The making of M O M’s day.

IMG_0122After Anna Jarvis mother died in 1905, Anna conceived a way of honoring her motherʼs sacrifice by creating a special day to remember her mother. She would start the argument that American holidays were biased toward male achievements so she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. She was able to gain financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker and they set out to market her dream with the first official Motherʼs Day in 1908.

What I find interesting about this story isnʼt itʼs origin but rather the same energy that Anna exerted to ultimately have President Woodrow Wilson officially establish Motherʼs Day in 1914, she would give toward organizing a campaign against Motherʼs Day. She was simply disgusted with all the commercialization. She launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name “Motherʼs Day,” eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948, Anna had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.

I suppose Anna needed to be careful what she wished for.  How this day lint rolled into a full-blown commercialized day.

As this “holiday” approached, I’ve seen funny videos of Mom’s asking for mimosas,  a day to sleep in or to garden, new phones, pedicures, pet-free responsibilities, or a trip to the beach.  Hallmark can sentimentally mark this day with tears or laughter – because clearly there’s a divide between knowing that a mother’s job is sometimes thankless but also it’s not a “job” at all – it’s an entrustment only given for a little while.

Today’s gift from my family is the best one.  It’s TIME.

Time ALONE…to reflect.

Today, I know that I’m still standing despite angry words, limited sleep, ADD onset, sickness and algebra tutoring.   I look back and say, just how did we get through that?  and then I’m reminded on how God provided me with all that I needed to hang on or know when to ask for help.

Today, I’m reminded that I was Chosen to grow someone beautiful.   Not only was a child matched to us – but he or she was matched for us.  I see that parenting a child is not only growing something beautiful for the world – but I am growing something beautiful in me.    Each night I lay to rest all my short comings and missed marks and let each new day bring God’s grace to grow on.   My peace depends on this.   No forgiveness = No peace.

Today, I know that a calling to parent is God’s plan so that it’s not “all about me”.  That this act of love is a way to pollinate so that humanity continues on and heaven shows itself on earth – even if it’s just a peek.

Today I’m reminded that our family mantras matter.  There’s a few mantras that help us give grace to one another.  One that we use often “that everyone is working on something”.  It reminds us that we are not perfect and that whatever mind virus, self-image, learning difference that we have – we are not here to judge.   “Does what I’m about to say  lift someone or pull someone down?” – this also helps us to be mindful with words.  Keeping these mantras are important because they help me navigate the complicated and tricky (especially while driving in traffic).

Today I’m thankful for my Mom, sisters, aunts, cousins and dear friends that show me the way.  They do hard things.  They show me the way by swimming upward  in a secular stream that flows down.  They are authentic, hardworking, honest, not everyone gets a trophy – type of mom.  They live their faith and values despite all – they march on.

Today, I hold close to heart those that are missing their mothers and mothers that are missing their children.  I think of our Hannah, who made me a mother.   It’s my hope that the pain of the separation or loss doesn’t cloud the mental skies of today.  That the spirit, the love that is shared, is celebrated and honored.   I feel Hannah’s influences all throughout my life.

I have to believe that Anna’s intentions to put Mom’s day on the calendar was for us to pause once a year to not only run around to find the perfect gift, or waiting in line for a seat at our favorite restaurant, but to look up to the tree of life and marvel at the fruit that we’ve grown through grace and with gratefulness.

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sonshine30Todd asked me recently… why don’t you write anymore?  I quickly responded… “well, I do, sorta.”

Then, I looked at my posted dates of my blog – many being stamped with seasons skipped in between.  Point taken.   Recently, I’ve devoted a bit more time to wood carving – pretty much on purpose.    It switched my creative output to a visual versus a narrative – where no words are needed.   And I think this is why….

When our boys were tippy toeing and toddler talking, I was so enamored by them.  I once heard that a baby is a kiss away from heaven.  It’s heaven’s latest news.  I believe that they simply remembered the One that breathed them into existence.   Once earthbound, our innocent children, wrapped in wonder, remind us who we are.  My children, in their toddler years, awakened a creativity in me that I’m so grateful for.  Without fear, without ego, each started out with an open heart and insatiable mind.

