just different (for David James)

angelIf things had gone differently,
in about 2 weeks,
we’d be holding you.

If things had gone differently,
your brother would not be thumping away in my womb right now.

If things had gone differently,
I would not know the depth nor the sanctity of a mother grieving her unborn child.

If things had gone differently,
I would not be able to identify with the others, so many others who have lost this way.

If things had gone differently,
we would not be smiling and dreaming and preparing for Jack.

– There is no reconciling this. I miss you every day, and yet, if you were here,
he would not be.

I love you both.
I wish things could be different,
yet I can accept and even rejoice in how they are.

I find peace in believing that you watch over us,
that you have grown strong in Heaven,
that you know we love you and we wanted you,
that you maybe even had a hand in sending  your brother to us.

After a summer of solace and renewal,
this month brings you back to the forefront of my mind.
You’d have been almost here,
and you will never be here.
But you are with us,
always with us.

Those 10 Books

I was tagged by my friend Chris in a recent Facebook thing… and I had too much to say for Facebook :)

ootp-uk-kids-cover-art 1. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
On a Saturday in July 2003, the month before my wedding to Rod, four hardcover copies of the fifth installment of Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix) were in our home. It was an ordering mistake and also a gift. A dad, a new stepmom, and two adolescent kids laid around all the live-long day reading ferociously. It was the first new book released since we had all caught on to and fell in love with Harry and his friends. Years later, the characters and their adventures, the story of friendship, sacrifice, and redemption, are still a special kind of magical – one that helped make us a family.

2. Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
I love YA literature. Always have. What Rowling might have lacked in literary sophistication, in my humble opinion, Collins got. Katniss’ story (& it is her story) was not as neatly tied up as Harry’s. Somehow, the losses were more real and touching and devastating to me. The bravery, love, and humanity (read: big flaws) that Katniss displayed make her one of my favorite literary heroes.

3. Mark of the Lion: A Voice In the Wind, Francine Rivers
Christian fiction that was emotionally resonant and not completely heavy-handed? It was a new concept to me when I first read this novel, a tale of a Messianic Jew serving as a slave in a scary, prejudiced home. Hadassah’s tale was eventually soap-operatic in a future book, but this book showed me that adventurous, captivating tales could exist within the settings of scripture.

4. Something Borrowed, Emily Giffin
Why do I love this fluffy book? Because for once, the tale of the “other woman” was told with balance and sensitivity. I’ve read it a million (ok, maybe a dozen…) times and chosen to ignore the movie.

flyawayhome5.  Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner
Weiner is one of my go-to authors, but this book… ah… It came to me in a time of huge life change. “Why can’t we live at the beach?” were the first words I uttered after finishing it. Meanwhile, the complicated tale of marriage and motherhood – and the fun and colorful descriptions of a woman learning to cook lavishly for her friends and family (while staying at the beach) made for a “chick-lit” novel I’m not embarrassed to admit I love.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
It was the first required reading of my high school career, the centerpiece of my best college paper (call Atticus Finch a racist and I will cut you…), and one of the first (ok, and only) novels I taught in my (very short) high school teaching career. A charming family, a tragic trial, and Boo! – all the ingredients are there for a classic that is worthy and lovable.

7. Seven, Jen Hatmaker
Hatmaker is a rare gem who is captivating as a writer and speaker. This book was my first encounter with her, and saying it is life-changing is not an exaggeration. The “seven fast” itself is the framework, but the foundation beneath it – the pure love and lifestyle of Christ, simplicity, brother/sisterhood, affected me deeply and gave validation to many thoughts that had been swirling in me for years. Eating only sweet potatoes/spinach/apples/chicken/eggs/avocados/whole-grain bread for a month is fine. Living a life of grace and generosity is a lifelong aspiration.

Where_the_Heart_Is_Billie_Letts8. It, Stephen King
Like so many, I had a teenage love-affair with King. His writing is genius, vivid, so disturbing. It was the second book of his I read (the first was The Eyes of the Dragon, which remains my favorite, but is totally different in setting and tone than anything else – it’s fantasy and not horror), and I was so captivated by it that I sun-bathed too long on my stomach and was rewarded with a 2nd-degree sunburn while vacationing in Myrtle Beach! The great thing about King is how is horror is not only metaphorical, but intertwined in complicated, realistic, and touching relationships. Who doesn’t want friends like those in The Losers’ Club?
9. Where the Heart Is, Billie Letts
The Walmart baby. Novalee. Americus. Forney. Kids named after snack foods.The basic premise & the cliché-ish southern-ness might make the whole thing seem cheesy… but it wasn’t. Novalee’s story of courage, growth, and victory over struggle, love after loss, was truly touching and inspiring.

