I just want you to know- I had your back. I was trying to make eye contact and give you the mom-sisterhood of  “you’ll survive this, smile.” However, you were too busy trying to get the diapers paid for -so you could escape the stares and just loud enough to be heard, critiques of your parenting.

I know the looks.Those glares leave a sunburn on a mom-heart. I’ve heard the comments. I’ve received my share. From other shoppers. From retail workers, from random strangers and pretty much everyone you can imagine. I’ve heard them all: “She should get her kids under control.” “In my day we didn’t tolerate that kind of behavior.” “If your baby is crying- you should leave and spare the rest of us.” And of course the ever popular: “Can’t she hear that child screaming?”

The answer is: Yes. We moms have supersonic hearing. In addition to a hyper sensitivity to the cries of our own child that makes our heart beat in time with our headaches as if a marching band playing in in our body- we can hear all the hurtful things said about us. Yes, even when our kids are screaming.

Here’s the thing, Mom. I’ve been there: planning my trip for groceries and diapers perfectly between nursings and naps. I’ve darted from the house for the 13 minutes in the day when I had the best shot at a quiet, unevent-filled trip. And then my kids happened, too. They’re like that.

I want you to know I saw you make it through produce and head straight back to milk. I heard you telling silly stories to distract the toddler while jiggling the cart to keep the baby happy. I saw you grab the diapers- and I watched while you were sprinting to the finish line.  AKA: the register. I was cheering you on, sister. And then- the kids imploded and your milk came in. Ugh . MY stomach turned. I know that feeling. It’s a fight or flight thing. An instant of panic…. and then a choice: “Do I risk the line and the concentrated judgment there? (Those confined spaces make it me feel like I’m under a parenting microscope. PS: it’s very helpful that they put all that “out of our budget and not in our eating plan crap impulse buy stuff” rt there- to make it more difficult. The alternative to facing The line of scrutiny and  tantrum temptation? Leave a cart full of stuff I need and end up coming back only to make it halfway through produce before this happens again.” I’d stay, too. I have. Lots of times.

It happens to all of us.

I also know you were just trying to survive- and feed little people and keep bottoms from getting rashie. You weren’t shopping for Manolo’s on Park Ave. It was diapers and milk at wal****. Let’s face it. Wal**** is not exactly a place of serenity or decorum. It’s a place of crazy last minute dashes and families and noise and a dress code that  is apparently open enough to inspire a website. Or, so I’ve heard.(It’s a mean site. Hilarious. But, mean.)

So- I purposefully got behind you in line. No, not to stalk you. (Although, it sounds like it right now.) I was just hoping to at least try the eye contact -thing. Cause, I know. I get it. And- I  heard the comments from other shoppers. I wanted to help. Be a buffer. Something.

(Why do people think they’re snark will make our kids stop imploding? I mean, other than some people can be stupid… Or is that the only reason? It may be.)

Anyway. We didn’t make eye-contact. But, I noticed. And I want you to know, that after you left? When the cashier did exactly what you’d feared, and started rolling her eyes and going into the spiel about staying home if your kids are crying? “Blah blah blah.”  I had your back. I didn’t go along with her. I didn’t smile and nod in agreement.

I told her I’d been there. I told her that kids spontaneously combust and you: STILL need diapers and milk. I told her that there were a hundred WORSE times you could have darted in that day- and she’s lucky it was timed as well as it was. I also told her that by the time you’re sprinting to the finish line, you’re exhausted as well as the kids, and you’re just hoping to make it to the car before you cry. Because you heard the comments. You felt, the stares.They hurt.

Basically- I (kind of loudly, cause I’m Italian- or obnoxious or passionate take your pick.) had it out with the cashier so that she- and everyone around us, could get a reminder about what parenting is really like: Hard. And that you were doing what had to be done. And you did. I promise I didn’t go crazy on them. I was all appropriate and everything. But: I had your back.

Even if you didn’t know.

You’re not alone. You’re loved. And it will get better. I promise. Someday you’ll be the one with her kids at school and work, in no rush at wal****.   Maybe, you’ll do the same for some other mom.

Anyway- I just thought you should know.

With love, from a mom who’s been there- and survived.

Dear Lord- mothering is hard. Some parts are harder than others. Wal**** trips are right up there with vaccinations. No fun for anyone, painful and  sometimes necessary. Lord, I pray that you’d raise a generation of moms that have each other’s back.  I pray that we’d try to help instead of snarking and judging. I love you lord- and the moms you bring my way- even when their kids are imploding, I pray you’d bless each one who reads- and encourage us so we can encourage others- in your name- amen.

Isaiah 40:11
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

Ps: I’m typing this on my phone at urgent care -sister- so forgive the type and lack of finesse. Like I said- I’m a mom… ;) As a mom, I’m multi tasking. The urgent care people prolly think I’m awful cause I’m typing away while my kid waits for X-rays and plays DS. Whatever. We do what we have to do, rt? Rt.

