Tuesday, July 31, 2012


My daughter, Colleen, got in the car yesterday after her musical theater workshop and put her hair up in a high ponytail on the side.  I said, "Go, '80's fashion!"  She asked, "What do you mean?"  I told her that was the way we all wore our hair in the 1980's...just look at the videos of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper from that time.  She laughed and launched into a rousing rendition of Material Girl complete with miming the long, black gloves and diamond jewelry.  Remember the lyrics?

Like Totally!
"Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think they're O.K.
If they don't give me proper credit
I just walk away.

They can beg and they can plead
But they can't see the light, that's right
'Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mister Right.

'Cause we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl."

Braden piped up from the back seat, "That's how the girl who got the solo in my last camp wore her hair."  After hearing that remark, I commenced telling a long story about my first few years in the Young Americans.  At that time Mr. Anderson and Bill would tell us the day or the week before we were going to learn a number so we could prepare.  Now for most of us, that meant making sure we knew lyrics, notes and steps to each song.  But for a girl in our organization, Melissa, who had been acting since a very young age, it meant dressing up in the style of the number we were going to be casting.

If we were staging Oklahoma, she would come to rehearsal dressed in overalls, a plaid shirt and wearing her hair in pigtails.
If we were staging Grease, she'd walk in wearing a white T-shirt, rolled up jeans and bobby socks.
If we were staging Yankee Doodle, she would wear red, white & blue.
It worked almost every time.

At the end of my tale, Colleen said, "That was pretty smart."  Braden, on the other hand, said, "Well, I think it's just terrible that she feels like that about money."  Colleen and I looked at each other, realizing that we were clearly missing something.  We said, "What are you talking about, Bud?"  To which he replied, "You know, that song.  I can't believe those lyrics.  How could anyone feel like that about money.  I think it's awful."

I realized he had been reflecting for the entire length of my five minute story on the lyrics to Material Girl.  He was exiting the car but first wrapped up his thought by saying, "I bet if all someone cared about was money, they wouldn't be very happy.  In fact, I bet they'd still be single."  Then he slammed the door and went into the house, leaving me behind with my mouth agape.

I have really awesome kids, and I'm so proud of them...
but even I was floored by the depth of Braden's comment. 
It was one of my most gratifying moments as a parent. 
That my 12 year old young man knew that a relationship
should be based on more than
material things,
"cold hard cash"...
well, I was so thankful.

And when he said, "single," I don't really think he meant unmarried.
I think he meant solitary...
because let's face it, whether you're married or single,
if the whole basis of your relationships
is centered around wealth, then you're really not relating.
You are alone.
You are single.
You have but one, solitary purpose, and that is to focus on the outside...
which probably and sadly means you're missing something on the inside.

Thankfully, no matter whether we are single, married, partnered, whatever,
we are never really alone
if we let Him fill that void.
Never solitary...
never lonely...
as long as we know love is more than stuff.
Relationship is more than material wealth.
Commitment is more than credit cards, mansions, luxury cars, riches...
Love is giving.
Love is sharing.
Love is Him.
We are living in a material world...
But despite this, we can live with abundant inner riches,
as long as we are His girls.  (And boys!!)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

1000 Gifts Sunday

Still counting...this week's list for the One Thousand Gifts challenge by A Holy Experience follows. A reminder of God's love and all the things for which I have found thanks throughout my week.  What blessings did you find?  I hope many.  Have a beautiful week!

