Wow. It’s just days before I leave for MomCon. I can’t believe it’s here again.. and I can’t believe it’s been so long. MomCon is a highlight of my year. It’s when my personal mom-energy-account is finally balanced, and (for once) is in the black. (Unlike my checkbook which is never truly balanced, because I don’t care about that .13 I can never find. Granted, I don’t look for it, either …….)

I’ve been with MOPS for over 20 years, and I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks for convention attendance, that I thought I’d share….

*Be forewarned… I am a former MOPS Mentor… I don’t pull any punches, this is the stuff you really need to know- TMI or not. :P

Disclaimer: This post is my advice as a MOPS Mom and leader- not as a representative of MOPS International. :)

MOPS CV Tips and Tricks

1) Bring comfortable shoes. No, really. The last thing you want is blistered toes, trust me, it’s totally distracting, and even if the shoes are CUTE, bloodied toes are not so much.

2) Don’t over pack. You will, so will I, because I pack like the jerk... But, I’m saying it anyway. Don’t over pack. It’s like eating vegetables…. I put them on my kids plate knowing they won’t actually eat them, but at least I don’t feel guilty for not offering them.)

3) You need: pen, paper (I bring a new notebook just for convention every year. then my notes are all together.) bible, an empty bag for free-bies and shopping that you can either check on the way home, or carry on. Don’t forget your camera and chargers… and cables.* Also, some exhibitors don’t accept credit cards, bring some cash for incidentals and shopping.

4) Pack simple snacks in case of emergency. Ummm preferably fibery ones…you will need the fiber.. trust me* (See below) Try as we might, feeding this many moms all at the same time, or finding restaurants that can accommodate your group for your budget can be tough. Time is tight, and you’ll be cranky if your bloodsugar dips. Bring a few healthy snacks to keep you happy and satisfied.

5) If you need a few “*minutes to yourself,” take them! Be honest with your room mates. Tell them to go ahead without you, you’ll meet them at general session. Use a code word. (Our group’s code was “Polly” If you need to take a “Polly”, take one. If you don’t you’ll get the polly-grips.(get it? Poligrip? Does anyone remember the denture cream commercials?) Dude- if you don’t go… you’ll end up feeling like someone poligripped your guts, that’s a very bad thing. Don’t make yourself sick by having nature’s calls answered by a bodily answering machine. If you’re not sure about your roomies’ understanding… bring a copy of “Everybody Poops” and read it aloud to them the night you arrive…. Seriously, I’ve made myself sick trying not to poo when anyone’s around… LEARN from my mistakes! Eat fiber and do what you gotta do. Traveling is hard enough on the tummy… don’t make it harder. Your tummy is your friend, keep it that way. Yes, I’m belaboring this point, because I’ve seen too many women sick at convention because of this:(.

6) I know, I know, your period isn’t supposed to be this week… be prepared anyway. It likes MomCon, it’s prolly all the estrogen. (I think this number of moms in one place, at one time creates some kind of estrogen vortex… strong enough to affect the weather and synchronize schedules… be aware!) Also-you’ll be the super hero of the room if you’re prepared and someone else isn’t… ;)

7) If you are a caffeine freak (I am, so I can call you one…) consider packing some tea bags, or *gasp* instant coffee in case of emergency. Everyone thinks they can grab a cuppa on the way to general session… the lines can be long…plan ahead! It’s worth it to bring a travel mug too- then you’re set! I’m bringing Starbucks Via because I can totally snort it if necessary…. yes- I’ll be the one with a coffee ground moustache…. :P Nobody wants a caffeine headache… or wants to deal with a cranky addict. :P

8) SKIP Something. I know, I know. You paid for MomCon. But, don’t feel like you have to exhaust yourself trying to get the max for the minimum. This ain’t TJ Maxx. I’m not saying spend the whole weekend shopping….I’m just saying skip one workshop (prolly the one you can’t remember why you signed up for.) Just sit by the pool. Explore the beautiful Gaylord, or, have a nice, quiet, unhurried lunch by yourself. You’ll be glad you did. (I always am! :)

However- DO NOT SKIP GENERAL SESSIONS. You will regret it if you do. Just sayin.