My favorite memory was when driving over the Walt Whitman bridge heading into Philadelphia – Addison looked at the smoke stacks from an industrial building and said, “look it’s making clouds.”  The innocence of cloud making vs. the reality of pollution is the evolution of education.  Our boys have now gone from looking at the world being in communion with God versus the reality of the world that seems to be disconnected, divided and instant.

When you see a child, you see Hope.  When you listen to a child speak, you feel Hope.  When you see an elder, you see Wisdom.  When you listen to an elder you hear Wisdom.  Babies and Elders feed our soul.  Then, there’s the in-between years of seeing outward and moving inward.  Our children are no longer toddlers and they are seeing outward.   They’re learning of a world that’s unfair and unkind.   Speaking secular, they’re starting to view success as the world views it.    They start to celebrate the things that the world celebrates.  So as the same new mind that took in the world with wonder, starts to navigate the world by competition and status.    Our older sons are becoming aware of themselves and there’s a constant branding of who they want to be seen as.  Please don’t get me wrong… our  boys still have innocent moments.  They still have many things to learn and many more exciting things to experience.  Their world continues to expand as they physically do; however, we are in constant need of temperance with the material side of expansion.

As they begin adolescence, I feel that I’m called deep.  Inward.    I work hard at being mindful to lift up the world’s veil and see the creations of who set this all in motion.   So my well of words have not flown to paper rather I’ve been reading like my life depends on it – healing mind viruses, and filling the noggin with wise authors, dead poets, prophets, theologians, artist, athletes and friends that do the hard and show me the way.  A God who constantly whispers to come and follow when inward, outward on anywhere in between.

I suppose just like the evolution of the cloud maker to pollution spreader… our boys inward journey will evolve.  I will keep reminding them of who they’re not.  A well of words may spring to blog.  Or I may continue to learn and listen.    So, “Sonshine” whatever the brand – is evolving and becoming….. with the intention to create beautiful from the broken, to renew the spirit after the mistakes and recycle the messiness of life…. because nothing is wasted.

Just like the repurposed cedar that I use in my art.

Thank you for being on this journey with me – I’ll keep the light on.

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A buffet served at CNN’s townhall.

Today, I’m not a democrat, republican or independent. Just a momma who has crashed both political parties to see what’s being served daily in the buffet line. Food that is highly engineered, packaged and marketed for our consumption with the price of a vote versus food that has been organically grown to bear fruit in those who are starving spiritually, mentally and literally – physically – due to poor nutrient in our diet with the price of one’s hope.   My hope.

As I watched Anderson Cooper’s CNN town hall meeting in South Carolina – I listened to the play wheel of where each candidate stood on issues on small businesses, healthcare, and experience. They rattled off their responses in record time – like a child who memorized their conjunctions or if you’re a rock star – tackling prepositions in 30 seconds (Rubio, you could so do this!)

But then the wheel stopped – there was a pause in play.  Anderson Cooper began to ask personal questions.

Governor Kasich was asked when he was 35 years old…how the tragedy of losing his parents (killed by a drunk driver) shaped his life.  Governor Kasich responded:

“I went into a black hole with just a little pin prick of light, Anderson. And others who are here tonight have had that experience. But I had people come to me. I don’t care – you know, you don’t have to agree with me or like it or whatever, but it’s really where I found the Lord. And I’ve spent 29 years of my life working on that, and I’m here to tell people that – and look, life is – it’s so rocky, it’s so fragile. We have to build our homes – our lives, our homes on solid granite, not on sand.”

Governor Kaich was serving me something familiar – a raw, authentic moment of choosing hope vs. despair.  A pin hole view to see that faith is his granite foundation that allows him to serve other through this perspective.

Governor Bush was next. I now knew Anderson’s pattern and I found myself eager to hear the round of personal questions. But I didn’t have to wait. A SC resident asked a question to Gov. Bush about what was the single driving force in his life.  Gov. Bush’s response:

“My dad was running for president, and I was working and trying to help him. And I just was overwhelmed, and it forced me to pause and to reflect about the important things of life. And I started reading the Bible and I – and I accepted Jesus as my savior at that time. And that was an important element of my life. The second part of my faith journey that was important was when – after the 1994 election and I lost, I decided I wanted to join the faith of my wife. We had gone to – we go to mass, we were going to mass, except I wasn’t a Catholic. That’s kind of cheating in case you were thinking.

