In the Changing Room

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

I see the soft capes draped over the models. They look perfect for our mild winter temps in South Florida. But I know what they’ll look like on me. Or, rather, what I’ll look like with them draped over my 5’4” frame. 

The same can be said for some cuts of jeans or the trendy untucked shirts. I’m not the 111 pounds I was at 18 and 20 extra pounds make a huge difference on the hips of a borderline petite person. I will look squatty and feel dumpy. 

Sometimes I will buy the shirt anyway. I will convince myself it’s only my eyes that see this, and that may be so. But one day, I’ll put it on and what looked good in the dressing room looks bulky and frumpy now. 

Up and down I go, trying to hold on to things no longer there: youth.

When I fit into the demographic called young, I knew my purpose and felt sure of it. I was confident in mothering. I was sure of my place in the church as a respected and valued leader. I considered it a privilege to be counted on to shuttle our kids classes on field trips and to sports games. 

I knew what was ahead. Most of the time. There was a certainty to life.

And then I blinked.

I wonder if this is how Rip Van Winkle felt when he woke from his years of sleeping. I’ve wakened to a time of unknowing and uncertainty. Mothering has changed and become more difficult as I’m not always certain when, or how, I’m needed. (The double edge of raising good, able, smart adults.)

Retirement is coming is now weeks away and what started as a fun thought is fraught with fear and uncertainty.

My youth is gone but not my life. There is more, much more to come.  But I’m not the same size and I’m not sure what fits?

I’m back in the dressing room realizing the low rise jeans aren’t working anymore nor is the size 6. Do I really HAVE to shop in the women’s department? Am I relegated to Ann Taylor or Chico’s? No offense but they aren’t my style.

That’s how life feels these days. I appreciate today’s technology and not having to worry about long distance charges to talk to friends and family on the phone. I try to stay current with culture and trends. I’m just not sure I fit into any of it.

Perhaps the best thing this part of life offers is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all pattern. It’s going to be custom made, one of a kind, for me.

“You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.” Psalm 139:13-16 Message

Mother’s Day 2019 The baby is grown up with her own “baby”

Naming the Losses – Embracing Hope

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

From my art journal

The word I chose for this year is embrace. I want to be mindful to take hold of what is in front of me be it change or grief.

One of the tangible things I’ve begun as I process my grief is to name things I’d lost. My hope is that specificity would help me name what my feelings represent.

Two specific areas have impacted my life: frequent moving and the loss of parents.  Here’s what I wrote several months ago.

Loss (as it pertains to moving)

  • Schools
  • friends
  • familiar place
  • doctors and dentist
  • hair salon
  • stores
  • knowing where you’re going
  • belonging
  • culture of place
  • sense of history
  • knowing where you’re from

The loss of a parent:

  • confidence
  • cheerleader
  • shared history
  • teacher
  • one who has known you all of your life
  • family stories
  • wisdom
  • encouragement
  • stories you’ve yet to ask them

Recently I’ve added these losses:O

  • Youth
  • position
  • titles
  • recognition
  • job
  • pets
  • home

Moving has had as much impact on me as my parent’s divorce. Perhaps it’s because their divorce created and accelerated the moving to once every 6 months during my high school years.

Moving, no matter the circumstances, is considered one of life’s major stressors. By the time I was 17 I had lived in 13 cities, 7 states and attended 13 schools from grades 1-12.

I think there is value in naming our loss. I believe it helps validate our feelings. It reminds me there is a legitimate reason for my feelings. I don’t have to stay in mourning but there are reasons grief looms like a shadow in my life.

If grief is going to be my faithful companion I’m going to do my best to learn what it has to teach me.

I’m going to let it move me to the point of tears but I’m also going to let it move me through the tears. 

Yes, grief is the process of sorrow. People will say you’re so brave to go through this. Grieving isn’t the brave part. Having hope is brave

Feel your way through the grief and embrace the hope of a new beginning.

Moving On or Moving Forward?

This man is talking about grief and one month and one day ago my sister-in-law, sitting in front of me, leaves the room. Her eyes are red with tears ready to spill. She has this thing about tears being weakness and not showing tears to anyone. Ever. But they flood her eyes.

I know that line of defense and it doesn’t work. Tears are often beyond our control and aren’t about weakness at all. The first part I know from experience. Tears come at the worst times and you can only blame allergies or contacts so many times before people catch on. 

