Brush strokes of life

There are days where the world and all that’s in it seem colorless and dull. Days where it’s stormy and chaotic. Days upon days where it feels never ending and stressful, painful just to exist. Then there are days when it’s all sunshine and roses. Daisy days of laughter and giggles. There are days that the only thing I worry about are deepening laugh lines and new wrinkles from having had the biggest laugh/ugly cry brought on by crazy friends and good times. It’s not often they both exist at once.

This week I saw both of those smashed up against each other. I have had crazy-ass pain, worry and issues; also silliness, proud mamma moments, and giggles that left trails of mascara tears in their wake.  As if to celebrate this, God smashed up the sky and let it loose in an orchestra of passion. Alli, my middle daughter, who has zero patience or tolerance for things that go unscheduled or against the flow, boldly yelled out the window at the sky and gave the schizophrenic weather a what for. She yelled, “make up your mind, stick to the plan, are you raining or are you gonna shine? Pick a topic and decide already!”

It was sunny and rays were streaming through our window and they were full tilt.  The rain was sploshing huge drops upon our window and raining like a maniac. Thunder was rolling, the booms scaring the beejeebies out of us as they crashed around us. It made no sense hearing them echo on the heels of so much sunshine.

photo 1One side of the sky was black. It was fierce. The other was peaceful and refreshing, newly washed and carefree. I sat in wonder at a traffic light, taking it all in. Then, just ahead, as the light turned green, I noticed a full rainbow climbing down out of the cloud overhead. It was that picturesque kind of rainbow that I used to draw as a kid, a puffy white cloud with a rainbow stretching from it. It made me want to drive till I reached the end. I am only half kidding when I say I nearly did just that. Right now, sitting here looking at the picture I quickly snapped of it, I can honestly say I am sad I didn’t. I should have. Both the girls would have thought I’d lost that critical, final marble, and they’d have never let me forget.

But how many days do I spend chasing rainbows? Not many times do I get to actually sit in my car and DO it. So I drove a while toward it and enjoyed the heck out of it, pretending I really was following the rainbow’s magical pathway, and turned only when I absolutely had to. It was a moment in time that sealed itself into my heart, my girls in tow, and the laughter is still caught up in my soul somewhere unescapable.

photo 2I am often tempted to wish away the dark stormy days of life. I want to erase them with a magic eraser like I do the dirt from my doorways and window frames. The feeling is natural. If I succeeded, however, in erasing them all away, what would I compare my smiley white daisy days to then? A red rose-colored day, a simple yellow daffodil day, an outrageous orange marigold day, or maybe just a purple violet, or deep bluebell day?? I’d begin to pick apart the good to figure out just HOW good the good was. We NEED the bad days to counter balance the other kinds of things life throws our way. We need a way to appreciate just how far we’ve come, how good something is, how colorful it may be.

So today, as I know not what the week fully holds in its coffer for me, I will be grateful for all it brings. I will know that whatever it sends my way is something that will grow me, stretch me, add a new crayon of color to my box and a new swipe of paint to my canvas. Want to know what makes me excited to get up each day? Want to know what makes me push onward and know I do have something to look forward to? Knowing that one day I will get to see this amazing painting that my life strokes have been busily creating right under my nose. THAT is what keeps me getting up each morning.

Sometimes I almost feel like I am a subject with a painter standing in front of me, looking at my life, thoughtfully applying the brush here and there as the mood strikes, the moment dictates. I am sitting on the opposite side of this amazing masterpiece. I sit here, naked, with only the very essence of me to go from. One day I will get to see what the painter is creating, using me, my life, my colors, my impression.

What do you have to look forward to? LIFE! Go live it. Everyday.

Every single day there is a color to it, be it a happy daisy color, or a grey cloud of pain or frustration. Every single day is worth living because it’s worth that final masterpiece being perfect when it’s all said and done. I don’t want a single brush stroke missed.

