Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Growing Up and a Room Makeover

What is happening in your house this last week of summer?  It’s still summer, you know.  I’m holding on for dear life.

In our house we are growing.  Well, the kids are growing.  These last few years of parenting kids who live under our roof are going by frighteningly fast.  Why can’t we slow this time down to the pace time traveled when I had three preschoolers to entertain in a small townhome on a winter day, with a Dad not coming home from work until 10pm?  That kind of time stood still.

I spent the whole weekend painting and redecorating Olivia’s bedroom.  Olivia has always loved her room.  She likes having her stuff just so; I think she just likes to get away from all the noise.

Olivia has a girly streak.  She went through a longer than normal pink phase.  Over the years, her bedroom just kept  getting pinker and pinker.  Her walls and all her accessories were pink, pinker and pinkest. So were her clothes.

Olivia is a Freshman this year.  When we had Olivia, I thought that raising a girl would be easy.  She’s my girl, so she’ll be just like me.  I’ll be able to help her be a better version of me though, because I can warn her away from all my stupid mistakes.  I can make sure she avoids any of my regrets.  Parenting a girl will be easy.

I see you laughing.

Parenting a girl is not easy.  Because, guess what?  Just because you gave birth to a human who has gender in common with you, does not mean you are the same.  You and your daughter will not necessarily interpret everything in life in the same way.  I’m sorry if you didn’t know that.  I thought you should hear it from a friend.

When I was young, I was thrilled to grow up.  Every time I rounded a corner and passed through a new milestone, I was elated to see what great new things were waiting for me to experience.  I always assumed fun and adventure.

Olivia is not thrilled to grow up.  She has never been in a hurry.  She likes being a kid just fine.  Parenting a kid like this has an up side.  We’re not worried that Olivia is sneaking out her window, jumping on the back of an older kid’s motorcycle and sneaking into bars. I’m thankful for that.  That would be scary.

The down side is, Olivia needs a lot of reassurance that getting older is fun and safe.  She’s just not on board with it. She doesn’t trust it.  Becoming a Freshman is not her favorite.

I’ve been fairly preoccupied with Olivia’s state of mind lately.  This weekend I followed a chapter right from my own Mom’s book on how to help your teenage daughter.  I remember one time when I was in high school and I was as low as I got back then.  I was really, really sad about some teenager thing.  My Mom helped me redecorate  my room.  That was an amazing trick.  It worked.

We turned Olivia’s pink explosion room into a room more suited to a mature high school student.  We think this room will help Olivia embrace the awesomeness that is her. She’s going to be a heck of a high schooler.  I want her to know it.

Want to see before and afters?  Of course you do:

la la 4


la la's room 2


la la's room 1


la la 3


Do you remember the Macarena?  That was sweet, wasn’t it?  Well, it was sweet, until we killed it.  We did  too much Macarena, didn’t we?  So much Macarena that we wanted to puke when when we heard about more Macarena.  Why do we always do that?

Olivia asked Scott and I if we could do the Quan.  I said, “Of course we can Quan.  What parent worth their salt can’t do the Quan?  What is the Quan?”

The Quan is today’s Macarena.  Olivia showed me to how to “Hit the Quan”.  I think you’re going to be impressed.  I thought my 80’s running man was good, but this Quan thing really showcases my abilities.  Please learn it, and post your video.  It is time to kill this thing.

Feeling Small, Living Big

Uhgg.  My brain is dead.  My brain is dried out. Crispy. If you grabbed my brain with your hand right now, it  would disintegrate; a thousand brain crumbs would fall from your palm to the ground.  There’s no juice there, people.  I’ve got no flow.

I think it’s this back to school business.

You’d think that someone with no flow would have the good sense to stop writing.  Well, I don’t care if I’ve got nothing to say.  I’m going to say it anyway.

Where do you suppose you’re going to find wisdom like what I just said there, if I quit writing?


What’s that?  You think I’m kind of like a public servant, and you admire my bravery for writing even when I got nothin’?

Woah. Do me a favor. Don’t repeat that.  I’m shy about getting attention, and more than a little modest.  I’m appalled by the thought of making up pretend conversations in a blog to flatter myself.  That’s sick stuff.

On the last day of summer, my head was brimming with ideas, inspiration and enthusiasm.  I actually wrote out a few of my thoughts,  and saved them for when I had time to write.

Where did all the enthusiasm go?

Do you remember I told you that I was meeting with a group of women this summer?  We read the book, “How to Choose Joy When Happiness isn’t Enough”, by Kay Warren.  We finished our book club at breakfast on the last day of summer.   I was inspired by this book, and I think the other women were too.

Isn’t it funny?  And, by “funny”, I mean super irritating.  Within a week of finishing this book, and feeling like I understand how to access real joy and contentment,  I find myself struggling to remember what I learned.

