Friday, November 5, 2010

Wish me luck!

I love working out. But I'm more of a kickboxing/weight lifting gal. I never ever liked running. I used to joke that you'd never catch me running unless someone was chasing me. My husband is an avid runner. He ran his first half marathon (with great time) this past spring. I always have marveled at how gracefully he runs. In the past, when I tried to run, I'd start huffing and puffing pathetically before the first quarter-mile lap was up. But this past year, I decided to really try to learn how to run. A few times each week, I'd hop on the treadmill and give it a go. To my amazement, I learned to really love it. The first half mile is always a b**ch. But once I get past the hard part, I find that endorphins kick in, and I really love the feeling of just going and going.

Running has become an escape for me. These past few months I've had some pretty stressful times as a mom. My 5 year old is going through what I hope is a defiant stage. It seems like every minute of the afternoon and evening, when he gets home from school, I am walking on egg shells trying to avoid invoking a temper tantrum. Usually I am unsuccessful. I seem to remember 5 being a rough year for my oldest child too. It's such a year of change... school begins, scheduling becomes hectic trying to balance school, sports and play. It's no wonder that little ones are stressed and take it out on the one person they feel closest to. However, it stinks for us moms. I can't tell you how happy I am to hand over the kiddos on those rough days to my husband when he comes home so that I can enjoy an hour on my treadmill. Once I begin running, I envision myself running away from all of my problems. And when my run is over, I feel completely renewed.

But I never ever had thought that I'd EVER be in a race. Running has turned into something deeply personal for me. I don't like running around others. I like that time alone on my treadmill, not worrying about anyone else. However, when I heard about this 5-mile run in my hometown, I thought it sounded like a wonderful opportunity. I've been "training" for it, but I still have a long way to go.

The run is on Thanksgiving morning, which makes it even more special. I adore Thanksgiving — not because of the feasting, though I quite enjoy that part — but because it's a time to really thank God for my blessings. I don't do that enough. This run will be my time to spend contemplating those blessings early that morning and really concentrating on the importance of the day. In addition, funds raised by the run benefit the homeless in my hometown. My heart breaks for those who have no family, no home and no table at which to feast. I can't imagine a better way to spend Thanksgiving than to be able to help those who are struggling right now.

So, on Nov. 25 I shall slog (sloooooooow jog) 5 miles praying the entire way. I'll be praying for those who are in need. I'll be saying thanks for my many blessings. And I'll be praying that I can cross that finish line. :-)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Operation publication

I've been a writer my entire life. When I was a little girl, I kept a journal. I wrote in journals throughout college. I poured out my heart in them— half the time, filling them with daydreams and wishes penned in bright pink ink. I became a journalist so that I could write for a living. It's amazing to be rewarded for something you love to do. And I loved writing. Loved it.

When my first son was born, I had an itch to write something for him. A love letter of sorts. Writing was what I did best, and I felt I could give the best part of myself to my child if I wrote stories that he could love. I wrote two books that year. Great books. I just knew that within a few months I'd be a published author, and my stories would become vividly illustrated, tangible books that I could read to my little boy at bedtime. Brightly colored books that he could thumb through and adore. But boy, was I wrong.

About a year after writing my first book, I finally got some positive feedback from a well-known publishing company in New York. A wonderful editor took the time to write notes on my manuscript and correspond with me. This was it! I just knew it! She proposed my book to her editorial board, and then..... rejection.

I felt the sting of rejection for the next seven years... I joked with my husband that I was saving all of the rejection letters to wallpaper our home office. Though I laughed at the thought, the constant rejection became daunting. So I quit writing new manuscripts. I became lazy in sending the old ones out. I became jaded by the entire process.

I quickly discovered that writers who don't have agents aren't as enticing as those who do. Most publishing companies won't even accept a manuscript from a writer who doesn't have an agent. And, sadly, most agents won't take on an unpublished author. It's a frustrating lose-lose scenario.

I write all of this not to garner pity, but to let you know that there is a whole slew of writing — great writing — out there that isn't being read. An amazing bunch of authors are producing valuable work but their voice never will be heard because they aren't famous or don't have agents. As a writer, it's discouraging, and as a mother it's disappointing because if all deserving authors had a voice, my children would reap the benefits of their work.

I decided today that I am not going to give up. My work is relevant. I'm going to teach my children that when they aren't being heard, it's important to speak louder.

I encourage all of you (if you're out there) to pick up your passion again if you've also given up. Don't give up on yourself. Set a good example so that your little ones will have great footsteps to follow. That's exactly what I plan to do.

