About Me

My photo
I write novels, eat dark chocolate, raise three children, love my husband, scrub toilets, ignore the laundry, and love a good story, but hardly ever in that order.

OPERATION BONNET

STRETCH MARKS

Powered by Blogger.

ACT TWO

BOTTOM LINE

BALANCING ACT

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Christmas 2013!


Hello, dear people.

Despite all those Internet rumors, I didn't die. Wait--that rumor was about Johnny Depp. He isn't dead either, though he is against showing his teeth in photographs.





I, however, am not!

Listen, I've missed you people. I'm sorry for my long absence, but I have found I cannot multi-task. That's not true: I CAN multi-task if it involves cooking dinner, breaking up fist fights, unloading the dishwasher, and reviewing subtraction facts. I CANNOT multi-task, however, when it comes to writing.

I'm writing a new book and I can't do that and blog. Sorry. I'm definitely not a millennial that way, but it's true. (For the record, I'm also not a millennial in terms of my texting speed and my ab strength. But those are other posts for another time.)

So I'm writing every now and then and hopefully, by the time Thea gets her first speeding ticket, I will finish this book and be back to (the obsolete world of) blogging. 

In the  meantime, please enjoy a beautiful Christmas with your families. Somehow the God of the universe saw fit to up-end all our thoughts on power and kingdoms and inauguration days and entered our fray as a vulnerable baby. Our hearts sing with the birth of our Rescue, our Freedom, our Unfettered Joy. Star of wonder, indeed!

Merry Christmas, dear friends. And much love to you.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hungry for More


A week ago, the five of us joined up with a great group of folks and packed meals for hungry people.

Have you heard of Meals from the Heartland?
We Iowans grow a lot of food. Not to brag or anything, but we pretty much crush the Growing Food category. We're really good at it. And I love these people from Meals from the Heartland. They are making it possible for folks all over the nation and globe to benefit from the bountiful harvest of the Midwest. Hungry people getting food from Iowa. I love it all.

So we headed down to a huge room where a bunch of people in hairnets were rocking out to Motown and Gloria Gaynor. These are my kind of people.
We took a two-hour shift, which, by the way, sounds easy. When you are elderly and decrepit, however, like the author of this blog, your back does tend to spasm and your arms do start to twitch. At these moments, however, you must stifle the impulse to whine because (A) you are packing rice and soy protein and dehydrated vegetables for people who need to eat and (B) your husband has gone FULL-THROTTLE into THAT GUY mode. He is THAT GUY, the one who keeps altering the packing system so we become the most efficient, least wasteful packing crew on the floor. He is THAT GUY who monkeys with adding SINGLE GRAINS OF RICE so our weight goal is PERFECT. He is THAT GUY who thinks we might get a TROPHY or a STICKER if we have the most amazingly perfect boxes at the end.
You married THAT GUY and you have never regretted it, but you may not, under any circumstance, refer to your aching back because you know without a doubt that THAT GUY will replace you with a faster, more efficient volunteer who happens to be your five-year-old daughter.
Even with these pressures, I recommend coming alongside what the Meals from the Heartland people are doing. A donation of only $20 provides meals for 100 people! Unbelievable! And if you marry A GUY like THAT GUY he will be quick to tell you that by trouncing the next table over, we packed enough meals to feed over 3000 people! Boo-yah! Wiping up on the hunger-fighting competition! (Good thing THAT GUY is so cute.)


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Swimming Upstream With Diana Nyad



Have you people heard about this woman?
Her name is Diana Nyad. I first knew of her after I read a fascinating article about her in The New York Times a couple years back. Miss Diana is now 64 years old, and this week, after 35 years of pursuit, she swam from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida. I'm talking 52 hours and 54 minutes, only stopping for nourishment. I'm talking 110 miles. 

Did I mention she was not in a PLANE or on a CRUISE SHIP but that she was SWIMMING? 

Have you ever swum non-stop for 30 minutes? You know that lung burn? Well, multiply that for about a gazillion minutes, add salt water, dehydration and general crazytown, and we'll be about halfway to how Nyad must have been feeling.
Please note her swollen lips. And the absence of a lido deck. And note the stunned and clapping Average Humans looking on in shock. The guy in the life vest (!) is thinking, "Dang! And the most impressive thing I did today was floss!" I can identify.
Photo by abc.com
I feel the need to point out that Ms. Nyad was the first person to accomplish this swim WITHOUT A SHARK CAGE. Time to let that one sink in.....And she wore the mask above and a full body suit and booties during the night to protect herself from jellyfish attacks. And another moment to absorb that tidbit.....