If you’re a mom who’s been “that mom” at wal****- and you’re feeling alone. I encourage you to visit a MOPS group near you- I’ve been working with moms there and been helped as a mom there for the past 24 years- MOPS gets moms. And loves them. Even when their kids are snotty faced screamers at Wal****.


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I love juxtapositions. I have yet to meet many uni-dimensional people- and the more diverse- the more I like it.

And juxtapositions- sums up my weekend. Friday was (kind of) a sick day- errands and figuring out how to make dinner for my inlays without actually cooking kind of day. (Hello- spiral sliced ham to the rescue. ) It ended with my Father in-law being admitted to the hospital for an infection. Yes- now, both of my in-laws are in indifferent facilities recovering from different issues. Prayers appreciated. So would a break from sickness and loss and emergencies. But- life doesn’t work that way.

Saturday was an amazing day of blessing one of my best friends daughters with a “”Breakfast at Tiffany’s” themed wedding shower.  It involved wearing a tiara and black satin gloves…. what’s not to love about that? 1625531_10151989161382083_426185128_n For the record- I moved the table to be centered under the sign-before guests arrived… (OCD much? ) It was a beautiful morning for a beautiful couple.

1966828_10152208424091168_2052637838_n-1Sunday, I needed a break. In an- “I may kill people if I don’t get a break”  kind of way.  I told my beloved -hubby I needed a day off. He (wisely) and lovingly agreed. Even when I told him I thought I wanted to go to the Motor City Tattoo Expo.  Yes. I said Tattoo Expo.

Why? Because 1) I’ve never been to one. And duh: adventure. 2) I knew Cee Jay and Dani were going to be there to represent- Dolly Llama Tattoo was in the house! I wanted to support! Both Cee Jay and Dani are amazing artists and Dolly llama is my ink home. 3) I was hoping to get my ugly scar covered with something beautiful I have picked out. And 4) of course— I totally thought it would be a great experience to write about and add to the book in process…


 So- I headed downtown.

 The expo was held at the Marriott Renaissance Center. To avoid the downtown hassle I valet parked. I was a little concerned when I walked into the lobby- apparently there was also a Nation of Islam Event at the same hotel. Talk about a juxtaposition— the lobby was filled with beautiful African American’s- especially beautiful women in white flowing garb with head coverings that made ME want to twirl in the lobby like a little girl I met. It was lovely.

But, I was there for the tattoo expo. Eventually, I found it. (Not much signage in the lobby.) So- I just followed the trail of colorful hair, the smell of fresh ink and the steady stream of saran wrapped body parts.Once I got close enough- the heart thumping sound of music led me the rest of the way. (I love that feeling..just saying.)

When I wandered in- I  felt a little like.. well- like a soccer mom at a tattoo convention. (Except my kid plays flag football. And games. Whatever- you get the point.) It was brightly lit and well organized. Music was loud enough but not obnoxious.

I’ll be honest- I was a little disappointed. Not in the expo and definitely not in the beautiful artwork I saw. I stunning pieces of art on both bodies and in portfolios. It just wasn’t as weird, exotic or adventure-ful  as I thought it would be.  I think I was expecting a freak show. Bodies so modified they looked a little less than human. Outrageous clothes,  tattooed and modified people straight out of Ripleys’ Believe It or Not.  Like this guy. I expected a dark club like atmosphere…not so much. (Umm tattooing in the dark – not possible. or wise… I shoulda known better.)

Instead, there were tables laden with portfolios, sketch books, prints, t-shirts and swag, and enough aftercare products to drown (or purify and protect) the city. All with the typical back drops of shop banners you’d end at ay kind of convention of event.

I was also kind of expecting to be treated like or feel like “the weird one.” While I have a few beautiful meaningful pieces of ink-art- they don’t show in my regular February clothes. Which yesterday happened to be a red tank- leopard sweater, wide belt- black jeans and flats. Because: leopard.  Both feet my are inked- as is my right ankle/calf and my left shoulder blade. aside from my feet- nothing actually showed.  Except I wasn’t treated like an outcast. I was welcomed at each table. Additionally- every random person I smiled at or accosted to get a better look at their stunning ink- was as gracious and friendly as at any knitting or MOPS Event I’ve attended in the past. (My frames of event -reference.)

True- there were a few interesting and over the top characters. Three top characters: one girl who would have been “over exposed” if she were a photograph– and kind of kept walking around on parade. One. Out of hundreds. Then there was one guy who dropped drawer to show a tattoo at a booth- and was wearing what I can only describe as some kind of possibly meat- themed 70’s style running shorts type drawers that so distracted and caught me off guard -that had he walked past me 5 minutes later with his pants pulled up- there’s NO WAY I would have recognized him. Finally there was an awesome shop-owner guy who’d bought a tortoise on Craig’s list during the show, and had been keeping him in his hotel bath tub. After a day an half though- he decided he was lonely, so had him hiding out in his backpack, with some lettuce- of course. (Same dude had an awesome Ninja Turtle tattoo on his foot. He’s into turtles like I have a thing for nests, apparently.)

