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The Color of Prayer

For countless years I have joined the throngs of good-hearted, well-meaning folks who go pink during the month of October. My aunt, for whom I was named, was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a child, my first cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a young adult, and a very dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in my 50s. Two of those three precious ladies, oddly the two younger gals, died as a direct result of their cancer. Sadly, I have stood together in prayer with far too many women who were also met with the same devastating diagnosis. I have championed the fight against breast cancer, wearing the ribbons, making donations, walking in walks, sporting something pink every day of the month of every October, and even spearheading a memorial golf tournament. I felt as though those were tiny, little things I could do as I felt overwhelmed with the feeling of helplessness for women I dearly loved.

This year, with October upon us, I have tried . . . I really have tried, but I just haven’t been able to jump on the pink bandwagon. I am distracted. I don’t wonder why. I know why. You see, this past summer, my 32-year-old daughter, Alex, was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She was on a work trip to Pittsburgh and received a call from a doctor in her OB/GYN’s office (her doc was out of town). He told her she had uterine cancer and needed to have a hysterectomy right away. She called me, crying hysterically. I just remember fighting back the tears and pushing down the lump in my throat saying, “Come home.” I just kept repeating, “Come home.” I found out days later that she had called her big brother, Will, first and asked him if she should fly home to give us some really bad news or call us from Pittsburgh. As I understand it, his response was, “Mom will kill you if you don’t call her and tell her now,” and before they hung up he said something akin to, “And you’re not hanging up without telling me what’s going on.” Sibling love and support . . . there really is nothing like it. Alex called the airline, changed her flight, and came home the next day, a Wednesday. On Friday, we saw the gynecologic oncologist and on the following Tuesday she underwent a total hysterectomy. One week, to the day, after receiving the devastating news, she was in a surgery that changed her life forever.

Every spare minute we had, we researched uterine cancer, we spoke with friends and family in the medical community, and we tried to arm ourselves with as much information as we could soak in to ready ourselves for this fight. We saw Alex’s regular OB/GYN, who was back in town and shocked at the news. We saw a fertility specialist to discuss the possibility of freezing eggs. We discussed genetic testing, as every doctor we saw said this type of cancer usually presents in post-menopausal women. In fact, three different OB/GYN doctors said they had never had a patient as young as Alex with uterine cancer, thus the reason for genetic testing. Alex was also seen at a major cancer center for a second opinion and we were told the same thing. What does this have to do with pink October? It’s about awareness. It’s about information. It’s about education. Where is the support for all the other cancers? Awareness, information, education, and support equate to donations, which equate to research for a cure. We need that for ALL cancers.

Gynecologic cancers include uterine/endometrial, ovarian, vulvar, cervical, and vaginal cancers. The awareness ribbon color for all gynecologic cancers is purple, except in New Zealand where it is silver. However, purple is also the awareness ribbon color for all general cancers, testicular cancer, and pancreatic cancer. The awareness ribbon color for uterine/endometrial cancer is peach, except in Australia where it is silver. The awareness ribbon color for ovarian cancer is teal and for cervical cancer it is white and teal. It’s all a bit confusing, isn’t it? It seems much easier to jump on the pink bandwagon.

It’s sad (but true), often times we don’t throw ourselves into something until or unless it affects us personally. I don’t think that’s because we don’t care. I think it’s because life is about prioritizing. We can’t be passionate about every cause that’s out there, so we have to prioritize our time, efforts, and resources accordingly. Alex’s recent diagnosis has caused me to reassess my efforts of support. I think that’s what mothers do. We support our children in their dreams and through their heartache. Our support adjusts to their needs. I will not stop supporting pink October and the efforts to raise awareness of and support for breast cancer research. I will continue in memory of those I love who were taken too soon by this horrific disease and for those who are still fighting it every day of their lives. But, I have turned my concerted efforts to raising awareness for the gynecologic cancers, specifically, uterine cancer. So peach shirts, ribbons, walks, and blog posts it is. I will add, however, I believe the mightiest weapon in this fight has always been and continues to be prayer and the color of prayer is peace. The color of prayer is faith. The color of prayer is love. My prayers continue . . .  

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Why do kids need to feel SMART?

Has your child ever said, “I’m dumb” or “I feel stupid” when reacting to a particular experience or comparing herself to others? Experts weigh in as to how we should respond to these statements because such feelings can damage a child’s self esteem and adversely impact learning. Bob Cunningham states, “Kids with positive self-esteem feel confident and capable. They value themselves and their abilities. They’re proud of the things they can do and want to try their best,” and isn’t that what we all want for our children? Helping children change their mindset so they don’t feel defeated and are not willing to give up is essential in developing a healthy self-esteem. So, how do we do that when they don’t feel smart?

We begin by recognizing and acknowledging their strengths and helping them use those strengths to develop areas that may need a little more attention. The specific strengths, or intelligences, identified by Dr. Howard Gardner go beyond the conventional linguistic and logical strengths that are tested in our schools today. Gardner has identified eight intelligences that meet specific criteria to be considered an intelligence. He proposes we each possess these eight intelligences from birth and that we can grow and develop all eight intelligences. Gardner’s broadened definition of intelligence, as being multi-dimensional and fluid, rather than a fixed entity or a number on a standardized test, gives great hope and encouragement to parents and teachers, especially if their children/students are not conventional learners!

