due to going to deliver food to a family in need, stopped us to donate a thirty dollar container of protein mix, for free.  She cried. I cried.  

There were a dozen other miniature moments just like that.  From Michelle, the mother waiting for her college son to make it through the storm in the bookstore, to Dino, the elderly man left alone at a table as his daughter shopped, who accepted the water I gave him with a warm, rough, dry-handshake and smile.  People always say that shopping is a nightmare, but I’d say … if you really take the time to be, “more interested in people than in things,” it’s a way to restore humanity simply because you’re exposed to so many different lives in one day. 

Maybe nine to seven is nuts … certifiable even … but today, I don’t feel exhausted, I feel inspired.  People are the point after all. 

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others simply because you can.



12.10.16 Nothing a Little Audrey Hepburn Can’t Fix



The last two weeks have been a little rough.  From strep throat to my husband being on two business trips … it’s a bit of a challenging season so far. Yet I’d say none could compare to my morning three days ago.

So, where I live, it is absolutely imperative that we leave exactly on time.  The road I take to work is beastly, and a matter of minutes can make all the difference.  Three minutes past the best time to leave for our morning commute, my daughter was still perched on the floor with no coat and shoe laces undone.  Another minute later, and my son shouts that he needs to go poo.

“Why didn’t you go before? ” I ask flabbergasted.

“I didn’t have to obviously,” he casually replied.

Trudging agonizingly slowly up the now traffic-filled road, we made our way in a series of halting brake lights and exasperated sighs.  When we finally pulled into the school parking lot, my daughter said, “Mom! You’re bleeding!”

“What? Where?” I asked.

“There,” she pointed.

Sure enough. I had a giant splotch blooming through my favorite cream colored (go figure) dress pants. “Shoot!” I exclaimed, parking and immediately hiking up my pant leg to keep the scrape on my knee from making more of a mess than it already had! Did I mention I had heels on?  That might present itself with its own set of challenges on any given day, but that day, with pants hiked up and it being about twenty-degrees outside, it was even more so of a bad choice of footwear.  On top of it all, it was band day … and on band day, my son and his dumb drum plod and clump up the stairs nearly tipping backwards.  So, already walking like a half-dead zombie from the Thriller video, bent in half holding my own bags and now dragging a drum, we made our way to the office.

Immediately, I scavenged the last baby wipe I grabbed from my car, (they’re magic, never leave home without them) and I set to scrubbing my pants vigorously as the sweet secretary started looking up home remedies to getting blood out of pants.  As she was doing this, there were about four more people who came into the office, one of which was one of my student’s parents.  It was not my most professional moment, I might add, sitting on the ground with my pants up scrubbing like I had some sort of accident.

“You can use cola,” the secretary said.

“Um … probably will make my pants look worse don’t you think?” I replied.

“Club soda?” she tried.

“Man, didn’t pack that in my lunch today,” I said, trying my best to still be grateful for the suggestions.

“Salt water,” she shouted out.

“I can get you that,” the chemistry teacher said, waltzing into the conversation.

And about three minutes later, there he was with a little vial of salt water.  I’d hobbled up to my classroom by then, and scrubbed as fast and as hard as I could, arriving, miraculously, with nothing worse for the wear than wet pants and a funny laugh to share  at my morning meeting.

Audrey Hepburn once said, “Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: the first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”

That night, I should have been working on the laundry that’s taking over every room in my house.  I should have been writing Christmas cards or picking up the endless trail of toys that litter our floor like autumn leaves scattered about by a strong wind. I should have been sweeping the pet hair, doing the dishes, or organizing the endless projects I begin and never finish. But I didn’t.  Instead, I took Aubrey’s advice and helped myself up, by curling up to a classic movie of hers, and laughing myself to sleep.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to get me back on track.  A bit of smiles and not taking myself too seriously.  So I embarrassed myself again … nothing new there.  I assume it’ll only happen another thousand or so times in this life of mine.

Here’s looking forward to telling you about the next one,



12.3.16 Such as Him



It’s amazing how disconnected this life is from loss.  Whenever someone important to me dies, it’s like I expect the ground to shake, the sky to darken, or strangers to mourn with me.  I anticipate some kind of drastic reaction to the void now imprinted on the earth, and I am always a little stunned when nothing happens outside to match what is going on within.

He was ninety-two years old … this man – his heart and his mind were sharp as the day of this photograph in his twenties, but complications in the body at ninety-two don’t care about the rest of you.  In his life he was a soldier, a surviving child of the Great Depression, a WWII veteran, a brother, a husband, a friend.  He was one of the last of the Greatest Generation, and knowing him for even a day would tell you why.  He matched wit with humor, war stories with a pocket full of jokes, and never let two weeks pass without a forty-minute drive to visit his ninety-four-year-old sister.  I just don’t think men are made like that anymore.

What hurts is that most will never know, and soon time will wear out even the nearest memories to him.  The closest thing he got to welcome in this life was a worn out, tattered version of hospitality.  And yet – his life mattered.  He was the closest thing my mother had to a father … and his stories became her tales to tell.  Two years ago, she took him on the Honor Flight to Washington, where for just one day, he was treated like the hero he’d always been to her.  From that day on, there wasn’t a moment he could be seen without his Honor Flight hat sitting proudly atop his head.  Besides his ready smile, it was truly his only adorning accessory.


I wish the world had made a little more room for this man … and for all the men and women like him.  For the forgotten ones who lived lives of the truest forms of sacrifice, and the purest forms of humility.  But it doesn’t.  Without the digital proof of a life that social media trails throughout society, many “lives” are lost to the world far before they are truly gone, and that may be the saddest reality of all.

I’m thankful for those of us who did know this man … I’m grateful for how much he gave, regardless of how very little he had.  I appreciate the love he lavished on my mother, my grandmother, my children … and how whenever we’d send him a card, he’d call with thanks as if I’d given him the moon and the stars.

J.K. Rowling said, “To have been loved so deeply … will give us some protection forever.”  But I think those of us left in this world need to take a real look at this man, and anyone like him we have the honor to know.  If we don’t hear their stories, and carry them on, if we don’t try to understand the lives they lived, and the mentalities that made them so strong … we will become the lost ones.  Because there is a far greater loss to us who are living if we don’t embrace the lessons from individuals such as him.

Love you always Uncle Sylvester,