Ramblings of an 11 year old mind

(First published on my other blog over “Will Settle For Chocolate”

moms.fortwayne.comIt was an endless wait in a doctor’s office, one that ended up taking us hours upon hours before the night was over. I was tired, cranky and hungry. That’s a bad combination for a toddler, and apparently not so great for a mom either. My son, however, was full of bottomless energy and observations. He was the one we were there for. A mystery trigger was causing him to break out daily in hives, and for once they occurred when an office was open. I rushed him to Redi-Med so someone could put eyeballs on the hives versus just looking at photos. 

There was a point in time when my son was quiet, shy and barely spoke a word. I was so concerned about this we had him tested and he was put into speech therapy. If only I could have snuck a peek at the future, I would have stressed less and soaked up the quiet while I could. I say this in the sweetest and kindest way possible, but honestly, there are days my head is ringing and my ears hurt.  This boy NEVER stops talking, now. EVER.

It’s not just that he talks nonstop, it’s the mind-numbing way he switches from one thing to the next. It’s hard to keep up. My brain is not as young as it used to be and I am not sure some days I have what it takes to really absorb all the things he says and appreciate them all. What do I mean? In an attempt to amuse myself, and my husband at the same time, I texted my husband Drake’s stream of thought, as he spoke them, word for word. Here’s what I mean…

“It would be awesome to have a million dollars. Wonder if I will ever win a lottery. Probably not, because we never buy a ticket. You need to do that to win, ya know. Hey, we could buy a ticket. Just a thought.” I shook my head no.

“I don’t get why when you sit on a chair, when you get up your butt print stays in there,” he said pointing to the chair across from us, where a gentleman had just stood up.  I didn’t explain it. He was already moving on.  

“Why do people have to be mean?  It’s kinda mean to be mean,” he noted as he rocked back and forth on his haunches in the chair next to me. He sniffed his fingers, “Hey, my fingers smell weird.” Big HUGE sniff in and, “Wanna smell my fingers?” He offers them to me, wiggling them in front of my nose. Ah, no, buddy. I don’t. Thanks anyway.

“Do you know if the store is open when we are done, ’cause maybe you and me can go do something after this … we haven’t done that in a while.” I was already thinking to myself, please let us get done with this while the pharmacy is open, because I wanted to do this doctor/med thing in one run. I knew that was NOT what he meant. I just nodded at him.

“Did you notice there is construction across the street?  I didn’t till just now. Huh. Weird.” I nodded.

“What if I fall asleep here?” (He’s on Benadryl and it’s a logical thought.) “What if we had to sleep here ’cause the wait was so long the wait went over night,” (which was also a legitimate thought since we were 1.5 hours into our two-hour wait to see a doctor.)

“Did you ever notice that they bring kids down stairs during tornados? They do that at school. They bring you downstairs so that instead of flying away, buildings could just fall on you. I don’t think this is the best idea for surviving a storm. Buildings are heavy. You could die.”  I don’t even attempt to address the reality in any of this. I simply nod again.  

“Ooo, if there really was a Sharknado…” I say NO. Just NO.  He moves on.  

“If a parent was on a skateboard, if they hit their face on the ground and knocked out teeth, none would grow back. Kinda like you, only yours weren’t knocked out. But if they WERE, it would be the same, you’d have no teeth.” He giggles like a little girl. He amused himself with this thought of me toothless and on a skateboard, and I suppressed a need to choke him. Why would he find this amusing?  Huh? UGH!

But then he said this:

“Why do terrorists exist?” (I glance at the TV on the wall and note that this was not completely as random as it seemed) “I hate that. I hate THEM. I know we shouldn’t hate people, but I think God makes an exception with terrorists. Can’t we just have a world with no terrorists? It would be way better.”  I told him the world would be a better place if we let him call the shots, and I believed it with my whole heart. For all the talk, he is really an amazing kid with a big heart. “Yes it really would be. I know it,” he replied matter of factly.

Just when you think your mind is going to turn to mush with the craziness of a 4.5 hour trip to the night clinic, something is said that makes you realize that this kid of yours is pretty incredible, and he may be growing into an amazing young man.

