Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas musings and a book!

         Our family held our 28th wind-up toy race on Christmas morning, an annual tradition since our first married Christmas in 1984.  Santa brings each person a windup toy and places it carefully at the top of their stocking.  Before the presents are unwrapped, we line up at the kitchen door, wind up our racers, and place them on the starting line.  This year, with both daughters, a son-in-law and a boyfriend at home, the starting line was a little crowded with six entrants in the race.   
         The wind-up toy that gets to the kitchen island first (or just goes the farthest before puttering out) wins.  You never know what Santa has brought you.  Some of the toys go in circles, others do back flips.  Some crawl forward slowly - but in a straight line.   This year, Alison gets bragging rights for a year with her winning panda on a tricycle - who didn't make it all the way to the finish but went farther than anyone else.  
         And Christmas morning begins with cheering and laughter.  I can't think of a better way to start the day.


The Sign of the Cross

       On one of my meditative walks Dec. 23, I tried to clear my mind of all the high-voltage pressures of the season and reflect on my chosen word of peace. I also was here to pray for discernment and a sense of the presence of God in making an important decision in my life for the New Year.
       I felt numb. Where was the Prince of Peace in this time of frenzied activity? Where was his message to me in what path to take? As I rounded the bend, I stopped dead in my tracks. The rising sun made the sign of the cross on the pathway. A step to one side or the other and the cross disappeared. A sense of blessing descended. The weight of the season lifted. I felt a settling of my heart – and the message that we find what we seek but it may take stepping off the familiar path.


      Recently, a lifelong dream came true for me. I opened the cover of a book - a real, honest-to-God book - and saw my name on the table of contents page. What a gift! Now I feel like an author! Along with twenty-one other women, I can call The Modern Magnificat mine. The title is perfectly chosen, I believe. When Mary speaks the poem of praise known as the Magnificat early in the book of Luke, she is still in awe of the way God is at work in her life and the role she gets to play in the redemption of the world. In The Modern Magnificat, I get the chance to tell my own story of responding to the call of God, as do the authors of the other chapters, all of us Baptist women called to ministry. This time of year especially, this book comes as a beautiful reminder that God is always calling, always redeeming, always inviting us to join in that work. I invite you to read the stories in The Modern Magnificat: Women Responding to the Call of God, and I pray that they will inspire you to be always responding to God as well.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Winter light

       The following posts were written before the tragedies in Connecticut. But I have to say a few words first.  Our prayers and thoughts are with the families and friends of all of those who suffered such tremendous loss. We all feel your loss on such a personal level. 
      My oldest daughter is a teacher - on this day, in this school, she would have been hiding her kids in closets or bathrooms and going out to face the gunman.  I’m a counselor and worked in local mental health clinics and hospitals for my first years of practice.  This gunman could have been one of my clients.  Some of my best friends at church are the first graders - Maggie, Claudia, Madeline, Nicholas.   This story is all of us.
       I have no words for this chaos, no platitudes or quick political answers.  Theology brings more questions than answers for me. 

        Really all I have left is “walking with.”  I almost wrote standing with and then thought no.   I will not just stand with you - I will walk with you - through the grief, through the faith questions, through the nightmares.  Through this unimaginable Christmas season. 
     So, for the families faced with a grief I cannot even wrap my mind around, for teachers, principals and staff at schools everywhere, for the counselors and social workers who struggle daily in an overwhelmingly inadequate mental health system, for all the first responders who walked into a horror beyond imagination, and for all the children,  I... and hopefully, we all, will walk with you. 



Yuletide Flowers
      It’s been a strange December. I had a friend from high school, who was a healthy, fitness and wellness person, die suddenly of colon cancer. Another friend relapsed with her alcoholism and yet another was injured in a car accident when her husband ran a stop sign. The other driver in the accident died. All their lives in that one moment were completely changed. 
      Feeling melancholy reflecting on these events one morning, I found myself with 30 extra minutes on my hands before I had to be into work. I went to one of my favorite parks, Charles Towne Landing, and walked through the rows of blooming camellias. A mist hung over the park, cocooning me with the bouquets. I felt sadness and joy all rolled into one. I think that’s one thing I love best about the human heart. It’s big enough to hold both. Just when I think it’s going to break, joy comes through a camellia.


