Category Archives: Girl Power



As usual…I had a totally different blog post in mind to kick off the #fangirlyourfriends series. Alas, sticking to a plan is not my forte these days. So we’re gonna punt here. Welcome to the jungle, friends.

I met this amazing woman when I went to Buda for the For the Love launch party (Actually, I met a ton of amazing women, one group of whom is blowing up my Facebook messenger notifications as I type this with the most entertaining thread you can imagine, and I am trying to be responsible by ignoring the dings as I attempt to get this written and posted. It’s easier said than done, folks. These chicks are hilarious). Now I’m distracted and looking at my phone again. Darn it.

Where was I?

Ah…yes. The lovely Corie Clark – a phenomenal entrepreneur and gifted leader with a heart of gold (and fabulous planners, organizational tips, and goodies in her online store. You can check them out here). In addition to the many hats she wears, I have to add pom-poms. The girl is the ultimate cheerleader, and she proves it in her #fangirlyourfriends post and movement. The post on her blog (click here to see it) explains all the things beautifully, but I’ll give you a peek.

She says

“We can fangirl a little. We can be inspired and find ourselves in awe and wonder of what we see God doing in someone else’s life. But instead of buying in to our celebrity culture and putting that person on some man-made platform, why don’t we try and take what’s inspired us and weave that into our own lives so that we can share it with our community. Instead of always looking at that “celebrity” look up to God and then out to your people. If we’re so focused on whom we’re fangirling over, we’re missing out on what’s happening right in our own little worlds.”

Her premise is to take the spotlight off celebrity and big names, and instead shine it on the amazing women in our lives who are doing life with gusto, kicking butt and taking names. Women who inspire us on a personal level, who love us when we’re unlovable, comprise the village it takes to raise our children, keep it real no matter what, and offer us everything they’ve got: from carpool help to homemade meals, from shoulders we can cry on to a smack up the head when we’re rotten…..followed by a hug and some chocolate.

 I love having women in my life who embody the word “girlfriend” in the truest sense of the word – with all of the love and amazingness and non of the catty competition.

Do you know women like that? Better yet, are you one?

I strive to be, I really do. And lucky for me, God knows what a slow learner I am, so He chooses to surround me with great examples of how to be a woman worthy of this distinction. I could do fangirl post after fangirl post, not running out of material any time soon. And I will. We’ll be walking this topic out together, friends.

It’s only fitting that the first episode begin with the original player in my life of strong female role models and women who’ve taught me the meaning of fierce love.

Today would have been the 88th birthday of my Medzma, my incomparable grandmother; a woman whose zest for life, love for God and heart for others left a mark on this world that will fade about the time the sun does. She was one of the brightest lights of my life, and the day we lost her was my darkest to date. I usually circulate my original post about her (The Thing About Grief) on her birthday, but this year, I’d like to do something different. I think she’d be tickled at having the status of my first #fangirl moment.  As I wrote in the afore-mentioned post:

“My Medzma, my grandmother, was one of the absolute most important, influential, amazing, beautiful, strong, incredible influences on my life.  She was, literally, a force of nature and explosion of life, love and energy.  No one who met her could ever forget her.  Anyone who spoke with her was instantly mesmerized.  Everyone who knew her was completely in love with her, none more than I, her first grandchild and namesake.
She was unafraid.
She was unconventional.
She was uncontrollable.
And she was unapologetic.”

I’d say that’s worth a fangirl moment or six…..

My mom and I will meet for lunch today. We’ll toast her memory. We’ll laugh at the memories of her many and varied antics. We’ll cry more than a few tears, and wish for the impossible (just one more moment, one more hug, one last glimpse of her smile, smell of her perfume, or peal of her laughter) as we blow out the candles of her honorary cake. We’ll take a deep breath and wipe our tears, grateful for the lessons she taught us and traits she passed on. And we’ll find a way to keep going, keep growing, keep living.

She’d accept nothing less. It was her way…and now it’s ours.

And in spite of this hiccup, this moment of sadness that overwhelms me if I dwell in it too long, I can’t help but smile. Because my zest for life, my love for others, my tendency towards some pretty out-there antics of my own come so clearly in a straight shot from her. My daughter even more so (get ready, world). I find that to be such an amazing thing, an incredible gift.

Naturally, it makes me want to share. So, let’s do some gift-giving together. Leave me a comment with your fangirl story, complete with hashtag. I’d love to hear it, and so would more people that you’d think. I’ll be doing a giveaway of one of Corie’s #fangirlyourfriends mugs – each story gets an entry.

Isn't this great?

Isn’t this great?

Solidarity, sisters. Let’s hear it for our girls.




Watching my daughter at her gymnastics class has become one of my favorite ways to pass the time. Really. She is so stinking cute, with her tiny self and quick movements and perfect little tushy.

I could just squeeze her.

She is brave and (mostly) focused, trying every task they present to her with little or no hesitation.  On top of that:

  • She’s a full foot shorter than the next smallest girl in her class – doesn’t phase her.
  • She’s younger and less skilled than the others – doesn’t intimidate her.
  • She can’t reach the beam or vault mat without an effortful scramble – doesn’t stop her.

