Thursday, April 28, 2016

Breaking the Chains

With minimal help, lots of research, and a ton of creativity, they pulled it off. 

For weeks, the teens worked in their medium - spoken word, photography, art, music, dance, video, theater, and so much more. They gathered on a Friday evening to show what they had put together. It was the most emotional rehearsal I'd ever witnessed. Once again on Saturday, they took the stage to perform, this time in front of an audience of parents, drug addicts, and strangers. 

Each year, Epoch Arts in East Hampton, CT, responds to a social issue with art. This year's Arts Response was Drug Addiction: Breaking the Chains. Stories of heartache and hope were shared through various artforms. Personal stories of lives affected by addiction left some in the audience sobbing. Other displays took one's breath away. 

These teens didn't merely learn about the dangers of drug addiction sitting through a lecture by parent or teacher, they did the work themselves, delving into the world of addiction enough to be forever changed by what they discovered. During the talk-back session that followed, teens revealed the ease at which any of them could procure drugs or alcohol in that moment. They expressed the horror they felt when learning of clothing companies glorifying drug use and mental illness through fashion. They talked powerfully about their own experiences with friends and family members who are, or were, or died as drug addicts.

What I'll remember most about that night, though, isn't the performances, the artwork, or the work the amazing young adults put into this. Or making pasta for twenty something people two nights in a row. What I will remember is the teen who ran out of the theater and the two who ran out right after him to make sure he was ok. Who sat with him and said, "I don't know what to say or do to help you right now, so I'm going to sit here with you as long as you need me to. Just let me know what you need." 

What I'll remember is what Epoch has taught these children through Arts Response and other programs, and through the way they treat every single person who walks through the door. The kindness, compassion, and acceptance modeled for and encouraged in all who enter Epoch Arts shines through the actions of these youth. It is this that I will carry with me from that night, because it is this that these young people carry out with them every time they journey into the world, thanks to the beautiful people who volunteer their time and talent to make Epoch the beacon of safety and love that it is. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Give and Take

Some days the phone rings and you get to say yes, do what you can, be a shoulder to cry on, make more dinner, hold a baby, or sit with little ones as they fall asleep. You get to say words you know don't mean as much as you wish they could and do your best to be the best friend you can given the situation. 

Some days, you get to deliver a meal or help clean up or just sit and listen. You get to put together a little gift or pay a bill or do some heavy lifting. You get to pick up children or groceries or medications or all of the above. 

Some days, you get to watch your children step up to an unexpected challenge, clean up, make room, and share. And sometimes one of those children, who has issues with happenings that are out of the ordinary, has some troubles, but that's ok, too. He's doing the best that he can, just like the rest of us.

Some days, you take more than you give; you feel like a burden; you know you are asking too much. You feel you are counting too much on others and should be able to stand on your own two feet. Life seems to be against you or you feel more broken than you ever have before. Worries become your biggest burden. 

But other days you get to pay it forward - to balance the scales. There may be days or months or years in between the taking days and the giving days, but that's ok. The needing gives others the opportunity to give and to provide and to feel wonderful to be able to do so. 

We wish all days could be unicorns and rainbows, but when the storm comes we get to be blessed to be a blessing or blessed to receive a blessing. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Freedom to Pee

All I want is for my children to be able to go to the bathroom with people of their same gender. Is that too much to ask?

When my boys were a bit younger ... the ages where they feel the need to go to the men's room, but Mama is still a bit uncomfortable having them do so... they walked into the men's room at Costco. I waited outside, always a little nervous about my children going into a restroom on their own. A man walked by me and into the restroom. He swiftly exited, checked the sign, and re-entered. He was back out as quickly as the first time. I looked at him and said, "they're boys - they just have long hair." The reply, "are you sure?" nearly had me on the floor with laughter, but I held myself together. "Yes. They were standing at urinals, weren't they?" Beet red, the man walked into the restroom for the third time. 

Some people want to force women to use men's restrooms and men to use women's bathrooms. They want to deny others access to restrooms that match their genders and won't consider a single-occupant bathroom option for those not comfortable using a restroom with multiple stalls. To me, that's just wrong.

I have friends who are transgender and would no more want them to be required to use facilities that don't match up with their gender than I would want my daughters to be forced to use the men's room or my sons to use the women's room.

Seeing so many arguments about the imagined dangers of allowing transgender people into gender-appropriate restrooms saddens me. Every single one is based on fear. 

But sexual predators will pretend to be transgender and take advantage of the opportunity to use the opposite gender bathroom, right? If someone is set on committing a sex crime, they'll figure out how to do it, regardless of who is allowed into which restroom. Allowing transgender people to use gender-appropriate facilities won't provide any more opportunity than not allowing them to do so.

Should we have separate restrooms for people born with both male and female genitalia? Should we ban parents from bringing their opposite-gendered children into the restroom with them, forcing them to leave their child standing outside the restroom door unattended and at risk? What about colleges with co-ed bathrooms? Should those be banned as well?

