12 Things I know to be True

For Boston

For Boston

**I had posted this just a few months ago when the tragedy in Newtown, CT occurred. I wanted to share it again because I still see these things to be true.

In this time of immense sorrow and despair and mourning, all seems to be lost, again. In the blink of eye families, a community and a nation were shattered. Through our tears we try to make sense of a senseless act. We question all that we know to be true and right and just. But, in the midst of this tremendous pain, I dare to hope because, after much thought and prayer I have found 12 things that I know to be true.

1. Yes, there are bad people in this world but I know in my heart that most are inherently good. This tends to be highlighted in the face of adversity, when we band together to come to the aid of those that are hurting. Goodness is always there, just waiting to be released.

2. Forgiveness is necessary to heal. It can be the most difficult thing that someone can do, to forgive someone who has wronged them. But holding onto hate eats away at your spirit.

3. Tears are freeing, just like laughter, and necessary in order to move forward.

4. Prayer, falling down on our knees and lifting our hands to the heavens, allows us to be weak and vulnerable. Thus enabling God to come in and show us His amazing grace.

5. Pointing fingers and casting blame is a waste of time. Coming together makes us an impenetrable force to be reckoned with.

6. Love out loud. Make sure that you never hold it back.

7. Wanting to turn the news off and The Voice on should not make you feel guilty. It should make you feel human.

8. Sometimes a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a good friend is the best medicine.

9. Do not live in fear because then it wins.

10. There is great love and compassion in this world, open your eyes and see it and be a part of it.

11. Good always triumphs over evil.

12. Our faith and hope and love allow us to shine brightly and, in our darkest hour when all seems lost, we will be the light that overcomes the darkness.



In Search of Numen Lumen

Elon 2
At forty I still feel young, especially when I’m with my college girlfriends. Age and time seem to fade and it’s just like when we were back under the oaks, listening to the Indigo Girls and drinking cold beer under a Carolina blue sky. I long for those days again, when life was simple and major decisions had nothing to do with houses and children and 401K’s. When the biggest crisis was who you were asking to the grab-a-date or finding where you left your bike the night before. It was a time when it was ok and almost expected to be a bit foggy at 11am and when everyone who depended on you was always a bit foggy too.

But time passes and life throws curves and rocks at you, you fall in and out of love and you find what matters most, all while amassing an adult life that you thought that you were supposed to have and aren’t sure that you really want. And with that brings problems and crisis and you find that your family and friends are real people with real problems, not the fairytale figures you created them to be in your youth.

People disappoint you and surprise you and horrify you and you realize that you are grown up and have to be strong because being weak is not an option. Yes, you may have moments of weakness but they can’t last because you have others who depend on your strength so that they may live their own lives and figure out this cycle for themselves. You see people who cannot be strong so you try to give them your strength to get them through and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
And a lot of times all you can do is hope for the best and pray. Pray that this too shall pass and all will work out for the common good and a million other clichés that I can’t even think of right now. Some rally to help and others are just too busy, too tired and too mired down in their own “stuff” that they just don’t realize that their strength is needed. And that’s the way life is.

It’s exhausting really, this whole getting older thing. How is it possible I went from eighteen to forty in the blink of an eye? A wife, a mother, three kids and a frog. A mortgage, tuition, bills, work. Those days under the Carolina blue skies seem so far away and lately I find myself longing for them. I feel a little guilty for wishing myself away from a man and a family that I love so dearly. But I think that we tend to feel like we are a little invisible at this stage in the game, that our value is measured in our ability to do laundry and make lunches and put together projects rather than what (and who) we truly are.

I had quite the blow out with my nine-year-old son the other day; it was about something silly, like picking up his belt off the floor. He told me that I was the worst in the world, that I was no fun and all I did was tell him what to do. Well, instead of walking away I turned right around and proceeded to tell him that I was fun and cool and that people (outside of this house) really like me. I told him I was talented and was capable of doing things besides laundry and dishes. Had I taken a moment to breathe, I would have realized I lost him at “fun” and “cool”. Right then I looked pretty crazy, even to myself.

But in that moment I longed to be the person that I was, the person that I felt that I had lost and could only get back by returning to my beloved college days, sheltered by the oaks and my memories.

