Elegant Irene


“I don’t quite fancy my tea on the floor.”

I panicked!

She’s right! What am I doing?

My hands were full as I tried to balance the teapot, china cups and saucers, creamer and cookies in the wooden tray I’d carried in for our tea party.

My intentions were good.  I’d been wanting  to visit my gentleman friend’s mother in the nursing home she stayed in.  I asked him if I could visit her while he was gone on a week’s mission trip and remembered he mentioned she liked a good cup of tea.

A ‘tea party’ seemed like the perfect plan for a visit!

Seven years ago I found myself lying in a hospital bed with a broken femur.  One of those ‘pull the rug out from under you’ moments in life.  I certainly had not planned on falling on ice that day.

After a week’s stay, I was transferred to the rehabilitation unit of a nursing home.  In my fifties, I was the youngest resident.  Most patients were in their 80’s and 90’s.  I didn’t like what I saw or experienced.  And this place had a good reputation.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel for me.  After a period of time I would be going home.  Most of the folks I was with wouldn’t be.  They would be transferred over to the other side.  Many had a regular stream of visitors.  Others had not a one.

I wanted to make sure at some point after I left I found the opportunity to visit someone or several others to make a difference in their lives because I’d seen first hand that it was a hidden place of no return for so many people.  Men and women whom at one time in their lives flourished.  Now so many were forgotten.

My special friend was one of the luckier ones, being surrounded by family.  And I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to spend some time with her.

The first time I visited the nursing home I found my way to the elevator and rode to the second floor with an older man.  He clutched a paper coffee cup in his hand.  I’m not sure why, but the thought occurred to me this might be my friend’s brother.

Interesting.  I was right.  He walked right into the room I was headed to.  I hesitated, feeling very timid.  I stood outside in the hall and watched as he walked into the room hearing him greet his mother.

No,  I’m not leaving.  This is what I want to do.  It’s important.

I introduced myself.  He was very welcoming, and after a short visit I determined to come back in a few days with a tea party for this special lady.  It would be lovely!

Elegant Irene.

Dressed in a bright pink knit blouse, black sweater and black and white geometric-patterned slacks, she faced the hallway sitting in her wheelchair.

“My name is Deborah.”

“I am your son’s friend from church.”

She received my hand gently in the handshake I offered her and gifted me with her beautiful smile.

I managed to get the teacups on her bed table.  Arranged the shortbread cookies on napkins, and poured us some tea in floral china cups.  I put just a little creamer in hers.  I’d hoped she wouldn’t be too troubled I set the cups on the floor for a moment.  Her comment did tickle my funny bone and is still a sweet little memory!

“I enjoy the aroma of tea.”

She brought the cup close to her mouth, lingering in its delightful smell before tasting.

“What?  No sugar?”

Oh dear!  Tea party fail number 2.  This novice didn’t know the ins and outs of having tea with Mrs. Bachman!

I panicked again.

“Of course!  I will find us some sugar!  I’ll be right back!”

I hurried to the dining area and found some packets then hustled back to her room to rescue her drinking experience.

“That’s better.”  She smiled in approval.

We shared simple conversation.  I was quite mesmerized with her lovely English accent.  And so thankful I’d had the privilege of sharing this afternoon visit with this special lady.

I watched as her son faithfully drove 30 miles nightly after work to be by her side.  Ages 62 and 92.  A boy and his mother.   Every single night.  Without fail.  The only time he missed were the few days out of town visiting family or for a week serving with his church on a mission trip.

You make time for whom or what you value.  

Without a doubt he valued this sweet lady.  

His mother.

Elegant Irene.

A woman that lived her life with passion and purpose.  She was a committed wife and devoted mother.  Prominent contributor to her community through the arts.  For years she had a unique career of commercial artist in the fashion industry.  She continued her passion for the arts through painting.

She’d lived a lifetime of love, family, purpose and making a difference in the lives of those closest to her.  Now in her latter years of life, dementia crept into her mind unforgivingly.

I knew sweet Irene for just a few weeks.  But really never knew her.

I wish I could tell her how much those visits blessed my life.  Just sipping tea with her and watching how much joy it brought to her.  When she allowed me to put lotion on her back or drape her sweater over her shoulders if she felt cold, how much joy it brought to my heart to just be able to help her.