       I love how my short trip to Africa has made me cognizant again that the whole world doesn’t run on U.S. time.  It’s early summer in South Africa - not almost winter.   The days are warming and the jacaranda are blooming.  Families are planning to spend their holidays at the beach in the sun.  The daylight is brighter, warmer.  The Christmas lights are up, in the bars and in the stores, but with none of the overblown extravagance of a U.S. mall.

        Back at home, the thin light of early winter is upon us.  Days are shorter and colder.  We light fireplaces and candles to hold off the darkness.  Houses are dressed with strings of white or colorful lights.  We hold onto the light in these darkening days - but it helps me to remember that in other places in the world, the jacaranda are blooming.


"There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."
                                                                                    -- Leonard Cohen

Lately it seems
I'm always digging,
Digging until fingers bleed,
Until hands are raw.

Rock and dirt,
Layer upon layer,
With no end in sight,
No cause for hope.

But then this!
Unsought after, unexpected,
Unbidden and unbiddable,
As miracles must be.

Just a crack, and I see
That under the dirt
 Is not more dirt,
But another sky.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Heroes and Holly

      Recently, I got the chance to meet one of my heroes. As a writer and a person of faith, I have long looked up to Anne Lamott. She is, as I put it on the day I met her, someone who gives voice to the unspeakableness in my soul. Her insights are shared with such openness, humor, and irreverence, it makes me feel a little safer to say what I'm really feeling, even (perhaps most especially) about God. Anne was at First Baptist Church, Decatur, GA to talk about her latest book, Help. Thanks. Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. She was funny, honest, and even more gracious than I expected to those of us who asked her to sign our books and pose for photos. I will certainly be a lifelong fan now. I need people like Anne to remind me of the value of messy honesty, and the importance of story, as she does in this passage from her latest book:

"We are too often distracted by the need to burnish our surfaces, to look good so that other people won't know what screwed-up messes we, or our mate or kids or finances, are. But if you gently help yourself back to the present moment, you see how life keeps stumbling along and how you may actually find your way through another ordinary or impossible day. Details are being revealed, and they will take you out of yourself, which is heaven, and you will have a story to tell, which is salvation that again and again saves us, the way Jesus saves some people, or the way sobriety does. Stories to tell or hear -- either way, it's medicine. The Word." (Help, Thanks, Wow, pgs. 52-53)



Deep within the soul of the lonely caged bird,
Beats the rhythm of a distant forest.
Etched upon its broken heart,
The faded memory of flight.”
  -Ginni Bly, poet 

Bah Humbug

          OK. If I'm perfectly honest, I sometimes tire of happy, positive statements - the like of which you might find in spirituality blogs such as this. When I find I've had my fill of holiday cheer and party glitter, I sometimes indulge in some sappy Hallmark movies that have all kinds of terrible life events happening to the characters. I weep and wail as my boys snicker at this odd ritual of mine. There are times I also like to read books or quotes such as the one above full of pain and pathos. This feels real to me. It somehow cleanses all the holiday glitter and trappings. Christmas, more so than other holidays to me, is a packaging of all my losses, a reminder that my brother's not here, that I'm divorced, that I’m short on cash and a long string of other lacks, including obviously a lack of faith for not having the requisite amount of cheer during the holidays.
           Instead of fighting the mood, though, I've learned to give in. To walk through the sadness. To acknowledge the rhythm of a distant forest. To find comfort in a winter sky that once burned bright over a winter stable. To weep inconsolably at ridiculous Hallmark plots.
          Oddly enough, I always feel better.



