for all this

As a follow up to Tuesday’s acknowledgment that “Something’s Wrong,” it doesn’t take long to get lured into focusing upon all that is wrong; it’s too heavy and too much. Hence, I am thankful when something shocks me out of it. For example…

This past weekend we celebrated my youngest’s 16th birthday. It was sweet and celebratory, affirming and fun. But after three days of celebrating, this typically enthusiastic parent added “exhausted” to the list.

The reason we celebrate for three days, no less, is because of who Josh is… because of how God made him… because we remember when he was born… and because of how incredible much we have learned both from him and through him. Two years ago, I wrote about Josh’s birthday. It is wise to read again…


A long standing premise of the Intramuralist is to consistently advocate for a focus on all that is good and true and right. In fact, one of our cultural challenges it seems, is that both individually and corporately, we spend so much energy and attention on that which is not good and true and right… division… strife… evil… impurity… a lack of loyalty and/or faithfulness, etc. Such takes up way too much of our time, minds, and airwaves.

“… whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things…”

My now 14 year old son, Josh — that child born years ago with an extra special need, chromosome, and a wall missing in is heart — is one of the best, most effective ways God teaches me now in regard to all that is good and true and right.

As expected, no less, this joy-filled teen’s birthday included music and dancing, cake and cookies, and multiple friends and family. He received many day-brightening gifts, calls, texts, and visits that made his heart so obviously overflow with thanks. (It made this parent even need a nap.)

Yet the moment that seemed most “blog-worthy” was seemingly small in comparison. It was just a singular sentence — a comment Josh made before the festivities were in full swing; yet it was a moment that is still making me think…

Standing outside briefly before the sunrise, in between our daily repertoire of song and dance preceding the much anticipated school bus arrival, Josh stopped his singing, pausing for a moment of thanks. He wanted to give God thanks for the celebration of the day — and more.

And in the middle of that moment — in this conversation I felt deeply privileged to overhear — Josh stopped, leaned somewhat backwards, grinning from ear to ear, and pointing meekly to himself said:

“And God, thanks for all this.”

Thanks for all this.

There was no focus on what some may see as missing.
There was no ignoring of current circumstances.
There was no dismissal of having Down syndrome.
There was no wishing he was someone or something else.
There was no desire to be any different.
There was only a joy-laced expression of gratitude for who he is…

Thanks for all this.

Whatever is true… whatever is lovely… think about these things…


neighbors, enemies, or what… round 2

Since my strong sense is we focus way too much on who is our enemy, I’ve decided to focus a little bit more on who is our neighbor. Remember: as long as we can curtail the category of who actually is our neighbor, we don’t have to love them, like them, or even try. We don’t have to respect them. We don’t have to invest in relationship. We can instead judge them and ignore their perspective in its entirety. After all, they are the enemy.

Much of the current challenge with this enemy label mindset is that we have begun to attach the enemy label to others because of their social, political standing. We have veered far away from finding the enemy on any Ten Most Wanted list; we have made other people worse based on what they believe.

Harder still is that we’ve had some pretty poor examples in regard to who fits into what category. Very intelligent people have unfortunately offered some very foolish answers regarding both friend and foe. I have found myself guilty, too, at times — even if only silently opined. At various points in my life, I may have given the distinct impression that my “enemy” was either Patriots’ fans or that kid who started on the mound in place of my son. I allowed myself to think less of them. Let me rephrase: I allowed myself to judge them… as… someone less wise than me. I was able to think less of them because I could not see them as my neighbor.

But what if we could change that? What if we could broaden the category, so-to-speak? What if we realized who our neighbors actually are? … and then… wouldn’t that affect how we treated them? Wouldn’t that make the hard conversations possible? And better yet, would that not offer solution in some of the tough areas?

Who is our neighbor?

I’ve been doing much reading on the subject as of late — especially moving hundreds of miles away to a community in which I knew no one. Who is my neighbor? And what is required of me?

Allow me to share one insight that struck me… from Levi Rogers, a writer and coffee roaster from Salt Lake City…

“… Who are my enemies? For me, it’s simple really. My enemies are politicians, Congress, rich people, Wall Street Bankers, rich Christians, and the most hated form of all: ‘rich, white, Christian politicians.’ I jest, but it’s not too far off. If I were to see a member… dying on the side of the road, I would walk by with joy. Congress in my mind — can go to hell.