Did I mention I flossed today?

This woman rocks. She first became famous for swimming around Manhattan, a thought that makes me a little queasy, considering the summertime smell of Manhattan and what might be washing into the waters around it. But swim she did and three decades after her first attempt at the Cuba-Florida route, she made it. 
I am so tired from writing this very short blog post, I need to take a few days off from flossing. Maybe don't wait for my shark-cage record-breaking. But I do own goggles! 

Woot-woot-to-the-64th-power, Diana Nyad! Now go eat some pizza and take a nap!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Can't We All Just Get Along?




The gist: Moms who, a decade or so ago, jumped off the corporate ladder to stay home with their children now want back into the work force. The piece was interesting and provocative and well worth a read.

Warner's article reminded me of when I was a young child and had just released Balancing Act, my first novel. The book was reviewed in the Chicago Sun-Times, which was a exhilarating and depressing moment. Exhilarating because I love Chicago, I lived in Chicago, and the Sun-Times is a formidable newspaper. Depressing because the reviewer, I felt, distilled my story into a question of whether a mom should stay home or remain in the workplace.

*My point in writing that book, for the record, was cheap therapy. I cannot tell you how freeing it was to write a book that made my girlfriends laugh, involved a disastrous urine/poop scene, and documented Marc's obsession with budget travel covertly into the character of Jake Elliott. Culture wars? Not so much. 

At the risk of sounding a lot like Pollyanna, can we take a moment and just get along?
I am a mom. I have a lot of jobs that are my responsibilities in any given day. Some of these jobs come with a (meager) paycheck. Many do not. I am grateful to count among my friends women who are physicians, lawyers, writers, musicians, nurses, television producers, teachers, realtors, artists, small business owners, and stay-at-home moms. All of these women are hard-working mothers, in the home, out of the home. I haven't met one yet who feels she is doing everything exactly right and lives in perfect balance. (Actually, I did meet one really annoying woman once who felt she was doing everything exactly right and I found I couldn't understand the words coming out of her mouth. So we don't hang out now.)


Can we, as intelligent, passionate, blessed-beyond-measure women support each other? Propel each other to better things? Can we hope sincerely for each other that the woman God created us to be will find her way in this big and crazy world? It's tough enough doing this thing without female infighting. 

I didn't particularly love junior high. I vote that we stop reliving it.

Whether you are on the corporate ladder, crushing it, being pommeled by it, or have jumped off forever or for a season, I applaud you onward today. Do what you do and do it heartily for the God who wired you and knows every curve of your face, every hair on your head. Ignore the naysayers today, girls, and live your own story well. I'm cheering you on.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fast-Forward Family


Will the big invisible finger pushing the fast-forward button of our lives please step off?
I'm serious. I'm getting irritable.
When did this happen? Is anyone else hearing me on this? Four days ago, we brought Ana home from the hospital and Marc stood in her nursery in the wee hours, listening to her weep hysterically and ticking off all the reasons why she shouldn't be crying.
"She's not hungry because she just ate. She's not cold because I just smooshed that little knit cap on her head. And she's not wet because we just changed her diaper. So she must be tired and we just need to let her cry it out."
Ana was barely out of the womb. But I married a physics major, so, we deal a lot with logic around here.

Then two days later, Mitch came home from the hospital and during his first at-home diaper change, he peed in an arc, right into his own eyeball. Ana was beside herself with grief. "WHY WOULD HE DO THAT?" 
Then the day after that, Thea came home and now....she's five and turns a respectable cartwheel and can make her own bed, including decorative pillows. We're all really old and I don't remember how it happened. 
What gives? 

My aunt, Michele, warned me about this. When our kids were tiny and needy and sapping me of all the energy it took to apply lip gloss, Aunt Michele warned me that life with children really did move at terrifyingly high speeds. She and Uncle Doug have four boys and while I marveled at her ability to live in house with all that misplaced urine, I did not believe her when she said life speeds up with kids. That very morning, for example, I had counted the minutes until nap time. 

But Aunt Michele, you were absolutely correct. Sorry I doubted. The minutes seem to skip directly to years, and I shake my head at the speed. Go kiss those children of yours, dear ones. Tiny kids, huge kids, sweaty kids, surly kids. Fast-forward gets faster every year.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Prancercise It


School starts in a matter of days. This means a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me, it means my children are all in need of pants. These children of mine all display the Tall Man Gene so dominant in my husband. I am well on my way to being the squat but bubbly shrimp in my family. And as the Tall Man Gene dominates, no one has pants that fit.