This place and these days were filled with light and laughter and, though we didn’t know it then, peace. Funny that our university motto was “Numen Lumen.” At the time I had no clue what it meant but thought it was funny to say, even funnier after a few Busch Lights. After looking up the meaning I was a bit in awe of what I found.

“Numen Lumen- If you were an ancient Roman, and you went up a hill or down into a hollow, and you felt something holy or scary or beautiful, you would say that you were sensing the “numen” of the place. So “numen” means some sort of indwelling of God. “Numen lumen” is saying that the Divine is the guiding Light.”

What I took from this explanation was that I was a part of heaven, for just a little while. Now some are going to say that its blasphemy to say that college life and all that goes with it is far from holy and they may be right. But for me and many of my friends it was where we really began. It was light and love and peace. It was where we figured out how to show up for each other. Yes, we were carefree and a little reckless at times but we were also figuring out how to get out into the world and fend for ourselves while watching out for each other.

Now, no one who went to Elon College (now Elon University) is going to liken it to the big bad world but it was our first experience away from the shelter of our home and our parents. It was where we learned that family is not only defined by blood.

The reality is, I cannot go back and when I try it’s never the same but I can still feel the beauty of that time. I still have moments when I long to return and sometimes I do. When the sky in Virginia turns Carolina blue and my kids catch me staring up for just a moment too long and ask “what are you doing?” I just smile and look at them and say “Numen Lumen.”


Walk the Line

running-woman[1]Most mornings I like to get up early and go for a run. I love the quiet of that time of day, when all three children are snuggled in their beds and the sound of my husband’s slight snore lets me know that I have a few moments of solace before the mayhem of the day begins.

The morning chill greets me as I open the door to the day, a quick thought of, “do I really want to do this when I could be warm in bed?” crosses my mind. Quickly, I shake off the thought and head out to the road. Now I could tell you I am entranced by the bird’s morning song or the grey glow that surrounds me, announcing the sunrise. But no, I have one focus. To get running and get home to a steaming hot cup of coffee.

It’s the first few strides that are the hardest, then I get in my groove and get a rhythm. My initial disdain for this task turns to enjoyment as my feet pound the pavement.

I am one of those runners that makes you laugh. I don’t look like the women in the Nike commercials, long strides, glowing completion, beads of sweat falling perfectly around their temples. My face starts to look like the color of a ripe tomato, my mouth is open and I look down at the ground for the better part of my run. Not a pretty sight, I know.

That morning was no different from the others, head down, focused on getting one of my “to do’s” checked off but I began to notice something. As I ran along the side of the road, my feet always landed on the white line. I kept on with my pace and saw that I continued to do this up and down hills and even when the ground went flat. When I strayed from this path I felt uncomfortable and went back to what I knew.

And there it was, that morning I realized that my entire life has been spent playing it safe, walking the line. Taking chances makes my stomach turn. I’ve done pretty well living safely and under the radar not calling too much attention to myself. Rock climbing and spelunking were things that I had to do because of school trips, not by any choice of my own. I couldn’t understand why people did these things for fun.

Becoming a mother also led me to believe that I had to be conservative and cautious and that my focus had to be on my children, so I shelved my dreams and took on the diapers. But now my children are older and wanting to take chances of their own. At 9, 7 and 4 they are daring and fearless, something that I have never been and I find myself hoping that some of that rubs off on me.

My feet have always been on that line, doing what I think I am supposed to do instead of what I feel called to do. But I have started to notice that I am being drawn to the other side of that line, the side that isn’t so safe and predictable; where you could end up slipping and falling in the ditch because the road isn’t so even and stable. I have found that this makes my heart pound harder and my head swim and my knees shake a bit but I have also found that I love that feeling.

Not following that line has afforded me some incredible opportunities one of which was taking a trapeze lesson on a team building trip for work. I don’t do heights. The second floor of a mall, coming down an escalator, glass elevators all make me want to throw up. But I had to do this…I mean it was for work, I don’t think I would have been fired for not jumping off a platform and flying 20 feet above ground but I couldn’t risk it.