10.The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
I recently listened to a radio show that discussed movies people love but were too devastated by to watch again. The Lovely Bones is that book for me. The story itself was so profoundly sad – the spirit of a murdered girl watches her family grieve over the unsolved crime through the years. I remember reading sentences out loud to my husband because they were simply so beautiful. It’s my favorite book that I will not re-read.

these magic moments

I blinked and we had lived through 3 manic weeks:

– the church/my place of employment moving (right after I was away for a weekend and KK was sick), while having Vacation Bible School and Rod being gone for 5 long, insomnia-ridden days
– VACATION at our favorite place (Disney World FTW!) – a whole new experience with a pregnancy in tow, 100 degree heat, and car trouble.
– back-to-school. Up at 6 (insomnia or not), lunches to make, traffic to fight, and 2 little girls who know everyone and everything this year!

I have this whole timetable in my head of how the next few months should go. There is a lot to do! Our granddaughter (!!!) is due around the beginning of November, which ushers in family visits, our favorite week (Thanksgiving always falls around Randa’s birthday), and the holiday season. Sometime shortly after that,

Our son will be born.

It is still sinking in. Our son. My little man. Himself. Jack. Our baby, the one we never expected and so much wanted, is a boy! I can’t think of a more fitting way to complete our family. I can’t wait until January!

So, other than making plans, rearranging the house, consoling insomnia with many re-watches of Downton Abbey, starting to cook again, trying to workout again, kicking off Life Groups at church (including ours for blended families!), and hoping to make room for a special writing project, here are the random happy moments of late.

IMG_8418My view of the Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom whilst my own 4 dwarfs rode the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster.

IMG_8429The big girls… the twins… Oh my goodness, how alike they are!

IMG_8430I am happy in so many ways that New Baby is a boy,
but one of them is that KK gets to stay our baby girl :)

IMG_8481Sassafrass having a moment with Tinkerbell. Tink asked Randa how Jasmine and Aladdin get that magic carpet to fly. Randa was sure to ask them….

IMG_8499I am pleased to report to you that it’s all about Genie magic.
(RIP, Robin Williams)

IMG_8441 KK and I spent some quality time together while Rod, Paige, and Randa rode the “cool” rides. We visited the Walt Disney museum at Hollywood Studios. KK decided she wanted to pose like Mickey, and this may be my favorite picture of her ever.


IMG_8519Upon my return to work, some of my co-workers had made an awesome hashbrown bar for local teachers. The leftovers were indeed happy!

I am thrilled that the first grader in the household still wants to hold my hand the love way.

I don’t like to focus on the “Princess and the Tomboy” aspect of our girls. Fact is, they are both very balanced little creatures whose interests vary. Randa loves to get dirty or sandy; KK loves to play with baby dolls and put outfits together. But their fashion sense… it is what it is. This is random Sunday morning. They are exactly who they are meant to be, and we love them just as they are!

Plenty to be happy about. Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails notwithstanding.

onesies from Gramma and Papa

What’s on your happy list this week?


never had a friend like…

robinI have never met Robin Williams.

Or Johnny Cash.

Or Michael Jackson

Or Roger Ebert.

Or Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Brittany Murphy, Natasha Richardson, Whitney Houston…

And don’t even get me started on Patrick Swayze.

You probably haven’t met them either, and if you did, you weren’t friends. You didn’t see them regularly, know their quirks, their scent, their most-worn T-shirt, the things that we observe and mindlessly hold close about our own people.

But when it comes to people – our favorite far-off people – whose faces we see and voices we hear on the screen, we feel connected. And when we lose them, we mourn.

When Whitney Houston died in 2012, I remember having to tune out social media for a few days because of my anger at the reactions. As it happens with any celebrity death in our Facebook Age, we use these times as an opportunity to reminisce: our favorite song. our favorite movie. the thing that touched us, made us dance, made us cry. But some people use this as a time to point out how shallow we are for caring that an entertainer has died. Why don’t we post more pictures and thoughts of soldiers, of martyrs, of victims?

It’s a debate we can’t win. Death itself is too big for us to handle as one piece. We know that every day, people die senselessly, tragically, horribly. And if we acknowledged each one the way we do our own loved ones, our own heroes, or simply our own favorite entertainers, then all we would do is mourn.