Gratitudes #224 - 266

#224  The Young Americans summer camp
#225  Don Strom and ride relief
#226  Bill and Jill Kerry's house and tacos while I waited for the kids
#227  Rafaella
#228  Jenny, the nurse at the emergency room...read "A Knock on the Head" to catch up...don't make me relive it please!
#229  An  incredible new endocrinology team for my boy!
#230  The ability to check Braden's A1C levels without a blood draw...WHY have we not been doing it this way for 5 years?!?!?!?
#231  My husband and his support
#232  A purple hydrangea delivered to my door from the garden of my 80 year old neighbor, Bennett
#233  Summer at the Center, its 21st year, a reminder of my voice teacher, Dr. Allard and all the good work he wanted this program to do...it's still doing it!
#234  Kids who have had troubles finding their way, hoping for more, wanting to "be something" and to "have people in their lives who love them"
#235  Knowing that my kids are safe and will always be surrounded by people who love them
#236  Watching Drew play drums, living, loving it, being filled up
#237  Bill & Robyn and their beautiful work
#238  Jarod and his gifts
#239  Jeremy and his heart
#240  Sitting next to Mary Leist, laughing hard after the show ("I'm sitting here crying in my chair and the band is playing the kids off with 'Shout?'  That's just mean!")  Love her!
#241My new notecards...love the birdies
#242  Watching my kids perform, laugh, sing side by side with the Young Americans
#243  Braden and Colleen and two new friends singing a tight quartet in "Tea for Two"
#244  Braden singing "Stayin' Alive" in his rockin' falsetto...purple sequined vest and all!  Go 1970's!!
#245  Colleen introducing George Gershwin's work as an incredible composer, following up with the song "Somebody Loves Me" - which I sang ten years ago at a reunion show!
#246  Taking pictures after the show, getting signatures on T-shirts
#247  In 'n Out french fries
#248  Starbucks...don't need to say more
#249  Desi Dennis Dylan and a great job directing
#250  Jay-bo and his much needed stage management (plus he calls me "Mama")
#251  A mass said in honor of my dad's memory today
#252  All of the McGarity's serving at this mass in some way
#253  Getting to ask the parish to pray for the repose of the soul of my dad while praying the intentions at mass
#254  Much needed tears flowing
#255  My friend, Julie, and her comfort and support
#256  Deacon Tom and his wife, Pat sitting behind me at mass - orchestrated by my dad, I'm sure...thanks Daddy
#257  Naps
#258  The Olympics!!
#259  Diving, gymnastics and swimming
#260  Athletes and their beautiful tributes and stories
#261 Finding more hearts, hearing more heart stories, hearing how my dad's story is affecting the lives of people I don't even know
#262  Lunch with Annie, picking out her wardrobe for NYC...being proud of her drive
#263  Alex Little and living her dream at the Capezio Awards in NY...wish I could have been there, Al!
#264  Homemade chicken, artichoke, black olive red sauce with shells and penne
#265  Homemade risotto with amazing Farmer's Market produce salad...white beans & olive oil, everyone, white beans & olive oil!
#266  The Will Ferrell thank you speech from the Mark Twain awards on PBS..."youtube" it, folks!!

{If you have a chance, would you come on over to the
 new FB page for this blog & "LIKE" it, please? 
(just click on the orange text above!) 
I have a beautiful tribute to my dad that I'm planning
and would love to be at 250 likes before I do. 
I'd be ever so grateful for your support.
Have a great week!}

Saturday, July 28, 2012


As I stood in the shower with yet another handful of hair falling out of my head (I know, TMI), faithfully massaging my new Redken "thinning hair" product into my scalp (I said I know, TMI), I began thinking through the past year and how much has changed....

I lost my singing voice
I lost my job
I lost our second income and plans to move my family closer to the beach.

Then I lost my mind from the losses
(okay, that may be strongly worded but you get my drift)
and with it lost much weight
(and not in a healthy way but in an "I'm too depressed to eat, nothing sounds good
even though I'm Italian and food is generally the only thing I think about" kind of way)
and finally I lost my dad, a huge part of my whole world.
(The epitome of understatement.)

There I am in the shower, realizing that in addition to these losses,
Come on, Redken, you can do it!!
I continue to daily lose my hair,
while praying, "Please, Lord, not another strand.  Not one more strand."
Before you judge me for how shallow that sounds,
for those of you who don't know me, bear with a description:
TINY frame (notice I didn't say tiny body?)
but BIG everything else...
Big eyes
Big personality
(Dare I say it?  Yep)  Big mouth
And finally, Big hair.
Like missing link kind of big hair.
These are the physical traits I have always felt defined me.
So to lose one of those feels devastating.
I'm trying to be good with the possibility of being bald.  Luckily, I look great in a hat!

But I've digressed, so back to my shower reflection.  In regards to the losses, I wasn't feeling upset but was feeling gratitude.  However, before these threads of gratitude had fully been woven, my mind went to personal cost in terms of history, and the poster boy who wins the prize for the most losses ever...Job.

In one day, to fire or wind or general upheaval, Job literally lost:
All of his oxen, sheep, camels, house, sons, daughters and servants (except for the servants spared to come and tell Job the bad news each time). 

Jobs response?
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
 and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Of course, we all know that after enduring all of this
plus his wife's nagging to curse God
plus sores from his head to his feet
plus sitting in a pile of ashes picking at the sores with a leaf,
(I mean, come on...picking at the sores with a leaf?!?!?)
he was finally and abundantly blessed for his faith. 