I'm not sure how people using the gender-appropriate restroom became such a topic of debate. I now fear for my long-haired children with penises, as this whole debate could now put them at risk of getting harassed in a public restroom. I fear for my children with vaginas, should they once again choose the short haircuts that so often got them mistaken for boys, that they might get kicked out of a women's room as happened to a woman on the news recently. 

Why can't we all just pee without worrying which genitalia are attached to the people who are peeing? Do you have enough interaction with bathroom patrons to really figure out which body parts they do and do not have? Honestly, we should be more worried about the health risks those who don't wash their hands after using the restroom pose than the imagined risks of "inappropriate" genitalia in a bathroom.

Which restroom should the people in the photos in this post use?

Hint: there are five photos of boys and five containing girls. None are transgender (unless one of them tells me differently).

Thursday, April 7, 2016

So Much

Sometimes life is filled with so much that some things fall to the wayside.

I was so busy, I crashed. And then I had more, and more, and more ahead of me. 

Friday the girls and I were off at 5:30AM to set up for the LLL Healthcare Provider Seminar Silent Auction. After a day of learning, and wrapping up the auction, I enjoyed a poolside conversation with a friend while our girls splashed in the hotel's saltwater pool. After a nearly sleepless night during which a certain eight year old punched me in the face several times, disturbing my already disastrous sleep, it was time to set up and run another silent auction. Leaving at noon, we rushed to Epoch Arts for Mainstage rehearsal and then we were on to my parents' house for a big surprise.

Did I mention my in-laws arrived at our house on Friday evening while the girls and I were staying at the hotel? 

Upon entering Gramma and Papa's house, Haley was surprised by balloons, decorations, and Gram and Grammy from PA, and others wishing her a Happy Birthday. Seeing as her birthday isn't until June, it was a tremendous surprise. 

Sunday found us at church as usual, followed by good food, games, and a relaxing sort of day. Monday's snow kept us close to home, doing some thrift and other shopping and getting a beta fish for Alia. Sundaes and home movies were the afternoon's entertainment, along with the traditional card playing. 

Tuesday saw Gram and Grammy off to their home in PA. After TNSS and choir, I was happy to be home, as I was still exhausted from the busy long weekend. 

Then the phone rang.

I dashed out the door to pick up two lovely girls, who were up well past their bedtime. Safely back at my house, I put them to bed in the airbed just vacated by my in-laws. A text shortly after 3AM brought the good news of the birth of their baby brother - all 10lbs 4oz of him! I could barely wait to tell the girls.

Wednesday morning found me rushing to church to retrieve something for a friend and then having coffee with another friend. Upon arriving home, head pounding from a migraine, I took a 20 minute nap. Refreshed, I loaded our two guests into my van and we were off to meet baby brother. To say they were extremely excited would be an understatement. I was blessed to witness these two precious sisters meet their brother for the first time, and to see the joy on their parents' faces as they watched their daughters' delight. My friend Emily is truly an amazing Mama!

So much happened in the past couple weeks that writing fell to the wayside. So many blessings filled every day, that I fell into bed blissfully exhausted each night. So much has filled my thoughts and my heart to overflowing, but putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard just hasn't happened. How wonderful when there is so much life to live! 

Thursday, March 31, 2016


Is it Thursday night already?

The week is a total blur. After Easter worship, as I was about to turn onto my street, the world started spinning. I managed to get us home. I may have fed the kids lunch. Then I crashed completely, falling asleep before I was even fully in my bed. My body complete gave up, as Holy Week really took everything I had and more.

An hour later I awoke and went on with my day. We still had Easter dinner to get to at my parents' house, a relaxing time, thank God. 

Nothing on my schedule on Monday, I did a little work here and there, napped on and off, and took it as easy as possible. I stumbled through the rest of the week, still recuperating from the crash.

Today I had my date with Remi, came home, ate, and crashed once again, but the post-Remi crash is routine. I fed the children ice cream for dinner, got more cleaning done, and made Jere's' dip for the weekend. 

Tomorrow will find the girls and I up at 5 and out of the house by 5:30. In the morning. We're running the silent auctions at the La Leche League Conference on Friday and Saturday, then we're off to Mainstage rehearsal at Epoch Arts Saturday afternoon, and then my big April Fool's Weekend surprise awaits. I'm so excited! 

I'm not sure how much time I have until my next crash. Hopefully April will bring balance as we ease our way into Spring. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016


The wait is over.


Tonight, at Vigil of Easter worship, we got to revisit the darkness of Good Friday. We got to bless the Paschal candle and share its light with others. We got to witness two baptisms and affirm our own. We got celebrate that Jesus is alive and risen from the dead!

But the moment most awaited by a certain eight year old, whose name starts with the first to letters and ends with the last two letters of the word she loves more than any other, finally came. She may, once again, have been the loudest to exclaim, He has risen, indeed, ALLELUIA!

That first ALLELUIA is such a joy, after a forty day (plus Sundays!) fast from exclaiming it. 

Today, I am grateful for Light; for Joy; for Alleluias; for babies and baptisms; and for celebrating Easter Vigil with my entire family at worship!