Maybe if I tell you what I learned, it will help me remember:

There is practical wisdom in this book, I couldn’t begin to remember everything I thought was useful.  I’m definitely keeping this book to refer to later.

 I’m going to just tell you two ideas that impacted me the most.  The first idea is probably something you already know: Joy can NOT exist in the absence of gratitude.  Here’s something interesting about the group of women who read this book.  We all seemed to agree that the older we get, the mores successful we have become at seeing small stuff.  Is that just across the board, a true fact about aging?  Or, was our group unique?

Here’s how it works for me: I thank God for how soft my sweater feels against my skin, for the thick cream in my coffee, and for SURE, I thank him for this huge tree I walk by almost every day at lunch. I see that tree. I stop for a few moments to just take the tree in with my eyes.  I thank God for being so kind to make that tree, and for the power he has to create something as big, and beautiful as that tree.  Seeing that tree elevates my mood.

I know.  I’m well on my way to being a crazy ol’ lady.  We learned that joy grows more easily in a heart fertile with gratitude.  It’s easy to be grateful, if we start breaking life down to all the details.

tree picture

The other important part of this book was what I would call the author’s overarching theme.  If you walk away from reading this book without understanding this part of the author’s message, then you may want to consider a reread.   This is it. This is what Kay Warren is trying to say God has impressed upon her heart to share: Joy is a choice.  

The author stated this in a hundred different ways.  But, I understood her to say that I am an active participant in my ability to obtain joy and contentment in a life guaranteed to be filled with its share of sadness and pain.  The author didn’t just tell us it was our choice, and leave at that though. She gave us tools and insight on how to go about choosing joy.

One of the women in our group has a tremendous challenge in her life.  She didn’t ask for the challenge, it was given to her.  In one of our first meetings, this woman said something like, “Oh, choose Joy.  That sounds simple.  I’ve got to wake up tomorrow and face complicated and grueling decisions and tasks, but I’ll just start singing “Amazing Grace”, and choose joy, and then I’ll be all zippedy doo da…life is sure grand.”

I paraphrased what my friend said, but you get the idea.  I thought my friend made a GREAT point.  When she said that,  I was really hoping Kay Warren had something profound to share.  Because anything I said, I’d be whipping right out of my big, fat hiney.

I had squat on that huge life question.  All’s I really had was the dumb idea to have the book club.  That’s where my ideas ended.

Whew!  Kay Warren DID have her sister’s back.  She had some good ideas that were practical, useful and inspiring.  By the end of the book, we all felt like we had learned some things to take along with us in our lives.  It was a good book.  I recommend it.

Here’s the brave book club.  Our numbers started bigger than this, but do you remember how busy summer is?  Brutal.  I was grateful to have even one other person, besides me, by the end of the summer.

book club

I have had more on my mind than choosing joy.  I have been thinking about living big.  At least, I was, before back to school crushed the thinking out of me.

This lady I like shared this passage from Corinthians on Instagram the other day:

Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life.
We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way.  I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

This passage speaks to me.  The smallness I feel comes from within me, but I’m not meant to live a small life.  God is asking me with great affection to live a BIG LIFE.  

Am I reading that right?  I hope I am.

I think what I’m hearing is that I’m NOT to live in obedience to my insecurities, or focus on my shortcomings.  I’m not to withdraw, or hold back, or create a facade to hide me.  All that is small.

For me, living a big life is measured in terms of my investment in people; encouraging, serving, loving the people I was dropped in next to on Earth.  Does it get bigger than that?  I can’t let my smallness stop me from living a big life.  How thrilling that I don’t have to.  A big life sounds super fun. I like fun.

I did this first book club/Bible study feeling very, very small.  I am small.  I know it.  I’m not a good book/Bible study leader.  That’s not false modesty.  I promise I hold this belief with every ounce of my soul.  There are times I laughed at my ineptitude.  I had to laugh, because the other option is feeling crummy about what I lack.  I don’t like feeling crummy.

I’m so glad I’m not letting the reality of my smallness stop me from living big.  God says, don’t do it, Mik!  He calls me, Mik. We’re just like that.  It’s an inside joke.

If you’re a woman, I’m inviting you to live big with me.  We’re doing another book club/Bible study this fall.  We’re meeting every other Sunday evening at 5pm.  Location tbd. Somewhere around Prairie du Sac.

 If you live in Pakistan, India or Switzerland, and you read my blog, may God bless you like mad.  Wow.  How did that happen?  I so wish you could join us, so we could ask you about Pakistan and stuff.  Perhaps you could live big, and start your own study where you live, and we can do this in tandem?