9) TALK TO PEOPLE. SMILE.- These are your people! We are ALL in this MOPS thing together. We’re sisters from all over the world. Smile in the elevators! Talk to women who seem to be alone. If you’re shy, watch for nametags or MOPS paraphernalia. consider that an invitation to connect. Make sure NO MOM IS ALONE at MomCon. Make this your personal responsibility. Find out where they’re from. What are they enjoying? Have they ever been to MomCon before? Anything they recommend you do or see? This makes all the difference between Being AT MomCon, and being a PART of MomCon…. Your smile, your chat, your connection makes a difference! ** double bonus points if this is outside your comfort zone…. if you talk to someone you don’t know and its hard for you- find me! I’ll give you chocolate. (I’m not kidding..)

10) Give feedback. Don’t complain. With events this big, stuff goes wrong. (umm like floods and hurricanes and toilets that overflow and lines for coffee and such)

Deal with it. But deal with it appropriately. Don’t stand around griping about the lines and how YOU’D plan things so much better….that just spreads discontent and hurts the feelings of the hundreds of people who’ve worked to make this amazing. (Remember these people are for the most part volunteers, and all work for a non-profit- not just for money .(they’d make a lot more elsewhere) but because they are passionate about YOU. They aren’t just professionals.. they are your sisters in motherhood. WE are MOPS. Handle your complaints like you would with a friend. ;)

Use the evaluation survey that will be emailed when you get home. These aren’t ignored, each one is read and we improve whatever we can, each year! If you see something that really needs to be addressed immediately- find your local field leader and talk to her, she can get word to those who may be able to help.

11) Respect your roomies. MomCon is special. It’s like Vegas, without the sin. What happens at MomCon stays at MomCon. If someone in your room snores, gets gassy or poligripped- don’t write about it in your newsletter or on your blog. Don’t talk about it with your friends.

12) Sleeping with people you don’t normally sleep with, is weird. We all know it. No one wants to accidently put their feet on the butt of the chick you’re sleeping with because your body thinks is your husband and your feet are cold… (maybe thats just me.. oopsy) Try to work out who needs what side of the bed, who needs a little light on, or some noise in the room,in order to sleep. Try to find a room temp that works for everyone… be flexible, but honest about your needs and try to meet the needs of the girls in your room. The morning people can shower quietly in the morning.. the night owls can do so at night…. work together girls!

13) Someone will have a meltdown, Be gracious and forgiving without taking responsibility for everyone’s happiness. When you have women together for any amount of time, someone is bound to have a meltdown. (Maybe more than one) This isn’t the end of the world. Give each other some space and some grace. Remember: You may be the one who needs it later that day.

One of the biggest relational struggles I see, is when moms try to make everyone around them happy.

When we do this, we are less than honest about out needs or feelings. we are trying to be nice, in order to try to make other moms happy. This just makes everyone miserable. Don’t do it. If girls night out isn’t your thing. Don’t go. If you’re not a shopper, relax and meet up for lunch. It’s OK! you don’t have to make everyone happy! (besides, you can’t. it’s just a fact.) Be considerate, but don’t freak.

14) Don’t over spend. Travel is expensive. MOPS has done everything possible to make it as affordable as possible- plan your budget wisely . I also suggest visiting the exhibitor page at and plan a few purchases in advance. No one wants to arrive home and find out their overdrawn or in debt. Be careful!

15) Plan ahead to give- Yup. I know: You had to pay your airfare, gas, meals, registration, get your haircut, buy new shoes, etc…So do I. (except for my registration- because I’m  An MVS and am working during MomCon my reg is paid for.) Yup, the economy has us all on the ropes. But, consider NOW, before you leave, how you can give a bit back to MOPS International during MomCon. Pack your own coffee and give that $30 (whatever your addiction would cost:) during the offering. Skip that new pair of shoes that will just give you blisters and donate the $, instead.

Why? because it makes a difference. MOPS is ours and needs OUR support. We want no mom to be alone… and that costs $. Consider monthly giving, or a one time donation. Just give what you can. But, plan ahead!