So I went to the RCA class. About halfway through – and it was a wonderful experience. I was with real people – this was after an election defeat which was not fun – I learned a lot from the defeat. It made me a much better person. But I – my Catholic journey started then. And on Easter Sabbath of 1997, I became a Catholic, and it informs a lot of how I think about life. I believe that life is a gift from God, that it’s divinely inspired and that we’re all here for a purpose in life. And if you believe like that, then a lot of the policy and a lot of the thinking that goes with that in the public arena falls quite naturally. It means that you protect life from beginning to end. It means that you respect people that may have disabilities as important as anybody else. If means that you respect everybody and you treat them with dignity and respect. My faith is an important part of my life. And as – and in public life, I don’t think you put your faith in a lockbox, you know, and say, OK, I’ll do this kind of at home and I’ll do it when I go to the church but I can’t do it openly in the public square.”

Governor Bush, your comments about faith is as refreshing as a glass of sweet tea.  I drank it in.  A sunday-kinda love that’s displayed every day of the week.  Please remember your own Divine worth.  Don’t be defined by the media’s price tag on a state’s vote.  

Next came Donald Trump.  After serving a lot of the “terrific”, “huge” and “very good” comments.  Anderson Cooper asked him about the Supreme Court justice seat that’s available and if he recommended his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry?  Donal Trump’s response:  

“So, my sister is a brilliant woman who was always a fabulous student, very, very smart. She was appointed by Ronald Reagan. He said appointed by Bill Clinton. She was elevated to the Court of Appeals, a very high position, right under the Supreme Court, as you know.

She was elevated to the Court of Appeals by Clinton; appointed by Reagan, elevated – and the reason she was elevated, she was an outstanding intellect and an outstanding judge. I don’t even know what her views are on abortion. I really don’t. She is certainly not a radical anything, because that’s not her thing. But this is the kind of thing he said “radical this, this, this on abortion.”

She’s not radical. She may have made a decision one way or the other. I never asked her. I wouldn’t ask her. She wouldn’t want to tell me. I know I got a very big call from a very great reporter actually at the New York Times. And they wanted to do a major piece on my sister. And they called me. Could I possibly get her to do the piece? I called her. She said, “No, no, I don’t do that; I don’t want a piece; I don’t want anything to do with it; I don’t want any…”

Donald Trump knows how to make dough (couldn’t resist).  I was unaware that his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has been gifted the ingredients of justice, prudence, discernment and humility.  I haven’t seen these riches in Trump’s dough- but I do hope they rise.

We’re not only in an election year  – we’re in the start of the Lent season.  An election year can bring you to the desert to be lured, tempted and fearful of illusions.  God is not in any of the noise.  Remember, he is in the whisper that good will prevail in one nation under Him.  

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Please help bring a bit of heaven to earth.


If you were to ask me when do I feel a bit of heaven on earth? Consistently speaking, I would say on any given day that I work a shift at Cooper Trooper Pumpkin Patch.  I love to hang out with a group of friends with huge (emphasize “huge” like Trump) servant hearts and then serve a community that allows me to tell Cooper’s story.  Most of the time after his story is shared, others then share  how cancer has affected their own family.  Sometimes we then kick the words around like  “cancer sucks” – and “children should never be terminally sick or a family put through such hell.”  And then Heaven whispers.  Hope arrives.   We see Cooper running around the patch – and are reminded that he is FULLY and 100% (maybe more like 200%) healthy and alive.  We share pictures of how the CTF’s courage kits are being sent daily to siblings of those children that have cancer…reminding them they are not forgotten.  They are held in thought and heart – and are HEROES in this battle.   Hope is tethered to  every dollar received from a pumpkin sold  – going directly to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital @ Vanderbilt for childhood cancer research.

This particular picture was when I worked a shift along side of my dear friends and brother.- Beverly, Glenda and Richard.  We met a women in her 80’s that held onto her straw bonnet and donation check in gail force winds to make her way to our tent.  She shared with us that she had a celebratory lunch at Jason’s deli to mark her last chemo treatment.   She didn’t need a pumpkin – but was there to make a donation.  After she handed me the check , she asked if I could take her picture by the sea of orange.  She smiled the largest smile, and a deep exhale as though she just climbed Mount Everest.