Operation Publication shall now commence!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Meat-free me

About six months ago, I made a change. I decided to try on vegetarianism for size. I get on these little bandwagons every now and then... so I fully expected myself to fall off this one in due time. I thought sure I’d succumb to a random chicken nugget or a pepperoni.... But I wanted to try to live a cleaner life, which for me meant giving up eating most animal flesh. I decided to give myself a little leeway, however. I allowed myself to occasionally eat fish. I figured if Jesus was OK with it, I could be too. Plus, going full-on vegetarian was a little intimidating for me. I don’t call myself a pescatarian, because I very very rarely partake in fish these days. But I do allow myself the option. So I suppose you could call me a pescatarian if you like, or a slightly hypocritical vegetarian. But I digress...

I made this lifestyle shift in the spring after reading Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet and watching part of Michael Pollan’s eye-opening documentary Food Inc. For a long time, my family had been eating a mostly vegetarian diet and didn’t really realize it. We rarely incorporated meat, and hardly ever red meat, into our diet. But we did have our weekend barbecues and as an Italian gal, I loved my sausage and prosciutto. But I never felt quite right after eating a meat-laden dinner. I felt heavy, sluggish, bloated and just generally gross.

My motives for giving up meat were strictly health-related in the beginning. I wanted to feel better and be leaner. But the longer I’ve gone sans meat, the more I appreciate the humanity of it. I can’t imagine eating the flesh of a cow or a pig now. I can’t justify their slaughter for my personal pleasure — especially since I know that pleasure is fleeting but that animal’s demise is permanent.

I’ve noticed since converting to a mostly vegetarian diet, that I feel better, my skin is clearer, and my body functions more efficiently. I even sleep better at night (literally and figuratively).

I’m by no means becoming one of those preachy, strict, paint-wielding vegetarians who shakes fingers at hamburger eaters and disfigures fur coats. I don’t hug trees in my back yard, worship Jerry Garcia or wear Birkenstocks on a regular basis.

I don’t flash the peace sign to everyone who walks by either. But I do feel more at peace and generally happier. If indeed our bodies are temples, I am so glad I’m no longer filling mine with animal flesh. I’ve spruced up this temple.

I encourage everyone to give up meat at least one day a week just to experience something different. Have a Meat-Free Monday so that you can explore all of the wonderful other options there are out there, like a veggie quinoa pilaf or red beans and rice or a hearty vegetarian minestrone. You’ll be surprised how good you feel — literally and figuratively!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


My middle little boy started kindergarten today. And I haven't shed a tear. I remember when my oldest went to kindergarten three years ago — I was a nervous wreck. This year, I wasn't as frazzled. I didn't even take tissues in my pocket to school this morning. I stayed for the welcome festivities, gave my little one a big hug and I left without that sinking feeling I had three years ago.

When my oldest began kindergarten, I was completely unprepared. I didn't know what to expect. My sister, a kindergarten teacher, tried to allay my fears, but I still worried. It turns out, though, kindergarten was pretty amazing. That year was packed with more fun than I ever could have imagined. Field trips, parties, paper maché pigs and other clever crafts, stories and songs and creative learning. Believe me when I say that I loved it just as much, if not more, than my oldest little boy did. Selfishly, I actually was excited for my middle child to turn 5 so that I could experience kindergarten AGAIN!! Sure I'll miss him each day, but I know he is in good, capable, loving hands. And his journey has begun! He's on a non-stop path of learning. Soon he'll learn to read and research and discover so much. How could I be weepy or worried about THAT??

The only thing I'm sad about is that I can't go to kindergarten too! :-)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Avon calling!

In two days my oldest little boy starts the third grade. And my middle child will start kindergarten soon after. Two down, one to go! But all joking aside, I'll miss my little man. I cannot believe he's already in kindergarten! Seems like yesterday that I left my career so that I could stay at home full-time when he was born. Now he's off to kindergarten!

I am looking forward to enjoying some time with my littlest one — just the two of us. But I also miss the excitement of having a job to do. So I've decided to... wait for it... become an Avon lady!! I've always thought it would be fun. It seems so retro and exciting. And, let's face it, I love cosmetics and skincare, so it's right up my alley.

Problem is... I've no customers! So please support me in my venture to not be a desperately bored housewife this fall! I'd love to sell to you!

Check out my Avon Web site and place an order! I'd really appreciate it! And I promise this will be the last time I use my blog to hawk my goods! :-)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Those lucky Calgon moments

Yesterday was one of those days. My oldest boys fought and fought and fought. They called each other stupid. They told each other to shut up. They professed their dislike for each other over and over. They concocted new and unusual insults for one another. They disagreed on everything just to be disagreeable. And as the day wore on, the louder their arguments became. It was one of those days that reminded me of the old Calgon commercials... You know the ones, where the mom screams, "Calgon, take me away!!!" I was ready for a mommy break when my husband got home. I handed over the kids and headed upstairs for my nightly workout. Whew, it was a rotten kid day.

