Fairy Tales and Other Genres

Every time I read a book, there is a longing.

To live in that Hallmark-card town where everyone walks to the shops, bumps into one another and chats…

To run my own business and set my own hours (spoiler alert: my dad always ran his own business, so I really do know it’s no easy task!)…

To have the laid-back life of dropping kids off at school, going to work and being off in time to pick them up…

To have the friend who sticks by you through your entire life, and probably lives just around the corner…

Whatever the longing might be, I know in my heart that the grass is always greener in the pages of a book.

We all have things that seem messy or imperfect. We have these things that make us feel different from “everyone else.” And yet, I think the things that make us feel different might actually be what makes us the most similar.

I don’t have what most would call a best friend. Haven’t had one for the majority of my adult life. My best chance at a life-long best friend was screwed up by my own adolescent arrogance and ignorance. Some of the amazing people that I love live miles and miles away. It’s amazing to see them, but it’s extremely rare with everyone’s busy lives.

When it comes down to it, I don’t have that one person that I call to join my for any event, meet for dinner, spend a weekend away with, whatever it is that adult women best friends do? I have my family – my husband is really the best friend I’ve ever had (and the rest of them are pretty okay too! 😉), but the books and movies don’t really count those as best friends.

I say this not as a job interview, but because it used to be something that I thought made me different. Made me less-than. Made me weird and awkward (which I totally am!).

Actually, once I started talking about it, I’ve found it isn’t so different after all. Lots of us are “best friend-less.” Ladies, it’s okay!

Maybe you’ll pick up a new best friend when you share your “difference,” or maybe you’ll just feel less like an outsider. Either way, embrace the part of you that feels like a mistake.

It just may be the way you connect to the world.

And maybe that will be your own storybook fantasy.


Thinking About Lies

Looking back, I admit that I’m not terribly proud of the kid and teenager I was. Amongst a litany of sins, I was sometimes a liar.

In fact, if the occasion suited me, I could tell a BIG whopper. Laying it all bare, I will tell you that I wanted to impress people. I wanted to have the best story. If you didn’t seem impressed by my story, I would keep going and it would snowball into absurdity. Case in point is the time I kept going and trying to one-up a friend so much, I claimed my dad had a false eye. Of course, I covered myself beautifully by telling said friend never to mention it.


As a teenager, I know that it was my instinct to drop a lie or two to try to get out of trouble. Project not done? I promised it was done and at home on the counter. Missed a deadline? Oh no! I completely forgot the date and will have it in ASAP.

Thankfully, by high school, I must have somehow gotten slapped with the need for some modicum of integrity, because the lies became much less brazen. Despite the “fake eye debacle” of elementary school and the ensuing shame I feel to this day, I can honestly say I never lied to my parents about where I was going or who I was with…although I admit I was pretty boring and didn’t do too many things that tempted me to lie (other than never, ever doing my homework – apologies to my former teachers).

Somewhere along the line, I grew to detest lying. I don’t have a good story of where or how that happened, but it did. I have a hard time communicating with and working with someone who lies. Especially blatant lies that can easily be proven. Again, being honest, I’m sure some lies still slip into my conversations. But I can say it’s pretty darn rare these days, even though the temptation is certainly there any time I feel like I might be “in trouble.”

But, you know how they say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Well, it’s true in this case because our D-man can be prone to lies.

They tend to be innocuous, yet annoying. Lying about what a sibling did or didn’t do (I’m an only child, but these seems pretty standard sibling behavior) or lying about cleaning his room (just ask him about the shirts I found behind his laundry basket…and how that all turned out for him!). We’ve been quick to try to curb the lies and every single time, I remind D that we have to know he tells the truth about little things or it will be hard to believe the bigger things.

And he gets it. I know he does, even though we still are catching him in these “little” lies. I have faith and evidence that he’s actually a better human being than I am and I truly believe he’s going to get those morals into his head faster than I did. He can articulate it, he can see the ridiculousness in past lies, he just needs to work on stopping himself before that whopper slips past his lips.

In reality, this isn’t a post about me or about D. It’s a post about the current culture.

I would argue that we live in a time where lying is either accepted or expected or excused. I’m not certain which, but it’s rampant. Politicians have been known for their half-truths and biased data analysis for years. Yet, today is seems to be that liars even contradict themselves and expect to get away with it.