So I suited up in my harness and climbed the 5 flights of stairs (which seemed like five hundred) to the platform where a boy, yes he was tens of years younger, was going to hold onto my harness and keep me safe. Now I have given birth three times, that is scary in and of itself but there were “things” in place to keep me calm. Yes drugs. I said it. I am not a warrior mom who pops that baby out and is booming around in fancy p.j.’s an hour later. Not me. I do not like pain or heights. There now you know two of my weaknesses.

I shared my fear with him (like so many before me had) and he just smiled and said “When I say ready it’s not a question.” What the hell does that mean? I found out quickly it meant “when I say ready you are going to go even if I have to kick your feet out from under you.” And so he did. And I soared and almost soiled myself. But I did it and with a little trick to boot. And I went back up the five hundred, I mean five flights of steps and did it again. I shook like a leaf every time and I was sweaty and looked awkward and so not pretty.

That day I stepped off the line. I still try to step off that line every now and again because sometimes the risk of falling in a ditch is one I am willing to take.



I Need A Hero

Kevin Bacon being the "Hero"

Kevin Bacon being the “Hero”

I remember when Footloose was released, the 1984 version with Kevin Bacon and his oh, so cool, bad hair. This movie about a boy who danced in a town where dancing was against the law was quite an odd story line but for some reason I was drawn to it. Besides all the great music and dancing it evoked a feeling of hope, that one person can change things. One person really can make a difference.
One of my favorite parts was when Kevin Bacon was challenged by “a big guy in a cowboy hat” (who looked nothing like any of the high school boys I had ever seen) to play a game of chicken with two large tractors. At the time it seemed, well, daring and exciting. My almost forty year old self now looks at it as a very (and I am using a word that is forbidden in our home) stupid thing to do. Nonetheless, Kevin Bacon accepted the dare and won, though it was not due to his courage but a shoelace that got caught on the tractor petal, not allowing him to jump from his perch. During this entire scene the song “I Need a Hero” blared from the speakers. Bonnie Tyler belted out this fiery tune where she was in search of someone to save the day; Kevin Bacon did just that. Not on a trusty steed but on a large farm tractor in a fictional town called Bomont, Utah.
Thinking about that scene now, I laugh but then I was memorized. This character was a hero to the kids in that town. They had lived under a system that allowed them few freedoms and then, here comes this big city guy who shows them that it can be different. That they can change things, that they can make a difference. I think that’s what we’re all still looking for these days.
A while ago, I overheard a conversation between an older man and a grocery clerk. The older man was saying what this country lacked was heroes, that his generation was filled with them and this one this one had a bit to be desired. At the time I got to thinking that he was right and it made me a bit sad to think that I was raising children in a “hero-less” society. But the more that I thought about it the more I disagreed with his statements.
Hero is defined by Wikipedia as “characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity.” After reading this I realized that the old man in the grocery store must have not been paying too much attention to anyone around him because I had a list of hero’s that came to mind. They are everywhere.
They don’t all have a red cape or a giant “S” on their chest. They don’t carry a golden lasso of truth or wear gold cuff bracelets that deflect bullets (Wonder Woman, my personal favorite). Most heroes don’t believe they deserve this title because they were just doing the right thing, stepping up and paying attention. There are so many that will never be recognized for their courage and valor but maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Then, they will live to fight another day and not in the limelight and scrutiny of the public at large.
So many, who achieve this title, end up going down in flames because after all of the parades and interviews they are exposed for who they really are, human. Are we so starved for someone to save the day, that when they do, we are forced to find something wrong with them to make ourselves feel better for not stepping up like they did? Don’t we all have a skeleton or two in our closet that we would like to keep hidden?
Sure, times have changed but has the core good in people slipped away? Not by my account. They are out there, some more obvious than others, but they are there.
If you look for them you won’t find them, kind of like searching for a four leaf clover, you just come across it. And maybe, instead of looking to catch someone else in the act we should attempt to get caught in a heroic act of our own.

The Summer of the Dragonfly

Sweet Isabella

Sweet Isabella

Catching up on the lives of my Facebook friends this morning, I came across a post that I felt needed to be shared.

Many of you may know that my family and I have been touched by a little girl named Isabella Santos whose battle with neuroblastoma ended last year. Her fight was worthy and noble, all I can say is that I was proud to know her even though I never met her.