Help your child find his strengths, bolster his self-esteem, and put him on a path to effective learning by introducing him to Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In my SMART Parts series for young children, I am committed to helping children grow a strong, healthy sense of self so they know they are smart and will be motivated to continue wanting to learn. These are books they can read or parents/teachers can read to/with them. The books introduce Gardner’s theory through colorful illustrations and developmentally appropriate stories. The first book, Ellie Rae Discovers Eight Ways to be SMART, finds Ellie Rae watching her friends play ball and she recognizes in each of them a special strength she calls their “SMART part.” Each character represents a different intelligence. Each subsequent book focuses on one character and delves a little deeper into that intelligence or SMART part, still through age-appropriate stories and illustrations.

I’m a career teacher and I have a passion for the education and welfare of young children. I have seen MI teaching/learning work wonders with children who were falling through the cracks in traditional classrooms. Every child should feel she is smart in order to lay a firm foundation for future growth and development. Here’s to all children, everywhere, feeling secure in their self-worth and knowing they are SMART in their own special way!

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The Storms of Life

At this moment in time I have a friend who is battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a friend who is battling Pancreatic Cancer, a friend who just lost her husband to cancer, another friend who lost her husband to cancer earlier this year, a friend whose granddaughter was diagnosed with Leukemia last week, a friend who is still dealing with the devastating side effects long after chemo treatments for breast cancer have stopped, and a friend who had a benign brain tumor removed three days ago. I pray for each of them daily. I am heartbroken when I think about the low, low valleys through which they are walking, especially because I’m miles away from all but one of them. Yet I am comforted in knowing they all have a strong faith life and believe God is in control. Some of them have a good prognosis, others are faced with the reality that their earthly journey is nearing an end, and two have been forced to begin a new normal without their life partners. All of them realize their lives have been changed forever.

So, I pray. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God will either calm the storm or He will calm His child and that gives me peace and I know it brings my friends peace. Sometimes that means we are privileged to witness a miracle, other times that means we suffer heartbreak, yet we are able to continue to put one foot in front of the other and live the life God intended for us, only by His grace. It brings to mind the old hymn, Master, the Tempest is Raging, lyrics by Mary Ann Baker. Ms. Baker wrote the text in 1874 at the request of Dr. H. R. Palmer, who wrote the music that same year. Ms. Baker had endured great personal heartache and hardship, which is masterfully reflected in her lyrics.

Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness.
No shelter or help is nigh.
Carest thou not that we perish?
How canst thou lie asleep
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?

The winds and the waves shall obey thy will:
Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, be still; peace, be still.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, peace, be still.

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today.
The depths of my sad heart are troubled.
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul,
And I perish! I perish! dear Master.
Oh, hasten and take control!


Master, the terror is over.
The elements sweetly rest.
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast.
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more,
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor
And rest on the blissful shore.


As a child, I remember sitting beside my Dad in the church pew, singing this hymn. His strong, low voice resonated with the bass echo, “Peace, be still; peace, be still.” I felt at peace then and I have felt at peace throughout my life, because I saw Jesus’ peace flow through my Dad in his daily journey through life. My Dad modeled for me the perfect peace that Jesus can bring to our lives, despite our circumstances. I saw it in him every day. He endured so much heartache, so much physical and emotional pain, yet he felt his heavenly Father’s perfect peace. He prayed fervently and he prayed without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

I’m so grateful he lived his life as a prayer warrior, believing in the power of prayer. He modeled that for me and that has sustained me through some very difficult times in my life. And so, there isn’t a lot I can do for my friends who are suffering, but what I can do is love them and pray for them and that is more powerful than anything. Peace, be still; peace, be still.

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Tea Bags

hot teaI grew up in northern Indiana. For as long as I can remember, I drank a cup of hot tea every morning. My Dad was a hot tea drinker and I guess that trickled down to his children, at least to me. He didn’t care anything about fancy teas. There were never any black teas or green teas in his life. He drank Lipton’s. He reused each tea bag until the hot water barely changed color when he poured a new cup, before he switched to a fresh tea bag.

This is my Dad’s birthday week and he has been on my mind more lately than usual, although I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. He is celebrating in heaven these days. He’s been there since June 28, 2011 and I can only imagine the joyous celebrations he enjoys every day . . . well, I guess there aren’t days in heaven, so he’s just rejoicing all the time, nonstop! What a beautiful thought!

I sort of see my Dad like his tea bags. . . giving, giving, giving . . . until there was nothing left to give. I always knew him as what is now referred to as a “blue-collar worker”. He worked for Indiana/Michigan Electric Company (I & M) until he fell off a truck and broke his back. He endured two back surgeries and was, eventually, put on permanent disability. Later, he would have some heart issues that added to his health concerns.

