Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.


One word you need in your life right now

The transition from summer to fall is always difficult for me. September through December is jam-packed with, you know….everything.

Seriously, if I listed it all out, you would be breathing into a paper bag right now. I know because I just wrote about half of the activities here and had to run to the kitchen to look for a bag. Of course, I could only find plastic bags, which seems like a suffocation hazard. So, I decided it would be better to just delete that paragraph and save you all from hyperventilating and searching in futility for a paper bag.

Bracing myself for the upcoming chaos, I tried something last month that I had not done before.

I picked a word.

It was not just any word, either. It was a word that conveyed a feeling of “you’ve got this, boss.”

To find your word, ask yourself what you need in your life right now. What do you want more of – or less? What do you want to remember? Or forget? What do you wish to cultivate in your life and what do you need to make that happen?

It could be peace, friendship, forgiveness, faith, gratitude, strength, compassion, healing, or determination. It could be anything. But, it has to be yours.

What is it that you need?

I love all those words. Still, the word that I thought of was confidence.

I knew I needed confidence to juggle all I had to do during the upcoming month – not just the to-do lists, but all those unplanned moments both welcome and unwelcome which make up a life.

Confidence was my word. It was my comfort. Everyday I would think about it. I did not set aside time to do it. I simply kept it in my company – a polite companion with which I traveled.

Whenever anything went wrong, I thought of confidence.

For instance, I was on deadline to turn in a news story and had 3 percent charge left on my laptop. I went to plug my computer into the charger, only to realize that my darling cat used the cord for a chew toy. A tantrum, a trip to Best Buy, and $90 later, I had a new cord and turned in my article – with confidence.IMG_1443

During the same month, I also made a huge decision to switch my middle-schooler from the school he had been attending since pre-kindergarten. I needed confidence that I was making the right decision, and that if I wasn’t – if I was making a huge mistake, it would be okay. I could come up with a new solution.

Because the truth is, I knew I could. I always step up. I always get things done. Most often, things work out. I needed to honor that and have more confidence in my abilities to juggle the demands of life.

It’s not like having the word changed the way I handled anything, but it made me believe more in my capacity to cope.

I told a friend of mine with a recent cancer diagnosis about what I was doing and the word I chose. He thought it was a great idea and chose discipline as his word. He needed it to follow the healing regimen assigned by his doctors.

His daughter heard us talking about it and decided her word would be strength. As an athlete she meant it in the physical sense. But she also said she wanted strength to deal with the pressures of high school.

I thought the simple act of picking a word worked so well that I decided to do it again this month.

I chose positive. Three days in – I can tell you, I hate the word.

However, the fact it challenges me to understand what I am supposed to feel positive about when I am cleaning my child’s vomit off the floor at 5 a.m. (because nothing says back to school like the stomach virus) makes me feel like I chose the perfect word.

So what is your word going to be? I hope you will share it in the comment section. I would love to check back next month and see if choosing a word helped any of you.

I am positive it will.

See, it’s working already.


Flipped out over getting flipped off

I got flagged off the other day – not with an actual flag, but with a finger.

I didn’t really think people did that anymore. I guess it’s been a long time since anyone showed me their tallest finger.

I was picking up my older son from his first day at a new school and was trying to navigate all the construction and traffic on I-95. I realized I needed to get over one lane and no one would oblige the blinking request of my turn signal.

Now I may fail in a myriad of ways as a nice human being, but one thing that I can say for certain is that I always let motorists in when they need to get over.

I know this is not a profound act and I hope someone can come up with something a little more interesting to say about me at my funeral. Still, when you have your precious 9-year-old in the backseat and are heading straight for a concrete median at 60 mph you tend to appreciate such mundane acts of kindness.

Anyway, I couldn’t get over and did not want to smash into the concrete so my only safe option was to merge into the exit lane.

That’s when the middle finger emerged as an appendage of a very passionate man. It wasn’t any ordinary finger either, because it also made quite a loud honking sound.

Of course, I did not know what the proper response to his gesture should be, and frankly I was so frazzled from my close encounter with concrete that I did not have time to formulate one. In a blink of a finger, he was gone.

