Wednesday, December 19, 2012


My latest article has been picked up by Deseret News!

You can check it out on their website:

Share it with your friends, neighbors, loved ones...enemies! The more traffic it generates the more likely they will be to pick up future articles.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taking Control Through Choice

In light of recent events many of us have lost our Christmas spirit. Some feel like skipping the celebrations all together.

We need to embrace that spirit like never before.

When my oldest child boarded the school bus for the first day of kindergarten I smiled and waved like a perky pageant queen. As soon as that sunshine yellow child thief lumbered off I burst into tears.

It had nothing to do with my baby growing up, but everything to do with losing control.

For the first time I would not know what or how my child was doing all day. I was leaving him to his own devices and the care of strangers.

Even as a working mother I’d been able to call the babysitter, who was also family, at any time for updates. I could find out what they were doing, hear his voice or even stop by if I was so inclined. 

The beginning of public school changed all that.

Losing control meant gaining fear and anxiety as a parent.

As the world becomes increasingly chaotic and self-destructive we can feel overwhelmed by despair or even hopelessness. Every newscast seems more tragic then the last.

I can’t control what is happening in our nation and across the world. I can’t turn around the economy. I can’t stop senseless violence. I can’t put an end to hate.

I can control my little piece of this world.

This holiday season I can celebrate peace, charity and love. I can make my home a place of comfort and joy and teach my children how to spread goodness in their little part of the world.

If many of us choose to act in this way all of our little pieces could add up to something really wonderful.

Darkness and tragedy may be thrust upon us, but it is our choice in how we react.

What support will we give? What strength will we gain?

I adapted to having children in school as all parents do. The teachers and staff that were “strangers” are now treasured friends. In a school of 1200 students the phenomenal ladies in the office call me and my children by our first names.

How did I go from terror to trust? I chose to embrace the new environment. Really to jump in with both feet. Cupcakes for a party? Sign me up. Parent teacher conferences? Never missed one. Kindergarten Career Day? Who knew you could hold five-year-olds spell bound with a model of a clogged artery?

By being a positive presence I felt more in control of my children’s environment.

This Christmas I’m choosing to make my part of the world as bright as I can, for the sake of my family and my fellow man. Maybe no one else will notice, but I think just making that choice will give me a little more control over the fear and horror that has been reigning unchecked lately.

I will choose where I stand and I will not be moved.

What are you going to choose to do with your part of the world?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What I've Noticed...

Not so long ago I was having bad day. It wasn't jump from a tall building bad, just kind of an "ick" is this really the day I'm having bad.

For example during a business lunch one of the attendees, who had the sniffles, cleaned the serving spoon off with his finger. He could have just taken the entire dish, because none of us wanted any pasta after that. In that same two hours of fun filled selling this same attendee used the handle of his fork to scratch an itch. Inside his nose.

After leaving I'm wondering how to shake out of my funk and turn my day around. Through the intersection I see my salvation. A mecca I did not know was available in that particular small town. What did I veer across four lanes of traffic for? Starbucks!

Now anyone that knows me well, or not, knows that I don't drink coffee so this may sound like an odd ray of happiness for me. What I adore from Starbucks however, is their hot chocolate. Topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup in a pretty little Christmas cup, it somehow contains magical powers that makes my day better.

What I've noticed is that while this delicious over priced beverage possesses soul healing qualities for me it does little for others. My husband in fact doesn't even like the taste of it.

The magic comes in my believing.

Much like a child believes a mother's kiss will heal a wound. I believe hot cocoa will turn my day around.

Please don't argue with me about sugar and chocolate releasing some sort of endorphin's,  because I need to believe. It's a tiny thing that can make all the difference, and I hope everyone has one little thing for when ick days come to find us.

What little magic do you believe in?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Weeding the Fear Garden

Fear has gone from a tool of survival to an indestructible dandelion.

Think of your life as a nice orderly garden full of your hopes and dreams. Fear are the weeds that keep us too preoccupied to notice that the pumpkin patch is infested with squash bugs.

Normal people are afraid of things that can actually do them harm: heights, poisonous spiders, or flying. Granted you'd be pretty hard pressed to actually fall off the Empire State Building during a tour, but it's a legitimate fear all the same.

None of those things bother me. Bring on the spiraling looping steel roller coasters of death, I'm game all day long, and I'll even hang on to my breakfast.

I'll crush any spider, swat any bee, although admittedly I will do a shrieking little getaway dance if I have an unplanned encounter with a snake.

At a training class, in Chicago, I met a lady so terrified of flying she begged her husband to come drive her home. He declined to make the trip up from Louisiana in the middle of February.

 I view flying as a rare opportunity to enjoy a good book, uninterrupted by children or technology.

My fear doesn't involve creepy crawlies or hurtling to my death. In my defense there are sharp objects and masked men.

I'm afraid of the dentist.

Go ahead and laugh, you know you want to.

Usually I'll say that and people chime in "Oh, I don't like it either!"

Disliking something is not the same thing. I'm talking about the kind of fear that puts knots in your stomach and a sweat on your brow.

When I was pregnant with my oldest I went for my first dental cleaning in years. I specifically went, because I knew they couldn't do anything more then the basics while I was pregnant.

I was so gripped by terror, that on the way there I cut little half moons into my palms by digging my nails into the flesh of my clinched fists. The dentist had to keep reminding me to relax my hands through out the appointment.

Now, you probably think I'm a few flowers short of a bouquet, but how do you feel about public speaking? Did your palms just get sweaty thinking about it?

Of course my fear isn't logical, I know that. Nothing bad is going to happen to me, especially during a cleaning. Those little lectures with my inner self don't help at all.

When you to talk in front of a group they're not going to throw sharp objects at your head. If that's the case, you might want to re-think your speaking engagements.

As we gain a little perspective in our years we start to understand real fear. Losing our loved ones. Our children being hurt. The evil that exists in the world.

Once we see the big picture those little weeds don't seem so terrible.

Right before my last dental appointment one of my little girls had fallen off the monkey bars at school. Fearing her arm was fractured, the doctor sent her for x-rays.

Even though it was one of my rougher appointments, and I was plenty sore later, I didn't have time to be afraid. I just wanted them to hurry up so I could get to my baby.

Losing someone to young often makes us realize how much of life we're missing out on. If your bucket list includes trips to Fiji, Calcutta, and Moscow, but you won't set foot on an airstrip maybe it's time to pull that weed. Don't get around to your gardening too late!

There are enough truly bad things in the world to distract us from our lives. Let's start working on these fears before the squash bugs take over.

Who's ready to do a little weeding?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In Print

I know everyone has been waiting patiently, or not, for the big announcement I promised.

Finally, it's here!

Starting today, September 5th, I will be a guest columnist for the Northern Virginia Daily newspaper. It's a regional paper that reaches 15,000 readers in three counties and an additional 160,000 plus online every month.

Some of my favorite past posts from the blog will appear there, as well new material.

Don't fret I'm not giving up the blog. As a matter of fact it will be the feeder for the column, so more then ever I need to know what you like and what you don't. Please don't be afraid to share your comments.

Thank you all so much for sticking with me. I'm thrilled to be in print and even more so to share it with all of you!

All my best,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Painful Procrastination

Ouch. That's the best description for this week. After years of dabbling periodically in our fitness, my hubby and I had discovered we were way out of shape. Like, winded on the stairs out of shape.

So, it was time to get serious. Extreme, ninety days of seriousness. Once again, may I say ouch.

It takes at least an hour to an hour and a half every evening. Which is a lot of our "free" time. My wise husband had an excellent point though. We'd put off our health long enough, it was time for other things to be placed on hold.

That got me thinking, what else had I been putting off? It's so easy to get caught up in the daily work, cleaning, bill paying routine, are there crucial life events we're procrastinating?

My first thought was about my relationship with Heavenly Father and returning with honor.

When my son was very small we were at the County Fair, waiting for our ride on a roller coaster to start, when my precious toddler looked over at our church building just across the field.

"Mommy, Jesus is coming." He was very serious, his little brow furrowed.

I have to tell you, my heart quickened a little bit. "He is? When Baby?"

He continued to concentrate, but shrugged his tiny shoulders. "I don't know, soon."

I've made sure since then that the same conversation wouldn't be so worrisome. Even though I'm much more prepared, there's still a lot I should be striving for. Reading my scriptures daily, praying more often, the list goes on. How long will I procrastinate on these items?

Next my thoughts moved on to my family and all the things I want to do with them. Every summer we talk about taking the kids into nearby Washington D.C. to see the monuments or museums. So far we haven't gotten around to it. Or, the other historical sites in Virginia. There are lots of other things we've done as a family, but these are memories I want my kids to have. I need to stop putting it off and get it done.

Most importantly, I need to make sure I've told my family everything I want to tell them. Do my kids know why church and God are so important to me? Will my husband know how much he has inspired me and lifted me up, if I leave this earth tomorrow? Can any of them grasp how all encompassing my love for them is? Did I teach them to pray? To have faith?

I don't know about you, but I can't afford to procrastinate any longer. My fitness rehab may be painful, but after one week I'm seeing amazing results. I don't want to be in pain down the road because I procrastinated too long on other goals. Besides, what kind of fabulous blessings could be awaiting me?