He and Mother had five little “stair-step” children. Dad insisted my Mom stay home with us children, so he worked wherever and however he could to provide for his family. Back when there were full-service gas stations, he manned the gas pumps, cleaned windshields, and checked oil at a local station. He also rode on the back of a trash truck for a few years. I know that had to be excruciating for him. For a time, he made lamps in our basement that he sold at local flea markets. I would sit down there for hours and watch him use masking tape to connect coffee cans, forming the shape of a tree branch. He would then tape small Dixie cups to the cans. Next, he covered his creation with Plaster of Paris and before it dried, he used a fork to fashion what looked like tree bark. We would take a break at that point and go upstairs for some hot tea. Once the plaster was dry, Dad chose just the right stain or paint (I’m really not sure what that brown stuff was) and those cans, cups, and plaster turned into a tree branch. Somehow, with his electrician background, he made lamps out of these everyday items. I believe Mother picked the lamp shades, I don’t have a clear recollection of that process, but I remember being so excited with each finished product! He even made some birch tree lamps with whitish bark and shading. He really was quite crafty. I never really realized that at the time. I just saw him as my Dad who could do a lot of different things. I think I thought all dads could do a lot of things.

We moved to Alabama in 1970 at the suggestion from Dad’s doctor that his quality of life would improve in a warmer climate. Indiana winters were brutal and, although all five children helped with chores, our Indiana pig farm (especially in the winter) was more than Dad could handle. We had visited my Aunt Mary, Dad’s sister for whom I was named, just about every summer I could remember and south Alabama was Dad’s choice for relocation. Even there, he worked at a gas station for a while, he did handy man work around town, and ended up doing remodels and reroofing houses. By this time, Dad was in his fifties and sixties, had a bad heart, bad back, and was ridden with arthritis, yet he was climbing atop hot tar roofs. Still giving.

In 1996 my Mother was killed by a 16-year-old drunk driver. My Dad was severely injured in that car crash. Yet, in the years to follow, my Dad started and ran a program at his church, feeding needy families. Dad got up every morning and drove to The Good Samaritan House where he kept a detailed log of those who came in for groceries, oftentimes turning folks away who were greedy and came back sooner than the schedule allowed. I know that was difficult for him, but he was a rule follower and only thinking of those who would come in next and needed help, as well. He was in his seventies and eighties at this time. Still giving.

In 2009 Dad moved closer to my sister who lived in southcentral Alabama. He had his own place, so he could be independent, but my sister worked right around the corner from him, so she could eat lunch with him every day and visit with him very frequently. Always active in his local church, this move didn’t change that. He became involved with the benevolent program at his new church and continued his life of service. Still giving . . . but his tea bag was getting weaker and weaker. His body began to betray him and, as hard as he tried to continue his active lifestyle, he became limited in what he could do, eventually being confined to a wheelchair. In just two short years, his tea bag would lose its punch and Dad became confined to his bed.

The last conversation I had with him was on the phone as I drove away after visiting him for the last time. Even though we had said our goodbyes, I just felt the need to call and hear his voice one more time. He made reference to the end being near and, through my tears, I said, “You know, Dad, this is what you’ve looked forward to your entire life. You’ve worked hard to be the man you are and you are about to inherit your crown of righteousness. Thank you for showing us the way.” We exchanged “I love yous” and that was it. He died two days later. The tea bag was all used up.

I drink hot tea every morning, still, and every morning, I think of my Dad when I pour the hot water into my cup. I thank God for giving me such an amazing father and, although I’m anxious for our heavenly reunion, I pray my tea bag has a lot more to give until that fine day. One of the many great lessons I’ve learned from my Dad is, just like a tea bag, sometimes our best flavor doesn’t come out until it is steeped in hot water. May I emerge from the hot water as flavorful as my shirt

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I’ve always had a fondness for porches. Growing up in northern Indiana, I remember playing with my siblings out on the porch, usually only if it was raining because if the weather was nice, we were running up and down the sidewalks, playing in the yard, or riding our bikes. But the porch was always there as a retreat, so we wouldn’t have to go inside if the weather turned ugly. The grownups in our family spent a lot of time on the porch, as well, so when they were out there, we always found somewhere else to be. My Dad’s mother, my “Bigmama”, shelled peas on the porch. I remember her scooping them up in her apron to take them inside. My “Bigpapa” would sit beside her, a silent partner in the shelling, but I imagine he always looked forward to enjoying those peas. My Mother’s mother and step-father, my “Grandma and Grandpa”, sat on the porch and watched the traffic go by. My Grandpa would sometimes water the front lawn with the garden hose, sitting on the knee wall. I often wondered what he was thinking about, as he appeared to be a million miles away, watching the water soak deep into the ground. I remember both sets of grandparents sitting on the porch to watch the rain, even thunder storms. I didn’t really understand their fascination at the time, but I do now.

Both my paternal and maternal grandparents had metal gliders on their porches. We loved those gliders and would pile up in them. I’m sure we pushed the gliding capabilities to their limit. Siblings, cousins, and friends would rush to see how many would fit and, somehow, we always found room for everyone. My maternal grandparents were smokers and my Dad would often refer to the “little lights on the porch” we could see as we drove passed their house on the way home from church services. It was too late to stop on school nights, but he always honked the horn and we all waved.

Since I’ve been married and living in Florida, we’ve never really had a porch. The houses we’ve lived in have had more of a stoop outside the front door, barely room for a potted plant and certainly not big enough for a chair. I imagine that’s because of the sweltering heat and the need for air conditioning. Time spent in the sun is usually reserved for the beach or those who don’t have a choice, due to employment, at least when summer is at its peak. I guess that’s why I’m so excited about the house we live in now, in Tallahassee. We’re farther north in the state and we actually have a bit of a change in seasons . . . certainly much more so than Central Florida. We even have a fireplace!