Tonight, after tucking the kids into bed, my husband and I collapsed on the sofa to watch a movie. We had two from Netflix that we hadn't had time to watch. I won the coin toss and got to watch my "chick's flick," as my husband calls anything remotely sentimental. The movie, Extraordinary Measures, was extremely emotional. It was based on the true story of the efforts of John and Aileen Crowley to find a cure for their two children who suffer from Pompe disease, a tragic genetic disorder that kills children usually before their 10th birthday.

In tears throughout the movie, I suddenly felt very stupid and guilty for yesterday's Calgon moment. The movie reminded me of something that I often take for granted: I am so blessed to have three healthy kids. Who cares if they occasionally fight or make messes? They are healthy. They are perfect. And I am blessed beyond words.

I know all mommies have our moments. Stresses mount and some days can really wear us down. But it seems that the really bad days always are followed by better days. And when life becomes crazy hectic from now on, I'll think about how very lucky I am to have such a crazy, messy, insanely loud house with children running and jumping and yelling back and forth.

In fact, I don't think I'd have it any other way.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


A few things I love about summer...
• Watching my children's eyes light up at the sound of the ice cream truck's jingle
• The twinkle of fire flies at dusk
• Freckles
• Flushed, sweaty, dirty little boy faces at the end of a long day at play
• Afternoon thunderstorms and the smell of rain
• The farmer's market
• My beautifully overgrown, under-manicured, lovely smelling herb garden
• Fresh fruit and honey and popsicles
• Loooooooong days
• Sprinklers
• Sparklers
• No school or schedules
• Sleeping in
• Butterflies
• and Barefeet

Though fall is my favorite season, I appreciate all the whimsy and beauty of summer. Most of all, I enjoy sharing it with my little ones!! Happy summer!! :-)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One loooooong week

So I'm sitting at my computer, bored out of my mind. It's a quarter till midnight, and I'm wide awake. I'm missing my oldest little boy who is spending his first week away from home. And this week feels like a month.

About three years ago, my husband's parents asked if they could keep my oldest little boy for a week in the summer... It would be his chance to get away from his little brother and their chance to spend some one-on-one time with him. I said he was too little. He wasn't ready. Each year, they asked, each year I said he wasn't ready. Truth be told... I wasn't ready. This year, I decided I needed to quit being selfish and let him go see his grandparents all by himself for a week during the summer.

My in-laws, otherwise known as Nani and Papa, live in the mountains of North Georgia, AKA: little boy heaven. There are hiking trails, lots of bugs and dirt and the occasional bear. Of course my child was over-the-moon when he got the OK to go. It was all he talked about for weeks. The more excited he became, the more anxious I grew. Sunday we drove him to Chattanooga to meet his Nani and Papa to begin his week of little boy bliss. I cried on the way back home.

He's been gone almost three days, and we're both doing OK. He's baked cookies with his Nani, gone to baseball games with his Papa, played with his cousin, gone swimming and enjoyed the great outdoors. He's having a blast. I've enjoyed spending more time with my other two kids and giving them extra attention. And I've also enjoyed the peace from not having my two oldest constantly at each others' throats. This little break has been good for everyone, I suppose.

While I miss my little boy terribly, I've learned a valuable lesson... It's OK to let him grow up a little bit. I'm still the same over-protective, slightly obsessive mother that I always have been, but I'm learning to loosen my grip on them so that my boys can experience life just a little more freely. It's the hardest but very rewarding part of being a mom -- letting go a bit so that they can become individuals.

But I still cannot wait to see him Friday!! :-)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Graduation day!

Tonight my middle child will graduate from preschool. It's a momentous occasion. I'm a little bit nervous. I'm not quite sure how I'll react to seeing him in a tiny graduation cap marching across a stage. Tears will be shed. It will be a tough reminder that life is moving way too quickly. I'll be afraid to blink because I know that in an instant he'll be all grown up and marching across a bigger stage in another graduation ceremony. I'm so proud of my little guy, but I can't help being a little bit sad to see my baby becoming a boy. In a few short months he'll begin his big school adventure as a kindergartener. I'm sure I'll shed some tears then too. Happy and sad.... I guess what they say is true...

Time flies when you're having fun. :-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Savor the Recipes and lend a helping hand!