Patrick Swayze - I mean!I remember, quite honestly, observing that I cried more tears over the star of Dirty Dancing and the singer of  “Walk the Line” than I did for some distant relatives. It made me feel guilty, and yet…? We cannot measure the depth of our human experience by isolated emotions. I loved that second cousin who died unexpectedly when I was 17, and I will always, always miss those older relatives that were gone before we got to hear all of their stories and learn all of their recipes. But I can’t help it that something in the emotive performances of Patrick Swayze and many things in the life and writings of Johnny Cash captivated me in a personal way.

And without their presence, the world is emptier. That is what happens when we lose artists, when we lose people who happen to make a more public mark than the rest of us.

It doesn’t make them bad for being celebrities, just like it doesn’t make them immune from cancer, old age, addiction, depression. It doesn’t make us shallow for loving them from afar and mourning them for real.

It’s just part of our human experience.

I am not going to spend Memorial Day acknowledging Robin Williams, nor will I tie a yellow ribbon, make a donation in his name, or think of him every day. Those are places we hold close for our soldiers, for our martyrs.

But this week, I will remember how he made me laugh in countless movies… how he was the teacher I wanted to have and wanted to be in Dead Poet’s Society… how Mrs. Doubtfire stands the test of time… the amazing way he made a cartoon genie come to life and made me rewind “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me” over and over… how I didn’t ever see Good Morning Vietnam or get Jumanji or like Mork & Mindy, but how much my kids love that eccentric Hook.

I will also pray for his family. He was a real person… a husband, a dad, a friend.

I guess it’s a theme for me this week. Let’s edit less. Let’s feel. Let’s reach out. Let’s be the full-hearted, big-hearted, loving creatures God created us to be.

Let’s remember Robin Williams with a smile and a tear.

If you’re happy and don’t post it…

So, two-ish weeks ago, I started the 100 days of happiness.

Last week was fu-u-ull: husband gone. Vacation bible school nightly. Insomnia. Summer-crazed children. Lots of work stuff. Super hot outside. And insomnia (because seriously… that is the worst).

But there were happy things every day.

But I got sick of posting on Facebook.

I have not posted a status since the wee hours of Friday… almost 4 days. And… and…

I don’t miss it.

Oh, I’m checking still. There are friends whose faces and observations I enjoy seeing. There are posts to make and moderate for both of my jobs. But… yikes. I just feel overloaded….

an abundance of digital communication,

an utter lack of real, substantive communication.

IMG_8341I acknowledge that I have gotten to the point in my life in which it’s easier to send a note than dial a phone, preferable to check a status than ask a question. And I feel convicted about it. Checking up on or in with each other is a poor substitute for doing life together, which is what I crave. Don’t you? When we post our pictures or thoughts we give the illusion of being part of each other’s lives, but sometimes, when we reach out to touch someone, we come up short.

I want to do better. And in the mean time, I want to clear up some of the clutter in my head… the posts that irk me, the ones whose authors I have to take a moment to even place, the posts that seem to seek to divide or incite. I don’t need all those words and all that tension added to the stuff of real life.

So, I am working on a Facebook break. No, I am not declaring I AM DONE or deactivating for a set time. I am just backing away, holding it at arm’s length, reading some books.

And in the mean time:

The #100HappyDays experiment continues. I am being mindful to observe those happy moments and happy things, even in the long, loud days. Things like:

IMG_8332– Randa’s utter enthusiasm in planning and preparing   a picnic for her friends on Friday.

– the way KK & Randa screamed and cheered and greeted their big sister Paige when she returned for a visit on Saturday.

– the way every mama in the room cried at the prayer of thanksgiving and life offered at a baby shower on Saturday.

– the way my husband appreciates my never-made-the-same-way-twice taco dip and my ever-growing baby bump.

– the stir fry I ate tonight.

– the fact that our childcare question for Sweet Baby has already been answered!

– a family dinner at Abuelo’s with all 7, er – almost 9! – of us.

– friends who dogsit

– friends who take our kids to the poolIMG_8333

– naps

House of Cards

– metaphors

– signing Randa up for her 3rd year of dance (this year: ballet and hip-hop!)

– comfortable shoes


All those things were observed. Some of them were verbally shared with others. None of them were “posted” anywhere until now.

It still counts, though. In fact, as much as I love sharing and interacting with people I cannot see in real life, I want to make my words count more. I want to shake off the laziness of The Virtual and the precision of The Edited and focus on the beauty of being human, spontaneous, and able to talk.

The thought of it makes me happy :)