I’ve missed many things about Indiana, my friends and family, basketball (It seems the Midwest is more into basketball and the South more into football – I like both, but miss those fast-paced games!), looking out at the fresh-fallen snow, riding snowmobiles (many thanks to the Ryan family for those memories), and so much more . . . but, I especially miss my time spent on the porch. I guess maybe that’s why it’s been important to me to revisit my porch time, the older I get. Precious memories are made, friendships are born, bonds are strengthened, and oftentimes, much needed soul searching, revelations, and “ah-ha moments” surprise us, while visiting on the porch.

Our current house came with a double rocker on the front porch. It is well worn with a good bit of the paint already chipped off, but I don’t think that wear is from use. I think, rather, it’s from the bright afternoon sun that beats down on it every day. That sun has done a number on our wooden front door, as well. The first year we lived here, my family gave me two wooden rocking chairs for Christmas and those set on the opposite side of the porch as the double rocker. Lots of room for everyone! I’m grateful for dear neighbors who feel comfortable enough to take time out of their busy schedules to join us on the porch, every now and then. We have enjoyed hot coffee, tasty wine (stronger libations for some), and yummy snacks on the porch. But, what I’ve enjoyed the most is our conversation and shared bursts of uncontrollable laughter. I love seeing how much alike we are and I love developing a deeper understanding of and appreciation for what makes us different. The day after one couple sat with us on the porch for hours, laughing and talking, another neighbor said, “It sounded like you were having a good time last night. Next time, how about coming over and knocking on our door so we can join you!” Just what I wanted to hear! It wasn’t long before that couple joined us on the porch, treating us to some of their favorite wine and some amazing smoked gouda/crackers! We learned a lot about each other and we laughed a lot that night, too. It’s as though sweet music filled the air with each burst of unbridled laughter!

I can’t help but think, if we took the time to join one another on the porch from time to time, perhaps our thoughts would be kinder, our words would be sweeter, our hearts would be gentler, and our lives would be richer . . . no doubt, this world would be a better place in which to live. Come on over, my friends. You’re always welcome on the porch!

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Teachable Moments

This week I watched a Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.jpegvideo clip of Mister Fred Rogers speaking before the Senate about funding for his PBS television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It was the same Mister Rogers my children (and I) watched every day. It was that same calm voice, quirky smile, kind spirit and sensibility. That man was a genius and if we could only have cloned him, I believe this world would be a different place today.

In the clip, Mister Rogers talks about starting with his first television program in 1954 at the cost of $30. In 1969 he said the cost was about $6,000. He went on to say that amount was what it cost to produce about two minutes of cartoons or what he sometimes referred to as “animated bombardment”. He shared that children need to understand their feelings are “mentionable and manageable” and that it was “much more dramatic for two men to be working out their feelings of anger than by showing something of gunfire”.  You could see his genuine and sincere love for the future of our children when he said, “I’m very much concerned about what’s being delivered to our children in this country”. He went on to explain a bit about what the show was taught, “We deal with such things as the inner drama of childhood. We don’t have to bop somebody over the head to make drama on the screen. We deal with such things as getting a haircut, or the feelings about brothers and sisters or the kind of anger that arises in simple family situations and we speak to it constructively. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, ‘You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you, just the way you are.’” That is Fred Rogers . . . affirming, encouraging, motivating, inspiring, loving and kind.

Mister Rogers delivered the “crowning blow” at that Senate hearing, not by shouting or insulting or using sarcasm or verbal barbs. No, he delivered the crowning blow by asking if he could recite the lyrics to one of his original songs:

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
 Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.

Mister Rogers could have come out swinging at the very thought of PBS funding being cut, but he didn’t. He behaved in a respectful, kind, and loving manner because that’s who he was. That’s what he taught and that’s what he lived. He had no desire to put anyone down for suggesting such a cut or ridicule them at the very thought. No, he seized a teachable moment and he taught kindness, by modeling it. He taught kindness through his words, his expressions, his demeanor, his responses, his respect, and his presence. Oh, to only be one small portion of that man in how we present ourselves to the world. Well, I’m going to try. I’m going to try to seize the teachable moments in my life when maybe, just maybe, I can make even a very small positive difference in someone’s life. I’m going to try.

I love that Mister Rogers ended every show with, “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you, just the way you are.” No doubt, all those years watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with my own children touched me in a very special way, as I was motivated to write my SMART Parts Series for children, helping them understand they are all SMART in their own special way! So, I thank you, Fred Rogers, for what you did for children everywhere, for my own children, and for me. I’ll end with more precious lyrics from Mister Rogers, because this is how I feel about him:

You are my friend
You are special
You are my friend
You’re special to me.
You are the
only one like you.
Like you, my friend, I like you.

 Oh, and Senator Pastore’s response to Mister Rogers? “I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you just earned the 20 million dollars.” Here’s to Teachable Moments and one of our greatest teachers!

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Never Say Never

Almost two weeks ago, I reported my car stolen. Two days later I reported it had not been stolen and the explanation for what happened “was a long and complicated series of events.” I wasn’t trying to hide anything from anyone, in fact, several people have endured my sharing of the “long and complicated series of events”, but as the days have gone by, I have felt it more and more important for me to follow the post about the stolen car with a post about the car that was not stolen. If you are satisfied that I still have my car and I am thanking God that it wasn’t stolen after all, you can stop reading now. If you feel as though you want/need to know “the rest of the story” (another nod to Paul Harvey), read on at your own choosing . . .

