The One and Only

one and only

I can get a little pretentious about which books I will read, not so smart my brain hurts (although even that’s fine on occasion) but nothing poorly written even though it may be wildly, flying-off-the-shelves popular. I had just read a gut-wrenching, wonderful book (We Were Liars) and picked up this little number as a completely light, no-thinking read.

But I almost gave it up as fast as you can say, “library return.” I’m glad I didn’t!

You see, I don’t give a hoot about sports unless my kids, or at least someone I know, is playing. And this book is about a young woman completely obsessed with football, and in particular, her college football team and its coach, her best friend’s dad. I wasn’t sure I could relate. At all.

Giffin is a better writer than most would give her credit, considering she writes what one might call “Chick Lit,” which tends to be just on this side of the line from full-on bodice rippers. But she’s one smart chica and writes characters with whom I could relate, sports aside. Even the sports scenes, which I should have wanted to skip entirely, read fast and bright, like listening to a great announcer at a pro stadium.

Two weeks after I finished the book, I kind of miss Shea and Lucy and Coach Carr. They’re likeable people, and an author who can write characters with whom I’d like to hang out is an author I will read.

Mommy Guilt

Sometimes the person we need to forgive, the one most in need of the gift of grace, is ourselves. We need to release our own guilt. 

A few years ago I had the opportunity to speak to moms of preschoolers on social/emotional development. As I reflected on my children during the preschool years, the topic that demanded reflection and airing was who I was as a parent of a preschooler. So I talked about the moms instead of their kids, specifically mommy guilt. I suspect most moms deal with mommy guilt long beyond the preschool years. I know I have.

Even though Teen is smack in the middle of high school and Tween is rounding the bend toward middle school, the preschool years were some of the hardest and loneliest years of my parenting thus far. I wanted these kids desperately and waited a long time for each of them, and then they arrived: these little people so different from me.

I thought motherhood would be filled with books, arts and crafts, music and baby gym classes, baking special treats – quiet, creative and mostly indoor activities. And while we enjoyed some of those things, Teen took off running full speed before his first birthday and hasn’t stopped since. He wanted to be outside, up a hill, in a tree, at the zoo, collecting snails and lining them up for races; he got the ‘creative’ but not the ‘quiet’ or ‘indoor’ part of my vision.

snail

Meanwhile, I seemed to be surrounded by super moms parenting super kids. While I made activity charts and set timers to balance high- and low-energy activities and wrestled with boredom and most days felt like I was on a see-saw of incredible joy and wanting to yank out my unwashed hair, these moms appeared 100% put-together, never frazzled, and yes, their kids were eating, sleeping and pooping right on schedule.

I watched and listened and tried to take advice. I read about parenting. I joined a moms’ group. I talked with teachers and pediatricians. I tried to apply what I learned. Some of it helped; some of it made me feel much, much worse. Why couldn’t I be the mother I wanted to be? What was wrong with me? Desperately in love with my son, too often I felt like a terrible mom.

One mom who happened to write down a story much like mine said her “Aha!” moment came when she was carefully making the final arrangements for her son’s sixth birthday party, trying so hard to measure up to society’s – and her own – vision of perfect motherhood. As she set the table, her son came bounding in and bounced apart all the work she’d done. She shrieked, “Can’t you see I’m trying to make a nice party for you?”

Can you see his face?
Can you feel her guilt?

As she attempted to be the Pinterest-perfect mother, she moved farther from being her son’s best mother. ‘Doing it all’ on the outside, inside she felt inadequate, overwhelmed, and burned out.

Popular authors Cloud and Townsend point out that most parents are perfectionistic when it comes to their kids. We want to parent perfectly to raise perfect kids. But we aren’t perfect and neither are our kids. Hence, we experience mommy guilt.

I asked my Facebook friends what causes them mommy guilt and their answers mirrored my experience:

I felt guilty for wanting my child to be more like me.
I felt guilty for not understanding more about who he was and what he needed.
I felt guilty for being low-energy when my child had enough energy to power a large metropolis region.
I felt guilty for not having enough time to care for anything well or even adequately –my child, my home, my husband, or myself.
I felt guilty for needing to work and so being away from my child, and I felt guilty for enjoying my work time away from my child.
I felt guilty for not having it all together like the other mommies seemed to.
I felt guilty when my child was the one screaming in the grocery store.
I felt guilty when I was so beat at the end of the day that I read myself to sleep in my child’s bed.
I felt guilty for wanting to read a magazine instead of Moo, Baa, La La La for the 100th time.
I felt guilty for feeling so guilty!
And this one made me laugh: one friend responded that she felt guilty for hiding in the bathroom to eat chocolate so she wouldn’t have to share.

