family life

Secrets from my children

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” Benjamin Franklin, “Poor Richard’s Almanack”

She almost caught me. Just when I was looking longingly at a newspaper circular for elastic-waisted pants — the mom jeans to end all mom jeans — my youngest daughter strolled through the kitchen. I flipped the paper over in a flurry. I didn’t want a horrified, “Moooom!” that early in the morning.

If she has her way, I will be wearing jeans that lift this, enhance that until I am dead and, quite possibly, beyond. Little does she know my little secret, however. (Imagine a devious smile here.) For several years, I have been buying all my jeans a size too big and altering the waist so they don’t slide down. Fashionable? Yes. Comfortable? Oh, yeah.

Ditto on the shoes. Shhhh! There are no pointy toes in my closet and there never will be. I’ve got boots, flats, sandals and on and on. Everything a younger woman might have. But, no pointy toes. (I also have Birkenstock knock offs that I wear with socks, but she can’t say a thing as these are oddly fashionable with teens at the moment. Go figure.)

It’s not that one’s children really need to know everything about their parents anyway. The fact that the palm I just re-potted and tucked into the corner of the kitchen came out of a neighbor’s garbage pile is none of their business, for example. “Help me, pleeaassse,” it said. What could I do? The fact I can “hear” plants is similarly my own.

As is my stash of chocolate. Enough said?


spiritual life, writing

Life 101: 4 lessons from the news

“A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.” Arthur Miller, American playwright

Watching the news in the last few weeks has been sobering. No matter how you look at it, America and, indeed, the world are not in their finest hour. As writing news is what I do for a living, however, I may look at the unending mayhem in a different way. One, news reports can give direction to our prayers. Two: News offers continual talking points for parents.

The latter is what has particularly been on my mind lately. Mid-life mom and church lady that I am, I’ve come up with four news-illustrated truths I hope will sink deep into our daughters’ souls and minds.

  1. We live in a fallen world; so don’t expect life to be “fair.” Hurricanes can sweep your house down. You might not get the job, the man, the situation you want, or at least not when you want. There is way more illness and injury, abuse and neglect than you will ever want to know about. Justice is not always served. Sometimes, in fact, the guilty go unpunished and the righteous are murdered in the street. (God knows exactly what happened to you and who did it, my slain fellow journalists! Your blood cannot be silenced.)
  2. Some people will take a bullet for you; others are not even safe to be around. There is often a very sad backstory and God is able to deliver, but some people are just not safe. Wise people will take this into account and not put themselves or their children into situations in which their well-being is dependent on the goodwill or lawfulness of unproven acquaintances, particularly those who are drunk or high.
  3. God is able. No matter how corrupt the official, the organization or even the church — God is able. No matter how violent, how hellbent the offender — God is able. No matter how sick, how disabled, how unemployed, how tragic, how hopeless, how suicidal, how loveless the situation appears to be — God is able. Therefore: Don’t try to keep Him in a tiny box. Set God loose in your life and see for yourself that He is good.
  4. And so are you. Because He is good, your hope is pinned on something that will not fail or disappoint — no matter how impossible the news makes such a thing seem. You can make wise choices. You can rise above this troubled world. You can hope. You can help. You can shine with joy instead of living in fear. So, go. Shine on and on and on!
family life, women

Listening to the season 2

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Anne Frank, writer, hate-resisting firebrand

The other day, our youngest daughter asked me to get something on a high shelf in the kitchen. Our house is old. Our cabinets are exceedingly high, built no doubt for a year’s worth of canned goods. So, I got up on my tip toes and reached in a manner than would impress any yoga instructor. As I have done for the last decade plus.

Then, I sunk back down on my heels. “Wait a minute,” I said. “You’re as big as I am. You get it.” We looked at each other and laughed. It’s true. Anything that is within my reach is now within her reach.

Both of our daughters are now somewhat bigger than I am, in fact. A sudden growth spurt that caused even the older daughter, who hadn’t grown in nearly two years, to move from petites to plain old clothes came upon us this summer. They literally grew like weeds in garden soil, like shelter puppies of mysterious ancestry, like piles of laundry.

So, today, when both of them headed back to school, a bit bleary eyed given the insanity of the hour, they looked more ready than ever. So tall. So grown up. So ready.

Everything is in reach.

family life, women

Mothering fails

“A suburban mother’s role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car for ever after.” Peter DeVries, American satirist

Oh, for the days when I actually knew what I was doing as a mother. I would go into a grocery store, see a toddler with orange popsicle smeared on her face and give a silent tsk-tsk at the mother. Or, I would read a newspaper account about a toddler running off while mom or dad slept. “What is their problem?” I would wonder.

Then, I had children.

We actually had to install strings of bells on both the front and back doors of our house to keep one of our daughters corralled during her toddlerhood. Once, when my back was turned in the garden, she made an epic break for it. “She’s on the loose,” her older sister yelled. Fortunately for us all, the errant one’s little legs could only keep up Olympic-sprinter speed for so long. I caught up with her in a mere quarter of a mile. (This daughter now runs track…)

There were also not only dirty shirt fronts and faces that occasionally made it out into public view, I sent one daughter to kindergarten with her jeans on backwards. I didn’t notice until she came bouncing out on the playground at the end of the day with a zipper running up her backside.

Then, there was the trio of broken bones in just over a year. One broken arm acquired on a playground while I was about five feet away. One broken leg acquired dancing around on the hardwood floors of our own house. The last, another arm break, happened during a school gym class. Witnesses, thank God. People were probably starting to wonder.

“Is something wrong with them?” I asked our pediatrician. I was referring to the girls’ bones. Mostly. He smiled. He has four children, two of them twin boys. “They’re just … active,” he replied and smiled again. By “active,” we both knew he meant, “mountain wild.”

And, so it has gone. I’ve had some failures as a mom. We’ve had tears, raised voices — and moments of camaraderie I didn’t know could exist. By the grace of God, our daughters are not only still alive, they’re lovely young ladies who no longer go around with dirty faces, uncombed hair or backwards pants. I must have done something right.

For all you other moms, you have, too, no matter what today’s circumstances might try to tell you. An early Happy Mother’s Day to us all!