My sweet friend Aimee is an amazing cook. I found this out when we both were in college and I visited her one summer in Knoxville. She made an amazing risotto. I had never had risotto, but after that, I was hooked! Since that time, Aimee has been sharing her recipes and wisdom with all who know her. Her cookbook Savor the Recipes is more than a cookbook. It's a collection of memories of friends and family who have gathered around the table to celebrate each other and great food. Through her stories, you feel as though you are in her kitchen as she cooks and reminisces. The book is packed with yummy recipes including my favorites: risotto (of course), Mexican grits, cantaloupe soup, zucchini bread, key lime pie, orange juice balls... The list goes on and on!

I thought I couldn't be any prouder of my friend until this past week when she announced that a portion of her cookbook proceeds will go toward helping the victims of the Nashville flood. I encourage you to purchase her cookbook so that you can "savor" the recipes and the stories behind them. And, in the process, you'll contribute to the great city of Nashville. Visit for more information on how to purchase Savor the Recipes.

Aimee's (yummy, creamy, cheesy, lovely) Risotto
5 cups chicken broth (I use vegetable broth, though, because I'm currently vegetarian - I'll blog about this later)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups arborio (risotto) rice
1 cup white wine (Chardonnay that you would drink)
salt and pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, heat broth. In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter into the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about three to five minutes. Add garlic. Now add the rice, and stir to coat the rice. Cook for just a couple of minutes. Now add your wine, stir and let the rice absorb the wine. This will only take a minute or two. Add, one ladle at a time, the broth for the next 25 to 30 minutes. Each time you add the liquid, stir as it is absorbed, and repeat. The rice will absorb the broth, and you will be able to tell that it is time for the next ladle of broth. Use all of your broth, stirring constantly, or the rice will stick to the pan and burn. At the end, add the cheese and any salt and pepper needed.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An unexpected day

Today is Mother's Day eve. My in-laws came to town for a visit, but I didn't get to visit with them. My sons had soccer games, but I didn't go see them. My middle child scored his first goal of the season, but I missed it. And to top it all off: I spent the day scrubbing mold and mildew off of damp basement walls and peeling carpet off of damp basement floors. But you know what? It was the best Mother's Day Saturday I've ever had.

Last week Nashville was inundated during the heaviest rains of at least the past century. As a result, water seeped into my parents' basement. Just a little water. No big deal, they thought. They were wrong. When they peeled back the 1960s faux-wood paneling adorning my childhood playroom, they found ugly black mold and mildew growing from wall to wall and an ugly cracked foundation.

Last night, while my sweet husband took over soccer-practice duty, I headed to Home Depot, then Lowes, then back to Home Depot in search of mold annihilating spray. I loaded up on said spray, mold inhibitor, spray bottles, scrub brushes ... a veritable mold-killing arsenal. And this morning, I headed to Bellevue, the town where I grew up.

On my way to my parents' house, I noticed heaps of furniture and carpet and toys that had been destroyed in the flood lying curbside. I wondered how the homeowners must have felt dragging these things that surely held special memories to the curb to be collected with the trash. It made me especially sad because most people here had no flood insurance. There was no need; most of the neighborhoods aren't in flood plains. Yet, I knew from watching the news every night that the people of Nashville were not defeated. They were calm and confident that life would go on. As I drove, I wondered HOW these people, whose entire lives worth of things had been destroyed, could remain hopeful.

When I arrived at my parents' house, every bit of dread that I had about spending the day cleaning mold from walls disappeared, and I was overwhelmed with gratefulness. Though water had seeped into their basement, it hadn't destroyed anything but carpet and wall paneling. Nothing meaningful would be dragged to their curb today.

While working in mom's storage room, I came across my dad's old collection of jazz albums, so we listened to Ella Fitzgerald while we scrubbed and scraped and scrubbed. And we talked. And we laughed. And when it came time for lunch, disgustedly dirty as we were, we decided to eat outside on the patio together. Our own little Mother's Day picnic.

At the end of the day, my entire body ached. As I type this, I am so tired that my eyelids are drooping. But my heart is full. I know now WHY the people of Nashville are so full of hope and peace. They have seen the best of each other through this difficult time. And once you've experienced the joy of the human spirit, no THING means quite as much.

I'll never forget this beautiful Mother's Day weekend. God bless all you mommies out there... especially those of you in Nashville. :-)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


This past weekend it began to rain here. And it rained. And it rained. And it rained. As a result of the unprecedented amount of rain, my hometown experienced historic flooding. My family and I were extremely blessed that our home was not affected. However, many many Tennesseans lost everything in the flood — all of their belongings, their homes, their cars, their pets ... and most devastatingly the death toll has risen to 18 and is expected to continue to rise as the flood waters recede and reveal what's underneath.