What can you stop procrastinating, today?

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Recipe for Lemonade

Disappointment is never fun, but it's a part of life. They don't have your size in the shoes you want. The new movie you've been waiting months for is a dud. Your dinner plans get cancelled at the last minute. We don't like it. We may grumble about it. As adults we can adjust. Can't we?

For children disappointment can be crushing. They can't always see the big picture, and a major let down can shake their faith in people. As a parent you never want to see one of your kiddos hurting,  let alone all of them.

This week we had plans to go away for a few days while I had some down time in my job transition. Our kids were thrilled at the prospect of staying in a hotel, and most of all visiting the amusement park in Hershey Pennsylvania. As their parents, anything we say is gospel law. They couldn't imagine that the trip would not come to pass.

Life happens though, and my husband's vacation request was not approved. We'll still be able to go, just not until late August. I might as well have told my kids we'd never be going on vacation again. A few weeks, sounded like a few centuries to them. What's worse, is that one of my girls had fallen asleep as soon as we had come home that evening, and she slept right on through until morning. She wasn't awake when I told the other two we were postponing the trip. I had to watch another little face fall the next morning when I explained it all over again.

My counter offer to my kids disappointment, was making lemonade with Mom. After all, I had cleared my schedule. Why not make the most of our time? I'm always jealous of the fun stuff my babysitter gets to do with them. We would take our nasty lemons and make the best lemonade ever.

This summer I have become a Pinterest addict. If you haven't checked out the website I highly recommend it. That's where we gathered the rest of our ingredients. I scoured through my Pinterest board of kids crafts and summer activities and found the most interesting ones for our list. Ranging from sidewalk paint and salt art to snake bubbles. Then we hit the dollar store for supplies.

Stir in some pool time, ice cream, and a trip to an inflatable indoor playground and you have a deliciously sweet lemonade.

We've made some wonderful memories, and I'm fairly certain that their faith has been restored that we will be making that trip to Hershey sooner rather than later.

The whole experience has made me wonder, though. As "mature" grown-ups, how often do we make the best of things? Do we just take life's disappointments on the chin and move on? If so, maybe all those little lemons are leaving a sour taste.

If we're crushed to see our children's sadness at disappointments, I'm sure our Heavenly Father feels the same way about us.

Why not make lemonade a little more often? I'd be happy to share my recipe.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Schedule

With the busy summer passing by so quickly, and because I will be in Chicago for half of July, I am going to cut back on my blogging for a little while. I hear the desperation in your outcry. Never fear, I will not leave you completely. For the next two months I will post every other week, so we'll all still have something to look forward to.

Until next week, happy juggling.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Evolution of Heroes

When we moved into our house, four years ago, our son was getting ready to turn five. He was completely infatuated with Batman. Because we're the most awesome parents ever, we decorated his new room in a bat cave motif complete with a life size wall sticker of the caped crusader and a bat logo over his bed. Now, with his ninth birthday approaching this week fictional super heroes have lost their appeal. He'd rather have a room that's more grown-up. Something cool and mature. You know...Star Wars.

As we become adults we stop noticing who our heroes are. Those that inspire and uplift us. It becomes rare that we name those influencers, both large and small. In our children, however, it is easy to see the evolution they go through. From super heroes and cartoon characters to family members, teachers and members of our community. Kids show their adoration through mimicing, collecting, and devotion of their artwork and allowances.

Whenever his uncle comes home from Afghanistan, my son greets him dressed in his own set of "official" camouflage fatigues. Every care package we send over seas during Uncle John's deployment gets a scenic crayon picture complete with an American flag waving atop the mountains. At the ripe old age of eight, he may not know how to put into words that he's proud, but he know's how to show it.

The newest influence in my son's life is one I've become quite impressed with too. This spring was our first season of baseball. Quite a switch from juggling soccer balls, but an enjoyable one since my husband and I know a lot more about swinging a bat then scoring a goal.

We were convinced that our little slugger could benefit from a baseball camp this summer. In the fall he'll be moving up to an older league that could be intimidating if he didn't have a little more coaching. He wasn't sure about attending a camp, it was a little out of his comfort zone. With a little of Mom's gentle sales persuasion tactics...okay, maybe there was a deal made involving some Legos, he agreed to go.

The camp we chose was with the Woodstock River Bandits, our local Valley League team. The Valley League is known as "The Gateway to the Majors", and college players come from all over the country to spend their summer playing ball in the Shenandoah Valley.

For one week campers spent three hours a day working on drills and games to improve their baseball skills. Sounds pretty standard, right? What made the week great, was that the camp was run by the River Bandits coaches and players. What made it exceptional, was the devotion and heart those players put in to the camp. They didn't just show up to put in their time. The Bandits were enthusiastic about sharing their love of baseball with those kids. They went out of their way to make sure every child was included and made to feel like a winner. Best of all the campers walked away with new friends to look up to.

My son loved baseball before, but now he leaves and breathes it. Especially River Bandits baseball. At the end of camp all of the players signed his baseball. It couldn't be more precious if it was made of gold. He wants to put it on a stand with a picture we took of him and his favorite player, #18 Taylor Rakes.

The very next game we attended after camp, my son was sure to take along some of his money to buy a River Bandits hat. He had to dust off a few cobwebs first, his money box never gets cracked open. To him it was worth it though, to have a hat just like the team.

During the game one of my little girls and her friend chased down some foul balls and wanted to get them signed. The opposing team's bullpen had been coarse and foul mouthed whenever we passed by, a bit intimidating for tiny 6-year-old girls. By comparison the River Bandits were happy to see their young fans and jumped to accommodate our request for autographs, chatting up my bashful girls.

Maybe I caught them at the right time, but I never heard any foul language or bad attitudes, and we were down quite a few runs. Certainly during camp there was nothing but positivity in their speech and actions. I'm very pleased with the players that the River Bandits organization has brought to our community this year. I'm even more pleased that my children are finding heroes that don't need capes.

Where will you find a hero that inspires you today?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Reverse Logging

First, let me apologize for not posting last week. Everything is fine, and thank you to all of those who checked up on me. I've been uprooted from my day job and transferred to a different division. The post for last week had a little too much attitude in it, so I decided to scrap it until I was in a better mood.

There's a small percentage of Americans that never actually have to work a day in their lives. The rest of us will be punching a clock for the majority of our natural lives. Depending on how broke we are, will determine how hard and how much we will have to work.

Everyone has stories to tell. It starts in high school waiting tables, pumping gas or taking orders at the drive-thru window. Maybe it's even younger working on the family farm or delivering the newspaper. I've never actually lived somewhere that had paperboys, but I'm sure it exists other then on television.

I worked two jobs through college to pay for living expenses. I'm still paying for the actual cost of college. Unless it was an emergency, I swore after graduation I would never eat Raman noodles again. Little did I know the happiest poverty was yet to come.

Combining two incomes should improve your financial situation. Unfortunately you're also combining two sets of living expenses. We discovered in the first year of marriage that our income would not stretch to cover a vacation.

Enter our short lived career in reverse logging.

What we did might sound a lot like planting trees, but it was much more labor intensive and hardcore then simple landscaping.

To prevent erosion around streams and creeks, the government provides grants to land owners to plant large numbers of trees in these riparian areas. In true red-tape bureaucratic style, there's about seventy-four steps to planting government trees.

First, a small hole is made and the stick with roots, think about twice the size of what your kid brings home for Arbor day, is mashed in and covered. Then, the next person drives a stake into the ground beside the tree and places a protective tube over the stick, cable tying it to the stake. Are you still with me?

The next team member comes along and places a 3'x3' fabric weed square with a slit in the center over the tree. Most importantly the fabric has to be shiny side up, according to government specs. We once had to re-do half a field that did not meet the check box. After that we learned to chant "sunny side up" as we laid the mats. Each mat had to have every corner folded in and a staple driven through it into the ground. Not necessarily difficult, but excruciating on the back.

The crowning piece was a little birdie net that went on top of the tube to keep birds and animals from eating the trees.

There's a couple things you should know to put this logging project in perspective. Planting a few trees on a lovely spring day sounds like a charming way to make a little extra money. We planted 750 to 2500 trees per farm in wind, rain, mud and bone-chilling cold. There were a few days we could work in our shirt sleeves, but they were few and far between. It was more common that we would lay thirty mats, and then sit in the truck for five minutes to warm up, and then lay thirty more mats.

Now, a dozen years later, my husband likes to tell these stories to our kids. He wants them to know that the mother they always see with hair and make-up done, heading to work in high heals, is capable of manual labor.

He especially likes to tell them about me walking through a truck stop to the ladies room. To stay warm and dry, I would layer my husband's brown coveralls over my coat, jeans, sweatshirt and long johns, paired with massive insulated boots. I stomped down the hallway like a brick wall. The roughest of truck drivers and bikers stepping aside in reverence, or fear.

The following year we still couldn't afford a vacation, so we went on a "free" time share weekend. All we had to do was take part in a ninety minute presentation. After being held hostage for three hours, I would have gladly planted trees again before accepting another deal from that particular devil.

Everyone has experiences like this. The waitressing job that kept you on your feet so long you had to go into the walk-in freezer to get your wedding rings off your swollen pregnant fingers. Or the teacher that delivers pizzas and DJ's weddings so he can provide a better life for his family. Maybe you're there right now. Whether you know it or not, you are making someone very proud. 

