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love your Mom…. please

May 7th, 2011 | 9 Comments »

For as many times as I’ve mentioned my Mom on these pages, the way that I channel her memory in my baking and how a simple bite of something she used to make can bring a flood of memory into my heart, I realize that I’ve never really talked much about her beyond her astral presence in my life. My friends, those close to me anyway, may know the snippets of her that I share with them over time, time that includes others who painfully join the Motherless Club, and I thought that for Mothers Day, it might help ease the reoccurring ache in me to just tell you a little bit about this woman.

I’m not going to give you her history. That’s not important. But I can tell you what she did for me in the 30 years of life that I lived with her guiding me. Because this person who gave me life, gave me so much more than just a form that breathes, with a heart that beats inside my chest.

She gave me my laugh, and I wish those of you who have never even met me in person could just once experience this crazy hooting thing that bursts from my mouth when I’m amused. Which is often. Because she gave me my sense of humor too, and I use it a lot, especially when I can let go and laugh myself silly. I love laughing and really, I think we all need to do it a lot more. Get me laughing and the tears pour from my eyes, I double over with teeth bared as I about break the sound barrier. Get me and my brother Mike in a room together, tell a few funny stories and we’ve got people almost covering their ears because we are so darn loud. But this laugh, this crazy howl is a living legacy to my Mom, a testimony that she never held back when the world seemed ridiculous, and she gave us the same ability to throw our heads back and let loose when the feeling was right.

She also gave me my voice. Mom was not one to shrink away from the truth. I remember a story she told of a woman who worked with her that could never tell anyone ‘No’. Mom told this co-worker “If you can’t say ‘No’ to them, then send them to me and I’ll tell them ‘No’. And believe me, having the ability to say ‘No’ is a gift, people. I know plenty of folks who can’t do it. But the other gift is simply being able and willing to lay it down when it’s needed, meaning that when someone asks me for an honest opinion, I always raise an eyebrow to them and say “Are you sure you want that? Because you’re going to get the truth.” And I’m relieved to meet people who honestly want the truth. The world likes to lie to our faces, sugar-coating every detail and making the perfect glossy picture that looks like nirvana, but the truth is nothing like that. The truth is hard. It’s sharp at the edges and sometimes it hurts, but it’s also completely necessary. And along with the ability to be honest and real, I learned from my Mom that you simply don’t sit down and let the world walk all over you. Keep your chin up, say what you want and more importantly, mean what you say.

My Mom showed me perseverance in life. She lived through many tough times, and they took their toll on her, but she fought and clawed and pushed through them and I’m sure she spent many nights in the dark of her room in tears over the situations we faced, but she still rose each morning to do what needed to get done. I thought about that a lot in the 7 years I was a single parent, and had many of my own nights drenched in a cold sweat over what I was facing, but I never thought to back down and give up. Someone depended on me, and needed me and I couldn’t give in to that anxiety and fear. On so many nights I used to just pray for some good to come in my life, and in response I often heard her voice, crystal clear, telling me that everything was going to be all right. It might have been just a figment of memory, but at those times it felt like she was sitting right there in the dark with me, like she’d done so much when I was little, and the comfort it brought me took the edge off the pain. If she could be a single parent with five kids, I surely could manage with one.

In life, my Mom taught me many things, but in death, she’s taught me so much more. The simplest of those truths is the hardest to accept; you just never know how much time you’re going to have with anyone. Whether it’s your Mom, your Dad, your siblings or a friend, you could wake up today and it could be the last day you ever get to see their smile or feel the power of their embrace. You just don’t know when the end will come. The worst part about being motherless is listening to people complain about their parents, listening to other women grouse over the phone calls they get from their Moms, the way they think she’s trying to butt into their lives, the annoyance they have with what comes down to the simple fact that their Mom wants to stay in touch with them. It makes my heart hurt because I would give my right arm for my Mom to interfere in my life, to bug me with a phone call.