She does her best approximation of the conditioning exercises; no ankle weights for this tiny gymnast, even though the older girls have them on.  She’s just not ready for that part. She jumps off every surface, no matter how high, and smiles proudly when she beats the others to the water fountain at break time (though I strongly suspect she’s the only one actually competing in that race).

She does all of this with a spirit of enjoyment, a clarity of purpose, and a tenacity that fills me with pride and wonder – not only as her mom, but as a woman.  Because this diminutive little lady has already figured out what so many of us never do….or often forget.

In the words of my fabulous For the Love pal and author, Jen Hatmaker: “Run your race.”

And she does.

She isn’t distracted by the other girls, at least not enough to slow her stride or change her game. She isn’t minimized by their talent, or embarrassed that she’s smaller/weaker/less advanced.

She’s out there, doing her thing….and loving every minute of it.

It’s fun. It’s adorable. It’s inspiring.

It’s a smiley, curly-haired, freckle-faced reminder to her mama, and to all the other more worn-down gals out there that this is how we’re meant to be.

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Throw off everything that hinders.  All of it – the insecurity, the doubt, the sense of not being good enough, the comparison, the competition, the fear.

God did not create us to be imitators of His other creations.

He did not go through the effort of making us each unique and individual, only to have us lament that we are not the same as everybody else. And He certainly didn’t mean for us to stop halfway through our race, or before we even really get started, because we assume someone else would do it better, or laugh at us, or criticize how we run. That system would be one in which we are meant to fail, and while He is many things, our God is not a cruel trickster. It’s just not his bag.

He gives us each a set of gifts and talents and tools; and then He gives is each a set of opportunities and relationships and circumstances in which to use them. We just have to figure out the what and where, then take off. It’s generally not easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible, either.

When we spend our time worrying about what everyone else is doing, or bemoaning our perceived inability or awkwardness, it gets harder to see the possible as well as the path.

I was humbled, as I watched my little girl teach me a lesson last night. She gave her best for the hour we were there, and when it was time to go, she ran towards me with her arms outstretched for a hug and our traditional post-class recap ending in a high five. Her face was flushed, yet beaming. Her muscles were tired, yet stronger. Her resolve to practice and improve was renewed.

Yeah….she gets it. And in that moment, so did I.


It’s a lesson I have to learn over and over, because I so easily forget it. We all do, I think. Thank goodness our Teacher is so patient.

We skipped out of the gym, my miniature tutor and I, both light-hearted and thinking happy thoughts; both on the same page, in spite of our age difference and role delineation. On this occasion, we exited hand-in-hand, re-entering the outside world as two daughters of the King who had been given His instruction together. She doesn’t know the depth of the teaching she received today…not yet.  She doesn’t realize what she showed me, or how she blessed my soul. But I do. And I will carry it, and continue its working in both of us as we grow and go.

Solidarity, sisters. Ready to run?

Ms CarsonMy dear husband has this habit (we’ll call it “quirky”) of picking out the most obscure movies to watch in the evenings.  He scrolls through Netflix, finding enigmatic westerns or war flicks (generally starring one or two A-list actors supported by a cast of actors I’ve never seen or heard of), and since neither of these genres are remotely interesting to me, I tend to come in and out of the room while doing laundry (because, let’s face it, this house is the black hole of never-ending laundry), cleaning the kitchen, or, on nights when both of those options are just over my capacity for functioning at that hour, curling up on the couch next to him with a book, so that we are actually spending time together in the same general vicinity (funny how our definition of “hanging out” changes over the years, isn’t it?). Last night was no exception to this rule, and laundry made my preferred function list (Ok, not preferred….but necessary.  The pile was getting embarrassing).  This time, however, his choice caught my attention, and before I knew it, I had become wrapped up enough in the story to set the laundry down, run and get a notepad, and return to the couch to sit on top of the clean clothes pile while watching and writing (Apparently, I have now picked up the sit-on-the-laundry-instead-of-folding-it habit from my family, which is unfortunate, because it gives me fits when they do it….and I yell at them for this.  Luckily, the kids were in bed and didn’t witness my lapse.).  And, yes, I was taking notes during a movie.  Don’t judge me.  I already had to ignore the raised eyebrows and snickers from the other end of the couch.

Moving on….

The movie Gregg picked was Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson story, and it was based on his autobiography, which has the same title.  I don’t know if you are aware of who Dr. Benjamin Carson is – I wasn’t until last night.  I am now fascinated with his story, especially his earlier history.

He was born in 1951, one of two brothers, and raised by a single mother from age eight years old.  His is a story of early struggle, redemption and triumph over any circumstance to burst through the other side a shining star.  And while this is impressive, the theme that caught me was actually the backstory and fortitude of his mother.