I can empathize with the drug addicts, the alcoholics, with minorities, with people of differing genders and sexual orientations. But not the rich yuppie who lives on the Hill, who is against immigration reform, and in defense of laws like Florida’s Stand Your Ground. These people I cannot empathize with. The people who, as Kanye says are, ‘Prolly all in the Hamptons, bragging ‘bout what they made.’ These people are my neighbors and the ones Jesus calls me to love. And it bugs the crap out of me.

‘Who is my neighbor?’… The central question here being: how do I love and serve the very people who I abhor the most, especially when I disagree with them? How do I love them even at times when I feel righteous in my hatred…?”

I love the sincerity in the above expression. Feel free to change up the demographics… maybe a person’s righteous hatred isn’t directed toward “rich, white, Christian politicians.” Maybe it’s directed at “rude, in-your-face, Black Lives Matter protestors”… maybe it’s directed at “out-of-touch, outspoken celebrities”… maybe it’s someone else. The point is that we are each capable at minimizing who our neighbor actually is.

All of the above are our neighbors.

Our neighbors are those who are next to us. Our neighbors are those who are in need. Nothing else disqualifies a person, but we keep justifying the disqualifying of a person as a neighbor… maybe because they’re rich and white… rude and in-your-face… or out-of-touch and outspoken. We continue to find reason to disrespect, reason to judge, and reason to reject all empathetic attempts from all of the above. We don’t listen well. We are simply not very good at neighboring.

In my reading I keep coming across this “neighboring” concept. It’s an active verb. It’s full of intentionality. There is something required of me. So what does it mean to “neighbor”?

To near. And to care.

On Sunday, barring no unforeseen events, I’d like to talk somewhat about racial reconciliation. It’s actually a post I’ve been working on for well over a month. It’s hard. It’s a tough topic. Good people disagree. We have different opinions and approaches. So let me set Sunday up with today’s truth: we must realize who our neighbors actually are.


{Photo by Christian Stahl on Unsplash}

perspective… after Irma…

perspective |pərˈspektiv|
– n.-
— true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion.

One the many things I frequently ponder is whether my perspective is solid or skewed. And if my perspective is skewed, what makes it that way? What has contributed to me being “off”? … especially when perhaps via passion, opinion, or extenuating circumstance, I can’t see it.

While my intent is never to be callous nor cruel, my strong sense is that each of us is capable of possessing either angle. Each of us can possess a solid or skewed perspective, and each of us is capable of not knowing it.

Do we have a true understanding of the relative importance of things? Especially, for example…

When we are shaken…
When we are shocked…
When we are fearful…
When we are wronged…
When we are mad…
When we are hurt…
When life is tough…

When any of those valid emotions becomes most prominent within us, do we understand the importance of what we feel or what we’re going through in relation to all else? … in relation to all others? Or does what we feel rise to the top, so-to-speak? Does what we are going through become the absolute most important and everyone else should so obviously get that, too?

Six weeks ago, my family moved to Florida. Two days ago, we found ourselves in the path of one curvaceous, stormy woman named “Irma.” As a brand new Florida resident, I must say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled that Hurricane Irma would be the one to welcome us with the widest of arms. Sunday night was awful.

The winds howled; the dog barked; and trees and debris went continuously airborne outside. For ten hours, we huddled underneath a dining room table, topped by a mattress, adjacent to two inside walls, which were the two walls that seemingly shook the least. At one point on the constant hurricane TV coverage (and I do mean “constant”), the weatherman said, “Everyone in the viewing area should just assume there’s a tornado near them right now!” It was serious and potentially severe.

And so we huddled. It was a tough experience accompanied by tough emotions.

We were not, however, the only ones to huddle. We were not the only ones going through a hurricane. We were also not the ones to face the worst of Irma’s wrath, and we were certainly not the only ones to ever experience tough circumstances.

One of the many things the Intramuralist increasingly realizes is that we all experience tough things; the tough things come via varied circumstance — things from which we can each learn — but we’d be wiser to glean the available wisdom than to instead spend more time and energy comparing ourselves to others, attempting to discern who has it worst. There will always be someone who has it harder than we… regardless of who actually experiences a hurricane.

Some respected friends in Irma’s path, with solid perspective, chimed in:

“Winds still howling, not sure of outside damage, but we never lost power and we never lost hope.”

“Feeling overwhelmingly grateful for those who stayed in contact with me, assisted me, sheltered me, and most importantly made laugh during these past few days.”

“In times of crisis, we rise and help each other.”

“Our prayers remain stronger than Irma.”

“Made it thru Irma. Made it through cancer. Irma doesn’t come close. Perspective.”


It’s amazing how encouraging solid perspective can be.



{Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash}

bumper sticker diversity

Search for the meaning of “diversity” and one will find multiple answers…

… the variety of characteristics that make people and communities unique…
… a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences…
… more than one of something…

As I recently attempted to more fully comprehend the current manifestation of this word, I simultaneously heard the call to appreciate, respect, and understand. The call is not to appreciate, respect, and understand only one or some of something; the call is to appreciate, respect, and understand all.

As recently noted, over the last 6-7 weeks, the Intramuralist has driven approximately 5,914 miles. Recognize that utilizing that same number of miles, I could have driven from Broadway to Beverly Hills and back again to Broadway — and still had 328 miles to spare. Hence, I decided to entertain a most unscientific study. I observed our diverse expressions in arguably the only avenue offering smaller space than Twitter. Yes, I observed the ever-expressive bumper sticker. My sense is if someone feels a saying is worthy of sticking on their automotive derrière, then it must be highly important to them. I found diversity in what’s highly important.

Let me first acknowledge, I did not notate the adhesive identifications that seemed primarily of local value only (i.e. “my kid is an honor student at…”). Instead I wrote down every sticker that publicized or promoted something bigger, so-to-speak.

Some expressed themselves via only a singular letter… “L”, “A”, “T”, and “M”…

Others were succinct through a single word — first, those encouraging exercise… “Skate”, “Swim”, “Run”. But still more chose a word of seemingly increased imperative… “Love”, “Coexist”…

There was a strong contingent of proud students and alumni… “Villanova”, “Virginia” and “Virginia Tech”, “Texas”, “Tennessee”, “Boston College”, “Purdue”, “Penn State”, and many more. Prouder, perhaps, were the parental units… “West Virginia Mom”, “Ohio State Mom”, “Clemson Mom”, and moms from UCF and Florida, too (… question: do dads don stickers?).

I will admit, I was somewhat leery of the plethora of political messaging I would encounter; our messaging as a nation has been pretty poor in the respect category this past decade. The political stickers were less prominent than the collegiate crowd, but still vocal… “Trump”, “Yes We Can”, “Stop Obama”, “She Persisted”, “Not a Liberal”, “I Am a Woman and I Vote”, “Make America Great Again”, and perhaps most poignant, “Don’t Assume I Like Your Politics”.

Granted, there were some who focused instead on the issue… “Abortion Is a Slaughter of the Innocent”, “War Is Not the Answer”, “Our Nation Is Open”, and “Police Lives Matter”. Let me add that the latter was one of the few messages frequently repeated… “Back Blue” or “Back the Blue” were the most popular refrains.

I was struck, no less, by the refrain I saw most — that which displayed pride and support for our veterans, troops, and uniformed services… “Army Vet”, “Vietnam Veteran”, “U.S. Marines”, “United States Navy”, “Coast Guard”, “God Bless Our Troops. Especially Our Snipers”. The following humbled me more… “Army Mom”, “My Son Is in the US Army”, “Pray for My Soldier”, and maybe my favorite, “Heroes Don’t Wear Capes. They Wear Dog Tags.”

“God Bless the USA”… yes, another repeated refrain. There were additional comments here… “In God We Trust”, “Jesus Saves”, “Life. Faith. Freedom”, including multiple calls to pray.

Some stickers were less solemn, such as the declared love for Labradors, Westies, Steelers, Patriots, nurses, Eagle Scouts, and even Dr. Who. Then there was this whole “life” advertisement… “Mom Life”, “Christ Life”, “Salt Life”, “Walt Life”, and “Band Life”. I realized there are some “lifes” I don’t totally understand. (Insert “Marathon Freak” here.)

A few more wise encouragements and notices… “Disconnect & Drive” and “Stay Alive. Don’t Text and Drive”, and “Baby on Board”. Granted, a witty friend sent me a copy of the sticker stating: “Adults on Board. We Want to Live Too.”

More that made me laugh out loud?… “Bach Off”, “Do You Believe in Life After Death? Touch My Truck and We’ll Find Out”, and (sorry ahead of time) “If You Are Riding My (bleep) This Close, You Might as Well Kiss It.”

Obviously, we are a diverse country, a country in which “God blessing us” is far more than a bumper sticker, but rather, a humbling, wise, and potentially powerful prayer. Maybe we start by learning to appreciate, respect, and understand our differences… even through often sticky expression.



{Photo by Frankie Guarini on Unsplash}


Greetings, readers, friends, peers, and participants! I have missed you! But prior to sharing some insight into the past few weeks and foreshadowing a bit of what’s next, allow me to extract some wisdom from current, current events…

Roger Federer, one of most talented persons to ever play the sport of tennis, celebrated his 36th birthday during my recent respite. Currently contending in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, in July, Federer was crowned the oldest open era winner of Wimbledon (the “open era” began in 1968). If Federer wins this weekend’s championship, he will also become the oldest winner at Flushing Meadows.

