Mrs. Burns, it’s really not what you think…

This weekend I was going through school papers for my 2nd grader.  They are learning the elements of a story as follows: beginning, detail, detail, detail, ending. It looks like his teacher has a template with five boxes and the kids are to put one sentence in each to create story.  My youngest comes home with his first one, and his teacher put a big star
“Wow!” and star in the upper right hand corner. That familiar burst of pride overtakes my heart…but this time it’s a teeny bit different because he’s a writer! I dig in for the deep read.

First box: he explains that he goes to sleep in his closet come bedtime. Second box: he introduces how he really wants to swing an axe at me and chop off my arms. Third box?  He clarifies that the object is to kill me, and the fourth and fifth box continues the story along the same lines.

Oooooohhhhhhkaaaaaaaay.  Um, Mrs. Burns? About that writing assignment….

Let’s be clear: I know exactly what he’s talking about but ya know….this little story of his is a smidge out of context for your average 2nd grade teacher.  I can’t wait for this month’s parent teacher conference!  They always save the best examples to share with you when you meet, right? Uh huh.

Plus, I’m looking at the “Wow! and the great big star she put on his work and wonder,  “Wait: did she read this? And if she read this, how is it child protective services hasn’t rung my doorbell by now?”

Let me explain: my youngest pulled a couple of big pillows into his closet, with some propped up and others like a mattress. He goes in there with a blanket, closes the doors, and plays on his mini iPad. It’s totally cozy in there. He asked if he could have a little light so he could read books in there too. Off to Target I go to get a little battery-operated light. Pop it on the wall and voila! Now he hangs out in there with his stuffed animals and books as if it were a little clubhouse. It’s so cozy, he choses to sleep in there sometimes. Ok, many times.  Ok, fine: most times, alright? He sleeps in there now.  He’s abandoned his own bed for the closet.

It really is so stinking cute. Pretty soon he will outgrow his closet but for now it’s just right like Goldilocks and the third of everything.

I used to do the same thing too when I was little. I had to share bedrooms growing up so I always found small places to play like big closets and little corners….but seeing that first line in his story? It felt so Harry Potter-banished-to-live-in-the-cupboard-under-the-stairs so I chuckled and thought, oh, I better explain that one to Mrs. Burns.

Little did I know how my son’s story would unfold. See? Karma’s already paying a visit to Louie Lodge.

The next part, well…  See, my son has downloaded a game called Bowmasters onto his iPad.  It’s a little like Angry Birds but so cartoonishly gruesome it’s funny. At least I can’t stop laughing. He BEGGED me to play it with him so I did and now I’m HOOKED.

Two characters face off, and your choices are a lumberjack, biker, evil scientist, ninja, etc. Each takes turns hurling a characteristic weapon at the other and if you hit your foe, cartoon blood quirts everywhere, and the foe loses a limb or whatever, yet he gets back up, injured as he is, and then takes his turn hurling his weapon back at his opponent. You gotta get the angle and the speed just right to hit your target. When you’ve battered your foe to near death, a big message appears on the screen “Finish him!” (We use our movie announcer voice for that.) And you get one more shot to put a glorious end to your foe.  We break down in a fit of giggles when we play it. My son is way better at the game than me. It’s just funny to watch my character hobble along trying to fight back. It’s so bad, it’s good.

So here, in his school story my son’s talking about Bowmasters but he doesn’t make it clear it’s just a silly game.

Yep, just another one of those OMG moments raising kids. I know teachers hear it all, but um….yeah. This is gonna be an interesting parent teacher conference in a few weeks.

So my dear Mrs. Burns, rest assured my youngest and I really do love each other but let’s be clear: I hurl axes and ninja stars and try to finish him off every chance I get. And then we giggle some more.

On Turning 50

In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”


50! I can’t believe it. I turned 50 this year. What happened to me being the youngest? I’ve always been the youngest, in my family, among my classmates, at work…. Needless to say, a lot has changed.

I’ve been looking forward to this milestone all year. It sounds so cliched but I can’t believe I’m at this point in my life. As people often say, I don’t feel 50 in my head or my heart. Sure, I feel a lot wiser. I’m still a pretty feisty chick but I grasp motives a whole lot better and don’t overreact as I may have in the past. I feel a little bit of 50 physically, as in I seriously walked around like a little old lady yesterday as my Achilles’ tendons were so tight. Need to stretch those puppies! And other than being plump (humor me!), I’m in pretty good health.

I told my husband I wanted to go to a favorite vineyard on my birthday as it is hands down one of my favorite places. The weather was perfect for it Sunday, and we were taking the kids for the first time to show them how pretty it is, not to mention the good food and wine! Little did I know that my sisters, brothers-in-law, two nieces and their families, and our friends the Hires had gathered there to surprise me. It worked. I burst into tears at the sight of them and had extended family and friends sing to me for the first time since I was 16. What a gift.

Perhaps it is needless to say, 50 is a point of reckoning. It seems funny to me now that I had a quarter-life crisis but it’s what prompted me to take stock of what mattered, and family mattered so I moved to Pittsburgh to be closer to them and I LOVED how my life changed for the better with that move. I gained so much more with that change. While I’m not planning a change of address any time soon, I am taking stock of a lot of things.

I believe in God, in a higher power that is a force for good…and I believe every single one of us is the means to manifest that force, so the power of every one of us to focus on love and on the care of our earth, its creatures, and our brothers and sisters, is how God’s love becomes real.