I know this is one of those things that I am supposed to shrug off. After all, it wasn’t a gun he pulled out.  Thank you, Mr. Passionate Man with the slender middle finger, for not shooting me when I annoyed you. My family is ever grateful.

Still, I feel like maybe, just maybe you could have left your finger on the steering wheel where it belonged.

I feel certain that if you met me you would see that I am not a murderous wretch. I am just a scattered mama who has two carpool lines to be in, on two different sides of town, at the same time. In a way, that makes me a modern day time-traveler. As such, you might even find that you want my autograph.

I realize the time-travel thing loses some of its coolness factor when you get run off the road, but no one’s perfect.

And while perfection cannot be attained, perhaps patience can.

While, I can’t remember the last time my tall finger put on a solo performance, I have been just as guilty of letting my frustrations dictate my behavior.

The problem with doing this is we lose sight of one another’s humanness. We value being right more than being kind. We value our destination more than someone else’s dignity. We make sure our voices are heard without pausing to think of whom those voices hurt.

It has been exactly a week since I was shown how passionately that man feels about me, and I am happy to say my commute as a time traveling, carpool mom has been less dramatic.

But, I would like to thank that passionate finger-wielding man for reminding me about the importance of practicing patience and kindness even when your fingers point you in a different, darker direction.

In gratitude for sharing your finger with me and hence this lesson, I would like to give you not one of my own — but two.

So, is it just or me or do people seem way too agitated while they are driving these days?  There were two accidents in front of my son’s school just this week.  Then, this morning while trying to navigate what I call the death merge I got honked at — and not because they thought I was pretty.   I guess I am just grateful that I didn’t get the finger…again!   Please share your experiences, I always love to hear from you and maybe someone just needs to tell me I am a terrible driver and need to stay off the roads!

Drive safe!


Ice Bucket Challenge – a patriot act

Who knew that dumping a bucket of ice water over your head in the name of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis would become a favorite American pastime?

My Facebook page has been inundated with friends paying forward ALS challenges. I have heard the chilly screams of just about everyone I know, voluntarily drench themselves with icy water.

I am not sure if we are creating a country of masochists, but I kind of like it.

People who normally refrain from such shenanigans, seem almost eager to partake. Even young children who are not old enough to know what USA stands for much less ALS are participating in the phenomenon, leaving me to wonder if their generation will believe pouring cold liquid over their heads is just something we Americans do.

It fascinates me that in a country that often seems so divided by politics, religion and social issues; we unite in this effort to raise money and awareness for ALS. As buckets of ice water are filled around the country, there is this collective energy and enthusiasm for doing something good.

That is what this country is about – goodness.

I think sometimes in all our bickering, we forget that. We forget to be united and we forget the power we have to implement change when we work together and pitch in.

We are often so divisive, defensive, and disdainful of opinions or beliefs that stray from our own. Intolerance is something we justify with the million reasons that support our own point of view.

Yet, somehow when it comes to dumping ice water on our heads to raise money and awareness for a devastating disease – we plunge right in.

There are thousands of worthy causes out there. All of which have real people, fellow Americans, who are in desperate need of services, of a cure, of a safe place to sleep at night.

These are people who are in need right now and who will still be in need when our heads have dried and we have ice in our freezer again.

ALS is a devastating disease and I am hopeful that the awareness it has received through this social media campaign will bring us closer to a cure.

But I hope too that it brings us closer as a country – more aware not just of the suffering of a particular disease, but aware of the impact we can have when we unite.

I know Uncle Sam might be a little perplexed by all the icy water overhead, but he would not at all be surprised that we united when we were asked to and that great things happen when we do.propaganda-i-want-you

So in the spirit of good ol’ Uncle Sam, the spirit that is America, I WANT YOU to do something kind for someone in need. Pay forward a blessing you have in your life. Listen a little more. Talk a little less. Slow down. Notice. Donate. Volunteer.

Remember your fellow American. Ask not what he can do for you, but what you can do for him.

Be a patriot and make our country a little kinder. No ice water required.






The 10th circle of Hell – school supplies shopping

Dante wrote about the nine circles of hell; but I discovered the 10th – school supplies shopping.

I admit, I used to enjoy it. After all, the limitless possibilities of a blank sheet of wide-ruled notebook paper are boundless. But, there is a downside to the scavenger hunt to find plastic folders with prongs, binders by the inch, and a pencil bag for the 72 mechanical pencils on the list. (Am I shopping for a small village or a 4th grader?)