         I've taken to calling it the Christmas crap.  It's all the stuff - the nutcrackers, carved Santas, bowls in Christmas colors, angels in every shape and size,  snowmen, etc, etc, etc   The holiday doo-dads Don and I have accumulated over almost 30 years together fill four giant plastic bins.  
       After spending two weeks in South Africa (and the last few days there in a tent with no electricity!),  I'm feeling overwhelmed by the overblown commercialism and all the shopping, decorating and stuff that makes up our American Christmas.  I find myself creating empty space, putting the doo-dads back in the bin (or in a bag destined for Goodwill!) and making room for photos that trigger memories of places we've traveled and people we love.  In comes the  holly, boxwood, and cedar.  Out goes the plastic and the shiny... except for Christmas lights. You can never  have too many Christmas lights!
     Love came down at Christmas.  Let's make room for the Love.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hearts Leaking with Love

'Get To'
This week I have a six-hour Thanksgiving trip (one-way) in a van with three kids and my mom on a journey to see family in Georgia. Part of me is excited, and another, larger part, is exhausted even though I haven’t left yet. As a single mom, there’s no reading in the passenger seat anymore or passing the kids off to Dad.
 Kids hungry? I feed them.
 Need help packing? That would be me.
 What, now they’re fighting? Well - may the best child win.
God somehow knows my breaking points. He put this book, “God Never Blinks” in my path, which I bought on a whim and found myself loving the simple wisdom of journalist Regina Brett. Her first chapter is about a house painter who lives by two simple words: Get to.
So instead of dreading the ‘have to’ dos, it’s the ‘get to’ dos. I get to have my children for the holidays. I get to enjoy meals and fellowship. I get to drive them to an extended family holiday celebration. I get to witness their lives. It’s a subtle shift – but oh so powerful. I think, how did I get so blessed? Aren’t I a lucky gal to be at work admiring this cheery crayon drawing on my wall by my youngest child who already is learning life isn’t always fair, but that it's so much better with a grateful heart. 


   The week before Thanksgiving, we always have a holiday meal and communion service at church. This year we had an especially large crowd, and we needed all hands on deck to get everything ready. I saw one of our ministers preparing the communion table at the front of the sanctuary. "Is there anything I can do to help, Woody?" I asked. In exasperation, he replied, "Yeah, could you get these cups to stop leaking?" We were using the inexpensive paper cups that we often have for potluck supper beverages, and I could see rings on the glass table top where grape juice was seeping through the seams of several cups. I helped Woody replace the leaky cups, and prepare the bread rolls and smaller plastic cups that would allow us to do communion "family style" around our individual tables. But I couldn't stop thinking about the leaky cups.
   What was in those cups? Yes, it's grape juice at Providence, like at most other Baptist churches. In some Catholic and Protestant congregations, it's wine. But I believe it's more than that. Whether or not I can subscribe to transubstantiation -- the idea that the consecrated wine or juice actually becomes the blood of Christ -- there's no denying the powerful symbolism of the liquid in that cup. With it, we remember the suffering of God's Son and his ultimate triumph over death. In that cup is compassion -- literally "suffering with," which is what God did for us through Christ. In that cup is hope that the darkest moment in the story is not the end. In that cup is love too strong to stay dead. It's no wonder the cups were leaking. Such things cannot be contained. They will find their way to where they are needed. In messy and surprising ways, they will come to us.  

 Out in Africa. She'll be back soon.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Invitations to Rest


Forcible sabbath,
Fed by chicken soup,
Covered in Kleenexes,
Capped off by NyQuil.

At first sniffling,
Snoring, complaining,
Bemoaning all I need
To get done.

Finally silent,
Thinking, reading,
Praying, writing,

What else can I do? 