The second part, that tears aren’t about weakness is what I want to believe. I think it is true. But. To not be in control always feelsweak, so tears are visible signs of weakness. This is what is ingrained in my being and what I’m fighting to dispel.

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.” ― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

Dr. Pue is talking about grief and it’s the third time this month we’ve been in the room with the grieving. The children and grandchildren, the spouse, friends…we’ve stood alongside, hugged close and listened to their stories.

At its best, grief spills out in stories. The grieving smile and laugh and for a moment the heart is not weighed down by loss and sorrow. In the quiet, in the alone time when visitors and family have left, the same stories that brought laughter bring tears and an ache that won’t be soothed.

“Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?” ― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

People want to remind us it’s time to move on. It sounds cold and the words sting as how can we move on from love?

Dr. Carson Pue reframes this thought as he describes it this way:

“There’s a difference between moving on and moving forward. Moving on, implies we leave the other behind but moving forward…no, moving forward leaves no one behind.”

The time to move forward will come. And we can do this without fear or sorrow when we remember we move forward together.

Love is never left behind. 

5 Good Things

1. sons
Our second child was a boy. It’s nearly incomprehensible how much joy both of our children bring. I delight in the differences between daughters and sons. We have been through challenging times with this boy. Perhaps that is what makes the joy so full.

2. breakfast
I’ve always been a breakfast person even when it meant a carton of chocolate milk picked up at the convenience store. Most of my life it’s been little more than cereal and milk. The past few years it’s become a more intentional menu. After visiting Israel I came home eating yogurt most days for breakfast. Greek yogurt, nuts, honey and hot tea, preferably Tazo Organic Chai…..yum!

3. community worship
I’m lousy at personal worship. I’m impatient and self-conscious and all of that. But coming together with others and seeing their expressions is where I find a deeper appreciation.

4. rhythm
I like complicated beats. The kind that aren’t always expected. A syncopated rhythm or at least one with with hesitation. It draws me in. Makes me notice. But the subtle rhythms of life are the ones that trip me up. I don’t know what takes me so long to notice them and make the connections they are drawing in my life.

5. old things
An old manual typewriter sits not far from where I sit now. It doesn’t work well. You can’t get a piece of paper in it because the paper wheel doesn’t grab properly. But I like seeing it. The record player across the room isn’t as obvious. It plays vinyl but it’s not old. It’s made to look like a replica and has a few modern hookups. I learned to type on a manual but one perhaps not this old. I asked for a record player for my 15 birthday and had one until getting the new things called c.d. players in the 80’s. Today even the younger ones are turning back to what is old. They wear wireless headphones while listening to needles glide across vinyl records. Amazing.

The best old things are friends.

The Perfect Side of Boring

Yesterday was the reason people live in South Florida. The skies were a cloudless blue. Humidity was low and the temperature never got above a pleasant 80*. It was perfect. It’s January and this is our winter. 

My freshman English teacher assigned us to write how we envisioned the world. I don’t remember the words I wrote only her comments written in red on the top of my paper. I wrote my vision of a perfect world and she wrote “how boring” that would be.

She didn’t know my parents had divorced earlier that year and that my dad took my younger brother and moved to another state. She didn’t know mom and I also moved and were living far from family. She didn’t know my perfect world had been turned upside down.

How could there be a problem with perfect? If it were boring it wouldn’t be perfect. How did my teacher not get that?

In the years since I’ve learned a lot about perfection and perspective. I know that most of our days are average and ordinary. They are doing the mundane things that must be done. We’re buying groceries and preparing meals. We’re doing laundry and washing dishes, sitting in meetings and standing in lines. We’re fighting traffic in our daily commute while trying to remember everything on our to-do list for the day.

If we’re honest, on the days nothing breaks down they are perfect. And perhaps, some would say, boring. 

So what is perfect? Is it blue skies and 80* in winter? 

If I could, I’d live somewhere else July – September. The humidity is stifling and temperatures rarely get below 77. Heat + humidity = feels like in the 90’s. Every day, month after muggy month.

But we stay because we love palm trees and the close proximity to the ocean. We know the promise of winter. The same reasons some stay through snowy winters. They know the promise of summer.

Perfect is personal. That’s what my teacher didn’t understand.

When my parents divorced I still went to school, mom and I still went to church. We did all the same things but it wasn’t the same. What was ordinary before now looked perfect. Obviously it wasn’t for my parents but it was for my 13 year old self.