What story does someone tell about you? 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Wedding Story of Life

Tis' the season for showers, bird seed, and floating bubbles. That's right people, it's wedding season. I've recently been asked to be a bridesmaid, something I haven't done in ten years. Believe it or not I'm completely stoked, not because I have a love of teal taffeta, but because I adore the bride. It's an honor to be asked, plus I think this is going to be a really special event for our family. Now after all that warm fuzziness, I have to be honest, my next thought was that I better start hitting the gym. I'm going to be standing next to my cousin who is about as big as my little finger, and the bride who's the "after" of my Jenny Craig commercial.

Weddings offer so many opportunities for entertainment. My cousin drug her father up the aisle and then had a cow moo during the middle of the ceremony. Unfortunately, as guests we sometimes miss the best parts of the event. The story that unfolds later.

During the set-up of my sister-in-law's wedding, her fiance left with the keys to her car. That normally wouldn't be a big deal, except large portions of the decorations were in her trunk. Using good old fashioned American ingenuity, I shimmied through her half open window and folded down the back seat to access the trunk. Yes, this was prior to the birth of my three children.

At that same wedding the groom realized just minutes before the processional that he had forgotten the CD of the bridal march. The home owner scrambled through their limited music collection. Would the bride really walk down the aisle to Wayne Newton? Luckily, I have a freakish obsession with the cannons. I find them relaxing, okay? There was a full disc of wedding music in my car, and it was unlocked.

Some of the most ridiculous wedding moments I've heard of, come from my own wedding. What can I say, I was young and didn't plan well, but it made for a memorable day.

Bubbles were just coming into fashion for weddings, but were still a bit expensive. I was wearing way too much hairspray to let our guests surround us with sparklers. Still, I was not interested in spending hours packing birdseed into tiny little bags. My bright solution? Fill a birdbath with seeds and each guest could grab a handful to toss. Simple enough. I failed to take the groomsmen into account.

My husband's dearest friends lifted the top off the birdbath and dumped the entire thing on our heads. I had to take down my hair on the balcony of our hotel room that night, to shake out the six cups of birdseed trapped in the intricate up-do. It was in our pockets, ears, shoes, anyplace you can think of.

I won't go in to detail about what they did to the car. My car, that my trusting husband left unlocked with the keys in the ignition. It was epic, I'll say that much. Even after a trip to the car wash, it was a conversation starter at every rest area we stopped at on our honeymoon.

With first dances, cake cuttings and socializing with distant family members my husband and I never had time to eat anything at our reception. Never fear, our family took care of us and packed a cooler with all the best snacks and finger foods. When we got to the hotel we were starving and couldn't wait to dig in. Except in all the craziness of leaving the wedding we'd grabbed the wrong cooler. All we had were extra broccoli and carrot sticks that had not been on ice all evening. Not exactly a pleasant smell.

At five minutes till midnight my groom and I rolled into a local McDonald's and super sized ourselves a first matrimonial dinner. I was stilling wearing my hairpiece, and we hadn't cleaned out any of the aforementioned birdseed yet. To say we were stared at would be a mild understatement.

The crowning jewel of the night, however, came right after we left the reception. Tradition holds that when the bride and groom leaves, the rest of the wedding party piles into cars and follows them through town honking, cheering and raising a general commotion. Our wedding party was exceedingly good at this task. As we were ending our rounds through town we passed a gas station where two not-so-distinguished country gentlemen were rolling out of their pick up truck. One looked up and with out missing a beat yelled out "You fool!".

No matter what hysterics take place backstage during your wedding or catastrophes that go seen or unseen by the guests you will be just as married in the end. Best of all you'll have some great stories to tell one day, when you're writing a blog about weddings during the week of your thirteenth anniversary. Who wants a boring "everything was perfect" story to tell?

Life, like our weddings, isn't perfect. That's what makes it a good story. It doesn't matter if you're a millionaire or a pauper. If your house is spotless or a mess. In the end we all meet the same maker, it's just about the story we have to tell.

How interesting is your story going to be?

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Age of Innocence

This week my eight-year-old told me I should write about love and drama. What better topic then the third grade field trip. Third grade has been quite a change up for elementary school. It has come as quite a shock, and I think my son has noticed a few differences too.

Someone told me earlier this year that they loved my son because he was still so "childlike". What did that mean? I wasn't sure how to take it. Was that a polite way of saying he was immature? I didn't understand it fully until I chaperoned a field trip this week, and got a full dose of what is happening to the children of this generation.

Third grade is the cut off point between glue sticks and crafts and the hard work of training for standardized tests. It's also when children start becoming hardened by the impressions of the world. The age when innocence starts to fade.

The kids on the trip weren't bad or disrespectful. They were certainly energetic since it was the only field trip in over a year. What I noticed most was the language. Not coarse or cursing, but too mature. The topics, too, were not what I would expect among eight and nine-year-old's. Who had a crush, who was the man or wouldn't get "punked". They sounded like teenagers. They looked like teenagers.

Up until this year comfort was the main focus of my son's wardrobe. Now he's become concerned with the design on his t-shirt and how his hair looks. Not because he's fashion conscious but, rather he's afraid of being made fun of.

Maybe my children have been sheltered. They don't watch movies that weren't meant for grown-ups. We pause the DVR recordings of the crime shows we like until they've left the room. Even though my daughters are only six, they wear clothing that covers their bodies. My son has never played a teen rated video game. There are even certain "kids" shows, I don't let them watch.

They may not know it yet, but I have given my kids a tremendous gift. I have given them their childhood. Yes, compared to his classmates, my eight-year-old is more childlike. He enjoys riding his bike, building tents out of quilts and daydreaming about ninjas. Mint chip ice cream can still turn a day around.

My girls like nothing more than to have a sleepover on their brother's floor on the weekend. All three kids still love to pull a chair up to the kitchen counter and help me make pancake batter.

On the flip side, my son is one of the most responsible kids I know. Even other adults have commented how they can trust him with certain tasks without hesitation. On the field trip, while other kids were spending their money in the gift shop on as much candy as they could get, he bought something for his sisters and something special to remember the trip by. Then he asked me if I'd like to get anything.

I don't tell you all these things to brag about what a wonderful kid I have. He has his rotten moments too. Like any good big brother he torments his sisters on occasion. Every hour on the hour. You should also stay clear of him when he's hungry. It is not pretty.

My point is that a child can be mature and still enjoy their childhood. It's our job, as the adults in their lives, to insure they're getting that childhood. They only get to have that playful innocence the first time around. We need to make sure that their environment in not propelling them into adulthood on fast forward.

Third grade should be a time for recess and dodge ball, not love and drama. At the rate things are going there will be a reality show based on hard core eight-year-olds owning the halls of the elementary schools.

How childlike are the children in your life?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Going the Way of Christmas

How do you teach patriotism? What can you do to show your children, or your fellow Americans, what the flag, the fourth, and the fallen mean to you? How do you explain that Memorial Day weekend is more than the public pool opening and hot dogs on the grill? Can they understand why Uncle John had to go to Afghanistan and why we hold our hands over our hearts when we sing the anthem?

Each holiday has taken its turn becoming commercialized. It seems Christmas decorations go up in the stores as soon as the back-to-school displays come down. Valentine's is more about selling overpriced candy then sharing our love. Now the patriotic holidays are taking their turn. In a country where the pledge of allegiance's appropriateness in schools is debated, children are losing sight of what patriotism means. Memorial Day is toted as the unofficial beginning of summer. Television ads and stores stock displays with charcoal, coolers and flip flops.

My kids have learned about Betsy Ross in school and colored pictures of flags, but do they know why they're off from school on Monday? They have a hard time understanding why it makes Mommy and Daddy so proud to see our local veteran waving the flag all weekend from the interstate bridge in town.

So, how do we combat society's bland patriotism? I'm doing my part. I married a man born on Veteran's Day, have a nephew born on Flag Day, and I gave birth to our son on the Fourth of July. Beat that.

The only problem was convincing my oldest that the fireworks were for our nation's birthday, and not his.

I gave my children a little patriotism quiz while I was writing this post. Turns out, thank heavens, the family influence is a lot stronger then the glossy advertising world.  All three knew that Memorial Day was a holiday to remember all the soldiers that have died fighting to protect us. My oldest could tell me the meaning of the flag. No one was quite sure why we cover our hearts for the pledge and the anthem, but they knew it was very important. I was an especially proud Mama, even more so because they all knew that without soldiers we couldn't be safe and happy.

If I had to give a simplified definition of freedom, being safe and happy would be it. This Memorial Day we're free to be any kind of example we want. I hope we choose to teach the value of freedom  over flip flops and suntans.

What are you going to do this weekend to keep Memorial Day from going the way of Christmas?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Blue Light Intervention

Have you ever had an experience so odd and out of place in your day that you have to recognize it as the work of God in your life? A divine intervention, but you have no idea what you're being intervened from? I had such an experience this week, courtesy of the Culpeper Sheriff's Department.