To win at 36 in professional tennis is highly unusual. Also seemingly unusual, is the discernment Federer has so keenly displayed — a discernment available (to us all, if we take it) via age. In an excellent editorial by contributor Bruce Y. Lee in Forbes this summer, Lee noted what was unique about Federer’s success. Unlike the professionals who enroll in each and every tournament, Federer decided much of last year to rest. He wasn’t hurt; he took time off — despite being ostensibly healthy.

Lee continued with the following:

“Rest and recovery are an important and often overlooked part of sports. Of course, if you are resting all the time, you aren’t really playing the sport… But constant practice, training and competition are not good either. Anything in excess, including sushi and baby animals, is bad. Always being on the go doesn’t give your body time to replenish its glycogen stores, repair damage such as small muscle tears and rebuild into a stronger and more flexible version. Injuries tend to occur when you are fatigued not only because of wear and tear, but also because you tend to lose focus, concentration and good form.”

Something in Lee’s words struck me this summer (… no, not that I believe Roger and I have so much in common in our obvious, mutual athletic prowess). Rather, I am learning that rest is good. Rest is necessary. And intentional rest is wise. In fact, if we are not intentional in employing individual rest, then the good Lord seems to allow for some creative way — like it or not — of slowing us down. Yes, it is wise to be intentional in our rest so that we don’t lose our focus, concentration and good form.

I suppose some from afar would look at my last few weeks and ponder where the rest was. True. My best estimates are that in the past 6-7 weeks, I drove approximately 5,914 miles, sold a house, moved four states away, dropped two kids off at college, ensured one medium-sized dog survived, and witnessed one son eat both frog legs and escargot. (Ok, so that last one isn’t so relevant… just kind of fun to say.)

To say the least, my season was busy; the above was on top of the other commitments already a part of my day. I needed rest. I needed not just a time for crashing on the couch. I needed time to slow down… rest and reflect… be refreshed… both feast and fast… get a sense of divine direction… be still… quiet… gently ask where are those pockets where I still need to grow. The intentional rest thus allowed for such a time.

And so let me first offer a humble thank you… to our once again excellent Guest Writers in our annual series. Thank you for covering so much so well! Whether I shared your opinion or not was secondary to the respect lavished upon the expression of your perspective; that is something we all could get so better at — and dare I say, should get so better at. I thoroughly enjoyed processing each of your perspectives.

Thank you, also, to you, my respected readers, friends, peers, and participants. I appreciate that you have embraced others who prioritize respectful communication. That is a gift you give to me. That is a gift we give to one another.

And so now ’tis time to get started. I mean it… I have so much to say!! I want to talk about Charlottesville, Harvey, ESPN, and CBS News. I want to talk about controlling the historical narrative, racial reconciliation, and how disaster can be an opportunity. I want to talk about finger pointing and healing… authentic healing. I also want to talk about virtue and who has it and the penetration of pluralism in our culture. Yes, so much to say. So many things we need to talk about.

So let’s start on Thursday. Topic?

Bumper stickers.

I drove approximately 5,914 miles; remember?

(Looks like we’re back in good form.)



[Photo by anja. on Unsplash]

principle or power

Over the last decade I have seen the priorities of discourse trend away from arguments based on principle to those fed by the desire for power. Persuasive speech driven by facts has given way to forceful tactics where anything goes as long as you persuade or shut up your opponent. Honesty has lost its value while influence is the goal we all seem to be grabbing for.

A few years ago a friend shared an article on Facebook regarding an author she had issues with. The article was full of fabricated untruths that vilified the author. I pointed this out to my friend.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, “I don’t think people should read her books.”

She was using the article to frighten people from reading rather than putting out her own thoughtful opinion based on facts and reason.

In this world of instant results, it seems we have lost the willpower to take the time to actually engage over our differences. We would rather convince people of something in a matter of seconds. Our world of pictures, where we can with a snap show the universe a fabulous meal at a restaurant — “You need to go here!” or of a disastrous vacation spot, “Avoid this place at all costs!” — has turned us into toddlers who use only short sentences and a lot of jumping up and down to get our opinion heard.

To my point, I received a phone call from a polling firm earlier this summer. They asked a series of questions regarding political issues. For most questions, I was given 4-5 responses to choose from, except one question where I was given only two possible answers, neither of which reflected my opinion and both were very one-sided.

“Are those the only answers to choose from?” I asked the surveyor.