And what scares me is that we often let them because we seem to be unaware.

What scares me is that so many of us even spread the lies, the kernels of truth buried in mountains of assumption, the skewed data.

Social media allows us to spread news, share ideas and opinions and disseminate information faster than ever before. It’s awesome and awful in so many ways and all at once.

How does this relate to lying? It’s all in that button on the bottom right of a Facebook post. It’s been my experience that so many people hit that “share” button after reading only the headline.

And we often end up lying with what we share.

Most of the time, we don’t mean to. You’re moved by something or you feel such a strong connection, you share it immediately. I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it too.

We need to remember that we also live in a time where it is easier than ever to gain a wealth of information and facts. The internet contains more sources than we could have imagined finding twenty years ago. And we often carry internet access with us every waking hours.

So, I’m going to ask you to stop the lies. When something is shocking or fishy or strange or just seems off, check it out. Maybe don’t be like me and become nearly obsessed with a need to check EVERYthing…but Google it, look for reliable sources, read from a variety of news outlets, check for sources that corroborate each other. If you’re strapped for time, check Snopes or FactCheck or a similar site. Sometimes you will be surprised to find truth…and other times the lie will shock you.

Ultimately, you will be armed with truth. You will have all the tools you need to stop the lies.

And the world will be a better place for it.


Reasons I Went to Camp

I wrote this to my high school-aged church camp “kids.” I’m not certain how I feel laying it out for public consumption, but I feel called to do it. So, here are some of the “Reasons I Went to Camp.”

I’m going to start by telling you to keep reading. It’s not a strategy I allow my students to use, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m telling you to keep reading because, chances are, this isn’t going where you think it’s going.

I had a “moment” tonight. To explain it, I’m going to have to lay some parts of myself bare, so please stick with me here. I was born as a sisterless-sister. Eight years before I was born, my sister died at only two days old. All of my parents’ other babies died before I was born. Even though I never set eyes on her or touched her, I was born into a world in which something was missing. Sometimes my soul literally aches for the loss I never had. Sometimes I berate myself because this loss should be nothing, is nothing compared to the pain so many carry. Yet, there are times where my “missing” sister makes me feel so alone. And the words won’t come. Only tears.

But tonight, as I laid down my precious little girl and the “moment” struck me, as I curled into a ball of tears in the hallway outside the rooms of two of the most amazing children I will ever know, I was struck by something.

Not having my sister is probably what made me a Christian.

As a small child, I dealt with those floods of emotions by imagining meeting her in heaven. I clung to that like a lifeboat on choppy seas. I could see that moment in the distance, offering a hand of hope in the dark night.

And then it hit me what a “bad” reason this was to be a Christian. I’ve learned so much (and am still learning!) about what it means to be a Christian since those sleepless nights of childhood.

But, what did God do with my “bad” reason for clinging to Christianity? He grew me. He said, “You’re here. It’s a start. Let me take it from here.”

As these thoughts slammed into me one after one, I thought of all of the times I did things for “bad” reasons…and all that God brought from those times.

Some years, I went to camp to find a boyfriend. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen.). Sometimes I went to feel cool or popular. Others I went to find someone who would show me a way out of a bad relationship. To be honest, I even went a couple of years for reasons I couldn’t explain…because I didn’t want to go.

Read that again. I did NOT want to go to camp.

Me. The person who preaches that camp changed my life. The person who spent every single night of seventh grade clinging to the promise of camp in the summer. Camp had literally pulled me out of a place where (in my overly-dramatic 12-year-old mind) I felt I couldn’t face the world. I didn’t want to go.

But, I went. As a camper with bad reasons, good reasons, no reasons and everything in between, I went. As a counselor going for the right reasons or the wrong reasons, I went.

And God used every single one of those reasons for His glory. I got to the right place, regardless of why I was there, and God took it from there.

He’s good at that.

He can take our mess and mistakes and make it something beautiful. He can bring beauty and glory from the darkest of places.

So, I’m telling you now, just come. He will meet you where you are. Come to church, come to youth group, come to camp, to post-high to women’s group or men’s group. Go where people are gathered in God’s name and He will meet you there.