My first priority will always be my immediate family and raising them to be happy, kind, brave, generous, productive young adults. They will get my time and attention before anyone else.

Then again, they say to put your own oxygen mask on first before tending to others so I realize my own health needs to be prioritized higher than it’s been. I love yoga, biking, and hiking so there will be more of that in the future.

Work is tougher to assess. I’ve always been driven to do my best, so I know there is no slacking off there. Plus the reality is I’m the breadwinner so I will do nothing to jeopardize that. But I’ve learned that some things are out of your control despite your best efforts. And right or wrong I throw SO much of myself into work that my self esteem not to mention my health takes a hit when things happen beyond my control. So my challenge moving forward is to do my best always but not put all my eggs in that basket. Time to diversify the use of my talents.

I’m not gonna talk about what there will be less of…it’s not even worth mentioning.

There will be…

  • More writing. I have a book in me for sure. And this blog is a step in that direction.
  • More travel. I love travel anyway, but I really took it to another level this year. I am rejuvenated and enriched every time I go, junkie that I am, and I want my kids to see the places I’ve been…relive each venue through their eyes and discover new places together.
  • More photos to capture the precious people in my life.
  • More charity: we give in small ways but I want to find ways to expand what and how we give.
  • More flowers. Ready to stick my hands in dirt.
  • More friends. Hopefully a season of loneliness that has gripped me for more than a decade is over. I’m a friendly introvert who has kept things pretty close to the chest for a while now but it’s time for a different tact.
  • More growth. Spiritually for sure but really every kind. Growth is hard-wired into me.
  • More hiking and biking with fresh air and trees.
  • More meditation and prayer. It calms me and gives me perspective…helps me set my intention for how I move through and love in this world.
  • More yoga: stretching ought to be the theme for the next decade. I’ve already made good on that as a new, beautiful yoga studio has opened in town.
  • More love and laughter. Everyone can use more love and laughter. And celebrations, even little ones.

Making every moment from here out matter.

What does it mean to be beautifully broken?

The Japanese have a word: Japanese_technique_of_kintsugi_gold_leaf1-e1470131248721kinsugi. Wikipedia describes it as the art and philosophy of repairing a broken object with elegance and grace using gold or silver, not hiding the imperfection but honoring and embracing it as part of the history of the object. This “golden joinery” turns the flaw into something unique and quite more beautiful than before because now, something precious shines through the cracks.

It’s a useful metaphor for so many of us, isn’t it? Some strive for perfection but find it unattainable or maybe unsustainable. Some of us desperately want others to believe we lead perfect lives despite the shame we feel over our flaws. Some of us lived charmed lives that were shattered by fastballs from nowhere. Sometimes our pain remains buried because we have no way to tell our story. Some of us bring it on ourselves because we think we’re not worthy, regardless of where that idea sprouted. Some of us awaken to the realization that we are held back: quieted, stifled. And yet there are some among us who are startled to discover we have outgrown our own skin. The cracks form from within and burst forth with a blinding light, as you see in the photo of Expansion, the mesmerizing sculpture by Paige Bradley.

No matter how or where you are broken, the choice is yours whether to be the artist and apply the gold. It’s so easy to stay broken. It’s so incredibly easy to dwell in the negative, and focus on anger, on what’s not fair, or what went wrong, or what’s wrong with you, and let it define you, as if this is fundamentally who you are.  I know how easy it is to stay broken.

It’s not to say things don’t go awry. There isn’t a human alive who has escaped disappointment, injustice, or trauma…  Grief is real and necessary and cleansing, but the question is whether you dwell there and let it crush you or channel it to lift yourself and others. They tell us that life isn’t what happens to us but how we respond to it. No matter what: deliberately work toward creating beauty in those fissures, large or small, that now exist in yourself, your loved ones, or your community.

It is a noble way to live, weaving gold through whatever empty spaces we find and let it shine. I try to live with a perspective that is all about the gold, the art of finding positivity, grace, humor, and beauty no matter what happens. We’re all broken but do you see, do you create, beauty in it?

If that resonates with you, welcome to the club.

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

Thanks to Facebook, I discovered I really am a writer.  I’ve had numerous friends and family implore me to start a blog, start writing for real, based on the stuff I have posted online, so here goes. It’s a new dawn.  post

This is actually take three (three!) as far as blogs go. The first one began a few years ago but then I felt self-conscious and pulled it down. The second one started about 18 months ago, and I never told anyone about it. So, yeah….

What will it be about? Anything and everything… Ah, being an older first-time mom raising a family. Raising that family by deliberately and actively sharing our values with them. Navigating self-doubt as a professional woman. Travel. Trying to figure out what I want to be when I “grow up”. Overcoming naivety having been sheltered growing up. The battle of the introvert and extrovert inside of me. Love in all its many forms. Our consumer culture. What it means to cultivate beauty. Losing both parents relatively young. Friendship. Picking up and moving, and trying to get settled in a new town time and again. Loneliness. Getting married for the first time in my mid-30s. Melanoma. The state of our country. God and church and spirituality. Life is gym class. Personal growth. Various nerd alerts. Happiness. Race. Priorities. My love of everything Pittsburgh. Tough lessons learned. Daily gratitude. Overcoming depression and battling stress. Finances. Hopes and dreams for my kids. Artistry. Homemaking. Legacy.

You know…the every day stuff. Did I forget anything? lol

Thanks for coming along for the ride.