But as I was researching where the tide turned for Job, I continued to turn to chapter upon chapter and verse upon verse of doubt, depression, despondency, anger, and suicidal thoughts, thinking I would find the resolution right around the corner.  To give you an idea of how far I read, he loses everything in Chapter 2 and doesn't receive his recompense until the epilogue of Chapter 42. That's alot of chapters of suffering!! These are the chapters we gloss over to get to the "good part" of the story - the lesson.  We aren't often reminded of how agonizing it was for Job emotionally; how he wished for Hell over further suffering; how he endured trials most of us will never know.

I think about my own chapter (notice the lack of plurality) of suffering.  Nothing compared to Job - not that I'm minimizing the problems I had, but I can say without equivocation that I can't imagine I would have survived the pain on the "Job barometer of disaster."  Finally, however, I come to my true point...the gratitude for my losses.  I have come to realize that without these losses, I wouldn't have experienced the gains.

I gained true faith.
I gained a new relationship with my Heavenly Father.
I gained a new career.
I gained the ability to make better decisions  -
to be transparent, vulnerable, compassionate
proud, defensive, self-absorbed.
I gained a better marriage and deeper bond with my children.
I gained a life of service.
I gained the certainty of salvation.
Oh, such gains there've been...

The losses - well, they pale in comparison with the gains.
The lesson is learned.
I gained life eternal.

(Private P.S. to God...since I got the message, Lord, could you please throw down some Heavenly Rogaine? My exposed scalp needs it.  Thanks!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Knock on the Head...Literally

A few days ago, I was running around like a whirling dervish, rushing to get to the grocery store.  My laundry is in our garage and the garage door was partially open.  Out of my peripheral vision, it was open enough to accomodate the exit of my 4' 10" frame.  So ahead I forged, not paying particular attention and BAM!!!  I ran straight into the door, my forehead screaming and producing a constellation of stars.

I called my doctor, and she recommended going straight to the emergency room to ensure I wasn't suffering from a concussion.  Now, at one time in life, I had no problem going to the ER, either by myself or accompanying a sick child.  However, since all of my trouble with anxiety last year, this suggestion knocked me on my ear.  There are just too many unpleasant memories centered around this particular place.  I told my husband that I wouldn't go and that he couldn't make me.  (Yes, I actually said that.  Yes, I am officially five years old!!!)  I also stated that I would probably be fine but even if I died from a brain hemorrhage, I felt okay about that and he and the children would survive.  Though I was mostly kidding...mostly...he did not find this suggestion at all amusing.  So after a few hours of feeling headachy and a bit nauseous, we drove out.

The familiar parking lot, building, chairs and triage rooms illicited the stress I had anticipated feeling.  When the doctor said they would put me on a fast track to get a CT scan, I completely lost it.  I began praying that I would encounter understanding personnel who might sympathize with my nervous plight. Of course, these prayers were answered.  My nurse, Jenny, came up and introduced herself, saying the wait shouldn't be too long for the CT scanner, and that if I wanted to, I could just join my husband in the waiting room until they called my name.  She said there was no point in risking a panic attack.  ("Thank You, Lord, for sending me a rule bender," I thought.)  I jumped at this offer and exited the door after triage.

Knowing that I could be with my husband calmed me a bit, and I started feeling more like myself.  We were chatting when I noticed a woman sitting kitty cornered from me, covering her face with a paper towel.  I will admit that my first thought was not charitable.  "Please do not let me catch whatever she has."  I hate going to the ER partially because I don't want the exposure to germs.  But soon I saw that she was simply covering her face so that she could hide her tears.

I recognized this kind of grief and my heart went out to her.  Clearly she was enduring a huge loss.  I am not wired to stand idly by while someone suffers.  In fact, Drew and I have a joke about this that we quote from our favorite comedy, Seinfeld:

George:  "See, that's where I'm different.  I can detect the slightest human suffering."
Jerry, as he suffers through yet another conversation with George: "Are you detecting anything right now?"

Finally, listening to my conscience, I went over to the lady, knelt beside her and touched her lap.  I said I was so sorry that she was hurting.  I just kept saying, "I know, I know, I'm so, so sorry."  But since she spoke only Spanish and I only English, I couldn't know the cause.  Her grandson was sitting beside her, translating what I was saying when she spoke back to him.  He said, "She says her mother is about to die, and she's so sad." 

