Category Archives: return

Messy House

My adult son was home for a visit. Our house is just off of the interstate, and he was en route to a job interview two hours south. Afterwards he stopped in and stayed for a few days.

It was wonderful to have him here and so helpful while fitting in all of the counseling appointments . He graciously spent time with his younger siblings while his father and I sat in an office one morning, and while I sat by myself another.

Time together passed too quickly. I enjoyed listening to him playing guitar while my drummer son played the djembe. We laughed over memories. He was starting to understand and appreciate the parental perspective and was surprisingly gracious.

He patiently kicked a soccer ball in the yard and threw the frisbee in the street and played Cranium and Spot It! with the siblings. There was media thrown in for good measure.

As he was leaving, we chatted a bit about his future and hopeful possibilities. In between gathering laundry and giving out last-minute bits of attention, we shared thoughts and ideas about what might be coming down the road as he ventures further into adulthood.

There was one more thing that he wanted to say, not to be mean and not to make me upset, but there . . . he said it.

It was hard to hear, but it was truth. I assured him that speaking his truth, his reality, about growing up in our home was not mean. It is important to name the hurt, the pain, the broken. To face it honestly.

I could only say I’m so sorry and that this may be a reason why his parents are needing so much counseling, still. That response wasn’t meant to minimize or to fix anything. I let him know I am happy and willing to explore and converse further and to process more deeply with him how he was hurt, wounded, shut down by our clumsy parenting.

At least you don’t pretend your house isn’t messy, he said to me.

I pondered that a minute before asking for further explanation.

Well, you were willing to get help and go to therapy. Things really turned around when that happened. You didn’t pretend everything was good. Not everybody does that.

If only he could see the fear in my heart even that day as I exited my current therapist’s office with the week’s assignment. If only he could feel my pain of not only being wounded but of wounding.

The wounding is far is worse.

No, I don’t pretend my house isn’t messy. To prove it here are some very real pictures that mirror externally what has been going on in my heart. They were taken on my arrival home from said counseling appointments with the intention of blogging somehow about the mess.




Play circle.


Dining room.


Living room. Can you spot Zephyr?



And through it all, grace.

Whispered Return

I’m tiptoeing back, tentatively testing the blog waters for my dearest of friends.

There is much going on both inside and out, and I’m not sure which end is up right now. I do know that there is plenty of counseling happening, lots of mistakes being made, and general exhaustion nipping at my heels.

July arrived, marking the halfway point in this year of returning, bringing with it reflection about where I have been, where I am, and where I am heading. If I find clarity, I may elaborate further.

These days I am returning what it was like to be ten. That is my homework, the assignment from my counselor, following last week’s appointment. There is a ten-year-old who lives in my house and triggers me on several levels daily. I’m searching for clues as to why. Thinking about ten might help.

It’s interesting to me that the story of blessing I chose to write about happened when I was nine. The story of harm that I chose took place at ten. I didn’t spend time pondering what to select or plan it that way.

I was also ten when this happened.

Maybe ten was a big deal. I tried to think about it and make a list.

10 things I remember about ten.

  1. Registering at the new school and buying a PE uniform in the bookstore and wearing it because I thought it was cool to have a PE uniform. Trying to be kind to myself here, because what I really am thinking is what a total dork!
  2. Being fitted for the dreaded real school uniform at a uniform company and not being thrilled at all due to the blouse-y, plaid jumper-y, crossbow-ish nature of the entire thing. You have to click on the link and scroll down the post to find the darling blouse story.
  3. My meek teacher and unruly class. This caused a great deal of anxiety to me and brought out even more dorkiness as you will see in #5.
  4. Shaving my legs for the first time and wondering if my mom would notice. I can’t remember much other than coming downstairs afterwards to the family watching Dukes of Hazzard or A-Team. If there is more to this story, I would love to hear it!
  5. Setting up a schoolroom in my shared bedroom with meticulous attention to detail to show my 5th grade teacher when she and her husband came over to dinner. Seriously, who DOES that? I am not feeling very kind to my awkward 5th grade self right now.
  6. Getting baptized. Scripturally. By immersion. This is kind of a joke between my husband and me, because of all of the different styles of baptizing and dogmatic approaches to what is biblically correct. One circle we were in actually used those words when describing proper baptism. I was dunked when I was 10, I think. It was a big deal in front of a big church, and when I went through big seasons of traumatic doubt as to whether I was spiritually legit, I figured that was a pretty big confirmation. My kids were all sprinkled.
  7. My 5th grade BFF. If she reads this, she knows who she is. The bright spot in my days.
  8. Changing for PE in our classroom and not being at all shocked to learn from a more worldly-wise girl that the act of procreation is a simple as You put the hot dog in the bun. Fancy that. Years of diapering little sibbies caused this to make total sense to me. No big deal.
  9. Growing Up and Liking It. Did anyone else watch this video with their mom in the school library to learn all about periods? See #10 for the awkwardness that accompanied this awkwardness.
  10. Period Starter Kit. Ordered from the company who produced the above video, this boxed collection of feminine hygiene products hid in my dresser drawer awaiting their big debut.