You’ll be glad you did.

See you soon!

A blue backpack has taunted me all weekend. “How are you going to send him out into this kind of world? What IF….”  The backpack stops from this:short.  Even an inanimate object doesn’t want to voice the fear we all feel.

My brain battles back… “What are the chances? Our school is safe. I have to trust God….”  But, still. tonight, I’ll pick up that backpack and do what moms all over America are doing. I’ll check homework. I’ll pack a lunch. I’ll sign notes and layout tomorrow’s clothes. Only, tonight, instead of a soundtrack of mental to do list review and complaints about smelly lunch leftovers in a lunch box, there will be a cacophony of fear:

  • “Maybe I should homeschool.” (Again. I’ve already been there.) 
  • “Are there flak jackets that fit under uniform shirts?” (I’m afraid to google this. If child sized flak jackets exist… well.. it just makes me sad.- Sadder. Which is hard to imagine.)
  • “Can a backpack be retro-fit with kevlar? Are there bulletproof backpacks? Should I talk to my kid about what to do…. IF?”

If I were a bazillionaire- I’d be tempted to buy an island and build a compound where my family and loved ones would be safe from sick or evil people. I’d put a bubble over it to protect us from chemical and biological warfare. I’d filter our air- and be sure to have a sustainable agriculture model that would feed us healthy, chemical free foods. I’d make sure we are UV protected. I’d have internet filters that would keep inappropriate content from ever being visible. (I can’t imagine surviving without the internet at this point…) I’d stockpile:  food, medicine, books and yarn. (We all have our vices.Oh and probably have weapons.. but as you can tell, i’m more about comfort than weaponry.) We could probably survive a zombie apocalypse, but, I’m not sure we could survive each other. I’ve been with these people on car trips.

We’d probably die of suffocation. Emotional or otherwise. Which- would make me a mass murderer, wouldn’t it?

It’s probably good that I’m not a bazillionaire.

Since I’m not, and honestly- even if I  were- I’m not sure I want to be locked away on a secluded island with even just my own brand of crazy….What DO I do next? What do I do Monday morning? After 20 children and their teachers were killed…. in their classroom? And a mother was killed in her home. And a broken, sick, messed up 20 year old killed himself?

Parent’s everywhere have experienced yet another paradigm shift. What once felt safe…. feels unsafe. What once was unthinkable, is more than real. I’ve spent the weekend trying not to think about it. I turn off the news after brief updates. My husband put up the Christmas lights. I did laundry and knit gifts and ordered other gifts.

But now- it’s Sunday, and the blue backpack beckons. The clock is ticking. Monday is coming. So is: carpool and pickup and leaving my child all day in the care of others….

Out of my control. (As if I have control here… but that’s another article, altogether…)

What next?

There’s only one answer….. I will pack the lunch. I will check the homework. I will pack the taunting bag and make sure he doesn’t forget it. I will layout the school clothes. I will wave goodbye as he carpools. I will be there to pick him up. I will do the next thing. Because that’s what moms do. To do anything else would be to let sickness and evil win.

I will be nervous. You may be too. I will have fleeting thoughts of island oasis’ and stockpiles that would make a “prepper” look like a sadly outfitted overnight camper.

I will pray. I will trust.

I will pray that God will protect…… I know He does… but I will also pray that God will be present – even here. Regardless of the circumstance. As he was- in Sandy Hook. In the heroic acts of teachers- and first responders, and the invisible loving arms that welcomed little ones too soon, into eternity. After a year of facing several surgeries, and cancer and financial struggles and all the rest of life we’ve experienced…- I know this for sure: Awful things happen- But- he is near. Even here.

Friday- I chose love. Today? I choose trust. In my fear. Trust that no matter what happens Monday- God will get us through- as he will those so hurt on Friday and everyday.  To choose to withdraw and to try and seclude ourselves into safety… would only be letting evil win.

Which is all grand to say… but that backpack. It still taunts. I am still afraid. The world is not safe. I want to choose trust… but how do I manage the emotion?