There are plenty of real reasons why a parent could feel guilty, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the real or perceived pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect parents, get it all done (whatever “it” is), to measure up to unrealistic standards…

I think you follow. Take a deep breath and give yourself grace! Yes, you will fall short. So will the people around you. They need grace as well.

One of the most encouraging things I heard during the preschool years was this: “Don’t compare what you know of yourself to what you see in someone else.” I recently heard these quotes: “Comparison is the thief of happiness” and “Faith and worry cannot live in the same heart.” Maybe other parents felt as worn-out as I did and simply did a better job hiding it, but I compared and let it drag me down. I wish we’d all been honest with each other about the joys and struggles of parenting. Friends, find those safe people!

The single most encouraging thing I’ve ever heard about motherhood: God chose me to mother my child. That makes me the perfect mother for my child. YOU are the perfect mother for your child – God intended you to be and grow together. And along the way, God helps, guides, and supports you. He isn’t surprised that life is hard, that it twists and turns. God has equipped you for the journey, and He trusts you to do a good job in His name.

Of course you have things to teach your child, but be open to the ways that God wants to use your child to teach you. There is no one perfect way to raise children. In fact, since God created each person unique, there have to be as many ways to parent a child as there are parents matched with children. While preparing this talk, I found a whole book on just that. Funny, I found it on my own book shelf. I have decided not to feel guilty about not knowing I had a book that might’ve helped me had I realized I had it.

Get to know yourself. Say yes when you can and no when you need to. Parent from your strengths and find others who can fill in where you’re weak. Rely on your husband, and try really hard not to correct him when he does things differently than you would have. Surround yourself and your child with trusted friends and coaches and teachers who can build them up in ways you can’t.

One time when I felt particularly discouraged in parenting, someone asked me what I do well for Teen. Unsure I was doing anything well it took me a while, but eventually I realized that I cheer him on. I know him and understand him and can advocate for him like no one else in this world. That day I decided I would be Teen’s biggest fan. I will never have the organizational strengths to be PTA president, but Teen will always know I have his back. Yes, I know, most moms are big fans of their own kids. But consciously recognizing my own strengths as a mom helps me to let go of my weaknesses.

Hanging in my kids’ bathroom is a series of sayings entitled “How to Really Love a Child.” One line says: “Teach feelings. Heal your own inner child. Learn about parenting.” Unfortunately, as kids, a lot of us didn’t learn feelings, or at least, we didn’t learn well how to feel. We can let God work to heal the little girl hiding in our heart. We can ask God to help us forgive our parents for their own shortcomings. We can let God teach us how to feel – how to love, how to be kind and gentle, how to have strength and courage. The more we know our own hearts the more we will be able to let go of guilt and teach our kids well about feelings.

Colorful & wise

Colorful & wise

One friend confessed that she thinks she comes from a line of guilty mommies and simply inherited a legacy of guilt. As she pondered the idea, her middle schooler entered the room. She asked if he understood “mommy guilt.” He pointed to a specific example when he knew she felt guilty and then said, “Mom, you shouldn’t feel guilty. None of you should. It’s good for moms to take care of themselves!” I’m so impressed that he was able to bless his sweet mama (may we all have such experiences, eventually!).

The flipside of knowing yourself is studying your children. Think about the process you went through as you first got to know someone who has become dear to you. You observed them, asked them questions, spent time getting to know their likes and dislikes, and after all this time they probably still surprise you. If you put so much effort into getting to know your peers, it makes sense that you’ll have to put even more effort into getting to know your children.

I continually unwrap the mystery God built into my kids. They amaze me, surprise me, frustrate and delight me constantly. Having spent sixteen years with Teen, I know to send him outside when he’s having a hard day, when he’s reading a book, when he’s having a good day, pretty much all the time. And of course that doesn’t work as well with Tween because he’s a different kid with a unique personality and needs. I try not to beat myself up any more about what I don’t know. I want to continually become a humble expert in knowing my kids.

What about when we have a real reason to feel guilty? Hallelujah, children are resilient, and even better, God offers forgiveness. When we admit our failures, ask forgiveness, and seek to grow from our mistakes within the context of our families, we model for our kids health and faith. We can learn to be less afraid of mistakes and more afraid of denying them. Romans 8:1 assures us that “…there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” No condemnation, no fear, no guilt!