I knew I recognized that heartache.

I told him, "Please tell her I lost my father two months ago, and I'm so very sorry."

At this she started wailing in full, sickening, throaty tones.  Then she took a breath as she held onto me and, through her grandson, said, "I know the Holy Spirit is with us right now."  She cried and cried, and I looked her full in the face, assuring her that I knew.  Then I told her grandson to tell her that it is so hard for us here but that once her mother is gone, she just needs to look for ways that her mother is communicating with her.  She will hear her and find comfort there.  I asked her name - Raphaela - and told her I would be praying for her.  She has been on my heart all day.

I know that grief.
I understand that wailing.
I sympathize with the desire to cover my face and
mourn in the privacy of my heart while in a public place.
I know what it means to have someone you don't know take your hand,
hold it, squeeze it and say how sorry they are.
I know that it helps.

And now I know why I hit my head on the garage door, finally agreeing
to go the emergency room. 
God needed me to be His earthen angel to Raphaela...
Needed me to look outside myself to see the pain of another...
Needed me to listen to Him call me to action...
Needed me to tell her He was with her and she was being lifted in prayer.

God help me to always listen and abide by Your word.

(But Drew asks that next time, you just tell me I'm needed at the ER and leave the knock on the head out of the equation...thanks!)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Love Men

I'll just say it...not ashamed to admit it. 
I love men. 

For probably the first 25 years of my life, I had more male friends than female.  And before you really go there mentally, no, it's not what you're thinking...not a physical thing.  I just always felt I better related to men.  This is probably because my most prevalent character traits were generally considered more male than female.  I always tended to be...


In a nutshell, willing to tell it like it is without beating around the bush
These qualities are not often considered terribly effeminate..wanh, wanh, wanh.

I've softened many of these behaviors in the past fifteen years.  And since men don't usually cry at Hallmark commercials, I can officially say I am more feminine than masculine.  But still, every now and then, I hear something that a man says and my love for the opposite sex is invigorated all over again.

Case in point, my husband's comment yesterday....

Drew was getting ready for church after a 16 mile run (I would be in traction), and he said to me, "You wonder sometimes why it is I love sports so much.  Well, today Ernie Els won the British Open after years of not doing very well (in the sport).  They did a piece on him and the fact that he found out in recent years his son is autistic, so he had been focusing on him.  (His game suffered because of it.)  Then he surprised everyone, beat the odds and won on the final green."  (He sank a 15 footer for birdie on the final green.  The part Drew loves, I think, is the underdog with the relatable, heartbreaking backstory, pulling up from behind for the incredible win...against all odds!)

But Drew's next comment was the one that I loved.  Concise, no sugar coating, understated to a fault, as only a man can articulate; but clear, heartfelt, and laden with layers and layers of meaning unspoken:

"God's a good guy."

I laughed for several minutes after he said this.  That laugh that my kids tease me about and is so reminiscent of my dad.  The silent wheeze that lasts for the first few moments as I get red in the face and then explodes into a series of hearty "heh, heh, heh"s before catching my breath for the next round.  I LOVED that statement!

Leave it to a man - especially my wonderful engineer - to button up a sentiment so succinctly. 

"God's a good guy."  

Such power behind its minimalism.
Such acknowledgement.
Such love and honor.
Such praise.
Such glory.
Such acclaim.

No flowery statements or sentiments.
No idioms, turns of phrase, figures of speech.
Just fact.
Just credit.
Just tribute.

From a guy who God made good.
From a man who clearly lives in the image of his "good guy."
From one "good guy" to another.
Thank you, God, for blessing me with my husband...
You are a Good Guy!

Read more here from Ed Osmond's interview with Ernie Els about his son, Ben:

"The former world number one said he took inspiration from his autistic nine-year-old son Ben and the "Els for Autism" Foundation he has set up.

"Coming out publicly quite a few years now ago with Ben and the autism, it took a lot of work to get the foundation set up, the right people and our mission statement," he said.

Els said he felt more settled now the foundation was running smoothly.

"I think emotionally or mentally I'm also in a better place than I have been in the last couple of years with the whole situation," he said.

Ben loves watching his dad hitting golf balls.

"I made a lot of putts today with Ben in mind because I know Ben's watching," Els said. "He loves it when I hit golf balls. He's always there. He comes with me. He loves the flight of the ball and the sound.