No lizard guy. No freaks – a few geeks. But they were more science -math type geeks than circus type. It was mostly cute young couples and families. and a few interesting old timers. One sister needle-phobe who was there with he daughter. But mostly families and couples.  FYI: this was definitely a baby wearing crowd. (I swear I felt my ovaries attempt to explode old decrepit eggs in response to the cuteness that was in attendance.) Lots of babies and kids-only 2 strollers. The rest were wrapped and baby-worn by beautifully inked moms and dad’s alike.

There was a bar and enough free rockstar energy drinks to fuel a college campus for a year.

There were competitions… (My girl, Cee-Jay won 2 awards for best cover ups- they were amazing.)  Unfortunately, as I’d forgotten to bring my stilts- I could’t see the judging. But- it sounded like fun and there was beautiful work everywhere so i have to imagine the winners were incredible.

After wandering wound and buying a cute t-shirt )Black- White lettering that says: Tattooed Parent.) I hung out at the Dolly Llama Booth  waiting to see if I could get some work done. (My only other ink plans:  to cover my neck surgery scar- and to make my left foot- ankle piece a bit prettier.) Since I can’t help myself, and the girls were busy- I imposed my extrovert fangirl skills- by talking to every one that walked up to the booth. From photographers to potential clients, show judges and apprentice hopefuls- I talked to them all. It was awesome.

Happily for them- (cause they were busy- and busy s good when you’re in business.) sadly for me- there wasn’t actually time to get any ink done. I’ll be making an appointment at the shop. Which is a great place-and way more comfortable than a convention room, anyway;)

What I learned from the Motor City Tattoo Expo-

  • 1) I still have some pre-concieved ideas about inked people, in general. I hate that.I’m working on it. The only way I can do that- is to get to know people instead of judging from afar.
  • 2) If you are friendly to most people- guess what? They will be friendly back. Even if their head is covered in tattoos and you look like a soccer mom caught in the tattoo – spot lights.
  • 3) There was an awesome couple at the expo with a booth set up just to love people in the name of Jesus- and just because they love people. They weren’t jerks. They represented Jesus with love and grace. No bullhorn. No judgment- no being jerks. I loved that. I also pre-judged them- cause as soon as I saw the booth- I was afraid they’d be bullhorn blaring condemning jerks… prejudiced- yet again. UGH.
  • 4) If you want to get work done at an tattoo expo- book an appointment…. good artists’ get busy;)

Bonus learning: The tattooing process doesn’t make me squeamish at all. However- the piercing thing? Squick and ouch. I was glad that was all in a room I could just walk by—- too bloody too painful looking… Not my thing. And that’s okay. For a recovering needle-phobe, I did great. ;)

And so my weekend went from hospitals to tiaras and closed out with a tattoo expo…. cause that’s how I live life. With people.

Because- I love people. All kinds of people. And- I truly long to learn to love better- and the only way I learn anything- is to practice. – so, this weekend-I did.

John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

PS: Watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time in years- and while Audrey Hepburn is stunning classy looking vision in the whole movie—- she’s also a shallow hot drunken mess…..good ending.. But the movie? Kind of annoying- Holly Golightly is rather pathetic…. I usually think of it as a classic- but I bet it was really risqué in it’s day…. justsayin. Still- awesome theme for a wedding shower;) If you ignore the movie;)

IMG_0108Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be “that other mom?” You know the one.

The one who’s different from you.

Maybe she works,works from home, is a SAHM, home-schools, public schools or private schools her kids.  Maybe she’s organic right down to her shoes and makes her own laundry soap.  Maybe she’s got tattoos or purple hair. Maybe she is younger, or older than you were when you started the whole mothering thing. Maybe she’s an immigrant and English is her second language. Maybe, she’s Muslim, or Jewish or Christian. Maybe she struggles with a chronic illness, child with special needs-or has a different marital/family situation than you do.

I’ll be honest- I’ve done more than wondered what it would be like. I’ve made assumptions and judgments about what it must be like and  how and why she’s different from me.

I mean- my way of mothering is obviously the right way. That’s why I do it this way. Duh. So of course I judge. In order for my way to be right- her’s has to be wrong. Over time, I’ve let those judgments and assumptions build up into walls. Walls that keep “other” moms out of my life.

Over the past few years, God has been doing something interesting with those walls. He’s been tearing them down. Brick by judgmental brick. For the most part it hasn’t been in miraculous Jericho-like ways. There haven’t been horns or 3 day marches. Just- meetings. Accidental meetings where I take the time to get to know some “other” mom.

What I’ve discovered is this: a lot of my assumptions and judgments have been 100% wrong.

I think, I’m learning to love- the other. Here is [one of the ways] the Bible defines love…..

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Cor 13:4-7 NIV

I’ve been doing the opposite. My judgmental walls have been built on assumptions of impatience, unkind thoughts, envy (the grass is greener- over there…) pride- my way is the right way, dishonoring other mother’s unique callings and personalities, seeking to prove I’m right, anger over being judged by others and keeping a record of the “kinds” of others who’ve judged me, delighting when others fail- because it makes me feel like I’m succeeding, not really caring about the truth as much as assuming I already know it,  defending myself instead of protecting others, doubting instead of trusting, giving up that I can connect with others if they are different or if it’s hard, instead of persevering.