What works for me:

  • Honesty. I will talk about how I feel. Even though I’d rather avoid it.
  • Connection. I will listen to the fears of others. I will find solace in not being alone.
  • Compassionate Action. I will do something to help others. I need to remember that this isn’t about ME. Nor, is life.
  • Prayer for me. I can’t change my emotions…. but God can, and He can help us get through anything- even a normal Monday shadowed by fear- which is what most of us will experience tomorrow.
  • Prayer for the grieving. I don’t have words- but I can weep with those who weep- and pray that God will be present in their pain.

So- let’s start now…. together. Pray with me?

Dear Jesus-  I come to you with a weary, fear  and grief burdened heart. I come to you with a backpack taunting me…. how can I send my child out into a world that is so dangerous? A world so full of all the things that cause tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting? How can I trust …  when I know that death, murder, sickness, abuse  and accidents all happen? I trust by remembering your presence in other pain. I remember your tender care at the cancer center. In hospital rooms. In funeral parlors. I remember your love in the darkest pains of my life and how you [eventually] bring light into the darkness. remembering helps me trust. I love you Lord- and ask you to be near the broken hearted. I ask you to be with every parent fearful as they pack backpacks for Monday. I ask you to be present as we face fear and choose trust. Lord- I know that in the end- sickness and evil will not win….let the defeat begin in me. In Jesus name- amen.

Moms, dad’s how are you feeling? How are your kids feeling? What works for you?

And… if you happen to be a bazillionaire… do you have any room for a nice family of five in your compound? (Just saying…… still feels like an option….) If you’re new to my site- and are wondering why the nest pic? Enter  “Even here” into my search bar…. you’ll find the stories of how God has shown himself  in nests….

**note: I use the term evil — not as a moral judgment- but to represent all that can break people and create fear and acts like SandyHook… – abuse, mental illness, sin, evil…

“Mom, why is?……”

It happens soon after children start talking. It’s an important part of their development. I call it: “The Question Phase.” (I’m extremely creative like that.  And , I am currently too lazy to Google the appropriate term and too addle brained to remember it. I’m lucky to remember my cell # at this point. ) Anyway- During this phase a child’s only known method of punctuation is: the question mark.

“Why is?  Why does?  What if? When will? Who is? What is? How does? ” The questions pour out with every breath.

Some of the questions are cute… some are awkward. (Noticing the differences between boys and girls often coincides with this phase, thus exponentially increasing parental fun.) Some are downright embarrassing. (Epic embarrasing question upon walking accidentally walking into my backside: ” Mom? Why is your butt so boinky?” )

Fortunately- most are questions parents can easily answer. (Even if Google-fu is involved. Confession: I’m a Google Ninja. The answer to the boinky-butt question? Cupcakes. The end.) And- while the constant drip of questions can be as annoying as a leaky faucet- it can also make a parent feel absolutely brilliant. I admit it: knowing the answers to my kid’s questions makes me feel like a Mommy-Einstein.

At least, it used to.

Until, I stopped being able to answer them.

No- I didn’t suffer a massive brain injury (unless brain farts count as massive brain injury. But, I doubt they do.If so- there would be a lot of middle aged people on disability. Justsayin.) Nor, am I suffering from early onset- well…anything. The truth is-as my kids have matured-(My oldest two are 20 and almost 23)  so have their questions. What used to be simply answered with a quick and sure reply- are now often answered with “I don’t know.” And: “What do you think?”

We now often share the same questions. Questions that can’t be answered easily.  BIG questions.  Questions about: pain, suffering, morality, politics, Old earth, Young Earth, (Middle Earth?) God, Grace,  whether Twinkies will cease to exist and how long the current supply will last-and whether the Mayan’s should have been able to predict their own demise if they knew the world was going to end in 2012.

The truth is: I miss being the go-to for info. I miss having all the answers. Instead of feeling like Mommy-Einstein I feel stupid. and, as my kids ask the same questions I do- I worry about the answers they come up with and the discomfort they will feel when there isn’t a clear answer. But- I’m learning to enjoy the adult- child intimacy and wonder of shared questions.