So I can't blog right now. I need to go shop for Tall Child pants. 

I'll be back next week when everyone is clothed with modesty and denim. But in the meantime, my delightful friend, Danielle, has pointed the way to this fantastic video. After our discussion here last week on the fine art of public exercise, Danielle saw fit to introduce me to Prancercise. 

I want you to know that Marc and I have both attempted a prance (or six) around our living room, and though I may be squat and bubbly, I cannot compete with the Tall Man's nimble footwork. I highly recommend you take some time with your loved ones and prance it up. Such a grand stress reliever AND a way to get fit in the flanks like your favorite horsey!

See you next week. ;)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Drop Down and Give Me Twenty


We're careening around the bend to summer's finale and I really don't want to think about that. So I'm going to write about something even more alarming: Working Out.

If you have been following this blog for any length of time or if you have run into me EVER, you know I am aging. I feel pretty good about this as the alternative is death and, like the end of summer, death is something I'd like to put off for awhile. God willing.

So I'm aging, mostly happily, though I certainly have my days. One such day recently, my sweet son, Mitch, was busy encouraging me. I'm pretty sure Mitch loves compliments and encouragement himself, so he dishes them out to me, too, in an effort to be kind. Turns out, I'd prefer chocolate and almonds, but we'll get there someday. But a few days ago, Mitch walked beside me as we went up to his room and he said, "Mom, I like those cracking noises your knees make when you go up stairs."

Chocolate and almonds.

I have two beautiful, smart, fiesty and faith-propelled grandmas. They teach me to age with grace and sass, a delightful combination. 

So I'm not against aging. I just like to work out every now and then so I can look cute like my grandmas when I get to that part. Or at least release some endorphins so I'm not cranky AND creaky at the ripe age of 37.

Here's the thing, though: I'm pretty sure I look like a freak-o when I'm working out. More specifically: I look pathetic when I run. I'm slow. And sweaty. And red-faced. And desperate for someone to run over my toes with a pick-up so I'll be forced to stop.

I don't make it a habit to run in front of mirrors, which is smart on all kinds of levels. So maybe I look awesome. MAYBE I look like this person.
Photo by Athleta.com
Maybe I do. I'm guessing, though, from the concerned expressions of passersby and the looks on my children's faces when I return home, my face as red as Elmo's and my breathing sounding kind of like I'm working a 1-900 hotline...I'm guessing I don't look that great. In fact, this cartoon captures the truth much more clearly.
Happy week, friends. ;)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sick in July, and Other Questions for God


We are recovering from a bit of nasty over here. All three kids came down with some version of, as Thea calls it, "the pukes."

As in (to her terrified VBS volunteer): "I wish I would have been here yesterday when you had popcorn for a snack. But I couldn't because I had THE PUKES."

As in (to the cute check-out girl at Whole Foods who has alarmingly large ear lobes after a piercing experiment): "I helped Mommy pick out that apple you're holding. I can touch all the apples today, but I couldn't yesterday because I was home with THE PUKES. Apples don't taste good when you have THE PUKES."

As in (to our neighbor who was out to walk the dog and got a big hug from Thea en route): "I've missed you! Too bad THE PUKES have kept me inside!"

So we don't have many friends left, and I murmur "Lysol! Purell! Clorox!" upon waking out of deep and interrupted slumber. I also can do laundry like a mad woman and at all hours.

Laundry is a great distraction from theological wrangling.

One of our children, who shall remain nameless because this child prefers to be blogonymous (so catchy, this made-up word! Anonymous + Blogging mom who hasn't learned discretion = blogonymous! I love it!). My blogonymous offspring prefers to talk theology when gripping the toilet bowl at 3 am.

As in: "Mom, whyyyyyyy does God let us get sick?"

And: "If our world is broken, why doesn't He just fix it and not let me throw up?"

And: "Why did Adam and Eve HAVE to disobey God? And give me some examples of how YOU sin."

I'm not joking. And I want to point out that at these moments, I am the only parent in the room. Marc prefers strictly daytime theology talks.

I do my best, people. I am not equipped to solve the world's ills or to tease out The Meaning of Suffering at my best time of the day, much less while the world sleeps and my Crank-o-meter is on a dangerous upward climb.