I lost my own mother to colon cancer at age 52.  Many precious years to spend with my mother were relentlessly stolen from me.  I’d planned to grow old with her.  That’s just the way it should have been.

Elegant Irene.

I knew you for just a short time.  My plan was to make a difference in your life but it turned out YOU made a difference in mine.  I am certainly blessed with the time you allowed me to have with you.  As my friend continues to share about you I look forward to getting to know you even better.

And I will remember my favorite part of our visits as you referred to me as ‘Love’, and smiled at me telling me sweetly, “Come again.”

Winds of Change


On the hearth of my fireplace sits a clear gooseneck bottle with four artificial cotton stems.  A few weeks ago the urge hit me to totally change my eclectic decor in the living room to a Texas theme.  It was just a matter of time that my Great State affections would manifest themselves in my home.  

Recently one morning I opened up the front door, steaming black coffee in hand – I like to porch sit first thing.  That was my intention.  And there it was.  All by itself.

“Well, hello there little tumbleweed.”

This little wheat-colored stem with a weed-blossom the shape of a firecracker rested on the cement next to my turquoise chairs.  All by its lonesome.  Just blew in from who knows where.

I picked it up and twirled it around a bit, just looking at it.  Thinking.

When I first arrived here I felt like that little tumbleweed.  All by my lonesome.  Not really a destination, but landed on the front porch of my cousin’s house, hoping I’d find my way.

The first week at my new job I was walking down the school hallway and laughed in delight when I saw my first one.  A tumbleweed as big as two tractor tires.  Huge.  A collection of a lot of little sticks and branches, all tangled up and weaved into a wiry light brown mess.  It kept hangin out by the windows.  Even bits of colored cloth, red, and white were in the mix.  It frequently rolled back and forth with the wind, bouncing from one side of the brick building to the other until the custodian took it away.

Patronize me a bit here.  This city girl came to Texas once a year.  Born here, then Dad took us on to a different life when I was just a little girl.

I loved coming to visit all of the relatives.  Memories of aunts, uncles, and tons of cousins crammed into a tiny house on Hines Street on holidays.  Drinking sweet tea thick as syrup out of jelly jars.  Laughter was contagious as the adults drank beer, played cards and yelled at us kids running through the house, ‘Stay in or out!’  We never listened.  Each visit we’d have crazy fun for about three or four days then head back to Missouri.  To wait another year.

This time I decided to stay a bit longer.  And it’s growing on me.

Wild hogs, big trucks, rattlesnakes, red lakes, Texas flags everywhere!  Chicken fried steak, jets flying over from the air base, cowboy boots, and tumbleweeds.  Rodeos and tractor pulls.  Mesquite trees.  And the gentlemen say, ‘Yes, ma’am.’

When I’ve been out in the country, visiting a friend’s happy place where she rides horses and I get to be about ten feet away from sheep, goats, and longhorns — or visit my cousin’s ranch and feast my eyes on the monstrous green cacti with yellow blooms, rocky cliffs overlooking the river — the peace is tranquillizing. I haven’t experienced that inner soothing since I drove my son up to Montana for his first year of college baseball.  Small town of Glendive, about 5000.  I still remember his bright eyes and smile as we were unloading the car and carrying his belongings to his dorm room.  In the middle of the badlands, those mountainous rock formations in the background, his face lit up, “Mom!  Mom!”

“Do you hear that!” He covered his chest with both hands.  “The quiet!  The peace!  You can almost hear the quiet, Mom.  It’s so good here.”

I do remember a relaxing, a sort of settling in my soul I’d never experienced before.  And joy remembering his excitement.  

That joy carried me through the three flights it took me to get back to Missouri.  It was going to be tough leaving him there.

Our lives had been like that twisting of the huge tumbleweed.  Just as it thought about resting a minute, it was taken captive by the wind.  We were stuck like that tumbleweed in the school yard. Tossed back and forth, skipping around and around.  Or if the wind blew hard enough beaten against the walls of the school building in that outside corridor it was stuck in.  There was one opening.  And we found it.

It’s different living in a smaller town.  In the big city  I’d drive 30 minutes to meet for lunch, or 45 minutes to a meeting.  Freeway traffic.  

It takes 2 or 3 minutes to get to most places.  I have to chuckle when I hear one of my cousins groaning about driving all the way across town maybe 10 minutes, or if I hear about a traffic backup on the radio.  Very funny.  Um, no.  You don’t really understand traffic.  I don’t miss that challenge at all.