You and I are God’s children, and so are our children. God doesn’t abandon His own. God loves your child more than you do. He fearfully and wonderfully made your child, and He is deeply invested in their growth and safety. Psalm 27:10 promises: “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”

Not long ago one of my kids pronounced me “the worst mom ever!” I told another mom and she burst out laughing, “No way! That’s my title. You can’t have it. I am the worst mom ever!” Her perspective brought me back to myself. I am not my kids’ mom in order to be their best friend. If I’m doing my job well, they will occasionally not like me at all. And more often than I’d like I will not do my job well. I am not a super mom but I am a good enough mom in love with my kids and trying to be the mom they need.

We’re not perfect and God loves us anyway. We’re not perfect and our kids love us anyway. Let’s give ourselves the grace God wants to freely pour out on us. My favorite line from “How to Really Love a Child” is this: “If they’re crabby, put them in water. If they’re unlovable, love yourself.” Stop the mommy guilt. Let’s trust God and learn to be gentle with ourselves and gracious with others.

Releasing Our Guilt: Confession

Imagine the scene: a little girl, about four years old, wispy white-blond curls hanging to her shoulders, plays in her mother’s room while Mom takes a shower. She wanders over to the nightstand and gently slides open the drawer. Inside she spies her mother’s jewelry. Entranced, she picks up an earring, gold inset with a pearl. But in her clumsy fingers, and to her dismay, the stone falls out of its setting. What can she do with this now-broken treasure? She quickly shuts the drawer and tucks the earring and pearl under the edge of the long white curtains hanging just behind the nightstand. With the evidence out of site, Mom will never know that the child had anything to do with the earring.

Except… The guilty child returns to check on the broken bit of beauty. She tucks back the curtain, and a large black spider lurks in the earring’s place. Horrified, the girl drops the curtain, certain that the spider is a magical omen of judgment for her wrongdoing…

house-spiders-13

Interesting which childhood memories linger into adulthood, isn’t it? I can still feel the gasp in my throat, the thudding of my heart, the terror shaking my limbs. And yet I don’t remember what came next. I think I must have confessed to my mom, as I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to bear that guilt interminably.

Not long ago, Tween asked if we could talk about something, his tone making it clear that he had something serious on his mind. His friend had entrusted him with a secret, yet while he was working on a school project with another friend, he accidentally blurted out the secret. Tween felt terrible, sure that his friend would feel betrayed and unable to trust him ever again. He asked what he should do.

What should we do when we’ve hurt someone, even if they don’t know about it (yet)? Confess.

What do we want to do about it? Hide the evidence until we’re caught, and then blame someone else. At least make excuses.

Confession is hard. It’s so much nicer to avoid those deep, dark explorations of our hearts and minds, to pretend we’ve got it all together, to deny any and all wrongdoing.

Tween took the high road. He confessed that he had not kept the secret. And fortunately, his friend forgave him. In the end, both boys came out winners: Tween released his guilt and will be more careful in the future not to betray confidence; but their friendship itself is stronger as they trusted each other with truth and grace. They now understand their friendship as a safe place, where neither has to be perfect and both can be forgiven.

Confessing our sins before God is hard enough, but confessing to another human being is a different story altogether. We risk rejection and condemnation. Why even bother when the Bible is crystal clear that God forgives us when we confess (1 John 1:9)?

A dear friend taught me the value of confession. She had participated in an intensive discipleship training program where they took seriously traditions of the church that many in Protestant circles have ignored. One evening as she had dinner with Guy and I she suddenly blurted out: “Can I confess something to you both?”

I don’t think I had ever heard those words spoken aloud before. And certainly not about something that had nothing whatsoever to do with us. She hadn’t done anything to offend us, no lie or broken trust. Rather, she had already confessed to God but still needed to hear the words of absolution spoken aloud: “God has heard your confession and you are forgiven.” Just like sometimes we need to feel human arms embracing us in order to experienced God’s love, she needed trustworthy people to play a priestly role.

You know what? While I remember that she confessed, I don’t remember the details of her confession. It reminds me of this beautiful passage from Psalm 103:

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.

With confession comes freedom. And a bonus: her confession changed the quality of our friendship as I never have to fear that she will withhold forgiveness. In fact, I trust her like few other people in my life. Those who recognize their own need for grace are far more likely to extend grace to others.

No one is perfect. We all blow it and need forgiveness. We are sinners in desperate need of a Savior. Through the cross of Christ, God stands ready to forgive our confessed sins. May we also be a people who freely give the grace to which He has called us.