I wanted to use this blog as a tool to hopefully gain support for those in need here. I was born in this beautiful state. My family lives here. My friends live here. I love Tennessee and am so sad to see it suffer through such a trying time. But I also am confident in its resilience. They don't call it the volunteer state for nothing. In the coming days I know neighbors will contribute what they can, be it money, things or time. Strangers will bond over food drives, bake sales and clothing drives. Volunteers will roll up their sleeves and dive right in. And once the murky waters recede, we will renew this lovely land. And we will be stronger.

Please help if you can.
• According to the Nashville Business Journal, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is partnering with the Mayor's Office of Emergency Managment to collect donations to support local flood relief and clean-up efforts. Donations can be made online at
• By texting "REDCROSS" to 90999, you can donate $10 to disaster relief or visit to offer a donation.
• Hands On Nashville also is coordinating many volunteer efforts. To see what you can do, visit

Every little bit counts. Every act, every prayer, every penny. Thank you!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Today I ran across a quote I quite liked: "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." I thought those words by Ralph Waldo Emerson were especially fitting for today, Earth Day.

A few years ago, I became determined to do my part to preserve a bit of nature for my boys to enjoy as they grow. I started buying those twisty light bulbs. I became more vigilant in recycling. I became more disciplined in using my reusable grocery bags. I switched to as many natural cleaners as I could. I began buying more organic groceries ... I was determined to tread lightly on this earth.

I had no idea, at the time, that those actions would instill a since of responsibility on my own children to do their part. Now they remind me when I forget my bags. They remember to turn the light off (most of the time) when they leave a room. They help their father take recyclables to the local recycling center on the weekends. It has become a way of life.

Today I plan on planting something with my boys. I plan on using my reusable bag at the store. And I plan on being just a little more patient, as Mr. Emerson says is nature's secret. Most of all, I plan on being ever so grateful for this beautiful earth with which we've been so blessed.

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A painful reminder

Today I was making up my oldest boys' bunk bed and my littlest son was in the room with me playing with the pile of pillows and stuffed animals I had tossed on the floor in the process. All of a sudden I heard a little thud. He had accidentally bumped his head on the bunk-bed ladder as he bent down to retrieve a toy. Crocodile tears welled up, as he began to cry. In a rush to finish the bed before the timer for the cookies in the oven went off, I gave him a quick kiss on the forehead and said, "See? All better!" and turned to get back to work. I didn't have time for a full fledged pity party. I had work to do and the day quickly was passing me by. As I turned to finish making up the bed, I promptly bonked my head (very hard) on the upper bunk (which, in my opinion, is too close to the bottom bunk, but I digress...). Talk about a little message from God. I got it loud and clear... painfully clear. Ouch!!

Now my little man and I both have little red marks on our foreheads. A little reminder to him to be more careful as he learns to maneuver himself through this world. A little reminder to me to be a little more empathetic to his needs.

The house work can wait. Crocodile tears must be wiped. Hugs must be given. Sometimes it takes a bonk on the head to remind us. :-)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thank You

Just when you think that you have them figured out, they go and surprise you again. That's the amazing thing about children. Earlier today, my middle child, who's 5, brought me a picture he'd drawn of a little guy smiling with his hands up in the air. I said, "What's he doing?" My son said, "He's reaching for God... to say, 'Thank you.'" My heart melted. How precious is this child of mine, I ask??

These are the moments that make every day worthwhile. Here we were just doing our own thing. I was typing away on the computer, he was drawing in his notebook and my littlest was trying on hard hats and playing with his Woody the cowboy toy. An ordinary day. Then all of a sudden my 5-year-old brings me this picture — totally out of the blue. We hadn't even been discussing God or being thankful. We even forgot to say our bedtime prayers last night. So I was quite surprised to see this picture. I don't know why I should be surprised, though. That's the truly fascinating part about parenting ... watching your children grow into their own little people, with defined personalities and their very own thoughts. It's the most gratifying part of my "job" as mom.

After seeing his picture, my own thoughts immediately reached up to God to say, "Thank you." How did I get to be so blessed?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spinning plates

Have you ever seen those performers who spin plates on the end of sticks? Once they get one going, they start another one spinning. On and on it goes until the crowd applauds. As a mommy, I feel like I'm one of those plate spinners.

Eight years ago I had my oldest son and started the first plate spinning. Completely devoid of motherly knowledge (I had never even babysat an infant), I was scared to death that plate would fall and break. But it didn't.