There’s only one week until the Patch opens – and we need volunteers.  Please help us – go to this link now and sign up for a 3-hour link.  It will bless you greatly.   Thank you!


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Cruising the Mediterranean – out of Syria.

About 18 years ago I worked in IT for a small cruise line that own several vintage steam ships.   My first transatlantic crossing was onboard a ship named the s/s Rembrandt (also known as Rotterdam, the ocean liner that sailed Queen Juliana of the Netherlands to New York) built-in 1959.  We acquired this 1500 passenger beauty from Carnival Cruise – a sweet deal was made where our company believed that we could make this old girl SOLAS compliant for million of dollars less.   I was there to meet her on the day that she sailed into Fort Lauderdale’s port.  I never seen such a chaotic state of crew disembarking, new administration taking inventory of items as everyone scurried about in different directions.  The origins of the crew spanned oceans and seas but each face adorned the same worried mask, a disbelief of the sudden change of itinerary, how to return home, or would they simply be lucky enough to find employment with another cruise line.  Cell phones were a luxury – and those who had phones – shared with the crew.

Administration combed over the Rembrandt following the twist of the mahogany timber that molded its structure.  Inventory was taking place of all of value, and anything that had a previous stamp of yesterday’s name was being discarded, gifted or taken.   I do have a cappuccino set of fine china that was gifted to me that bears the stamp of a Portugal company that supplied all tableware.  Ironically it’s stamped with the name “Vasco Da Gama” who was a portuguese explorer who sailed the first voyage to the east and India.  I imagined this may have been the same set used on its grand voyage back in the 1950’s.  The first lips that sipped from this fine china were perhaps on a body that sat segregated from the classes – missing the diverse riches that only a divine hand could create.  This may be the very reason why I haven’t used these cappuccino cups – but simply lugged them around the many moves and didn’t use bubble wrap.

The cappuccino china and memories were all tucked away in the back drawl of my mind.  Until today.

Today my eyes are glued to picture after picture of Syrians refugees. Millions, I’m told are displaced.  50% of  the displaced are children.  50% of children that are displaced, have loss EVERYTHING.  Family.  Home.  School.  Country.

The risk of crossing the mediterranean in an overloaded vessel is a lower risk then to stay in a war zone.

It brought me back onboard a 30-ton liner, as it cruised on a transatlantic voyage to reposition itself into the port of Palma de morocco.  It took 4 days to cross the Atlantic, and when the hull sailed into the Strait of Gibraltar, there was no doubt that we weren’t in the Atlantic any longer.  We encountered 20-30 feet waves and our cruise liner was tossed around like a small tub boat.

I held my breath as I think of how these refugees travel in these small over crowded vessels crossing the monster of the med.

Then I hear the words again…the risk of the crossing the mediterranean is a lower risk then to stay in a war zone.

So, tonight on the eve of a holiday weekend with the kiddos having a long weekend off and us to enjoy them….I’m heavy hearted about the divide.   the divide between bringing heaven to earth.. and understanding someone’s daily hell.   With knowing that some kiddos are fighting for the lives to make it out of their country.   Kiddos that were made from the same Divine hands.

Maya Angelou once said that we can not do for everyone but we can do for someone.  I keep thinking…if we could just look to our right, and help a brother and sister that’s right next to us – would that make a difference.  Start a movement that would start a wave around the world where everyone is taken care of.

It starts with awareness and the knowing that we are not segregated.

All drinking from the same cup.





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Wings wide open.


robin'snestA knuckle thump was heard at the kitchen window.  Little feet slid along the laminate floor to peak outside.  Eyes are squinted, and he says, “I’m not sure, but is that a bird?”  I was hoping not.  He held the curtain open for me and I saw a robin’s wing stretched to the heavens as its body laid across the wet patio pavers.  I reached for my latex-free gloves, with a son as a shadow, and we made our way outside.