Connect
Reflect on a childhood experience when you did something wrong. How did you feel before and after you either got caught or told someone what you did?

Study
Read aloud James 5:14-20.
How do you understand the connection in this passage between sickness and sin?Explain the roles of the sinner, God, other believers, and prayer in the discipline of confession.
Read James 4:7-10, a picture of repentance.
How is repentance related to confession?
Sometimes we want to excuse sin rather than confess it. What steps of confession do you see in this passage?

Live
Reflect on this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy… He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”
How can confession help you see differently yourself and God’s work of salvation through Christ?
What stands in the way of more Christians practicing confession?
How might a discipline of confession affect your future behavior?
When have you practiced confession? Describe the experience.
What can you do to foster a grace-filled community in which people feel safe to confess their sins to one another?
Which Faith Training Exercises have you tried recently? Share joys and struggles.
Which exercises might God call you to this week, and why?

Pray
Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you freely live the reality of Christ’s forgiveness for your sins.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy Day! Put on your hats. Work together to solve the clues. Split the pot o' gold. Luck o' the Blarney Stone be with you!

“Happy Day! Put on your hats. Work together to solve the clues. Split the pot o’ gold. Luck of the Blarney Stone to you!”

The leprechauns stopped by to lead the boys on their annual treasure hunt. Our leprechauns don’t come in the wee hours, and we have never tried to trap them. Their only mischief is to create silly clues that have the kids running from side-to-side of the house, laughing all the way.

We started this tradition when Teen was in 1st grade and Tween a toddler. Teen’s school had a book fair, and we decided we could justify buying more books if they were gifts for an occasion. The next holiday on the calendar was St. Patrick’s Day, which worked for us, especially as both of our kids have Irish names. We bought a few books for each boy, wrapped them in different paper, created a series of pictographs, and send the kids on a hunt working together.

The tradition stuck, but over the years the gifts have changed. One year Teen got a crepe pan and Tween got music for his iPod. This year they both got new boxers. They always get chocolate coins, because of course!

See if you can solve the clues: Cat Tree Harry Potter Roomba

See if you can solve the clues:
Cat Tree (an easy ones)
Harry Potter (kids checked all the potted plants, especially the hairy ones)
Roomba (kids thought this was Tree House)

Practical items can make funny gifts but need a little sweetness.

Practical items can make funny gifts but require a little sweetness alongside.

The treasure hunt ended with a veggie shepherd’s pie, with Irish soda bread for dessert.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/4 c white whole wheat flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
5 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 c non-dairy milk + 1 Tbsp lemon juice – combine and set aside
2/3 c raisins, craisins, or dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Spray 8-inch diameter cake pan. Whisk flour, 4 Tbsp sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips (or tines of a fork) combine until coarse meal forms. Make well in center of flour mixture and add milk/lemon juice. Gradually stir to combine (batter will be thick). Mix in final ingredient of choice.

Transfer dough to prepared pan and flatten slightly (I use fork tines and it makes an interesting pattern – Tween says, “Like birds’ feet!”). If desired, sprinkle dough with remaining 1 Tbsp sugar.

Bake until lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, and preferably with a spread of vegan butter or jam.

This recipe comes together so quickly that I made two loaves, one with chocolate chips and the other with craisins. I sprinkled the craisin loaf with sugar and left the chocolate loaf plain. Both turned out delicious.

An Old Irish Blessing
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

 

Uncluttering Our Lives: Simplicity

Oh, the irony of the day set aside to consider simplicity being more complicated than any typical day! Between church, sports, and school commitments, this family set off running in multiple directions. Some of us said goodbye more than twelve hours ago and haven’t been face-to-face since. And before bedtime one kid suddenly started puking. Nope, nothing simple about this day.

Let’s face it: simplicity is simply a struggle for most of us. Culture pushes us to be more, do more, buy more, more, MORE! We measure our worth – consciously or not – by the houses we live in, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the gadgets we carry, the black space (as opposed to blank space) on our calendars.

I am not a simple gal, though I long to be. I dreamily page through each issue of Real Simple magazine, knowing it is not now nor ever will be my life’s reality.

I am dramatic and disorganized, complicated and continually overwhelmed. I fight hard, and maybe not hard enough, against the entropy determined to rule our home. As much as I dislike being a stuff manager, I spend a fair share of every day shuffling our belongings (backpacks, shoes, laundry, dishes…) from here to there and another fair share ignoring belongings that ought to be shuffled. No matter the organizational systems set in place (yes, we have key bowls and shoe baskets, not to mention laundry baskets and towel hooks), it still feels like a sisyphean battle.