True love doesn’t get to stay away on

True Love and REAL Life

True love doesn’t get to stay away onA dear friend of mine got married in April. She asked me to “do what you do, you know, that writing thing, and then deliver it during our wedding.”  She may have believed in me, but I was at a complete loss of those “words” she was desiring to have read at her wedding until about the day before, and then, I ditched it all and went with what I have here.  I realized I was trying too hard. I wanted to gift her with not just words, but wisdom, and not the kind everyone gives out to newly weds. I wanted to give out a dose of married reality and keep the joy firmly planted inside of it. It wasn’t going to be your typical wedding speech. But Becca knew that when she asked me to do this, so I knew she signed up for this when she asked me.  HA.  More than anything, I wanted her to have a successful marriage because of what they chose to give to each other, not hang on to a fantasy future of what “LOVE” was supposed to be like.

Here is the results. It’s my gift to them, but really? It’s a gift to anyone who loves another. Anyone who desires a relationship that is long term, committed, respects another, or to anyone who just plans to want to “love” anyone at all.

Being a theater girl, I came armed with a prop… and the official wedding gift… A red leather bound journal. I took a deep breath and began, book in hand, and words of the heart at the ready:

I have here a Journal.  A new, fresh, ready to be filled book… it’s full of potential, promise, pages waiting hopefully and expectantly of a story well written.  I am giving this to you both as a gift.  

My husband and I will be married 18 years this June and we have kept a small red journal for years, leaving love notes to each other on our pillows inside it; in happy times, hard times, in celebration of new children, and in loss of.  It has been a way to use our words to strengthen our journey.  

We have had some very good times in our 18 years, and some really hard ones.  We’ve had some that have scared us to death, and ones that have overwhelmed us with blessings.  We’ve learned to never wish away the hard ones that fill our book, as they have made us who we are and the blessings always come on the heels of this.  Embrace the life that comes to you, just as you have this very day.  Today has not gone according to plan, but you have come together in it, and you will cherish it just as it is.  

079So, LOVE…  Love is often NOT poetic.  It is not tied up with pretty bows and perfect plans.  It is not sweet like Easter jelly beans and Hersey’s kisses.  

True love is not a feeling that will carry you away.  Instead, love is choosing to stand, beside her, every… single… day.  

LOVE is sticking beside him, when the path is rocky, digging your heels in, to work things out, EVEN when it takes all your moxy.  

Love is not swirling and magical. Love is doing hard things when it seems illogical.  The world will tell you you’re crazy, that there is a better “way out.”  

(*long, firm pause*) Ignore the world.  

  • Love is born of hard work, dedication, commitment, and, above all, of God.  
  • Love is a verb.  It’s full of action, of doing, of being, of becoming.  It is not passive, does not assume, nor does it demand.  
  • It honors, trusts, believes, and hopes.  Above all, LOVE ALWAYS HOPES.
  • Love is full of grace.  
  • Love gives mercy, second chances, and do-overs.  It does not hold grudges, holds no memory of faults, and does not relish defeat.  
  • Love strengthens and renews. 
  • True love doesn’t get to stay away on romantic vacations, but has to come home, to the battlefields of life.  
  • Love affirms and unconditionally accepts.  Love, always encourages.  

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuerYou are beginning a new book today, not just a new chapter. 

I have taken the liberty of beginning yours for you here.  I would like to read from it and challenge you both to continue to fill this book.  

Upon these pages write to each other about your love, your life, your stories.  Communicate what works and what you cherish about each other.  Encourage each other.  You need not be a poet, but use your words. YOUR words hold power to heal and to bind up wounds if you use them the way God intends.  As you give yourself to each other today, and as you give yourself to God as a couple before Him, give him your words too.  Not just your “I DO’s”, but your “I WILLS.”

Why?  Because of Love.  Because LOVE is WORTH IT.


I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close. 

Pablo Neruda

Nothing new, except now people are listening.

There is plenty being said and discussed and shared online right now about depression, suicide, and mental illness. They’re the buzz words of the day, the trending topics.

I’m sad. I feel like I am grieving. I’ll admit it… but more than that, my insides suddenly feel like they are being ripped out and it has nothing to do with the funny man, Robin Williams, who died. Wanna know who it does have to do with?  My kid. Yeah. MINE. Who else? Other members of my family, who I will leave nameless. Oh, then there’s me.