And U-turns! The first week I was here I almost shouted at my cousin, “What are you doing!?”  as she turned into one.  I was like, “Are you crazy?  That’s illegal!”  I fully expected a cop to pull us over.

“No, cuz, you’re the one that’s crazy.  U-turns are legal here.  Try it.”

I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so one afternoon she said, “Get in this car, cuz, we’re practicin’ u-turns.”

I’m not kidding.

So if you saw two ladies drivin’ up and down the road doing u-turn after u-turn it was us.  And yes, you probably heard a few ‘Yee-Haws!’ amongst the giggles.  That’s kind of how it goes.

It’s the simple things.  Remember that.  And laugh.  Keep laughing.

As far as the tumbleweed?  I stuck it in the glass bottle with my cotton stems.  It’s happy there.  Looks quite nice.

Maybe a resemblance of all of the renewed relationships with family, new relationships with friends, coworkers, and church family – it looks quite settled in there.  At least for now.

The little tumbleweed rests.  Unless the wind blows hard enough it might just fly out of that bottle and skip on down the road.

We’ll see.

One thing I know for sure, it’s not twisted inside an entangled mess of disheveled branches, weaving every which way tighter into maelstrom.  You might have to look that word up.  I had to.  

I’ll take the peace.


Mother’s Day Surprise





In spite of not seeing my own children, it’s been a terrific Mother’s Day.  Many of us have entered seasons where our children are grown and far away.  Technology helps bridge this gap with face time, phone calls, facebook, emails.  It helps us to keep in touch!  But nothing replaces human contact.  Seeing the ones you love in person!

Today I was welcomed into the home of a new friend whom I’ve grown very close to.  Her whole family embraced me.  Her husband, his parents, her parents, and their three children.  We had delicious steaks, baked potatoes, salad and dessert.  They surprised me with presents, and I enjoyed seeing them all in genuine form.  Laughing, teasing one another, the little one deciding it was too hot to have clothes on, just all letting their hair down and being real!  Telling their family stories.  I was truly blessed to be a part of the party.

Then the real surprise came.  I learned my friend’s mother attended the church my grandmother attended.  For years.  All her life essentially.  I asked her if she knew my grandmother.  Avon Cox.  She excitedly said, “Yes!  I do!”

Then she continued, “And I have an amazing story to share about your family!”

Anita remembered being at the hospital visiting her pastor from the church.  The same church my grandmother attended.  This was sometime in the late 1990’s.  On that particular day my grandmother, 88 years old was also at that hospital.  She didn’t have much time left.  

She told me as she was in her pastor’s hospital room chatting with people from her church, a young woman came into the room.  Her face was full of grief and asked for ‘Anita’, and told them she’d been told she could sing.  She explained that her grandmother was sick, and wondered if she knew her grandmother’s favorite song, “He Lives”.  She asked if she would come and sing it over her grandmother.

As Anita shared the story with me she told me several people were in the room.  She had followed the young woman and sang over her friend Avon.  She knew her.  She told me she felt so blessed to have had the opportunity to do that.

I’d taken a flight to be with my family that weekend.  I knew my grandmother had a very short time left.  And as she told me the story, I remembered every detail.  I remembered how beautifully she sang as she belted out the verses acapella.  Then it was my turn to share.

“Anita.”  I smiled at her.  “That young woman was me.  It was me.”

Easter All Year


“Is that your Easter dress?”

“Yes!”  The 9-year-old smiled proudly dressed in skinny jeans and a salmon Easter dress with purple and white flowers.

“You look so pretty!”,  I complimented her as I watched the third-grader shuffle down the hallway in her white sandals, brunette pony-tail swishing left and right.

As I stood in the hall greeting children coming in the day after the long Easter weekend, I remembered my own Easter dresses long ago.

One year my sister and I wore matching yellow shift dresses with daisies sewn in a row down the front.  White gloves and white patent leather shoes.  White lace-topped anklets.  Mom sewed our dresses each year and she and Dad took us to church.  We got to run in the park in our dress clothes as fast as we could to find the colored plastic Easter eggs filled with candy or money.  Dad hid them behind the trees, under the picnic tables, and throughout the grass.

We always had dinner at home with ham, green beans, rolls, and mashed potatoes.  Mom made us a homemade cake from a box for dessert.  We got to lick the beaters from the icing when she made it the day before.  Usually chocolate.

