Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Christmas Top Ten, Kind Of...

Most days in the motherhood I wonder if anything I’m saying is getting through amidst the eye rolls, sighs of protest and assorted groans of complaint.  And then there are days like yesterday.  The kiddo and I found ourselves in the car after school with just over an hours’ travel time between activities.  “I bet you’re going to put on Christmas music, huh?” the kiddo asked, knowing that while I don’t solely listen to Christmas music this time of year, the playlist does get some much needed love during the month of December.

“Would you rather I play something else?” I questioned.  “Or do you have something you want to listen to?”  It’s a statement that can lead to ear splitting disaster but I try to give the kiddo a chance to share his world with me when possible.  Music is a huge part of our lives and I genuinely care about what he’s listening to and why he likes the songs he chooses.  Yep, that’s the kind of thing we talk about in this family.  Since the day he was born, I’ve talked about music with him.  What I hear, what the story is or means.  Why I like or dislike a song, lyrics, beat…

“I want to go with your Christmas top ten,” he answers quickly, to which I smile because those of you who know my son know this is a set up.  He’s up to something and the game has begun.

“You know I have twelve, right?  Do you want them in any particular order?” I double check, just in case.

“Nope,” he smiles  “Just let them roll.”

So here it is, my Christmas top twelve.  And the game my son wanted to play as we looped 465 between various appointments?  Why these songs make the list.  So here’s why these songs spell Christmas to me and why the season isn’t complete until I hear them as explained by the thirteen year old light of my life.  Apparently he has been listening.

Better Days (Goo Goo Dolls)  This is a great picture of how slowing down and keeping it simple this season can help us be appreciative.  This is a hopeful song.  And mom thinks Johnny Resnick has great hair.

Do They Know It’s Christmas (Glee version)  We need to keep perspective that the world we live in, what we can see around us here in the land of plenty, doesn’t represent the world and the way most people live.  This reminds mom of our Horizon kids in South Africa--Maboke and Mosobudi.

Give This Christmas Away (Matthew West and Amy Grant)  This is the entire message of the Gospel and the reason Christmas even matters.

Home This Christmas (Justin Beiber and The Band Perry)  This one makes mom think about dad because he travels.  She worries about that a lot.

Christmas Must Mean Something More (Taylor Swift)  It’s a song about the real reason for the season that’s upbeat enough it doesn’t make Gaga (my Grandma) cry.

Mary, Did you Know? (Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd version)  Mom has a hard time imagining being in Mary’s shoes.  She calls this one a classic.

New Kid In Town (Alan Jackson and Keith Whitley)  This is a great picture of how simple it must have seemed when Christ was born and how one very common thing changed everything.

Mistletoe (Justin Bieber)  Mom’s guilty pleasure.  She likes to dance to this one.

All I want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan (Kenny Chesney)  Mom always jokes that she’s going to run away to Hawaii by herself.  This is like her personal anthem.

The Prayer (Celine Dion and Andre Bocelli)  This is a prayer everyone can use and mom thinks the Italian is gorgeous.  I say not so much when she tries to sing along.  This one has classic status.

River (Leah Michele)  Sometimes this time of year can make you a bit sad and remind you of things you wish you could change.  This is a do-over song set to a gorgeous Christmas carol with piano.  Mom’s a sucker for piano.

New Again (Sara Evans and Brad Paisley)  It must be a mom thing because my mom can’t even imagine having this conversation.  She can’t get through this one without tearing up.  This is the ultimate mom classic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why Ray Rice has my attention...

If I had to guess, I’d be willing to wager you’ve been in a situation where you’ve made a huge mistake.  A time you chose to speed past the guardrails and blow through the moment of knowing what was right, choosing to do what was wrong instead.  It’s a moment you wished you could take back the minute it was born.  A moment that still has the power to embarrass or humble you.

If you’ve been anywhere within fifty feet of a television or radio in the last forty-eight hours, you’ve probably heard the name Ray Rice.  In the age of 24-hour media coverage, when someone in the spotlight steps over the line, it’s hard not to hear about it.  And in a world where most of us walk around with advanced technology in our pocket, it’s harder yet not to see exactly what everyone is talking about.   If you’ve watched the Ray Rice video footage of his altercation with his then fiancé, you know what I mean.