At around 4 :15, I suggested that God was, in fact, answering this child's prayers and that He was, in fact, healing the wonky belly. "Your body is getting rid of the ick," I said. "It's flushing out the bad gunk and getting your belly back to its healthy self. I mean, what would happen if you weren't able to get rid of the gunk? What if your immune system couldn't attack the gunk and the gunk just stayed in there FOREVER?" 

Silence. Perhaps a wee bit of fear at the size of my bulging, blood-shot eyeballs and the wild mane of lioness hair I was sporting. And my need of a bra while changing the sheets. Again.

Then, "Is not being able to throw up an actual medical problem or are you making it up?"

And so it goes.

I know God is good and that He hears every whiny, pitchy prayer we all utter, even at 3 am. And I know He knows when we have THE PUKES. And while my science may be sketchy, I'm grateful for healing, in whatever form and at whatever time of the night. 

But if you want the details on how it all worked out, find Thea. She'll tell you ALL about it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Three Cheers for the Cambridge Mama!


Can we get an amen and huzzah and nice-bloody-work for this woman?
Not only did Kate Middleton-come-Duchess-of-Cambridge become pregnant while the whole world speculated on her ovarian activity, and then carry that pregnancy past her due date while the whole world stalked her, she then birthed the child and had to appear on the steps of the hospital FEWER THAN 24 HOURS LATER.
I would like a moment of silence.

Plus, she has shiny hair and a pleasant smile, two things that were noticeably absent from my appearance in the first years days after birthing. And how about the pooch?!?
I wanted to break into "God Save The Queen" when I saw this, or at least a Beatles medley. Such courage! Such grace! Such a normal, postpartum pooch! Praise God for this woman!

If only she'd been around as a beacon of light to me in my own postpartum moments. After Ana, in particular, the truth came heavy (ahem) and hard. I remember humming as I packed my hospital bag. First, please note I PACKED a hospital bag. As opposed to the second and third times around when I threw a pair of underwear into the front seat and shrieked at Marc, "HOW DO WE DO THIS AGAIN?!?" Somewhere we have a photo of Marc getting ready for Mitchell's husband-coached, natural method child birth. I promise that in said photo, Marc is reading the coaching guide IN THE BIRTHING SUITE. We are overachievers.

K. So I hummed as I packed my hospital bag for Ana, so chipper that in a matter of days, I would again fit my svelte and newly un-pregnant bod into a cute pair of jeans that had fit baggy and loose before becoming pregnant.

My last day in the hospital, I could fit one calf into the jeans and I nearly had to resort to using Marc's Swiss army knife to force my sausage-calf into that little hole, DANG IT. So I applaud with joy Kate's unwillingness to force her body into Spanx and instead to even display to the entire world what a real woman's body looks like after giving birth.

Bless her pea-picking, honest, British heart. May Prince George Alexander Louis sleep through the night before the summer is over, and may he be very clever with letters by kindergarten as writing that name will pack one royal punch.
Photo via Reuters

Did anyone else have trouble fitting into the hospital outfit? Or were you all much wiser than I and went home in the maternity clothes you wanted to burn? Smarties, all of you.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rocking Out


Remember pop music? Yeah, neither do I. But I did watch the Grammy Awards show this year, which made me FEEL like I know pop music. I didn't exactly recognize 98% of the artists sitting in the crowd in their astonishing fashion choices. I looked for some fashion highlights to post here, but most of the humdingers involved copious amounts of flesh, cleavage, and sequins in questionable places. Trying to keep things PG around here. I should, though, point you toward this man. 
His name is Red Foo. Much like my name is Red Foo. In other words, we both made up our professional names. But at least I didn't use Foo. Or Foo-Foo, if you've read Stretch Marks. But I digress.

I heard a few songs that were painful, some that were funny without intednding to be, and lots of good stuff. These two are Goyte, the people who got Record of the Year.
I, for one, was unaware we give awards to Record of the Year. Did you know we do this? One record (record?!) that just jumps to the top of the universe for the entire year? I admire the commitment here. One record, best of the whole year. I can't ever really choose my favorite song of the AFTERNOON, much less the year. But these people got it. And I like their song. I also liked it when the girl of the group received her award and she fell all over herself in pure, childish joy, not because of the Record of the Universe award, but because Prince was the one who presented it to her. Prince, who is a musical genius but who is also roughly four feet tall plus hair height. It was an awesome moment.

