Tag Archives: heart bin

All the Books

I am grateful that my kids are readers. I remember when the final child learned to read. It was as if I could let out a giant sigh.

Mission Accomplished!

I have always loved books. As a little girl, I remember being excited about trips to the library or school book club fliers. Caddie Woodlawn came from a school book club flier in fourth grade, I think.

I needed a reminder of the goodness, and my love, of books tonight when I walked up to tuck my youngest in bed and found her digging around underneath it. Just looking for Pony-wa. That was fine until I decided to actually look at what she was doing and realized there were tons of books stuffed under there, too.

What?! I like to read!

Fishing book after book out from under the stuffed animals piled in the crack of her bed, I tried loosely sorting them into stacks in the hall to reshelve. You can see just a few of her very favorites still on the bed.

I’ve read ALL of them, too.

A redeeming factor maybe is that the lost library book that I finally broke down and paid for yesterday was not among the stacks. Also, I found something else in the process.

Those of you who follow the blog know this significance, and I smiled inside while tucking it into my pocket and proceeding to shelve the books in the hall.

Miraculous Change

Miracles can happen. I attest to this in the midst of experiencing miraculous change. I wonder, though, if it is also the result of hard work. Am I in the middle of a miracle? Or is this the fruit of faith?

For years, deep inside my soul, unrest and fear coexisted with a helping of added pressure to perform. It was as if I had lost any ability to make choices. Had I ever experienced the power of active choice?  

I knew how to be passive and allow others to choose for me. I bore a burden of expectations, both other-imposed and self. If you can check off all of the boxes on this big list for everyone else, THEN maybe you can do something for yourself.

It is amazing that I did not self-destruct. In the midst of many struggles and losses, God in his deep kindness kept meaningful parts me intact ~ my singing voice, my body, my health. I am so grateful for that miracle.

There were small spaces that I claimed in the midst of the bigness of life. I found space to exercise, to read my Bible, to listen for the still, small voice, to cultivate what I could of relationships in the midst of whatever chaos was presenting, to care for my children, to love my husband.

I chose to stay open to my husband, even when I could not feel. In the midst of internal loneliness, I continued to engage external connection with him. In the midst of the fear of pregnancy and loss of voice over my body’s capacity to grow and bear children, I kept trying. Trusting. Even when I did not understand and had no words to bring, I tried.

I journaled a lot. It is a miracle that I allowed hard words to flow from my heart to paper.

I said yes to things that terrified me, like traveling internationally to be on a team leading worship at a women’s retreat. I said yes to lowering my guard and letting people peek behind the tinted automatic window of my heart before raising it up when their vision became too intense.

I kept going.

I said yes to an invitation to step deeper into my story at the Journey, parts one and two, with Open Hearts Ministry. I seized the weeks, those two years in a row, in the midst of a full life. I did not wait for the perfect time. That is miraculous.

I started a blog. Not sure of the end, not knowing where it was going, I threw words into cyberspace that would later be read by a woman who would reach back to me when I reached out to her. I risked being seen more closely, and miraculously ended up in a space of transformational friendship.

It feels miraculous that at 45 I am finally connecting with myself on a deeper level. How did this happen? Why now? I do not know. What makes a miracle miraculous?

I did not wake up one morning miraculously changed. I fought for my heart every step of the way and allowed others to fight for me, as well. God fought for me when I could do nothing but stand still and see his salvation. I let people in and relinquished the control that I held so tightly, concerning what people saw in me, when they saw it, and how.

Miraculously, healing came. Seasons and spaces of small heart miracles, sometimes involving just getting out of bed, led to this latest big miracle breaking open over my head, shattering and spilling me out all over the place. Slowing me down.

Your voice is slower.

You sounded different in your voicemail. Slower.

Wow! It’s already 7:00! Usually you have to leave to get somewhere else after this much time.

These words and more were spoken over me in the days following the most current miraculous. It was on the heels of my third weekend in Seattle at the Allender Center, pursuing the Lay Counseling Certificate. In this space I miraculously chose to risk, share, and be seen by others. I succumbed to holy terror.

Something happened. I still do not see the miracle clearly, because, Friends, we cannot see our own faces. All I know is that when we take off the mask or roll down the tinted automatic window, allowing others to see us, we invite miracles to happen. The fruit of that faith is sweet.