School supplies shopping means summer is over.

I had many reasons for waiting until the day before school starts to go, and every one of them began with the word denial. Admittedly, denial is a beautiful place to live. Every time I turned away from the school supply ads that bulked my Sunday newspaper, I felt as if I stretched my summer a little further. I wasn’t going to let those same marketers who put out Christmas decorations before the Halloween candy has even been bought steal one day of summertime bliss from me and my boys.

But on the eve of the first day of school, reality beckoned.

So after an hour in the office supply store searching for all the notebooks, pens, highlighters and calculators – making sure we had the right colors and the right quantities of each, I was kind of over the limitless possibilities of a blank piece of notebook paper.

We had crossed out most of the items on the list. We still didn’t have a pencil bag. Apparently, all of the pencil bags which are not glittery pink or SpongeBob Square Pants had been sold to the moms who shopped for school supplies right after the last sparkler burned out on the 4th of July.

While the thought of driving across town to another store to find just the right pencil bag that my son could live with for the next 9 months of the year seemed outside the bounds of sanity, I agreed.  After all, when you invest in 72 mechanical pencils and the lead refills that are required, you’ve obviously seen crazier.

I was almost out of the school supplies circle of hell, and I was comforting myself with thoughts of soft-serve ice cream at the McDonalds across the street. I estimated that I just had to get through 10 more minutes of indecision until my son finished picking through all the fun-shapped flash drives in the bin, deciding which surfboard design he liked best.

Meanwhile, the store salesman came over and asked how we were doing, and unlike most people, he actually waited for an answer. I had so many thoughts at this moment that had nothing to do with the appropriate responses of fine, good, or woo-hoo we are about to buy 72 mechanical pencils and a flash-drive that looks like a surfboard!

Instead, my mouth felt like it had been sealed shut with non-toxic Elmer’s glue and I couldn’t seem to make a suitable response.

I stood there frozen thinking of all the things I wanted to tell him about the lengthy school supply list and the skimpy selection of pencil bags. I wanted to tell him about our amazing summer — how we stayed out on the beach until the sun went down and the moon came up;IMG_2241how we played Monopoly as a family and I lost every single game, but had a really fun time anyway and even got the get-out-of-jail-free card twice; IMG_2291how we watched all the Harry Potter movies and ate popcorn and stayed up too late; how my son went to sleep away camp for the first time and I survived; how we found kittens in my neighbors yard and became so smitten that we now have three cats; IMG_1438how my boys have grown so much taller since the last time they had to use a mechanical pencil;IMG_1740how my husband and I went on long walks and I told him how badly I wanted time to stop and the togetherness of our family to remain; IMG_1773and how we went to so many cool places, but what really made it all so wonderful was the precious time we had with one another at the slower pace summer allows.IMG_2224

But since I didn’t want to have a breakdown in Staples, I just smiled really big.

It was kind of awkward.

I never could get any words out, so he just spoke to my boys whose mouths seemed to work better than mine and then he went on his way. Alas, my son had picked out the surfboard-shaped flash drive that two months from now will be lost either somewhere in his room or in his locker.

I liked the design he had so carefully chose and hoped it would remind him of our lazy days at the beach.

Summer has become such a sacred time. There’s no juggling overloaded schedules and we are not in such a mad rush to get out the door, or finish assignments or participate in the myriad of weekdays extracurricular activities that fill the calendar.

Everything seems to stop in the stillness of summer, and what we learn are simple but important lessons about who we are as a family. I know summers with my children are finite, and I guess shopping for schools supplies every August is too.

So as the cashier is handing over the ribbons of receipts, it is a bittersweet moment.  I am thrilled to walk out of the warehouse of mechanical pencils and highlighters in neon colors, but I am sad to see summer end. I picture myself riding out of the 10th circle of hell on my son’s surfboard flash drive and onto one of the 1,000 sheets of blank notebook paper I just purchased.

The possibilities are limitless.IMG_1697



6 pack abs – I can’t stomach it

While at the beach this summer I indulged in one of my favorite guilty pleasures – reading magazines; only this time, I found the contents with their emphasis on losing weight hard to stomach.

