Waves of wisdom


I was driving today. Onward toward a job I’m close to ending.  Sighing about the traffic, rubbing my temples, and letting my eyes blur the brake lights. I was thinking how life can be monotonous one moment and then gone the next, like the woman in Virginia with fresh blond roots and a future. As I inched forward on the highway I wondered how I could better cherish these days.

The car in front of me had a bumper sticker that read “WHY CAN’T YOU USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL.” And I thought how insanely helpful this was to point out.  Perhaps we needed more such chastising signs in various places to help us as a society. Grocery stores could post signs that read “Why can’t you eat more (bleeping) spinach” and the hotels could say “Why can’t you use the towel more than one time” and bars could say “Why can’t you see that this guy you’re about to go home with has an overbite, an abundance of back hair, and smells like three-day-old cigs? IT IS A BAD DECISION: CHOOSE NETFLIX INSTEAD.” I feel like we should all be open to such wisdom. Then I passed him without using my turn signal.

I was creating today. Covering a folder with duct-tape flowers and watching my daughter write a heart-shaped note with butterfly words that fluttered atop the page. It feels good after a long day to let your brain make flowers and draft words that sing and have arrows pointing toward polka-dots. Because our lives are created in His image. They are so intricate and elegant.

This morning, some sort of bug the size of a hummingbird flew right at me like a bug demon. It buzzed and screeched like it wanted to nest in my nose hairs. I screamed and jumped, dropping toast jelly-down on the front porch. And I batted at the air for a good five minutes, like “Come back you little coward. I WILL FINISH YOU.” But we all know that’s a lie because if he buzzed around me again I’d just scream and run. I headed inside to get more coffee, because maybe if I was just a bit more jittery it wouldn’t have been such a drastic shock to face such a brisk morning bout of anxiety. And during the duct-tape creation project my son decided the best use of the stuff was to rip it off and cover parts of my body with it, like my mouth and my legs and finally I stopped him so he wouldn’t bind and gag me and then who would make dinner? Who would have to help with bath? Who would. . . wait. Why was this a problem?

I was eating today. Laughing and folding lettuce leaves with my fork. Hoping I wouldn’t be the last one. Picking up the check. Feeling the smooth blue cheese in my mouth.

I was complaining about how folks these days don’t work as hard as they used to, our new generation’s annoying entitlement attitude. I mean, I had to work really hard growing up. The guy I was eating with was like “I know what you mean. When I was in Afghanistan on my second tour the men kept complaining of how f*#king hot it was, like we all weren’t in the same f*#king tank missing our families and watching for terrorists” and I was all “Okay I was going to talk about how I had to decorate all those cakes in high school for the Fall church festival but you win.”

I was praying today. More like hanging my head, since the shame of my foul mouth and my disobedience and my lack of trust hung like skunk stench through the windows. I always reach out to God in the aching times, the times when life pounds down like a hammer. But in the everyday I grow lukewarm, like I don’t need help and don’t need grace and don’t need one single thing but morning coffee. And I feel like God must be shaking his head at me, like a child who never learns.

God, please forgive me when my dependence wanes. When my concentration falls to empty laughter. In the hard times I’m a model citizen, prayerful and obedient. But in the happier times I feel kinda bad for all the Amy Schumer I’m watching.

But I swear I’m grateful.

Grateful for the way leather smells against my nose. Grateful when my son giggles and throws back his beautiful head. Grateful for my girl who said she wanted a clump of hair to fall down because that’s the way she likes it. The cool smooth of ice cream on my tongue. The moment the kids run to me as I see them. Mornings on the front porch before they both rise.

I am so thankful for my life that it chokes me up sometimes, sitting there in traffic or on my daughter’s floor or at a business lunch. Sometimes I think that might be all I can do, just being thankful. Life goes up and down, up and down, crashing and building up again.  In the building up we are again preparing for the falling down. The glorious and guttural, screaming and laughing.

Thank you, Lord, for the strange and beautiful waves.



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BUSY, a Guest Post by Melanie Haney

Hey guys!