Today is a lovely summer day, and I think we should all acknowledge our hipness and the Record of the Universe by listening to Goyte's song with the volume turned up. This version is so fantastic. I recommend watching it and then having your children reenact it. Thea likes to be the love-tortured girl, Ana likes to be the male lead who opens his mouth off its hinges when he sings, and Mitch likes to be the guy in a hat who prefers not to look at the camera. 

Some people are talented enough to homeschool their children. I give my children the gift of pop-song-recreation. Our children might end up working for yours, but we all know who will be the life of the company Christmas party. 

Turn it up!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Listening Up in the Minivan


Anybody else putting on the miles in the minivan this summer? 

Listen, I didn't ASPIRE to own a minivan. I didn't exactly aspire to own any particular vehicle, as cars are not at the top of my Most Interesting Things List. I very much appreciate a car that runs well, has a functioning radio, cools and heats at my will, and has power steering and power brakes. I have owned cars that do not fulfill these criteria, and I have had periods of my life and travels during which I owned no car at all. So cars are awesome and practical and fast.

But the minivan. Our best friends, Ryan and Betsy, have openly and frequently mocked us for "selling out" and buying a minivan. I'm not sure what this means, but I suspect it has to do with not looking as cool as they do in their Honda Pilot. This is true. Ry and Bets are also cleaner people, which means that when they open their doors after a ride in the Pilot, newspapers and water bottles and hairbrushes and stuffed zebras don't fall out. They also maintain clean cup holders, vacuumed floor mats, and windshields that haven't developed that curious grime that accumulates after five unclean people and a zebra breathe in an enclosed space over a period of time.

Here's the catch: Ryan and Betsy are missing out. Minivans are awesome. They are huge and can tote around thousands of children and their friends. They have sliding side doors that are perfect for people embarking and disembarking all on their own. They have removable seats that make it possible to haul a twin mattress, three end tables, two suitcases, a rug, and three young children, all before even touching the front two seats (true life, last weekend). And minivans have a certain je ne se quoi…Glamour? Elegance? Panache? Or dare I say, swagger? 

I love our minivan. I'll probably still drive one when I'm a granny, since my kids will need someone to haul their dining room table and stuffed zebras around. I'm a helper that way.

If you are spending inordinate amounts of time in your vehicle, might I recommend some children's audio books to break up the tedium? These are all delightful and will be sure to distract your children from poking each other's eyeballs with Pixie Stix or from plummeting into Whinese Zone. Whinese is a horrible, easily acquired language that can drive parents to dangerous swerving and wild arm-groping into the back seat for a leg to squeeze. Whinese can produce vows screamed out the window at 75 miles per hour that invoke the fury of an Almighty God, thunderstorms, and promises never, ever to take a road trip again.

These are all hypothetical situations. But in case you have hours in the Swagger Wagon in front of you, might I suggest great stories, wonderfully told?

1. E.B. White.
I love this man. He wrote some of America's most beloved children's literature, and if you are super smart, you will find a way to listen to Mr. White reading his own work. We have listened to Charlotte's Web, and I may or may not have laughed, cried, and shook my head at the beauty of his story, told in his voice. We are now listening to his reading of The Trumpet of the Swan, and I feel like I'm digging my toes into warm sand every time we turn it on. Pure delight. If your library does not own copies of E.B. White's audio books, request them ASAP or, even better, donate them as a gift to all the story-hearers in your community.

2. Clementine.

The Clementine books are fantastic and the audio versions are pure fun to hear. Sara Pennypacker is the actress who reads these books, and I feel the very least we can do is listen to a person who goes by that name. Even though Clementine is a girl, my son enjoyed hearing her escapades as well. Also, while Clementine is spicy and busy getting into trouble, she is not mean or snarky. So your kids don't end up sounding like bad sitcom impressions when you turn her off (ahem, Junie B. Jones).






3. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

The woman will fix all your parenting issues, teach your children manners, and she will entertain at the same time. If I could have Mrs. PigWig for dinner, I would. Since that's looking unlikely, I happily press PLAY and listen to how she fixes Donny, Suzy, and Winifred all up and saves them from uncertain futures of chewing with their mouths open and general hard living. So satisfying.