We’re shooting for a start date of Oct 4th.  We have not made a final decision on the book yet, but it will definitely be a book written to inspire us, and to help us grow in our Christian faith.  If you’re sort of iffy on the Christian stuff and church, but you’re intrigued, I wouldn’t let that stop you.  I’m not much for feeling like people all have to agree on everything to help each other grow.

If you start, and decide it’s not for you, I don’t get hurt feelings. It’s a gift.

I’m excited to live big.

You in?

Do you have a hard time accepting things at face value?  I do.

Lately, when the family is hanging out in the living room, Reggie has been slipping away to Scott’s and my bedroom.  We suddenly realize he’s gone. We get up and look around.  We keep finding him lying on our bed (or under) in the dark.

Why does he do that?  Do you think he’s sick?  Or worse, do you think we hurt his feelings?

You’d be pretty surprised to know much space a problem like my dog’s hurt feelings occupies in my brain. I’m glad you don’t know.

Our family is experiencing something new.  College recruitment.

Parents should get manuals for this stuff.  Wait. There probably are manuals somewhere.  Forget I said that.  I don’t want to read a manual.

But, poor Eddie. It’s just like when those dumb suckers let us take him home from the hospital for the first time.  We didn’t have one single idea what we were walking into.  We had no real experience to make us confident we’d succeed as parents.  We looked like adults, but we knew the truth. We were just two kids.  Kids can’t raise babies.

Well, maybe kids can raise babies. Eddie is still alive. Yay!

This little baby is now walking around like an almost big man.  I think this almost big man is probably assuming his parents are mature and adult enough to help him make his first gigantic life decision.

Sorry, Eddie. We’re STILL just kids.

College sports.  There’s a lot going on there.  I know very little about this subject.

We received a postcard in the mail last week.  The card said that if our child athlete doesn’t have at least 25 colleges/universities pursuing him/her, then we’re not doing an adequate job of promoting him as parents.  Which, of course, means we should hire professionals.

Don’t you think that was a stupid advertisement?  My sister-in-law is a college coach.  She says that outfits like that are trying to play on parents’ egos.  Weird. Because, it sounds to me like they just sent me an invitation to chaos.  Because we all need more of that, right?

Eddie is talking to a small handful of schools.  He’s  trying to figure out which wrestling team and college/university to choose.  He’s trying to figure out where he belongs next. Even on a small scale, it can feel overwhelming

Scott and Eddie just did Eddie’s first official school visit.  I sent Scott and Eddie no less than four texts reminding them to take pictures for me.  They said they forgot.  I wish they wouldn’t lie.  Did I really think they were going to stop and ask the coaches and wrestlers to take selfies with them?  A girl can hope.

I had to settle for a pictureless summary of their visit.

Scott and I have not had to make THAT many big, life decisions.  When we do, it’s rough.  I think there are two separate things making the decision making process especially difficult for us.  Scott is EXTREMELY slow to commit to anything;he wants to make the exact right choice.  For him, no decision is better than the wrong decision.  His perfectionism slows him down.

I have the opposite problem. I almost always  really, really, really don’t have an opinion.  This isn’t the oh-I-am-saying-I-don’t-have-an-opinion-so-you-are-forced-to-make-the-decision-and-I-can-criticize-you-later type of no opinion.  I suffer from REAL opinionless issues. .  Everything sounds good to me; I want everyone to make everyone happy.  I’m your basic, every day coward.

I’ve been praying a lot about Eddie’s big decision lately.  Then, I read this the other morning in the Gospel of James:

But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind.If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord.

Hmm.  Never saw that verse before.  Will you check your Bible to make sure that verse is really in there? I think some jackhole might have written that in my Bible to play a joke on me.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to tie all this up for you.  I tell you that this verse reversed my indecisive nature; learn from me.  Except, I don’t know.  Should I tell the truth?  Or, should I lie?  I feel like I want to lie, except the truth feels better:  That verse didn’t change anything.  Yet.

Just give me some time with that verse.  Okay?  I’ll read it and reread that verse.  I need to ask God what He means to say to me with that verse.   I might be learning a new way to do things here. Too soon to tell.  When things change, you’ll be the first to know.

Here’s something I do know. Yes. We were like little kids raising a baby, but Eddie is still alive, remember. So far, so good.  And, I think I actually kind of like how he’s shaping up.  I mean, if you had to live with him, you’d see he’s got some rough spots.  He’s kind of a hot mess in the pays attention to detail department.  But, right in the center of all his crusty old man clothes, long hair, inappropriate jokes,  and forgetfulness is a kid who knows himself.  It’s remarkable, really. Considering the confused kids who raised him.

eddie in tree

Secretly (not anymore) I really love that thing inside Eddie.  Knowing his own mind has served him well to this point.  No.  I’m not ready to turn all my parental duties over to that thing inside him, but I think we can at least trust it to guide us in the right direction with this big life decision Eddie’s making. I think. I don’t know. I’m not sure.

eddie eagle senior pic

I Saw Something Beautiful

I saw something beautiful last night.  I didn’t sleep well, and I woke up early because of it. I am feeling a compulsive urge to capture what I saw in words.  The sun won’t be up for a while, but I need to write this now.