But before you read further, be warned--this post isn’t about Ray.  It isn’t about domestic violence, how the NFL handles employment contracts, the politics of sport or what the future holds for such a fallen star.  This is post born purely out of the concern that for many of us, a similar creature may be lurking under our very own roof.

While I don’t have a long enough list of adjectives to properly convey my thoughts regarding the horrific act of violence I watched on the video, it’s what happened after the knockout punch that has me the most concerned.  You see, I have a thirteen-year-old son and he has friends.  And while I adore these kids, I won’t lie.  I refer to them as the moody, broody, attitudy group because that’s exactly what they are.  Gangly, smelly, moody, hormonal, attitude filled beings that suddenly seem to exist only to test we mere parents at every turn.  Freshly minted teenagers.  And that scares me because I see glimpses of their behavior as the video rolls.

If you watch the Rice footage, you’re going to have that moment when you feel hopeful such an egregious wrong can somehow be righted.  Much like I did, you’re going to hold your breath waiting for the moment you’ll get to see a person fall to their knees as understanding of what they’ve done dawns in their psyche and remorse washes over them.  And much like me, you’re going to be sickened when that redemption doesn’t come.  

While there’s no audio accompanying the video footage, in the moments after the blow, you can almost write the script based on what you don’t see happen that you should see happen.  “Huh?”  What did I do?  She started it.  I didn’t do anything.” Maybe I’ve had my head in the clouds too long to hope to see remorse, compassion and tenderness in the midst of such chaos but that’s exactly what I expected and exactly what never came as the footage rolled on.  In the words of my dad, we treat our family pets better.

So why am I so bothered by this total and utter lack of remorse and compassion that happened hundreds of miles from me between two people I don’t know and doesn’t affect my family in the least?  Because it hits too close to home.  It’s the very monster we’ve been beating back as parents for what feels like eternity at this point.  Because we live in a time when anything we do that puts us in the slightest negative light must be someone else’s fault and that logic is crippling our kids.  Because the same words that rolled through my mind as I watched that video are phrases well used by the teen that lives under this roof and it’s all too easy to dismiss them as mere teenage attitude.  Because anything goes in this world today and I don’t buy in to that lie, and I don’t want my son to buy into it either.

Anything doesn’t go in these four walls.  In fact, our motto for this school year with our son is Man Up and our message to him looks something like this…  When you make a mistake, you man up.  When remorse over an action sucker punches you in the gut, you get in front of it and man up.  When you have a hard choice to make, you man up.  You take responsibility and you own your life; every beautiful, ugly, smooth and jagged part of it.  You man up because it’s the right thing to do.  Because you live by a higher standard. 

It’s my heartfelt prayer that as parents we’ll continue to do what’s right, and what’s best for our kids, instead of what’s easiest or most popular.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

1 Corinthians 16: 13-14

Monday, June 2, 2014

Welcome to my real life...

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day so it’s not unusual to find me at a nearby restaurant most mornings.  Which I how I ended up at my favorite table after carpool on the last day of school.  But this breakfast was different.  Rather than spend time checking email, catching up with Facebook happenings and devouring a few chapters of the latest book on my Kindle, I stepped into my favorite restaurant last Thursday, my heart a bit heavy, my brain focused on making some serious changes in the lives of myself and my family this summer.

I’m determined that the seventy-three days stretching in front of us between now and August 12th (back to school eve), are going to be different this year.  It’s time for change.  We need fewer places to be and fewer things to do and more creativity, family time, and downtime.  We need more margin and less scheduling, more lunch dates with friends who live across town and less time spent on activities that don’t refuel us.  Although I hate to admit it, while we’re incredibly busy these days, my family isn’t always thrilled with the things we find ourselves doing and that opens the door for a truckload full of regret.