It would seem the route to perfection is through hard times. Through times that aren’t comfortable. The prettiest roses I’ve seen grow in climates with cold, snowy winters. 

The weather is simply an analogy for how it is in life. It helps me see that a day of doing all the things can be perfect, if not spectacular. 

Write 31 Days {week 4}

This is the last full week of October’s writing challenge. I’m enjoying culling through my photos to see what is sparked by the prompts. It’s not always the obvious. I’m trying to stretch my mind though some days….there isn’t much to stretch. You can follow me on Instagram to see my previous posts or check them out here: week 1, week 2, week 3.


21 | start

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

Start a book, a garden, a family. Start singing. Start dancing. Start living.

22 | help

My husband and I are Administrators of a residential rehabilitation program. People come to us for some kind of help. Some come seeking shelter from the streets thinking they just need food and rest. Some are looking for a magic cure. But they come searching for help. Help is easy to offer. That’s what we do. 

As I walked down the hall trying to balance the boxes I had in my arms one of the residents called out, “Need help?” “I got it”, I replied as I continued toward the door. He was persistent as he said a littler more firmly, “Let us help you.”

Me? Need help? He caught me. Yes, I could have managed the load I was carrying but to be honest, it was nice to have someone notice the load and want to share it with me. I want to think that accepting his help actually helped us both.

There’s an old hymn we sing we often sing that reminds us who is our true help.

“Are we weak and heavy-laden,

  Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge—

  Take it to the Lord in prayer;

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

  Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,

  Thou wilt find a solace there.”


23 | common

Shells are as common to our South Florida landscape as fall leaves are in the northeast. What’s ordinary to one isn’t to another which is our cue to take note of the every day things around us. The simple and familiar are where our gratitude begins.


24 | brief

The lifespan of a butterfly is brief. Yet in it’s time it does what it was created to do. 


25 | capture

Like so many others, this young one is watching for a wave to capture. Often, they spend more time waiting. Perhaps the anticipation is part of the lure. 


26 | celebrate

11 years ago I stroked my daughter’s hair as she gave birth to her daughter. We celebrate the grand’s birthday this weekend. We’ve been to parties at parks, bounce places and zip lines but this year we’re being banished. After we eat at her choice of restaurants and watch her open her presents, that is. This year she’s having a sleepover. Even her dad is getting the boot for a girls only night. I expect there will be little sleep and an overflow of giggles.


27 | whole

Our nephew and his bride cut through the whole for the first slice of their wedding cake. This is how we live life – one slice at a time. Make it sweet!


Write 31 Days {week 3}


14 | ask

41 years ago today, the minister asked and we said “I Do” 


15 | When

“Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. ” – Ray Bradbury 

When? Now


16 | Pray

Some of our family live in Panama City, Florida. Hurricane Michael has devastated that community. It will be months before any kind of normal will resume. My brother-in-law made the decision to stay in their home. It was a category 2 storm when they went to bed Tuesday night. No one was forecasting it would be a strong cat 4 when the country woke up Wednesday morning. This photo is of one of the rooms in their house. He and his wife stood where they thought it was safest as the winds snapped a big pine tree in their yard that fell on their roof and rolled on to the back of his truck. They are thankful to have survived along with their sons and families there. But as the needs of this community fade from the headlines (as they are) please don’t forget to pray for them. Pray for electricity and clean water to be restored. For hospitals and schools to be able to reopen. For needs to be met and strangers to come together as neighbors.  Pray for each other.


17 | Pause

This beach is where we go to pause. Lucky for us it’s only a 20 minute drive and worth the congested traffic. The limitless horizon, the sky that is never the same, the palm trees waving their crowns, the ebb and flow of the tide…all of this part of creation is like breathing. It’s where I can finally exhale and inhale God’s grace.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 the Message

18 | Search

I search books and music for meaning, for rest, for encouragement and self-improvement. Sometimes in my quieter, darker moments I’ve even searched for God. I’ve found he’s never far. He’s in the words, the melodies, the smiles and tears. He’s in each life-giving breath.

“His purpose in all this was that people of every culture and religion would search for this ultimate God, grope for Him in the darkness, as it were, hoping to find Him. Yet, in truth, God is not far from any of us.” Acts 17:27 the VOICE


19 | who

The song sticks in my head, unwanted and uninvited. While the WHO were a band of my generation they weren’t a band I followed but that song…….’who are you, who, who, who, who?’ Now it’s on a loop in your head. You’re welcome 😉 

Who is the word prompt for today.  So, who are you? We use descriptors on our tag lines and about pages like mom of two, wife of one…..writer, artist, believer, sister, friend..”  But who are you? If you’re like me it might depend on the day or even the time of the day. I’m not the same at 7 am that I am at 10 am. But those are external things. 