What started out as an accident- has become a passion. Those “accidental” meetings have become friendships- friendships that have changed both my me and my mind. For the better. I’m making fewer assumptions and asking more questions. Now that I’ve gotten to know some “other” moms, I know how much I’ve missed out on by keeping them out of my life. I’ve also learned that we never know if, when or how our circumstances will change. Being surrounded by women of all kinds and backgrounds- gives us a collective wisdom to depend on when they do. 

Settling for judgmental walls isn’t good enough anymore. I want to love more. I want to love better.

I can’t help but wonder what the world would be like- if women (and mothers) grew to know and respect each other instead of judging and assuming? What if we learned to love the other?

I think that instead of being threatened  by our differences and spending so much time defending ourselves- we’d be better- if we mothered together.

Even when we disagree-we need each other.

 As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 

I’m not naive. I know that differences can cause conflict. Have you ever seen the ironworking process? When iron sharpens iron- sparks fly- however-the results are worth the risk and the work.

They are worth the risk in relationships, too.

My questions for you- do you catch yourself judging others? Do you make assumptions based on moments you experience from the outside- as a grocery store voyeur- or mall maligner? I have.  Or,  do you take the time to try and get to know that “other” mom?

I’m ready to tear down the rest of my walls. I want to engage with and learn from: YOU. The other mother.

Who ever you are. Similar to me, or different.  I’ve had a taste… I want more. I need more.

So- I’m ready to walk some miles- in the shoes of others- when I can, so I can get to know by a bit of experience what your life is really like- next to you when I can’t walk in your shoe-by listening, to you who live there-  instead of judging.

It’s gonna be a grand adventure.

It already has been;) Besides- it involves shoes! Who doesn’t love shoes???? :)

I have a feeling that if we stopped all the judging, competing and assuming– the whole Mommy Wars thing? Would be over.

Which: I’m ready for. How bout you? Looking forward to sharing more of the journey:) Stay Tuned.


I walked into Walmart a woman on a mission.  I was focused. I was ready. I strode confidently past end-cap, after end cap full of impulse purchase inducing swag. I chuckled at “the man’s” lame attempts to dissuade me from my goal.  “No, no way,not today Mr Marketer. I am not buying a bag of BBQ Rib flavored potato chips… or Shrek Oreos… Today it is about: ME and my panties.”

Today, I will buy: underwear without spiderman or a fly front!” I smiled in satisfaction at my Marine like, mission focus. I confidently strode toward the underwear aisle. And upon arrival, fell into a panty- induced stupor.

There was an aisle. Yes, I said aisle. An entire Walmart aisle of underwear. No wonder my confidence wavered. I was overwhelmed with underwear. And this was just the panty aisle.. I hadn’t even made it to the bra aisle.

Overwhelmed by underwear?  Why, Yes. Yes, I was. (more…)

250px-WonderWomanV5In my mind I was wearing a cape. I was Wonder Teacher. I swirled my golden Lasso of truth over toddlers and they both admitted to and apologized for biting their friends. I tossed my Golden Tiara and unruly pre-k students immediately gave me their attention. My Bracelets of in destructibility protected me from tears, whining and arguments with incoherently exhausted little ones. I had skills. Preschool teaching skills. When I spoke? Kids listened. They even -mostly- did what I said. My days were spent playing in multi colored macaroni tables, sand tables, serving meals and cleaning up meals, potty training and teaching pre-reading skills and social skills. I loved it and I was good at it.

I remember my last day as Wonder Teacher. I stood near the classroom door at 5:30 watching totally out of control parents attempt to stuff wriggly preschoolers into jackets. I tried not to look smug as they struggled to do what I’d been doing with ease all day- getting their children to obey. I smiled as I moved in to rescue those having the hardest time. I used my tough but loving teacher voice. It worked. I hope they thought my smile was just my love for their kids…..it was.


I was also smiling about my secret. I’d taken an at home pregnancy test that weekend. I was excitedly: pregnant. As I watched those little bodies file out of my classroom, I was convinced 100% that I was going to be fabulous. Actually- I was pretty sure I was going to be a better parent than every one of those people who had just rushed out of my room.

I was ready. I had skills. I had a teacher voice and I wasn’t afraid to use it. I knew the warning signs for toddler meltdown. I knew scheduling and the value of structure.

I was also: 21. A newly wed. And yes-we planned our pregnancy. We’d been together for years and we were sure we were ready for kids.

That night I ended up in the emergency room.  I remember the invasive touches in the place I was feeling the most fear ever. I remember a few of the doctor’s words: “Spotting. Threatening to miscarry. Nothing to do but go home- try bed rest and wait.”