This photo was the last time I saw my Mom healthy and well. Griffin was two weeks old and she came to visit, thrilled to pieces over finally being a Grandma and getting to see her grandson. She was so excited about this new adventure in her life, so eager to be ‘that kind of Grandma’. She couldn’t stop holding him, snuggling him, tickling his little arms and legs and giving him her big wide smile. After the weekend visit was over, as her and her husband headed home to Warroad where they lived, she began to feel sick. Within weeks she was hospitalized and no one really knew what was wrong with her. She ended up at the Mayo Clinic, and passed away on August 25, 1994, barely four months later. I hardly even knew what was happening. One day she was there, in my house as excited as could be, then she was gone. Forever. I stood at her funeral, my baby in my arms and I could hardly believe that I had to raise my son without my Mom. Now, nearly 17 years later, I still can’t believe it. It was such a shocking exit that I reeled through life in deep grief for years. And as I watch friends of mine lose their mothers I wish that I could offer some kind of hope in such a sad situation, but the truth is harsh and brutal; you never get over it. You never recover. You move on, you live and you survive but a part of you dies in her, never to return.

If your Mom is still alive, please treasure her. Love her, accept her and be gracious to her. Talk to her as much as you can. Show her your appreciation. Remember everything she did for you, even if it wasn’t perfect. My Mom was not perfect, not by any means and many of my memories are painful, but she did the best she could, as everyone does. There shouldn’t be any room for bitterness, because you just never know how much time you have. Don’t waste it.

To my 17 year old…..

April 19th, 2011 | 5 Comments »

It’s your 17th birthday.

You were once small enough to fit on my forearm, and I remember it but I don’t believe it. Not now, not when I look at you, the age of 17 and on the brink of being your own man. I’m ok with it though. I really love watching you grow.


I hope you remain compassionate like you are now. You’ve always been that way, so I think it will stay with you. Remember that even though the world around you may look like we’re all very different, fundamentally we’re pretty much the same. We hurt the same way when the world doesn’t unfold like we think; we bleed when we’re cut and we cry when we’re sad. We all struggle, some of us more than others. Be aware of that, and tread kindly with those who come in to your life.  Everyone is just trying to do the best they can with what they’re given. Including you.

It’s not always easy to listen to the adults around you, or to think you need to pay attention to what they say. I know that you feel like you know everything because I was 17 once too. But I hope that when we talk that you’ll take my words and file them away in a place you can always go to, so that somewhere, when you’re ready, you can remember what I suggest. By no means do I think you should do anything I tell you. I raised you to make up your own mind about your life and you will do that, I have no doubt. But please, just try to remember what I tell you, and what we talk about. I’ve seen things in my lifetime that I pray will never happen in yours.

Use kindness in your words, and in your voice. I know that we all have the right to say what we want, but once those words leave your mouth, you can never, ever take them back. Learn to use a filter between your brain and your tongue. Sometimes it’s hard but when you learn how to really use it the right way, it leaves you much happier. I know. Trust me, I know.

I never reached far from home to find out what it was like. I hope you find a spark inside you that leads you away to explore, to visit, perhaps even to live. I’m ok if you go. I want you to go when you’re young enough to boldly explore the wild places, to climb the mountains or forge the streams that cause others to balk. I want you to be the one to answer a call, or a yearning. I want you to stand up and go when something needs to get done. I want you to know that when that voice inside you says ‘Let’s lend a hand’ that you jump up and do it. That voice inside you always means something. I hope you will listen. And trust it. Explore the world, go to places far away, share your smile and laughter with people of other cultures. We all laugh when we’re happy, it’s a universal language. Spread your beautiful smile, and amazing laugh around the world, if you dare. I know it will change you for the better, and take you to places of staggering beauty, that which you can see with your eyes but more importantly, beauty which will dwell inside you forever.

No matter where you go though, how far you move or reach or dream, my door will always be open to you. You are my only child, my only blood. I will be your landing pad no matter how old you are, or how far you go. You can always call me, regardless of the hour, or the need. Even if you just want to talk. Or not talk. I’m happy to just hear you breathing on the other end of the line. I hope you remember that.

I hope that you never resist doing something out of fear that you’ll fail. We all fail. I failed. I failed many, many times and yet I still got up and kept moving because I had no other choice. Even when it was hard, and it was hard more times than I will ever tell you. This life that you’re growing in to can be terribly hard and difficult. And imperfect. And unforgiving. And you will fail, but don’t ever turn your back on this life. Someday it will all make sense and you will find the path that’s right for you. It’s ok if it takes a long time. Mine did. Just know that every experience you have, those that deeply move you and the ones that bring you tears of sorrow, they will shape  and mold you in ways you can never imagine. Don’t ever wish a bad season of your life away, because when you rise up out of the fog and the view becomes easier, you’ll find a deeper appreciation of that beauty when it’s placed next to life’s ugliest moments.

