Swirl. It is a great word. It can be an adjective, a noun or a verb.  Where I am from I usually associate “swirl” with this:

In all my time in tornado alley, I have not been hit by one.  Make no mistake, I have gotten into the storm cellar/shelter/fraidy whole, plenty of times with strangers I do not know, cellars that are musty, spiders in every corner with everyone huddled around a battery operated weather radio, awaiting the next report on the most updated location of the”swirling cloud”. I have gotten into hall closets with lights flickering, throw up bucket in hand (thanks to pregnancy) on my hands and knees praying that the thing won’t hit my house or take my life.  Sound dramatic? Yes. Because it is.

I knock on wood and do the sign of the cross in gratitude that I have been spared, but this is not the subject of this post.  “Swirl” is.  Have you ever been caught up in an emotional swirl?  I am in the midst of one at the moment. I have several people in my life that are going through very difficult times, and behind all of these crisis is someone who won’t do the right thing or didn’t do the right thing.

I am quite sure that the end of the world is coming, that Armageddon is at hand, the full moon that is non-existent, is making people crazy and getting rid of constants. With the exception of a handful of close friends and family, I find myself cringing every time the phone rings with more news of chaos.  I am nowhere near a storm shelter and in fact I feel as if I am in the open prairie. Run for your life.

Maybe perhaps we are really in the video of Thriller, where everyone turns into werewolves, zombies and ghosts that run up and down the streets causing havoc and showing their fangs. Chaos is a funny thing.  It can be like a tornado, sucking up everything in sight, tossing and throwing everything precious in its wake to far away places that are unknown.  But enough cryptic talk.

Emotional chaos in any form is draining. When people close to you are going through turmoil as a result of someone who fails to do the right thing, it is very hard not to get caught up in the same chaos.  I am a solution person.  I like to diagnose the problem and look for a cure or at least a treatment for what ails ya.  And my frustration tonight is that I have to force myself to recognize I can’t help everyone, I can’t save everyone, I can’t make people make things ok and you can’t help others to the point of sacrificing yourself .

What do I mean? As I was telling one of my very close friends the other night as we enjoyed a run to the craft store followed by an evening of sushi (I have to mention we ended up with matching metal fingers), we have to put the oxygen masks on ourselves before putting them on others.  There is a method to this madness. This is madness. You have to preserve the peace within yourself to continue doing God’s work, otherwise what good can you do when you yourself are a wreck? What peace, confidence, assurance, encouragement can you possibly offer when you yourself are not balanced and centered?

Just like the seasons, we each have our “swirl” moments. We are in the tornado. Maybe we created the tornado. Maybe we are watching the tornado. Maybe we feel a tornado coming.  Whatever the case, always remember, do not get too close to the cloud of debris.



Embrace truth, it is always there if you want it.

Embrace who you are, even you can get lost and found.

Embrace frustration, it only means that you know you are capable of more.

Embrace being a warrior, if you don’t stand up for what you believe in, nobody else will.

Embrace love, it is contagious.

Embrace adversity, it is usually the change in the growth process.

Embrace difficulty it always contains opportunity.

Embrace quietness, it helps tune out the white noise of life.

Embrace prayer, it will bring you back to center.

Embrace kindness, it will remind you of the necessity of compassion.

Embrace mercy so you will not want to be the one being judged.

Embrace embracing, it is one of the most effective ways to transfuse love.

Embrace humor, it will help you find healing.

Embrace laughter, it is music from heaven.

Embrace creativity, it is the only unfiltered description of who you are.

Embrace searching, it will help you find your path.

Embrace forgiveness, it will demonstrate grace.

Embrace your blessings, it will keep you thankful.

The Benefactor Who Became the Beneficiary As a Result of a Few Mustaches

Last night I had a “you know that you know” moment.  If you haven’t been reading along from the beginning, allow me to briefly explain.

You know that you know comes from those moments in life that stop you in your tracks, often in astonishment and leaving you with the “deja vu”, “that was strange” or “that was a coincidence” feeling.  Come on ! We have all had them- and as I get older I have them wayyyyy more times in a week than I used to. I might even venture to say that I have then daily.

Perhaps these “know that you know moments” have increased in my life because I am more aware of them. Perhaps I, or we become more in tune with the universe as our life goes on and we are able to recognize these moments with more definition and more clarity instead of running right through the moment and not recognizing the significance of these quaint, personal experiences.

So now that you have a little history with you “know that you know” – we move on in our story.