   The har-de-dar woke me on my first day in South Africa.  This large blue black bird with a long, sharply curved beak calls raucously at dawn and dusk. My first two impressions were the sounds and smells coming in through the open window - the call of  the har-de-dar and the rich fragrance of the gardenias blooming in the front and back gardens.  
   It’s a open air life here.  My experience thus far in South Africa has been one of open windows and doors, no screens, breakfast on the veranda, dinner on the covered porch.  We’re not cooped up in air conditioning, but open to the wind, to the rain, and finally to the sun.  The fresh, unseasonably cool air causes me to linger over my coffee, to sit just a bit longer before getting on with the activities of the day.  It helps me remind myself that it’s summer here and I’m on vacation.  At home, I would be making my to-do list and beginning  the holiday rush.        
    But here- it's time to relax and listen to the birds. If the har-de-dar will just let me sleep a little later!


Stopping by Sea on a Silvery Morning

   In school I had to memorize the Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which I thought was ridiculous. In what job would I need to recite poetry? What possible use could that be? Yesterday, one of my sons asked me why he had to learn history. What use is that today? I stumbled and stammered trying to impart what insights it can give of what it is to be human and inhumane.
   Maybe it’s age that teaches those lessons. I know that in part it is Frost’s poem that has me stopping at Breach Inlet on this silvery morning where the horizon is lost in mist, where beach, water and sky blend seamlessly. I stop despite knowing it will make me a bit late, the refrain of miles to go before I sleep echoing in my head.

   For now, just a few moments, my soul needs to breathe.


Monday, November 5, 2012

New Perspectives

 God's creations

   I went to Riverbanks zoo this past weekend, a place where I always feel overwhelmed by God and reminded of how little I know of the world around me. No matter how many times I go to the zoo, I always see something new and amazing - usually mind boggling as well. This time I didn’t even have to get there. En route I heard an NPR report with science writer Sy Montgomery on octopuses. She describes plunging her hands into 57 degree water to have Athena’s eight arms boil up, twisting and slippery, to entwine with hers. She describes how Athena latches on with hundreds of her “sensitive, dexterous suckers” that can taste and feel. Each arm has more than two hundred of them. 
   I realize at this point that this is a science writer who takes her job a bit more seriously than I do. I just don’t see me plunging my arms into the waiting arms of an Athena. She goes on to explain how even if the fascinating creature grows to 100 pounds and stretches eight feet long, it can still squeeze its boneless body through an opening the size of an orange and how the common octopus has about 130 million neurons in its brain, compared to a human with 100 billion. Then she really blows my mind. Three-fifths of an octopus’ neurons are not in the brain but in its arms.
Wow, really? Who could dream that up and what does that mean about where consciousness resides? I just can’t wrap my mind around that.
But then again, I’m not an octopus.


     “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” 
 Jawaharal Nehru
     To echo DB in a post a few weeks ago, I love to travel! Whether it’s a trip across the U.S. to a state I’ve never explored or even a short hop to the mountains, I’m always up for a trip.  Travel gets me out of the rut of my life and opens my eyes to look at life with a fresh new perspective. And I do love an adventure.  This week begins a real adventure and a true packing challenge. 
     Through some happy circumstances, Don and I find ourselves off on an adventure to South Africa.  We’re going for a wedding but also seeing the sights in Cape Town, and going camping and on safari near the big game preserves.  It’s the beginning of summer there and the weather is variable.  What to pack?  I usually dither about packing for a week and then throw a bunch of clothes in the suitcase at the last minute.  For this trip, I’m trying to be practical, organized and efficient. I hate dragging a lot of baggage with me. I’m packing light - can I do two weeks (plus a wedding!) with just a backpack and a carryon?   
     I find myself more and more often choosing less as more. I don’t want my all my stuff to get in the way of the real art of seeing the world. 
    (I’ll also be blogging about the trip at if you want to read more and see pictures from our adventure.) 