Remember when you were little, and I used to tell you that I would never punish you for telling me the truth but that if you lied and I found out, there would be consequences? Do always tell the truth. It’s far easier, even when it’s hard. Lies are dark and ugly, and they become absorbed by your soul and live inside you, telling you all sorts of awful things. We really mean it when we say  ‘The truth will set you free.’ Because it does.

I hope you learn to trust your gut instinct; there’s a reason why some things just feel wrong to us. Don’t disrespect that instinct, or brush aside that uneasy feeling if it comes. Pay attention to your conscience, we all have one. And it’s the real deal. That voice inside you is the voice of your God, your Creator and He speaks to you through your heart. When you listen and pay attention, it becomes this glorious guide you simply can’t ignore. If you don’t listen, you may head down roads that take you to places no man should ever tread. Listen. Respect. Trust. You know that your God would never steer you wrong, but this world will try hard to drag you down, to immobilize you and close your eyes to His beauty and Grace. Many times you may not feel God’s love in you, but it never, ever leaves. Remember that.

You have a story, Griffin. It’s just beginning to unfold and it will be at times exciting and full of promise, but also will have moments of darkness and self-doubt. But it’s your story, and no one else’s. You build it and shape it according to the path that God has set you on, and no one has any right to push you off that road. Listen to your story, learn from it, but at the same time, pay attention to the stories unfolding of those around you. Care for their stories too. Never discount anyone’s life experience, never try to tell them their story is wrong. Every moment matters, even if it seems trivial and common. We’re all searching for the same thing; a place to belong, a life to call our own. Carve your path and allow others to carve theirs too. There will never be another You in all of time. In the thin vapor that is your life on this earth, make it shine farther than the deepest galaxy, trickling into the people around you. Others may forget what you’ve said; they may not remember everything you’ve done, but they will never forget how you’ve made them feel or the way you touched their hearts.

Find you, your dream, your path and your heart, and make your life remarkable. Make it extraordinary. It’s my hope that your 17th year on this earth is full of the bottomless joy of discovering more of who you are and where you are to go in this world. I’ve been blessed, amazed, humbled and honored to be your guide and I look forward to your adulthood with joy and wonder.


My truly thought-provoking friend Heather, who writes at The Extraordinary Ordinary, penned a letter to her two sons recently that inspired this post to my young man in honor of his birthday. This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last that her words have stirred a response in me. Love your heart, Heather. xoxo

Where Griffin’s name came from……

The griffin, griffon, or gryphon is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. As the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle was the king of the birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature.
{{info and photo courtesy of http://www.listze.com/lists/Most-Popular-Legendary-Creature}}

perfect christmas

December 21st, 2010 | 7 Comments »

I have a lot of Christmas photographs, wrapped carefully in paper envelopes, high on a shelf in a box in my closet. It’s pre-digital Christmas, numerous shots of Griffin, and my siblings surrounded by piles of paper wrapped gifts, sporting huge smiles. I don’t pull them out much to look at physically because the images are stored in my head; multiple Christmases full of insane laughter and a wide-eyed little boy opening box after box from his adoring aunts and uncles. The year he was three, his pile of presents towered over him, and he proudly stood next to the stack, his eyes shining in anticipation.

(photo from wallpaper sphere)

It was a lot, those piles of gifts. Too much, and I had to gently tell my siblings not to indulge him so much. They couldn’t help it, and it made for a pretty joyful Christmas, especially in those early years with Griffin and I as there wasn’t always the best of circumstances in our lives. My siblings never let my boy go without, and helped me to give him some delightful Christmas experiences.

(photo from hubpages.com)

It's hard to express what a perfect Christmas entails, and everyone has a different opinion about it. It's about the food, or the goodies served, or the decorations. It's the pile of gaily wrapped gifts, with ribbons and glitter. Or it's the gathering of the clan. Our culture has given us George Bailey's Christmas, with the ringing of the christmas bell as the angel gets it's wings, or Ralphie pining for his Red Ryder BB gun. It's also given us Linus, eloquently stating the true meaning of Christmas on a dimly lit stage as his friends watch and listen. But in many ways too, far more than I wish to understand, our culture has forced a sense of commercialized perfectionism on a holiday where the true meaning of why it's celebrated has been painfully lost.