Keeping Memories

I don’t think it’s that you have too much stuff. I think it’s that you have a lot of people to keep track of, and so it looks like too much.

These words of wisdom, spoken by my recently graduated high school senior, offered comfort to my heart, as I sat sorting and sorting and SORTING at the dining room table. End of the school year papers, awards, and report cards only scratched the surface. There were bits of art work, creative stories, and pictures in the mix. There were outgrown toys being boxed up and brought down from rooms.

There were my own issues coming into play, surfacing in the midst of the sorting. There was the reality of another year passing and change knocking on the door of my heart, or at least tapping me on the shoulder. There was a deep sense of reminding and remembering.

Once upon a time I dumped my memories into the trash. Boxes containing awards, medals from band and music achievements, childish journals and pictures, scrapbooks, all were cast aside. In their stead, I packed boxes of magazines for the mid-senior-year move that wrenched me 1,100 miles away from all that I knew.

Upon arrival at our new house, I asked when trash day was, so that I could leave the box of magazines on the curb. When packing up the old house, now several states away, mom had to leave her dining room chairs for lack of room on the moving truck, and dad’s tools went like hotcakes at a fire sale. I think we all were in a state of disorganization, shock, and chaos.

Maybe this factors into why my children’s memories are so important to me, and why I find it necessary to save things of perceived meaning. I want them to remember, or at least have the option of remembering. I don’t want to revise, though. Therein lies a bit of tension.

Each child has a clear plastic tote in the basement where items holding memories can be tossed. They also have a binder on a bookshelf with clear page protectors where papers can be inserted. Finally, each has a file folder where I can quickly sort and stash paper items to save for later.

I realize that everything cannot be saved, and I am not an advocate of hoarding. What holds meaning for one child does not for another, so one may have notebooks filled with written stories and hand drawn pictures, while another has objects no longer played with but still special.

Some kids are more sentimental than others.

Here is a list of things that I place value on and often date and save:

  • Creative writing or original stories
  • Hand-drawn pictures, especially “firsts” first drawing of a person or drawing of our family or written name. Usually found on the back of proper school work or on a church bulletin somewhere.
  • Samples from various developmental stages A kindergarten drawing of a family looks different than a third grade drawing, so I might have a sample of both.
  • Places where identity or dreams are processed What I want to be when I grow up. What makes me special now at whatever age I am.
  • Notes from others written to them
  • Words of affirmation
  • School certificates or awards
  • Team pictures
  • Programs or playbills from concerts or performances or recitals they were in
  • Notes written by them to us, even painful ones where they are angry
  • Birthday lists
  • Anything they request that marks a milestone or end of an era One child often asks me to put small items in the memory box that are outgrown, yet meaningful.

There are so many other options, and each family and child is different. I tend towards the tangible rather than the digital, even though I blog and do plenty of work with technology. No, I don’t save everything, and sometimes when going through items, I pare down further, realizing that I was a bit over-the-top.

On this particular sorting day, I processed my workbasket which was piled high with end-of-school-year paper items. Pulling everything out and separating into piles for each child and then into binders and finally onto shelves, the feeling of a slate being clean was very real.

I am ready for fall with the middle schoolers’ elementary items boxed away and the elementary child’s sorted into her binder. The high-school graduate is preparing to move and doing some serious de-cluttering of his own.

Maybe it is the season of mid-life processing that I am entering that calls me to keep memories for those who do not know their value, yet. Maybe it is the reckoning with myself. Whatever it is, by keeping memories for my children, I want to hold for them that who they are is connected to who they were as they grow into who they are becoming.

I also want to get a jump on my mama final exam.

My Mama Final Exam

Another one has come and gone. Graduation of child 4 from high school took place last weekend. It was a full, emotional time and the chance to be filled with nostalgia, as my thirteen-year-old son was sure to articulate at every opportunity.

There were many finals.

Final concerts, final performances, final gatherings, final awards ceremonies.

There was also a Mama Final.

This is what I call the gathering and assembling of a memory board to display at the graduation party. I fantasize that some more organized mamas have it all together and have been working on the project gradually over the years, having only to add finishing touches here and there for the final display.