My number 2 son needed items for his estimation jar.  This is a jar that is filled with trinkets that you place in a clear plastic container for the children to observe for the week. On Friday, the teacher has each child write down the estimated amount of whatever little goodie is placed in the jar and the winner takes home the goodies and the jar, only to bring it back on Monday with a replenished mystery amount of goodies.  Did you follow all that? Good.

Number 2 got the jar and I was on the hunt for the replenished goodie.  I stopped by the dollar store to scope out the inexpensive selection of various assorted trinkets made in China.  I phoned my Number 2 and gave him a few choices- we settled on something we thought would be a huge hit and then he told me we needed at least 22 trinkets to make sure everyone in the class got one.

I reached in my pocket only to find 6 dollars.  I needed 6 packages- and of course it is the dollar store- so I am short the tax.  I walked up to the cashier and told her I needed to go out to my car and get some change.

In a few seconds my mind flashed back to July where I was in the same dollar store purchasing a ton of balloons for a surprise birthday party and the college kid in front of me had gone over his budget and was in the process of putting items back.  I decided in a split second that however much he was short, just put it on my tab of 50 balloons and whatever else I was purchasing.

As I tried to remember the face of the person I encountered back in July, I turned to run out to my car- and then- the moment I had my hand on the door to go out to my car, a nice lady proclaimed, “maam? I have forty seven cents”- Maybe I was astonished at the kindness that is still abounds in the strangest of places. Kindneess in the dollar store? I am such a skeptic as beneficiary but not a skeptic when I am the benefactor? What is up with that?

I asked her if she was sure-  and then again if she was really sure- and she wanted to do it- and the really amazing thing is that I let her.

For any of you that know me or have similar traits as me, it is difficult for me to allow others to help me.  I like to be independant and depend on nobody. After all I like to be the person that helps other people.  I thanked her a hundred times and promised her I would pay it forward- I walked to my car extremely surprised at myself and asked myself what lesson am I supposed to learn – and it is this:

Once I was the benefactor who was blessed by the willingness of someone to allow me to help them. In that same store I became the beneficiary and was equally blessed.  Maybe we need to be just as willing to accept help as we are to provide it.  By doing this it allows people to become energized and excited about helping others, not to mention the opportunity to feel blessed themselves. They bless you, you bless them. Double the blessings.

The willingness to help others and the graciousness to accept help.

All the way around it is a beautiful thing.

And of course the thing we picked for the estimation jar was a jar full of mustaches.

Gratitude and A Jar Full of Mustaches

Between Now and Now

King Cake and the Re-Birth of the Next Part of the New Year

I know. I know.  I need to explain.  This is the annual king cake that our office receives from a very generous client.  We all gather in the kitchen and eagerly slice away at the king cake to see who is going to get the infamous plastic baby.   For those of you who have no idea what a king cake is- it is a cake that is often used for pre-lenten celebrations that has a little baby inserted somewhere in the cake. And you better pray that you don’t inadvertently bite the plastic baby’s arm off as you take a bite into your pre-lenten celebratory morsel. (*ha, ha snort*)

I did not get the baby. I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t get the baby. I was absolutely without question amused at the way the baby came out of the cake.  As someone in my office proclaimed “it’s not breach!”, as it was served on a plate, this little innocent plastic baby was in perfect position to enter into the world of lawyering at our firm and be introduced to all the other plastic Mardi Gras babies lined up against the wall in our firm’s kitchen.  (and yes one of the babies is sans one arm)

This week Lent starts. Mardi Gras is on Tuesday- more famously known as “Fat Tuesday” where Christians all around the world are supposed to gorge themselves with rich and fatty foods, drink various amounts of alcohol or chocolate milk (whichever you prefer, me personally- I’ll take diet dr. pepper) and give insane reasons to show various parts of their nude bodies for strands of plastic, shiny necklaces.

This is all in preparation of the lenten season representing a time of fasting and self-contemplation.

Lent can symbolize a transition into newness. A re-birth of self. Making changes for the good-Similar to a New Year’s resolution, however for me it has a lot more accountability factor.  Lent is a spiritual resolution. It can be a real source of determination for all of us when we think of what it is and why it is.