Her scenes were my favorite, and I was in some degree of tears throughout most of them.  She was a hard-working African-American woman, fighting to give her boys every opportunity for success in a time when her race hindered her as much as her lack of education.  She had only attended school until the third grade, and had been raised in foster care until she married her husband at the age of 13.  She was unable to read and had no special skills, yet had to find a way to feed and clothe her sons after her divorce (He had another family and children on the side.  How’s that for a devastating blow?).  In one heart-wrenching scene, she walks to a Psychiatric Hospital and stops an exiting nurse with this cry for help:

“I’ve got a darkness inside me I can’t control.”

My tears flowed freely at that declaration.  They continued streaming down my face as she sat across from the kind doctor who met with her and poured out her story; a mother, terrified for her children’s future, doing the best she could while knowing deep inside it wasn’t nearly enough.  Plagued by self-doubt and regret, she rocked and wrung her hands, while stating, “I’m so dumb.  I can’t do much – just clean houses and babysit.  I’m not worth enough.  I’m nothing.  And I’m terrified my boys will end up the same as me, in a place like this.”

I sat there and cried, because her statement was so heart-wrenching, and so loudly echoed the doubts and dark places, not only of my mind, but of the minds of so many of my friends and sisters out there.

And because when I watched her, the incompetent woman she described was not who I saw at all.

I saw a warrior, a fierce lioness who refused to give up.  I saw a woman who, while not very educated, was extremely intelligent and resourceful.  I saw a woman who personified some huge lessons we all could use in life.  She was fierce, to say the least….and knew how and when to roar.

Lesson 1: Comparison truly is the stealer of all joy

When her sons would pop off about what everyone else was doing, her response was, “Don’t you worry about everyone else.  The world is full of everybody else’s.”  She refused to bow to the expectations of the social and political climate of the times, and she refused to allow her sons to settle into comfortable or careless routines.  She had goals and plans, and she stuck to them, dragging her reluctant boys along with her.  Her every action, every step was aimed at the achievement of her goals and the vision she had for her sons…not the movements or fortunes of her neighbor.

Lesson 2: Emulate the habits of those who have achieved success

Mid-way through the film, she began a new job, cleaning the house of a college professor.  She was amazed by the number of books in his home.  They were piled everywhere in his study, reaching to the ceiling in walls completely covered by bookshelves and covering the television set.  When she asked him if he had read all of the books, his reply was, “Most of them.”  From that day forward, her boys had books in their hands.  She went home, turned off the TV, and set strict rules about what and how much they were to watch (and this in the days before the endless blogs and lists and studies about whether too much TV is good for or harms our children).  She encouraged (ok, forced, initially) a love of learning and study patterns that changed their lives forever.

Lesson 3: Know when to ask for help

When her depression got to be too much, when she could no longer control the darkness, she went out and got help.  The right help.  She put aside her pride, shared her story and accepted the necessary treatment; going so far as to check into an inpatient facility for two weeks so she could get herself pulled together.  And when she came home, she came home – recharged, reset and ready to hit the ground running again.

Lesson 4: Have faith

She raised her boys in the church, as believers, and taught them to pray.  She opened their eyes to the fact that God is out there and miracles do exist, telling them, “You just gotta see beyond what you can see.”  She stuck to that, no matter what, and never lost sight of God’s hand in her life….even on the dark days.

Lesson 5: Be an encourager

She was a genius coach and cheerleader, who used emboldened statements as she spurred her sons on to new heights of achievement.  Never once did she express her doubts or concerns to them, choosing instead to fortify their spirits and energize their minds, while guarding their hearts from the lowering comments or mindsets of others.  She pushed them, with love and discipline, to become the men her heart dreamed of and that her God had created.

They would go on to become successful, educated men – one an engineer, the other a doctor.

Ben, her baby, proceeded to gain notoriety as a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon; performing the first ever successful separation of craniopagus twins (Siamese twins joined at the head) in 1985, and later becoming the Head of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Today, he is a bestselling author, speaker, political commentator and outspoken Christian with a beautiful wife and three sons of his own.

Quite a legacy from a humble and unschooled mama, don’t you think?

I admire her.  Her story touched my heart and humbled my spirit, while inspiring the woman and mother in me.

I’m going to post the list of these lessons in plain sight, and remind myself of them daily.  They are clear and simple and profoundly truth-filled.  They are possible.  They are proven.

Who’s with me?
Solidarity, sisters.  Go ahead and roar.

So, I keep seeing all these blogs and articles that have number lists all over the place.  Like “5 Ways to Organize Your Life for the New Year” or “8 Must-Do Rules for Parents of Pre-teens/Pre-schooolers/Middle Schoolers/Labradoodles” or “12 Ways to Ensure Marital Bliss Forever and Ever, Amen” or “42 Simple Steps to an Organized Home” (I really could use that one).  It got me to thinking….I’m a relative rookie when it comes to the whole blog thing, right?  Maybe I’m supposed to have number lists, too.  Maybe I skipped an important “20 Steps to a Successful Blogging Career” memo somewhere along the way, thus depriving my readership and myself of Numerical List Nirvana.