Is this how real artists feel?  I always told people I was an artist; they should stop treating me like a normal person.  Artists shouldn’t be expected to do the dishes and go to work is what I have been saying.  Do you think Picasso had to get his own coffee?  It’s hard when you’re the only one who really “gets it”.

Last night we celebrated my Aunt and Uncle’s 55th wedding anniversary.  A lot of years ago, my Dad’s sister, Peggy,  went to a movie with a tall skinny guy she met, named Stan.  These two kids hit it off.  They got married: 3 daughters, 7 grandkids and 55 years later, seemed like a good time to celebrate,

stan peg inviate

My cousins hosted this celebration for their parents in one of my cousin’s backyards last night.  This party was a Pinterest explosion.  My cousins are like that.  If these ladies lived in a cardboard box, the cardboard box would have walls covered in a faux finish; there would cozy lighting and shabby chic pillows cast artfully about so that you’d be jealous of their cardboard box.  You’d wish you could live in a cardboard box too, instead of a dumb ol’ house.

That’s just my cousins; they can’t help it.  They’re not trying to make you feel badly about how every time you attempt style in your house, it looks like you hired a 9-year- old decorator.  Trust me.  These women aren’t doing this on purpose. At least,  that’s what my therapist told me to think about that.

But, we can dig into your insecurities later.  Right now, I want to capture this beautiful thing I was telling you about.

First, I have to go backwards.  My Aunt and Uncle live 2 hours away.  We had 2 hours for Scott (and Zeke)  to hear all the important stuff my brain has been storing.  My family must love our car rides.

I was telling Scott and Zeke about some folks I’ve been reading about in the press lately.  These folks are semi famous for one reason or another.  These folks have always claimed to be hard core Christians.  I mean, from what they’ve told us, this being a Christian thing is their main message in life, and the main thing we should learn about from them.  They’ve spoken about their Christianness with authority.

Recently,  it has come to light, that while these famous Christian people are using fame to convince us of their upstanding Christianness, they are simultaneously orchestrating a heinous private life.  I don’t know why I’m surprised by this stuff anymore.  It’s not a new thing.  I can’t help it though.  I always take it hard.

It isn’t the heinous private life that troubles me.  I’m not in charge of other people.  We are all responsible for our own choices, and the resulting consequences.  What makes it hard for me to recover is the big, fancy, public display of Christian faith.

Do you want to know what super unchristian thought I have when I hear these stories?  I’m going to tell you, because I need Jesus, and here’s how I know it.  When I hear these stories, I think about these people, and I want to say, “Just SHUT UP!  Please.  Stop talking.   Just stop.  Not another word.”

This is what I was telling Scott and Zeke on the way up to my Aunt and Uncle’s anniversary celebration.  I told my family that I was starting to come to the conclusion that people should just quit talking about their faith completely.  Maybe talking about Jesus is the easiest thing in the world to do.  Because, literally, anybody can do it.

I said that I felt like in a world with everyone yammering on (guilty) about how you should live, and what you should believe, there’s nothing new to hear.  I told my family that in a world like this, my actions are my testimony.  My life is my testimony.  I feel disillusioned by all the speeches.

That’s where my mind was at when we parked in front of my cousin’s house.

After we ate dinner, my cousins had a short little program lined up.  My Aunt and Uncle played, “The Newlywed Game”.  That was fun to watch.  Then, my cousins told the crowd what their parents’ happy marriage meant to them in their lives. Everything.

My cousins then asked the five grandkids if they would like to share a few words about their Grandparents.  You could tell this was a surprise request.

stand and peg anniversary

And, this is the beautiful thing I saw.

All five of these grandkids are young adults:  married for a short time, getting married, or going to college.  That sums up where these kids are at in life.  One by one, while holding back tears,  these kids told all of us sitting there how much their Grandparents meant to them.

Each grandchild told their Grandparents that they appreciated all their physical support.  The grand kids said thank you for all the meals they ate  with Grandma and Grandpa,  for the golf games with Grandpa, and for the luxury of knowing Grandma and Grandpa would be there to support them with whatever they chose to do.

The other thing that every single one of these grandkids thanked Grandma and Grandpa for was their faith in Jesus Christ.  These kids explained that Grandma and Grandpa helped them understand that no matter how difficult life became, their faith could carry them.

That’s it.  That’s the beautiful thing I saw.