I scooped Robin up, and held him in my blue gloved hand.  His eyes were wide open, his chirps were chaotic, his body was tense and his breaths were labored.  I did the only thing that I knew how.  I prayed.   Then, we prayed.  I watched Robin as fear infused him.  My son asked if I could make him not die.  Ever since my son’s near-drowning accident,  he believes I’m miracle worker – even though, I explained to him that we don’t know God’s plan, just to hold faith with both hands.  And now, all we could do was to hold Robin.    Robin’s breaths became labored and his body relaxed.  I sent my son into the house to get a cup of water so that we could drizzle his beak.  He took the task urgently, sprinting to the house.  I was secretly hoping that he wouldn’t return too quickly for there wasn’t much time left for Robin.   I heard a round full of chirps from the robins that had perched on the holly bushes.  I suppose it was their version of Amazing Grace.  Then the miracle came.

I watched Robin stretch his head true north and let out a chirp.  Then, he fully fanned out both wings as though he would soon take flight.  I thought maybe.  Just maybe.   My eyes recorded the tiered pattern on his grey wings and the starched zebra tail – and how beautifully, God-made was he.  As my son came back with the water, Robin’s wings closed and they tucked themselves back into his golden chest that was still.  His eyes were half-mass and his body was void of any life.  He was gone.

We both said nothing.  We knew that he crossed to heaven’s side, watching the same sunset that was creating shadows onto the patio pavers.  My son was not sad.  He help prepare Robin’s resting spot.

Witnessing Robin’s wings wide open was a true miracle to me.  Witnessing the way my son was nurturing is promising.

All is grace.

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Anaconda Plan

booksLast night Drew and I were doing history homework – specifically reading about the courageous civil war generals.  We had to read a paragraph on Lee, Lincoln, Grant, Sherman and Davis that outlined monumental moments.  Then, we had to ask ourselves what three questions did we have while (yes, while) we read the paragraph.  Drew simply wrote, “What will I have for dinner?”   Now, this may be the truth – his stomach was controlling his brain.   However, I told him that he had to think along the lines of the context that he was reading.  And it was only then the homework assignment got even more interesting….

He wrote, “Which general liked the Anaconda Plan?”  Then I said, “the Anaconda Plan was not mentioned in the article.”  He went on to say that he knew that- and that’s why he asked the question…. he wondered how the AP – all went down.  I clearly had no clue on what an Anaconda Plan was and then I thought he was tricking me, and leading me down a dreamt up comic episode of a semi-aquatic snake surrounding Manhattan.  The puzzled look on my face was apparent – and so was his inpatient face.  He then yelled, “School is stupid, and this is a good example of why I don’t need to go.  You don’t even remember what you learned, Mom.  What’s the sense of learning about all this stuff that happened google years ago.  It’s all bad anyways ….war, slavery….

And then it was as clear as the noonday sun – what he was learning from parts of  history was his first taste that people fail.  People hurt one another.  Sometimes, people’s actions do not match their Sunday kinda love.  Where good character wasn’t in line with head, heart and hand.  All that from his 5th-grade-I-don’t-like-school perspective created an attitude that school is a waste of time since he just couldn’t make sense of the paradox.

He listened on my views behind the wrongful intentions of those that owned slaves, those who promote war or communism.  We discussed this all in the backdrop of the AIDS Day special that was broadcasting on TV, where U2’s (minus Bono) charity RED was performing, “it’s a beautiful day.”   We gave a listen to former President Clinton as he explained that more patients received life saving drugs this year, then being diagnosed with AIDS.  That our collective caring for the people who have this disease is making a difference.

This morning I woke up to an email from Addison’s middle school outlining steps to be part of a Text book review committee for our county public school system.  I thought about Drew’s history book and what unearthed from our anaconda discussion.  I thought  of how we shouldn’t be so caught up in text review but more aware of how we can use the text to springboard discussions with our children about character.   I know that my son’s character doesn’t magically mold into being a good citizen nor does it entirely come from how our family lives.  Every year, his moral thinking and reasoning matures and like the arts and academics, it needs to be learned and cultivated.

Ironically, I also received an email about a program that’s implemented via the school system to develop moral and performance character.  I wonder if adding a few pauses throughout the school day to discuss deeper intention behind the learning.   Discussing personal intentions throughout history?  Logic behind math concepts?   Pausing long enough to develop excellence and ethics.