Ok, I am itchy from the awkwardness, and since only 20 or 21 of you will actually see this, and you are all of the female variety, I will just publish and go scrounge some food for the family. They need to eat. Every day. Like three times or something!

*Bonus! If you remember me at ten and would like to share or clarify, please do so! It would be special and fun and maybe slightly or greatly traumatic and help me move more swiftly through this painful season of returning to my childhood.*




Hopeful Hibiscus

Hibiscus, you bloom;


one small orange flower, inviting me to examine more closely for buds.


Sure enough, there they are.


Tiny. Hopeful. Growing.

Your leaves aren’t pretty.

They aren’t lush and full.

I’ve seen you look better.

I’ve seen you look worse.

You’ve weathered a lot.

Winter was hard.

But you escaped brush pile and were given a new home.


Returning to life, I find you now growing, and in your growth you invite me to hope.


Friendship Friday ~ Missing a Friend

It’s two days before Little Mae and I celebrate another birthday. It’s a bittersweet time. The excitement (for her) of growing another year older brings with it the memory of the friend who isn’t here. Her cousin, Porter, should be here. We should have just celebrated him turning seven. They were due just days apart.

He is in heaven.

I felt it this morning. The heaviness surrounding his loss. The reminder that my child’s name means bitter grace for a reason. I wonder if this ties in with my word this year, as my heart returns to a place of sorrow.

I checked. Her nickname, Mae, means bitter, as well. Bitter or pearl. Interesting since the pearl is June’s birth stone.

So as I try to start the day in all of its crazy chaos, I am reminded that this heaviness in my heart is real. That things are broken on our side of the stormy banks. That just because time passes and seasons change doesn’t make it right or ok or suddenly all better.

Seven years ago I thought Little Mae was going to be born today. I thought that June 5 would be her birthday. Turns out, she had other plans. Birth-curious people can read all about them here.

With all of this swirling around inside, I will engage the now which has an almost-seven-year-old asking for an episode pick in spite of my many no responses and bellies that are becoming ravenous and need breakfast.

All while remembering.

Functional Wife, Functional Mother

As part of my theme of returning this year, I am taking this incredibly vulnerable (for me) post from my private blog today as an example of grace and change, and God’s work in my life, though not on my timetable. It was and is and continues to be a process of hope and trust and choosing to keep going, even when I can’t see or understand why. Read through the comments, as well, as they are telling. 

Back in July, 1996, I was a 25 year old wife, married 4 1/2 years, and a mom of 3 little ones aged 3,2,1.  Every area of life was full and overwhelming. That was all I knew. I had to keep going and going and going because there were no other options. It was a lonely time full of disappointment, disillusion, despair, and depression (which would not be acknowledged and dealt with for 12 more years after I had 5 additional kids).

I know it was all grace that kept me functioning when I didn’t think I could. It was mercy that Steve and I not only loved each other but LIKED each other enough to keep trying to push through and make sense of the senseless. It was writing that moved the clutter inside from my head to paper and it was Jesus who heard my cries and never let  me go.

I wrote Functional Wife, Functional Mother during this time. It’s one of those mantras that would get stuck in my head, and I had to get it out. That’s how I felt. Like I was barely functioning. At 25.

Thank God for His redeeming love. He has made and continues to make all things new, but it has been a long, at times, lonely process. Here I am over 17 years later to testify that things do get better. Just not always on our time table!

From deep within the bin of my 25 year old heart….

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

I get out of bed, there’s a baby to hold.

I look in the mirror, my face looks so old.

I go down the stairs, there’s a pile of clothes to fold.

And the bread in the cupboard is starting to grow mold.

And I’m a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

My husband comes home, he kisses my cheek.

We’re both so tired, it’s been a long week.

What’s in our hearts, we can’t even speak.

What would we find, if we dared to peek?

He’d find a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

Please do not say it will all go away,

and that what I am feeling is not here to stay.

I’ve heard it before, I still feel the same way.