“Umm, no,“ she replied. “There are three more listed, but we were told to only read the first two unless asked.”

The polling firm was obviously looking for a particular answer, not caring about the integrity of the survey.

When we use false, exaggerated or manipulated information, not only does the argument fall flat, but the source loses respect and credibility. Which is why, according to recent Gallop polls, less than a third of Americans trust the media. But it is not just the media that are using these tactics.

There is a current court case in Canada where a scientist has been accused of manipulating data in order to show certain results… celebrities being sued for posting complete falsehoods on Twitter… and the thousands who reposted a picture of President Obama not having his hand over his heart during the national anthem while military members saluted around him, not bothering to check the source. Turns out it was “Hail to the Chief” that was playing and he wasn’t supposed to have his hand anywhere near his heart. We have become just as quick to put something out there because it reinforces our opinion whether there is validity to it or not.

If we want to maintain our integrity as individuals or as a society, I propose that we need to all take stock in how we try to persuade others…

Are we totally honest with our approach?

Are we open to hearing rebuttals?

Are we willing to take the time to have open and civil conversations over our differences?

Are we willing to be principled rather than powerful?


your health is in your hands

With chronic illness on the rise and many of us facing our own health-related challenges these days, I want to take a moment to look at how we respond to these difficult circumstances. So often, when faced with illness, we are looking for a quick fix, an easy answer. We go to the doctor expecting him/her to fix it, to give us a prescription or recommend a procedure that will make it all go away.

But what would happen if we stopped looking for a magic pill, for a simple fix, for a doctor to give us the answer? What if we, instead, turned to our own bodies for the answer to healing? What if illness is our bodies way of communicating with us and telling us we need to make a change? What if healing is possible, but the answer isn’t just a simple fix?

Truth is, we are extremely capable of healing ourselves. Our immune system was designed to heal our body and it’s inherently great and efficient at doing so. Think about it… if you get a cut on your arm, you don’t need a prescription or a procedure to heal. Your body knows what to do and immediately goes to work healing the wound. So, if we know that our body is inherently capable of healing itself then why do we look outside the body for a cure when things get tough?

We often turn to the advice of doctors because they are the experts in their field. They “know more than us.” While they surely have depth in their field of knowledge, it is often a very narrow scope, when illness is usually caused by a wide range of conditions. Doctors don’t always take the time to get to know their patients and the lifestyle habits that can influence the patient’s health. All of these variables need to be considered when deciding the best path to healing. Who is more of an expert on what’s going on in your body than you? Who better to decide what’s right for your body than the person who knows it best? If we trust in our body and our own personal ability to heal, we could have a great impact on our own health.

This is not just ideology, I speak from my own experience. I dealt with HPV and severe cervical dysplasia for over 7 years before finally finding my way to health and healing. HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus) is an extremely common sexually transmitted virus that can potentially cause cervical cancer. I had severe cervical dysplasia or mutated cells on the inner lining of my cervix. Had it progressed any worse, it would have been cancer. I spent years trying the traditional methods, following the doctor’s orders. They recommended a LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure), which could possibly reduce my ability to bear children, only to have the mutated cells return, worse than before.

After a doctor told me my options were getting a second LEEP, or waiting until it turns to cancer and she would give me a hysterectomy, I choose a different option. Instead of relying only on what a doctor had to say, I started listening to myself, something we often forget to do when dealing with our health. I decided to take my health into my own hands. I started to listen to my body. I trusted my own intuition. And it told me that another LEEP was not the answer. I knew that my body was capable of healing itself. just had to have faith in it and find ways to help my body heal.

If I was going to heal, I was going to have to heal myself. After years of trying different methods, I was finally able to clear the virus and reverse the cervical dysplasia. Many people asked me how I did it. I noticed they were looking for one simple answer — a diet, a pill, a vitamin, a supplement, a doctor. But my path to healing wasn’t that simple.

In fact, I knew in order to fully heal, it wouldn’t be a simple answer or a quick fix at all. I knew it would be a complete overhaul of the way I lived my life. I looked at my life from every angle. I started doing my own research and implementing changes that made sense to me. I improved my diet, adding in more fruits and vegetables including lots of dark, leafy greens. I ate more organic foods, less meat and dairy and more nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I cut out a lot of junk food, fast food, and highly-processed food (think anything in a box/bag). I stayed thoroughly hydrated with clean, filtered water. I got rid of personal care products with toxic ingredients, such as parabens and phthalates, which are known cancer-causing agents and replaced them with natural soaps and homemade deodorants and lotions.