I saw two young kids who committed themselves to God and to each other 55 years ago.  I saw an imperfect couple who spoke to God privately, daily, asking God for help, asking God  to show them how to raise a family, because they couldn’t do it on their own.  I saw a couple who endured heartache, trauma and their share of disappointment over a lifetime.  I saw a couple who’s faith allowed their hearts to resist bitterness, and to remain content.

I saw a couple who didn’t give grand public speeches about how people should live.  I saw a couple who, in the privacy of their own home,  fell on their knees before God;  Praying to a God they believe is  intimately invested and concerned with the well being of their family and the world.

I saw a couple who  woke up early, without witnesses, and read God’s Word; believing God’s promises were meant for them.

I saw a couple who practiced generosity and kindness every day.  A couple who said they were sorry, who asked for forgiveness.

I saw a couple who’s Grandkids have been watching and listening to their Grandparents.  Those Grandkids received an inheritance from their Grandparents worth more than any amount of money on Earth.

Grandma and Grandpa are towards the end of their lives now.  There will come a day when Grandma and Grandpa will not be physically available to offer comfort and support to the people they love.  But, Grandma and Grandpa’s hearts can be at peace.  Their private lives have been a testimony with impact.  Their grandkids were watching, learning and receiving instruction.  Their grandkids are now claiming their Grandparents’  faith as their own. These grandkids told their Grandparents, thank you.  We will not be shaken.

To me, it’s beautiful.  I can’t know if that’s the life I’m living, but that’s the life I desire.  I can say just about anything to anyone.  But, my family is watching what I do.  I really, really, don’t want to mess that up.

My cousin, Jodi, told me last night that shortly after each Grandchild was born, Grandpa Stan would take the grandchild in his arms and go for a little walk.  On their walk Grandpa would whisper his prayer to God,   committing his new grandchild to the Lord, asking for God’s blessing to cover this new grandchild. Grandpa Stan would also ask God for the favor of building a true and genuine faith in the heart of this new little human.  So that this precious, fragile life would feel security and peace despite what trials may come.

Grandpa Stan performed this meaningful, divine, life altering ritual privately.  Grandpa Stan followed where God led his heart, for the sake of his and his Grandchild’s spiritual lives.  Without an audience, and in front of no one.

It was beautiful.


Being Mean. Excuse Denied.

I’ve had some thoughts percolating in my head for a few weeks.  I knew it was only a matter of time before my thoughts poured out my fingertips.  It’s inevitable for me.

Before I dig in, I need to say something.  I need a disclaimer in italics, I guess.  I’m about to get some stuff off my chest.  I want to talk about people who are mean.  I was hashing this subject matter over with Scott.  We talked about how on any given day, our paths could cross with people experiencing depression, grief or despair.  On any given day, we, ourselves, could be experiencing depression, grief or despair.  We ALL have bad days.  People having bad days are NOT mean.  Right? Agreed? 

The trouble with talking about mean people, is that people who aren’t mean might be tempted to to worry that they ARE mean. They are not.  

Here’s a guideline for you that I pulled out of one of my “How to Pretend You’re a Psychiatrist in your Blog” books. (Or, out of my butt. You be the judge.).   I can assure you, if you’re the real deal kind of mean person, you’re not worried about it.  If you’re legit mean, being mean doesn’t worry you.  Being mean makes you proud.  Mean folks wear their, “I don’t take no crap from no one” badge proudly.

I feel pretty sure that authentic mean people wouldn’t find my blog interesting. This thing is pretty soft.

This blog post you’re reading  is designed to help us sort things out.  It’s designed to help us see things clearly, and to help us figure out what to do about people who are mean.  It’s also a bit of therapy for me.  Cause you KNOW how I like to talk it out; you’re sure good to listen.  Let’s continue…

I was remembering one of my favorite movies, “Say Anything”.  I like that movie for a lot of reasons.  One line in the movie is fairly obscure; most people probably don’t remember this line was said.

In the movie, John Cusack is a high school kid.  He lives with his sister who is a single, hard working mom.  These two are siblings in real life too.  That’s unrelated trivia, but interesting. Don’t you think?

say anything

This is what we remember about “Say Anything”.

John Cusack’s older sister is probably overwhelmed, anxious, depressed and a bunch of other things that we become when life craps on us.  So, let’s just give her that.  The other thing John Cusack’s sister is is not nice.  There are more colorful words to describe big sister than “not nice”, but I hate to offend.  Please, use your imagination.

The older sister never has anything positive to say to her little brother.  Little brother can always expect big sister to be short, and to respond with sarcasm.  This kind of thing goes on between the siblings for a few scenes.  Then, little brother finally addresses the situation.  He uses that line  I’ve remembered for the rest of my life.  Little brother says, “Why can’t you just decide to be in a good mood, and then be in a good mood?”