A friend posted this online tonight…  I can’t say it better… so here. I’ll let Heather say what she does so well… truth without fancy schmancy – politically correct – NUTHIN. Just sayin it like it is…

Robin Williams/Heather Osbun Smith

Nearly every day of life here behind our front door is spent in some form of survival mode. Many days we openly discuss this suicide word in an alarmingly personal and private way. We do battle with mental illness, that nasty word that sends so many into hiding in shame. The M. I. label is the driving force behind my “ditching the masks.”  I am sick to death of living a hidden life and one that makes my daughter feel shame…that she’s not enough, that she is somehow a broken person, is less-than because her brain chemicals don’t self regulate like so many others do and she must take expensive meds, constantly readjusting them monthly as she goes through the puberty and onslaught of hormones that muck up every good run we’ve ever had at stabilizing those damn things. I’m so sick of the stigma and “weakness” of people taking meds for mental illness or depression I could rage for an hour on it.

Let me tell you something about people with mental illness you may not know… it takes a HELL of a lot of strength, grit, determination, and heart to plug away day-in and day-out, silently, quietly, so that it’s possible to make it “one more day.” The idea that suicide is a weakness, an “easy way out” or that a person somehow failed because they finally said “enough”? It’s ludicrous… and obviously made only by someone untouched by the very devastating reality that so many live with.

Any clue how hard it is to get up and do another day, when no end is in sight? Any clue how much moxy you have to have to battle demons that have no shape in order to beat them into oblivion? Any idea how strong you have to be to just admit you need help?

I cant imagine how hard it must be to decide to leave your loved ones behind and take that step, one that is so personal and private, knowing that the world will talk and never let up on it once you take that step? Knowing full well that no matter what you’ve done in your life, it will forever be overshadowed by that last act. You think what’s currently going on didn’t occur to Robin Williams? My guess is it fueled it. My guess is he’s been battling our judgments his whole life, they were demons inside him, you and I, and our judgmental prattle. He may be remembered fondly and in time we will forget the last act and focus on his living legacy. He only gets that grace because he is who he was… regular folk? Yeah, not so much grace goes their way.

Robin Williams will make us talk. I guess I will take that for what it is, because like it or not, he now has given us a reason to talk about it openly… and it has given me a new talking points that allow me to connect with my daughter.

But has he given it a face? No.

10570290_10204898957100150_5190697673744201881_nTo me? To me THIS face is the one I battle for and with, daily.  These shades hide eyes that show strength. This face is why I will never give in to my own demons.

This girl has taught me more about living in her 15 years than I had in all the previous ones I’ve had. She has taught me about courage, love, pain, forgiveness, grace, moxy, and about wordless things have no shape, size,  nor definition. She’s shown me how to admit my weakness in a way that I never could before. She’s made me turn and face my own issues. She makes me proud. She makes me beam. She makes me want to be a better person.

This girl is why I am willing to be transparent, vulnerable, and real. Why? Because if I’m not willing to model it for her, how can I ask her to be? There is no shame inside the walls of this house. Only grace.

Robin, I pray you have found peace. You will be missed. Your last act was to give the world a way to talk, at least for a while, about a brilliant mind that was deeply affected by things we have only begun to understand. The brain is a vexing thing to learn and understand. Maybe you will help us move on to less stigma and the realization that anyone can be touched by the pain of this.  But as much as I love ya, your face will never be the “face of mental illness.” Sorry. This girl already has it covered.


Yeah, so THIS happened…

photo 2

Yep, I sometimes nap in the back of the Soccer-mom-van and I’m proud of myself for doing it too.