Overnight, I went from Wonder Teacher to paranoid bed rest wreck. I cried through Oprah. I cried through bags of Salt and Vinegar potato chips. I cried when my husband had to do laundry after work. I cried when I had to call work and let them know I was hanging up my Wonder Teacher outfit for good. I cried when I had to drop my college class. I also: continued to spot. Just enough to keep me on bed rest. I spotted just enough to cause panicked calls to my husband at work saying things like: “I think this is it. Don’t bother coming home….you’ll be too late.” (more…)

“I want a hand carved Nativity.  That will be the perfect souvenir!  An heirloom!  It will be perfect.” I told my husband- long before we left for our trip to Germany. When we arrived- I scoured every shop in Bavaria searching for just the right one. Finally- in a beautiful, tiny shop that smelled of  raw wood- I found it: Our perfect nativity.

Afraid it would be damaged on the  plane ride home, I carefully wrapped it, boxed it and shipped it from the hotel. (It would have been cheaper to buy it a plane ticket. International shipping from the hotel was: pricy. I’m pretty sure the shops and hotel conspired against all tourists on that one. Everywhere we went it was: Buy it- no problem! Sure- the cuckoo clock- and maybe the grandfather clock?  The hotel will ship it for you!”)  Once home- we had to wait weeks for the package to clear customs.  I wanted it to be there before Christmas. The clock was ticking.

It made it. (For the most part even intact. One corner of the creche was broken:( )  However- it was perfect. A golden winged angel floated above the creche by hanging from a tiny nail. A green pine tree creates a pastoral feel. Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child look exactly as I’d imagined. Holy. Wonderfilled. And then there was my favorite piece- a tiny little mother- holding the hand of her son and introducing him to her Lord (Forget about the wisemen… I wanted a momma!) It was beautiful and meaningful… I wanted it to be the hearth of our holiday home..Yup, it was perfect.

So perfect, in fact, that I decided not to pack it up after the holidays.

It stays on our china cabinet in the kitchen. It’s there. Right now.

Years went by.

I had another baby.

And I got very busy. Way too busy. My to-do list items multiplied like bunnies.

I decided to bake cookies as gifts. A lot of cookies. So many cookies that it was a fulltime job for days.

A job truly, and: I didn’t have childcare. I had: ignore the child unless he’s in danger, care.

I was cranky. I groused as I baked. I rushed. I had gifts to wrap and parties to attend. Parties that involved “bringing a dish.” Which meant: more cooking. I couldn’t even hear the Christmas music playing because my brain was screaming: “I can’t do it all. No one will appreciate it anyway! What’s the point? Why does the mother have to make all the Christmas plans? I can only do so much!”

As I whipped pans in and out of the oven, yelling at the dog to stay back and threatening anyone who dared snatch a cookie before they were counted and divided into the awaiting “perfect” boxes. I heard my youngest- Noah’s tiny voice playing super heroes. “Ha! Got you- Take that! Hi-ya!” Near the china cabinet. “At least he’s busy and out of the way.” I thought. 

I moved on to truffles. As I concentrated on tempering chocolate and blending ganache… I could hear Noah…. “the dog..baby Jesus… Momma.. the dog….. baby Jesus…”  But somehow none of it registered.

After putting a bowl of perfect ganache into the fridge.. I decided to take a break. As I walked to the other side of the kitchen, I noticed funny yellow and gold bits on the floor… It was not, as I suspected at first, Cheerios. I bent to inspect the bits.

“What’s that, Noah?” (Why do we always ask?)

“Momma! The dog ate baby Jesus!” Noah announced. “I told you!” Making it very clear that this was my fault.

On further inspection, I found that she had done, just that.The dog ate baby Jesus. She’d also noshed one angel’s wing and one tiny angel hand went completely missing. (I think she had seconds.)

Apparently, the super hero play had been between the angel and Jesus…at least it had been,  until the dog attacked like a beagle-zilla. In one  cookie filled ganache covered moment- our perfect and precious nativity became empty.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I blinked. A lot. Trying not to cry.

Noah started to cry. “Are you mad momma?  I no do it!” His hands covered his little diaper padded butt… afraid a swat was imminent.

I left the room. I went where all good moms go to cry- the bathroom.

The sobs had little to do with the nativity. It was just….everything. The stress of trying to buy gifts for 32 bazillion people on a single income.  The stress of trying to create a Martha Stewart Holiday with children and pets underfoot. The stress of trying to make many people happy- including myself. And in realizing that in doing all that… I’d totally missed the point.

It wasn’t just the nativity in the china cabinet that was empty.

The dog ate  baby Jesus long before that super hero- smack-down.

… the dog’s name wasn’t Sami (our Beagle) it’s name was busy-ness and the pursuit of perfection. She’d snuck into my holiday and gobbled up the point along with the figurines.

In that moment, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to let the rest of the holiday slip by in a blur. No more cookies. No more perfect dinner. Everyone can bring a dish to pass, I can’t and don’t have to do it all. Clean enough is clean enough. It isn’t about perfect presents… and it isn’t about starving in January to pay for December feasting. I made changes. (And I may have eaten a few spoons full of ganache without bothering to roll the truffles first-I needed to take the edge off.)