Friday, March 25, 2016


As he emerged from the basement I could tell that he was not good. The throbbing of his head was apparent, so back to bed he went as we left for homeschool co-op. He got a day home alone which, despite his misery, was good. He really needed just that.

At co-op some families couldn't make it due to the holiday or illness and some had to leave early. On this gloomy Friday, it all seemed to work out just as it needed to. We got to clean up early and take some of the stress off o the Epoch staff who were preparing for a major performance this evening. It was good to go with the flow and what felt right or was needed.

At worship this evening, we were an acolyte short due to Zachary's continued headache, but Haley did an amazing job on her own. 

Good Friday worship was just what I needed tonight, but it's good to be home after a long day. The good man that my husband is, he made me food and brought me steaming frankincense-oiled water in which to soak my aching feet.

Today, I am grateful for being able to see and appreciate the good in life no matter what is thrown at me; for hugs and from friends; for food to share with others; and for darkness, that we can better appreciate the Light.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Today didn't start as planned. 

I had trouble waking up. With everything I had to do, my warm, comfy bed seemed preferable to my to do list. Dragging myself out of bed, I thanked God for the day, as I tend to do every morning.

Then the call came. Two words pierced the blurry drudgery of the morning and completely changed things - heart attack. My brother-in-law, my sister's husband, had a heart attack. He's only a few years older than me. Thankfully, he was able to get medical attention quickly, and was in the ICU after having a stent put in when I got the call.

Suddenly the day came into sharp focus. Today. Maundy Thursday. The day when Jesus gathered the chosen few for a Last Supper.

At noon worship, our Pastor's sermon hit hard as he emphasized life's uncertainty and death's unpredictability. This could be the last Meal for any of us. Car accidents, terror attacks, or heart attacks don't tend to announce their impending arrival. 

I spent the day taking lots of deep breaths, saying lots of prayers, and giving thanks for each moment I got to spend with my children, a friend who stopped by for a visit, my husband, and those at worship. 

Today, my heart was filled with gratitude for God's new covenant - His mandatum, from which Maundy is derived; for medical professionals; for recovery from illness; for the ability to serve; for answered prayers; and for my husband, who is not allowed to have a heart attack until he's 113. 

My brother-in-law is doing ok - much better than this morning, according to my sister after visiting him this evening. He may be transferred to the cardiac floor in the morning. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Today was one of those days where I did a million things and nothing all at once. 

I sort of meandered through the day. I...

...listened to good music.
...took a nap.
...made a huge crockpot of chili.
...tried to decipher what teen boys were talking about to no avail.
...washed dishes.
...sorted and packaged a $600+ Frontier order and put my items away.
...prepped propetts for my Blacklight Puppetry class.
...attempted to clean up the kitchen a bit.
...answered two breastfeeding support calls.
...sent emails.
...caught up a bit with vlogs and blogs I used to frequent.
...caught up on some things I needed to do for homeschool co-op and TNSS.
...chatted on the phone with a friend.
...answered lots of questions from curious children, including a discussion about kiwis (the birds, not the fruit or the people from NZ).
...took a shower.
...forgot to shave my legs. 
...packed the snack bag for homeschool co-op. my stuff together to share during Show and Tell class at co-op.
...started organizing stuff for Camp.
...contemplated making pumpkin bread.
...called FAITH5 just a tad bit early because I'm too tired and need a little time to myself.

I don't feel like I've accomplished much, because much of what I did didn't complete the tasks at hand. My house doesn't look all that much cleaner and my to do list is almost as long as when I started, but that's ok. I got to move at whatever pace I felt like today, motivated to move with Matisyahu playing in the background and content to sit and do things while binge-watching M*A*S*H. Who knows what I'll end up doing once I get the kids to vacate my space. 

Today, I am grateful for technology that pipes awesome music and great shows into my life; for nice weather and children who play outside; for humorous moments when Mama thinks she misheard the teens when, in reality, they did talk about taking a pineapple in an elevator; and for chocolate.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Blank Space

Blank space. My husband might joke that that's what I have between my ears half of the time. He would be correct, but that's beside the point.

Blank space. I love it. There are so many possibilities in blank space. 

My screen starts off blank. Then, hopefully, words that swirl in my brain are translated through my fingers and fill up the space. 

Canvases, puppet faces, articles of clothing, even pieces of furniture provide blank space for creativity to abound. It doesn't matter if the results are good or not so good, it's the process I love.

Blank spaces on my calendar are perhaps my favorite. Tomorrow has a fairly large one. I need to run an errand or two in the morning, perhaps do some cleaning and some homeschool co-op prep, but for the most part, I have no plans. I can paint my day however I choose.

Today, I am thankful for scheduling mistakes that free up my week a bit; for the possibilities tomorrow holds; for the amazing children who have put lots of work into the Interpretive Movement Ministry's Easter performance and the parents who get them to rehearsals; for Kelly Mooney's version of Hallelujah; and for enough blank space in my life to be able to dream.