Five years ago, I set the next plate to spinning when I had my second son. With experience under my belt, I was less concerned about letting that plate fall. I knew what I was doing. However, when post-partum blues hit me like a brick, that stick got shakey. On the advice of a wonderful friend, I sought help from my doctor, and a situation that could have spun out of control didn't.

Eighteen months ago, I added another plate to the repertoire. I was a pro at this by now. Everything has run amazingly smoothly, and every day I am thankful for my three blessings.

In addition to those mommy plates, I have set other plates spinning. When you're a mom, you take on other responsibilities all the time to enhance the lives of your children. Whether it's helping with homework, having one-on-one conversations about the bully in class, reading bedtime stories, wiping tears of frustration, patching up skinned knees, being the loudest cheerleader on the soccer sidelines... There's much work to be done. By now, I'd say I have at least 50 plates spinning. It's a delicate balancing act.

I read the other day about another mommy who just couldn't seem to find time to focus on herself because life had become just too hectic. She had written in on a forum asking for advice. It was a nice reminder that even though we as mommies feel it is our duty to put everyone else first, we also need to set some time out for ourselves.

I am extremely grateful to have a husband that allows me to do this every day. The minute he comes home from work, I hand him the kids, and he becomes the juggler for at least an hour. During that time, I workout. They know not to bother me unless someone is bleeding or unconscious. We don't even answer the phone. So if you call my house between 6 and 7:30 p.m., chances are no one will answer. I'm busy with "me" time and he's busy with "buddy" time. I think every mom needs that time to reboot, collect herself and remind herself that she is important too.

After all, without her steady hands, who would keep those plates spinning?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Civility and a cinnamon bun

Today, my littlest boy and I had coffee (well, he had apple juice) and a cinnamon bun with a dear friend of mine from high school. She is one of those friends you can lose contact with for years and then pick up a conversation with as if you'd never paused. In fact, we did lose contact with each other for several years. After high school we both went our separate ways to college. Our lives took different paths. Very different. During those years of self discovery, she became a strong conservative Republican. In fact, she went into politics after school. While I was away at college, I discovered that, though I was brought up in an extremely conservative home, I was a liberal Democrat.

After nearly a decade of not being in touch with each other, she and I reconnected about eight years ago. At the time, she was working on the campaign of a prominent Republican, and I was still driving around with a Gore/Lieberman bumper sticker on my car. Despite our difference in political opinions, we picked up our friendship right where it left off. Now it just wouldn't be an ordinary day without touching base with her on Facebook. We have a truly bipartisan friendship.

Today while sipping coffee and eating our cinnamon buns, we caught up on gossip. And we even talked politics. When we were leaving I told her that we should run for office since we are the picture of how government should operate. Two sides listening to each other, respecting each other and valuing the good in each other.

Civility and a cinnamon bun. Two very wonderful things. :–)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A whole new world

My 8-year-old, who just learned how to read two and a half years ago, just finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. A 734-page novel. Did I mention he's 8?

When he was a baby he really took to books. I'd keep a basket full of children's picture books in the family room, and he'd go through it daily, thumbing through the pages. Too little to talk or understand the words, he would study each picture. Story time was an expected part of bedtime. Most nights my husband would read to him during "buddy time."

When he entered kindergarten and started learning how to read, I kept telling him how exciting it was to learn to read a book by yourself. He'd see me reading novels and ask, "Mommy, HOW can you read a book without pictures??" I told him that when you become a good reader, you draw your own pictures in your mind. The words help you to paint the world that you are reading. When he entered the first grade, he began reading Magic Treehouse books and finally understood. He couldn't get enough. We now have nearly all of the 40-something-book set. Though always on a budget, I never have felt guilty for buying my kids books. I look at books as an investment, not an indulgence.

This year, he asked me if he could begin the Harry Potter series. I was hesitant because I was afraid he wouldn't understand them. Not only are they longer than any other books he had read, they also are written by a British author, in British dialect, and are much more complex than what he was used to... but he wore me down. His brother gave him Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in December, and since then, he has taken off. After he completes each book, we watch the movie as a special treat. It amazes me how he can tell me in which chapter each scene occurs... and in most cases, he can tell me the specific page!

I don't write this to say that my child is a genius or prodigy... (though to me he's a superhero)... I write this because I am bursting with pride that my child has discovered this whole new world of reading. And he loves it. I didn't discover my love of books until I was an adult. I can only imagine if I would have fell in love with books sooner. I am so happy for him.