I didn’t really remember much about the church service, just that Jesus died on the cross.  I was too excited about the Easter egg hunt and admiring my new clothes and pretty shoes.  I do remember feeling safe with my family.  My people.

Fast forward over fifty Easter Sundays and I was excited about wearing my new dress with turquoise print.  I’ve moved three states away from my childhood home, and dinner was at my cousin’s house where I joined over thirty extended family members.  Ham, mashed potatoes, potato salad, green bean casserole, rolls – a similar menu including Texas sheet cake and a cousin specialty strawberry cake.  We laughed and enjoyed watching the children run through the yard picking up their Easter eggs in the hunt, each one wearing their Easter clothes.  Adults joined the fun smashing confetti eggs on each other.  Thousands of colored bits of paper littered the grass.

I did remember more of the church service.  And I felt safe with my people– church family and extended family.

And the Pastor did speak of Jesus dying on the cross.  But there was more.  He spoke of Resurrection Power.  And a new beginning.

When my first son was born the nurses brought him to me and placed him on my chest.  He’d just been delivered by C-section and in the moment of physical trauma seeing his tiny face, fingers, and toes brought unexplainable joy to my soul.  My immediate thought was, “How in this world can anyone not believe in God who creates a life as amazing as this!”

As I grew older sitting in church on Easter Sunday I began to hear about Jesus dying on the cross, being buried, and rising on the third day.  Pastors often talked about ‘resurrection power’ throughout the year and not just on Easter Sunday.

As I turn the corner in an older season in my life, I have hope for eternal life because of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross.  I also have hope for that power that’s spoken of, and see it growing stronger in my life.  I really never understood it before.

My life hasn’t turned out the way I’d planned.  Maybe yours hasn’t either.  A failed marriage, losing my mother to cancer at an early age, and a son with years of drug addiction.  Other situations I couldn’t speak of.

God has seen me through it all, and most recently given me the strength and courage to pack up my things and start over, leaving years of familiar surroundings and relationships.  To move along His path into the unfamiliar and unknown.

Easter Sunday is now a memory past.  New clothes are put away, and plastic eggs are stored for next year.  All the candy and boiled eggs have been eaten.  Leftover ham is gone.

The power the pastor spoke of?  It’s still available.  A week later.  It will be available to us all year.

What are you facing today?  What are you struggling with?

If you’ll just call out to Him, He’ll hear you.  I promise.

There’s hope for a new beginning, because of what Jesus did on the cross.  I’m living it.

So I’ll keep believing, and in the meantime plan a trip to go see some of my ‘people’.  The guy who hid the Easter eggs for us.  He’s still around.  One of the people who made me feel safe.

Step into your Power Boots

IMG_E1854 (1)

 I watched a You-tube video of a woman in her 60’s lamenting over past years of lost opportunities.  She encouraged her followers to share things they wished they’d done.  I kept reading posts and slumped lower in my office chair.

I wish I’d taken that trip. 

Finished my degree.

Relocated for that great job.

Left the toxic relationship earlier.

That depression demon pressed on my shoulders and hit replay in my brain…searching my own past until I wacked my forehead to rattle it loose!

What? Why don’t we just throw ourselves down on our yoga mats and chant ‘Oh woe is me!’

Girlfriend!  You are not dead yet!  No matter if you’re 20 or 80 you and I share something beautiful.


We have the power to choose.

Take the trip!  Sell something.  Save your daily coffee money.

Enroll in a course!

Want to be closer to God?  Read your Bible.  Pray.

For me, it’s a matter of mind set.

Setting goals.  Finding a focus.  Spending time with my heavenly Father.

Then taking action.

We can’t waste anymore time with limited beliefs!

You’re stronger than you think.

And you might just find a fun way of embracing life in your new season.

I have.

By putting on my power boots.

Last May we lost my uncle and my family helped get his home ready for an estate sale.  I was thankful I’d been able to spend a little time with him since I’d moved to Texas.

Every year my parents would travel 7 hours from K.C. to visit our extended family for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I remember Uncle Penny wearing fancy pearl-button shirts, cowboy boots and hats.  He smiled a big Texas smile and hugged you hard.

I sat in the floor of the master bedroom sifting through his personal belongings.  I know I didn’t understand the depth of emotion my cousin was experiencing.  Our moms were sisters.  I feel deeply connected to her and wanted to be there for her.