Right on the cover, it teased of a Total Body Plan. At 41, I am still trying to piece together some semblance of a life plan. I had no idea my body needed a plan too. I wondered if they made special Day Planners for these kinds of plans with separate tabs for each of my limbs.

Under the name of the celebrity on the cover was another teaser Her Body & Career. While the career seemed valid enough, I couldn’t help but think it was just tacked on as extra appendage to what was really being showcased – her body.

Also on the cover, there was the question that has undoubtedly been asked since the time of great philosophers such as Aristotle and Aquinos– the answer to the timeless quest of how to lose the last 5 pounds. Finally, in the July issue it would be revealed. And in case you were just a tiny bit skeptical about their claim, right underneath it assured readers they were indeed, for real.

For real?

I didn’t know whether to be angry or just bored. Either way, I am weary of our society’s obsession with weight.

Sitting on the beach I thought about how most of us out there (myself included) were more naked than not, giving me ample opportunity to study the different bodies. Some were sculpted, some sagging, others a combination of both. There were bulges and curves. I saw dimples and D-cups. I saw elderly bodies with lines and patches of gray, and the creaseless bodies of children who seemed oblivious to things like body plans.

And, I decided it really wasn’t that interesting. Any of it.

For real.

 What was kind of cool was watching the agility of the surfers as they balanced on their boards; the tenacity of youngsters as they got knocked over by the force of the waves and not only got back up but like warriors ran straight into the waves again undaunted by their tumble; the people riding bikes catching up with friends or taking leisurely strolls perhaps enjoying the solitude as much as the surf; and the uber-athletes running sprints in the soft sand to train for their next race.

I marveled at all the human bodies. Not what they looked like, but what they could do.

They are the vessel by which we experience the world.

Perhaps, they should have a Day Planner. After all, the things they allow us to do are phenomenal.

Still, it’s weird to think how our bodies become ways to define ourselves instead of simply the vehicle we use to define the world with our unique gifts.

For me, the cover of that magazine is just another reminder that most of us don’t get that things from this world will pass away.

Yes, even the last 5-pounds.

God doesn’t care if my abs look like a 6-pack or that I just drank a 6-pack. He really doesn’t.

He does care that I love my neighbor even if I really don’t want to. He cares that I allowed my body to stretch beyond the size of a giant beach ball to experience the miracle of life. He cares that I teach the lives I brought into the world to live a life according to His plan.

I don’t think washboard abs were on his mind when he died on the cross to wash away the inequities of sin.

And so I don’t sound like a Pharisee, let me be clear – I have been as guilty of this kind of vanity as anyone else. While I have always been thin, I have never been perfect physically or otherwise. I have obsessed over my imperfections.

I don’t know the totality of time wasted by humanity striving to weigh less so they can feel like their value is more. Nor can I fathom the dollars spent on this endeavor to conform our unique selves to the selves of a select few.

But it has all become tiresome to me, and for that I am grateful.

Eating healthy, exercising and otherwise respecting and caring for our bodies is to honor God. If in the process, we end up with 6-pack of abs, so be it. But Body Plans and articles on how to get a better-looking bum seem to make people feel bad not better.

Later that same evening, I was on the beach watching my kids play with their young cousins. I once again marveled at not only the magnitude of the ocean, which never tries to shirk from its wide girth, but the many people on the shore. Regardless of age or imperfections they seemed too enchanted with the sea to do anything other than feel happy.

It made me think of the cover of that magazine again and how it offered not only the answer to that timeless quest to lose the last 5 pounds, but 137 ways to feel happy all summer.

For real, 137 ways!

I watched my nephew, who is almost 2 years old, run with abandon, determination and wonderment right by this elderly woman, who was brown, wrinkled and worn. She was relying on her walker to navigate herself through the sand. As my nephew precariously balanced to stay upright while racing along, she did the same on her walker — all the while holding tight to the handle of her kite that swayed effortlessly above them.

With the gentleness of the wind and in their own unique way, they both flew.

So now I had reason 138 to be happy: no body plan would have ever strived for a moment so flawless – a moment that had nothing to do with looking perfect but everything to do with being beautiful.

And it was my dear friends, for real.