That Friday my daughter, Alex, and myself had made a plan for a fun day together. She had some flex time from work, my husband, George, was out of town, and she had taken her dog, Sadie Mae, to doggie day care to play with her friends because she had been showing us she needed some socialization. We had been looking forward to this fun day together and were excited to get started! Alex picked me up at my house (when we’re together in Tallahassee she almost always drives because she has lived here for 10 years and she knows all the back streets, etc.) and drove to a new brunch place that recently opened in our neighborhood. We LOVE brunch and were excited to check out this new brunchspot. We were enjoying our meals (see picture) and Alex’s phone rang. It was her hairdresser. Now this needs an explanation (see, I told you it was long and complicated). Most of you know Alex has been working to grow her hair out after having had two brain surgeries. She found a great stylist who is young and hip and has worked closely with Alex on this journey. Alex hadn’t been to Haleigh for several months because she was in a place where she just wanted to see some length. Recently, however, she thought maybe she would get it colored to at least give it some pizazz. She had called and asked if they would put her on a cancellation list so she could get in quickly. You guessed it, this was that call. Alex told them she would be in as soon as we finished brunch (Hello! What’s important here?) and that’s when the plans for the day began to change. I told Alex I would rather her drop me at my house and go on to the salon so I could get some things done instead of sit at the salon for two hours.  She had already purchased movie tickets online, so we knew we had a tight time frame with the hair coloring and logistics of traveling from one place to another. I asked her to just keep me informed as to how the hair coloring was going.

Fast forward an hour or two . . . Alex texted and said she was running a bit later than she thought and didn’t think she could come back to get me and make it to the movie in time. I told her I would just meet her at the salon. I drove my car to the salon, we left it there and she drove just down the street to the theater. Her hair looked really pretty, as Haleigh had styled it, as well as colored it, but it was a wee bit brassy. We would later see Alex's orange hairit as orange, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We were excited to see “The Mountain Between Us” (excellent movie) and it did NOT disappoint! At brunch and on the way to the theater we had been discussing an event  that was approaching for which we both had a lot of responsibilities. We decided we had time to run by the florist and order the centerpieces and then could check that off our list of things to do. It took much longer at the florist than we anticipated and as we left we realized we had to drive across town to get Sadie before 6 p.m. Yikes! We headed in that direction and were happy to see Sadie, tuckered out from her play date. We headed to my house, as we had already talked about getting in our PJs and watching movies. It was a fun day and a fun night. Alex decided to stay over since we were up so late.

Saturday morning we woke up late and just chilled for most of the morning. We worked a little on the event, putting together lists, checking on RSVPs, etc. We played outside with Sadie, did a little baking and before we knew it, it was dark. We decided to watch some more movies and you guessed it, Alex ended up staying over again.

We got up the next morning and got moving. Alex and Sadie went home and I began to get dressed. While putting on my make-up I made note that George would be coming home that day. I wasn’t sure what time he would get back in town, so I thought I should move my car so he could get into the garage. I usually park to one side of the driveway, but because he was out of town, I had parked in the middle of the drive, knowing I would be in and out. I finished getting ready and walked out to the garage, opened the garage door and my heart sank when I faced an EMPTY driveway. I thought to myself, “Maybe Alex moved my car for some reason.” “Maybe I parked in the front and didn’t remember it.” So many thoughts rushed through my mind until I thought . . . “Someone stole my car!” I’ll pause here for a minute to say there had been some car break-ins in our neighborhood recently . . . not so much stolen cars as people checking car door handles and if they’re unlocked, they steal what’s inside . . . so I had that on my mind. I called Alex and said, “Someone stole my car!” She said she was on her way. While I waited I thought I should go ahead and call the police because sometimes when you call the non-emergency number, it takes hours for someone to come out, so I thought I’d get a jump on it. I called and reported my car had been stolen out of my driveway. The dispatcher said she would send someone out. I then called my son, Will, to see if his dad had left yet. He said George was already on the road, so I didn’t want to give him the news while he was driving. Will suggested I call the insurance company, so I hung up and did that. Alex had arrived by then and when we heard the door bell, she answered it because I was on the phone with the insurance company.

The policeman was very tall and we later learned was a former marine sharp-shooter. He was probably close to my age and was very kind. He asked several questions and even apologized for asking some of them. He said some people take offense when you ask things like, “Where are your car keys now?” “Did a family member borrow your car without you knowing, possibly?” “Could you have parked it somewhere and forgotten about it?” Do people actually do that, I wondered? I assured him I was not offended by any questions, I just wanted my car back. He asked if we could walk out to the driveway. We did. There was no glass on the driveway, which didn’t make any sense, although we had read about some thieves who can access the key fob in your house and somehow get into your car, so that made it seem possible. The policeman wrapped things up, gave me his card with the case number and his badge number on it and drove away. Alex and I went back in the house, sat down and just looked at one another. We couldn’t believe what was happening! We went over the night before and neither of us heard anything outside. Sadie didn’t bark. We called our neighbors whose house is at the end of our driveway. They said they heard a car door around midnight, but nothing else.