(photo from viewpoints)

It's lean for us this year, far leaner than we expected as we had to replace our furnace last Friday. But we're not a big blowout kind of Christmas family anyway. We're really simple, and most of our gifts, in all honesty, were purchased all together last week. Griffin needed basketball shoes, and asked for a new basketball. I wanted a better computer bag and Mike needed a few items as well and so we just bought them together, making sure we got what we needed. There will be a few wrapped gifts under the tree, but we reflect and focus on the meaning of the season far more than the gifts. We count our blessings amidst the dwindling numbers in our pocketbook. We know..... really, it could be far worse. I've been there. I've been face to face with poverty and want; struggling to feed a little boy and myself, shrinking to the tiniest I've ever been because I wasn't eating enough. I've laid awake at night, listening to the little boy sleeping peacefully, and shook in fear over the speedy onset of Christmas, and being so poor that I couldn't even consider what gifts I could wrap for him. And twice in my life, for two consecutive years, the spirit of Christmas, the generosity that pours out of others spilled into my life like a flood and gave me reason to celebrate when the effort of putting one foot in front of the other was about all I could do each day.
(photo clipart from christmasgifts.com)
In 1996, Griffin was two and Christmas was approaching and I was working a minimum wage job that barely kept us floating. It was really an awful time for me, but my boss became my first Christmas angel when she delivered a box at work for me from her teacher husband's high school class. They'd gathered items to give to charity, and as her story went, they had more than they needed so she asked to bring the excess to me. I don't recall how many years passed before I realized that I was part of that charity, but the box I brought home held enough items for me to be able to give my boy a wide array of presents on Christmas Day and I recall weeping with relief as I removed toy after toy from that carton, along with some very nice items for me. Every Christmas, I think of her generosity and grace, of how she lifted me up without my even knowing. We just recently reconnected on Facebook and I plan to thank her again for being the angel she was that year.

(photo from majorly cool things)

The following year I had a similar experience, and I recounted it in this post about my most favorite Christmas ornaments. Again, a friend stepped up and gave of themselves to help lift my spirits and make a better celebration for my little guy. It was the last year that I struggled against the tide that was trying to push me over the edge, and the remaining years of Griffin’s young life were much more hopeful.

(more from majorly cool things)

It isn’t about the number of packages under your tree, as the Grinch clearly found out. The Who’s down in Whoville knew exactly what it meant, each dawn of December 25th. We’ve faced some pretty mean challenges from life in the past few years but each time we feel like we’re teetering on a cliff about to slip off, something happens and the ground stabilizes. We’re blessed. And we know it. It’s hard to see among the trials we face each day, but when we awake this Saturday, we know in our hearts what really matters. We’ll sit by our lush Balsam pine, thick with ancient memories and stories, with glittery ribbon tinsel and sparkling tiny lights and we’ll smile and enjoy each other and the safety and warmth of our home. We’ll celebrate with family, laugh and drink and eat and laugh some more. The gift is here, right now, with us. It won’t be found in a box, no matter how beautifully it’s wrapped, or a meal that’s carefully thought out and prepared, or even in a plate of cookies.

The perfect Christmas is here, in the heart, with us all the time.

Merry Christmas to all,

and to all, a good night!

(photo from teal town)


November 5th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

It doesn’t take much to change your perspective, the view from our eyes. A moment, a turn of the head, a glance in the other direction, a good night’s sleep, a loved one’s calming words. We rarely see our life’s moments in the same light as others, and it helps for us to step outside our heads when challenged with the bumps of everyday life.

These photos were from the sunset Wednesday night, taken one right after the other with separate settings on my camera. They’re the same, but they’re completely different. Like perspectives. Both are beautiful regardless.

unveiling my passions

June 27th, 2010 | 8 Comments »

It seems like this past year has put me in contact with a large number of very passionate people; people who love what they do whether it’s their chosen vocation, their family or a particular cause. Being around them is almost addictive. There’s a glow, a determination and a sense of joy in them when they discuss what they love, what drives them and makes them soar. I love seeing it, being around it and sharing in it as well. There’s plenty in my life that I feel strongly about, aspects of it that bring a deep sense of peace to me, that fill me with happiness. I bet you think I’m talking about food, don’t you? Well sort of, but it’s only one area of my life that I’m passionate about. My friend Missy, who writes the blog The Marketing Mama, is sharing her passion and asked for others to chime in and play along. I can’t imagine a better person to share a passionate and engaging conversation with; Missy is one of the amazing women I’ve been blessed to meet and connect with this past year through our blog networking group. She’s got a strong finger on the pulse of life around her, a smile to light up any room and a wicked sense of humor.