Ok, “nirvana” might be somewhat of an exaggeration.  And now I have “Smells Like Teen Spirit” stuck in my head.  Great.

It’s also the beginning of a brand new year (insert fist pump here – way to go 2015!!), and time to start the list-making, goal-writing, resolution-creating madness we all know and love.  To reflect on 2014, picking out what went well, what we loved, the goals we managed to accomplish and triumphs we experienced and decide where we go from here.  What could we have done better?  What did we fall short of that was conceivably within our grasp had we just pushed a bit harder or reached a little farther?  And what was so laughable that our only explanation as to why we chose it as a goal has to center around cocktails or sleep deprivation?

I’ve thought about this a lot this week.  I’ve debated with myself, mediated discussions between the voices in my head (come on, don’t judge….you know you’ve had those moments) and prayed with varying degrees of resignation or determination.  And one of my decisions for 2015 is going to involve going back in time a bit.

Let me explain.

One of the complaints from Gregg that keeps popping up with alarming regularity is my lack of organization and inability to function at the mental capacity of our college/grad school years.  No argument from me there.  I am so far gone from that girl and her perky competence it defies explanation.  Over the past month or so, and increasingly during our “firm discussion” the other night, he keeps bringing up that when I ask him if he needs something from the store, he’ll make requests that I then forget (according to him, the majority of the time).  Let me go on record to say I think this is a stupid argument on many fronts.

1)  I think the incidence of my forgetting is lower than what he claims.

2)  This discounts the magic fairy that lives in our house and, in her invisible, unsung, never-ending, miraculous way manages to automatically refill/replenish all supplies as needed on a regular basis, thus ensuring no one ever runs out of things like toothpaste, batteries, light bulbs, toilet paper, food or clean clothing.  Oh wait – that would be me.

However, lack of intelligent dispute notwithstanding, this is obviously something that bothers him and has become more than a small bone of contention.  So, I shall endeavor to work on it.

Truth be told, it bothers me, too.  Not the item-forgetting portion as much as the overall decrease in function.  I used to be so much more capable, it seems.  As I started down the ever-familiar path of reasons-to-beat-myself-up-and-bemoan-not-getting-any-younger, this time around I had to pause for an epiphany.  In romanticizing his memories of my past, more proficient, fireball self, my beloved has managed to forget a few things about that girl.  And so have I.

Here comes the highly-anticipated Number List, my friends.  Maybe not all that highly-anticipated.  Maybe more mildly-curious-about or we-can’t-believe-you-actually-remembered-to-include-it.  Whatever.  On to the list!

10 Facts About Little Miss Pulled Together Pistol

1.  She was a lot younger.  Let’s just rip that Band-aid off quickly to expose the age wound, shall we (I’m still reeling a bit from the whole turning 40 experience)?  She had (practically) limitless supplies of boundless energy (which, when depleted, could be refreshed by 16 hours of uninterrupted sleep if necessary), and a much firmer grasp of the English language, memorization skills and mental lists because her brain cells hadn’t started to die off, yet.

2. She was able to multi-task well…..for one (as opposed to five).  She could focus like a laser beam because her primary responsibility was herself – her life goals, her path.

3. She wasn’t responsible for remembering all of his stuff all of the time.  It came in spurts, as a bonus, not expectation.  And he had less baggage then as well.

4. She was militantly inflexible.  Truly.  She had a system in place for accomplishing things that any drill sergeant would envy….and she did not deviate from it.  Period.  No one and nothing got in the way.

5. She was incredibly task-oriented as opposed to people-oriented.  See #4.  Her list got done, regardless of the needs of those around her.

6. She was single and young, then married and young.  Her role in life was totally different.  The reason her list got done regardless of the needs of those around her was helped by the difference in the needs of those around her.  She had fewer commitments, fewer entanglements.  No one comes to the 20 year-old for help or guidance or mentoring (thank goodness – can you imagine the disastrous advice that would be given?).  Her apartment wasn’t Grand Central Station.

7. She wasn’t a mom.  I don’t think I can write enough on this one.  On how the parts of your brain that go to mush with each pregnancy never fully recover.  On how the parts of your brain that fall out during each delivery (science is going to find a correlation there someday, mark my words) stay gone, so that with each subsequent child you have fewer brain cells to begin with, and continue to lose the same proportion, thus exponentially decreasing your cerebral mass (and intelligence quotient, as a result).  On how every waking moment is spent with part of your heart, mind and soul sectioned off for “kid stuff” no matter what you are doing; and waking moments outnumber sleeping moments by bigger and bigger margins because who actually sleeps anymore?  On how even when you do work on organizing and task-accomplishing, it’s in short, fitful bursts, usually interrupted by people clamoring for your attention because they are hungry, bored, tired, dirty, angry, excited, thirsty, constipated, in need of a ride, can’t find their shoes or want to climb in your lap.  On the guilt that accompanies most non-mommy activities because they take time away from your children, who are your most precious treasures and won’t always need you in this way and are growing up way too fast and someday you’ll miss all this (so I hear).