I’m going to attached an interesting article here by Professor Tom Lickona.   His quote was an “aha” moment for me:

“Attention to performance character gives achievement a moral purpose – we develop our talents in order to contribute to society.”

This sounded familiar and comforting to me… fully develop your God-given gift, and share it with your neighbor.   How each person added to the success of the RED charity.

The success of the Anaconda Plan, the strategy for subduing the seceding states in the American Civil War, is debatable.

The success of our society will be measured by our children.  No debate about that.


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Amendment 1 doesn’t fit neatly in a box

Today, I stood in line at a christian church to vote.   I watched parents pacify their children with car keys and candy as we were corralled into a line of wait.  I observed those who were well versed on the amendments, candidates and how each was in and out of their winged-spaces within 5 minutes.  Five persons deep, I started to pray.

It was now my turn.

I walked into the shoe box space and felt anxious that I was going to violate some voting guideline that would get me booted to the curb.  I kept my eyes on the suspender-wearing man with the big smile, as he plugged his volunteer cartridge into the voting machine.   As much as I wanted to sweep my eyes towards the voters – just to sport a smile as we stood showcased in the front line – an internal voice said,  “Don’t mess this up – front and centered and ignore all shiny options that might distract.”  And so I walked the voting guidelines and  pressed the Yellow oblong circle, and my ballot began.

I stared at Amendment 1.  I read it thoroughly as if reading it for the first time.  I looked into the empty box at each Yes and No.  I wanted to see the face of God but all I could see was my own reflection on the screen.  I paused for a while and reflected on a comment that I read that morning by a gentlemen that packed a punch of fear in his comments that appeared in all caps. He said that if you vote “No” on amendment 1 – you will have blood on your hands.  That you are responsible for every abortion that’s performed and you will be judged by God.  His God seemed harsh to me.  I also remembered all the articles I read and friends that I have that speak passionately about life.  That advocate for the unborn.  That have yard signs and sticks to measure the many reasons of why this is morally wrong.  I also thought of my dear friend that is going through the adoption process and soon will have a baby that’s rightly seen as a miracle and God-made.  And I proudly serve an organization that would have done anything to bring their baby home.  I  remembered being elevated in a hospital bed for days hoping that Hannah would not come before her lungs were fully developed – I would have stood on my head if that could have made a difference.  I also remember a dear friend who was pregnant with a daughter that had a trisomy condition.  This condition caused the baby to slowly deteriorate in her womb.  Her and her husband made the heartrending decision of wanting labor induced while the baby was still alive in her womb in the hopes of a miracle.   Their decision was not supported by the laws of the state – allowing her to be induced since her pregnancy was not full term.  So, they did the unbearable, they boarded a plane to fly to another state that would allow her induction.  The baby didn’t survive and it’s amazing that Mom survived the heart ache.

So, needless to say, I was standing idle at the poll machine for a long time before I casted my votes.

All life is a miracle – and gift from the Father.  I wonder why life can be devalued or one can become detach, and think they can erase the footprint of life.  Thinking this is the only option.  Or why some are not present in the shadows of a person’s soul that’s faced with this decision when they are weaved in each other’s daily life.  Or why a community may firmly stand in righteousness and judgement in their prolife-views, allowing shame to push a person who’s pregnant to do the unthinkable in secret. We can’t simply avoid the mess, and detach ourselves by those in need with keeping it all in a neat box of Yes or No.  God doesn’t fit in a box.  Jesus worked from the bottom up.  He worked from the inside out – transforming hearts by EACH he physically, mindfully and spiritually touched.  And he needs our hands and feet now.

History has a way of allowing a collective conscious match our holy soul.   Word catches up to deed.   In every stride that’s made in history to give true equality to ALL (albeit it’s taken much time) –  it was given (Civil rights, women’s vote.)   It’s now time for the unborn.  I pray that saying “Yes” to amendment one isn’t the end though.  It’s a beginning where we can become more deeply aware of our neighbors needs and love them as ourselves – right where they are.

I’m grateful for friends that have stood with me through the muck and mess and reminded me of something greater then my infinity frail humanity – the love and forgiveness of a sovereign Creator.