Remember those science fair projects and research reports that started with the best of intentions and ended with holding a blow dryer over a paper-mache dinosaur to get it to dry faster the night before it was due? Is it just me?

My process has been trial and error, fueled by pragmatic inspiration. Sadly, my firstborn was not the recipient of a properly-executed final exam. Her display took over most of the dining room, as school pictures of her were hung, illustrating her various awkward stages of growing up. I am grateful that she graded me on a curve for that.

I didn’t discover my method and groove until child number two graduated from high school. Because he was a pianist and giving a senior piano recital, I planned out a memory board to be displayed at the reception that followed.

Not wanting to waste my efforts, the thought struck that if I used a display board and attached decorated scrapbook pages to it, I could later remove the pages and insert them into an album. Armed with this inspiration, I chose to use green and gold, his chosen college’s colors as the backdrop colors and set to work planning out pages.

I did the same for the next graduate, a girl who planned to take a gap year. Her album was recently pulled out to remember and reminisce.

Enter the month of May. Busy and full, I felt grateful that my last day of work left me with two full weeks before everyone else was out of school. I began to focus on the task at hand.

Here is how it played out.

  • I pulled out the display board stored in my closet from the last graduate.
I started with a blank display board like the one used for school projects.

I started with a blank display board like the one used for school projects.

  • I collected the boxes of memories that I had saved over the years and began sorting, patchwork quilt style on my bed.
Choosing red and white as school colors and purple as an accent, I tied them together with tie-dye and rainbow pixel paper as a background.

Choosing red, blue, and white as school colors and purple as an accent, I pulled them together with tie-dye and rainbow pixel paper as a background.

  • I began committing by cutting and gluing pictures to the scrapbook paper as page themes emerged.
Here is an up-close look at the marching band page.

Here is an up-close look at the marching band page.

  • I set aside my perfectionistic tendencies and not good enough voices in my head and just did it. I made something.
After attaching the individual pages to the backboard, I stood the finished project on the table to view a new perspective.

After attaching the individual pages to the backboard, I stood the finished project on the table to view a new perspective.

  • The morning of the graduation brunch, it was fun to have this for people to enjoy.
We celebrated at a park under a shelter. I propped the display on a picnic table bench for all to see, using a potted succulent to hold it in place.

We celebrated at a park under a shelter. I propped the display on a picnic table bench for all to see, using a potted succulent to hold it in place. One of the other moms provided a journal for friends to write in, which was a wonderful touch!

  • Afterwards, I organized the pages into a photo album, scrapbook-style.
Afterwards, I removed all pages from the display and slid them into a scrapbook. Here is a sample page from that.

This is where I removed all pages from the display and slid them into a scrapbook. Here is a sample page from that.

There you have the process for a successful mama final exam. If this mother of eight can do it, you can, too! One of the biggest tips I have is to designate a bin for each child to collect their memories. I plan to write more on this topic soon, but that is a good place to start.

Mother’s Day Recap ’16

How was your Mother’s Day?

It’s a question asked and replied to the days following Mother’s Day, and now, a week later, I have some space and time to think about it and respond. How was it?

It was a different sort of day this year.

My husband, father of the ones who call me Mother, rose early to drive two hours to Richmond to meet up with a daughter for breakfast. After breakfasting with and seeing her off to work, he met up with another daughter and her husband who had kept our two youngest for the weekend. They went to church together and spent the afternoon before he drove home with the little girls, arriving in the early evening.

I woke to a quiet house and an apple fritter on the table to eat with my coffee before church. There was also a jar of homemade bath salts from my youngest and some lavender bath soak from my husband. Obviously, that is a theme for me and one way that I relax. The donuts left for the three at home with me were a thoughtful touch.

Heading to church with only two children was usual, but good. It’s amazing how the dynamic changes when the mix of people is rearranged. The text from my son’s girlfriend was lovely.

After church, I took my twins to Taco Bell for lunch. Much laughter and silliness and spilling of drinks occurred. Much staring and feeling like I was in the center ring while trying to exercise patience in the moment made for a memorable time with my middle schoolers.

clesn-up crew

I was thankful to my son for cleaning this spill cheerfully and didn’t feel at all bad that my daughter had gotten a medium, rather than a large, drink.