On All Saints Day, I spent some time remembering the saints who have touched my life. One of the ways I did this was by listening to a favorite sermon by my friend and seminary professor, Dan Goodman. It is titled "I Am Writing Blindly," and as a writer, it's not surprising that this is the one I remember most. Dr. Goodman was fascinated by the written final words of various people throughout history, from a sailor on a Russian nuclear submarine to the apostle Paul. He wondered, why do we write? He decided, "Every sentence, in its own way, is a search for God. Every period at the end of a sentence is another admission of failure, another frustration. So what do we do? We start another sentence, always searching, always seeking. But God, ever the ironist, always seems to reside in the next sentence." In his brief time on earth, Dr. Goodman taught me much about writing, about God, about life. He is now at the place where all the periods and question marks have become exclamation points. As for me, I keep writing blindly, groping for the next word, the next sentence, believing God is just that near.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dogs, divorce and dings

    This week I'm thankful for moments of levity. Lately there has been a lot of stress in my life and the lives of my loved ones. So I was grateful to be able to do silly things this weekend, like enter a costume contest with my dog (and even win a prize). There's nothing wrong with a little silly sometimes, and I thank God for it.


“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, 
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
                                                                                              Joseph Campbell

Living Well Post-Divorce
Ah, the holiday season, chocked full of Hallmark commercials of holiday bliss. I’m trying to prepare myself for the onslaught of images of loving couples with perfectly mannered children. It’s too bad we can’t air brush reality.
Or is it?
I went with a friend recently to a noon day session at The Center for Women about living well post divorce. The speaker, a quote collector like myself, brimmed with positive reaffirming statements calling the period just after a divorce a “fertile void” that begs for recreation of yourself. It’s messy in the middle, she tells us. “You have to become lost enough to find yourself.”
She encouraged us to use reframing statements. Instead of happily ever after, it’s happily even after. It’s not a broken family. It’s a redefined family. I sigh inwardly, but have to admit how many people I know who have used divorce as a journey to authenticity and peace. I recently visited Jack London State Park in Sonoma Valley and looked at the picture of him with his second wife, who “got” him. Having had sad parts in his childhood, I rejoiced that in his short life he connected with someone with as an adventurous spirit as his own, who didn’t get burned by his meteoric glow.
(His quote in the photo above, in case it’s too hard to read:
“I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.”)


    The walls were showing ten years of dings and dirt, ten years of a life full of teenagers, friends, and family gatherings.  It was time for a spruce up.  I scrubbed the walls down, cleaning off an absurd amount of dirt, dust and cat hair. I spackled a few scrapes and nail holes and then did some light sanding.  Then  - a new coat of paint.  The walls looked fresh and better than new - unmarred, unblemished. 
   I often find myself in need of some spackle and sanding for my own self. How nice if it were that easy to clean the dings and dents out of our own hearts! I cling to old hurts and losses and spend too much time dwelling on past mistakes. I need to spackle the holes, sand down the mistakes and remember that with each new morning, I get a fresh start, a clean slate, a whole new wall to write on or paint anew and even ding up all over again.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Walking, wrinkles and a little lavender bliss

Hiking in Grandview State Park, Grandview, WV

     There's something I love about a walk in the woods, particularly in autumn with the leaves thick beneath my feet and the air chilly and sharp around me.  Shining through the high branches, the sunlight is softer, more forgiving of imperfections. My steps are slow but steady and I can feel the rush and stress of everyday falling away.  I notice fungus on a tree, quick rustles up high, rich green ferns tucked behind gray rocks. It is quiet here, but alive with small things - ants, brown chipmunks, butterflies - and more rarely with larger ones - a deer startled from the rhododendron and  a hawk launched from a cliff.   The earth is rich and pungent and somehow smells more like home than any other place I know. I am present and centered without even trying.  This walking becomes my meditation, my best prayer of the day.