That is- I enjoy it when I don’t feel afraid. When I was the go-to person- I knew what kind of answers they’d receive. (The right ones- duh.Like every other mom- I’m always right. Of course.) But, now? The truth is- I have less control. I used to be a fact-checker for their lives… and now they do their own fact checking. What if they are: WRONG? (We shall refrain from thinking about all the times I was wrong in answering their questions…. sorry about that- guys.)

This morning, as I prayed about questions and answers and kids…… I found myself feeling sorry. Sorry that I don’t have all the answers. Sorry that I am so inept and limited. Basically- sorry that I don’t know everything.

Which is about the time I remembered- I’m not supposed to.

Every phase of parenting has it’s own challenges of trust- in this phase it’s trusting that God becomes the Go-to for their questions- as He is mine.

And- that where there are no answers found- faith will bridge the gap.

As it should.

Isaiah 55

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Dear Lord- I don’t have all the answers to my [adult] childrens’ questions- the truth is- i don’t have all the answers to my own questions. Help us to always turn to you for answers and help us to turn over to you the unanswered.. in faith and trust. Your ways are not ours- your thoughts are above ours- as it should be. I love you lord- thank you for the incredible children you’ve blessed us with- and thank you for the work you are and will continue to do in each of them- amen

Are you in the “Question phase?” Tell me the questions your kids are currently asking…. I love the way kids think! If you’re in the- sharing questions phase of mothering- how does it make you feel? What are you doing about it? I find myself praying more- this is a good thing;)

I am that chick, you know the one, the chick searching through all the fruit at the store for the perfect pieces. Not a single blemish. Not a single  soft spot,  nor bug among my fruit. I thump each piece and sniff it. Ripeness counts.I check for organic farming methods.

This must be perfect fruit.

I carefully bag the produce and carry it home- cushioned in the backseat of my car- far form the canned goods in the trunk that would surely bruise and probably wreck it.

Arriving home, I carefully unwrap my treasures and gather supplies.

  • Perfectly healthy potted tree. (Selected form my favorite nursery. Of course. )   Check.
  • Pitcher of water. Check.
  • Fertilizer with just the right balance of nutrients and nitrogen.  Check.
  • Sun/grow lamp.  Check.
  • Pruning shears.    Check.
  • Green topiary wire and wire snips.  Check.

I arrange my supplies on the kitchen island.  I prepare the tree by pruning off any bits that look less than healthy. I turn on the grow light and both water and fertilize the tree. Carefully, I clean each piece of fruit. I  wire each piece of fruit to the tree’s branches, careful to balance it from every angle so the tree isn’t overly stressed or weighed down.

Then, I wait.

  • A day goes by. More sun, more water.
  • 2 days, I add a bit of compost to the soil to kick up the nutrient content.
  • On the third day, I notice that the fruit looks…. less than perfect. A bit wilted, wrinkly.
  • What was perfect is not blemished.
  • Day 4, more sunlight and water.
  • By day 5, I notice mold. Soft spots are blooming on the surface of each once perfect fruit.
  • By day 7, I have zombie fruit. Rotting. Putrid. Possibly fermented. I remain hopeful. I want this fruit to grow….. I chose the perfect fruit. I gave it everything it needed to grow….IT MUST GROW.
  • By day 10, I give up. The putresence has spread to the tree’s leaves. What was sturdy and healthy is now blighted. What was growing is now stunted and slumping.

I throw the whole mess out and try again.

And again.

And again.

It never works. No matter how hard I try. Granted- I am admittedly, the Kervorkian of plant life.  But still- you’d think I could get this stuff to grow.  I did everything right. Didn’t I?

What sounds ludicrous to my greener thumbed friends-may not be so ludicrous if you re-imagine the scene:

Instead of a plant- picture me- trying so hard to be a healthy, strong Christian. Pouring water, fertilizer and sunshine on myself carefully measuring my growth. Then picture me- pouring through scripture for the perfect fruit to grow…. making a list, checking it twice gonna find out who’s naughty or nice… (oops- I heard Christmas music at the store the other day, WHILE SHOPPING FOR HALLOWEEN CANDY- No wonder I’m messed up.) I  choose: love, joy peace, kindness….carefully tying them onto the branches of my life. A kind act here, a word of love there…..