So, to join in on her expressions of all things we love and hold dear to us, allow me to share these simple aspects of my life that bring me an immense amount of joy and make my heart swell with gladness. I’m not one to climb to the rooftops to shout out what stirs my heart, and I’m not one to push a cause or a lifestyle or anything so subjective. For me, it’s the little things that make my life perfect.

Like Delphiniums.

This year, whether due to the copious rain that has drenched our area or just the maturity of the plants, these Delphinium that are growing in one of my garden beds have simply exploded with blooms. Deep blue and so beautifully shaped, the flowers are stunning and I just can’t get enough of their beauty. I love my flower gardens, and the way that Nature just works itself out in multitudes of color, shape, texture and time. There are days that I walk through my yard and am stunned by what’s going on, not to mention humbled that my hands did this kind of work. It isn’t much, but it’s mine. And it’s one way I can share a god-given gift with others.

Then there’s these guys.

Someday is entirely possible that I will qualify as a crazy cat lady. I am crazy about cats, and these two in particular. Eli, on the left, has been a godsend into our lives. Losing Harmon was the hardest time I’ve gone through in recent memory, and Eli came along just at the right moment, full of love to give and hungry to be loved back. Bustopher is happier with a friend, and our hearts are healing from our loss.

There’s Loveless too.

It’s a perfect sanctuary from the hectic pace of life and I do miss it with all the work I’ve been doing this summer, but recently I spent a blissful nothing type of day there, sitting on the screen porch watching the rain fall on the lake all day long. That may not sound like fun to most, but it was a much needed day off from work, and from life and I needed it like pure oxygen. It’s a place that lives in my very core, that I love beyond description and wish I could bring every single one of you there for a day just to see it and enjoy it.

I’m passionate about my family too, as any Mother would be. Watching my young man grow, mature, change and embrace the life he’s leading is a beautiful thing to see. He has some amazing roads ahead of him to explore and I can’t wait to see where his life’s journey takes him. He’s polite, kind, warm-hearted and generous. He’s funny, corny, silly and smart as a whip. And the boy LOVES his food.

Which brings me, rightly, to what I am most passionate about each waking day of my life. You knew we’d get there, didn’t you? It’s not hard to be passionate about food these days, with the Farmers Markets bursting full of the fresh bounty from the Earth. How can you NOT get excited about fresh strawberries?

Or a delightful poached egg over fresh baby zucchini sauteed with garlic scapes?

But it really goes beyond just the freshness and far beyond what time of year it is, as it’s much more about how your body feels when it’s nurtured with good food. There’s nothing more to it than that. What goes into our bodies has a huge effect on our well-being, our ability to learn at school or to do our jobs properly, to keep us sharp and focused so we can concentrate, to help our immune system be as strong as possible so we can stay healthy to enjoy our lives. I’ve seen enormous change in my own life from the foods that I eat, and notice immediately when I’ve been slipping away from the right path and eating too much junk. If there’s one area of my life that I could talk about all day long, it’s definitely food, diet, cooking and consumption. It’s my blood, my life and what God gave me to give to others.

So what are YOU passionate about?

Missy got a good response to her call about passion. See what my friends say about their own passions!







sweetly broken

March 26th, 2010 | 71 Comments »

I never expected to have the last six months. And I thank God for them, because it’s been a long preparation for this day.

Harmon has slipped away, very quickly and over just the past few days. It doesn’t matter what’s wrong because we don’t need to know. We just know he’s very ill, he’s very old and he’s leaving us. We need to make his final journey a peaceful one. For the unconditional love he’s given to me over the last 17 years, I owe him as little suffering as I am able to give. It doesn’t make the ache in our hearts any easier but he deserves nothing less from us. For every snuggle, for every jet engine purr and painfully hard head-butt he’s sent me over his lifetime, and for the six months that I’ve had to try and somehow accustom myself to living without him, I can make one of the hardest choices of my adult life.

Inevitable, and bittersweet. There are no more Spring days for him lolling on the patio or chasing grasshoppers, no more expectant faces at the snack cupboard, no more heavy bodies cuddling up to me while I work, or watch TV or sleep at night.

I don’t really know what Bustopher will do. Or for that matter, what we will do.

So please excuse my absence from here for a while.

I'm celebrating today…..

March 1st, 2009 | 12 Comments »





See you soon!!