Moments of laughter and happy children made lunchtime special.

There were kittens at my parents’ house, and since I plant a planter for my mother each year, I decided to go over there and kill two birds. My twins, born two years apart, enjoyed the babies while I enjoyed the soil and sunshine. Win-win.


After quick drive to drop some potted flowers to Steve’s mom, we headed home to rest.

We're twins!

I had high hopes for my quiet time that wasn’t exactly quiet. I tend to build things up in my head and think that there will be SO MUCH TIME to do ALL THE THINGS. I took a quick snooze, and then time was up.

No writing. No finishing reading a book. No soak in the tub or painting of nails. Lots of middle school engagement.

After quiet time my firstborn called and asked if I had seen the gift from her and her husband. They had contributed to my counseling certificate fund. Earlier in the day, I had noticed it shared on Facebook and thought THAT was their gift. A shout out of encouragement. Noticing a financial gift and their words of affirmation made my heart feel full.

Later, another child surprised me with a gift towards my goal, as well. I felt loved that he didn’t just tell me to get a job to earn some extra money, which, by the way, I am also doing in the form of not spending, finding things to sell, and looking for ways to pick up some extra work.

Husband returned with my little girls bearing gifts of chocolate and a gift that my adult daughter gave him for me at breakfast. It was two bottles of purple OPI polish. This was a HUGE surprise and so meaningful. I love having a fun new summer color or two and ALMOST broke down and bought myself a bottle the weekend before. But then I remembered I am saving for my certificate and refrained.

I love being known so well by my kids and appreciated each one’s individual bit of thoughtfulness.

There was one more surprise that came to me on Mother’s Day, but it needs its own post. I am still sorting where it fits in and the magnitude of its meaning to me.

So there’s the long answer to a short question. Mother’s Day was full of love and people and meaning and laughter. All of the good things that it should be enveloped my heart this year, leaving me so very grateful and feeling so very loved.

Thanks for asking!


Always More Space to be Made

The weekend’s spring-like weather allowed for some time to catch up on the composting. The real, kitchen-scrap composting, not the composting in my heart.

Though I tried. I really did.

The scrap collection bin was filled to overflowing and needed attention.

Kind of like my heart does. It’s overflowing with big triggers and feelings and wounds that look an awful lot like pineapple tops and avocado pits and moldy bread.

We had stopped adding material to the tumbler months ago to allow its current matter time to process and break down. When Steve opened it, there was some finished compost to shovel into a trashcan to use in the real spring.


After emptying the tumbler of its finished product, he moved the mostly-frozen kitchen scraps from their holding bin, opening up more space to dump waste and giving the current debris a chance to move around and begin breaking down in earnest.

empty bin

This whole process was a visual reminder to me of the movement that needs to happen in my heart, as I process and transfer stories to their proper places and dump the current, unfinished mess into the tumbler to be worked.

compost tumbler

There is always more space to be made. And just when you think it’s all broken down, that orange comes rolling out of the middle of the finished compost and off of the shovel.

So what are you going to do about me?


Throwback to the Pumpkin Patch

Standing on the landing with your back to Fall Blessings, you face this display. It is full and cluttered, but each object is special. Meaningful.

The sister picture lives there year-round under the star, because we are super-stars. I love my kindred spirits and how they keep me grounded.

Underneath is a bowl selected at Soup Night last spring. I love the tree etched into the pottery. I wish the artist had scratched a name in the back, but it remains anonymous.

To the left is the annual family picture. I love to see it every day many times a day. Close-by lies an interesting rock, just because it fits.

To the right is a ceramic mother sheep with her babies, a gift from long ago. This captures my love for sheep and for the Good Shepherd who gently leads those who are with young, who gently led me for so many years, who continues to lead me as I grow older.

Underneath it all lies a scarf, a gift from Africa. I use this as a runner. It reminds me of the gift of community and friendship.

Propped up for the season is the pumpkin patch picture that brought on tears when I got it out.


There is always a story.

Ever so many years ago, before Aunt Bear and Uncle P were married, they took three littles to the pumpkin patch one fall. I honestly can’t remember many details from that season of life, so I am grateful for pictures.

The top picture is daughter one. The middle is son one joining her. The bottom adds precious babygirl two. Such sweetness.