I remember looking at several pairs of boots standing lifeless in the bottom of my uncle’s closet.  He bought nice ones.  Each pair carried hidden stories of places they took him.  I secretly wished I could have a pair to keep.  To cherish.

My cousin and I tried on her dad’s boots and hats one of the work days.  We laughed and played, remembering her dad.  His boots fit us both!

When she told me to pick out a pair, I was so happy.  Before we were through with the sale I had four pairs resting on the bottom shelf of my bookcase.

One brown leather pair fit well and I began wearing them often.  Even in 90 degree weather!  My cousins teased me a bit.

To me they were a symbol of love, family, and strength.

I traveled alone for three weeks that July attending a wedding, seeing family, then back home.  For fun I texted a picture of me wearing the boots to my cousin.  I told her I’d be fine because I had her daddy’s boots on.

Power Boots.

It just kind of stuck.

I feel confident and strong wearing them.  They just feel right.

Let go of your past!  Embrace your new season.

We have to move forward.

It’s up to us to do the work.  If we remain in passivity and paralyzed by regrets, we can’t expect anything to change.

We can choose to make things happen.

Set goals.  Determine a focus.  Put your plans into action.

Girl!  Get yourself  some power boots and go get the rest of your life!












The Next Thing



The last day before we had a nice long break from the classroom, our staff at school had a Christmas ornament exchange.   When my number came up,  I unwrapped a delicate red and gold painted Santa.  It was stolen right away by a teacher that collected them.  My final choice was two little fluffy sheep.  I saw them and fell in love.  I captured them from our librarian and she wasn’t too happy with me.  I couldn’t help it.   These two adorable little lambs smiled at me, adorned with green holly and bells.  I couldn’t ignore the deep personal meaning they held for me.  No one else in the room was aware what I held in my heart in the midst of the frustration or laughter involved with our game.

I kept thinking these words, “My sheep hear my voice.”  I wanted to bring them home and hang them on my tree.  Two little toy sheep.  Captivating.  Amazingly symbolic.

“My sheep hear my voice.”

As I walked through the front door of this new year before us, I thought about a recent facebook post and chuckled.  An acquaintance took pictures of himself, his wife and their two children ‘stepping into the new year’.  The post read, “We’re putting our right foot forward as we step into this new year.”    But as I step through, even purposing to ‘put my right forward’ so-to-speak’, I have no idea where it will take me.   None of us really do.  As I contemplate the events over  the last almost 15 months of my life, I just feel amazing gratitude.  I realize I’m in a place I never thought I would be.  Have taken on tasks I never thought I had the courage to.  Have spoken words to people in strength I never thought I had.

When I think about this year, I can only get this far.  Putting God first.  Reading His word more.  Praying more.  Trusting Him more.  That’s all I can do.  And personally I think as I hope or dream and plan for other things in this life, it’s where I need to begin.  Again.

So when I saw those little lambs, I was reminded of God’s promise, “My sheep hear my voice.”

I want to follow His best path for my life.  And keep following it.

So far He hasn’t let me down.  And I know that’s impossible, because His ways are far better than mine.

Oops! How high is your ‘not my child fence’?

school-busphotoHe shut those blue eyes and screamed!

Cutting remarks from two girls in the recess line proved to be his breaking point.   Three 3rd graders stood in front of me, cheeks red from the heat.  I tried hard speaking words of encouragement and ‘team’.

This guy had enough.  Fumbling with words to explain why his outburst wasn’t a good choice,  I asked, “Is this how you handle frustration at home?”

“Yes!”  The mad face stared me down.   I probably shouldn’t have asked.

Parents honestly have no idea what it’s like to be on the front lines.  You just don’t.

I work with amazing people.  Adults that have chosen to dedicate their lives teaching your children.  They arrive early, stay late, spend their own money, cry over and pray for your children.  They enroll in higher education equipping themselves to provide an outstanding learning environment for your kids.

I remember what it was like on the other side.

Every morning my three boys climbed onto that big yellow school bus.  I hated not knowing what really happened each day.

Two mornings a week I graded papers, read to students, laminated — whatever the teachers needed.  I remembered not quite feeling accepted,  but that wasn’t important.  I chose to be where my children were, and decided to support the adults that spent 40 hours per week with them.