But I didn’t stop there. I added more yoga and meditation into my daily life to help reduce stress and anxiety. I changed my daily habits, working less, sleeping more and waking up with the sun. I spent more time outside in nature and less time behind a computer screen. I focused more on self-care and self-love. I spent more time honoring the people and relationships in my life. I was more mindful about the way I reacted to stress, letting the little things go more easily and keeping my body out of unnecessary fight or flight mode, which can wreak havoc on your immune system. I used a variety of immune boosting supplements, changing it up as I learned more about each supplement and how my body responded to them. I found a doctor whose principles were in line with mine and would help support me in my own healing journey.

Basically, I renovated my entire life to be in line with healing. It wasn’t just one thing in the end that did it. There wasn’t a magic pill. It took hard work and determination to really look at my life, analyze what got me to this point and how I wanted to shape the future of my health from here. Sometimes, I wish there was a magic pill, an easy way out, but, the truth is, I have learned so much along the way, I honestly wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I have changed my daily habits and diet for the better. I feel healthier, stronger and have more energy. HPV truly was a blessing in disguise, designed to help me clean up my diet and lifestyle to ensure a healthy and happy future.

When faced with a medical challenge, keep in mind, YOU are the most important part of the healing process. Sunshine, fresh air, exercise and a healthy diet are the best medicines. Of course, this should not take the place of professional medical advice. But if that advice doesn’t resonate with you, listen to yourself, seek out other opinions and do your own research. Knowledge is power and power is healing.

Empowering yourself and putting your health into your own hands is a huge part of the healing process. Align yourself with a healing path that works for you. If we eat well, take care of ourselves, put the right things in our body and take the wrong things out, our bodies can and will heal themselves.

Healing takes hard work, dedication and self-discipline. It’s not just one little change that will do it, but redesigning your life as a whole. It may not always be easy to find your own path to healing, but I promise you, it will be worth it.


how many cups?

There were two other scary incidents that could have been life threatening to Sam. They were in addition to the times I personally threatened his life.

The first was the grill brush. It was an industrial strength brush hanging on a bar designed for grill accessories on the side of the grill. It was heavy plastic with a brush made of one-inch long, very stiff stainless steel. It was a sturdy sucker-I could have scraped the asphalt driveway clean down to the gravel beneath. The grill was sitting in a corner of the deck covered by a vinyl cover-out of sight, out of mind. Apparently, it wasn’t out of Sam’s mind.

We frequently left Sam and Meg outside in the backyard, safe within the confines of the Invisible Fence. They loved to lie on the deck in the sun. Like a child, we couldn’t leave Sam alone for long or he’d find something to do, and this time he thought he would clean the meat flavor off the grill brush. Maybe he thought he was helping, like doing the dishes.

I found what little was left of the plastic handle lying in the grass. There was no sign of the steel brush anywhere. I even got down on my hands and knees to look for pieces hidden in the grass, but I found nothing. He could have munched it anywhere and discarded it. He was never selective about dining ambiance.

I started to seriously worry about the metal pieces perforating his stomach or intestines trying to pass through his body, and a possible trip to the emergency clinic in the middle of the night. No sign of distress the following two days, but on the third, Ed was doing poop patrol before mowing and yelled, “Lin, come out here. You’ve got to see this!”

I walked up, looked where he was pointing and burst out laughing. There it was: a huge pooh that looked like an explosion of mangled Brillo, all spikey and metallic. It must have hurt a lot, like passing ground up tin cans. It was really something, and we laughed about it for days.

The next eating extravaganza was expensive. I used manure-based fertilizer for many of the flowering shrubs around the house. The ten pound bag was too heavy to lug around, so I filled a five gallon bucket about three-quarters full. As I worked my way around digging trenches around the drip lines and mixing the fertilizer into the soil, I had my back turned to the bucket sitting several feet behind me.

I heard Sam behind me somewhere, but I had my head in a Rhododendron, and wasn’t paying him any mind. I had no idea he was following and eating the fertilizer as I worked. Ed came out of the garage and caught him with his head in the bucket.

“Sam! Get out of there”! he yelled.

I turned and looked, and saw Sam’s entire snout covered with the fertilizer. Good grief. How long had he been sneaking the stuff, and what’s in it besides pooh? We knew Sam loved to eat deer and bunny poop, so this was probably a culinary convenience-just stuck his head in a bucket. No rooting in the grass required.

Ed grabbed the bag and started reading the ingredients. To be safe, I called the poison control center. I never had reason to call the doggy poison control center before, and wasn’t aware you were required to charge a rather large sum to a credit card before anyone would speak to you that knew anything about anything. They weren’t in it for philanthropic reasons.