Love is messy; Love is kind

I heard the new Justin Timberlake song on the radio the other day and it got me thinking about love.

I would not have even known it was the former boy-bander had the announcer not mentioned it. Timberlake really isn’t my type, which I am sure is a huge relief to his wife, actress Jessica Biel.

Don’t worry, Jess, I’m not interested in Mickey Mousing around with the former Mouseketeer.

It’s just that his song got me thinking.

Maybe it’s because I seldom listen to music in the car anymore since I enjoy the rare sound of silence so much more. Or, maybe it was the combination of the beautiful spring day and the right amount of coffee, but I was feeling philosophical about the pop song.

Timberlake was singing about love, and something about making some girl’s dream come true by loving her.

If it was Jess, he didn’t say so.

I think it went something like this: love, give it a chance, yadda, yadda, (optional gag,) and if you do he will make your dreams come true. This was set to a rhythmic beat that seemed too fast to slow dance to and too slow to fast dance to.

Maybe it’s folding towels kind of music.

Is that a genre?

Anyway, I guess it was the part about the dreams coming true that I was stuck on.

When I think of dreams, I think of sleep; glorious sleep.

But maybe that’s totally lame. (It probably is.)

So, I tried to be open-minded and think about what the heck Timberlake was crooning about.

Dreams and love… Hmm. Yeah, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I have been married for 16 years. We met when we were 14. (No, not in a commune – but in high school, which admittedly is in some ways similar.) Anyway, we didn’t date until after college so if you go by our dating years, it will be 20 years this summer that we have been together.

But those are just statistics, and numbers don’t mean anything when you are talking about love.

Still, whether it’s been 16 years or 20, I have never thought of my husband as my dream.

I don’t think this would devastate him either (but I will certainly ask before I post this).

He is my dearest friend. The person I count on more than anyone else. Someone I have been really mean to and really nice to (mostly nice); a person who has seen me at my best and at my worst (mostly somewhere in between the two); and I could go on. But this is not a Hallmark card and the intimacies of my marriage are just that.

Ultimately, he is a lot of amazing things and a partner in the truest since of the word, but he is not my dream.


Because I think that is a totally ridiculous sentiment! Seriously — it’s just gross.

I don’t mean to pick on Timberlake and because I am certain he quit reading this in paragraph two when I said he wasn’t my type, I don’t feel bad saying it’s ridiculous.

I know it’s a ballad and it’s entertainment.

But I think it’s a little bit of a problem when we envision romantic love as the end all, be all – the dream.

Thinking of love only as first kisses, long gazes and electric touches, it’s no wonder so many people become disenchanted with their spouses.

All of that is flirtatious and often fleeting.

I would also find it a little annoying if my husband gazed at me anyway. Either speak to me or go unload the dishwasher. Don’t just sit there and stare! Who does that?

It’s weird.

And it’s not that I am not a romantic that I say all of this.

Long stares aside, I love those moments when your breath catches in your throat.

But it’s not sustainable. You would quite literally start to choke or gasp. Neither of which is particularly attractive.

Those moments are fun and they’re giddy. They sell books, movies and even, songs.

But, I think when we get too caught up in them we set unrealistic expectations in our relationships.

It sets everyone up to fail because it ignores a fundamental truth about love.

Love is messy.

I know they didn’t say that in Corinthians 13:4-13 which begins with “Love is patient, love is kind…” But maybe what’s inferred is that love is messy, so be patient; love is messy, so be kind…

Real love isn’t just romance. It is listening when you don’t feel like hearing. Love is accepting when you want change. Love is trusting. It is surrender. It is scary.

Add a mortgage and a couple of kids and it gets even scarier.

How come no one sings about that?

No, it’s not sexy but somehow, it’s kind of beautiful.

No one dreams about a sink full of dishes or a sinking feeling when you have different opinions or different approaches. No one dreams about taking care of someone when they are sick or struggling with feelings of indifference or apathy. No one dreams about the fights or the vulnerabilities they expose.

Love is beautiful because it’s so messy and it endures all the humanness, all the brokenness.

It’s beautiful because being willing to surrender takes a lot more courage sometimes than a fight.

It’s loving someone through moments, days or periods of time that for whatever reason feel like a nightmare.

When Jesus died on the cross for us, it was no dream.