It may soon get better but for today

I’m just a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

Outside is Calling

It brings a hopeful feeling after a long, cold winter, cooped up inside with lots of snow surrounding everything, to venture outside.

Last night, my luvvvah and I took our first evening walk of the season, thanks to my mother’s willingness to sit with the kids after they were in bed. We return to a chapter of life where we can’t just up and go, trusting that there will be an older sibling around to hold down the fort.

The littles are now middles with loud opinions and many needs, and the youngest of the oldest, who is the oldest in the house right now, often has a life. Once everyone is in bed, there isn’t a guarantee that they will stay, and it’s best to have an adult present who can be the boss of them, should they need one.

Non-adult-siblings aren’t the best in the role of official boss of everyone else.

When the adults are home, it’s a different story, but then we want to spend time here with them. Things always change. Isn’t that the constant?

So yesterday’s outside for me was a walk. For the kids it was the hauling out of scooters and bikes and the playing on the porch.

Today, it was being invited by my love to spend half-an-hour in the yard together puttering around, picking up, and lopping off bits dead plant remains to reveal the green shoots underneath. It was nothing strenuous and certainly blustery, but it was earthy and grounding at a time when I desperately need that.

new growth

I need to discover the green under all of the dead brown; to snap off stalks and crunch dry leaves and grab handfuls of dirt, just because. I need time in the brisk sunshine.

And to stop. I need that, too. It’s hard to stop in the midst. To rest.

The hibiscus is in the shower, drip drying after a soak. A damp, loamy smell greets me each time I walk into my bathroom. I know it’s not time to put the plant outside. Soon, though.

Through my bedroom window I see little girls galloping down the sidewalk towards home. They have been up the street playing in a friend’s yard. I have seized the moment to rest and write.

Spring is coming. I am ready. Outside is calling. I am listening.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my dad’s birthday. I am grateful to have him here celebrating another year of LIFE after the adventures of last summer.

I am also grateful for an entire day off (sort of) to have time to actually think and write a birthday post. Because that’s what you do when you have a blog of your own, right?

Last Father’s Day, my sister wrote this about our dad. It’s beautiful and amazing and also an example of how we had different dads  sixteen years apart. I know. Scandalous. But true.

I got the young, new, idealistic dad. With hair.

little me in the apple tree

My childhood memories include looking up at lengths of patterned polyester stretch-and-sew pants.

It was many, many moons ago. We did do fun things together, Dad comments on this picture that someone posted for a TBT on facebook.

And I believe it. We did. I remember some of them.

I remember getting ice cream in Indiana and trying to lick it into a soft serve swirl on top. I remember the Enchanted Forest, and walks collecting aluminum cans, and my first tooth being pulled in his band director office at CCA, (aka the baptistry closet?).

It was carefully placed in that spot in my Snoopy thermos where the drinking cup screwed on, for safekeeping until I got home.

I remember riding to school with him on snow days and visiting classrooms and collecting teacher cast-offs to bring home to teach my own students siblings. I remember the siblings coming, and coming, and Saturday morning cartoons and laundry and meal-planning, and sliding down the stairs in the inflatable raft.

You remember too much.

That, too.

Thinking about my childhood and relationship with my dad, many stories come to mind, illustrating our dynamic. They show the dance that was ours that we didn’t even understand at the time.

dancing with dad

One such story involves shopping for shoes. I want to put myself at ten or eleven, so I will say I was somewhere in between. Like this child.


I needed new shoes, and Dad took me out to Prince George’s Plaza. Or maybe he didn’t. Maybe it was to the shoe store in Riverdale Plaza. Memory is fiction, you know. He took me out to buy a pair of shoes. I do know that for a fact.

Our family didn’t have lots of money, and as a general rule, we got what we needed. No frills. Unless you were shopping with Dad. Then there was at least the chance to get the thing that was a little bit extra.

For me, the extra was not just getting shoes, but brown-suede, lace-up shoes, with crepe soles that were shaped into individual rolls all along the bottom. I remember them kind of looking like long tootsie rolls.

As a side note, this means it had to have been before the sixth grade, mail-order Mason Shoes sensible slip-ons with the flat bottoms, perfect for the gluing on of a lift to the left one. But that is another story for another time.

I tied on the beautiful new shoes and wore them home from the store. Is there anything better for a kid than getting to wear new shoes home? I didn’t think so.

Basking in the delight of my new shoes and in time alone with my dad (if we were alone. I don’t remember any siblings along.), we headed home. All felt right in the world.