When I watched this movie for the first time, I wanted to stand up and cheer when little brother put my thoughts into words so perfectly.  I was a teenager then.  My life was untouched by depression, anxiety disorders, or any significant trauma.  I was completely naive.   I was a pretty happy young person person;  I thought the whole world, and everyone in it was just grand.  I thought  little brother  had just solved everyone’s problems.

At 43 years, I do know about, or have experienced, depression, anxiety disorders and trauma.  I’m suitably jaded.

But, still, “Why CAN’T you just decide?”

Yep.  Still on board with you, little brother.

I have been thinking about when people have to walk on egg shells.  You know what I mean?  You know how you have to be super careful to say and do all the right things around certain people?  These egg shell people are unpredictable. They’re so easily offended.  Keeping egg shell people happy requires a ton of energy.

I’ve also been thinking this deep thought:  screw eggshells.

I mean it.  Screw them.  I think we should stop walking on them.  And, everyone should just calm the crap down.

I think you need to realize something. Egg shell people are just mean.  I think we should stop fussing over egg shell people, and start having a good time.  That’s what I think.

In, “Say Anything”, the big sister comes to her senses.   Big sister is wore down, drug out and overwrought. But, she loves her brother.  She heard him, and she takes his advice.  She decides to change her response and her words. Then the love flows. Aww. She’s not mean at all.

What if life was always that easy? Sometimes it is.  Most the time, not.

In real life, that scene would probably go down differently.  Little brother would tell big sister to stop being so mean.  Big sister would then punch little brother in the face, and say, “You want mean?  I’ll give you mean.”

Then, little brother would apologize.   And, later, he would go back for second helpings.  The next time though, he’d be more careful.  The next time, he’d be sure to try not to say anything to set his sister off.  After all, she suffers from anxiety, depression and she’s had a rough go.  Little brother knows he should always remember what big sister’s been through, and all the stress she’s under.  That’s why she’s so mean.


From where I stand in my life right now, here is my advice to little brother:  Pull the shades, bro.  Your sister is mean.

I’ve had little experience with mean people in my life.  I know I’m fortunate.  I do not know any mean people intimately.  The only down side to this is that I cannot be a credible source on the inner workings of a mean person’s mind.  My limited exposure to meanness has only taught me this:  stop wasting your time trying to figure it out. You can’t.

I know YOU are not mean.  I know it.  Stop worrying.  I’m not talking about you.  All of us have bad days.  We all say things we regret.  I know I have a long list of words I’d like to retract in my lifetime.

I think mean people have (at least) two common traits:

  1. Broken relationships.   A lot of them.  A heap of friends and family a mean person no longer speaks to, because, you know, the mean person won’t be mistreated.  And everyone (I mean, EVERYONE) eventually tries to mistreat a mean person. Mean people won’t have it.  Not for a second. Mean people eliminate offenders from their lives with no regrets.  Anyone left standing  is prepared to do what it takes to keep mean person from getting upset.  It’s a small group.
  2. Being easily offended.  Oh for crap’s sake. This one makes me crazy. Would you stop with the being offended stuff?  I have come to the conclusion that few things bother me more than folks who are always offended.  Don’t be so freakin’ fragile, man.  It’s self indulgent.

Have you ever gotten an email, or a phone call from someone apologizing for something they said that they  think may have offended you?  I have.  I just think those people are so precious.  Almost every single time this has happened, I can honestly tell this person I was NOT offended.  In fact, most of the time, I do not even remember the conversation where this “offense” occurred.

I can remember one time about 8 years ago.  Eddie was super sick;  I did not have my full mental strength.  A good friend said something that actually DID hurt my feelings.  You’d have to put me under hypnosis to get me to remember WHAT she said.  I have no idea.  I just remember an offense happened.

My hurt feelings would not have stopped me from hanging out with my friend, for the record.   There is a good chance if that offense kept bugging me, I would have eventually told my friend what was in my head.  It never came to that.

My friend’s  a sensitive gal.  She called me to say that she was thinking about our conversation.  She said she was very sorry, because she felt like what she said was insensitive.

I said, “Too late.  You’ve got one chance with me, woman.  You blew it.”  Then, I circled her name on my list of people to ostracize and/or murder at a later date.

Naw!  I’m kiddin’ ya.  The way I figure it, murder is just to be used in extreme circumstances.  You know, like a last resort.

Apology accepted, you sweet, humble and lovely human.  My friend is not mean.  I am not mean.  That’s how not mean people do business.

I’ve sent plenty of apology emails myself.  In fact, just this week I sent an email to Olivia’s volleyball coach.  I got caught in a conversation at the end of her “beginning of the year” talk.  I didn’t even hear her last line or two.  I was rude.  I was sorry.  I’m always anxious to fess up and apologize when I do people wrong.  Once I apologize, I don’t worry about it much.  I mentally check it off my list.