Even if you don’t see the beauty of it for 20 years or more, let go and let God.

Love to you all,



Ending Up Here

It’s April and the ground is white. It’s a beautiful snow. The kind that covers up the mud and muck. It dusted my windshield with shiny flakes, yet wiped right off.

It’s beautiful. But it’s April!?

I’ll be honest. This land, this place, is not somewhere I would have ever chosen. My eyes go green with envy when I realize some people live on the crystal clear lakes up north, on the white sand beaches of Florida, in the waterfall-dotted mountains of Colorado…and I live here. Each day, they wake up to views I breathe in and absorb on a vacation, while I wake up here.

No one oozes over the beauty here. We don’t have natural attractions. There aren’t many who would ever take a vacation in this area.

Yet, here I am.

If I’m being honest (and I am), it used to eat at me. I was angry that my husband’s awesome, perfect job meant I was trapped here. I was frustrated that my parents were here and I could never leave them without their only child and grandchildren. I raged at no one, late at night when feelings seep in and are magnified by exhaustion. I shook my fist in the invisible face of the force tying me to this place.

And, finally, I prayed to not only accept it but to bloom. To be cliche, I asked to bloom where I’d been planted.

So, I began seeking to make this place better. To make this town better. To make it a place where people want to live.

And somewhere along the way, I realized I wasn’t here by mistake. As I worked through family genealogy, I saw the ebbs and tides. I saw family on both sides who bought land in the very same area my parents bought a second property. And I awed at this seeming coincidence that both sides of my family came to that place and, later, both sides came here.

It wasn’t an accident. My husband, the most amazing man I’ve ever known is here. Had I not been in this place, I would never have known him. And that is better than a million sunsets on the beach. The home I’ve lived in the better part of my life is here. It has afforded us more than we could have bought anywhere else. It was built with the blood, sweat and tears of my parents and painted with the memories of generations. My husband has a job he loves here. A job he may not have found elsewhere. Our church, a constant throughout every day of my journey, is here. This place ties me to the past, but it doesn’t have to tether my opportunities or my experiences.

I am here.

I belong here.

As I’ve been writing, the word “live” has been autocorrecting to the word “love,” and that is perfectly right.

I live/love here.


Lessons in Being Cheap…Ahem, Frugal

We breezed off the plane and I turned on my turbo-walking mode. The one that leaves small children in the dust and embarrasses the heck out of my laid-back husband. Time was sort of, maybe of, the essence. There was one last flight toward home that night and my firefighter guy had to work at 7am the next day.

As we breezed by literally hundreds of people standing around a baggage carousel that had not even begun to circle, even that sweet and chill husband of mine had to smile. Not a single other person was moving away from the baggage area. Turbo-walking me felt a silent victory cheer rise up in my chest. (Over what, I’m not sure. Sometimes my competitive side just jumps out.)

Regardless, we were the first to march up to customs. With carry-ons slung over our shoulders, we were feeling pretty good about the time we had to spare before our connection.

“No checked luggage, huh? That was smart. How’d you get her to do that?”

Insert side-eye. And raised eyebrows. Directed at my husband. From me.

For the past fourteen years, I’ve been slowly converting my man from an extreme over-packer to a streamlined packing machine. Or something like that. I mean, this is the man who went to church camp for a week and literally took a trunk of clothes – which included about three outfits per day. Considering his groomsmen had to tell him not to wear a brown belt with black shoes and half of his current wardrobe is fire department t-shirts, this is sort of mind-boggling to me.

But here is where I will lose some of you. If you’re really into having lots of shoe options or if you don’t feel all that flexible about your vacation wardrobe, you might want to stop reading. I still love you, but my packing tips may make you run for the hills. So, click away to some BuzzFeed lists or cat videos or something that doesn’t make you want to scream at me.

Still here?

We’re headed to visit Grandma and Grandpa Florida for a few days over spring break. Which means we are flying. Which means a budget (read: cheap but charges for every single “extra”) airline. Which means we each have a backpack in which to pack.

Secretly, the competitive side of me is rising up and seeing it as a challenge for how much extra space I have or how much I can pack.

Here is how it’s going so far…

1) Wear the biggest stuff you plan to take.