Noah and I retreated to the couch. I left the dishes until later. Instead of a swat, we cuddled in front of the tree.

That was years ago.

The empty nativity still has a place of honor on our china cabinet. Nope. it’s never been replaced. Baby Jesus is still gone. The angel looks post- apocalyptic. But- it reminds me that there is more to this season than the pursuit of a perfection… There is a God who became man and brought with him the perfect gifts of grace and love…. Who came in humility from a throne to a dung-pile. (Mangers are not so nice in reality- they smell and have all the detritus, animal and other wise, that any barn would have.) It’s about a father’s love.

This year- again.. I want to remember. I’m trying. It’s hard.

I want to make sure the dog doesn’t eat baby Jesus…..(we still have that beagle… I love her. Even if she ate my savior:P)

I have to:

1) Say “No.” No, I can’t volunteer for this- I can’t give to that… I can’t be everywhere, I can’t do it all.

2) Accept enough. Maybe one batch of cookies is enough.(For that matter- buy cookie dough and pass a spoon.. that’s how we really like it anyway!) Maybe, drawing names instead of buying for everyone we’ve ever met, is enough.

3) Do the things that matter. I’m slowing down. I’m building a fire and reading the Christmas story. I’m watching Polar Express without folding laundry at the same time. (Multi-tasking= doing too much. just sayin.) Cuddling. Listening.

What about you?

What can you say “no” to? What’s good enough? What matters? What tries to snatch the baby Jesus out of your family’s nativity?

Let’s keep those dogs at bay.. together.

This is a post I put up every year- because I need the reminder- very year;) 

Pity Party, Table of (at least) 1. That would be me- sitting there in my pity party ready hair-shirt and orthopedic shoes. (The orthopedic shoe part is a lie. I like cute shoes- even for a pity party. justsayin.) On those days when I sit at that table- the hardest part isn’t leaving the party…. it’s letting myself off the hook for attending.

I’m complicated like that. Most of us are.

Here’s the thing- Pity not a moral failure. When we think of OTHER peoples struggles and pain- we see pity as a part of compassion. When it’s directed towards ourselves- we see it as selfish. Or, maybe that’s just me.

Don’t get me wrong- cancer, chronic illness, loss, grief, all kinds of pain can cause us to become myopic. (Near sighted. Which: I actually am. But is not the point.) Our own pain takes center stage. We focus on it because it is so large, so (seemingly) all encompassing that we can’t see anything else. Forget about  not seeing the forest for the trees- somedays-we can’t see other people’s needs because of our own pain.

Come on, let’s be real, how could it not? Attending and acknowledging that self-pity is healthy and a necessary part of coping.

So is- changing your hair shirt for something cuter and more comfy- (I recommend faux-ga pants. Which is what I call yoga pants never worn to actual- yoga.) Putting on your cute shoes, a pair of glasses (if necessary to change your perspective- I recommend some awesome sunglasses- but that’s again: me.) and taking a look around you.

Not at YOUR circumstances- but at those around you.

The stranger next to you at Starbucks.

The OTHER patient at the cancer center.

The tornado victim.

Cancer tries to steal that from you. You don’t have to let it.  You also don’t have to let it paralyze you with  self-condemnation for a few moments at the pity party. Both are tricks cancer tries to mess with your mind while it tries to kill you or those you love. Cancer is a thief.

This week I took a step away from the pity party-without heaping guilt on myself.  And I took steps to change my perspective to something less myopic.

It wasn’t a big deal. It was actually- technically partly selfish. Part of my coping mechanism (besides cupcakes) is knitting. Monday was a Cancer Center day- and I decided last week that instead of thinking constantly about what WE are facing- I’d concentrate on others. So, I knit hats. Which was good for me… and for others. Bonus.

4 of them.

When we went to the U of M Monday- I dropped them off. You’d have through I was dropping off a donation of gold bricks. Apparently- not many patients/ families of patients drop off hats. (They’re of course- more often to need them.) Honestly- the lady’s gushing made me feel silly. It wasn’t a big deal just a few hours of knitting. That I enjoyed. and that helped me.

She saw it differently. She saw it as meeting the needs of someone else. she knew it would make a small difference in someone else’s suffering.

Some part of me did, too.

I left reminded that even at our lowest- hardest times… looking outward and finding some small thing to do for others- makes a difference. To us. And to them.

So I’m committed- I can’t control cancer. I can’t think it away- juice it away or pray it away- God will do what he chooses in our lives in that regard. I hope He heals. I pray He heals. I trust either way.

Here’s what I can control: Me. What I see. How long I sit at the pity party and what I do when I leave that table. And whether- I DO leave that table. Honestly- the decor- sucks. Nate Berkus doesn’t do Pity Party tablescapes. It’s not a place to stay. It’s a place to sit- catch your breath and then move on to do the next thing.

When we do- without heaping guilt and condemnation on ourselves- cancer loses.