I used to keep worrying and worrying, until harmony was restored. I  stopped doing that. It took some practice.  I’m pretty good at it now.

Now, I know that I’m only responsible for the stuff that is within my control.  I have no business spending energy on any of the rest of it. Whew.  What a relief to be getting older, and learning stuff that makes life easier.

That’s it. That’s all I got to help you with mean people.  Do what you can, and then pull the shades on that.  Your apologies and efforts will never be enough.  Find a way to extricate yourself physically and/or emotionally.  Who knows? Maybe God will step in and make a miracle happen. That’s what it will take, because you’re not winning that battle on your own, my friend.  It’ll take you down.

I bet you didn’t know that I’m an artist.  It’s true.  I’ve got skills.  We went to ArtSpot this past weekend for my Mom’s birthday.  The deal with that is that no matter how much you suck at art, you’re supposed to come out with a painting that isn’t half bad.

My sister, Heidi, and I were jackin’ around like the old days.  I felt like I had better technique, and seemed a bit more like a serious artist, but she said the same about herself.  Take a look, if you want.  Feel free to tell my sister that she just doesn’t have that secret something that I have. It’s hard to put your finger on it, really.

Of course it’s not her fault.  I’m gifted, and I’m humble enough to know that isn’t anything I did on my own.  My kind of talent comes from above.

I made this picture:

bird pic

I thought it might be going a good direction. When I finished it, I realized it was actually garbage (true artists are never satisfied). So, I wrote on it.

My Mom is good at painting in real life.  She was the teacher’s pet, and made the rest of us look real bad.  Sounds like the perfect birthday gift to me.

Whaza?  That means, “What’s up?”  I made that up.  Well, I’m taking credit for making it up, anyway.  I can’t remember seeing it anywhere.  I like taking credit for making up new words in the English language.  Now that I own teenagers, I am learning teenagers make up new words  all the time.

If you are a teenager, and you have a friend,  or a boyfriend/girlfriend, you call them, “Bae”.  Bet you didn’t know that.   “Bae” is clever.  I think it’s short for “baby”.  Because who wants to waste all that time saying BAYYYYBEEEEE.  Never.  Not when you can just save a half hour by saying, “bae”.  Right?

I know other words kids have made up too:  yolo, subtweet, bra (not the lady kind), and noob.  Are you impressed?  You should be.  That kind of knowledge doesn’t just happen without effort.

I’m going to try to sneak some of my own words into the English language.  Will you help me get it started?  I think I’ll gear my words towards busy women.  We’re the ones who don’t have time to pronounce syllables, right?  I’d like to start with “Gore”. Can you guess what that is?  Let me put it in a sentence.

Hey Kids, “headed to the GORE!”

I know.  You’re stumped.  You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?  Fine.  I’ll put you out of your misery.  ” GORE” is short for GROCERY STORE.  Get it?  You don’t have to say all those syllables any more.  Just tell the kids you have to go to the GORE, and they’ll be like, “Woah, what the heck is Mom talking about with that new, made up language?  She’s so cool.  She always says words we don’t understand.”  Show them how it feels.

Surprised you didn’t think of this first, aren’t you?

Making up words is a little harder than it might seem.  I might need a touch more practice.

This might be one of the best summers I’ve ever had in my adult life.  I can’t even tell you why exactly.  Then again, Scott says I anoint a lot of things as, “the best”.  It used to confuse him.  How can this be the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had?  I thought you said that about yesterday’s cup?

Some people just like to ruin your fun, don’t they?

I come by this optimism naturally.  My dad sits down to the best meal he’s ever had every night of his life.  I know this kind of thinking can seem disingenuous.  But, personally, this is one of my fav (short for favorite) qualities in my Dad.  That guy can ALWAYS find something to get excited about.

Eddie mows my parent’s lawn.  We have a little joke about Eddie’s visits over there.  We say, “Hey Eddie, how were Grandma and Grandpa?  Was Grandpa in a bad mood again?  Did he treat you badly?”  Then, we laugh, because that’s funny.  Grandpa has lost almost all of his eyesight.  He can’t drive, read or do most of the things he used to do.  But, Grandpa is always in a good mood.  Grandpa still gets excited about most things.  And, Grandpa still thinks Grandma’s leftover meatloaf is the best meal he’s ever had…since the meatloaf he ate yesterday.

Yes. This had been the best summer ever.  Thank you for asking.  We’ve been doing things I enjoy.  Like concerts on the square.

We’ve also been hiking the crap out of Devil’s Lake.  We used to hike with our kids when they were little.  We hiked multiple times a week. We over did it.  When the kids got older they boycotted.

Now the kids are teenagers; they’re coming to their senses.  They’ve been enjoying the lake and hiking with their friends this summer a LOT.  They tell us about these adventures like it’s a new thing they discovered.  Ingrates.