George arrived home and we did the same, sat and looked at each other in disbelief. The insurance guy had told me to begin making a list of everything that was in my car, so I did that. George mentioned a few things for me to add to the list. I just kept dwelling on the fact that my car is 10 years old and has 160,000 miles on it. Who would want it?? One of my neighbors even asked me that! I lamented that George had just changed the oil and put 4 new tires on the car and I had just filled it up with gas. The policeman did tell us that Mercury Grand Marquis are often stolen and converted into taxis but he said that happens in New York and in Miami, mostly. That was the weekend of the Miami-FSU game, so we became convinced someone from Miami stole my car. I cancelled my SunPass transponder, thinking maybe they would get caught going through the tolls in my car. Boy, the things we thought about that day.

Monday was Columbus Day and it was pretty much like Sunday. We were consumed with the loss of my car and its contents. Also, Alex began to really hate her new hair color. She called and asked about coming back in, but Haleigh couldn’t see her until Tuesday. She would just have to wait. This may seem totally unrelated to my car story, but actually, had she been happy with her hair color initially, there would have been a very different outcome to this story. I was so consumed with the events of the past two days, I sat down and wrote a post in my blog. It helped to put everything on paper and as I wrote I became more and more content with my situation.  Philippians 4:11

Alex's good hairTuesday Alex went to work and then back to see Haleigh to get her hair color changed. She drove into the parking lot of the salon and there was my car. What?? She called me and said, “Mom! Your car was NOT stolen!!” I said, “WHAT?????” She said, “It’s here at Tryst (the salon)!!” At that moment, the events of the past four days flooded my mind and I remembered parking my car in that parking lot on FRIDAY and never thinking about it again, until it wasn’t in my driveway on Sunday. My car was not stolen. Thank You, Jesus!

What I have learned from this experience:

  1. I have amazing friends and family. I can’t begin to list everyone who encouraged me, supported me, and prayed for me during this crazy time. What really prompted this blog post is that I received a package from my dear friends, Donna and Judy, from Orlando. They sent CDs to start my “new collection.” I thought, I have to sit down and tell them what happened! They won’t believe it! But how sweet to send me those CDs!!!
  2. Don’t be so quick to call the police. Had Alex and I sat down and gone over the events of the weekend, I’d like to think we would have remembered I had parked my car at Tryst.
  3. Don’t post on social media. If you have to write it down, write it down to get it out, but don’t be so quick to share it. I wouldn’t be writing this long, long post if I hadn’t shared about the car in the first place.
  4. Don’t be so bound up in plans. I’m a planner and I think when the plan changed, I was still so entrenched in the original plan, I didn’t adjust things in my mind and that was the beginning of my thinking my car was stolen, because I never planned to drive to Tryst in the first place.
  5. Things are just things. Pretty self-explanatory.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up. I really felt terrible for wasting the time of the policeman who came out to the house initially and the two officers who had to come out and verify the car was found. I really felt terrible for wasting the time of the insurance guy. They all told me I wouldn’t believe how much this happens to them. Somehow that didn’t help, but I appreciated their efforts to make me feel better. I felt badly that I hadn’t had my act together enough to figure out where my car was before I reported it stolen. I felt badly that some people might think this was the beginning of some mental deficiency in me and what that might mean for the future. But I finally settled into, it is what it is and I’m just grateful I have my car.
  7. Never say never. It can happen to you. It can happen to me. It DID happen to me.

I will say, this experience has been very, very real to me. . . more real than I imagined. Recently, when I saw a new CD advertised on TV I thought, “Wow, I don’t have any of my CDs anymore” and then I realized, no, my car was NOT stolen. I have my CDs. Another time when I was walking out of the back door that leads into the garage I thought, “I need to remember to lock this door because they have my garage door opener” and then I realized, no, my car was NOT stolen. They don’t have my garage door opener. It’s been two weeks and there are things that still come to mind and for an instant, I revert to that feeling of loss, until I remember my car was NOT stolen and I am so grateful.


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stolen2My car was stolen over the weekend. I was home. My car was parked in my driveway and it was locked, yet someone was able to sneak onto our property in the dead of night, get into my car, start it, and drive away without anyone seeing, hearing, or knowing anything about it. I’m still a bit numb from that realization.

My car is 10 years old, has nearly 170K miles on it and has no bells and whistles. It did have 4 new tires, a full tank of gas, and the oil had just been changed, but I doubt the thieves knew that before they made the decision to take something that wasn’t theirs.

I’m told the Mercury Grand Marquis is sometimes stolen and converted into a taxi, although I doubt the thieves have plans to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit and begin a taxi business.

I had just begun carrying in my trunk 20 of my children’s books, 10 of each, so when I came upon someone who asked me about them (which actually happens sometimes) I could just pull one out. I even went to Office Depot and bought a plastic bin to keep them in so they would remain flat and in great condition as the container slid around in my huge trunk. I doubt the thieves will appreciate my efforts to inform children and their parents about Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

There are somewhere between 80 and 100 CDs in my car. I love turning the music up on my trips to see my family or traveling for book signings, so I carried all of my CDs in my car. I have an eclectic taste in music. My CDs include opera, Broadway, pop, country, rock, Motown, children’s music, Christmas (yes, I listen to it year-round), gospel, hymns, jazz, blues, contemporary Christian, praise and worship, and I’m sure something I’ve left out. I doubt the thieves will enjoy any of my CDs.