I’m honored today to introduce you to my wonderful writer friend, Melanie Haney, who writes over at A Frozen Moon.  Go check it out and read her lovely words.  Although we live in different parts of the country, we still struggle with the same issues: motherhood, faith, joy, and living the best life we can right where we are.  I love her honesty, her flowing style, and let’s not even go there with her amazing photographs.  Her pictures capture the essence of childhood, love, and fleeting moments that we often don’t capture.

We both wrote a back-to-school post and shared it with each other, so to read mine just mosey on over to her blog and check it out.  Have a great week!


by Melanie Haney

The final damp breaths of August have exhaled and here we are.

We are back to school. We are pencils and backpacks and looking out for the first falling leaves, when really, we are still shaking the sand from our flip flops and sweating by each afternoon in our new school clothes.

We are morning routines that start too early and buses that are never on time.

And me? I am one week in and torn between my love for autumn in New England, and my hesitance to push my family forward another year so soon. I am another year older myself and feeling the middleness of it all, how if my life is a ladder with years for rungs, I am quite possibly approaching the center. Enough behind me to be steady on my course, enough ahead of me to keep me looking forward.

But mostly, I am tired.

Tonight, I am sweating, crawling under the table and sweeping every little unwanted bite from dinner into my palms – partially chewed hot dog, mushy canned peas, sweet potato fries with the ketchup sucked off – and while doing so, I am making my best attempt to meditate on goodness. To focus on the goodness of a meal that can nourish my children, the gift of having a floor to clean, the blessing of a body that can get down on hands and knees and that I am able to be the one home to do this (most evenings.)

All good things, wrapped up into this little life of mine, and I am thankful.

And then, Evie throws up in the bath tub.

While she stands, naked and dripping on the bathmat, I let the water from the tub and find myself (again) chasing partially chewed hot dogs, but this time down the drain in waves of warm soap and other unsavory bits. As I do this, the phone rings and my husband tells me he is just on his way home now. Yes, great, thanks, handful of sopping paper towels and toddler puke, k-bye.

Meanwhile, Alex is poking his head in and asking if I have had a chance to read his school paperwork yet. It’s a story about he and his friends and how one of them used to have brown hair, but the summer sun has turned it blond. It is not Shakespeare and I worry, while handing it back to him with an encouraging smile, that his new teacher won’t encourage him or praise him or guide him as well as his first grade teacher had.

It all just seems so fragile at the moment with him – approaching eight, losing teeth, asking each night if he can stay up later, the disappointment on his face whenever there isn’t time for just one game of UNO or SKIP-BO before bed.

I re-wash Evaline and Lila and wrap them in towels and remember that I am trying to slow down and focus. Right. Focus. I unplug the drain and I am thankful for water – for hot water, even – and enough to fill the tub twice. I am thankful for this wriggling baby girl in my arms who I don’t yet need to send off into the world to be assessed or judged or bothered by things like lunchboxes with her least favorite sandwich or who she is going to sit next to on the bus.

I am thankful for the time I have been given, with her and with all of my children. Towel-swaddled Evie and I stand in the mirror and kiss cheeks and touch noses.  What a gift.

And then, she pees on me.

I kid you not.

Deep breaths. Focus. For this fall season, this is my life. And I will be thankful, be present, notice the good all around.

It’s one in the morning and I should be sleeping, but I am typing. Evaline stirs and comes to our bed. Of course, she did not wake in the hours between putting her to bed and when we went to bed. Of course, she did not disturb us while Vinnie was still awake and I was editing pictures while a slow documentary on the history of a board game (Monopoly) played in the background. No, she waited for this moment, for this quiet bedroom and my empty arms.

I put the laptop down and let her crawl all over me.

It’s two in the morning and she is still here, twisting and snuggling some, but mostly kicking. I nudge Vinnie awake to try and take her back to her room.

It’s six in the morning and Alex comes to our bedroom. Evie is here too, again. I think I might have slept an hour or two, maybe.

Lila bounces to the bedroom and informs me that I still need to pack their snacks. And that she likes chips. I blink at her and she quickly adds, but whatever you give us is good because all the food in our house is good!