Here are a few resources that are of great support:





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It all matters. Really.

Over the last month I’ve been a student.  I’ve attended an Oprah (The Life You Want) weekend conference – and then a few weeks later attended a silent retreat for 3 days.  Next, we held a Walk for all of us bereaved families that have lost a child–  then Todd and I celebrated our 15th anniversary by renewing our vows in our Catholic Church and then we went on to Gatlinburg with family and friends.

I noticed that if I allowed myself to be present, as a student, in any of these moments, something holy awaited (It awaits for you too, I’m certain!)  If I allowed it to touch a place deep inside of me to teach me that this moment matters – and not dismiss it as a random act or coincidence or get lost in the mystery – I find something of weight.  A piece of heaven.  In a world that seems weightless at times.

The second day of our Oprah retreat – the plan was to have everyone get out of our stadium seats…so she enlisted the help of  Soul 15 to get all of us moving.   Here’s a part of my very amateur video where the instructor is yelling to grab faith, and pull it down.  Here we were a group of diverse women, standing shoulder to shoulder, in unison, reaching both hands to the heavens…and as I repeated this exercise my thoughts began to change to a belief that I was pulling a tangible holy down – the perception of the room shifted.  I was no longer a separate individual  – on a pilgrimage to find the holy.  The holy was here.  Now.   The blinking of our wristbands was synchronized and it looks as if we were all a single heart beat…strengthening my faith in humanity as we tugged on the hem of heaven.

The hundred year oak tree stood tall in the backdrop of the Blessed Virgin Mary statue.  The grounds of The Sisters of Mercy Convent felt like holy land…filled with country critters and countless moments to be still  – perfect for a silent retreat.  As the sun was setting, I sat on the ground in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary statue that was missing a few fingers – watching ants feverishly carry the remains of yesterday’s croton.   I heard a frenzy of birds’ overhead…the sherbet sunset sky began to darken by a swirling formation of hundreds of starlings.    One flock flew in from the west and another flock came from the east – – roosting on the hundred year oak tree.  The chirping and chattering was deafening…but I was grateful that it hid the excitement of my yelling.  It was one of the most aesthetic pleasures nature could have given me in that moment.  And all I could do is say “thank you God”.

The winds swept the clouds across my view – making the sky anew.  I imagined it took all 75 balloons to the doorstep of heaven where a child stood on her tippy toes to tug the hanging string of a balloon baring her name.  No two pictures of the sky were alike.  No loss is ever alike.  No grief is ever alike.  But I felt an “alikeness” in that moment that all of us shared.  That it mattered.  Each life mattered.

The pictures tell the story…as the balloon floated in the thin space between earth and heaven…through the rainbow – bridging the promise- as it moves closer to the sun.
























Fifteen years ago, we were married on a golf course on a very hot autumn day in Florida.  We were married ten months after we met.  We were both 29 and knew that we were  MFEO (from the movie Sleepless in Seattle, MFEO meaning MADE FOR EACH OTHER).   At the time, marrying in a catholic church wasn’t an option.  Shortly after college when I was 21, I married a childhood friend.  This marriage ended within a year of its start – and the process of annulment was complicated (as it should be) and it would take years before its ruling.  I suppose we decided that Love couldn’t wait…so there I was on the porch on a golf course on a hot autumn day, wiping sweat off my big polish forehead saying I do.   The annulment eventually came…and so did babies, trials, trips and new homes.   The calling was always there to celebrate the sacrament of marriage in the Catholic Church.  We wanted Jesus formally in our marriage.  We openly and full heartedly (and for me, finally – deservingly) asked Him to be present with us last Thursday, October 9th as we celebrated the sacrament of marriage.  My brother-in-law, Richard, took this picture of the blue October sky before the ceremony.  The initials J.C. came into our view– and it reminded us how this moment mattered.  Really mattered.  We are so grateful to our family that gathered to celebrate the sacrament with us and to remind us – every day- that this matters.  It doesn’t just take two in a marriage.  It takes a village.  I can say that the moments of where our children touched the tip of heaven were when I need the counsel the most.