The station wagon parked along the curb in front of our city duplex. I opened the passenger door and stepped out and into a pile of dog poop.

Poop oozed between each roll of those crepe soles. All’s right became oh sh!t.

I remember those shoe bottoms being scrubbed and scraped. Those delightful, rubber rolled soles became a nightmare. I felt the tension and stress and the shatter of shalom.

I don’t remember feeling a comfortable in-between of oh well, dog poop happens. My childish world was experienced and viewed through a lens of either all (everything is right with you) or nothing (everything is wrong with you).

When you allow yourself to remember and feel the good, you open yourself up to remembering and feeling the painful.

And there was painful.

There was hurt and misunderstanding and brokenness and shame. There was loss and miscommunication and fear and stress.

There was my big toe, for goodness sake!

But there was also redemption coming. Strange and small and slow, it crept up, at first. Nudging, tapping on the shoulder, whispering what about me?

It wasn’t easy, isn’t easy to learn a new dance.

dancing with dad

Sometimes it takes years of trying, stepping in dog poop, and getting your toes stepped on to learn the new moves. Sometimes the moves feel stiff and unnatural, and you long for the effortless twirling across the floor of that father-daughter team.

But this is us.

And we have grown. Are growing. Were picked for each other by a God who loves us and already knew we were who we needed to be in each other’s lives. Even when we might have thought otherwise.

I am grateful for the new dance we have grown into, even when it is scary, and I wonder if it is real.

dancing with dad

And about that baby sister of mine and how we had different dads? The last line of her post sums up how our dad is the same. I’m stealing it for the last line of mine!

I love seeing how far our relationship has come, and I’m excited to see where it is headed!

Goodbye, January

January came in with a bang, reminding me that it was time to return, and return I did, in many ways.

I returned from semester’s end and time off with family and friends to the thick of restructuring workday and home life, with disruptive snow thrown in for good measure.

I returned to the realization that I am human and broken and when I am stressed, what spills out is not kind.

I returned to the reminder that returning takes time and feels rather backwards, but sometimes we need to go back to move forward.

January, 2015, is gone for good, and February frowns in my direction, but through it all, I will continue to trust that returning is good and be comforted in knowing that I am not alone.


It’s a welcome sight as I return home, candles aglow.


It doesn’t matter where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing, this tells me, You’re home. You are anticipated. You were missed. Time to unwind.


As I stop and transition from out there to back here, I allow my heart to fill with the warmth of the candles, moving towards the warmth within my home.

It hasn’t always been this way, and I am grateful that now it is.

I’m grateful that my heart can finally be aglow. Can finally feel.

As I return.

Friendship Friday ~ A Puzzling Thing

Monday night was full. Full of kids and time with family. Full of Shani stopping by and a puzzle and conversation. Full of struggle to engage.

Working on a puzzle together was a new thing. Steve pulled the side table to the middle of the living room and opened its leaves. Then he put chairs around it and dumped out the pieces. This was a first for this generation of littles.

Shani remembers the New Year’s Eve Irish Blessing puzzle that the bigs worked on when they were little. It was shamrock-shaped.

And then Uncle Nick finished it when they were in bed.

I wish we had taken a picture of puzzle-master Shani working her magic, but there are no pictures, only memories.

Memories of laughter and arguing over placement and reading the next chapter of Fig Pudding to the next generation of littles.

There is a picture from the following morning when siblings woke early to work on it together. Before the strife.

puzzle friends

I had to silence my phone and creep around the corner to get this shot. Shalom.

Then the shatter.

I find it interesting that this week my Bible reading is in Genesis (okay, maybe that’s not the interesting thing, since it is January). Interesting is that I just finished the story of Joseph.

Here is a snippet from Wednesday morning’s journal entry . . .

Morning dawns with sibling strife as I read about Joseph and his brothers. It is nearing the resolution part of the story, as Joseph turns away and weeps before further testing their hearts and motives.

We are still in the season of pit-throwing, though I can relate to Jacob’s lament, All this has come against me!

A completed puzzle rests on the table in the living room, while arguments ensue about who put in which piece and how many and the last piece, and who is better at puzzles.

We all want to be better than someone else.

Chicago puzzle

So there is it. The puzzle started with Shani on Monday was completed on Wednesday, opening a floodgate of memories from an arts trip I took to Chicago in 2013. Kieran was in ninth grade. I was a chaperone. I began the return here.


It’s puzzling to me how this week has played out. From the surprising start to the tumultuous finish, I continue to be amazed by this very full life I’ve been given to live with lots of friends, big and little, to journey alongside of me.