     "Botox could really help that 11 between your eyebrows." So said a lady at the salon to me the other day. I'm sure she's right, and I didn't need her to tell me that those two little lines are getting deeper with each passing year. It's no mystery why it's happening either. My brow gets a lot of work in a day, moving to varying degrees to show that I am confused, angry, sad, compassionate, worried. Now in my mid 30s, I'm also developing "parentheses" around my mouth from smiling, and "laugh lines" at the corners of my eyes. A few injections could take care of all that, I suppose, and help me look years younger. But here's the thing -- I don't want to lose any of that. Those lines on my face are evidence of a life lived and deeply felt. My emotions have always been an easy read, since I have no "poker face." With Botox or plastic surgery, I could get one. In my 20s, I used to fantasize about liposuction, rhinoplasty, cheek implants, but not anymore. Now I just want to be healthy, to take care of what I have and make the most of it, with no needles or scalpels involved. This is my face, and one of the gifts of getting older is that I've finally grown to love every line, freckle, mole, and blemish because they are mine. If I ever have daughters, I hope I can help them get to that place of self-acceptance much earlier. It's taken me 35 years to realize that I don't want to look like anyone but me.


Lavender Bliss
     Not to miss an opportunity, a coworker and I tagged on a few days to a work conference in San Francisco to see the sights of Mill and Sonoma valleys.  We particularly enjoyed touring Benzinger winery, which takes an environmental ‘biodynamic’ approach to its farming. Part of that involves elaborate gardens or insectaries or bug cities as they are called, chocked full of plants pleasing to healthful insects and birds. We meandered through the pathways, ducking at the darting hummingbirds, their whir of wings creating a throaty purring. 
     We watched the sun set on the rolling farmlands as we drove back, reliving our repeat visit to the restaurant ‘the girl and the fig,’ where we feasted on three types of goat cheese, one drizzled in lavender honey, a taste sensation I can only describe as decadently delightful. We sucked down lavender creme brulees that were too good to split. As we headed back to the city and neared the Golden Gate Bridge, the traffic slowed to a crawl. We noticed how people here rarely honk their horns. They are polite drivers, respectful of pedestrians. What is it about a region that creates such a culture? 
     All I can figure is all the Innovative taste sensations keep everyone sated. Though stuck in traffic, I can't even work up a good ill temper. It's as if the rich textures of the land and sun-baked hills of the valley run in my veins like wine.  What are a few backed up cars when you've had the likes of lavender honey?


Friday, October 12, 2012

Restorative Life

Baggage Claim

     As usual, I've overpacked. My goal is to always go light, pack efficiently and compact. The reality is I generally end up sitting on my suitcase, squeezing in items that maybe I won't be able to live without or including every outfit combo that would suit my various moods or the weather or chance opportunities. I try to outwit travel and all the loops and curves it can throw my way, though I often end up loving the detours. I love to travel. I can't wait to see what's around the next corner or how people experience life in other parts of the country. They say, whenever you go, there you are. We carry our baggage so to speak.
     That's true, of course, but it goes deeper than that. We are the food we eat and the places we've been. Age has mellowed me, made me realize it's good to get rid of my baggage for awhile and see the culture and life view of another area. I'm the same, but different - more open somehow.

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
                                                                                   T.S. Eliot


         I have learned to love the subtle changes autumn brings to the salt marsh in the Lowcountry. The spartina grass fades gently from vibrant summer green to a softer golden brown as the days cool and shorten.  But a few days back home in West Virginia remind me that I miss the vibrant colors of the mountains as the trees announce the arrival of autumn with cool crisp days and frost sprinkled nights.   All the colors of nature proclaim that a season has ended and another begun.  
        The colors remind us that change happens whether we are ready for it or not.  The cycle of life continues.  Life changes and moves on. We leave home. Our children grow up and move away.  Our  jobs change, new roads are paved, new babies are born.  Things change.
      It’s October.  We can embrace the change in the air by pulling on a sweater and stepping out for a brisk walk or we can huddle inside the house, remembering the last warm days of summer.   It’s all about attitude.