"I know he was watching today and I was trying to keep him because he gets really excited. I wanted to keep him excited today, so I made a lot of putts for him today."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

1000 Gifts Sunday

My continuation of the One Thousand Gifts challenge by A Holy Experience blogger, Ann Voskamp, follows. A reminder of God's love and all the things for which I have found thanks throughout my week.  I hope you are able to pause for a few moments yourself to think about your life and all of the blessings rained upon you.  Have a beautiful week!

Gratitudes #185 - 223

#185  Cleaning out closets with the children 
#186  Colleen and Braden becoming entrepreneurs
#187  The ebay store developing in Braden's closet
#188  Fresh fruits and vegetables
#189  Michigan Red Tart Cherry jam
#190  The Tour de France (and an unexpected view of hearts & crosses while watching!)
#191  P90X!!
#192  Legs and Back workout - ouch!!!
#193  Gerber daisies, dahlias & white snapdragons, bringing a week of joy
#194  A hardworking husband
#195  Lunch with friends
#196  A much overdue visit with Wendy
#197  Realizing the grace God has shown our family in the manageable challenges my son faces
#198  Reaching 10,000 page views on my little labor
#199  Writing
#200  Creating
#201  Being inspired
#202  A few good cries
#203  Prayers & guidance, early morning devotionals
#204  Colleen beginning guitar lessons
#205  Planning the next few weeks schedule with the children, glad they are both going to be benefit from our Young American upbringing
#206  Listening to Coll & Brae laugh playing ping pong together
#207  Ping pong tournaments upon ping pong tournaments
#208  Laughing with Colleen
#209  The whole family working toward a goal
#210  Arising before the sun comes up
#211  Watching my children interact with the community, selling their wares, learning to be respectful in business
#212  Colleen finding Braden's Humalog, kind of needed to live
#213  Watching Vincent on stage, learning about grace and giving
#214  Lisa Avery
#215  Evan Avery
#216  Ethan Avery "in it to win it" onstage, reminding me of his parents, two of my dearest friends
#217  An incredible camp show
#218  Harriett and Ernie Langley, wonderful parents of my dear Lisa
#219  Ernie telling me, "I read your blog all the time" - sobbing in my soup, people!!
#220  Lizzie Brawley and being hilarious
#221  Salmon and brown rice when I was STARVING
#222  Bill singing Lizzie to sleep, loving the richness of his baritone and the gorgeous vibrato I don't hear often anymore
#223  Finally, a good night's sleep

{Grateful also for your love and support, all comments and sharing. 
And thank you all Facebook friends for liking and commenting
on my 10,000 page views. 
It makes it easier to find the impetus to continue on. 
Thank you all.}

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Do You Mean "A Step Back?"

I've had those famous verses from Ecclesiastes stuck in my head for days now.  You know the ones...

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

And every time I try to focus on something else or "la, la, la" it out of my ears, the song version, "Turn, Turn, Turn" by the Byrds based on the same chapter, thunders in. Of course, it doesn't help that I only know the beginning and end lyrics of the verses by heart.  So I sing it in my head kind of like, "there is a season...turn, turn, turn, and a la, la, la, la, la, lalaa hmmm under Heaven.  A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to hmmm, a time to blah, a time to hate.  A time for peace, I swear it's not too late."


Simultaneously, I've had some old icky companions come a knockin' lately.  Allow me to introduce you.
Fear, Self-doubt, & Anxiety with an occasional visit from Gluttony.

(Hello fellas.  I wish I could say I'm happy to see you.  But I really thought I had left you behind for good.  Yet here you are back to your old tricks.  Gladly, I know much better how to show you to the door.) 

"Why have I been frequently visited by these old enemies?" I've wondered.  I was talking to my husband about it a few nights ago and he said, "Well, honey, I have to think you are just still mourning."  Oh.

Ugh!  Why didn't I think of that?  Instead, I thought to myself, "Great, I took two steps forward, and now I'm three steps back again."

Then the message from Ecclesiastes rained down on me like joyful tears...
"To everything there is a season....a time for every purpose under Heaven." 

Why should I think I've taken a step back? 
There has been designated a period of mourning the loss of my father....a time for it. 
There is no step back. 
They are all steps onward, holding the hand of my Heavenly Father. 