A huge puppy cover is spread over my back seat so when I transport Sadie Mae, she is comfortable and doesn’t slide around on the leather seat. Somehow, I can’t imagine the thieves loving and caring for sweet puppies.

Years ago I heard someone speak about the importance of carrying a special device in your car to be prepared if you are ever trapped in your vehicle. I bought several of the devices that will cut the seatbelt and break the car window. I got one for every vehicle in our family. There is one in the glove box of my car. Somehow I think it will be used for something other than saving a life.

I haven’t shed one tear about my car, although it’s been a really good car. The trunk is massive and has been packed to the brim on many road trips. It’s carried 5 or 6 adults on many occasions so we could all be together and visit, rather than traveling in 2 smaller cars. It’s the car we bought when my first Grand Marquis was totaled in a multi-vehicle crash on I-4 in Orlando. A van driver decided he wanted to be in my lane instead of his and rammed my front, right quarter panel, sending me across the 3-lane interstate. We were hit a total of 5 times, 5 different vehicles, one was an 18-wheeler. Alex was with me and screamed each time a vehicle crashed into us. By the grace of God, and after an ambulance ride to the ER for some minor injuries, we stood up and sang with the praise team the next morning. So, we bought our 2nd Grand Marquis. It’s a mighty tough car, but, it’s a car. It has been and will continue to be a hassle for me to deal with the police, the insurance company, the car dealer, and the inconvenience of all of it, but it’s a car. No tears for a car. I haven’t even felt anger. Maybe in my younger years I would have been upset and allowed the anger to well up within me. I don’t know, but I haven’t felt anger. What I have felt is sadness . . . deep, almost debilitating sadness at times. I’m just so sad that there are people in this world with such disregard for their fellow human kind . . . people who are so egocentric that they make very bad decisions that impact the lives of others . . . people who are so lost, they feel they have no choice but to hurt others . . . it makes me very sad. Sad for them.

This moment in my life reminds me of a time when I was a teenager and was first introduced to a quote by Helen Keller, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” My stolen car is a first world problem and certainly something we will deal with and move past. Whoever stole my car will not steal my joy.  Romans 15:13


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Attention to Detail (or the lack thereof)

For quite some time I have been frustrated by what appears to be an ever-increasing disregard for paying attention to detail. I see it in my students’ assignments, store clerks, correspondence from companies, employers’ reviews, etc. At first I thought maybe it was just my OCD that made it so glaring for me, but the more it happens, the more I believe it is a trend . . . a very dangerous one. That may seem like a melodramatic statement, but consider the risk when prescription bottles are mislabeled.  It’s very telling when attorney practices set aside resources for pharmacy mislabeling mistakes alone. A simple typo can wreak havoc on a company’s finances. Don’t take my word for it; check out The High Cost of Small Mistakes: The Most Expensive Typos of All Time by Cameron Fennell.

When I mark spelling or grammatical mistakes on student assignments, oftentimes their response is, “This isn’t an English class! Why are you marking that wrong?” Most of them assignmentget it when I say, “You are studying to be a TEACHER. Everything you do in the classroom is modeling for your students. If you expect them to learn how to spell and to use proper grammar in writing, you must model it for them every day and in all that you do.” However, sadly, some of them continue to plead their case until I say, “This is not negotiable.”

Today I received some correspondence from a company regarding my retirement from the university system. Once again, the funds had been transferred to yet another company and they were notifying me of the transfer (i.e. You now have a zero balance with us because we put your money somewhere else). Look closely at this picture. ValicCheck out the date. Seriously??? It says the money was transferred (past tense) on August 8, 2107. Hmmmm . . . . This is an official document! I’m just at a loss, truly.

My take on this (for whatever it is worth and that’s probably not even 2 cents but it helps to get it off my chest) is that we, as a society . . . parents in particular . . . have stopped expecting excellence from our children. We went through a time when we were more concerned about their feelings than we were about their development of life skills that would sustain them (and their communities). I believe we went overboard not wanting our children to cry, to hurt, to know failure (everyone gets a trophy). It may have begun as a noble cause and honestly I believe feelings are important. We want our children to Mandelabe empathetic, loving, and caring, but the fallout from expecting less is damaging. It’s damaging to our children, personally, and to our society, collectively. We stopped setting expectations to which they could rise. We stopped demanding they repeat a task because they hadn’t completed it correctly the first time. Instead we gave them an “A for effort.” Instead of figuring out the cause for bad grades, we took them for ice cream to make them feel better. Scholarly research even shows great benefits toward academic success when parents expect excellence. This may seem harsh, especially from someone who has dedicated her career to the health, education, and welfare of young children, but I believe because I have seen it from all sides over the course of many years, I have a unique perspective. I am convinced society’s trend toward not paying attention to detail is directly connected to our lack of expectations for our children.