We arrived at Roosevelt Lodge and I felt the breeze on my face as I looked over the panoramic view of The Great Smoky Mountains.   I felt holy.  There were many honeysuckle bushes that were starting to decay but it wasn’t December yet.  They had just enough sweetness to feed a handful of monarch butterflies.  One butterfly danced and dashed over Noah’s head, and I reach up my arms – and as my brother, Richard, said “she flew right into your hands” (picture was taking after butterfly flew off….holy doesn’t wait for a camera :).  So, surprisingly – here I was standing on the top of Roosevelt Lodge, overlooking land that’s nationally treasured, holding a treasure of my own.  A symbol of what we see Hannah as.  A butterfly.  The boys huddled around, and as I uncupped my hands…her little legs stretched out and she flirted her wings and danced off to the meadow.  Touching the delicate wings of a monarch butterfly mattered.  Life is as delicate as her wings… but remember that it all matters.



Holy awaits for you.



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There’s something about Mary. And silence.

photo-67I am on a silent retreat for three days, on the holy ground of missionaries, the Sisters of Mercy.  I sit criss-cross apple sauce at the feet of a Mary statute that stretches 50 inches towards the sky.  I make a mental note that this will be the same height of the Angel of Hope statue that will be erected soon at Pinkerton park to honor babies.  Our babies.  Hannah.  I notice on Mary’s right hand she is missing her thumb and index finger – and the others are glued back as best as it could be.  But it’s broken, and pieces are missing – true to us all.  She is standing forcefully on a snake, wrenching an apple out of his mouth.  This is my courageous Mary – where evil can not be fruitful or have any fruit.  Nor the last word or death.  And when she said “YES” to the angel Gabriel, she lived yes through it all in full belief and obedience.  Her face is now being warmed by the sun that tilts into its second day of Fall.  It creates a shadow on the pavers and sets a scene in black with just Mary and I.  I beg the scene to come alive….I then gaze up to see white feathers blow across her bare feet from the wild turkeys that are pruning the grass for next season.   I believe in angels.  And feathers.  There’s something about Mary………

I fidget through my journal and look at years of doodles and notes.  I read a string of words in capital letters from the Global summit meeting that was held at The People’s church a few years back…. unearthing great inspiration spoken by encouragers…these words lay dormant until this very moment….waiting for fertile soil.  I read…THE WORLD NEEDS OUR CHILDREN TO MAKE THE WORLD BETTER.  OUR LEGACY IS TO SELL HOPE.   (I think of our dear Missy, who is the best sales person for HOPE, and God’s promise.  Here’s her beautiful blog:  I read on…PLANT MORE SEEDS TO MAKE MORE TREES. I hope my words are seeds enough.  SHAMELESS IDEALISM TRANSLATES TO ACTION… I pray that action is toward progression.  Towards bringing a bit of heaven to earth.

Silence feels unnatural to me.  I become distracted dear Lord with a curious, caring heart that allows nature to pull me.  A honey giver hovers over each dandelion, waiting to fill up on its nectar and then busily moves to the next.  A butterfly dances and flutters with the freedom to take breaks randomly when her wings get tired.  Ants travel by touch and feel entrapment, making sudden moves so that freedom remains theirs.  They carry the weight of food on their backs – and they search and always find Your providence.  I’m approached by a wild dog, who is hungry and scared.  I remain still.  His nose covers every scare inch of me and my belongings – his muddy prints walk all over a paper that I’ve written the words  “Isiah 49 13-16 – See upon your hands I’ve engraved you.”  I think of how wonderfully made are we.  My mind wonders off to think of my dang finger prints that lack ridge lines – making it difficult for it to be accepted into a FBI database for clearance to school trips.  I look at the dog’s prints. Unique.  Only one.  Miracle.

I returned to the same sacred space after dinner, I then read Isiah 43.. 1-7 – “I’ve called you by name…you are mine…you are precious in my eyes and honored…created for my glory.”  I pause…..and look up to the sherbet sunset, and see iridescent-black birds,  Starlings, zig-zag across the delicious sky.  Some birds came from the north and some from the south – similar to how the Donnie & Marie show opened, the pairs meet up in the middle to do a duet…..over 500 of these birds perched on a chest nut tree before me….each singing praise LOUDLY, so loud in fact that my silence is broken.  I welcome joy with laughter.  Amazing Grace.





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