I am grateful for younger siblings who have loved my children well and captured memories for me and made memories for my children when I was in a fog. These pictures are so, so precious. I love these little people who have grown into adults who continue to bless my heart.

Throwing it back! Enjoy your day.

Getting Gotten

It feels good to be gotten.

I experienced this last week when both grown-up girls gave me thoughtful gifts they had picked up on their adventures.

The first I found with a note left on the dining room table upon waking from a nap. Wedding recovery week/first week home with the kids for summer was a blur, and in the midst of this, daughter number two had stopped by. She didn’t wake me from slumber, but Jemima Puddle Duck was waiting for me when I awoke, picked up on one of her travels.


I added Jemima to my shelf of little things that go together randomly, because she belonged. My girl knew it would be meaningful. She gets me in all of my random quirkiness.

A few days later, my newlywed was home from her honeymoon trip. She brought an early birthday gift in the form of a small table to use outside in a corner of the yard. She knew I had been digging and planting back there, and that it was a nice place to get away and sit a bit.

I also like it in the corner of the kitchen where it resides currently. It’s a great place to rest a coffee mug or wine glass, depending on the time of day.

tiny table

I love my big girls. I love that they get me, or at least try to, and that in the midst of the getting, they give me much grace.

That is something for me to embrace.

Thanks, Girls. YOU are a gift. Love you much.



This past week has been full, and today we are given the gift of a holiday. This holiday doesn’t come cheaply and isn’t free, and there are those who have given their life so that I can have breathing room today. I want to acknowledge that.

There are multitudes of thoughts in my head and feelings in my heart, all vying for attention, all demanding to be dealt with and heard. I can’t deal with it all right now. I can’t blog it or post it immediately, but I can let it churn around and process and let pieces settle where they may and work on breaking down.

Remember the whole composting the heart thing?

Each Memorial Day there is a service at the cemetery up the road. We can walk there, and it’s where Grampy is buried. The family walked up this morning, carrying flags and wedding flowers to place on his grave.


We stood through the brief ceremony.


We visited the grave site.


None of these children had been born when he died. Kieran remembers Grampy. He was three.

And then, just to demonstrate how God never fails to surprise us, this happened.


We are blessed.

For My Mother

Her name is Caryn, and she likes birds. She is my mother.

I am the firstborn. She is, as well.

We are both left-handed.

We both have lots of children. She always says I win with eight. I think she forgets those she lost, and when we get to heaven, she will find that she is actually the winner.

Even though it’s not a contest, and I’m not trying to prove anything!

I remind her of that as often as possible.

It’s not a contest. 

I have not been a Hallmark daughter. Our relationship has been messy and complicated. We have grown.

So much so, that last year we took a trip together to Boston for Sisters and Mom week.

It was a pretty big deal, the two of us flying together.

It’s a pretty big deal that we live within walking distance of each other and spend time together and that my kids are close to their grandma.

A few months ago, one of my daughters made a list for me and asked that I post it on my blog. It is in that spirit that I offer one of my own. To my mother.

I love you, Mom. Here are 100 reasons why.