8. She existed in a season.  And what she did worked well, during that season.

9. She had no idea what she was in for.  Thank goodness.  That girl would have had a nervous breakdown if someone had given her a crystal ball and a picture of her future self.  The change in jeans size alone would have put her over the edge.

10. She changed.  She had to, in order to survive.  She grew.  She aged.  She adjusted to the planned and unplanned moments life brought her.  She decided that loving her spontaneous, active, type B husband was more important than trying to control him (and that his constant need to escape to the outdoors for hunting and fishing expeditions does not mean he loves her any less).  She learned that dance parties take precedence over dish-washing (in the minds and hearts of her children, every time).  She fell in love with people, and formed relationships she never imagined could exist.  She lost a little of herself, but gained grace, mercy and forgiveness.  She discovered she isn’t nearly as smart as she once thought she was.  She’s more fun, though.

I like to think that, while she would be mildly (or maybe not so mildly) horrified at certain aspects of her older self, my younger persona would also be proud, perhaps a little excited, and a lot joyful at the foresight a glimpse into the future would bring her.  It’s her life, after all.  And so far, a pretty good one.  It might do her good to be a bit intimidated, though.  You know, just to keep her humble.

And while I plan on bringing this list out at intervals to remind myself (and perhaps my overly-eager spouse) that a bit of slack-cutting is due, I also plan on bringing bits of that girl back.  She’s still in there.  I can feel her, kicking and screaming to break out when things get too out of control.  She was a warrior, and I could use some of that now and again.  Things go better when I’m not past my capacity to handle chaos, and too much disorder doesn’t work for our family.  The New Year is the perfect time to restructure and regroup.  And while I don’t have all the answers to how we’ll do this, and none of my goals are in a spreadsheet or graph system, some type A behavior is in order here.

The old me will be so pleased to be allowed some control again.

Not too much, though.  My kids would eat her for lunch.

Solidarity, sisters.  In with the new doesn’t always mean out with the old.  And yeah, I could totally take her.  Time teaches us all a few tricks.

And shine, she did.  Seriously.  I have to take a minute here to do a little obnoxious mommy bragging – my apologies in advance……but I gotta say it.  Little sister is ridiculously talented in this sport.  I mean, like crazy good. This summer, we let her try things out at one of those British soccer camps.  This is not my first rodeo. Before I sign anyone up for something that involves a multiple month commitment, I want to be sure they’re in. Ain’t nobody got time or patience for the whining or complaining of a reluctant participant.  They outnumber us. So, we tried out the soccer camp, and she loved it.  Her coach at the camp was adorable (and had an accent to boot, sigh) and quite impressed with our little princess.  She won every game of Sharks and Minnows, thank you very much.  She just has this single-minded intensity of purpose with moving the ball from one end of the field to the other.  And she’s wicked fast, even dribbling.  When her season began and she met her new team, that skill carried right over.  Her whole thought process was, “You want me to put this ball into that goal?  No problem.”

So she did.  Quite consistently.  Her goal count at each game ranged from three to nine.  She just gets the ball, breaks away, and flies down the field.  It’s a blast to watch.  And precious, because she’s so small (we’re hanging solid at the 25th percentile on the growth chart).  We cheered and encouraged, hugged and high-fived. Her father was completely amazed.  He just kept saying, “the boys weren’t like this at all this early”.  True. She’s running circles around their younger endeavors (don’t tell them I said that).  Comments from parents of other teams range from fascination to amusement to (sometimes) a little irritation.  The game in which she scored nine goals, we beat the team we were playing 13 to 2.  Five of her nine goals were scored in the first four minutes of the last quarter…. She likely would have kept running up the score, but her coach pulled her out to “rest” – she was quite irritated by this, seeing as how she wasn’t actually tired.

The rest of her team was just as adorable.  As the season progressed and the girls got more comfortable with each other and the sport as a whole, they became quite a force to be reckoned with.  Emry’s speed and aggression soon had company, and we had an undefeated, forward-charging, in-your-face lineup and season.

Until our second-to-last game.

That game day started like all of our others.  Emry and I had our “How many goals are you going to score today?” chat on the way.  We listened to her get-pumped-up Game Day music in the car (her most-requested choices are Mr. Roboto by Styx, Bang Bang by Jesse J and Ariana Grande, and ABBA’s Money, Money, Money – she’s very eclectic, I know….it makes my heart sing).  Reading this, I realize I sound slightly psychotic and overly “sports mom”-ish, seeing as how my little angel is barely five years old.  Remember, she’s my third kid.  She has spent her life watching and listening to her older brothers and their teammates.  Plus, she thinks she’s 15.  So, there.