There is NO way I’d give precious space for my tennis shoes (or boots – I ALWAYS wear them on travel days if we are headed someplace colder). Same goes for the jeans. They take up way too much space. So, if they make the cut, I’ll be wearing them. That said, chances are the tennis shoes will get traded out for something I can slip on and off at airport security. But, if I go with two pairs of shoes, I promise the bulkier one will be on my feet.

2) Pick one pair of shoes to pack.

If you’re going with two pairs, plan your outfits around the pair you wear and the pair you pack. I know that this means you may have to make some sacrifices, but it will save SO much space. Once I picked some sandals for this Florida trip, I had to eliminate a couple of shirt options. But, for me, it’s worth it.

3) Go with clothes that aren’t going to be a wrinkled mess.

We will be going to church while we’re in Florida, so I needed something dressy. Not only am I going with just a carry-on, but I am also NOT getting up early to iron on day one of our mini-vacay. The pink skirt (LulaRoe, if you’re wondering) is stretchy and textured and perfect for a dressy option that has to travel in a backpack. The blue shirt (as you can see) can’t hold up to being folded after laundry day. So, it is going to look even worse if I try to take it on this trip. It goes back to the ironing pile and far, far from my packing.

4) Pick clothes that give you lots of options.

I wear scoop neck or v-neck shirts a lot. Stop judging me. But, honestly, they’re great for a trip. This time, I’m taking a pair of denim shorts and gray capri pants along with four plain scoop neck or v-neck shirts (including the one I’m wearing with the pink skirt!). I grab these babies at Old Navy or even Walmart because they are cheap, come in a color to match anything and work great as a layer throughout the year. And they cost $5 or less most of the time. (If you’re more into clothes than I am – which is probably most people – and you didn’t click away already, I’m really sorry for offending your fashion sensibilities. This is probably painful for you to read.)

Also, I don’t let myself play the “What if we go here and I wish I had ______?” or “Maybe I’ll change my mind, so I’ll take a few more choices.” Seriously. Just don’t. Throw in some extra underwear and an extra shirt. It will be okay!

5) Think thin.

If you need a warmer layer, go as thin as you can. I love my navy fire department hoodie, but that thing would fill half of my backpack! The reddish one is super-thin, yet keeps my arms covered (read: warmer). It honestly takes up about a fourth of the space of the navy hoodie.

6) Roll, baby, roll.

If you’ve picked thin, lightweight materials, this is going to be easy. Fold them into a rectangle and roll them. They end up being so tiny! That’s my backpack with all of my clothes for a 5-day (including travel) trip. If I ditched the capris for leggings, it would shrink even more. But, I would then have to rethink my stance on the outfits in which leggings can serve as pants debate and I just don’t want to do that tonight!

For some trips, I go lighter. For example, when I can get away with only sandals, I skip socks (and I’m not a huge fan of socks anyway – win, win!). Or, if we’re staying for a longer time with a family member, I’ll just plan to do laundry mid-trip. There are times you just have to pack more just because of what you’ll need, such as winter-weather clothes (no matter the material, those are always going to be thicker!) or certain business attire. But all of the tips above I use nearly every time we travel.

The result? No checked bag fees. Less luggage to haul around when you’re driving and no worrying about your bag getting lost when you’re flying. Plus a better chance to make your connecting flight even when you schedule it really close and have to go through customs in between. Not that the last one has even happened to me…


How Classrooms Look

Recently, our Secretary of Education tweeted her perception that classrooms today look almost identical to classrooms of sixty years ago. Her perception was days filled with students sitting in one place, silently, listening to the teacher lecture. I confess. It upset me and caused me to feel defensive.

Then, I realized that my own mom – with whom I am close, a woman who I respect and talk to about education, a woman whose opinion I value – expressed the same perception just a few years ago. She simply didn’t realize how schools have changed.

So, I feel it is time to enlighten and educate. While the majority of us were in schools throughout our childhood, many do not realize how much the realm of education is different in the new millennium. Truly, classrooms today are dramatically changed from the classrooms I experienced about fifteen years ago when I started my journey as an educator.

In fact, the profession of being a teacher has changed. When I went into the field, I didn’t realize how much of my day would be spent trying to counsel students through their life situations, how much time would be spent teaching children how to behave in different situations, helping kids understand how to make good health choices, etc. But that is the reality and good teachers do the best they can to teach, counsel, mediate, and fill in as a “parent” when needed.