I try so hard.

I love to-do lists…. and honestly? When I first read these verses– years ago- I felt like they were a holy- to-do list.  I love marking things off a to do list. (So much so,  that I write things in that I’ve already done- just so I can mark them off…. ) I let that love flow into my walk with God. I tried to apply the same principal here…. Only-it didn’t work.  The truth is- every time I TRY to be all of those things… i end up stinking like rot. I feel frustrated, disgusted with myself and pretty much like a failed Christian.

I just. can’t do it. Maybe, I’m not supposed to.

Galatians 5: 22-26  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

No matter how hard you try- how much sunshine, fertilizer and compost you apply- you can’t put on fruit….. It grows.

So- I quit. I quit trying too hard. From now on- I’m going to spend my time WITH God and hope that he grows His spirit in me…..

I think I’ll end up more fruit- less zombie. But, I could be wrong….remember- I don’t “do” dirt. (Obviously.)

So, how bout you? Do you try too hard and end up with rotten tomatoes at your feet? Are you annoyed with yourself because you don’t have enough patience. kindness, love or joy? Maybe it’s time to put away the to do list and the garden implements- and spend some time- just being… with God….

“Dear Lord- I know you have so much more in mind for me than what I am and what I do….Please help me not get in the way of what you’ve planted by trying too hard… I love you Lord- amen.”

This is from a devotion I shared years ago;)  Something I need to be reminded of on a regular basis. 

Every once in a while my youngest gets obsessed with “knock, knock” jokes. A few days ago we experienced one of those days. Being 10, and creative-  repeating jokes he’s read or heard is not enough. No- my kid wants to be the Bill Cosby of Knock knock jokes. He writes his own material. He’s not alone. There is probably either a book or at least a website devoted to the random “humor” that is children’s interpretations of the classic “Knock, Knock” joke. (Okay- I made that part up. But it could be true.)

I’d Google it to confirm- but honestly? I’m so tired of knock, knock jokes I don’t even want to be exposed to them online. (It’s not the jokes it the stress of trying to figure out what’s funny that’s exhausting… Knock knock? Who’s there? Cheese? Cheese Who? I still don’t get it… Just saying. I’ve learned to laugh when he does.) There are programs for automatically blocking P*R#, I’d consider one for blocking annoying Kn*ck, #noc* jokes?”

But this post isn’t about Knock Knock jokes. (Sue me for a bait and switch title… But really- come on If you’ve read here before you should have expected that.:P)

It’s about doors. And Knock Knocks. Kind of. Because, I think “Who’s there?” is the wrong question. At least for me. And maybe for you, too.

I recently watched a terrific movie about Temple Grandin (A fabulous story of autism and the human spirit;) in which doors played a very important and symbolic role. (Confession: My college kids now believe I’m obsessed with Temple Grandin. It could be true. She’s amazing.)

When faced with a door- Temple didn’t ask : “Knock, Knock?” Nor, did Temple ask: “Who’s there?” Nope. When Temple encountered a door-Temple opened doors. Temple went through doors. Figuratively and physically. (Thanks to a teacher who helped her see them as opportunities.Teachers make a huge difference!)

Which is probably when I became enthralled with Temple. (Or, “Obsessed” according to my children. Whatever.) We are all presented with doors everyday. Choices. Opportunities. The thing is- our opening them also involves going through them…. which involves moving in a direction.

Sometimes doors close behind us.  Once closed, we can’t go back. Sometimes going through a door is good. (Like childbirth…. even though my oldest- upon meeting his first brother- demanded we “put him back.”  Nope- that’s a door you only go through once.) Or taking a risk to submit to a publication. That can be a good door- whether it’s published or not. It can be an act of obedience and a lesson in perseverance.

And then there are “other” doors. Doors that take us “other” places.