4. Adventures in Odyssey.


Buckle up. If you are new to AIO, you will find it shocking that there are a gazillion of these from which to pick after its long and still-going-strong run as a weekly radio program. I can understand if the words "weekly radio program" make you think of sitting by the fire during the Great Depression and waiting to hear the voice of President Roosevelt, but I assure you, AIO peeps are masters at great, Christian-rooted storytelling for kids and families. Some of the episodes can tend toward saccharine, but in general, this is fantastic family fun. My kids are mildly obsessed and consistently put Odyssey on their birthday and Christmas wish lists.

5. Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo. 

DiCamillo wrote Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, so she's pretty much story-telling special stuff. Mercy Watson is a pig who loves hot, buttered toast. I can't think of a better way to build a story, or a meal, for that matter.

Anyone else listening to stories in the Minivans of Love? I'd love to hear. Adult literature also welcomed, though I might need to wait for a few years (or good earphones) to pull that off…

What's on your playlist?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Oh, Say, Can You See?!? No, Really! Right Over There!



Happy Fourth! What a great holiday. No need to shop, unless you include going to the store for brats and the fixings for a root beer float. No pressure on making the best dessert or the loveliest centerpiece. Heck, you don't even need to shower if you don't want to. Just jump in a pool, lake or leaky hose and that's close enough.

I hope you have the chance to massacre sing the national anthem today. I will be forcing my children to listen as Marc and I attempt two-part harmony and inevitably wind up in a different key and laughing so hard, our root beer float escapes our nostrils.

In a land far, far away, I sang the national anthem before a basketball game. This was a defining, disheartening moment of my life and one which I hope never to repeat. I sang it a cappella, which sounds simple and moving, right? No. No, it was not. It ended up more on the screechy side of moving. Screechy and amplified in a gym. 

Never again.

The one redeeming attribute of that performance was that I remembered the words. This earns me some points, I feel, since the song does include the words "perilous," "gallantly," and "ramparts."

In retrospect, though, the words should have been secondary. I should have taken a page from Miss Maya Rudolph. B to the R to the A to the V to the E!
Happy Fourth and happy antheming! Break out the sparklers and sing loud, sing strong, and sing whatever words you can remember!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hannah Mae The Courageous


Last weekend we traveled north to attend the best birthday party ever. It was for Hannah.
I, for one, am so glad I get to write this story instead of speak it as I can't seem to talk about Hannah without going into the snort-cry. We are long-time friends of Hannah's parents, Sandi and Dave. Sandi and I used to teach together, back when we were young, spry, and one of us was sporting an unfortunately short haircut. I taught with my butch cut Sandi while she was pregnant with Hannah, and I was forever scarred with envy when she was a billion weeks pregnant and still able to fit into her jeans with merely the help of a rubber band to close her zipper. I love Sandi, even though she's skinny, beautiful, tall, and organized. This is true friendship.
We met Hannah during her very first days on this earth. I have a photo in a safe somewhere of me with the butch cut, holding baby Hannah. This photo shows the cuter half of that moment.
When Hannah was about four months old, she started having seizures, and after a very long road with gut-wrenching hospital stays, doctors appointments, long nights, and scary moments, Hannah was diagnosed with a very rare seizure disorder that typically takes the fragile life of a baby by age two. This month, Hannah turned thirteen.

Oh, how we love her. How I love watching her parents nurture her with grace and patience and the ferocious love of people who truly know Jesus and His bone-deep joy.

How I love watching her siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents embrace Hannah, reminding her in every single moment how much she is loved and prayed for and admired.
How I love learning from the McDills how to imitate God and His stubborn caretaking of our hearts, there always to hold our hands, pick us up, cradle us, wait for our wholeness.

How I love it that Hannah cried with joy when her baby sister, our goddaughter, Faith, was born.
How we watched, prayed, and waited with full and heavy hearts as Hannah's dad, Dave, served in Afghanistan. Sandi served her children faithfully as she waited for his homecoming. (Apparently, hyperventilation into a paper bag, my coping mechanism of choice, did not appeal to Sandi. Did I mention she is also tall and thin?) For the record, Dave's send-off ceremony was one of the most wrenching and beautiful experiences of my life. I had to be taken out on a stretcher due to my uncontrollable sobbing, but it was worth it, particularly when Dave returned safely 15 months later.

How I love seeing Hannah communicate with blinks and and facial expressions in a way no doctor predicted she could. I love it that Hannah proves everybody wrong.
Dang it all, I'm deep into the snort-cry again. 
Happy birthday, sweet Hannah Mae. You are a tangible, real-life expression of the beauty, creativity, and fierce love of God, right here among us. We love you so much, it hurts. 




Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pool Time and Other Dangers


I really do love me some pool time. Am I wrong to say such a thing, in this day of skin cancer awareness and limited sun hours? Well, I do. I'm not saying I bake out there until my epidermis flakes off and  my hair catches on fire, but I do love to feel the sun on my pale Midwestern bod and to remember again that God loves me. 

This is in sharp contrast to a certain Norwegian who lives among us and who has been known to marvel at his BLUE skin. Skin so white, it's BLUE. Marc runs to the shade (sprints) after fifteen minutes, but I just slather on some more 50 SPF and count it good. In a not-so-distant future, people might start asking me if I'm Marc's mother, but at least I will be fully fortified with Vitamin D and happy summertime memories. That must count for something.
Which is good, because my recent pool visits have me counting lots of other ways I'm losing. First, I'm not sixteen. That, my friend, is very, very noticeable at the pool. Lots of people at the pool ARE sixteen, and they have the abs to prove it. And long, luscious hair which requires more than a quick shampoo every three days. Ahem. And they paint all their toenails in one sitting, which has a startlingly beautiful effect on one's feet. And they have perk in perky places and lift in lifty places. 

They are something to behold. 

I feel shocked, really, when I remember I passed that mile marker over two decades ago. The perk has parked, the lift has lowered. And now I wear a skirt when I'm swimming. 

Seriously. This is a blow to any woman's ego, is it not? I wear a skirt. Sure, it's short and cute and in a cute paisley print, but it is absolutely, undeniably a skirt. One short stop up from this.
Skirts are awesome for dipping, throwing, and rescuing young children in the water. They prevent innocent sun bathers from seeing middle-aged groceries and other dangerous possibilities. And they are very practical for women who spend an inordinate amount of time failing to understand how to tighten and loosen goggles. (Am I alone in this? Do your children's goggles make you feel stupid? Are they secretly some Mensa test that I continue to fail?) 

So swim skirts have their merits. But they sag when wet. And cling in odd ways. And they are SKIRTS.

But here's the deal: When I was sixteen and didn't know perk and lift were temporary situations, I thought my thighs were too muscular. (HA!) And that my calves were too manly. (HEE!) And that my feet were fat. (WHO IN GOD'S GREEN EARTH CARES?!) So today may I be fully grateful for the healthy body I've been given, may I make peace with the skirt, and may I embrace my voluptuous feet. Heck, with this sunny perspective, I just might paint all those toes the same day AND take a webinar on goggle adjustments. Watch out, world!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

8 Things I Need to Say To Single Moms


1. I don't know how you do it. Really. I suspect you rely heavily on caffeine, liquor, and/or steroids, but perhaps I'm projecting here with what kind of medicinal support _I_ would need.
2. Your kids might not say it every day or even once a year, but you're doing right by loving them and fighting for them. Without a partner in the house to force them to say compliments, they might forget. Please remember: You're doing good work at a very tough job.

3. Alone time is awesome. Get you some.

4. I see you. I've been thinking about you a lot lately and have been saddened to realize how invisible you can become, particularly at church. Sunday school classes are built for couples. I suppose you could sneak into the youth group but I feel that would be awkward. We've all done acne and prom once, and that was enough. But I want you to know I see you. I want to know you. Be pushy in case I haven't introduced myself. And then I can take over with enough pushiness for the two of us.

5. In case you need to ask and your six-year-old isn't much help in the minutes before rushing out the door in the morning: No, your butt does not look big in those jeans.

6. I'll bet you're tired. Can I take your kids for an afternoon every now and then so you can recharge? They might only eat junk food and watch Disney princess movies, but I'll treat your children like my own. Ahem. Proceed at your own risk.

7.If I try to set you up on a date with my single guy friend, please don't take offense. I'm not trying to run your life and I'm not saying you're not doing a great job on your own. I just want you to laugh more and to share a heavy burden with another set of hands and shoulders. Plus, he has a cute rear and can dance. Is one night so bad?
8. God knows where you are. He has not turned His face from you. You can shout and snarl and whine to Him and He can take it. Trust me because I've tried all those things and more. His love for you is bottomless, wide, tall, and stubborn. Trust me because I've had to learn those adjectives in real time, real life. He knows your name and He likes you.

I'm sorry that I'm so late in telling you all this. I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to put to words what I think about you. You are fighting a noble battle, sister. Press on and know I think you rock it.