It was a brutal reality. Yet, it was love.

It was the epitome and essence of love. It was sacrificial and unconditional.

Often our relationships with those we love require sacrifice.  That’s the messy part, but arguably it’s the part that matters most.   Knowing someone has seen the worst of you and still wants only the best for you, is pretty amazing.

I guess no one knows this better than Jesus.  He sees us at worst, at our weakest and still, he remains.

Jesus deserved better than He got on the cross. I am not worthy of His love through anything I have done but through everything that He has done.

I can’t live up to His example or repay His sacrifice.

Still, I am humbled by that reality. And even though I may have to pick up my own cross seven times seventy times to show the people in my life genuine love. I would do it.

It’s far from a dream, but somehow it’s music to my ears – the kind I actually feel like I can dance to.


Shine this Lenten Season

Do you remember that song by the band, Queen, Another One Bites the Dust?

Another one down,

another one down,

another one bites the dust…

another one bites the dust.


It doesn’t really have a YEAH in it, but I think that was just an oversight by the band because clearly the cadence of the words dictate a YEAH at the end.

The song reminds me of going to the skating rink and skating backwards by the pulse of the strobe light.

I am kidding about skating backwards.  I was never that coordinated.  Maybe I fell down once, got up facing the wrong direction and for a millisecond looked like a kid from the eighties who could effortlessly glide backwards.

But that was just a millisecond.

Mostly, I wobbled forward making sure the wall was within arms length.

Anyway, today I was thinking how when we receive ashes as part of the solemn start of Lent, known as Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that we will return to dust.

It’s a rather unpleasant thought really.

If you think about it, turning as obsolete as dust runs counter to most everything we do in our daily lives. Mostly because so much of what we focus on is physical or tangible – appearances, finances, and status; when we return to a small speck of dust it won’t really matter what car we drove, what new restaurant we tried, where we vacationed, what we did for a living or any of those other things that consume our time on earth while we exist in ways far more dynamic than dust particles.

It makes me think about my children and all the time I invest to ensure they have straight teeth, straight A’s, play an instrument and sports, all while keeping their hair above the collar and their shirt tucked in.

I even keep a small amount of groceries in the car because we are on the road so much driving from appointments to practices to games to lessons, all so they can be so much grander than dust.

But what does it all matter when ultimately, like mine, that is their fate?

The truth is, I don’t really know.

All I know is that I am here for now and thankfully they are too.  I don’t know how much time any of us have, but I do know I want to use it to be the best version of myself.  I want the same for my boys.

I guess the whole dust thing reminds me of the evolution versus creation theory.  To me, it doesn’t really matter whose right.  What matters is that I am here now.  It doesn’t matter, at least to me, how that came to be or even that someday I will be dust.

I am here now, taking up space. One day I won’t be.

Because of my faith, I believe I will live on despite the inevitable disappearance of my mortality.  And, it probably won’t matter that I couldn’t remember the exact words to a song or that I could never rollerskate backwards.

But I am betting it will matter that I lived and loved in the name of God.  That I took opportunities like Lent to grow in my faith, to sacrifice not for the sake of self-deprivation but so others may feel the light of God through my kind deeds.

That light is from Him, it will remain long after I am dust – pulsing and powerful and with a steady beat that makes it almost impossible to think that our time on earth doesn’t really matter.

So, let your light shine this Lenten season in the good deeds that you do, the sacrifices you make and the solitude that you spend in prayer.

All of that glorious light makes me think of another song.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. 

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.


Please share what you are doing this Lenten Season to let His light shine in you.  I love to hear all of the creative things people do to draw themselves closer to God and to show their love for Him by sharing it with others.  

I am giving up meat for Lent.  So while everyone else is dropping pounds by giving up sweets, I will be adding them with all the carbs!

I am also going to write down three things a day that I am thankful for since gratitude is something I feel like I need to cultivate in my life so I can better appreciate the good and perfect gifts He has given me.  

In addition to that, I am going to try and post more often during Lent.  Since my year of doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy ended, I have not been committed to writing on this site.  I miss taking the time to reflect that it affords and I miss the insight that you generously share in your comments.  So that’s part of my Lenten plan.

I look forward to hearing yours.  

Shine on.