On a drenching rainy day, I was winding my way through some two lane roads in the Virginia countryside when I noticed a police car behind me. My first reaction, as would be most people's, was to glance at my speedometer. Sighing with relief, I was right on fifty-five miles per hour, I had nothing to worry about. Unless of course I was in a forty-five zone. The jolt was all the more harsh when the blue lights started flashing.

Now, I've been pulled over twice before. Once for a dead inspection and just one time for speeding, which I did not get a ticket for. I'm known for a heavy foot on the interstate, but not so much on wet back roads. When the deputy approached the car, my best guess was maybe I had a tail light out. At least I was hoping.

Very politely the deputy asked me if I knew how fast I was going. Well, shoot. I meekly offered "fifty-five?" He smiled and said no, more like sixty-five to seventy. What? Wait, me? I don't think so, but I wasn't about to argue with an officer of the law. What came next blew me away. The speed wasn't a big deal. Really? Ten to fifteen over the speed limit isn't considered a big deal, what kind of twilight zone was I in exactly?

Keep in mind, the whole time this discussion was going on, the deputy was standing in the rain with no hat. With a great deal of concern, he went on to explain that while he'd been following me I had crossed over the fog line at least ten times, that he had counted. I had no idea that the white line on the side of the road was called a fog line. Officer polite didn't think I would be intoxicated at that time of the morning, so what was going on? Was I on the phone or tired?

Now, I was already completely mortified, because like I said I don't have a lot of experience being pulled over by the police, so I was quick and emphatic with my answers. Absolutely I had not been on the phone, I hadn't even touched it! Gee, why didn't I follow up with "honest, officer!" Apparently I came across as very sincere. He smiled patronizingly and asked to see my license. One glance and he nodded knowingly. "You've been on the road quite awhile this morning." I was an hour and fifteen minutes into a two hour trip and it wasn't even nine a.m yet. "I think it's time for a break."

I've never had anyone, outside of family, be so concerned for my safety and well being. This deputy talked to me for several minutes of the dangers of being too tired on the wet roads and how he really hoped I would stop to stretch and get a drink. He even warned me about the possibility of standing water further down on route three. Remember that, it'll be important later.

Before he ran my license he asked if I had any issues with it. The emphatic panic was back. "No. I've never had a ticket." Like he wasn't about to find that out in two seconds.

With my license clear, he said I was cut loose, but again he really urged me to stop at the little store we were at and take a break. There wouldn't be another good spot for quite some time. I took his advice. Especially since he stayed at the store the whole time I was there.

I drove with my hands at ten and two and my car centered exactly between the lines the rest of the day, staying two miles below the speed limit. It wasn't until about an hour later that I realized the whole experience had been a little...odd.

The more I thought about it, the more certain I was that I had not been driving ten to fifteen miles over the speed limit, in the rain. I also tried to think about swerving off the road. Wouldn't I have noticed? My car has a poor alignment and pulls to the right, but I don't think I'm generally all over the road. The next oddity on my list, was the deputy's insistence I stop right where I was. Of course, I was free to go on, but he'd said there wouldn't be a good place to stop for quite some time. However, the city of Culpeper was less then ten miles away. The final straw came from my husband. "He stopped you and stood out in the rain, and didn't even give you a ticket?" It takes a really good hearted person to do that just out of concern.

When we were first married we lived in a apartment with a steep set of stairs. I was famous for falling down those stairs. Every time it flashed through my mind, a sixteenth of a second before it happened "I'm going to fall down the steps". I'd had that same kind of flash earlier on that rainy day, except it was "I'm going to be in an accident".

I can't say if there was any truth to it, and I certainly can't for sure that Heavenly Father sent that sheriff's deputy to delay my path. I do know that I wasn't on route three and didn't take that road at all on my way to my destination. I ended up on it later in the day when I strayed from my gps, so it was good I knew about the standing water.

Take those little spills, wrong turns and flashing blue lights in stride. There is a greater plan, and who knows what you could be intervened from.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Still Carry His Picture

Mother's day is one of my very favorite holidays. I'll admit, I love the handmade cards and soggy marigolds. The stick figure portraits, that make me look so thin, are a special favorite. Mostly though, the adoration with which these gifts come are what makes my day. The joy bursting from their little hearts let's me know, yet again, that it's Mom that rocks this house.

Sure, Dad keeps us safe, warm, sheltered, the yard maintained, the cars in working order, he fixes stuff and he even grocery shops. But, can he make a pancake pig? Kids don't recognize the millions of sacrifices we make for them everyday, they notice the minutia that makes them happy in the moment.

Mom chases fireflies with them, sucks the middle out of honeysuckle and colors Queen Anne's Lace in food coloring. I turn birthdays into events and the entire Christmas season is a series of magical traditions. Are they head over heals about four wheeler rides with their Dad and his surprise trips to the movies? Sure, but this is about Mother's day. We can talk about him next month.

With this special day upon us I can't help, but count my blessings, and their fingers, toes, and little noses. As happy as I am with my little wonders, I always come up one short. In 2002, on a rather ordinary Wednesday, my first pregnancy came to an end with no warning. I will never forget the kindness of the emergency room doctor. Or, the normally terse head of radiology who was warm and reassuring.

Twenty-four hours later all we had left were a few journal entries, a faded pregnancy test and a small stuffed heart that now adorns our Christmas tree each year.

So many mothers have lost children. Many go on to have more, some are blessed through adoption and yet others never complete their family while here on earth. All of these women have something in common. They never forget those babies.

There are no photographs or baby books for these children, nothing solid to hold onto, but the memories are still dear. No miscarriage date is forgotten, or would've been birthday passed by. My son, I can't be sure it was a boy, is kept safe pressed between the pages of my scriptures. The ultrasound picture is one of the few things I have that makes him real. He was an adorable little blob, spitting image of his father. I will carry that picture until the day I die.

The world may not remember these mothers this Mother's day. There's not a special card and these children aren't here to make beaded necklaces and petunias in Styrofoam cups. I will remember these Moms this holiday in a special prayer, and I hope you do too.

Don't you think they would've rocked the house?


Friday, May 4, 2012

Road Ninja

The era of the road warrior is over. I practically live in my car, and to survive I have become a road ninja. Stealthy, wise, and vigilant a road ninja slips through traffic avoiding aggression and the insanity of other drivers.

Being in sales, I spend eighty percent of my work week on the road. Add in baseball games, scouting, cheer practice and church activities and I'm clocking some serious behind the wheel time. You could say I'm familiar with the gas pedal.

Armed with a floor full of empty water bottles and backseat boosters I have been witness to, and had near misses, with all kinds of mayhem. Just today there was a three car back-up pulling out of a gas station. After several minutes with no movement I looked ahead to see a pedestrian across the street waving, and having a conversation with the lead car. He couldn't hear so he took out his phone and started texting to the driver. A road warrior might have developed a nervous tick or spoken some very un-Christian words in a snarling voice. However, as a road ninja I took a deep breath and shook my head. Being the third car in line there was nothing I could do, and it would make for a good story.

Road ninjas have to be ever watchful for the careless and reckless driving of others. Spending so much time on the road I can now see the signs of someone who is getting ready to swerve into my lane or cut me off. Cars that are pulling out from side roads are dangerous "snipers" that can never be trusted. The problem with being so vigilant, is that it can make me a terrible passenger. Drivers that don't see major windshield time, tend to take in the sights when they drive. If you're viewing the scenery you're not likely to see that car ahead of you that's getting ready to thread the needle between two tractor trailers. Most of our cars have a spot worn in the passenger side carpet from me pressing on my imaginary brake.

Strategy is a key part of the road ninja arts. First is routing. The commonly known route is not always the best one. Sometimes encountering less traffic can be a very good thing. A good back road, as long as you're familiar with it, can save time and peace of mind.

The second strategy is defense. When it comes to highways and byways, the best defense is avoidance. The road warriors of old might have bullied their way through heavy traffic. The wise ninja stays away from distracted cell phone users, maneuvers past swervers and keeps a safe distance. More times than I care to admit I've glanced away from the road for a second, only to have to slam on the brakes when I look back up. Just inches and a prayer have separated me from the next car's bumper. If you're ever coming out of Petersburg, West Virginia by the Pizza Hut, those black skid marks on the road...yep, they're mine.

The more frequent case is the car that is following so closely you can't actually see the front of their car in your rear view mirror. Even a veteran can become shaken when the sound of squealing tires is coming from directly behind you.

It seems like navigating the roadways isn't all that different from making your way through life. Don't follow the crowd, keep your eye on people that are wrapped up in themselves and could be a danger to you. An imaginary brake isn't going to stop anyone, you have to speak up. Most importantly be aware of your surroundings, all the time. A little prayer never hurt either.

So, are you still an old school aggressive road warrior? Or do you have the stealth of a road ninja?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Watering Carpet Trees

I'll admit it, I spent the early part of this week praying for rain. Not for the sake of my garden, it hasn't even been plowed yet, let alone a single seed planted to be in need of water. I was praying for rain because we were down to our last crust of stale bread, and a cup of yogurt that was a day a way from expiring. Call me a bad Mom, but I was hoping our Monday night baseball game would get rained out. My prayers were answered. Don't worry we have like twenty more games this season. Missing that one night, though, eliminated the need for a midnight grocery run and the overflowing hamper blues.