I don’t usually fess up to stuff, not when I don’t HAVE to.  I mean, if no one is around, no one was harmed, and it is more than a bit embarrassing, why bother? What happens between Me, Myself, and I , frankly, should stay that way. Who NEEDS to know that stuff?  For whatever reason, I have this burning need to be truthful. So even though it’s none of your business, I’ll let you in on a little tidbit of ridiculousness. There have been many days that have been hard lately, and somedays are harder than others.  There are times that in the process of doing my day, I’ll feel like I need two naps to get through it. Other times I am fine. It’s not a big deal. When the naps sneak up on me, or the NEED for one, I always obey them. It’s an agreement I made with myself a while ago; to never berate myself for my body’s needs in this, and to just give myself the refresher I need to go about living life as best I can. So I stop what I’m doing and grab a couch, snooze for 30 mins to an hour if needed, then I’m ready to tackle anything. So what happens when the nap sneaks up on me and I’ve been out running errands? I already only go within a 10-15 minute drive from my house. If I HAVE to go further, I have come up with a creative way to do it, I break the drive up into 10-15 minute blocks and run an errand between or stop the car and lean the seat back and give my brain a rest.  This is working. What isn’t working is the sneaky nap needs. I’ve not shared this with anyone, but there have been several times I have taken little short cat naps in the back of the soccer-mom van and then gone about grocery shopping, or driving the rest of the way home. The answer is to not stop going out in case this need arrises. The answer is to get creative and adjust to my changing brain and it’s needs. I refuse to give up living life and being a mom and doing mom-ish kinda stuff, and having my independence. I simply refuse. That said, I don’t dare refuse to listen to my brain when it tells me to catch a catnap, as the dropsy – falling while awake feeling signaling that the body is falling asleep while awake –  means “behave or disaster.”  Doing the dropsy behind a wheel isn’t okay. I ALWAYS obey the call to nap. photo 5What’s embarrassing about all this? Well have YOU ever opened up a van door from the backseat, unfolded yourself from it, straightening your clothes, fixing your askew hair, and felt eyes on you wondering what in tarnation you had been up to back there? No, you’ve never done it? Then don’t ask… Cause Me, Myself, and I, we know and it feels downright ridiculous. Trust me. (But it feels way better than an accident or worse.) So I will continue to embarrass myself when needed. There’s always something around here to be humbling me! P.S. Someone needs to make a van seat that leans fully flat or a back bench that is a heck of a lot more comfortable. Just sayin.

Who’s the parent here?

Who's the Parent?

Every now and then, instead of hearing my Mom’s words come out of my mouth, I hear my Dad’s. Lately it’s been one phrase in particular, “Who’s the kid and who’s the parent, here?” That was always my cue, as a kid, to shut the heck up and remember my place.

For whatever reason, something in the air maybe, my kids have been feeling their oats and forgetting that they are the ones who are NOT in charge. While I do drive what feels like a taxi service and work as a food distributor or short order cook, I am in fact a parent, not a servant.  I’ve had to reestablish that the way things get done around here are based on some expectations of us all working together as a family (aka team). Fail to uphold the expectations of the team, to fulfill requirements, and like any team, even star players will be benched. Let’s just say I am not always popular around here. That’s okay. I got over popularity contests when I stopped being in High School.

I’ve found that things don’t run smooth when we cease to respect each other, but more important, when the kids forget to respect their place. I am often shocked at how many parents allow their kids to call the shots, to be the one who runs the show, and for whatever backward reason, they actually care if their kid likes them or not. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love when my kids like me. Heck I get crazy happy when I get to be the hero! But being their friend and being liked? That isn’t going to teach them the things they need to know before they are tossed into the world to have a go at it themselves.

We have three kids and as I see it, three mini-adults-in-training who need to know how things go once they leave the nest. I, frankly, know how to cook, clean, and do chores. My charges here also NEED to know these things. If I was “popular” and did all these things for them, I would honestly be failing them as a parent. How can anyone learn if they are never instructed, get the chance to practice, and to have someone along to mentor them? So the way I see it, it’s good parenting to make my kids sigh loudly, probably hate me a bit under their breath, and get a chance to do chores, learn to cook, and to develop skills in and outside the house. As a bonus, our home runs smoother, stays cleaner, and I catch a small break where I don’t do EVERYTHING by myself.