His love of reading has rubbed off on his little brother now, who's 5. He now keeps his very own basket of books that he totes around with him. And oftentimes at night I can hear my oldest reading to him when it's well past bedtime... but I don't gripe.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Catching Leprechauns

Eight more days, well actually seven. That's how many more days my boys and I have until we perfect our leprechaun trap. When my oldest child was in kindergarten a couple of years ago, his class, led by an amazing teacher, made a leprechaun trap. You see, the week leading up to St. Patrick's Day, someone kept coming into their classroom at the oddest times, when the kids were at recess or lunch, and would trash the place... papers on the floor, disheveled books, chairs fallen over... The teacher told the class that in the past, she had problems with tiny leprechauns sneaking into her classroom around St. Patrick's Day looking for a place to hide his gold. So the children built the a trap, hoping to catch the leprechaun AND his gold. Sadly, the children didn't catch any leprechauns that year.

Last year, my boys and I constructed our own leprechaun trap. We took an old box and covered the top with paper, in hopes that the leprechaun would fall through and be trapped. My oldest child even drew a picture on the outside of the box telling the leprechaun that there was gold inside. Alas, the little bugger escaped our trap, left a trail of green behind and some gold-wrapped chocolates and a cute poem for the boys.

This St. Patrick's Day, my boys are a little older, a little wiser and a lot craftier. I'm hoping we can construct the perfect leprechaun trap. We've got mere days to start. I wonder what our little friend will leave us this year? *wink*

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A comforting creation

I love to cook. I love the way that making a meal at the end of a stressful day can be so relaxing. I love the way creating something delicious gives such a sense of pride and accomplishment. I rarely cook big meals these days. But on days like this, when the air is crisp and cold, I crave comfort. And tonight, I found comfort in the kitchen.

I decided to make a big pot of homemade minestrone. The entire house smells of it, as I type. When I finish posting this, I plan on fixing myself a big bowl of it along with a big chunk of crusty, multi-grain bread and a nice glass of cabernet. Pure comfort. I thought I'd share the recipe with you folks. Bon appetit!

Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of dry ditalini pasta
6 cups of organic/free-range chicken broth
7 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large yellow onion (or two small onions), roughly chopped
1 cup carrots, diced (I use the baby carrots -- they're easier to prep)
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1 14-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-oz can petite diced tomatoes
3 large zucchini, chopped
1 large russet potato, chopped
1 sweet potato, chopped
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 dried or fresh bay leaf

Cook the ditalini pasta until al dente, as directed on package. Drain, rinse then drizzle with olive oil and set aside.
In a large dutch oven, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom (a couple of tablespoons should do), add the garlic and cook just for a minute on medium-high. DON'T burn it!! Reduce heat to medium and add the carrots and onions. Cook until the veggies are soft and the onion is transparent, but not browned. Add the rosemary and oregano and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat to high and add the cannellini beans, diced tomatoes, sweet potato, russet potato and zucchini. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste and bay leaf and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer until all the veggies are tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Right before serving, add the pasta and remove the bay leaf. Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese if you like. And serve with crusty bread.

And there you have it... a comforting creation.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lewis and Lent

I just love C.S. Lewis. His words are like little lightbulbs that illuminate the mind. This morning I was looking for some reassuring words of wisdom from Mr. Lewis about Lent, and he didn't fail me.

He writes in Mere Christianity:

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is ... A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.

"A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later." I LOVE this! There go those lightbulbs.

Each year I try to give something up for Lent. It's always easier to give something up during this holiest time of year. It seems like the least I can do as an act of gratitude and submission to God. This year I'm giving up curse words, an ugly little habit I picked up while working long, frustrating hours in a newsroom after college. For some reason, only four-letter words can make you feel SO good when you've slammed your finger in a drawer or been cut off in traffic. However, they aren't very appropriate when little ears are around. It's a hard habit to shake and one I haven't really wanted to until now. But the other day when I was out and about, I heard a woman use some of my favorite four-letter words at the grocery store when she was talking to her friend, and I thought, "Do I sound like that??" I was mortified. I don't want my children to remember me like that, "She was a good mom, but she could cuss like a sailor at times.." So here goes...

I'm also giving up workout rest days. My workouts keep me grounded and happy and at peace with the world. And I'll need that if I can't cuss any longer. :-)

It will be a sacrifice. I have a feeling I'll be reminding myself often of Mr. Lewis' sage words. But mostly, I'll be thinking of the amazing sacrifice that was made for me many years ago on a cross in Jerusalem.

Happy Lent, everyone!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My funny Valentine

My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Yet you're my favorite work of art

A few years ago, I gave my husband a Valentine "mix" CD filled with love songs instead of a cheesy card. He loved it. The first song was Elvis Costello's version of My Funny Valentine. It perfectly sums up how we feel about each other. We may not be perfect, but to each other, we are our "favorite work of art."