Today, her Mom Erin posted her first blog http://summerofthedragonfly.com/ for this reason…

“This simple blog is just my brain dump. I started this so that I can survive every day and continue to get out of bed. Some days the blog will be about Isabella and some days it will be about a good turkey sandwich I ate. So bear with me kids… Not sure what I’m really doing yet.” – Erin

Erin is a beautiful writer, raw and true and you feel her emotions grip your heart and soul. So, please take a moment to read her words…you will see where Isabella got her strength, determination and desire to overcome.



The Scent of the Violet

Blog Violet

Turning forty was magical for me. I didn’t go on any fancy trips or have a big elaborate party (though my Mom did take the kids for the weekend). It marked the point where I had finally let myself let go and get up and move on from a lot of “baggage” I was carrying around. I stopped feeling like I had to keep up with the Joneses and started inviting the Joneses to my smaller, messier and comfortable home. I allowed myself to stop apologizing for everything and saved the “I’m sorry’s” for the things that really mattered. I started to show up for me, in addition to everyone else.
The “I’m sorry’s” turned into “my stories”. Instead of apologizing all the time for my imperfect self and the behavior of my three children (who tend to save all their energy for trips to the grocery store) I write about them. My therapy, I guess. Hopefully it lets others know that they are not alone in their quest to raise children while keeping a clean house and establishing world peace. In that exact order.
One of the biggest reliefs was realizing that I am not a judge and I am not a jury. It is not my job to decide what is right and wrong in other people’s lives. I need to do my best doing what I do and hope that, at the end of the day, my head can rest peacefully on my pillow. Everyone has a mess somewhere in their lives, maybe it’s clean now but somewhere along the line, there was some tidying up to do. Or there will be. We’ve all got some dust in our corners.
This journey into forty has been quite a ride and through it all God has been there to help me navigate. Sometimes I have chosen to listen to His direction, other times I have ignored it. Each way has shown me three different but equally important lessons:

  1. His way is much better than anything I could ever come up with.
  2. Assuming always gets me into trouble.
  3. Forgiveness is the most valuable gift that anyone can ever give or receive.

I always thought that I was a forgiving person but lately I have seen that my forgiveness has had conditions attached to it. In its purest sense there are no conditions; forgiveness is a gift that is given freely and has no expectations of anything in return.
So, I have made it my mission, everyday, to try to follow His direction. I fail ALOT. I fall ALOT but I always get back up and forge ahead. You already know what they say about assuming, I have been the first three letters of that word on more than a few occasions so I am working SUPER hard to overcome that one. Most importantly, I am working on forgiveness. Definitely on giving it but also receiving it as well. It is freeing and I feel lighter and better and ready, ready to follow the path that has been determined for me.
It’s not always easy to forgive and be patient with others faults, an unnecessary and rude comment can potentially ruin my day. I can feel my blood begin to boil when I’m behind a 90-year-old lady driving with her hazards flashing, on a two lane street, when I’m late. Fact of the matter is that I have to think beyond those feelings. That person could have been rude because they just lost their job/best friend/wife and that 90 year old lady will be me one day. What she must think when she sees my big, black SUV in her rearview mirror? Right on her tail. I can’t imagine.
There are some things in life that appear to be unforgivable. These take more time, more prayer and a lot of grace. We all have this ability in us. It’s like working out…you are not going to have those fabulous triceps with one day of lifting ten pound weights while watching The Real Housewives. But you will start to see the changes, little by little, if you stick with it.

Here, my purpose is to share forgiveness and hopefully help others discover some of their own. Mark Twain said that “forgiveness is the scent of the violet on the heel that crushed it.” So, Violet Heels seemed like an appropriate title for this blog…that and the fact that I have a very scary obsession with shoes.
I hope to make you realize that you are not alone in this quest to raise a family, it takes a village.  Remember, there is no room for judgment, especially for those of us whose daily attire consists of a fleece pullover and yoga pants and whose four-year-old thinks it’s cool to dress himself.



My Resolution of Faith

One of my favorite songs in college was “Faith” by George Michael. Back then I know I loved it for the slightly raunchy lyrics and incredible beat that always helped me finish the last uphill mile of my runs. Now when I think of this song it has an entirely different meaning. It brings back fond memories of a time so long ago, when things were just a lot easier. When I had guy friends who had my back and watched out for me as much as my girlfriends did. I think of being able to run, by myself, around campus (during the day) and not worry that I would be assaulted. I didn’t fear going to work at an afternoon program at a local elementary school where open doors were the norm and my biggest worry was how many games of dodge ball I had to play.