Who I am behind the externals is a deep feeler, an over thinker and someone who desperately wants to give grace to others to the great extent it’s been give me.

So, who are you?


20 | audience

Our great-nephew turned 1 this week. No doubt he is surrounded by an audience of family and friends coming to celebrate his life. He’s my brother’s first grandchild and the delight of his Jefe and Honey (the names are really getting creative!), his aunts of multiple generations and cousins. All of us not living close enough to gobble up baby hugs but we remain his biggest fans.

Life in Pieces

snapped tree

They did the obvious work first: removing the tree that was snapped by 155 mph winds and fell on their roof then rolled onto the back of their truck. They took pictures of the damage for the insurance claim they’d file in the coming days. Then they began picking through the water saturated things inside this house in the Florida panhandle that is a gathering place for our family.

Ten days later and there is no electricity but cell coverage is coming back in spurts. My cousin drove an hour and half away to have wifi and file a claim with their homeowners insurance. They were the only ones inside a restaurant they found open at the beach to celebrate her husband’s 60th birthday. This will be one none of us will forget.

We live 9 hours south and have had our scares with hurricanes. Last year we evacuated as Irma took aim in our direction but unlike Panama City, we escaped a direct hit and Irma’s punch was much lighter. It doesn’t matter if you live in tornado alley, on a fault line or where annual blizzards cover your cars there is nothing to prepare you for sifting through your life amid the ruins of your home.

When my cousin found a spot of cell coverage she called and quickly said, “We’re okay”. In an instant you realize all the stuff is just that and you celebrate life.

We’ve been able to talk to a few times. Each time we speak I hear her old self coming back but this devastating event will remake her like they’ll remake their home.



Boxes of photo albums had expanded with water were pulled from the attic. Some were beyond saving but the ones in frames made it. Pieces of their life sat in piles to save or trash.

She sent texts as she sorted through. I wish I could have been there with her. She’s not a cryer but I know my eyes would have teared up and maybe together we’d have let a few tears fall. We would have found humor where we could because it’s what our family does. But the texts were good. Her words connected us.

As she sifted through the damp and curled pieces she found love letters between she and her husband when they were dating. They had survived Hurricane Michael just as their love has survived. Thirty-eight years of marriage doesn’t come without figurative storms and they’ve had a few. We’ve all had those moments when we surveyed the damage and made decisions to rebuild or not.

Standing in the middle of their house with a gaping hole through the roof, water still puddled on the floor, insulation hanging down through the ceiling, he asked if she wanted to move. It didn’t take my cousin long to answer a definite NO. She reminded him she likes her neighborhood and her neighbors. This is more than a house. It’s where they’ve put roots that are stronger than the trees tossed like toothpicks.

The ruins that remain are looking more like pieces than can be put back together.

“The rainbow doesn’t negate the effects of the storm, 
but does bring light to the dark and is a symbol of hope.”

*As I finished this I got word their water and electricity have been restored!

Write 31 Days {week 2}

This the second week of the writing challenge to write everyday in October. I’m expressing my writing with photos posted on Instagram and posting weekly reviews here. You can find week one here.

Five Minute Friday gives word prompts to direct our writing. If you want to explore the writings of others check out the hashtag #write31days.

Day 7 | Hope


From the tiny acorn, the ones that litter the yard and crunch under your feet, come strong oak trees. The acorn and mustard seed, both small in size, are symbols of hope. Their growth and strength doesn’t come overnight but with waiting. Their growth is not limited by size. Hope in God is always without limitations. 

“Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!” Psalm 131:3 the Message

Day 8 | Comfort


“The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken.” Maya Angelou

Cornbread is one of my comfort foods. My granny made hers in a cast-iron skillet in the oven. She liked to crumble her cornbread in a glass of buttermilk and eat it with a spoon. I just like it slathered with butter. Though it’s pretty good to crumble a bit of it and add to beef stew. Delicious comfort!

Day 9 | Inspire


“Creativity takes courage.” Pablo Picasso

Day 10 | How

“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt  

I wonder if we’re at our strongest when we feel the weakest.