Most life jugglers face the challenge of making a choice at some point that will be unpopular with themselves, or their family. Rather than do that we hope for miraculous divine intervention. We know we can't possibly make it across town from badminton practice to Chinese checkers club in 2.7 minutes, so we hope the checkers coach will come down with the flu and cancel practice. If the decision is taken out of our hands we don't have to be the bad guy, right? Or maybe we just don't want to be responsible for the decision. Maybe my kid is destined to be the next Chinese checker Olympic Champion, and I'm destroying his chances by skipping too many practices.

Spring is a jam packed season. The school year is still in full swing, we have a full calendar of activities and beautiful weather beckons us outdoors. My ever growing to-do list has been cast aside. I think there are small oak trees sprouting out of the carpet from lack of vacuuming. They stand as a tribute to all of the un-answered rainstorms I've prayed for.

There is more and more pressure to work an extra full work week, and provide a host of events for your family. The guilt of not having "well rounded kids" keeps us from saying no. We fail to see that sometimes the whole family needs a break, and sometimes a skipped practice or game is better for us as a whole. With or without the rain. Finding a reasonable balance in our lives can provide a measure of sanity. We have to be brave enough to pray for the rain.

Sometimes we just need our decisions to be validated. If I keep up the pace of spring I will drop from exhaustion, but how do I choose which child's activity should be skipped? Cub Scouts or Cheertastics? What do I let slide, mopping or my expense report? One missed activity might put our peace of mind back on track. If a husband, virus or even Heavenly Father would intervene I could eliminate a few things from my plate without making the unpopular decision. The choice was taken out of my hands, but the needed results were there.

In this overloaded society we shouldn't feel guilty about praying for rain. In fact, we shouldn't feel bad about making the choices we need to in order to keep balance in our families. Since we're not wired that way quite yet, I'll keep my fingers crossed and one eye on the sky.

Are you brave enough to pray for rain, or do you need to water your carpet trees?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Devils Among Us: Chapter Two

You asked for more, so here it is! The second chapter from my novel Devils Among Us. How will Devin deal with the death of her partner and getting back to work? See the March 8th post The Unveiling if you missed chapter one.

Chapter 2

Devin stood outside the imposing brick church, staring at its massive red door. She didn’t want to be here in her best black suit with a band across her badge. It wasn’t a choice, though. Greg wasn’t just her partner; he and Marcy were like family. Maybe by slipping in at the last possible moment and sitting in the darkest back corner, she could cope with the funeral. Letting out her breath in a whoosh, Devin sprinted up the stairs, ignoring the burn of the stitches across her stomach and arm. Perhaps if she propelled herself through the door with enough speed, she wouldn’t have time to talk herself out of taking a seat inside. Unfortunately when she hit the dark interior of the foyer, she hesitated while her eyes adjusted.

“Devin, thank goodness you’re here! I need you to sit with me.” Marcy broke away from a group that Devin recognized as Greg’s family as they were preparing to file into the chapel and clung on to Devin like a drowning child.

His mother stepped forward, her mouth drawn into a tight, straight line, her disapproval evident. “Marcy, dear, I really don’t think the Detective would be comfortable sitting up front. It’s really just for fam—”

Marcy didn’t allow her to finish. “Devin is family to me, and she was family to Greg. She belongs with us.” Tiny little Marcy lifted her chin and set her shoulders as if a force of nature couldn’t move her.

Mrs. Lumas turned on her heel and walked back toward the group, whispering fierce objections to her sons. She was the matriarch of a large Irish family that had been sending its sons into the police force for generations. Sons. Never daughters. Mrs. Lumas had never liked Devin; she felt it wasn't safe for Greg to be partnered with a woman, and she clearly held Devin responsible for her son’s death.

And she’s probably right, Devin thought grimly, but she pushed that thought away. Now was not the time.
Marcy tucked her arm through Devin’s and turned her huge eyes upward to look her in the eye. Her severe black dress made her eyes an even more vivid purple than normal. “You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.” she whispered.

Devin knew that was the truth, but it didn’t mean she was where she wanted to be. Especially when she felt the pitying eyes of the mourners upon her as she and Marcy made their way up the aisle. Instead of being tucked away in the darkest back corner, Devin was up front and center. She could have reached out and touched Greg’s casket if she wanted to. She didn’t want to. Instead she concentrated on maintaining a peaceful, bereaved expression while taking her mind as far away as possible.

As the mass droned on, she flipped through mental images of her childhood in inner-city Richmond. Devin thought about her family’s numerous moves to new apartments, which had also meant new schools in hopes of finding “something a little better.” Buying red, white and blue sno cones at the park by the river on the 4th of July for a quarter, but not buying too many, so they’d have enough money to buy sparklers off the older kids. Studying martial arts with Master Chan in the rickety room above his granddaughter’s Asian grocery story until the plaster dust started falling on the customers and they had to move to the Y. Those were benign pieces of her past she could stand to examine. She didn’t think of her father, and she certainly didn’t think about Greg.

After the services at the cemetery, there was a reception in the back room of Luigi’s, Greg’s favorite Italian restaurant. It was where he proposed to Marcy and where all the detectives normally celebrated when they broke a big case. Devin was leaning against the wall with her arms crossed. Few mourners approached her, which suited her fine. She didn’t want their condolences; they should reserve those sentiments for Marcy. Greg’s mother held court in the center of the room, shooting haughty glares at Devin whenever should could. All of Greg’s coworkers and friends swarmed around Marcy, providing a protective barrier against any of Mrs. Lumas’ unpleasantness.

“Devin, don’t you want a whiskey? We’re about to do a round of toasts to Greg’s memory.” Alex Denton said. He was another detective in their precinct. He and his partner, Leon, had frequently worked with Devin and Greg, and they’d played a major part in this last operation.

Devin sighed and pushed off the wall “I’ll take a soda.”

He frowned and leaned in to whisper, “Can’t you make an exception? Everyone is having Irish whiskey. Mrs. Lumas is insisting on the tradition.”

Devin cocked an eyebrow at him and smirked. “As if drinking whiskey of any origin would make that woman like me. I’m not making an exception, and Greg wouldn’t have wanted me to.”

Alex gave up and went to find her a soda. Devin very rarely drank. Her father had spent the last thirty-five years drowning in a bottle, and from the time she was very small Devin had witnessed the devastation alcohol could cause. It was obvious the potential was in her DNA, and she didn’t want to tempt fate by indulging in liquor. So on rare occasions she made an exception, one which had ended her up in a casino wedding chapel, but mixing whiskey and grief did not seem like a smart combination. After many rounds of toasts, the group began to break up. They’d toasted to Greg’s joy for life, his dedication to his family, and his loyal friendship. Devin had toasted to his protection of the innocent, his unfailing search for truth and justice, and always having her back—which drew an angry huff from Mrs. Lumas. It was then that Captain Morris pulled her aside.

“Captain, I know you need my report,” Devin said. “I’ll be in tomorrow to get everything wrapped up.”
He looked at the floor, not wanting to make eye contact. “I’m not worried about your report. Tomorrow will be fine. I just wanted to discuss your leave.”

“My leave? I know I’ll need to work a desk until my stitches come out, but I wasn’t planning on taking any more days off.” She hadn’t been in to the precinct since she had been stabbed but knew she had to face Greg’s empty desk and clean his locker out for Marcy.

“You know for this type of incident the department requires a one month leave and a psych evaluation, and there are extenuating circumstances here.” Not only was Captain Morris not meeting her eyes, but he looked like the collar of his shirt was suddenly two sizes too small. Devin knew he wasn’t giving her the whole story, but she couldn’t tell what he was holding back.

“The ‘extenuating circumstances’ are exactly why I can’t take a month off. You’re already down a detective. Alex and Leon won’t be able to cover the whole case load, and I need to get back in there. I didn’t really think you’d enforce the leave. Surely you can bend the rules just a little and overlook the one-month requirement.  The press is writing our department up as heroes.” In truth, she was the one the press was calling a hero, but she didn’t like that kind of attention.

Captain Morris was beet red by this point, and his eyes were wild. Delicate conversations had never been his forte. He knew Devin would react badly, so he pulled the band-aid off quickly and burst out the news. “Devin, it’s not a month. It’s a mandatory three-month leave, and my hands are absolutely tied, so there’s no sense in getting worked up here.” His words were laughable, considering he was the one that looked like he was going to drop dead of a heart attack any moment.

 “Three months! Are you out of your ever-lovin’ mind? What the hell am I supposed to do for that long? I was stabbed, not run over by a Mack truck!” Devin looked the exact opposite of the Captain—when she was angry, her sun-kissed skin paled to its natural porcelain coloring, and her chocolate eyes turned black and ice cold with her fury. 

Several officers from their precinct were eyeing the two speculatively, as if they all knew what the conversation was about and they had wagers on just how ballistic Devin would go. She wondered briefly what kind of show they were expecting. Leon probably expects something showy like throwing a chair through the window and he wouldn’t think I would carry a weapon at a funeral. That’s where Alex knows me better, she could just hear him now. “Are you kidding? This is Devin, church or not, she’s carrying a gun.” He'd be right.