After remodeling bids came in way too high, dear friends have recently taken advantage of the economic upturn to sell their house. Any move prompts a purge, and they purged prior to putting their home on the market and again more thoroughly once it sold. Watching the process has initiated something in me, and I have begun to ask myself (and Guy, who might be a tad overwhelmed at this turn of ‘tude): “If we were moving, would we move this?”

We opened the garage for just one hour this weekend and came up with an obscene number of things we could donate or sell, some stuff in good usable condition but so well put away (read: ignored) that we hadn’t seen it in years. We’ve listed only a fraction on a local ‘garage sale’ listserve, and took a trunk-full to the Rescue Mission drop-box. We have so much more to do!

A laundry basket filled with items to sell/donate

A laundry basket overflowing with items to sell/donate

Why do I hang on to stuff I don’t use when it could be precisely the thing someone else needs? Why do I hang on to earthly treasures I have ceased to treasure when they might form a wobbly barricade separating me from Jesus?

Jesus wants to be my treasure. He wants my heart, but it’s pinned beneath towers of cascading clutter.

Guy and I married when we were 23 years old. We lived in small spaces and moved every few years, and so we left my archivally-preserved wedding dress in a corner of my grandmother’s closet. Some years ago during a Chinese Checkers marathon, I asked her if I could at long last have it back. She sat up straighter, made a funny face, and confessed: “It’s gone.”

My wedding dress had been stolen when she moved from an upstairs to a downstairs unit in the same building.

While I felt strong disdain for whomever would steal boxes from a 96-year-old woman as she belatedly moved to a downstairs apartment in a building she had occupied for 30-some years, I also experienced heartbreak for my lost wedding dress.

And yet…
* I had no plans to wear it;
* I have no daughters for whom I should save it;
* And, most importantly, its loss has in no way affected the quality of our marriage.

That loss has affected my view of stuff, however. If I can release my wedding dress into the great wide world (of dirty rotten grandma’s-box stealing thieves… oops, sorry), then I can certainly let go of items far less sentimental.

As a family, we have done a few things to counter the cultural tide, to anchor our hearts solidly in Jesus’ kingdom:

1) Among our posted family values: “Boredom = Opportunity” and “Play!”
We try hard not to over-schedule our kids. One sport at a time, and mostly rec leagues, and no more than three weekly activities each season (sport, church, music) has been our MO. We also don’t allow screen time during the school week, so the kids have plenty of time to get bored, to be creative, and to simply be kids who play. One Mother’s Day when Teen was still in elementary school he made me a home-made card that read, “Thank you for not over-scheduling us so that we get stressed out!” Melt a mama’s heart!

2) Another family value: “Need vs. Want.”
We don’t buy just because we want. We weigh desires against needs. We can easily convince ourselves that we need more, but honestly we need far less than we think we do. Staying out of stores is also a big deterrent against shopping for entertainment.

Creating margin on the calendar and on our counter tops will be an ongoing process, but it’s one to which I’m committed. Here are a few of my recent and regular steps:

1) Set a timer for 20 minutes, choose one cluttered space, and attack. When possible, set aside a longer block of time.

Even 5 minutes could make a dent in this pile

Even 5 minutes could make a dent in this pile

2) Continually winnow. I’m not one for taking everything out of a space and only putting back the essentials. That approach feels too drastic, too large, too time-consuming. And so I try to look fresh at each space as I come to it: what do I see today that I can let go of? Same goes for the calendar: do we need that activity? and likewise: what good activities are missing because we seem to be overscheduled?

It's tempting to say I need a bigger closet, but I really just need less stuff

It’s tempting to say I need a bigger closet, but I really just need less stuff

3) The Art of Simple has become one of my favorite blogs. The posts tend to be short and to the point of simplifying so many areas of life.

4) A book I expect to come back to again and again: Throw Out 50 Things. Gail Blanke walks you through each room/area of your living space and your brain and examines why we hold on to our stuff and our unhelpful thinking patterns.

And a Bible study for you, as together we treasure our relationship with Jesus.

Connect
Reflect on an example from your life when you lost (in some way) a precious possession. What was it and what happened?

Study
Read aloud Matthew 6:19-21.
Give three examples of someone storing up treasures on earth. What do you think Jesus meant by storing up treasures in heaven?
What problems result from storing up treasures on earth (v. 19)?
What are the benefits of storing up treasures in heaven (vv. 20-21)?