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. It symbolizes the beginning of the time where Jesus went out into the desert to begin the 40 days of fasting and prayer. Fasting is hard. It is real hard. If you haven’t tried it you should. If you have tried it and failed then you are in the same club as me. But I am going to keep trying even if it only means no meat on Fridays.  Lent is a time of sacrifice and self-reflection.  I do not know what I am going to give up for lent or do for lent. I am thinking about it.  I know I want to do something that means something. Something that I can be accountable for and actually achieve. Even if it is small-

Look at it as the beginning to a new spiritual year.  It is a changing process-where we can “listen” to the maps of our own individual journeys. Think about what you want to change in your life. What one thing can you do that will bring you closer to God and bring you more peace?

So many resolutions are built on between then and now.

My challenge is this- if you choose to contemplate the upcoming season of Lent- what can you do that will enrich your life and bring you closer to God- what is that one simple thing?  It may be taking a walk in the morning, turning your radio off on your morning commute and sitting in silence or prayer- maybe it is picking up a few extra groceries for the homeless every time you go to the store or practicing the discipline of training your mind to say only good things. Whatever it may be- try to remove the practice of thinking “what I can I do between now and then to be closer to God?” to “what can I do between now and now that will bring me closer to God?”

In Search of the Light

I have a saying that I use pretty frequently. I have adopted it from the Pre-K teacher.  She got it from the book of Matthew. Matthew 5:16 to be exact which says “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  To simplify, I go with the Pre-K version and just go with “let your light shine”.  It is such an awesome and powerful statement.

Suffice it to say, I am not perfect (duh) and I struggle to keep this simple and beautiful thought at the forefront of my day. I try to do it everyday and  some days I completely fail.  But I keep trying.  The other night when I was really upset a very good friend texted me 3 simple words. I. love. you.  How awesome is that?  She texted me in the middle of my melt down.  I texted her back and she called me.  I asked her why she texted me, and her response was “that she was just thinking about me”.  Seriously? In the middle of my melt down? Two hours later, my sister-in-law texted I. Love. You.   How did these two people who love me so much know? without any precursor or information? Ladies and gentlemen- that is some really powerful stuff.  I needed them and I didn’t know I needed them. But they knew I needed them. Awesomeness right there and in action.

So what exactly is the light that we are supposed to let shine?  That is the three million dollar question.  I think that it is a responsibility that we have to seek, to be better than what we are. right now, at this moment.  We all have a special part of God in us- a part that knows things and recognizes things without explanation.  The part that radiates goodness and recognizes goodness and wants to project goodness.   We all have this light. We have to let it shine as much as possible because we never know who may need it.

Sometimes we know exactly where we are going and we know exactly how we are going to get there.  Other times we can get completely lost, forgetting who we are, what we are supposed to do and where we are supposed to be going.    You see, when we let our “light” shine, you never know who is searching, who is lost, looking for a light. Our light can be used for others, like a lighthouse is used in the middle of a dark storm. guiding those ships that are lost and warning to not run aground.

Think about how many times in your own life someone has done something for you that made all the difference.  A phone call, a listening ear, a small present, an unexpected visit, a card, a shoulder to cry on, a wise word, a harsh word, a swift kick in the back side-  I know for myself, throughout my life, I have been lost countless times. Operating on complete faith, like walking around in a dark room with my hands out, anticipating when I am going to stumble because I can’t see in front of my face due to the blackness surrounding me. I have had darkness, where I didn’t know what I believed and what I didn’t believe,a time where I have just gone through the motions of the emotions. And then like a miracle someone helps me or something happens because someone cared enough about me to make it happen.  The light in those times is brighter than a thousand suns- it is brighter than ten thousand suns because that light carries with it HOPE.  Hope that someone cares, that things will be better, that things will be ok-  because that is what we all want- is for things to be ok.

The wise men, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar (I had to look their names up) knew what they were looking for.  They consulted books, maps, scripture and their own knowledge in search of what they were looking for, which was Christ.  In the end it was the great bright light that lead them to what they were looking for. The light guided them to where they needed to be, the light offered them hope for their future and provided reassurance that they too would be ok.

As you go through your day, try to be selfless, giving of yourself, asking yourself what you can do for someone. Take a risk and be giving of yourself, send that card to the person you keep thinking of, call your friend and tell them how much you miss them, tell the people you care about how important they are to you, tell people you appreciate them, acknowledge others when their kindness has touched you, be kind when it is most difficult, break your old bad habit and force yourself to do that one thing different just one time and most importantly be aware and willing all the time to be of service when you are called.

Because you see my friends, you never know when it will be our turn to be in search of the light.