I met my husband 15 years ago when I was working at my college newspaper. I was a reporter, and he, in an effort to score football tickets, was a photographer. We first were great friends. Then we began dating. We dated for exactly three years before we tied the knot. Eleven years and three children later, I love him more today than I did then. Maybe it's the history we've created together, maybe it's the bond that parenthood brings or maybe it's that our friendship always has been at the core of our relationship. We make each other laugh. We accept each other's flaws. We love each other, not despite our quirks but because of them.

Saturday night, my husband took me to see the a special Valentine show by the symphony. There were people of all kinds in the audience. Directly in front of us sat a couple who looked plain as could be. Totally unassuming. The man in his T-shirt and parka and the woman with no makeup or jewelry, looked to have been married for at least 20 years, a level of comfort had set in to their relationship. After each song, she would look at her husband and just smile. Next to them sat another couple who looked to be newly weds. He in his suit, and she in her frilly black dress and salon-done hair sat hand-in-hand. At the end of each song, they would look into each other's eyes and kiss. It was nice to see all of the people with the ones they loved, each in different stages of relationships. Some old, some young. Some simple, some extravagant. But no matter what each person looked like, next to them sat someone who found them absolutely perfect -- like a work of art.

And next to me, sat my funny Valentine. How in the world did I get to be so blessed?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Last night I spontaneously combusted. Well, perhaps it wasn't too spontaneous. While attempting to boil water (insert obvious joke here) I bent down to retrieve a storage container that had fallen on the floor and my hair hit the flame on the gas burner. I heard a loud "Woosh!" and up in flames I went. At first I thought, "Hmm... what was that noise?" then I saw the sparks falling from my head and I knew right away. I quickly remembered what I had learned in elementary school: "STOP, DROP and ROLL!!" So, I dropped to my kitchen floor and began rolling around. After extinguishing myself, I looked up at my 16-month-old who was peering down at me, grinning, as if I had staged the whole incident for his entertainment.

The next thing I knew, the fire alarm began going off, and my two oldest came running downstairs to see what was on fire. Once I explained it had been me, I quickly used the experience as a learning opportunity — mostly just to restore some credibility. In my now-brown sweater, burnt hairs falling from my head, I said in my stern mommy voice, "This is why I don't let you guys get near the stove while I'm cooking." My 5 year old simply looked into my eyelash-singed eyes and said, "Gee mom, you really smell bad!"

I was OK though. My ego and my hair remain a bit singed, and my favorite comfy sweater has smoke damage. But nevertheless, I'm OK.

But tonight — we're ordering pizza.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Marshmallow World

Have you ever heard the song
A Marshmallow World by Bing Crosby?

It's a marshmallow world in the winter
When the snow comes to cover the ground
It's the time for play, it's a whipped cream day
I wait for it the whole year round...

I love this song. It sums up exactly how I feel about the few precious snow days that we get each year. When I was a little girl, I adored the winter. When the weatherman predicted snow, I'd pray and pray that we'd have a blizzard. And, inevitably, each year we'd receive our few, coveted snow days. No matter what time of night the snow began, my mother would wake us up and let us know, "It's snowing!" The next morning, we'd bundle up tight in layers upon layers of clothes and go play. Our house had a very steep hill in the back yard. The hill went straight down, then leveled off, and there was a shallow ditch between my parent's house and the house behind them and a fence bordering the neighbor's yard. We'd dig the sled and the snow saucer out of the garage and sled down the hill. If you were lucky enough to be on the sled with my dad, then you could zip down the hill, hit the ditch, go airborne and plow into the neighbor's chain-link fence. It was thrilling!

I lived in the same house from the time I was born until I went to college, so this became my favorite family tradition. My parents still live in that house. My sister and her family made the trek out there this morning just so they could sled the old hill. No doubt my mother will make her traditional snowman too. One year, she made a big snowman, decked him out in sunglasses and a sun hat and put our beach umbrella and lounge chair by him. The neighbors loved it. Each year she tried to top herself. Her snowmen are legendary.

When I moved to Alabama, I would cry every winter when I'd see the weather map show white over Tennessee. I missed the snow so so much. Now that I'm back in Tennessee I have my winters back. I have my snow again! Now I'm bundling up little ones to go outside and play. It's no easy feat. I appreciate my my mother even more now because I know what a hassle it is to bundle up little ones. And though I still get amazingly frustrated with the fact that children cannot seem to understand the one-finger-per-finger-slot rule of gloves, I know that the stress of bundling up is well worth it. The warmer my kids are, the longer we can play outside in our marshmallow world.

Today we got about 3 inches of snow, and tonight they are predicting another few inches. I cannot wait!!