Back to The Game.  The whistle blew to start, and we began pretty much like all the other games.  This team had girls bigger than ours, as usual (almost every one of our players was petite, it was hilarious; Emry actually wasn’t the shortest one on the team).  No problem.  I was recording the game for Gregg (who had to be at football), and laughing because over all the cheering and chatter, one of the dads of the other team kept repeating, “Watch that little one there.  Yeah, that one.  Wait until she gets going.  She’s a bullet.  She’s just a bullet” (referring to Emry).  And she was.  The bullet took off on one of her break aways and scored within the first few minutes of stepping onto the turf.  We cheered and clapped as she smiled and cartwheeled her way back to her spot (this has also been her signature move throughout the season), preparing to go again (her personal goal number was seven for this game).  The whistle blew again, the girls ran and kicked and chased the ball.  Emry got a foot on it, kicked it away and prepped to take off.

She couldn’t.

I watched through the lens of the video camera as one of the opposing team members grabbed her by the collar and held on,  This was super effective, since the child was a good four inches taller than Em.

I put down my camera, clapping and calling out to her to shake it off and keep going.  She did, until the next play, when the same girl grabbed her, this time shaking her back and forth by the collar of her shirt.  When it happened a third time, Emry left the field in tears.  She was done.

My heart sank as I watched her coach walk her to the sideline and help her climb into his wife’s lap, where she curled up and wept.  I could see her tiny shoulders shaking from across the way as I jogged around to the player’s side.  As I gathered her in my arms, I was surprised at the intensity of her tears and her fear of the other girl.  She absolutely did not want to go back out and play any more.  By the time the half ended a few minutes later, we had two more players in tears.  The opposing coach and mother of the child finally got onto her about her behavior, but the damage had been done.  Our girls had lost their mojo.

The second half wasn’t even a game.  We convinced them to get back out there, but they couldn’t pull it together.  Every time that particular opponent got the ball, they all backed away and let her take it, all the way to the goal.  They just couldn’t bring themselves to get in front of her or challenge her in any way.  They were completely deflated, utterly undone.

It was so sad.
It was so surprising.
I mean, Emry fends off and/or reciprocates way worse attacks from her brothers on an almost hourly basis.  She never backs down from anyone, and can handle a take-down or battle over any object like a boss.  To be honest, she’s a little scary at times.
So, why on earth did this flatten her?  How come she couldn’t shake it off?

I’ve thought about that a lot, reflecting on what made this situation so intimidating and overwhelming in the mind of my spunky daughter and her teammates.  And I think the answer is twofold.

1) It was unexpected, and caught them totally off guard.
2) It was unfair.

They simply couldn’t reconcile the “cheating”-type behavior on a playing field that, up to that point, had been safe and fun and civil.  They didn’t know how to behave in response, perceiving that in a battle of aggressors, the smaller girls didn’t have a chance.  Plus, they get in trouble for being mean, so there’s no winning there.

And while I was frustrated by the events, and by Emry’s inability to blow it off and still play her game, my primary feeling was one of sadness.  Because, unfortunately, this is just the beginning.  This is a life lesson, as well as a sports lesson.  It’s one I wish she didn’t have to learn.

I wish she didn’t have to learn that being talented will sometimes make her a target.
I wish she didn’t have to learn that there will be people who, once they realize they can’t catch up to her, will try to drag her down.
I wish she didn’t have to learn that, intermittently, the person who cheats or pulls down or intimidates those around her may actually score the most goals and get the win – at least, in the short view.
I wish she didn’t have to learn that there are days when the game you love isn’t fun or fair.
I wish she didn’t have to learn that there are times in which safe arenas aren’t protected or just.
I wish she didn’t have to learn precisely how hard it is to do the right thing, no matter what anyone else is doing, or that being the bigger person stings more often than not.

I wish she didn’t have to learn these things…..but I desperately hope that she does.

I hope she learns these lessons quicker than I did, and with less denial.
I hope she learns that none of these things can break her, and that every time she gets back in the game she wins, no matter what the scoreboard says.
I hope she learns that her worth is in no way tied up with what others do or say or think.

I hope she learns that to shine brightly is a gift and a calling, and that no one can ever dim her light without her permission….and even then, she has the power to shrug off negativity and criticism whenever she decides to do so.

I hope we all can keep learning and living all of this.  Because if we can’t, if we allow a harsh and critical world to overwhelm and minimize and change us…..we won’t allow ourselves to live the way we’re meant to.  We’ll become cynical and insecure and unhappy, constantly seeking approval from the wrong sources as we allow fear of failure or judgement to keep us out of the race.  Where’s the freedom in that?  Not to mention fun…. Where’s the fun if you never get back in the game?  That’s not the point at all.  It’s definitely not how we’re supposed to live. Or what we were created to do.

One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 12:1 – “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

My little soccer star didn’t like being shut down that day. She was not satisfied with her one goal only game. She came back the next week to score four, despite rain and really cold weather.
We talk about the unfortunate game often, and while she’s still not thrilled about the concept of ever facing that team again, she’s less fearful and more determined each time we discuss it.
She’s excited to play again in the spring.  They all are.

The next kiddo that grabs her uniform better watch out.  She won’t be taken down that easily again.

Solidarity, sisters.  It’s how you play the game that matters, and you’ve got to jump in to play.

the GirlsPictureI have to take a moment for a little bit of backstory and bragging.  Stay with me….I promise it won’t be too obnoxious or painful, mainly because it’s not about me.