So cancer—- this week- the PSA may have climbed again- but you still lost. Because- I refuse to let you steal my compassion for myself or others because of you.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Roman’s 8)

I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, theLord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  (from Exodus 33) 

Dear lord-help me to have compassion- for myself- my family and others. Help me let go of self-condemnation over pity party attendance. Help me to be a conduit of compassion love and grace to others.  Thank you for helping  me look around and see the pain of others. Thank you for eyes to see. Give them to each one who reads- help each one who reads to let go of condemnation and accept that self pity is part of compassion. Help us to love others the way we love ourselves.- In your power. I love you lord- even here- amen


question-mark“Please don’t ask. Please don’t ask. Please don’t ask.” That’s pretty much what goes through my head every time we talk to our youngest about my husband’s cancer. Cancer and the questions it raises is a constant boogie man under the bed of our life. Like the boogie man. Turning on the light helps. With cancer- it’s the light of truth.

We have work hard to give him the information he needs without flooding him information he doesn’t need or that would just make it harder for him. We mostly manage this by letting him guide the discussion- by answering the questions he asks. Kind of like sex education- we tell him the minimum he needs to know and we answer whatever questions he has. (Sex talks are just a little less nerve wracking than cancer talks. (A little.) Somedays I just want to shout- “Let’s just talk about sex, instead, ok?” Justsayin. Both= hard.

Anyway- He mostly asks things like: “Does dad still have cancer?” Our answer: “Yes.” Can cancer kill people?” Our answer: “Yes. But, not always. Dr’s are getting really good at fighting cancer.” The questions are sometimes random concerns- and sometimes they come up due to TV, other kids, etc… Until someone you know has cancer- you just don’t notice how many times it’s mentioned. EVERYWHERE. From the cash register when they ask you to donate to a cancer fund to an advertisement or news story…. cancer is everywhere. Hearing  about it makes kids ask questions. (Well.. it makes us all ask questions… or at least it does me.. but that could just be an effect of ongoing PTCD Post Traumatic Cancer Disorder.) It’s part of the deal.

There are some questions we don’t like to answer. Like: “Could Dad die?” There are some I just don’t want him to ask. Unidentified questions. Questions I try not to allow myself to ask. (Like “what would happen if” Questions.…. FYI? You can pretend you don’t ask those questions… but they’re there. denial or not. They’re there.)

We are committed to telling him (our kids) the truth. To be honest? It would be easier to lie. I’m tempted to tell him: “Dad’s fine. He’ll be fine. There’s no way this could kill him.” SOme part of me thinks that if I lied, I wouldn’t have to deal with his anxiety on top of our own.

Except, kids are not that dumb. What would actually happen if we lied- he’d feel like he can’t talk about what’s happening. He would stop asking questions, because he would’t trust our answers. His anxiety would get worse- not better. We may get a little honeymoon period when we have less anxiety about him because we don’t have to answer the questions…..our relationship would be damaged. Possibly permanently. Let’s face it- Like most parents- I’ve already messed up my kids enough- I don’t need to add this to the list.

If we end up with a worst case scenario…. is THAT the memory or legacy of his relationship that we want him to have? The answer is: No.

The truth is- we just don’t know. So that’s what we tell him. (Well. actually- we do know… .. House M.D. was wrong… everybody doesn’t just lie.. everybody also: dies. So yes. dad will eventually die. We all will. But we don’t know from what, or when.) Since He’s only 11 and hasn’t watched House, he wouldn’t get that. Some of you are too young to get it. Whatever. I’m old. We know this.) But- there’s no point heaping on the poor kid. truth does;t have to be brutalizing. It can be delivered lovingly. (I’ve learned this the hard way… um I tend to bottom line things… which is not always very sensitive…justsayin. Ask my friends. They’ll tell you.)

Here’s what we follow up the hard truth of questions we can’t answer, with:  “We do know that God is in control and loves us. We do know that dad is fighting and we are going to do whatever we can to kill this cancer. We do know dad has great doctors who are doing their best to kill this cancer. We do know that we’re not alone in this fight. We do know we can get through whatever happens- together. ”  The things we DO know and trust. Also: the truth.

I remember the days when  questions were continuous, annoying but, for the most part, easily answered. (Even if they required a trip to the library or a Google search.) I miss not having all the answers.

However- I refuse to walk a life of faith before my kids that is less than honest. I can’t fill in what God doesn’t answer, I can’t pretend to know it all. I can only depend on my relationship with the one who knows all. So that’s what we’re doing.

Even here. In the middle of the unknown. God is present, and active and working…..even when- maybe even especially when, Mom doesn’t have all the answers.

Dear Lord- I miss not having all the answers. But I also know that I can’t lie to my kid. Please give us wisdom. Please give us courage. Please grant mercy and healing on our family. Bring us closer together as we fight this battle- together with you. Let us walk in truth and trust- even here. I love you lord- be the unexplainable peace I wish for my children. Be the one they turn to when I don’t have the answers. Especially when none of us like the answers we do have. I love you lord and again entrust us all and our future into your care.… even here. Amen. 