Live
In what ways can earthly treasures get in the way of storing up heavenly treasures? Explain.
How does storing up treasures in heaven help you simplify on earth? (cf. Mt. 6:33)
Where would you put yourself on a spectrum from hermit to hoarder? Explain.
Describe a time in your life when you lived simply. What were some of the advantages?
Name one or two obstacles to simplicity that you might be able to remove from your life, and how you might begin to address them this week.
Which Faith Training Exercises have you tried recently? Share joys and struggles.
Which exercises might God call you to this week, and why?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that the Holy Spirit will use a discipline of simplicity to draw you nearer to God.

Thankful Thursday = Happiness!

I asked myself this morning whether I would write a Thankful Thursday post. Answer? Not sure. Then I went to my women’s group at church and one of the topics was “Happy people are grateful.”

So here we go.

*I am grateful that I am developing new rhythms and taking time to write regularly. It’s good for my soul, and I do hope something here encourages you, too.

*I am grateful for the high school girls I meet with for coffee and conversation. They fill my life with laughter and joy and perhaps I encourage them to reflect in new ways on their adolescent experiences. And, let’s be honest, maybe I feel just a little bit cool that a teenager or three consider me good company.

*I am grateful for younger friends who don’t mind when I snag their babies. Today I held an eight-month-old boy who giggled big baby chortles. Best moment of my day!

*I am grateful for friends with more life experience who encourage me to advocate for my kids, to pray for wisdom, to be honest about the struggles. I am grateful for their love without judgment.

*I am grateful for colleagues I enjoy as co-workers and as people. The gals had a quick lunch together today and commented that, while we sure like the guys, girl-talk is good.

*I am grateful for spring-in-winter and the new colors bursting to life on trees: gray and green; yellow; red, rust, and wine; peach, pink, and cotton ball white. The variety of shapes and colors stir my soul.

*I am grateful for the healing arts and that insurance covers my chiropractic visits. As of today my shoulder has healed enough that I can go two weeks between visits, significant since I was at two visits per week last spring, then once a week since summer.

*I am grateful to have followed my instincts on how to protect my body. The chiro gave me a new stretch for my lower back and confirmed that, had I done some additional exercises – the ones more or less ‘mandatory’ for a sleek physique – no doubt I would have done serious damage to my back. (Hah! That’s my ‘excuse’ and I’m sticking with it!)

*I am grateful that, even as Tween steps deeper into adolescence each day, he still wants Mommy snuggles. Yesterday he hugged me long and deep, and all I could think was, “THIS!”

*I am grateful that Teen is doing better than ever in school – no small feat for a kid who was diagnosed with ADHD only a year ago, who all his life had been labeled “lazy” by teachers, who despairingly declared himself, “nothing more than a B student.” And now he has mostly A’s. Hallelujah!

*I am grateful that Teen talks to his parents no-holds-barred on any-and-every subject. No Subject Off-Limits. Sometimes he slips into the adolescent thought-coma and doesn’t respond at all, but when he talks I am aware of what a tremendous gift it is that he engages with us in real conversation on real-to-teen-life topics. And often, he initiates the conversation – talk about a miracle!

*I am grateful for good books and that this whole family enjoys reading. Tween and I just started The Hobbit, a repeat for me but brand-new to him, especially as he’s seen all three movies and they are not the book. I love the power of a good story to whisk us away to new lands and wild adventures!

*I am grateful for a new project that stretches my mind and heart in new ways, and I am grateful for my friend who invited me into this project. I am eager to see how it will turn out.

*I am grateful for our menagerie of pets, some of whom demand that we walk them and play with them and give us affection in return, and some of whom lurk behind glass like zoo fascinations.

*I am grateful for my girlfriends, for opportunities to do life alongside amazing women.

*And today I am grateful for the reminder to be grateful, as the practice of gratitude leads to greater happiness.

Happy Thursday to You!

 

 

We Were Liars

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time there was a king who had three beautiful daughters. The daughters grew up and had many beautiful children. They summered altogether on the king’s private island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in four made-to-order houses, one for the king and one for each of the princesses and her offspring. They were a grand old family.

Except, they weren’t.

The king withholds his love and his money. The princesses desperately claw and scratch to earn his approval and drink way too much to dull the pain of rejection and lovelessness. The children implode with the weight of the family’s outward perfection and inward desolation.

E. Lockhart weaves fairy tales and classical literature together with the myths and lies one family believes and perpetuates to create a seering indictment of the sins of the fathers visited upon the generations. Smart and beautifully written, my heart aches for the main character’s “what could have been.”