Seeing Things Exactly As They Are

Tonight is filled with a lot of raw emotion, so if you are looking for something uplifting and light, you might want to stop reading right  here.  Today was emotional for me. I have been thinking a lot about my grandmother. She is still living and one of the most important people of my life. She is 83 years old and has moderate to severe dementia.  She has reached a point where it is hit and miss as to whether she knows your name and it is a bonus if she can remember how she knows you.  She was/is the person in my life who told me I could do it (no matter what it was) when the rest of the world was telling me I couldn’t do it.  She used to have “Carpe Diem” written on her checks because she really believed it. Now, sadly, she doesn’t remember that simple phrase that was placed on her checks almost twenty years ago.  But I do.

My grandmother was raised in an orphanage (which is a completely separate post) because her father died of black lung when she and her twin brother were nine months old.  My great-grandmother, who was left in a wicker basket with a note, was left on a door step when she was three days old.  With my great-grandfather having passed, my great-grandmother was not able to keep my grandmother and her two brothers because she was too poor to support them. So she placed them in an orphange, and I have discerned from my grandmother’s stories over the years, it was horrible and necessary all at the same time.

After my hearing today, I was invited to go to Krebs Oklahoma for lunch. Hardy har har. uh no. oh wait. yes. In the process of cleaning out my grandmother’s house I was able to salvage one of the few pictures of my great grandmother and great-grandfather – it was published in the local Krebs newspaper proudly announcing the baptism of my grandmother and her twin brother. I had been able to recall the small detail from the newspaper article in that moment my grandmother was born in Krebs. I absolutely will take the trip to eat italian food in Krebs.

So off I go with a few of my colleagues, following a caravan of cars to travel ten miles further to the birth place of the most important woman in my life.  The town is run down and is poor- My senses are heightened, perhaps I am trying to tap into my ancestry and allow my mind to wander regarding the possibilities fo where they used to live and whether my grandmother even knew she was born in Krebs. The food was awesome to say the least. Strange occurrence-the girl who served us looked just like me. promise. It was creepy. So creepy I couldn’t even ask her to take a picture.  We could have been sisters. It was verrrrrrry strange. I promise. She looked very much like me. I’m not even kidding.

I drove back home with all sorts of remodeling on my mind, looking forward to moving towards putting the new flooring in, and even perhaps placing the furniture back in the rooms before the beginning of next week.  I stop at the flooring store where I have a lead on the out of stock flooring that we were supposed to be getting. Ugh. I get home and let me just sum this part up. My husband took the liberty to instruct the texture people to go ahead and redo the already just finished texturing. Like it was already painted. and he had them redo it. and Redo it they did to the 1960’s with big gloppy loads of mud and a little feather and fan action. EXCUSE ME….DID I MISS THE MEMO? THE MEMO WHERE YOU SENT OUT SOMETHING SAYING WE HAD CHANGED THE PLAN? To say I was or am upset is a complete understatement. In fact I am pretty sure it will be the understatement of the whole entire year, and it is only of course February 16, 2012.  I was so upset and disappointed I decided to load up and go see my grandmother.

The shrunken lady who came to the door of her assisted living apartment was playful as she had heard my youngest on the other side of the door knocking and saying “grandma?” “ohhhhhhh grandma??” She is so little now, small and vulnerable.  She gets irritated easily when she realizes she can’t remember what happened earlier in the day.  She asked me who my number 3 child’s brothers were. I pointed to the wall where we had taped number 1 child and number 2 child’s school pictures with their names underneath them.  As I watched her go through a photo album with my number 3 child on her lap, I was grateful and sad all at the same time.

She had been my rock for almost my entire life. I told her everything.  I wanted to tell her right then of the struggles of January and how much grief had come into our home because a friend of my number 1 child had shot and killed himself at the young age of barely 14.  How I had to parent my children through suicide- how number 1 had just played football with this beautiful kid the afternoon of his death.  I wanted to talk parenting with her, marriage with her, politics and my difficulties of semi-sort of losing someone close to me. I wanted to talk religion and soul talk with her, so she could do what she had done hundreds of times before, which was to give me a scripture to study, or a life story or wise words to contemplate.  I wanted to tell her about my trip to Krebs, wanted to be in her home where she would cook something or watch british comedies to stop all the noise in my life.

But as I looked at her it hit me like the same ton of bricks that hits me over and over and over when I realize that, for the most part, that is gone.  The grief that comes from losing someone slowly. One piece at a time. We spent the rest of the evening looking through pictures, we did a small puzzle, and she talked about what she wants to do when she gets home and what kinds of food she is going to get when the kids come over.