Life, as I knew it, is no more and I have been mourning that lately.

Not for myself but for my children.

They tell me I’m strict and “way overprotective” because I won’t let them walk by themselves to their friends house on the next block. I blame it on “the world that we live in today” but that’s just another scapegoat. It is me throwing up my hands and saying “oh well, it is what it is and I guess I’ll just deal with it.” I can’t and won’t be that person anymore, living in my own self pity and chiming in on the statements of “what has the world come to?”

My grandmother used to say that, so that makes me believe that things looked bad in her day too. She probably wondered what kind of a world that her children were growing up in. They had Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust, Segregation and Elvis (who is mild compared to today’s standards), Vietnam, and the assassinations of  President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It goes on of course and those were awful things that occurred during her lifetime so, I guess that I can deduce that in life terrible things happen. Things that shake us to our very core…and we need to mourn. And then we need to get up and begin to look for the good again.

That’s where faith comes in. It can be shaken but then you need to make the commitment to rebuild it again. It’s not easy. It can be dirty and ugly and you may just want to pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep, which is fine but then you lose. We cannot block out the light and we can only live in the darkness for so long before we crave the feeling of warmth on our skin and the brightness that makes our eyes squint.

I like to think of faith like this . . .Michelangelo started with six tons of marble that he was commissioned to make into something amazing. Some days he probably left there, marble rocks in his shoes, dust in every crevice imaginable, cuts and blisters on his hands, sore back. There were days he probably felt like heading out for a few glasses of red wine with his friends instead of hanging around with a massive piece of rock. But just because he felt that way didn’t mean he had to give into it and after four grueling years he unveiled the masterpiece we know as David.

Even though Michelangelo couldn’t see the end result he believed in it. He looked to the light when the darkness tried to overtake him, wiped the dust from his eyes and squinted into the sun. He believed.

So that’s faith and it applies to all things. It’s looking to God and saying, “Ok, where do I go from here?”

Maybe we can begin with letting ourselves feel the sun on our faces again, getting rocks in our shoes and getting dusty and dirty. A lot of hard work and a little George Michael to keep us going.


The Truth About Potty Talk

I have hit my weekly limit on hearing about bathroom functions, words that sound like bathroom functions, imitations of bathroom functions, you get the idea.

These conversations begin at 7am and continue until the last little nugget has gone to school only to commence once again when they all return in the afternoon. Some days I will sit in the car, with the radio off and wonder, “will we ever talk about anything else besides toots and Hershey drops?” Yes, clever kids, aren’t they?

There are days when I feel like they have zapped every last cell from my brain, these are the days that I too, laugh when they blow into the crook of their arm and see who can make the loudest f@rt noise. At this point I have lost all credibility as a parent and must try to regain some shred of authority before it all goes to hell in a hand basket.

I try to remember when I was a kid; did I think all this kind of talk was funny? I clearly remember one of my 1st grade classmates reciting the word “underwear” over and over again during one of our Christmas pageants. And I also remembering it took every bit of restraint that I had to stop myself from busting out laughing. So I guess I have my answer.

Why are things related to the bathroom so funny? I mean there are adult comics who base a good part of their stand-up routines on bodily functions and we laugh hysterically at their comments. So do we ever really grow out of the “bathroom humor” phase? Chew on that one for a bit…

In our quest to raise good and respectful children (and to prove ourselves as proper adults) we correct them for this type of talk while secretly laughing inside. Then we go and share their comments and actions at adult parties with other parents who not only understand but in turn, have stories of their own to add. I always thought that when I would go to these “cocktail parties” we would talk about highly intellectual things such as politics and current events. Perhaps I am just not that worldly anymore or I am just too tired to try and think that hard.

But I will still try to clean up the little mouths that live in this house, challenging them to make better choices with the words that they use.  I am confident though, that they will continue to supply me with plenty of tales to share at the next cocktail party and afford me many secret laughs while they sit in time out in their rooms.