There are different challenges (Laughably, my cooperating teacher when I was a college student found a cell phone in a 3rd graders desk and we thought this was a crazy story I would tell for the rest of my career!), different issues, different tools and different strategies being implemented. The students walking in my door are different and, if I’m doing my job, education will constantly evolve to fit their needs.

Without further ado, here are some snaps from my classroom on ordinary days. This is how a classroom looks. Yes, the kids do sit at desks in my room (although some teachers have moved away from desks as well) and I am at the front of the room teaching part of the day…but all of these pictures show you other parts of a typical day.


A Crisis for Our Kids

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone here. Way out. Stepping into the land where truth and anger and opinion collide. It’s hard. I’m afraid of the people who will disagree. I’m afraid of the reactions of others. But it’s time to speak out.

America, wake up. We have a crisis.

Well, truthfully, we have more than one. But I think many of our issues are linked in one way or another to a certain crisis.

We have a crisis in parenting.

Unfortunately, we are muddying the waters a bit with these “mommy wars.” We are drawing out debates about breastfeeding and bottle feeding or working versus staying home. There are times where there can be, and are, multiple “right” choices. But, I think we go too far when we say, “No matter what choices you are making, you’re a good mom (or dad)!”

No. Sorry.

Breast or bottle? Work or stay home? Public school or private school? All can be right. All can be a positive and affirming choice for your family. But NOT all decisions are this type.

If you insist that 2+2=7, I’m doing you no favors by smiling, nodding and agreeing. We cannot lay down a blanket statement that all parenting choices are the right choices.

There are some decisions that are NOT best for your child. Not even okay for them. They are choices that are shaping children in ways that are harmful and even dangerous, at times.

If we want change, it has to start with the most influential people in a child’s world. Parents.

We must stop allowing our children to “call the shots.” Children need boundaries. They feel more secure when they have them. The world is a large and scary place – even for adults. Our children need to feel that someone is helping them define that very large place. When we do not, we create children who try to define it themselves. Often, they are defiant and destructive to themselves and others. Frequently, they are disrespectful and antagonistic. We cannot continue to make excuses for this along the vein of “all boys act that way” or “kids all act that way sometimes.” Blatant disregard for others, willful disobedience, pathological lying, violent behavior. All of these are not normal. They are not acceptable. We, as the adults, must draw those lines and not tolerate these behaviors. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun sometimes. But it is necessary.

As a parent, you are committing to 18 to life for this tiny human. It is a commitment that means putting them ahead of your own desires and whims. It means that, sometimes you must dish out and follow through with a punishment that hurts you as well. When your child is defying you, you cannot allow him or her to dictate what happens. I know taking away the technology sets you up for fit-throwing, whining and – frankly – less time to get done what you need to do. But, if technology is what makes an impact, you’re going to have to Mom-up (or dad-up) and do it. I get that grounding your kid means you may not get to spend the weekend on the boat. But, if that makes an impact on your child, do it anyway.

Frankly, I see far too many parents who have delivered a child and popped that little one in front of a screen until it’s time to march him or her into the halls of school. I’ve met too many who never told their child “no,” lest they seem mean or have to deal with the meltdown that may ensue. Your child does not need you to be their best friend, nor do they need to be your wing man. Your child needs a parent.

Wake up.

Our children are trying to deal with adult problems because we have foisted them upon their young shoulders. Kids are trying to be the go-between from mom to dad or trying to figure out how to manage a younger sibling’s behavior. Kids are listening to one parent bash the other parent – the one from whom their child gets half of their genetic material.

Children are demonstrating destructive behaviors that threaten others. Behaviors that will get them kicked out of the classroom today and will make them unemployable tomorrow. They are not held accountable and an excuse or person to blame is always at the ready.

It is a crisis. And the solution begins in our homes and in our families.

I am by no means perfect. I lose my temper. I over-react. I can be too critical. But I refuse to stand by and let my children slip down the slippery slope caused by a lack of effort in parenting. I apologize. I try to do better. I try to make the choices that are best for my kids. Not the choices that are easiest and the least disruptive for me.

Change can happen.

Change must happen.

And it starts with parenting.