First a tech, or someone like that, asked a lot of questions. I repeated the same answers to the same questions when the vet finally came on the line. At least I assumed he was a vet. He could have been a plumber for all I knew.

I gave Sam’s age, weight, rattled off the ingredients, but could not say exactly how much Sam had ingested. The doctor wanted to know how many cups.

“I wasn’t serving tea”, I snapped. “He was sneaking it when I wasn’t looking”!

After a somewhat frustrating conversation, it was suggested I take him to a vet. Ours was closed for the day, so we piled Sam into the van, and off we went to the Emergency Care Center.

The big goof was as happy as a clam to meet so many new friends. He greeted everyone in the waiting room, went from chair to chair, wagging and smiling, as if he wasn’t about to empty our bank account. He reminded me of a smarmy politician working a crowd. He did everything but kiss babies.

After explaining the situation at the front desk for a third time and filling out the required paperwork, Sam was whisked off to the back. Thankfully, no one asked, “how many cups”?

An hour later a doctor came out to tell us Sam was receiving IV fluids, and they may want to keep him all night to keep an eye on him. She said the high iron content in the fertilizer could damage the lining of his stomach. I almost laughed at that. His stomach was made of iron! She said to hang around for a while, and she would let us know. Cha-ching went the cash register in my head.

While we waited we could hear what sounded like Sam’s deep bark in the back. He didn’t sound ill. In fact, he sounded rather boisterous. It was his happy bark. The doctor came out to give us an update, and I asked her if that was Sam barking. She laughed, and said, “Yes. He’s barking at the cats in the cages. He’s a happy boy, isn’t he? Everybody loves him”. Yeah, everybody loves him.

Four and a half hours later, $522.00 poorer and with two prescriptions, we took Sam home. He had mild diarrhea for a couple of days, but was none the worse for wear. What a knothead.

I will say though, the Rhododendron’s looked splendid that year.



[Sam and Friends, A Collection of Recollections of Life with a Knothead
With permission by Linda Kiernan July 2017]

mom guilt

I struggled this year. I struggled with what I needed to write. What would help someone along their way? …and I struggled. I even considered that the Lord had closed the door on my guest blog time, and yet here I am. I hope this meets you or someone you know along the road when you need it most. Thanks to AR for the invite again; it’s always such an honor.

I was walking with a fellow mom (who I will call P) along a beach path recently in Myrtle Beach. I am just getting to know her, as our sons played baseball together this year.

The husbands were taking a large group of the boys from the team to a local water park and most of the moms were spending the day on the beach. She looked at me like I had 3 heads when I said I was looking forward to a day of relaxing. She asked why I didn’t feel guilty for not going nor felt guilty for planning a day of relaxing at the beach.

I said, “No, I don’t feel guilty.”

I told her P we’re a better mom when we take time for ourselves, read a book, get a pedicure, sit on the beach or have lunch with a friend… doing these things all help us, not hurt us — in being a better mom. P told me she has a lot of guilt being a mom, and that her husband really feeds into the guilt. This conversation has been plaguing me for weeks and got me wondering how many moms feel this same way.

When I googled “mom guilt,” 493,000 pages came up! WOW! WOW! WOW!

I had no idea this was crippling so many moms. I then saw this quote from author Fay Weldon: “guilt to motherhood is like grapes to wine.”

Webster’s defines “mom guilt” as tendencies a mom has to berate herself and to be judged by others for our child rearing decisions. A poll by Glamour Magazine asked men and women how guilty they felt about working after having kids. I was dumbfounded by the results: 87% of women and 0% of men feel guilty.

Let’s go back to my earlier time I was sharing while at the beach…

A group of us were having fun, enjoying the waves, the sun… some were napping, some were chatting… it was a great day. Throughout the day P kept asking if anyone had heard from our spouses and sons… “Do you think they’re ok?… Should I be worried that I haven’t heard from them?” I reassured her several times that it would be more concerning if we had heard from them.

I could see the struggle inside her on her face. It was sad; she’s believed the mom guilt lie. It’s the lie that says good moms don’t need a break — good moms are fulfilled solely by the time with their kids; “good moms _____________ (fill in the blank).” Friends, it’s a lie.

Focus on the Family describes taking time for yourself in this way…

Imagine running your car on low gas; it’s always a gamble, right? If you run out then someone has to come rescue you, fill up your car, and that takes away from two people — where if you had just stopped and filled up, you could’ve kept going. We are just like that car. If we are running our emotional and/or physical tank on empty, we can’t be the best for our family. We run the risk of running on low gas and that’s when tempers flare, feelings get hurt and meltdowns happen. If we had stopped and taken an hour, an evening, a whole day or even a weekend, we could’ve kept going at our best.