There will be times when we will walk together to the left; times to walk to the right.
At times up a hill; at others into a valley.
Sometimes we will stop and take in the view.
At times we will laugh together, inspired with the prospect of the future.
At times He will hold me as I cry, aching from the sorrow of these earthly costs.
But always forward...always in motion...always advancing...
Always onward.

Maybe there are no steps back in life.
To everything there is a season.
And as long as our faith is firmly planted in Him,
we are assured we are journeying on....
Journeying onward...
Always onward.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Kick off the Pew

For newer readers or to refresh the memories of those who may have read this very early on in my blogging efforts, I told of my father's prayer that he would preach from the pulpit.  He would tell the congregation, "And I pray to God for an answer and say, 'Lord, you better make it clear.  You've got to kick me off of the pew with your answer.  Otherwise, I'll probably be too dense to get it.'"  I've always loved that sentiment.  How many times do we ask for an answer to a prayer only to be too obtuse, self-involved or - yep, I'll say it - dimwitted to see it?!?

I was encouraged and inspired by a story I heard from my friend this week who told me of a conversation with an old friend of hers who had been really sick - like death's door sick.  And though he had recovered, he took away an invaluable lesson.  He advised her to not wait to live life.  So she said to me, "I'm not waiting anymore, C. I'm living life now. I'm going for it." In light of my recent loss, this truly resonated with me.

Saturday night my husband and I went for a little sail at sunset around Alamitos Bay...one of my favorite places on Earth.  As we rocked along in the water, me successfully driving for a change (except when I caught someone's fishing line and started dragging their pole along with me...oops!), I told Drew about a prayer I had been praying this past week.  Since I'm an idiot, sometimes, and still don't know if what I'm praying for is the right thing, I added with it a prayer for direction.  (Something akin to, "Lord, I'm praying this big, bold prayer because I think it's what you want for me, but if it's not, you'll have to knock me off my chair with an answer.  Otherwise I'll be too dense to get it.") I had been answered in the affirmative through a poignant devotional the morning after my prayer.  But before I had a chance to fill Drew in on this part of the story, in big, bold, black letters on the boat beside me shouted this message...

Hilarious!!!!  Boy, God, either you REALLY think I'm dense or you REALLY want to bless me with an answer to my prayer.  (I'd greatly appreciate it if none of you answered that statement mentally or in print!)  Oh, how awesome and mischievous is He.  (I gotta think amongst the colors and brilliance and peace of Heaven, there is a ton of laughter.  Because my answers are so often rooted in humor.  Love it!)

So I ain't waiting....
Not waiting anymore....
I'm going for it!

How about you?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

1000 Gifts Sunday

Here is a continuation of the One Thousand Gifts challenge by A Holy Experience blogger, Ann Voskamp. A reminder of God's love and all the things for which I have found thanks throughout my week. I hope you find it meaningful and that you are encouraged to take pause to reflect upon all of the ways in your life you are blessed.

Gratitudes #145-184

#145  Mary Leist
#146  Bonus gratitude...how hard Mary and I laugh when we're together
#147  Katherine Louis...her support, laughs, love and friendship
#148  Safe travels to and from DC for my husband
#149  Three beautiful days with just my children and me
#150  Shopping for plates
#151  Lunch at Panera
#152  Farmers Market with Colleen, trying new things, shopping for health
#153  Braden and I working out together
#154  Talking to Christine on the phone...finally, after my long trip!
#155  Talking to Theresa on the phone...finally, after my long trip!
#156  A beautiful phone conversation with Mama
#157  Prayers for guidance and help
#158  Ping pong tournaments with the whole family...Italy won one of them!
#159  Tour de France!!!!!
#160  Family meeting getting ready for a neighborhood yard sale 
#161  My entrepreneurial children (I oughta nail down the things I want to keep...they may sell them to make a few extra bucks  :)
#162  Fresh produce all week 
#163  Signs and answers from my Father
#164  Starbucks Keurig Sumatra Dark
#165  Hard work on my writing samples
#166  Elance profile coming along
#167  Seeing my writing on websites...waaahhhhh!!!  It's happening
#168  A great start on a greeting card series
#169  A boat ride with my sweetheart at sunset
#170  Colleen getting together with friends
#171   Getting organized
#172  A clean house
#173  Clean laundry
#174  A great conversation with Jess
#175  Getting healthy
#176  Healing
#177  Speaking in an Italian accent
#178  Modern Family reruns with the kids
#179  Sunday movie night
#180  Annie's phone call
#181  Lunch and swim with the in-laws
#182 Book taking shape
#183  A text from my long-time voice student from her first opera (in the audience)
#184 Mornings of quiet reflection, prayer and sharing thanks with my Heavenly Father

- Grateful too for your reading, support, prayers & visits to this labor of love. 
Have a great week...more tomorrow...