     When I arrived for my first restorative yoga class, the instructor, Tracy, had prepared a station for each of the six women in the group. A yoga mat, a large foam block, a long blue strap, a small foam block, and a fuzzy blanket were laid out for me. The lights were low, and soothing music played from Tracy's iPod. The first pose had me on my back, knees up, using my feet and core muscles to lift my lower back off the floor far enough to position the large foam block under my lumbar spine. I stretched to reach for the block, just as Tracy arrived and, shaking her head gently, placed it for me. We were to hold each pose for five full minutes, focusing on our breathing and "listening to our bodies." My mind wandered, and my inner perfectionist took over. I found myself looking at my classmates to make sure I was doing the pose "correctly," but Tracy caught me, and I earned another gently disapproving shake of her head. 
     The next pose was sitting against the wall, legs stretching up the wall, backs flat on the mat. Tracy told us to let one leg fall to the side "until you are comfortable," though again, I was comparing my pose to everyone else's. The long strap to one side of my mat was there to wrap around my foot for support, and just as I was about to break the pose to reach for it, Tracy appeared again. As she placed the strap around my foot, she leaned in to whisper, "You're going to have to learn to let me do things for you, Stacy."


Friday, October 5, 2012

It's October!

     There are dozens of things I love about my church community. This is one of them. Every week at their meeting, our staff take time to pray for certain members of the church. I don't know how many, or how they choose, or how often any one member gets prayer. I only know that every time I get one of these cards letting me know they prayed for me, it is always in a week that I need prayer more than usual. Last week was a stressful time of waiting and worrying. It was made a little easier from knowing that Deanna, Don, Sandi, and Woody talked to God about me, and believing that God was listening.


Lessons from Sitting Bull

     Some days I’m amazed at what a great single mom I am.
     Others, I’m frankly appalled.
     It’s one of those days for me, of the latter kind. I crawl into bed at 10:45 p.m. having gotten everyone fed, ‘homeworked,’ ‘soccered’ and asleep. I pick up my journal relishing these 15 minutes I’ll be able to stay awake before passing out. Picking up my cell phone that functions as my second brain, I’m shocked to see the date.  Something important happens tomorrow, but what? I try to shake the feeling of foreboding.
      Then I sit straight up in bed.
      Sitting Bull. My youngest son’s life-size project is due not in two days as I thought, but tomorrow. He’s sound asleep in his room, and this is my screw up. I go downstairs, speed read his book, type up the points he’s already done, adding a few more, and hunt down craft items. Stumbling into bed at 1 a.m., I set the alarm for 5 a.m. assembling the family to frantically paste on hair, jewelry, loin cloth, moccasins and a Sitting Bull face.  I dress, feed kids and fend the dog off Sitting Bull until he can dry. Wrestling him into the back seat of the car, I say a prayer that nothing falls off. Privately I continue my inner chatter on what a mess I’m making of things. As luck would have it as I escort Sitting Bull into school, the principal rounds the corner and wants to see our masterpiece.
     “I just love seeing these projects.” She smiles at me. “Aren’t they fun?”
      I smile not trusting myself to speak and unroll the paper hoping body parts have remained in the right places. I look down to see my son beaming, and for the first time in hours give myself a moment of grace. He’ll probably never remember this Sitting Bull project, but I will. I fix a wisp of Sitting Bull’s hair and know he’d understand that life’s not always fair. Sometimes we just do the imperfect, best thing we can to take care of our own.

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, 
but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.        
                                                                                      ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

     We noticed them as we walked through the dunes to the beach. Butterflies were everywhere - yellow gulf fritillaries,  brown skippers and orange brush footed queens.  A few brave flyers followed us out to skim over the waves.  I've walked this beach many times but this was new.
     On our way back, after a long, chatty walk on the beach, one of the queens landed on the back of my friend's hat and stayed.  The butterfly posed on the top of her white cap for several minutes while we snapped photos.  Then, off into the wind and on to another flower.  It was a moment of pure delight, more for us than for Chris; she couldn't see the butterfly until we showed her the pictures of the back of her head. 
     We paused our walk for a moment of wonder - a piece of flying happiness.  Moments like this remind us of the goodness of life and deserve to be savoured.