Doors aren’t destinations-or simple opportunities…. they are pathways- pathways that can change the direction of our lives. (more…)

I will not be packing ALL of these…. At least I don’t think I will be…

6 1/2 or maybe a 7.  I can squeeze into a 5 1/2 if they are 90% off and  designer.  I can walk with my toes splayed apart like a ducks feet in a 7 1/2-8 if they are 75% off and adorable. (The smaller the shoe- the greater the pain. Hence the dependence on the deal to determine their worthiness of my foot sacrifice.)

To say I have shoe issues would be putting it mildly. I usually blame it on the fact that shoes fit , no matter what day of the month it is. (Clothes do not. Trust me.) I’m ashamed to even post the number of pair of she’s that I own. (I’ve never counted them.  Nor will I. I will, however, be making a large donation of very gently used shoes tomorrow- because seriously- I have too many and thinking about my shoe hoarding is making me think of all the people who duct tape plastic bottles to their feet because they have none.  Not that a pair of silver pumps I’ve worn twice will help them, but at least i won’t have to see my guilt reflected in them anymore- but, I digress. I digress a lot. Consider yourself warned.)

Is there a TLC show about shoe hoarding? I hope not. Someone may nominate me. Please don’t. I’m working on it. No, really! I can quit any time. (See what I mean? Shoe issues: I has them.Classic.)

The truth is: even with my admitted shoe hoard- I spent last night browsing shoe shops online. MOPS convention is next week and I haven’t decided what shoes to pack.  Convention- requires a lot of walking so I will need something comfy. It also will afford me a few hours by the pool so I’ll need something pool appropriate. I’ll be doing double duty as a Board Member and a Field Leader- and those each have their own unique needs. I also signed up for Mom Prom…and have to have the right statement shoes for that- too.I may have shopped in person too. (Found: nada. I already have several potential pair lined up in the foyer.)

I might need an extra suitcase. Or shoecase, to be more accurate. Ugh.

I blame Cinderella.

Every time I pry (or slip) my feet into a new pair of shoes I wonder (more…)

“Tracey? Tracey?”

I kept walking through Target, like the mom-bie (zombie+mom) that the lack of sleep and pallor from late night feedings- I knew looked like.

I heard it again: “Tracey, Trace?”  Recognition almost registered through my mommy-fogged brain. “Tracey? You mean me?” I looked around. I saw a friend. She DID mean me. I thought about pretending I wasn’t me. I was a mess and not exactly feeling like a “visit.” Besides, time was ticking and my boobs were filling. It was almost time to nurse again- if I went off the schedule there would be tears and a possible overflow. Which, I generally tried to avoid. I checked the baby in his seat.He was sleeping.

I decided to risk it. We talked for a few minutes, and I somehow felt like I’d been pulled out of my mom-bie ness. It wasn’t a deep conversation. Just a chat. With another mom. One who also happened to be between nursings and risking the public humiliation of leaking to talk to me….a sister in motherhood with a cart piled with diapers and wipes.

That few minutes of connection between nursings and the target checkout- refreshed me. It woke me up from my mom-bie sleep. It reminded me that I have a name.  Honestly?   (more…)

Even here? Even here.

I thought I knew what my tattoo meant as the Hawaiian radio DJ (long story- let’s just say it FELT like the right time and place to get it!- and it was;) inked it onto my ankle: a bird’s nest- held in the crook of a branch- a reminder of Gods tender care and comfort- as he gently holds my family. 3 blue eggs tucked into the nest of our love held in the crook of a branch dotted with 5 small blossoms representing each member of our family— because we aren’t just eggs- but still growing.

It’s a visual planted in my heart at MOPS convention in 1998. (14 years ago- really? I can’t even believe it.) when the theme was “Feather your nest.” Based on Psalm 84 vs 1-3.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
 my heart and my flesh cry out
 for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home,
 and the swallow a nest for herself,
 where she may have her young—
a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

At dinner we were each given a small bird’s nest on a branch- to remind of us the truth of God’s presence in our lives and His promise of a nest for my family, by the altar.

Over the years- that nest sat on the sill- reminding me of God’s presence as I washed dishes, washed gum out of kids hair, held dripping ice onto bloodied boo-boos and all the other things a mom does in the kitchen.