I have the phenomenal and (sadly) unusual circumstance of being one of those rare women who is blessed with a truly incredible group of strong, supportive, loving, non-judgemental, not agenda-driven, crazy, hysterical girlfriends.  They are amazing.  I don’t know why the good Lord chose to put them in my path, but I am grateful beyond words that He did.  I thank Him daily for each and every one of them, while simultaneously begging Him to keep them an intimate part of my life for the next half-century or so.

We have been through so many storms and seasons together that I could never hope to capture them all in writing.  Unless I write a book….someday….maybe….and it’s a really long one.  We also have such side-splitting, ridiculous incidences occurring on such a regular basis that many of them will, in fact, provide fodder for this blog.  So, I might as well mention the Girls now – you’re going to read a lot about them in future posts, I am sure.

We are a colorful (and loud) mix of women – daughters, sisters, wives (currently or at some point in the past) and mothers.  We are all driven, outspoken, social and fiercely loyal to the ones we hold dear.  Our group includes both stay-at-home and working moms – representing a span from health care to education to business owner.  We throw one heck of a party, either just for kicks or to fundraise for a cause.  We laugh together and cry together.  We meet to celebrate and to mourn.  We are honest with each other, usually with a good degree of tact, sometimes not so much.  We hold each other accountable.  We respect each other tremendously, even when we don’t agree.  And we don’t sugar coat if one of us steps out of line.  I got a firsthand look at the receiving end of this on last year’s Girls’ Weekend.  Apparently, there is a very definite boundary when it comes to putting river pictures on Facebook without permission and/or preview approval from the group – especially when said group is clad in swimsuits.  I thought they looked great!  The very picture of fun in the sun with friends!  They did not agree.  Oh, the wrath that slip-up incurred!  There was a brief stint of time in which I actually worried about a lynching (not likely, but….) or being tossed into the rapids (slightly more likely….).  The storm did pass, and we managed to have the continued hilarity and bonding time we always experience on our yearly Girls’ trip.  Suffice it to say, I will never post another candid shot again.  Or bend over when any of them is holding a phone or camera.  Just because I was (finally) forgiven, does not preclude the possibility of revenge at some point.

And yet, in spite of my poor judgement as an amateur photographer, I know that each of these women will be there for me any time I need her.  A few months ago, our beautiful Kat had some bad news to share.  She said she was ready to talk.  I sent out the text chain.  We all arranged our schedules, appointments and child care (believe me, that is no small feat – between the six of us, we have 13 kids ages 3 – 12), and an emergency Happy Hour/Girl Talk session was planned and executed in under 48 hours.  We listened.  We loved on her.  We cried with her.  We held hands and prayed over her, right there in the martini bar.  Then, we raised our glasses, toasted her, and got down to the business of making her smile again.

Because that’s how we roll.  And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I love this group of Superwomen.  They make me smile with my heart.  They are crazy and beautiful and smart and funny and talented.  They bring light into this world and teach me lesson after lesson about everything from humility to joy to grace under pressure.  They have exquisite taste in wine, shoes and home decor.  They bring out the best in me and show me what sisterhood truly means in a myriad of ways.

I wish every woman had this experience with the sisters and friends in her life.  How great would that be?  For all the girls in all the ages and demographics to know this…to live this.

After all, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  Not just surviving our time here, but truly living it while making our mark.  It’s about the call to love one another and to shine with our Father’s light as we do it.  That’s how the world knows who we belong to (John 13:35).  So let’s do it right.  And with lots of laughs.

Solidarity, sisters.  We’re all in this together.  Might as well make it a party.

the Pink EyeMemorial day launched what may very well be one of the single most insane, gut-wrenching, no holds barred weeks of my life – and as anyone who knows me and is familiar with my usual level of craziness can attest to, that’s saying something.  I came into the weekend at a frazzled, high speed run, which is generally how I come into any weekend, especially one attached to a holiday.  Work is insane, partly due to the fact that I am trying to make some transitions, so am technically working two jobs right now.  My schedule had exploded due to end-of-school craziness on top of during-school craziness on top of spring sports ending, summer sports beginning, field trips, 1st grade awards, 4th grade awards, field day, picnics….and then juggling my caseload with time off so I could attend the proper percentage of all the above without looking like the worst mom ever who misses out on the important days and whose kids say things like, “I was the only one at school today without a board game/raffle item/special snack/parent participant/etc….”

We are blessed to have an amazing place in the river – four acres, river access, right below the rapids.  It’s perfect for all the water and outdoor fun you can hope for, and makes us incredibly popular from May until September.  Which we love.  My husband and I both love to host people, so naturally had groups of friends and family coming and going all weekend.