I’ll promise you this: the longer we let our tank run empty, the longer it takes to refill. Small stops of refilling when we’re a little low is much easier than if we let ourselves run bone dry.

I think I’ve become the strange lady in the grocery. When a kid is screaming and the mom is trying to regain control or maybe she’s not and just letting the kid scream, I’ve begun offering encouraging words. Sometimes my words are well received — sometimes they’re not — but I’ll keep saying them.

Let me end by saying parenthood is hard, and we’re all in the same kind of boat whether we see it or not.

So be kind; sometimes the sea of parenthood is temporarily smooth and sometimes it’s rowdy and the water is sloshing into the boat. So offer a smile, say a kind word, load a busy mom’s groceries into her cart, be kind to each other, and mostly be kind to yourself.



[Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash]

an american millennial… overseas…

Change has never been an unfamiliar thing for me. In fact, 18 years and eight life-altering moves later, change is something I welcome into my life.

As a little bit of a background, my mother works for General Electric (GE) as a Human Resources manager. In the past we have gladly followed her across the country. It was no surprise when she came home and told us that she was wanted for a job in Cheltenham, England; we jumped on the chance to live overseas.

Following my high school graduation we packed up and left our house in Loveland, Ohio. My sister and dad were getting ready to start a new life, once again, this time “across the pond”. On the other hand, I was only staying for the summer before attending Penn State in the fall.

I’d like to think that with every move I learn something new and this move is no exception. Despite the fact that I have only been here for about a month, I have already noticed so many differences between America and the United Kingdom. Prior to immersing myself into this place I was under the impression that because we spoke the same language we would be the same; I was greatly mistaken. I have not only learned how difficult it is to assimilate to a culture completely different from my own — and that while this move is an amazing experience for me and my family — I am so blessed to be an American.

Before we left Loveland, I pictured this move like it was just another family vacation; like every day would be activity filled and all my Instagram followers would be jealous of my amazing summer. The truth is, after my mom and dad go to work, it is just my sister and I left to explore this fabulous new city we are in; we have covered just about every inch of it and slowly we are settling into our routines. However, even as we go about our daily lives the way we would at home, the world around us moves differently. Everyday I sit at the same table in the same bookstore cafe dressed the same as everyone else, but when I walk in, it feels as if I’m back in the high school cafeteria looking for a place to sit.

Living in Cheltenham is like living in the Hamptons of New York. Everyone there went to an expensive prep school and buys expensive clothes and drinks fancy coffee with their circle of friends they’ve known all their lives. A friend of mine that grew up in London and is now living here says that because she’s black she feels that people stare at her more here, where it is less common and for the first time in my life I knew exactly what she meant.

I never realized how proud I was of my beautiful country until I, so badly, wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July and here it was just a normal day. Whereas Americans wear their patriotism loud and proud, the Brits do not. They also don’t like when people look them directly in the eye or raise their voice. In America it is considered friendly to compliment strangers… I told a girl I liked her skirt and she looked completely shocked I was even speaking to her.

However, not all Brits are this reserved; in fact, one of the biggest things I learned upon interacting with them is that they are not all the same. Due to the fact that they were different from me, I wanted to put them all in one large category, but just like Americans, how they interact with you mostly depends on where they are from. Cheltenham feels more like a social circle that I am slowly trying to find a way into; it feels almost as if they don’t know how to talk to me rather than they don’t want to. On the other hand, people from Wales more willing to talk to anyone, and unlike the most Brits, they hug as a greeting. Generally speaking they are far more reserved than Americans, but each new one I interact with, I learn something new and I can’t wait to meet more.

As different and weird as it feels, this place is becoming our home. No, they don’t have any good Mexican food, but I think when I go to college (or “uni” as they call it here), I know my family will do well. The main reason we came here still stands; it is an amazing opportunity to see Europe. Already I have seen and experienced so many things. My goals and aspirations to travel have grown so much because of this move. I have also learned the importance of family and I am amazed at how much closer we have grown since this move.

I once had a teacher who, after telling her about how often I’ve moved, she asked where I called home. At the time I told her I didn’t know and she responded that it was sad I didn’t call any particular place home. But what I know now is that home is where you make a life for yourself and you have people that love and accept you no matter what. Overall, this move has taught me that I will always be an American (and proud of it), but if you surround yourself with people that love and care about you, then you have found home.



[Photo by Hugo Sousa on Unsplash]