Now that everything was out in the open, Captain Morris let the details pour forth. “One-month is required leave for an injury like yours sustained in the line of duty. There’s another required for losing your partner in this manner, and the psych evaluations that go along with it . . .” He lost his momentum and faltered before telling her the rest.

Like her demeanor, Devin’s voice was icy and hard when she spoke. “What about the third month?” She could already sense she was not going to like his answer.

The captain sighed in defeat and met her eyes once again. “Internal Affairs needs the extra month to complete their investigation.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Investigation of what exactly?” she hissed out.

“They’re investigating you for alleged excessive force in the death of Ronald Turnsby and reckless endangerment of your fellow officers.”

The James River Killer had turned out to be named Ronald Turnsby, a mild-mannered software developer who’d spent his days quietly designing foreign language educational software in his cubicle that overlooked the James River and the meandering jogging trail that accompanied it.

“Use . . . of . . . excessive . . . force?” Her voice was tight as she tried to control her fury, but with each word, her voice climbed higher in both pitch and volume. “I was severely wounded and unarmed. What did they want me to do, tap him on the shoulder and ask him politely to stop shooting the nice policemen? This is crap, and you know it!” She punctuated her tirade by hurling her empty drink glass at the back wall. If anyone hadn’t heard the shouting, they surely heard the explosion of glass.

“Yes, Devin, I do know it’s crap, but that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t interfere with an IAB investigation. You’re not exactly on their Christmas card list as it is, so you’re just going to have to suck it up and wait this thing out.” It was no secret that Internal Affairs considered her volatile and a risk to the department. They were looking for any opportunity to bounce her into civilian life.

“It’ll be unpaid leave until IAB finishes their investigation. I’m so sorry, kid.” He left the rest unsaid—that it would a permanent unpaid leave if they found her guilty.

She dropped her voice and spoke under her breath. “I don’t care about the money. This is just their opportunity to vilify me more than the killer and convince everyone in the department that I’m responsible for Greg’s death.”

“The Mayor’s office loves the positive press right now. They’ll be on your side, and that carries a lot of power. You just need to sit tight and ride it out. Rest, take a vacation. Lord knows it’s been years since you’ve taken time off.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

Horizontal Stripes and Plastic Indians

Right now in America there are great quests happening. Important, life changing quests. That's right, it's time to shop for a swimsuit. There will be thousands of pages of magazine articles dedicated to tips and tricks for finding "your perfect suit". Talk shows will model this season's hottest styles for hiding your problem areas. You gentlemen might compare this to hunting down your perfect lawn mower. The biggest and baddest model that will give your yard that Wrigley Field look.

The strategy is to walk a fine line between shopping early when selection is best and waiting for the first sale of the season, so you don't pay full price. Then you must deal with the sea of options available, halter top, boy shorts, zero turn, fifty inch deck, horizontal stripes...not on your life! All 4,783 magazine articles will tell you horizontal stripes are going to make you look wider. Who on earth wants that? If you're not careful you could end up looking like your grandmother only thirty pounds heavier or mowing your back forty with a push mower.

What happens when you can't find what you're looking for? Despite mighty shopping marathons and Internet searches into the wee hours of the night you've come up empty handed. Do you settle for second best? You could just wait it out another year. Or, do you come up with a new solution.

The perspective changes a little bit when children are involved. My son, bless him, follows in my husband's genetic footsteps. I had rather hoped my kids would get a height boost from my side of the family, but so far it is not to be. Caden just fits into a size eight dress pant, and when I say just I mean it won't button past May. For his Easter outfit we tried eight styles and four purchases. The best fitting pair came only four inches past his toes. He wore his regular Sunday suit with a new shirt and tie for Easter. I'm contemplating dusting off my Mom's old sewing machine and my equally dusty Home Ec sewing skills.

That was a search that met in compromise, but sometimes in the world of childhood that won't do. Take for instance in second grade when students were to build their own Native American housing model. My son made a beautifully painted teepee with weeds from our yard as prairie grass. It was A+ quality work, but little Jim Bob's Dad had gathered real sticks from the woods to make a fire ring and Jim Bob's Mom got plastic cowboys and Indians to set all around his tent. What did Jim Bob actually do on this project?

The gauntlet had been thrown. There was no way we were turning in a teepee without plastic indians. The quite obvious point we were missing is that this type of play is no longer consider politically correct. After searching through every gift shop, gas station and toy aisle in a three county radius I was hysterically beginning to wonder if I could pass off ninjas and firefighters with out my son noticing. When there in a dusty corner of a dollar store was the last known pack of cowboys and indians. I grasped them to my chest and dashed for the register like I had found the only nourishment left on the planet after Armageddon. My son would not know disappointment this day! Plenty of other days, but not today!

Interesting how the drive to succeed in a quest changes per individual. Generally I will bide my time or find a creative new solution if I can't find what I'm looking for. We have an ancient dresser that is falling apart, but a new one is not in the cards right now. Enter built-in shelves for the closet and some storage bins, and we have a cheaper answer. If something is important to my husband he will keep searching until he finds exactly what he's looking for. That's how he got such a great wife. If it's not a big deal he'll take the first thing that comes along. That's how we got his last truck. Or do I have those two things backwards?

Maybe that's how we should take on life too. This is the path we're creating for ourselves. Why just settle when you could be out finding what you want. Whether it's more time with your kids, a spiritual make-over, or a new career path, go on that quest.Create a solution or hunt it down.

After all, you don't want a ninja outside your teepee do you?

Friday, April 6, 2012

And the Parent of the Year Award Goes to...

Not me! Why is it just when you think you're getting a handle on all the balls you're juggling your kids remind you that you're really losing your grip. Any thoughts you have that you might be on top of things is a complete illusion. If you think you're doing a good job as a parent, hold on to your hat, your kids are about to throw you for a loop.

This past Tuesday I had a plan for the evening. Famous last words. The boys were headed off to Cub Scouts, leaving the girls and I to a quiet house and a few chores. The girls decided they would take their shower before picking up their mess, but they wanted to use my shower. My poor husband doesn't actually own anything according to our kids. It's Mommy's room, Mommy's bed, Mommy's shower, Mommy's tub, even the car is mine. The truck and van are "our's", they belong to the whole family. Daddy gets the clothes on his back and the tools in the garage.

I made the deal and allowed the girls to head off to my bathroom while I caught up on some administrative work. Why the two of them like squishing into that small shower is beyond me. Five minutes later from the opposite side of the wall I heard terrified screams in stereo. Before I cleared the doorway I could make out the words "It's bleeding! It's bleeding!". The room looked like a scene from a B rated horror flick. Macy had jumped out of the shower and was frantically flailing her hand about, throwing streaks of blood on the walls and floor. Her sister was staring in wide eyed terror through the clear shower curtain. With out pausing I pulled a bath towel off the rack and pressed her hand tightly in it while guiding her to the sink. She was sobbing to hard to understand so I asked her sister what happened. Makayla pointed to my razor, which had gone from the top of the shower to the floor. "It fell." That's all I got.

Trying to pull off the towel to wash the wound was no good, there was too much blood pouring out to see anything. We switched to paper towels, but they soaked through in seconds. It was time to go to the emergency room. I sent Makayla to get dressed as fast as possible while I slipped one of my t-shirts over Macy, wet hair and all.  Makayla met me at the car wearing a yellow t-shirt sporting a  neon rainbow, navy and pink hand-me-down sweat shorts and chunky brown boots with no socks. She cut me off before I could say anything. "I was in a hurry, I grabbed the clothes on top!" What could I say, other than "Great job, honey."

It was a struggle strapping Macy into her booster seat. She was terrified of going to the hospital and apparently wanted the neighbors to know about her predicament. Trying to calm her down her sister and I sang church primary songs. She became less vocal, but no less scared. Halfway to the hospital I checked in with my husband at scouts. He wanted to know if I was sure she needed to be treated at the ER. Looking in the rear view at the napkin she had soaked through most recently, I was certain.

Wrapping her hand back in the bath towel I carried her into the hospital. If you want quick service with no waiting in an emergency room, carry in a crying child wrapped in a bloody towel. We were instantly taken back to a room. The nurse we had was absolutely amazing, she took great care of my baby and put her at ease. It turned out that only one finger had been cut. Yeah! I hadn't been able to tell because I couldn't get a good look at it. To Macy's great joy there was no sewing involved, only because there wasn't enough material to work with. Basically she peeled her finger like a potato. There were no edges to pull together and  there was nothing to clot, hence the continued bleeding. Using a special pad from the surgical unit that causes clotting and would seal off the wound, her hand was bandaged into a mitten. Special precaution was taken because if she bumped the injury and broke it open the bleeding would start again. Without the special sealant the bleeding could last for hours.

Maybe it was the twin connection, because they certainly never had time to discuss their story, but both the girls stuck with the "it fell" version for the rest of the evening. It was nice to see them stick together, but not against me! Both Caden and Makayla insisted on riding home with their injured sister and helping her get buckled into her seat. The one silver lining to the whole incident, seeing siblings show their love and concern for each other.