The kids went to the lake the other day with their friends.  Scott and I followed them a bit later; you’ll be surprised to learn that when we got there, all the kids decided they were done.  They wanted to go home.

Well, fine then.  I’ll just go hiking with my bae.

devil's lake miki

We hiked along the base of the bluff at Devil’s Lake. Then, we went up and back down the bluff.  I realized for the first mile Scott and I hiked,  that I was talking incessantly. I decided I wanted to see what would happen if I stopped talking.  It isn’t fair for me to monopolize the conversation all the time.  I thought that Scott needs to have the space to share what’s in his mind too.  I wondered how long it would take.

Scott never started talking.

devil's lake scott

Wait up, Scott. Did you say something?

When we got home Scott asked me, “Did I do something to offend you?”

At some point with people like my Dad and me there’s just the expectation of cheerfulness.  It’s our burden, and we’ll happily carry it.  Just don’t get all up in our grill when we like everything the best.

*Um…editor’s note.  “Bae” is not short for baby.  “Bae” is an acronym.  Before. Anyone. Else.  Feel free to throw this cool word into your next convo (short for conversation).

I can really smell things.  I don’t know what that talent is good for, or how it’s helpful.  It’s true though.  I have always had a good sniffer.

Last night, I was woken up by a smell.  Has that ever happened to you?  Smells wake me up. It’s true.  Toots really wake me up. I feel like that would make a good T-shirt.  “Toots wake me up.”  It’s just cute, and something most people want to read about.

I thought there might be a skunk in our house.  Then, I thought Reggie really needed a bath.  I tried to put a pillow over my face, and then a pillow over Reggie. Nothing stopped that sour, skunk smell.

I reached my hand out to pet Reggie, and instead, set my hand in a puddle. Yep. Reggie peed in our bed.

I yelled, “Reggie PEED!!!”

Scott is fast when he’s disgusted.  He couldn’t get out of that bed fast enough once he heard “pee”.  Thankfully, we made one good decision in our lives; we purchased a heavy duty, water resistant mattress protector when we bought our bed. That’s the good part of the story. The part I’m going to try to think about.  The part I’m going to think about when I’m trying NOT to think about the pee in our bed part.

Poor Reggie.  He looked so shame faced when the lights went on that night.  His eyes drooped, and  he flattened his ears convincingly. I’d forgive him anything when he makes that face. That face doesn’t have quite the same effect on Scott. Scott was fairly unmoved.

I thought Reggie might have a bladder infection.  He doesn’t though.  Do you know why a dog would suddenly decide to pee in your bed, instead of outside?   Help me out.

I think Reggie gets to move into his cozy kennel for a few nights.  The kennel may become his permanent bed.   I gotta admit.  I won’t hate that.  I love Reggie like one of my children. But, our children don’t sleep with us either.  Why does Reggie? Seriously.  I’m asking you.  How does this happen?

We won’t be getting over this pee thing for quite some time. This probably isn’t the last time you’re going to hear about it.  I’ll be working through this for years. It’s called PTSD.

I have the BEST question for you.  Here it is:

What’s it like to be on the other side of you?

What I mean by that is this:  Have you ever asked yourself what it’s like to be the person on the other side of a conversation with you?  How do the words you use, your mannerisms and your general disposition make people feel?

This was the question posed to the group of women I meet with by author, Kay Warren.  Kay Warren wrote this book:

choose-joy (1)

See that title?  “Choose Joy Because Happiness Isn’t Enough”.  Boy, she said a mouthful there.  I need this book.  Especially now that Reggie uses our bed as a toilet.

Kay Warren is smart.  That girl knows how to break it down.

I’m not going to recap now.  I might in the future.  I just wanted to talk about this one question she asked, because I think it’s so good.  I started to ask myself this question, and I wondered why I had never asked myself this question before.  The fact that I haven’t asked myself this question is telling.  Do you know what I mean?  I hear this word being whispered in my ear…aaarrogaance.  See what I did there?  I was trying to draw out the word arrogance, and make it sound like it was being whispered.  Hey!  Are you listening to me?  I’m talking.  Listen to me.  Because l like to talk, and talk and talk…


I’m sorry I haven’t asked myself these questions.  I’m asking now.  I’m going to try to pay better attention.

Kay warren talked about being a good listener, not interrupting, and offering gratitude to people whenever possible.  Yes.  Sign me up.  I want to be that kind of person.

What would happen if everyone just started behaving and communicating in a way that was always mindful of other people’s best interests?  Sounds like a cockamamie idea, Kay Warren.  Yer just askin’ for trouble planting those kinds of fancy ideas in our heads.

I’m in a bit of a rush today, but I’ll give you a full book report when we’re done. Don’t you worry about that. And, you’ll sit quietly and listen without interrupting, right? Because, you heard the lady.

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