Yes. All the food in our house is good. I pull the blankets back and here we go again. Four children, three bus stops to wait through, two snacks and lunches to pack, one house to clean, one wedding to shoot (tonight, another tomorrow). But in it all – in all this new routine, this autumn, this back to school madness, you are here and you are good and I will focus on blessings not nuisances.

I walk to the kitchen.

Asher greets me with a sheepish smile and two donuts hidden behind his back.

Oh, and wet pants and a wet bed.

At the bus stop, I sip coffee and people watch while my kids run around the lot with their friends. I notice the absence of our neighbor and his daughter and for a moment, I feel the wisp of death, curling itself back into my thoughts.

But then the bus pulls around the bend and the children all bolt to line up. I smile at the enormity of Lila’s pink backpack on her little girl frame. Alex turns from his place in line to send me a big smile and a goodbye wave. I drive home to poopy diapers and laundry loads and charging camera batteries and client emails and a text from a friend are we still on for a walk (in twenty minutes)? and busy-busy-busy.

Yet, in it all, goodness. In it all, a life, my life, written over seasons and chapters and papers that are scribbled on in cursive, in Crayola, in eloquence and in gibberish – with pages torn, spilled on, scattered on the floor and somehow shoved back into sequence.

And I am thankful. Folding laundry. Changing diapers. Muttering over the damp sheets on Asher’s bed, the spilled Cheerio’s on our kitchen floor. I am thankful for it all, every little thing that keeps me focused on the this place, this page, this season here on this middle-ladder rung moment of my life.

Eggs are excellent

For dinner, I made a lovely quiche.  I took my time rolling out the fresh piecrust dough.  I was teaching my daughter how to drape it over the pan, press it down, and trim it with a sharp knife.  Crimp and press, crimp and press. All the way around. She nodded in agreement.   We were on a cooking show, you see, and she was explaining to the imaginary audience that I was making the most excellent dish.

I smiled as I whisked the bright, yellow, happy eggs.  They came from our neighbor’s chickens down the street – one green, a few brown.  All different shapes and sizes. I added roasted broccoli and milk and two different cheeses and slid it into the crust.  An hour later, dinner would be served.  Even raw it was beautiful.  And later as I walked through the kitchen, I could smell the crisp forming on the sides, all golden and flaky and becoming the proud landlord of a cheesy, puffy center.  My palate was screaming for a wedge of sharp cheddar and a glass of smooth Pinot Noir.

Soon, we would all sit around the kitchen table, laughing and eating tossed salad and remarking on how broccoli never tasted so good.  “Why don’t we have this more often?” I imagined my daughter saying as she asked for seconds.  In this pretend world things like “made from scratch” and “mamma’s doing all this for you, kiddos” matter.  In my pretend world, children eat with grateful hearts, don’t whine or scrunch their noses up when they are lucky to have such food at their disposal.  In a pretend world, quiche is most excellent.  Like in my daughter’s cooking show.

Sadly, I don’t live in a pretend world.

The phrases that actually eclipsed my children’s mouths, once the plates of food were set before them, included, but were not limited to:

Why do we always have to have quiche? 


It’s too hot.

Me no eggs, mama.

I’m not hungry.

Can I have applesauce?

Yeah, yeah.  Applesauce!

I can’t pick out all this green stuff.  

Did I mention I don’t like broccoli?

Can I watch my show now?

And the like. 

Finally, I told my kids they could just starve to death for all I care.  My son then threw his plate on the floor with gleeful gusto like I had just said something wonderful and the dog proceeded to inhale all the contents thereof. Did my canine appreciate the homemade crust, or the two kinds of cheeses?  Did he notice the broccoli was roasted rather than steamed?  Was he benefiting from the organic, free-range nature of it all? He eats his own poo, so I kinda doubt it.

Later that night my daughter said she was hungry.  I told her there was always quiche.   She just looked at me funny and instead asked for water.

My kids don’t realize how good their life is.  How rich and beautiful and plentiful are their days.  Someday we will go to Guatemala, or Malawi, Africa, or Haiti, and they’ll appreciate their lot in life a tiny bit more.  They will hopefully become more thankful.  More grateful.  They will roll their eyes less and be excited about foods that do not contain the words “mac” or “jelly” or “nugget.”