We went to the beach last summer for a get-a-way weekend and guess what?  I never actually went to the beach.  It wasn’t until we were on our way home that I realized I didn’t put one foot in the sand the entire trip.  Even now, almost a year later, I sit and wonder how in the world that can happen?  And while I don’t like the answer, I know exactly where I went wrong.  I took work. And that’s exactly how I spent my weekend, sitting on the balcony working, watching my son play in the surf instead of standing beside him and letting the waves that made him laugh splash over me as well.

I guess what I’ve been craving is a promise that my family won’t get to our annual back to school dinner in seventy-three days only to find our biggest summer memory is a list of regrets regarding all the things we didn’t do that’s longer than the menu.  You know the list.  The missed opportunities, closets we didn’t purge, space we didn’t make for new experiences to flow into our lives, no time to learn new hobbies, too few pool days, too few afternoons free to have friends over or host a backyard BBQ type regrets?

As I finished breakfast and wrestled with my list, several realizations washed over me.  Work is always going to be there, lurking in the shadows, demanding a part of me because I like to have several projects going at once.  But I’m more than just one of my projects.  For the past year and a half, I’ve been trying to keep the varied compartments of my life separate and my efforts have done nothing but leave me always feeling a step behind.  The truth is, I’m not a mom one day and a writer the next and a craft hobbyist only on the weekends.  I’m all of those things, and more, everyday.  It’s up to me to balance my obligations and it’s time to merge the many aspects of this crazy thing I call my life.  This is what my family needs from me.  Simplification.  As you might have guessed, I'm starting with this blog space, which will now include more facets of my real day-to-day like my hobbies (and other creative outlets) and my family life.

While I’d like to lay the blame elsewhere, it turns out I’m the one who needs to grab the wheel in an effort to halt a list of regrets from stacking up in my life.  Which means I’m the only one who can keep me from the beach.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Juggler

When I need to chew on a particular problem in my life, I often find that I end up cleaning.  While my close friends will tell you that I clean all the time—don’t listen to them.  They’re lying!  No, really.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t clean all the time.  In fact, my husband and son often complain I don’t clean enough.  Which brings me to today and the current problem on my mind, thus my latest round of obsessive thinking aka cleaning.

I have an antique bookcase that sits atop my desk and every time I dust it, I wonder why in the world I bought the old thing.  Why did I spend hours lovingly restoring something that gets so messy in what seems like only a matter of days?   It’s that very question that brings me back to the problem at hand.

In case you didn’t know, I’m a type A personality, a real “All the way A” as my dear husband likes to remind me.  And while many of the character traits of A’s are a very good thing, the easiest way to topple us isn’t to yell or move a deadline or double book us.  Ha!  We A’s can handle that.  Disable our Wi-Fi or hide our phone and we get a bit more upset, but trust me, we rebound fast.  In my experience, we A’s get our knees knocked out from under us when we find our lives out of balance.  We like the world just so and have a strong sense of order, we A’s; a trait not unlike our analytic brother’s in arms that find themselves on the other end of many a personality test scale. 

So when I say I’ve taken to calling 2014 the year without balance, you can probably understand my angst.  I pride myself on doing the things I undertake well so I’ll be the first to admit when issues arise within my finely honed system, I don’t respond with any amount of grace.  None.  But I’ll also be the first to admit that after forty four years of life on this planet, I think I’ve finally started to realize I don’t need to be doing everything I currently find myself doing.  It’s an A thing, you see, rarely saying NO.  In my case, I usually pride myself on seeing just how much I can juggle.  But I can assure you this isn’t always the wisest plan.  And I can assure you juggling comes at a cost.

It wasn’t until recently when I scanned the board and looked at everything I was juggling that I realized where I was coming up short.  I've been holding the bag on a bunch of things I don't even really enjoy doing which brings me to the realization that I don’t want to be a world-class juggler anymore.  After some heartfelt reflection and a hefty does of prayer, for the first time in a very long while, I feel completely at peace NOT tossing five plates into the air and seeing how fast they can turn.  It's time to focus.