Memorial Day itself was the final day of partying, and we were feeling particularly blessed in how well the weekend was going – especially since Friday and Saturday brought storms of epic proportion to our area, inducing PTSD-like flashbacks in those of us who experienced the full fury of flooding in 1998, 2002 and 2010 (100-year flood, my eye!).  The skies cleared, though, and so did the water, so Sunday and Monday were perfect party days.  Well, Sunday was.  Monday started out well enough.  Then, the dominoes began to fall.  I can’t remember the exact order of events, so let’s just quickly list the drama.  When all was said and done, we tallied two falls resulting in bloodied limbs, a flipped kayak, a snake incident which let to the hour-long hyperventilation of a very upset young lady, a tipsy tirade  by an angry girlfriend (whose sweet boyfriend kept shaking his head and saying, “I’m not sure what I did”), an exploding toilet that flooded an entire cabin (I’m 99% certain which of my sons did it) and an ambulance call/ride to the hospital.  I am not kidding.  I cannot make this stuff up.

The ambulance part was, obviously, the worst.  Beginning CPR on a loved one is a horrible experience, and when that loved one is your precious, phenomenal, spunky 85 year-old grandmother….let’s just say I could have gone my whole life without that experience and not missed it.

The week went by in a blur.  Between hospital visits, last week of school events, cramming in at least one day of work and trying to get everyone fed and where they needed to be, I was done by the weekend.  Yet, done or not, I still had to make it to football games and birthday parties and finish writing my first original Bible study and prepare it for presentation to the fabulous women of our church Sunday evening….all while fluctuating between hope and despair, depending on the day and doctor opinion at the hospital.

As is almost always the case in times of crisis, we pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps and got everything done.  With tons of prayers and help from our amazing support group of friends and family, we made it through the end of school and the Bible study was completed, presented and part of a really great evening.

Last night, we transferred my grandmother home to begin Hospice care.  And while we are heartbroken, there is comfort in seeing her more comfortable and happy to be home.  I got to sit with her, in her own room, and hold hands and be near her.  So my exhausted and saddened heart clung to that as I crawled into bed at midnight to crash and reset for work.

You can imagine, then, my extreme displeasure at waking up this morning with a raging case of pink eye (as opposed to a gently protesting case of pink eye).  My eyes had been bothering me last night, but I chalked it up to crying while wearing cheap mascara.  Oh no.  Not so.  I stared at myself  (with one eye, since the other was cemented shut) in horror.  You know how Rocky looks in the final fight scene of all 40 of his movies?  Picture that, just without the cut under his eye and with the addition of crusty stuff.  I can say with great confidence that I have never looked worse, unless childbirth was involved.  Naturally, I called my husband in to the bathroom to see.  Because that’s how every man wants to wake up, called out of bed by a panic-stricken wife who looks like a prizefighter…or Popeye.  As he stood there blinking at me, trying to find a safe reaction, I’m sure, I made one of the more intelligent observations of our married life.

“I think I have pink eye.”

Followed by, “What do you think?”

To his credit, he neither laughed nor made any sarcastic remarks.  Just stayed a safe distance away and nodded.

At this point, the only sentence I could articulate was , “Are you kidding me?  Are. You. Kidding. Me?!?”  I kept chanting it over and over as I frantically texted my supervisor, my co-worker, my girlfriend, Steph, who had committed to keep my kids today…… My husband still stayed far away, watching me warily, like he would a crazy person or rabid animal.

Then, Steph texted back.  In my time of need, as life was overwhelming and crushing me under its weight, my wonderful, loving, sister-of-my-heart sent this reply:

“OMG!  I seriously just busted out laughing out loud.  Are you kidding me?”

At which point, I burst out laughing.  I laughed until I couldn’t sit up straight.  I laughed until tears rolled down the right side of my face (left side tears were trapped behind the dam of eye cement).  I laughed until my husband’s look of concern became a look of alarm.

Still chuckling, I cleaned my eye to the best of my abilities and made my way to the kitchen to fix breakfast for my kids….to the chorus of their reactions, which included:

“Whoa, Mom!”

“What happened to your eye?”

“Ooh, yuck!”

“You look like a monster!”

They then proceeded to play a version of “pink eye tag”, which involved jumping out of their chairs, making monster noises and grabbing at each other while yelling, “You have the pink eye!  No, you have the pink eye!”  I know.  Their sensitivity is astounding.  This hilarity continued until, inevitably, someone’s orange juice went flying across the kitchen, at which point the one-eyed, angry Mommy monster came forth bringing with her the wrath of God.  Game over.

I dropped my darlings off at Steph’s so I could head in for decontamination.  While driving into town for eye drops and new make-up (both a hassle and a perk of the pink eye), I said a little prayer.  Thank God for our girlfriends.  They make us laugh even when the only thing we want to do is cry.  They make fun of our horrible days while helping out by taking care of our kids and promising a spa day (that was in her next text).  They give us the strength to stand under a hot shower and pry our eyelids apart, get dressed and face the day.  They remind us of our resiliency while cherishing our vulnerability.  And if we are very fortunate (which I am), they help us to grow, live fully and shine brightly…..even on our darker days.

Solidarity, sisters – even one eye is enough to see the light when your teammates are watching with you.