When her father carried her to the car that evening Macy told him really it was Mommy's fault. "It was Mommy's shower and Mommy's razor. She was the one who let us in there." Thank you Macy. I was already feeling the guilt of this incident, thank you for icing the cake. Should they have known better then to climb up and get my razor? Absolutely. Does that mean it doesn't need repeating from time to time? Apparently not. Does it also mean that I should be paying more attention when my girls are in the shower? Of course. So thank you Macy for waking me up and giving me a reality check, and for giving me a large dose of guilt to carry around. I've been so preoccupied with toting them around to activities and managing their school load that I'd started to overlook the simpler details of their daily life that keeps them safe.

Beware, if you're getting comfortable with how you're managing life a curve ball may be coming to knock you off balance. Would it take bloodshed to refocus your priorities?

Leave a comment below if you enjoyed this post!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

BFF in a Box

BFF, bestie, bud, mate, pal, does your best friend have a title? Or, what friend category do they fall into? Not what clique do they belong to. Thankfully we do not live our lives in a perpetual state of high school divisions of cool kids, nerds and jocks. This week, in my life, there has been an abundance of questions on the topic of friendship. Ranging from the appropriate title for an eleven year old boy's best friend, it was ruled that BFF was too feminine, to the very simple list the first name of your best friend.

After pondering these different scenarios I realized that by the time you reach grown-up status you no longer have a group of best friends. Instead you've filtered through your compadres and now have them broken down in certain categories to serve various purposes in your life. If you're anything like me, and I hope for the sake of your family and your sanity that you're not, your categories might break down something like this:

1. The Mirror: These are the friends that are so much like you that it's not a good idea to ever live together. Unfortunately, since you're such good friends, you probably already know this from experience because you gave it a try at some point. This is a great friend to go shopping with since you have the same taste and you own some of the same things to begin with.

2. Oldie but Goodies: (aka: Childhood Friends) Thanks to social media sites, like Facebook, the resurrection of these nostalgic relationships is more popular then ever. High school and workplace friendships may fade, but there's nothing like having someone to chat with that shares your memories about first sleepovers, school plays, little league games and trick-or-treating. It's amazing to see how life can take you down very different or similar paths. My earliest pig-tailed pal moved away more than twenty years ago, but our family focused lives have turned out very similar, right down to each having a set of twins.

3. The "Yes Your Butt Looks Big": The friend who will tell you like it is, whether it's about your outfit, political view or the fact you haven't called. A fresh honest relationship that always leaves you smiling. When you go to lunch with this friend three hours passes in the blink of an eye and as a souvenir you take home ribs sore from laughing. As a side note this is not the person you could ever count on to bail you out of jail, because chances are they're the reason you ended up there in the first place and they're sitting right next to you.

4. Blood: It is possible for family to be friends. Sometimes I think it's easier when you inherit them like I did. When I married my husband I collected five sisters. Maybe you got in-laws, but I got sisters that are also friends. Very handy for gossiping, child rearing, shopping and general girlfriend type activities. Caution: inheriting blood friends leads to less fighting then between actual siblings, but is not a guarantee.

5. BFF: Whatever you might call this friend they are your nearest and dearest and could come from any of the above categories. This is the person that knows you better than anybody and still likes you. When something exciting happens this is the first person you think to call and vice versa. I had to fill out a survey this week asking me for my best friend's first name. Following my first instinct I put down the person that fit all those criteria, my hubby.

We may not be living in high school anymore, but our friendships still fall into some very distinct categories. What separates us from our teeny bopper alter egos is our ability to not spend our time boxing our friendships into groups, but cherishing and cultivating them. The beauty of being a grown-up is seeing the value of having friends and lifting them up as much as they do you.

When's the last time you showed your BFF, best buddy or soul mate some extra love?

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Pirate Goes Camping

I seriously considered writing a post entitled "Unfortunate Swimsuit Decisions and Tragic Tattoos". After spending a week in warmer climates I was an unlucky witness to a multitude of both. I have three children, two of which came at the same time, and a love of all things chocolate. I know the importance of shopping for a flattering swimsuit. It is my firm belief that many people, both male and female, grab a suit off the rack, put it on and strut out to the pool or beach with out ever looking in a mirror. At least I hope they don't know how they look. I digress, crayon sketched tattoos of mangled mermaids and poorly worn Speedos are not my focus this week. These observations were made because of something that has become very precious to me and my husband, relaxing time away.

I know what you're thinking, that's great for you, but not everyone can flit off to the beach. Well most of the time neither can I, but it doesn't matter where you go it's the peace you get when you arrive. Several years into our marriage my husband and I were stressed to the max and money was tight, which probably added to the stress. Our solution to a relaxing getaway, camping.

It sounded like a good idea at the time. Just thirty dollars a night and a borrowed tent, what could be better? Famous last thoughts. With everything packed and ready to go my hubby came home late from work with an eye injury. You may not have noticed, but telephone lines are wrapped with a wire. While working on a telephone pole that guide wire had sprung loose and stabbed him in the eye. Go ahead, cringe. Had we been a little older and smarter I would have insisted on going to the emergency room, but we weren't so bright and we were desperate to get away. After twenty minutes on the road he was blinded by tears and in a good deal of pain, so we pulled over at a Wal-Mart and I went in to search for a solution. I knew his patience was waining so I raced through the pharmacy aisles scanning the shelves for anything that might help. My solution, eye drops, pain killers and an eye-patch padded with tissues. If a peg leg and a parrot would have helped I'd have bought them, I was beyond desperation.

The pirate routine bought us some time. We were able to get to the campground and set-up the tent, but then he was done. He collapsed on the empty floor of the tent in pain, while I unloaded the truck and established our campsite by the beam of the flashlight and prayed. Exhausted I stumbled through the woods to the showers and prayed some more. Settling the dog under the truck and zipping us into the tent I was finally done. Oh, and did I mention I prayed?

Saturday morning broke sunny and beautiful. I was woken by a very large rock in my back, which was a bad sign considering we had been sleeping on an air mattress. My hubby cracked his good eye open and then gingerly lifted his patch. There was a slight dot that looked bloodshot, but no swelling and no pain. The prayers of the faithful were answered.

With joy in our hearts we bounced out of our tent only to be slammed back by...what exactly was that smell? It was so overwhelming we couldn't immediately distinguish the acidic stench that was burning our eyes. Then it hit me. During the night we had yelled at the dog to be quiet and settle down. Surely he had not been sprayed by a skunk while tied to our truck, in our campsite, in the middle of a very crowded campground. We peeked out at the pooch. He kept his nose in the dirt and wouldn't make eye contact. Yep, that's exactly what had happened.

I don't know about you, I pack a lot of things when I camp, but not skunk remedies. Checking out the camp store the closest thing we could find was V-8 juice, and it wasn't cheap. We bought two bottles and rationed it out between the dog and the truck tire that had been in the line of fire. Low and behold it worked. I'm telling you, the Lord helps those who help themselves, and He was definitely helping us.
Our day went on to be fabulous. It was the first time we spent just completely relaxing together, no activities, just sitting under some trees reading magazines and taking naps. I might have put enough effort forth to paint my toenails and later we went fishing, but the point is we took time to quiet our minds and check ourselves out of reality for awhile. The peace and sanity we gained that day was life saving. It didn't matter that we were camping in the woods, we could have been on a beach or at a park. The experience is what counted. The fact that there were challenges in our path made it all the more worth while. Things that come to easily also come with less meaning.

Take time for yourself, your marriage, your sanity and don't let anything stand in your way no matter what ridiculous thing pops up. Even if it means taking a pirate camping. Maybe it's the very thing that could save you from a disastrous swimsuit decision or tacky tattoo.

So, when are you going to find a little peace?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Unveiling

Since I'm going to be travelling for a little while I knew I wouldn't be able to update the blog in the next week on my normal schedule, so I wanted to do something a little special. To tide you over so to speak. After careful consideration I've decided to share the first chapter of my book Devils Among Us. It's a hard thing to put your writing out to be judged, but I thought what better people could I ask for then those that have found their way to my blog already. So enjoy and please feel free to critique and leave comments. ~ Chastity

Chapter 1
May 2001
Devin Dushane’s feet pounded out a steady rhythm on the steamy pavement of the jogging trail. The humidity reminded her of her time in Thailand, not late spring in Virginia. She could feel beads of sweat sliding down her neck, soaking into the edge of her white tank top where one of her tattoos barely peaked out between her shoulder blades. She glanced to her left and saw the amber sun sinking into the river. This was the forty-seventh time she had run this five-mile course around the city of Richmond in the last month. Sometimes in the baking heat of the setting sun, sometimes in the cooler morning mists that floated off the river, and many times she ran it both in the morning and the evening.

She should be exhausted, but instead, adrenaline flowed through her veins and crackled around her like electricity. This would be the night. She knew it as surely as she knew every curve in this trail. Her father had always said her grandmother Bennett had passed on “the sight” to Devin, the gift of knowing when evil was lurking. She was more inclined to believe it was a keen awareness of her surroundings and elevated sense of details, two skills that had helped her excel as a police detective. It also helped that she was as tenacious as pit bull, which is how she ended up on this sting operation in the first place. She grinned a little to herself as her earpiece crackled.

“Well, your form is definitely improving, Twister.”  Her partner, Greg, had nicknamed her “Twister” because, “You either get caught up in Devin’s energy or flattened by it like an Oklahoma Twister.” 
A perfect example of that energy was Devin’s first encounter with her hand-to-hand combat instructor at the police academy. The drill sergeant flunky had planned to put her in her place when he called her up to demonstrate a technique. Instead she put him flat on his back, ten feet across the mat. The story was legendary among cadets, one Greg loved to tell.