Thursday, July 12, 2012


After a month and a half of a concerted effort to comfort myself with food (and almost 13 lbs later...yes, you read correctly...13 lbs), I decided my heart felt better for the lack of restriction but my body DID NOT!!  Our trip to Michigan found us in the home of a friend who kept only organic food in the house.  (How did you gain 13 lbs then, you ask?  I had to travel to town for ice cream!)  She set a great example for my family, and when we returned to California, my daughter asked if we could clear our cupboards and get rid of the junk.  I readily agreed.  I told my family I wanted to try something new.  I said that for one month, we were only going to eat organic food or food with all natural ingredients.  After that month was up, we could revisit how it felt, and if we want to continue, great.  But if we want to introduce one or two items we really missed back into the mix, we could do that as well.  Everyone agreed.

So Colleen and I arose early on Sunday morning for a trip to our local Farmer's Market.  We brought four bags of produce and other products back home with us and put them in the fridge.  Project Organic was under way!

The first two days of our foray into health was an adventure.  I was cutting produce and the house was wafting with the fresh aroma of summer.  Everyone was on board.  Everyone was happy.

Then Day 3 hit.

They say it takes three days to establish a habit.  Well, by Tuesday evening, my son looked at me and said in a minor wail, "I'm sooooo hungry!"  Clearly, this habit did not want to take.

"You just finished dinner 30 minutes ago," I said.

"But I'm stillllllll hungryyyyyy!!!"

"Son, you had steak, a whole ear of corn on the cob, jasmine rice and a salad.  How could you possibly be hungry?" I complained.

He shrugged but I noticed him blinking quickly, the pitiful action of a 12 year old boy, aware of becoming a man, thus trying not to cry.

"Are you feeling deprived?" I gently asked.

"Yes." he flatly stated.  Then...."Wait, what does deprived mean?"

I started to laugh and so did he.  I explained that being deprived means you feel like you are missing something you truly need or truly want.  He quickly nodded his head up and down.  "Yes, I definitely feel deprived then."  I smiled but felt a bit sad.

And in that beautiful moment of understanding, it hit me that this must be the way our Heavenly Father feels when we don't understand our path and struggle tearfully against His plan to bring out the best in us.

Something is new, and we are afraid.
Something is hard, and we quit.
Something doesn't fill our human need for immediacy, and we seek comfort in worldly things.

How does He keep loving us and gently coaxing us in the right direction?
How does He not just throw His hands up in the air, and say "I give up!  Do what you want."
How does He not get angry at our desire for more, more, more?

Our house is too small, so we are a failure.
Our checkbook depleted, so we are ashamed.
Our wardrobe is lacking, so we refuse to see friends.
Our thighs are too fat, so we hide in the house.

How does He do it?


He forgives our questioning and second guessing. 
He hopes we will choose a change of heart. 
He realizes our very humanity makes us weak,
then He shines as bright as we will allow ourselves to see
so we can lean on Him for strength.

My son had a pudding cup - all natural ingredients, of course - and with it, chose health. 
Chose trust.
Chose the unknown over the comfort of the familiar.
Chose to follow.

God, help me to do the same.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Love and Light

My trip to Northern Michigan proved to be a tonic for my grieving heart.  There is nothing like being surrounded with positive, loving people to gently coax you out of mourning...if only for a short time.  The sadness comes in smaller waves now, rocking me back and forth in a sea of tears but not threatening to drown me.  I can resurface more quickly than before.

One of the moments that helped me was a conversation I had with my mentor and one of my closest friends, Bill.  Bill has such a beautiful, accepting way about him.  He doesn't have to say much before you feel comfortable opening up the vault. 

I had only sporadically spoken of my father's passing, in vocal words not written ones, to people who had not been present with me throughout the ordeal.  But in the quiet calm of the woods of Northern Michigan, afternoon sunlight spilling through the floor to ceiling windows and my friend seated opposite me on the couch, the story poured forth.

I played for him the beautiful rendition of "O Loving God" that my son sang at my dad's funeral, knowing, of course, that as a singer, he would greatly appreciate the magnitude of this moment.  I also shared with him some conversations I had with friends and family members after the burial service.  I was welling up with tears during this part of the conversation, when all of a sudden, my gaze travelled up to the wall across from us.