A distraught middle school teacher called me one afternoon about one of my son’s incessant talking in class.  I climbed the ‘not my child’ fence high!  “Not my well-behaved top-achieving son!”

I remember talking circles around her and feeling annoyed she would bother me with this pettiness.

We hung up.

But wait!

For the first time in my stay-at-home-mother-my-kids-do-no-wrong-life — the light bulb went on.

I dialed the number back but she was gone.  I left her an apologetic voice mail, thanking her and affirming that my son needed a bit of ‘reckoning’ that day.   My son’s teacher took extra time after school to call me.  Then she had to leave feeling defeated after another exasperating day with middle schoolers.

I must save her!  I must come to her rescue!

I left my toddler with my husband and dinner cooking on the stove.  I explained I had an important mission that couldn’t wait.

Embarrassed and mad,  this mother marched straight into the office.  I waited while the principal pulled my out-spoken 8th grader out of basketball practice.

“Is your office available?”

“Of course.”

Puzzled,  my son followed me into the room and I shut the door.  I told him I wasn’t pleased with his teacher being upset,  and ordered him to figure it out.  The encourager in me reminded him his loud voice would bless others eventually but for now he needed to learn self-control.

Parents!   Teachers need your encouragement.

Chocolate?  Sure.  That works.

How about just saying thank you!   And if they call asking for help — listen with your heart.

They truly care about your kids.

I hope your lightbulb switches on like mind did.



The Day after Father’s Day

The morning after Father’s day I read a post put on Facebook by my own son.  I thought it was very inspiring and wanted to share with you.  So enjoy this very special message by Ross Forte.

I have seen a lot of people post today about not having a relationship with their father.  In the subtitle of these posts I could feel a lot of pain and hurt, and sometimes even resentment.  And it tears me apart to see this.

Keep reading.

Up until 3 months ago, I had no relationship with my father.  I had shut him out, with no way of getting back in.

I was carrying so much hurt, so much pain, resentment, and even blamed him for the results in my life.

The results of trying so hard to become something, instead of just BEing.  The results of wrecked relationships.  Financial problems, moving all the time, you name it.

I could always hear his voice in my head telling me I was a slacker, or a piece of shit, or, a lot worse.

Keep reading.

I was playing victim.  And oh was it hard to realize that.  I was holding all this pain and grief inside of me and it was like a cancer, spreading through my body.  Holding me back.  Instead of realizing that I was 27 years old and had a CHOICE.

Three months ago I called my dad and spilled my heart out to him.  Opened up about the struggles I was going through, asked him to accept me unconditionally for who I am, and most importantly….

I forgave him.

And then I told him how much I loved him.

And we both cried on the phone.  Because men who want amazing relationships feel their emotions and process them instead of stuffing them down.

After I opened up with him he did the same.  We connected in a way that I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Today I called him on Father’s Day.  We chatted maybe 10 minutes, our relationship still isn’t amazing, but we are working on it.  And I know it meant the world to him.

Because last year I didn’t call.

So if you read this post, my call to action for you is to go open up and have that conversation with that person in your life who you resent.  And then, forgive them.

Imagine the possibility of not worrying about outcomes, and being happy with the action and experience you create.

Everyone has pain.  No one talks about it.  The best way to repair relationships is by being extremely vulnerable and forgiving.

If you found value in this post, please like and share with someone who needs to see this message.

Thank you, Ross, for sharing your heart.  And for teaching us to take responsibility for our choices in life.  And for encouraging us to find strength and freedom in forgiveness.




Whisper of the Caboose

I’ve known it all along.

That season in life – it would visit me again.

Raising three sons there were science projects,  mountains of homework, and multiple skinned knees.  “Find the toy dinosaur” backyard games at birthday parties, hot dog dinners at baseball tournaments.   Two ornery pugs running wild through the house.  The staff began recognizing us at the emergency room.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for all of the neighborhood kids.  Don’t forget the watermelon seed spitting contest in the street!  Orchestra concerts, and broken windows.  Kool-Aid stands and water guns.  Skateboards and flashlight tag in the dark.

I boarded the life train and let the conductor press ‘full speed ahead’.   Shortly after college I married and we were blessed with children.  Totally ignored the reality of a season of doing life alone again.  It hovered in the caboose,  waiting for me.