“You really wouldn’t let us starve to death, would you mom?” my daughter asked before bed.   The fact that she asked made me chuckle.   “No, sweetie,” I said as I pulled her blond hair away from her face and scratched her back.

Little do they know they are getting eggs for breakfast.

That’ll show em.

My favorite things

Everyone has favorite things.  I’m not talking about a crackling fire or the smell of cut grass, but real tangible things.  And let’s be honest.  Nobody really sits around thinking about raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens.  Who’s thankful that kittens have whiskers?  Isn’t it just naturally assumed they’ll be born with them?  Are some poor kittens born without whiskers, the poor suckers running around hairless and whimpering?  If someone is even thinking of cat whiskers, I suggest they find a hobby.

Here are a few of my favorite things that are actually cool.  Raindrops on roses, I swear.

(1) Perrier with Lime.  It’s sparkly.  It makes me feel fancy.  There’s just no need to drink tap water when you can drink spring water from the south of France.  No’ sir.

(2) Starbucks blond-roast.  It’s smooth and silky.  It gets me through the morning after a long bender of writing.

(3) Gruyere cheese.  Anytime, anyplace.  Even my five-year-old knows to stay away from it.  It’s more precious to me than chocolate chips.  And that says a lot.

(4) Oatmeal dark-chocolate cookies from scratch.  Nothing can top it.  Except for perhaps Gruyere, but that’s not a fair comparison.

(5) TIVO.  I can no longer comprehend a world where you cannot pause live television and fast-forward through commercials.  I shudder to imagine it.

(6) MAC powder.  It’s quick, and it covers your sags, bags, and dark circles.  It’s better than a night’s sleep for the look of your skin.  I’m always a sucker for those MAC salespeople, their faces all painted up with odd colors and tool belts of brushes dangling from their hips.

(7) Down bedding.  I like to lie on top of it, wallow underneath it, and basically sleep atop one big marshmallow.

(8) Loreal Tubes Mascara.  Just go buy it.  You’ll thank me.  It peels off your eyelashes in little tubes, and I think that’s just glorious.

(9) My apple computer.  If I didn’t have it, I’d crawl back to the store scratching and crying and immediately buy another.  I’m a total addict.

(10)               Salted caramels from Dean & Deluca.  Or Williams-Sonoma. I’m not that picky, I swear.  Okay, maybe a little.  If you get me caramels from Target I’m throwing them in the trash.

On the other hand, there are things I can’t stand:

(1) Hominy.  It’s bloated and strange.  It looks like little tiny fur balls.  Why eat corn that’s all puffy and weird tasting?

(2) Shrimp.  To me, they are the ocean’s cockroaches.  I stay far, far away. Don’t tell me they’re good on the grill.  Do you roast other pesky insect-like creatures and sprinkle sea salt on top?  I don’t think so.

(3) Daytime television.  You deplete brain cells by watching it.  Resist the urge to find out who slept with the pub owner’s cousin who recently was convicted of murdering the Baroness’ housekeeper.  Because honestly, these aren’t real people.  Who the heck cares.

(4) Double negatives.  You don’t gotta do it.  You just don’t.

(5) Candles that smell like cinnamon rolls.  They make you hungry.  Why torture yourself?  Wouldn’t you rather smell flowers or fresh linen?  Why walk around with your mouth watering?

(6) Car commercials.  Someday I’m going to hear a witty and soft-toned commercial about how a car can change your life. But until then, all I see is a bunch of bad ties, balloons, and unnecessary yelling.

(7) Cheap eye shadow.  You know when you are on vacation and you forget your make-up?  You end up at Wal-mart buying Cover Girl?  It’s trash.  Go free and natural until you can head back to Nordstrom.  Trust me on this.

(8) Automated phone trees that don’t use “0” for the operator.  Why use six or some other goofy number?  Zero, people!

(9) Rice cakes.  There is just no need to eat cardboard.

(10)               When celebrities gripe about their private life being overly exposed.  Choose to be a veterinarian, and your problems are solved.  But the moment you get paid over two million to be in a movie, I get to know what your dog’s name is and what color underwear you like best.  That’s the way this thing works.  Deal?

Until next time. . .