"Is that a heart?" I asked Bill.

He followed my eyes up over his left shoulder.  "Looks like one to me."

"I have to get my camera," I told Bill as I dried my eyes and scrambled out of my seat to take a photo before the reflection on the wall changed shape.

For there, right before me, as I was speaking of my father and words I felt he had spoken to me through a friend, was a shining reminder of his love.  Bill had no idea about the hearts & crosses symbols my family had been receiving, and he sat trusting and listening as I told him.   

What an incredible continuation of my father's outreaching grasp on my heart.   Of course, perfect timing. Of course, theatrical. Of course, glowing. Just like he has always been. 

Moving forward, I know I only have to ask and he will be there...
mention his name and he will come...
say a prayer and desire of his help, and he will move Heaven and Earth to send me a sign.
So great is a father's love for his child.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

1000 Gifts Sunday

Back from an incredible trip to Harbor Springs, Michigan...one of my family's favorite spots.  A trip orchestrated by my Father so I could begin healing.  Here is a continuation of the One Thousand Gifts challenge by A Holy Experience blogger, Ann Voskamp. A reminder of God's love and all the things for which I am grateful.  I hope you find it meaningful and that you are encouraged to take pause to reflect upon all of the ways in your life you are blessed.

Gratitudes #86-144

#86  Safe trips for all
#87  A perfect travel companion
#88  My boy, growing into a man, "No, Mom, I've got the luggage"
#89  A beautiful, green drive
#90  Lake Michigan suddenly around the bend
#91  A warm welcome by an incredible cast
#92  Seeing my girl after 10 days apart
#93  A blessed home for the Brawleys
#94  Fresh flowers in my room
#95  Bill
#96  Robyn
#97  Lizzie
#98  A profound musical theater camp experience for my little camper
#99  Brae overcoming fears and obstacles
#100  One of the best Boyne shows I've seen in years
#101  A sacred song medley written by Bill...each song more special in its meaning for me
#102  Sobbing into my napkin...Bill's hand on my shoulder
#103  Whispered in my ear after, "I wrote that for you."
#104  Quiet moments surrounded by woods, writing
#105  Naps in the outdoor chaise lounge
#106  Days alone, working, exercising, healing
#107  Organic food
#108  The Olthoffs arriving
#109  A sunny walk with Jamye
#110  Jason
#111  Jamye
#112  Sydney
#113  Kalen
#114  Enjoying the sunshine
#115  Lunch with Colleen and Nikki at Turkey's& shopping after
#116  Stafford's Sunday brunch!!!!!
#117  Nikki accepting my girl, bonding with and loving her
#118  A night alone with Lizzie, watching movies, her lying on my stomach on the couch...waaahhh - "Let's watch this one, Auntie Cynthia!"
#119   A touching camp show
#120  My boy, an amazing soloist, singing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" in the most incredible, pure, soprano range...silent standing ovation in my heart
#121  Dinner with dear friends - 3/4 of Los Amigos - at The Pier
#122  A hilarious walk on the pier
#123  BBQ at the Tebo's
#124  Boating with Art
#125  Braden and Art in the chair lift
#126  Wildflowers picked by my boy especially for me
#127  A floppy hat
#128  More hearts and crosses
#129  Laughter
#130  A lovely visit with Milt and Susan
#131  Kilwin's ice cream
#132  Gurney's sandwich (twice!!)
#133  Colleen, Nikki and Lizzie in the 4th of July parade!!
#134  Susie and Gil Johnson and their blessed house on the water
#135  4th of July BBQ - again, twice!!
#136  Fireworks with my husband
#137  Anna Marlow & amazing stories
#138  A new cross necklace from Anna
#139  Community art show
#140  Talking to the artists
#141  A relaxing drive back to Chicago
#142  Ray's pizza
#143  Safe travels home
#144  And most importantly...gifts, treasures, thoughts, words and directions from our Heavenly Father on my next chapter...tears and tears with Drew and Robyn and Bill over this direction.... gratitude, gratitude, gratitude beyond measure...mostly for putting me in a place where friends have faith to move mountains and believe all I hear and see and share, which makes me more open to receiving His gifts.

Much love and prayers to you all as the next chapter begins.  I look forward to sharing some of it with you on this blog.

{Thanks for reading...and welcome back}