If you’re a mom who’s struggling about not having all the answers- it’s okay. None of us do. Whether it’s cancer, sickness, world events, tragedy or just plain stuff we don’t know. it’s okay to be honest with our kids. It’s okay to not know. Mom- spelled backwards, forwards, sideways or inside out never ends up God. Just a lil reminder from a mom who’s right there with you. Even here;)



ImageDetritus: detritus (pronounced dee-try-tus) is non-living particulate organic material (as opposed to dissolved organic material). It typically includes the bodies or fragments of dead organisms as well as fecal material. Detritus is typically colonized by communities of microorganisms which act to decompose (orremineralize) the material. In terrestrial ecosystems, it is encountered as leaf litter and other organic matter intermixed with soil, which is referred to as humus

Somedays, I feel like everything is falling apart around me. From the hem of my favorite jeans, to my relationships and house. Not in a cataclysmic  Typhoon kind of way—just in a late fall – decay laden kind of way.

My stress level rises and swirls like leaves in a November wind. My whole family is struggling to manage school, work, their own stresses, relationships, along with the ever present potential of my husband’s cancer. Somedays it’s really rough. I cry. I struggle. I fear. I pray. I think. I blow up. My kid’s stress comes out in tummy aches and separation anxiety. I worry if my husband is drinking enough water. I worry whether his cough is really a cancerous explosion yet to be confirmed. I worry how this is all affecting my college kids. I worry about the future. I pray for friends going through their own types of detritus. I think about the tragedy in the Phillipines. Somedays it just feels like everything is turning to crap or being hit with crap. (Sorry- that’s the nicest way I can describe it, at the moment.)

Not all the time. But- some times. Not usually for whole days…. but moments. Because: I’m human, I care about my family and we are facing changes and challenges that are beyond our control with outcomes known only to God. Whom I both trust- and fear. Trust because I know he has our best in his plan. And fear- because- as a parent I am painfully aware that our best may not be exactly what we want. It may not even be close

Yesterday, I took a few minutes to go outside and take a walk. (Actually- I probably went for a trespass. I have n idea to whom the land near my kid’s school I walked on belonged to. Oopsy.) I thought I was leaving the detritus behind me. I had my iPod and was listening to some of my favorite worship music…. (Third Day, Mandisa and a side of Plumb, than you very much.) Instead of leaving the detritus behinds me— as I walked through that little plot of woods- I found detritus EVERYWHERE. It was under my feet and was literally falling on my head as I walked.

As I walked (Stumbled, tripped and wandered around- actually.)  I whined (prayed) and worshipped (sang horribly and loudly but also whole heartedly) I noticed something. I noticed beautiful ivy growing among the rotten leaves. I noticed a beautiful crust of white snow over fallen leaves. I noticed the beautiful contrast of un-cluttered tree branches against a china-blue sky.

and then I noticed a decaying mattress topped with leaves and other detritus of fall.

And I became thankful. Not for the disgusting mattress- but because I realized the symbolism.  It hasn’t all been crap. It’s not all falling apart…….

Like the mattress- there have been beautiful places of rest among detritus.

Every day, no matter how bad- has held moments (however brief) of beauty: A meal shared. A hug. A friend’s text. A quiet moment. Reading scripture and finding new refreshment in it’s truth. Opportunities to give and share with others when I feel like a leaf pile after the neighborhood kids have finished with jumping in it. (I don’t know about your neighborhood, but leaf clean up seldom is competed after a good leaf pile jump-attack here. Here the leaves are just smashed and tossed to oblivion. We call it: mulch. we’re green like that.)  Somedays- mulch is all I have to offer others…. but it’s enough. Like truth telling, and knitting for a friend, or caring enough to check on someone…. it matters. God does much with little. As I walked, I realized they haven’t all been the bouncy flouncy canopy bed of my 6 year old dreams….(which I finally did get and loved, FOREVER.) But they didn’t need to be. They just needed to be soft places to land in the middle of the mess.  Like that mattress in the woods.

Maybe today- you’re feeling like your life is surrounded by detritus. Maybe today, you feel like it’s all too much and it’s all a bunch of crap. I want you to know, you’re not alone. I get it. But stop. take just a minute and look around….. what beauty can you find in the detritus? Some relationship that’s starting to grow? Some peace that you can’t explain? The ear of a tired friend – that listened to your hurt as an offering of mulch, cause that’s all she had to give?  Then you’ve found mattresses in the woods too. Take a moment to see them. Maybe even take a walk.

Now…. can you see the branches against a brilliant blue sky and know that the leaves will return? That’s hope.

It’s what I was reminded of yesterday.. and what I pray you find today, Even here.

Dear Lord- somedays I just feel like everything is crap. rom my body to my home- you know all the details…all the detritus. Lord- help me to be a soft place for others- even in my mess and help me to appreciate the places of rest in the detritus…. even when they seem to be an old mattress in the woods… I love you lord- I don’t understand you…. I don’t always like what you allow- But I love you- and in you I find hope and rest. Thank you, Lord for being even here- amen.