She is not going home. I used to be dedicated to telling her the truth about how it wasn’t safe for her to stay at home anymore. Now I go along with her and fantasize about the dream of her returning home and I go right along with her.

There no longer is a need to contradict this hope. It is not necessary.

As I got ready to leave, I was almost desperate to share my current struggles, my life with her. I absolutely hungered for her wisdom. I wanted her to feed me spiritually like she had so many, many times. I even went as far to ask her if she likes to pray the rosary- she didn’t really respond. But to no avail there was nothing- until something caught my eye.

For the last few weeks I have been trying to figure out a way to incorporate the fruits of the spirit in a piece of artwork for me to hang in my  house. I have looked at a few things online and just gave up until things are more settled.  I saw a beautiful poster with the fruits of the spirit in my children’s godparents house. I had never, never, never, never ,never heard my grandmother speak about the fruits of the spirit-until tonight.  Above the pictures of my children this was at the top.

Fruit of the Spirit in grandma's room

My instant thought was thank you god.  I knew that I knew.

As I kissed her and hugged her and kissed her again, she said to me “you sure are growing up, becoming a nice young lady now and you are so smart”- I told her that no matter what she forgets, to never forget that I am the person I am today because of her.

As I walked away choking back tears, I think she had forgotten who I was, as I am today, a grown woman with three children- and she was seeing me as a little girl stuck maybe twenty years ago.

As I am writing these words, I am thinking …. you know what?  She saw me for EXACTLY what I was tonight- a little girl scared to lose her grandmother.


Our home is a wreck. From top to bottom. It looks like something straight out of hoarders. The rooms have been emptied into other rooms on top of the stuff already in the room. It is true insanity.  Remodeling is an adventure that you have no control over.  You are at the mercy of people you don’t know and you find your life reduced to rooms of piles and material things and oh yes…don’t forget the color swatches. It is nuts. Put it this way, I have a queen size mattress in one of my bathrooms.  I have to remind myself, that at the end of this project I will have something so much better than what is there, but getting there is going to be a REALLLLLLLLLLLL Challenge.  We have knocked out walls, ripped out cabinets, ripped out base boards, and thrown out the old carpet.

As the old stuff is getting ripped out I cannot tell you the anxiety I have. Perhaps it’s the hammer, pounding away at the existing structure or the pop of the boards giving way to something new. Whatever it is I have to close my eyes, plug my ears and look away.  I think my anxiety is from the unknown, how is going to be put back together, what if the new idea turns out worse than the old existing structure.  What if I am wrong and I should have left it?

And then it comes to me.  It doesn’t matter. The old stuff wasn’t working for me and it was making me miserable.  The same old, same old, the same complaining about not enough space, old scratched up baseboards, dark colors and drab depressing woodwork was not working anymore.  I was complaining and not doing anything about it.  Time to reassess and take stock of the stuff I wanted to keep and the stuff I wanted to trash.  I was complaining about being tired of complaining. Isn’t that nuts?

Our lives are much the same way.  As I looked around my bedroom tonight I thought to myself…you know at one point in my life, I think I looked this way. I think to be the best people we can be, we have to constantly assess which wall to knock down in our lives, which ones to build and how much trash to take out. I am sure that my parents at certain points during my life had to look away, as life hammered at my existing structure to break me into submission. I have had to look away myself when people I love have gone through the same process. It isn’t pretty. In fact, when we go through these periods of personal growth it is usually ugly and if the lessons aren’t learned, they can drag on for months and sometimes years.   If we don’t go through this process, I think we end up as debilitated specimens of what could have been.  And honestly, sometimes, we have to take ourselves down to our foundation and get real with who we are.

Who we are means going down deep, without the distractions of others to define who we are.  We gotta know at least from a minimalist perspective of what we believe and the truth of the things we know.  What may be true to me may not be true to you.  But that is ok. I can love you, you can love me and we rest in the peace of knowing God made us each different and placed a part of him in each of us to recognize truth. The danger is losing sight of this.  Floating along in a sea of disparity for long points in time and not recognizing a higher calling. We all have a higher calling. We were all made for greatness. Each and every one of us has greatness within us and can achieve whatever it is we are called to do.  The real question is are we willing to accept the mission?

We can all get lost. And we can all be found. Even if it means ripping out the walls, repainting or knocking ourselves down and starting over.  No matter where you are in this journey, just remember one of the most important lessons, which is to Know Thyself.