I have books to write and new ventures to launch and antiques to refinish.  I have a family I adore and I’m grateful I’ve finally realized they’re far too precious to juggle.  I have friends I cherish and I’ve realized they aren’t for tossing about, either.  At best, I think I’m in for juggling as a hobby.  Besides, I have a bookcase to dust.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Welcome, Spring Fling Hoppers

Hey, hoppers!  Glad you found me!  I'm excited to be part of this event and hope you decide to comment on the question I have for you at the end of this post.  

Even if you’ve never had occasion to need the serenity prayer, my guess is almost every person can recite some portion of it.
God, grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
But did you know there’s quite a bit more to the prayer?  I didn’t either until a few days ago when the bottom fell out of what I would have called my otherwise typical, boring life.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.  Taking, as He did, this sinful world
 as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right
 if I surrender to His will.  That I may be reasonably happy in this life 
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.  
Amen.                                                                                                                       -Reinhold Neibuhr

My son is in his first year of middle school, seventh grade.  And while it’s been a transition I’m not sure I was ready for, as I look back over the year, it dawns on me the very things I worried about having to deal with as a part of seventh grade just a week ago no longer bother me at all.  Last week when a classmate took his own life, my son’s world changed forever and suddenly texts and first girlfriends and hours of homework didn’t seem to matter so much anymore.  At times over the last few days, the uncertainty has felt overwhelming.

But the truth is, I know there’s hope.  In this crazy world we live in, I hate that it takes a tragedy to see the good in people.  Although it often takes a backseat to flashier, more marketable news, good is out there, lurking in the shadows, at the ready to help in a crisis.  Ready to help right the wrongs and create the happy ending.

Which is why I believe writers write.  It’s why I write.  I can head to my office and lose myself for hours in the worlds I create, making life on paper as perfect or dysfunctional as I want for my characters.  God has blessed me with the ability to be largely transparent about the hurts and hang-ups in my own life and in turn, I feel he's blessed me with the ability to be able to use those things ripped from real life and spin them out in incredible ways on paper.  It’s my sincere hope that I can use the issues in the world spinning around me in a way that helps someone else make sense of their own wacky world.

I think we all want good to triumph.  For those of us that write our hurts and hopes into fiction, it’s why we want heroes to rush in and save the day.  It’s why we love to get lost in fairy tales.  It’s why we love to hate the bad boy in our stories but make sure the good guy gets the girl.  That's the part of the prayer I cling to, not as I would have it (this world) but trusting He will make it right.  That's where I find my hope.

Just as the hurts in life are sure to come, we’re sure to continue to hope and look for the good in those around us and we'll continue to write our stories.  And while I’m sorry it had to happen this way, hope is the very reason my son decided to put pen to paper this time last week.

Here’s more about my debut release, Hope 22…

In the aftermath of losing his wife and unborn son, professional quarterback Brody Jackson turns to his faith, making a vow to live a life that will honor those he’s lost.  Yet on a field of endeavor where outrageous antics get a player noticed and if it feels good, do it often seems to be the maxim, walking the straight and narrow path can be a hard thing for a guy to do.

Whitney Ryan is in the mother of all slumps, struggling to watch as her player ranking dips into double digits.  With three weeks to go until she’s slated for her next tournament, Whitney would rather be anywhere than on the tennis court and under her mother’s constant glare.  When Whitney decides to run away from her responsibilities, her resolve is firm—she doesn’t need anyone getting in her way, especially a know-it-all with problems of his own.

When two household names holding widely varying views on how to live life in the spotlight and measure success are thrown together, is there any hope they can call a time out and find middle ground?


How about a $10.00 Amazon gift card and a copy of Hope 22?  All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment.  Tell me an issue you’d most like to see tackled in a story…  Check this post Monday, March 24, 2014 after 5 pm EST to see who wins. I’ll post the winning name and info on what to do next here.

Be sure to drop by Hops with Heart to continue hopping and don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win some really nice grand prizes.  Thanks for stopping by!