“Thanks, Greg. You know my running form is my biggest concern out here tonight,” she murmured under her breath.

To any onlookers she would look like a typical jogger talking to herself as she ran. It was impossible to tell that the ear buds to her mp3 player were actually tying her in to the communication center of the surveillance team.  Nor would they know that her sporty sunglasses and the fancy emblem on the back of her running tank were actually equipped with small cameras that were also transmitting to the surveillance team. Undercover officers were scattered around the park, keeping pace with Devin as she moved up the trail.

This operation had been her idea, and as much as her commander had disliked the plan, he knew it was their only shot right now of catching what the press had dubbed “The James River Killer.” So far four women had been brutally raped and stabbed to death just feet off the jogging trail that wound around Richmond and the James River. The fifth victim had barely survived and had been able to give them some details about how the attack took place. That’s when Devin had come up with the plan to offer the James River Killer exactly what he was looking for: a pretty, young female runner with a predictable schedule who always ran solo. Bait, so to speak.

At twenty-nine, with her tan, athletic physique and mass of mahogany hair, she fit the bill perfectly. It was their hope that the killer was stalking her this very moment, and that when he made his move out of the shadows, the team would swoop in for the grab, containing the situation with minimal collateral damage.
They had no idea how very right and very wrong they were about to be.
Devin sensed his presence a half a second before the James River Killer stepped out of the dense thicket onto the trail behind her. As she whirled around, Greg was screaming in her earpiece.

“Devin, behind you, to the right. Turn around. Turn Around!”

Just as the fifth victim, Kaitlin Alvarez, had described him, the James River Killer was dressed in black from head to toe, cloaked in black fatigues, boots, a ski mask and gloves, so it was impossible to identify race or distinguishing marks. But Devin could tell he was six feet tall and at least 200 pounds—and he knew how to handle the seven-inch blade he was wielding.

She had to occupy him for thirty seconds, tops, before the rest of the team would surround them. She was ready as she faced off with him. He didn’t hesitate as he drove the knife towards her throat, but she thrust her arm into the inside of his elbow, knocking his blow high so it grazed her shoulder. In the heat of the moment, she didn’t even feel the pain of the cut that should have seared her flesh, and instead landed a punch in his windpipe, followed by a rapid combo of a knee to the groin and then a smashing elbow to the nose. He stumbled back, but only a half a step before he dove forward, sinking the blade into the left side of Devin’s abdomen.

If she hadn’t been a fighter trained in the streets, she might have fallen, but she was fueled by a vengeance that would have to be answered for. When the killer moved to plunge the blade into her stomach a second time, Devin caught his arm and flipped it around, snapping the bones in his wrist, making him drop the knife. She twisted his arm behind, flipping him on to his back and slamming him to the ground, much like she had the academy instructor. 

Officers poured into the area around them, weapons drawn. Devin stumbled back, feeling her injuries for the first time. Like the strike of a snake, the JR killer flicked a semiautomatic from under his jacket and rolled to his knees. It was so fast that by the time Devin had screamed out, “Gun!” he’d already sliced a round of bullets into the crowd. Greg and two others went down, and a young mother with a jogging stroller just down the path stood in harm’s way. The raining gunfire kept the officers pinned down, and with no open shots that would not further endanger the civilians in the park.

Devin was unarmed and bleeding heavily, but she had the advantage of being behind the killer. Without thinking, she leapt forward into a spin, attempting a move she had seen only in the underground fights of Thailand. She had no prayer of performing it correctly, but if luck was with her, she could do it well enough to incapacitate the attacker. She was more than lucky. Devin landed the kick precisely at the base of the killer’s skull. In the roar of the mayhem surrounding her, the sickening snap of his neck still seemed as loud as a gunshot. The James River Killer slumped to the ground, motionless. He would do no more harm.

Devin shot forward to where Greg had fallen and began yanking off his vest. Of course the bullets had struck in the few vulnerable places the body armor didn’t cover, and Greg was gasping for breath as Devin began applying pressure to his wounds.

“Did you get him?” Greg gasped out. “Tell me you got him.”  His curly ash blonde hair and button-down shirt were quickly being soaked with blood. His round face and dimples had always made him appear boyish and too young to be a detective, but he suddenly looked much older than his thirty-four years.

“Yeah G-Man, we got him. He’s definitely down. No worries, ok?” Devin tried using her best sunny voice, but she was failing miserably.

“Devin? Promise me you’ll get me to Marcy so I can say good-bye.” He rarely called her by her given name; it was always Twister or Twist. “She’s at work at St. Mary’s.” He let out a choked laugh. “Hey, you can kill two birds with one stone.”

“You’re not funny, idiot. I’ll take you to St. Mary’s, but there are no good-byes involved. Understand?”

“Sometimes you can’t hold things together by sheer will.” With that, Greg’s grey eyes rolled back in his head, and he fell limp.

Instantly Devin began compressions, screaming at the nearest officer to get a bus. By the time the EMTs reached them, she’d gotten his pulse back, and he was just regaining consciousness as they were loading up.

“Devin, please,” he managed. “I have to see Marcy. Promise me.” His strangled words were just a whisper.

“Fine!” she snapped. “I’ll promise if it’ll shut you up. But just so you know, I expect you to be at work helping me write up the report on this.” She gave him the acidic glare she was famous for around the precinct, and he tried to smile, but couldn’t manage it.

Within a block of the hospital, Greg flat-lined. The EMT shocked his heart, and Devin began compressions again.

Protesting did the tech no good. “Detective, we’ve barely stopped your bleeding. You need to back down and let me work!”

“With all due respect, you need another set of hands, and bleeding or not, I’m all you’ve got.”

Her reputation preceded her, and the EMT stopped arguing to save time and instead used a mask to bag Greg, filling his lungs as they pulled up to the hospital. Devin rode the gurney in to the trauma unit, continuing with compressions the whole way, with the EMT running alongside. She glanced up to see Marcy’s pale face as they passed the desk. Someone must have called her down from the cardiac unit where she worked. With her petite frame and wide purple-blue eyes, she looked like a frightened child. Devin and Greg were covered in blood, and they arrived with a frantic flurry of activity. It was probably not an image that instilled confidence. Devin stayed where she was, trying to keep Greg’s heart beating until someone forcibly removed her and began carrying her into another room. She started to resist until she heard someone yell, “He’s back!”

They’d made it. She’d gotten him to Marcy liked she promised. Now the doctors were responsible for saving him. Devin didn’t want to admit to herself how unlikely that was. The doctors were saying things like “shredded left ventricle” and “pierced pulmonary artery.” She allowed for only a quick patch job of her wounds before she propelled herself back to Greg and Marcy. Stitches would have to wait.

Marcy had her forehead pressed against Greg’s; she was whispering to him and crying softly. She glanced up as Devin approached them. Devin half expected Marcy to be angry; it was well-known that many in the precinct thought Devin’s plan had been reckless and much too dangerous. In the end it had been the only choice they had with the current information, and the risks to the community had become too great to do nothing.

But Marcy wasn’t angry; she gave Devin a sad smile, her violet eyes full of despair. Being cautious of her friend’s injuries, Marcy gently wrapped one of her arms around Devin’s waist in a tender hug, still holding a hand to Greg’s face. She was so tiny she only came up to Devin’s shoulder.

“Thanks, Dev. Greg always said that if something happened to him on the job, you’d get him to me. Thank you for that.”

Devin couldn’t believe they were having such a peaceful conversation in the midst of the chaos around them. Greg looked up at her then, and as their eyes locked, she knew with that familiar tingling assurance that he was leaving them. Devin reached out to grip his hand—it was as if the two women wanted to anchor him here to earth with their touch, to keep him with them.

“Thanks, Twist, for getting me here. You really got him, right? You’re not just pacifying a dying man, are you? He’s gonna get what’s coming to him, right?” He looked desperate to know that his sacrifice would not be in vain, that they had subdued an evil in their city.

“Yes, G, we got him. And he already got what was coming to him. That SOB is rotting in hell as we speak.”

She squeezed his hand gently and then let him go so Marcy could have him completely in his final minutes. He studied her for just a moment and then nodded ever so slightly. His silver eyes flicked between the two women.

“You two take care of each other. Devin, Marcy is going to need your strength, and Marcy, Twist sucks at the emotional stuff, so don’t let her bottle this all up, ok?”

With that he stared into Marcy’s eyes as if trying to will her to feel all of his emotions.  They’d been married one short year, but the intensity of their relationship surpassed an eternity of normal marriages. He breathed out a final “I love you,” and then he was gone.

The mayhem in the room reached a fevered pitch as a code blue was called, but as she slipped quietly out, Devin knew no medical miracle would save him. She was halfway down the hall when her commander, Captain Morris, stopped her.

“Dushane, what the hell are you doing? You look like something out of bad horror flick. Get in there and get stitched up!”

She heard most of what he said, but the adrenaline rush was over, the loss of blood was catching up with her, and grief was threatening to crush her. The last thing she heard before she hit the floor was a stream of curses from Captain Morris.