It reminded me of the truth through our struggle to buy our first home, in struggles with fertility, struggles in pregnancy and struggles in my marriage. It always brought me back to the altar. (It also gathered a lot of dust… nests are not easy to clean.)

When I started working on a book project in process (A Mile in Her Shoes)  I wanted a way to engage. To engage means to- To connect with commitment. My commitment is to the “other mom” the one who’s not like me…. She’s different. I wanted a visual reminder of that commitment. I chose to make that commitment to reach out- with a tattoo.

I settled on the bird’s nest …. because it was one of the strongest visual’s God has used in my life … (It’s possible I have birds nest jewelry, décor and photography… I may have written 6,000 nest inspired blog posts and given several talks….. nest= not a passing fad for me;)

Besides- I thought I knew what it meant.

And I kind of did. But not like I do now.

Now, I know it means much more.

Shortly before Kyle’s cancer treatment began and shortly after my diagnosis with some crummy spine issues and the fear they have involved…The nest took front and center again. This time with inspiration from a new verse:

 Psalm 139: 7-12


Where can I go from your Spirit?
  Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
 if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
 and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
 the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

I sat with an ice pack on my neck and a biopsy report in my hand and I read that verse and talked back to God. (My mother has yet to cure me of backtalk- she’s tried- poor thing- she’s my mom. But, I digress.)

Even there?  Sure- if I ride the wings of the dawn, or move across the sea- (to be a missionary of course) but what about even here?

 In chronic pain and physically limited body.

In my husbands cancer.

In fear of losing my husband.

In talking to my kids about cancer? How bout here??

The answer was simple, yet, not. Two words:

Even here.

Maybe it was a moment of psychosis…. Maybe it was my heart telling me the truth I already knew- or maybe it was God speaking to my heart.

Psychosis or not-  I knew without a doubt- that all these years later-our nest is still in the still resting at near His altar.

A number of weeks later as I sat down at the radiation center- I looked up to see a tiny birds nest in a flower arrangement. With 3 eggs held in it’s twiggy embrace.

I have no doubt he is with us and holding onto us-

Even here.

Regardless of what you are experiencing- personally, in your ministry, financially, or professionally- I believe he has a place for your nest at his altar…. Yes- Even there.

If you’ve never been to MOPS Convention– I hope you’ll seriously consider it….. I assure you- God will plant something in your heart- and he will grow it in your life- Even here.

Let’s pray.

Dear Lord- I know you are with  me- but please keep reminding me… in times of pain and fear- I get spiritual alzheimers……..I tend to forget. I love you Lord- and thank you for your tender care- amen.

“I’m a writer.”

It makes my stomach churn to say it. It feels just  like  when I used to lie about my homework in junior high. (And elementary school. Okay- it may have happened a lot. Sorry, Mom.)

But, it’s not a lie. It’s the truth. It just feels like a lie.

I thought it would feel “true” when I saw my first byline. It didn’t. I thought it would feel true when I got my first contract. It didn’t. Then I thought maybe it would feel true when I deposited my first check…. Nope.

I’ve been thinking maybe it will feel true when I get a book contract. Or an agent. Or maybe when I hold my first *swoon* book.

But this week I’m stepping up to a challenge- one put out by Jeff Goins- 15 Habits of a Great Writer. (more…)

I took the sledge hammer and hoisted it up to my shoulder. “This is gonna be harder than I thought.”  I said to absolutely no one. (But was probably heard by every neighbor on my street. It was a Saturday- which is the suburban word for: “Go outside and dig up or cut down whatever grew while you were working all week.” (In my opinion- yard work is like trying to slay a zombie dragon: it won’t die and may eat your brains.) Everyone was slaying their dragons and planting the next weeks crop. (Funny how we suburbanites plant and cut and plant and cut without reaping anything but sweat. But, I digress- also- thats’ a lie- my husband has a garden. He harvests tomatoes. Enough to choke a dragon.Which- I may try in July. Again: digression.)

I’d say I swung the sledge hammer with the power of an 80’s hairband smashing a guitar, (more…)