It’s 3:00 a.m. and I’m lying in bed awake.  Tonight the five of us – the people I lived under the same roof with for so many years – ‘my pack’ – went to sleep in separate places.  An apartment in California.  A college dorm in Montana.  Two residences and a facility in Missouri.  How did this happen?  That thing – waiting for me in the last car in the train, whispers questions, “What’s next?  Do you know?  Is this all there is?”

I was a stay-at-home mom.  A wife.  Tunneling through a whirlwind.    But we kept going.  And doing life together.  I tried.  I did the best I knew how at the time.

My days were full.  They were purposeful.  There were endless meals to cook and laundry to finish.   The house was always a disaster and the yard a mess.

My children grew up and then I got a divorce.


So, I went to this little bakery really close to my house last week.  She and I were sitting at the same table chatting, waiting on a make-up consultation.  A new acquaintance invited me.  I thought it was a bit unusual to show cosmetics in a place selling cinnamon rolls and cookies, but it sounded like fun.

I’d never met this lady.  She just started talking.  I listened as she opened up.  She looked down at her hands repeatedly, fidgeting them on the table.  Her eyes became glassy as she revealed details of the messy divorce she was trudging through – mostly alone.  Emotions raw, her narration reached deeper levels with me in that short time we were getting acquainted.  Maybe she could sense I truly cared and held a level of understanding. 

I’d recently walked her path.

They had plans.  She and her husband of 25 years were building their retirement home, then something happened.  It came out of nowhere.  Everything crashed.  Her story makes me angry.

Now she sits in an apartment alone.  Lying in bed at night thinking, “What’s next?  What do I do next?” 

Your mind fills with the picture of yourself standing at the altar.  You look stunning.  You feel gorgeous, wearing a flowing white-sequined gown and gazing into the eyes of the man you love.  Your heart is full of promise.  ‘Till death due us part.’  Beginning a life together.  There is not a speck of possibility of an end.  Period.  Not you. 

Divorce happens to other people.

I fought it!  I never planned to be divorced.  Never.

But then I’m not in charge.

So now I find myself asking God, “What do I do next?”And there is just silence.  Lots of it.  Solitude.  It’s not comfortable at all sometimes because of the unknown.  So many unknowns. 

But then – I realize something.  With this new chapter I’ve been given gifts.  Plenty of them.  Peace.  Hours and hours at my beckoning call.  A wide open road.  The world I occasionally longed for amidst a chaotic time – is now mine.  Opportunity.  A clean slate.  I can do anything I want.  I can waste time or use it wisely.  Schedule, plan, organize, or squander it. 

So I dream.  And think.  While I make plans, I commit to wait and watch.  And praise God for His goodness and care for me.  For providing everything I need right now.  I’m choosing to trust that He will show me what His plan is next.

I remember the days filled with activity and cherish the memories.  The good ones.

A little girl comes into my classroom every morning with a smile and a hug for me.  Newly planted flowers on my deck – the sun’s rays shining out of a storm cloud against the horizon.  A white silver-feathered dove gliding in front of my car suddenly.

These things keep me going.

A gift of a new journal from a friend.  A thank you note and surprise chocolates.

God surprising me with a new roommate.

It’s going to be okay. 

And I’m going to invite my new friend to meet me for coffee so I can tell her that it will be okay for her, too.



Did I scream in the library?

I had a terrible experience with trying to get my taxes done. Last week I was on spring break, and that was one of the most  important things on my ‘to do’ list.  With April 15 looming just around the corner,  I started searching for a group of volunteer tax preparers.  On my limited income, […]

WordItOut-word-cloud-2108729I had a terrible experience with trying to get my taxes done.

Last week I was on spring break, and that was one of the most  important things on my ‘to do’ list.  With April 15 looming just around the corner,  I started searching for a group of volunteer tax preparers.  On my limited income,  I’m always looking for ways I can cut corners, and I had a great experience last year with a local group.  I found an open session at the library  early in the week,  walked in and signed up on the list.  I waited and waited,  but that was no problem.  It’s a free service and you just expect that when you go in.

I sat at a table with an elderly gentleman that had much to share.  He rambled on and on with stories of his life including  the “daughter-in-law from hell.”   Too much information for me,  but I just continued to listen and fill out my paperwork.  The man explained that his son ended up losing their home because she never paid the house payments.  Said she used the money for drugs then waited for my response.  By his facial expression I think he was hoping to get a shock reaction out of me.