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why all this snow isn't so bad

Here in fabulous Indianapolis, we’ve received 50+” of snow in less than two months.  “Suck it up,” our friends from Michigan say.  “It is winter after all,” the native Minnesotans laugh.  “What’s the big deal?”  Plain and simple—we’re spoiled.  We’ve gotten used to mild winters.  While they say it takes twenty one days to start a good habit, trust me when I say it only takes one mild winter to set new expectations.  And that’s exactly the problem, we had two mild winters in a row before Snowmaggedon hit.  I’m talking don’t stock up on ice melt and replace the broken snow shovel mild.  You get the point.  And while I’m guilty of complaining, driving through yet another drift this morning, it dawned on me I might be looking at this all wrong.  That being said, here are several reasons why all this snow isn’t really all that bad:

1.  Never again will I have to endure my child praying for a snow day.  Yep—we’ve shoveled that prayer right out of him.  Now the words snow day equal hard work so miracle of miracle, he’s cured!

2.  Snow forces me to slow down.  Although I spend part of my day at a desk, as a stay-at-home mom, I also spend hours each day on the go.  As a result, I often find myself participating in many of those not so healthy habits like driving through for fast food and eating in my car or driving a bit too fast in an effort not to be late to my next stop.  There have been several days this winter we’ve been stuck at home and I’ve actually cooked a full meal!  And when we have gotten out, caution has prevailed over swiftness as it pertains to getting where I’m going safely. 

3.  Packed snow lessens the harshness of the speed bumps in the school parking lot.  I drive through that lot numerous times a day.  While it might sound petty, to my way of thinking this is a real perk.

4.  Snow lets me embrace my OCD in a new way.  50” of snow has proven my need to have the perfect driveway.  Or what my husband laughing calls a work of art.  At our house, we each take the side our car is on.  We each have a shovel we prefer over the others.  Mine’s blue with a metal edge.  At the end of the task, it never fails.  My side looks like ice sculptors came through and carved out the driveway while my husband’s side looks like a guy in a hurry came through and hit the high spots.  Then there’s the matter of the end of drive, that pesky section where the city has plowed leaving double the depth and mini glaciers.  I dig that out and use a floor scraper to clear away the hard pack while hubby’s side looks like a skating rink.  It’s true--I’m on my fifth bag of environmentally friendly ice melt this season.

5.  Snow gave us a reason to find new nicknames for each of our dogs.  Instead of Beamer, Bentley, Blazer and Bristol (I’ll let that soak in a second.  Yeah, they all start with B and they’re all named for cars) we now have Wuss Boy, Scaredy Cat, Ms. Over It and Snow Plow.

6.  It allows me the awesome opportunity to be in the trenches with my son.  Yes, we own a snow blower.  A nice one in fact.  One that shows little wear given those mild winters of the past we were so used to.  But snow blowers come with pros and cons of their own and I know in the early years, my son will be more invested in buying big screen televisions and projection systems than he will a snow blower so I decided to go old school this winter as a means of teaching him the value of knowing how to do a job correctly with just the basic tools.  And it’s this that has truly made all the difference in the world for our family this winter.  There’s my son, as tall as me and far stronger, taking on his dad’s side, trying to push a whole row of 6+ inches a full shovel width, going nowhere fast in the middle of the drive while I’m working my plan on my side, cutting a quarter shovel full row by row without issue.  I’m almost done (even with the mini glaciers) and if I do say so myself, my side looks terrific, and while he’s huffed and puffed quite a bit, the kiddo hasn’t even hit the quarter mark yet. But it’s then I hear the question I’ve been secretly praying to hear.  “I don’t know how you did that so fast but since you’re done already, will you help me?”  “No,” I respond, to which he scowls.  “But I will teach you my secret.”  He smiles at me and it was at that exact moment the Heaven’s opened and all this stupid snow truly became a blessing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Valentine's Blog Hop

I'll be participating in a blog hop over the Valentine's Day holiday.  Please be sure to visit all of the authors on the tour and stop a moment to chat with us!  There's a Kindle in it for one lucky commentator!

Donna Steele                         
Jane Wakely
Nancy LaPonzina                    
JL Oiler
BethAnn Buehler                    
Jennifer Wilck
Lila Munro                               
Eleanor Tatum

Sheila Dool                             
Nick Santa Rosa

                                               a Rafflecopter giveaway ">