Think I’m terrible? The kids are handed nearly everything, from toys and gadgets to food, clothes, and a warm roof over their head. Requiring them to contribute to the team for a half hour a day in chores/mentoring-for-adulthood and abiding by house rules for having homework done before partaking of anything that plugs in or uses a battery is NOT torture. It’s just good sense.

Who’s the kid and who’s the parent in your house? I hope it’s YOU!


This post first was published by MOMs for the July/August print issue in Fort Wayne, IN. Their website is and my blog with them is located at:

Little Brother/Big Brother

I’m one of those lucky people who have a sibling that they, not only can stand, but actually love.  I am stupidly proud of my kid brother. And when I say kid brother, I turn the big 4 0 this month and he’s just two years younger than me.  Yeah, so he’s not much of a kid anymore… even though he retains his youth by NOT growing up and getting all stuffy like; refusing to stop running in the parking lot, spontaneously has out-of-control ice cream runs (not his fault, the CAR WANTED to go there) and always staying up past bedtime when he’s home so we can chat long after the parental unit has retired to their room.

10540869_10204624481358428_7727118533491492554_nI started out life way bigger than this kid. He was a pudgy, cute, fire engine red head who had a personality unmatched by anyone I have ever met since that fateful day 38 years ago, today.  I took it upon myself to mother him when my mother wasn’t around. Lord knows he needed two mothers. No, seriously, he was always into some kinda trouble. He was intensely curious and very spontaneous.

This kid had a brain that worked ten times faster than it was supposed to. He was doing MY math problems in his head before he even went to school.  Needless to say I was a tad miffed at him in first grade.  I was having trouble learning to add and subtract and he was saying the answers to flash cards before I could even read what was on the blasted card.

Let’s politely say I was not always in love with his brain. It really worked overtime and by the time he was in Jr High and High School he was creating his own engineering inventions that seemed annoying to me. He would take things apart just to figure out how they worked.  Once he understood, he didn’t always feel the same excitement for putting them back together.  Oh he COULD, but it wasn’t always as fun to do that. Sometimes he’d “borrow” something of mine to “learn” on and then “forget” to put it back together. Once I had this fan, which mysteriously stopped working one day.  I shook it and it rattled in the base.  He had figured out how it worked on MY fan and left his put together.  We’ve never let him forget these (what seems funny now) moments because now? Well now this kid is a bit of an amazing wizard when it comes to electronic engineering.

10378933_10204624506919067_5747370074226480096_nMy brother lives WAY the heck too far away, in Texas, where he runs a company called Sparx Engineering.  I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like, (as in Sunday dinner every week) but I’m already counting down days till I see him in August before his kids go back to school. While I am not happy about the distance, I can’t complain about what he does there and how he got down there. Having settled in Texas after an internship that turned job with NASA after college, he found his niche and expanded into the company he owns today. They do amazing things. He is quite literally changing the world there. I don’t say that bragging, (okay so maybe a little bit) but truly I am in awe that this little brother of mine grew up taking stuff apart I was furious about, and into an awe inspiring man who has the ability to think through projects that, for me, don’t even register on my brain’s comprehension charts. He staffs a company with amazing brains like his own and together they are honestly doing things that make a massive difference, everyday, to many. One project he is working on right now is for a group in Nigeria. They are working on a device being used in a research effort for water that will contribute to efforts to empower communities to obtain clean water to drink. That is something I don’t even have to think about as I open up the tap and get a drink. The women there walk miles and miles a day for water and must carry it all.

They’ve worked on medical devices for the Army and changed how they can monitor wounded in battle, they’ve worked on things for space missions and so yeah, this kid is truly out-of-this-world.

So as I sit way too far away to celebrate properly on my brother’s birthday, and I was NOT a good sister (but treated him equally with my sister-in-law in forgetting to send a card) I thought I should embarrassing him a tad and brag on him a lot. It’s my right, my birth right in fact. I am the big sis. He may have gotten taller, stronger, and MAYBE even better looking, but he will never be able to do my job in being the sister who is soooooo gushingly proud of her kid brother that she goes out and shouts it to the world.

LOVE you BRO!  You’ve turned out to be amazing, and I want everyone to know it!