I just nodded, and made a ‘Hmmm’ sound.

Nothing surprises me anymore,  because stuff like this happens.  I’ve seen plenty of adversity in my own life and other people’s lives.    I did wonder about the deeper insights of his story though,  questioning who enabled who – but realized it certainly wasn’t any of my business.

The old guy had some colorful words to describe a man that had cut in front of him in line and scribbled his signature on the list ahead of him.  He kept going on and on about it, and I kept writing information on the tax forms,  giggling a bit inside whenever he spit out a cuss word.

The hostess lady was cute.  Petite.

Told me she worked for a local school district for over 30 years as a teacher.  2nd grade.  4th grade.  Being friendly to her turned on a faucet of opinions about public education.  She was quite concerned when spelling and cursive writing were taken out of the curriculum for elementary students.   Her favorite experience was with kindergarteners.  Her face almost wore a scowl as she complained about the difficult work expected from the young students.  She reminisced over 1/2 day kindergarten, nap mats, and play centers.  I agreed with her.  Those 5-year-old babies are immersed in a world of academic structure that can wait,  if you ask me.

But then,  I’m not in charge.  I don’t set the standards.

I just go in and love on them and help their teachers.  There’s always something you can do to encourage or help a kindergarten teacher,  and the smart ones accept the help!

Finally,  I am called over to one of the tables.  Remember,  I am the only person left.   The last one on their list.  The volunteers began about 8:00 a.m. and it is now 12:50 p.m.  When I sat down the man didn’t look at me or say ‘hello’.   No smile either.  These might have been my first clues that I was in trouble.

The tax preparer stares at his computer screen,  still doesn’t look at me.  Holds out his hand and blurts, “Okay — Whacha  got?”

“Um…”  I whispered.  Thinking, “My tax information, Bozo.”

I know that wasn’t very nice to think that, but c’mon. Why couldn’t he greet me?

This guy definitely had a different approach from the nice lady last year.  I drew a deep breath and hoped for the best.  I tried the friendly approach,  thanking him for his services.  A few times.  Smiling.  I’m not a difficult case.  I have a small income,  health savings account from work.  It wasn’t like I had to be itemized with 15,000 deductions.  Everything with this guy was a problem.  With each document (and there weren’t very many) he whined and complained, aggravated and groaned.  He told me I was making him nervous because of the possibility I was giving him information that was suspect.  How was this happening to me?  He didn’t even make sense.

I’m thinking, “Who IS this guy?  Why couldn’t I get that nice lady over there?  Or that other older gentleman I watched smiling the entire 2 1/2 hours I’d been waiting?

Instead, I got MR. GRUMBLES.

At one point I called my former husband to prove to this volunteer that I was supposed to claim our son on my taxes.  He didn’t believe me.  He couldn’t decide if I should be single, wondered if I really was divorced, and argumentative and upset that I didn’t have a copy of my divorce decree.  I couldn’t believe how long I sat with him and how he made me feel like such a problem.  It became embarrassing the way he was talking with me, loudly.  People were watching as I continued smiling, and  I hoped  tears wouldn’t visit me which usually happens when I’m caught in a frustrating situation in public trying to take care of personal business.

Good Absolute Grief.

Then something magical happened.  Wow.  Crazy!

I stood up slowly… cautiously,  and pushed my chair in.   I leaned over the table and smiled again at this little man,  gripping the back of the chair tightly with my fists.

Then, looking straight into the mean eyes of this character I yelled,



The man was handing me his computer for an e-signature.

I gasped,  thankful I really didn’t do that.  Shook a little bit.   I’d zoned out for a few seconds in a daydream.  He had no idea he just literally escaped an “I’m trying to be nice to you and you’re not getting it” VOLCANO.   He was real lucky.  And I was real thankful I chose deep breathing and self-control.

As I gathered up my papers and stashed them into the large envelope he gave me, my preparer made mention of another document I needed for verification of my college son’s scholarships and grants.  Could there be any more frustration after everything I just experienced?

The next day I took my already filed tax packet to a reputable tax office.  They quoted me a reasonable fee for an amendment, and were pleasantly helpful and understanding.

I think someone told me once that life’s interruptions are God’s appointments.

Mr. Grumbles,  I think you just needed a smile that day.   A couple.  Well, maybe a lot.

And some kindness.  I realize that now.