Day 11 | Door


This is a door at Thomas Edison’s winter home in Ft. Myers, FL. (An interesting tour) Edison opened the  door to sight and sound with his inventions of the incandescent light bulb, phonograph, film, and movie camera just to name a few. These days I’m contemplating what new doors will open to a new future. I’m learning to accept not having that answered today. I can accept it because I believe in God who has been called the door. It’s not always easy but faith seldom is.

Day 12 | Praise





The past 10 years we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with extended family in Panama City, Florida. Most years, tables have been put end to end outside to accommodate our growing family. Over the years we’ve added spouses and grandchildren and held space for empty chairs of parents who have passed. 

Each year my cousin (our hostess) has a different way for us to express our thanks. One year there were five corn kernels on our plates. Another year we wrote on construction paper leaves and hung on a branch. It wasn’t the method but the priority and reason we gathered. From youngest to oldest we shared things that filled our hearts with thanks. Music, family, faith, being together, laughter….so much.

This year Hurricane Michael marched through their town with no respect to the families who make their lives there. When my phone lit up with my cousin’s name I answered screaming her name in sheer delight – “Beki!” Her first words were actually, “Breathe….breathe….we’re alright. Our home is destroyed but we’re all okay” A tall pine tree at the corner of their yard came down on their roof and then rolled onto his truck. They were inside their house praying and singing songs of praise. They were scared but the worst had passed and now we were so very thankful for their safety. Gratitude is another form of praise. 

It’s too early to know if we’ll be able to gather for another Thanksgiving celebration in their yard this year. But we will continue to praise as our hearts are full of thanks for each other. 

Day 13 | Talk

I miss this lady.  I miss her laugh and her encouragement. I miss the long talks we had catching up on life from our corners of the country. I miss her heart for service. But all that I miss is held in our memories and passed on to us through her example. 

The Warriors Pose

The last time I sat with her in church was like sitting in a draft. She was next to me, somehow knowing she was in her church of 40 years, but there was a current of air separating her from me. She smiled and I chose to believe it was a smile of familiarity even though she referred to me as “that lady with a nice smile”.

That lady. The one who’d grown inside of her for 9 months, who she’d taken to piano lessons and sewn clothes for. Her first born, first daughter who she instilled an interest in art and a desire for lifelong learning was ‘that lady‘.

She was there in body but there was a presence that was missing. It made the air still, stagnant.

I decided to fly cross country to visit my sister on the first Mother’s Day after mama passed. It felt right to be there, as if it would somehow redeem the loss.

I thought it would be easy.  But when my eyes peeled open in the early morning light on Mother’s Day, sleeping in my nephews room at my sisters house 3000 miles from mine, I missed her. I missed mama sitting next to me not knowing who I was but smiling kindly.

You see, she was a warrior. Her life had been given to fighting for those who couldn’t fight for themselves. She’d organized teams of volunteers to take kids shopping at Christmas. She lead food drives and took coats to families needing protection from the harsh winters. She’d enlisted a whole army who never realized they too were warriors.

Bit by bit we would lose her memories of being a family. The look of uncertainty covered her face. She was lost and searching not only for memories but for words and meaning.There was no fighting Alzheimer’s. It was always going to win.

Somehow her reverence for scripture remained long after our connection was lost.  On my husband’s last visit with me he pulled up a passage from the Bible on his phone and started reading. Her body stilled as she focused all she had on the words being read. She seemed to give a slight nod of affirmation. It was something I held onto as if a small victory had been won.

In yoga, the warrior pose is standing with legs apart and arms stretched outward. It doesn’t appear to be a warrior-like position. Rather than looking like one ready for battle it’s one of complete openness. It was the pose mama held as she fought poverty and loneliness. Compassion always stands firm, arms always outstretched.

Alzheimer’s left ongoing grief in its wake. Grief is stealthy in its attack brought on by the best of memories. It aims for the heart. Some days I want to take the curl-up-in-a-ball-and-watch-Netflix pose. Instead, I allow the grief to wash over me, blinking back the salty tears filling my eyes.  An open heart is stronger than we can imagine. 

I’m a fighter I remind myself. I come from a long line of strong women, women who stood firm in conviction and held their arms wide open for family and strangers. There is no assurance you won’t be hurt. To the contrary, there is evidence you will be hurt. Again and again. But you won’t stop fighting.

It can feel a little like losing but love sometimes does.

Only the truest of warriors expose themselves in battle. They stand unarmed and unprotected, with arms of grace wide open.