1. You breastfed me.
2. You read books to me and sang with me.
3. You took me out for coffee with your friends when I was little and let me drink out of the little creamer cup.
4. You let me play with little neighborhood friends, even when we didn’t live in the best neighborhood. You kept the front door (and your ears) open.
5. You taught me Bible verses.
6. You made up songs. (B-e-d, B-e-d, Bed, Bed, you need bed. You have ten miiiinutes….)
7. You sewed a doll with brown yarn hair and blue fabric eyes for me.
8. You sewed a bathrobe for me.
9. You played Memory with me.
10. You gardened.
11. You harvested.
12. You canned.
13. You connected with people around you.
14. You told stories with Lolly Elephant.
15. You taught Bible club when we lived in the apartment.
16. You used flannel graph.
17. You cooked meals for us every night.
18. You helped me make friends with Rene.
19. You noticed the tick on my hip when I was four.
20. You tried to limit red dye and cheese consumption for my greater good.
21. You participated in a food co-op that time.
22. You tried to be a sport about thrift stores.
23. You took us on road trips to Michigan.
24. You took me on outings with Janet and Nicole.
25. You let me cook.
26. You let me bake my own bakery-style birthday cakes.(haha!)
27. You let me invite Nicole over for birthday celebrations.
28. You coordinated the church nursery.
29. You made me a little orange and yellow playroom with organized toys.
30. You kept fighting the clutter monster, even when it threatened to take you down.
31. You made organizers from plastic milk jugs when you couldn’t afford store-bought ones.
32. You survived a remodel, addition, whatever that was, you survived it.
33. You exercised.
34. You wore exercise sandals.
35. You noticed that one of your many children had already gotten in the pool when they weren’t supposed to.
36. You took us to the pool.
37. Because you made friends with older people who had a pool and invited us to swim.
38. You have a heart for older people.
39. You made childbirth sound like an evening stroll in the park with a stop off at Bob Evans for breakfast on the way home, so I wasn’t fearful of childbirth. Oh. My. Thank you?
40. You wore stylish wrap around skirts.
41. You tried to teach me to sew.
42. You let me just figure it out.
43. Ok, so I can’t sew.
44. You got me a real chalkboard so that I could play school.
45. You let me set up a school room.
46. You took me to get my ears pierced.
47. You took me to get my hair cut.
48. You watched Growing Up and Liking It with me at school in 5th grade.
49. You sometimes forgot to plug in the crock pot, and we got to go out to eat instead of eating soupy chicken at home.
50. You invited people over.
51. You let me go to friends’ houses.
52. You bought me bras and underwear at JCPenney, because that’s just where you get those items.
53. You let me ride on the bus when you substitute drove Steve’s route.
54. You cared for animals.
55. You made real life connections back in the day when the internet was non-existent (at least in people’s homes), and mothering lots of kids at home was even more isolating than it can be today.
56. You survived living on a low income with a lot of children.
57. You always kept us fed and clothed.
58. You decorated a nursery for Greg on Nicholson St. complete with a chair rail.
59. You let me have it for my own room when he got bigger.
60. You let us hide our special toys in the attic so they wouldn’t get ruined when people came over.
61. You took us to the doctor.
62. You took us to the dentist.
63. You tried to do a frugal recycled birthday for one of our siblings by fixing up discarded toys. That had to have been so annoying when we all began to claim our stuff!
64. You tried to cut back on our sugar intake, even if it WAS on Easter and involved CAROB bunnies.
65. You hid real Easter eggs for us to find.
66. You got me hot chocolate from the hot drink machine at Giant, and were only slightly annoyed with me when I started splashing hot liquid everywhere and freaking out.
67. You were frugal before there were websites to teach you how, even though you weren’t fond of frugality.
68. You took me shopping for fabric with Nicole to make our 4th grade pillows.
69. Sunshine Family Dolls. Enough said.
70. You were calm when we were flashed while coming out of Giant that time. “That man doesn’t have any PANTS on.” Oh my. Thankfully, it was only the backside, and he ran off quickly.
71. You didn’t act too annoyed on long car rides to Michigan when the backback was down, and the kids were sleeping, and my chin was propped on the seat back between you and Dad just hanging out.
72. You let me pack boxes of magazines for the infamous move while leaving behind your dining room chairs.
73. You planned a wedding for me during a season of huge transition.
74. You drove to see me after my first baby was born, and you lived hundreds of miles away, and your baby was only 4.
75. You still buy me groceries and treats sometimes “just because.”
76. You cook amazing meals.
77. You host family gatherings.
78. You hear hard things.
79. You continue to learn and grow.
80. You come hear me when I sing on worship team.
81. You spend time with my children.
82. You step out of your comfort zone.
83. You care for people.
84. You help with piano run.
85. You help with last-minute sick grandkids.
86. You baked Christmas cookies with the little girls.
87. You make memories.
88. You took me to the banquet.
89. You attend choir concerts and recitals.
90. You drive to Michigan to spend time with YOUR family.
91. You read books.
92. You learn new technology.
93. You remain curious.
94. You go to lunch with your friends.
95. You taught me to make the best chocolate chip cookies.
96. You fly places now.
97. You stay young.
98. You love your husband.
99. You love your children and their families.
100. You gave me space to risk in our relationship, and you didn’t run.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you!!!!!