Allow me to share a personal story with you. When my daughter was about 10 years old, she was washing dishes. She was in a hurry and wasn’t rinsing the dishes thoroughly, putting them in the dish drainer with soap suds on them. I pointed that out to her and told her she needed to rinse all of the dishes again. She had a meltdown and began to cry, telling me it wasn’t a big deal and I was being too hard on her (Clearly, she just wanted to be done with it so she could go outside and play). I calmly explained to her that it was my job, as her mother, to teach her the correct way to do things. If I didn’t, I wasn’t doing my washing dishesjob and that was unacceptable to me. I explained that the soapy dishes would have a film on them and asked, “How would you like it if your milk tasted soapy?” I told her I wanted her to grow up with the skills she needed to take care of herself and proper dish washing was one of those skills. I guess it made sense to her, because she stopped crying, re-rinsed all the dishes and went about her day, unscathed. I had to stop what I was doing and seize what I like to call a “teachable moment”, but it was well worth it. Could it be we are just too busy and involved in so many other things, we don’t always take the time to clarify expectations for our children in order to help them grow and develop? I will say, the best result of these few moments together is that my daughter is now an adult, owns a home, supports herself, and is a vibrant and productive member of society. She is also very empathetic, loving, and caring.  Score 2 for the daughter, 0 for the trend.

The good news is, this trend is fixable! It isn’t a terminal disease that offers no hope. We can change the trend. We can begin expecting children (of all ages) to spell correctly, use proper grammar, check and double check assignments/tasks, repeat a task until the outcome is a success and work to do their best in everything they do. Children will rise to our level of expectations. I believe that and it is vital to the health and well being of our society because those children grow into adults who check your groceries at the store, cash you out at the bank, prepare your legal documents, deliver your babies, fill your prescriptions, teach your children, sign your paychecks, report the news, are elected to office, make the laws . . .

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I pulled the last sheet of paper towel off the roll this morning and stopped my breakfast-making to go to the pantry and get another roll. That one simple, mindless act conjured up a memory that stays with me to this day. . . I was visiting a family member several years ago and I sat and watched as she made coffee for us. After spilling a little water on the counter, she reached for the paper towel holder and saw the roll was empty. UGH. The expression on her face was one of frustration, but also a bit of sadness. I said, “I’ll get one out of the pantry” and started in that direction. She replied, “There aren’t any more.” At that moment she walked over to the table where I was sitting and fell into the chair beside me with a look of total defeat. Now, I knew this person well enough to know this wasn’t about running out of paper towels. And so the unveiling of her realization began . . .

She opened with, “I would just LOVE to have a spare ANYTHING so when I run out, I can just go get another. I don’t need a full pantry, just enough to tide me over to the next trip to the grocery. Most people have that, don’t they? You have that, don’t you?” She wasn’t complaining or feeling sorry for herself. She was simply sharing her state of being and trying to make sense of it. She went on to say she only had enough money each time she went to the grocery to buy what she needed. There was never enough money to buy two of anything, so she could have a spare. Still, she wasn’t complaining. She was opening up . . . more and more each moment we sat there. She was questioning her life, her choices, her mistakes. She was wondering how in the world did she end up where she was. She overflowed with gratitude as she counted the many blessings in her life, but she always came back to that empty pantry. She sat in complete confusion as to how she landed in that place.

I think about that day every time I refill my paper towel dispenser, toilet paper holder, salt shaker, cereal container, cookie jar . . . I think about it every time. Every time. I think about the choices that lead us and guide us and the mistakes that change us and detour us. I think about the many, many people who never saw the angst on her face or heard the longing in her voice when she opened up to me that day. The many people who figured her pantry was full, like theirs . . .  the pantry in her house and the pantry in her heart. Both empty. Who knew?

Dad at Good Samaritan bldgMy Dad was one who could see into other people’s pantries. After my Mom was killed by a drunk driver, my Dad began a ministry to stock the pantries of those who shared that same angst on their faces and that same longing in their voices. It was called The Good Samaritan House. He was particular about who was able to come in and get groceries . . . he picked out the scammers right away. He could see the empty pantries on the faces of those who needed food. He could hear the empty pantries as they longed to be filled. He saw both the empty house pantries and the empty heart pantries. He knew. Discernment. He had it. I only saw my Dad really angry twice in my life. Once when we were at a high school football game and the guy behind us shouted, “Break his leg when you tackle him! Get him out of the game!” My Dad came off the bleachers like a stone from a slingshot and verbally put that guy in his place. “You don’t EVER wish harm on another person in a ball game! It’s a game. It’s a sport. You don’t ever wish someone harm!” The other time was when one of those scammers came into The Good Samaritan House and he had found out this person was single, no family and made it a practice to go around to every other ministry in town, telling fabricated hard luck stories and then would turn around and SELL the food!! That guy couldn’t get out of the door fast enough when Dad refused him food and exposed his greed. Dad couldn’t kissingstand by and see someone hurting and he wouldn’t tolerate someone taking advantage of his efforts to help those in need. There were many times he gave, when he really didn’t have it to give and that’s when it became clear to me that my Mother saw the empty pantries, too, or she wouldn’t have been able to accept and encourage my Dad’s generosity and selfless actions.

That family member with the empty pantry? My Mom and Dad saw her empty pantry and worked to keep it well stocked. Now she’s living in her heavenly mansion, which I’m sure has a pantry that looks a lot like the one in the picture. My Dad is living in his heavenly mansion, as well, and no doubt he is one of the chief pantry stockers, in word and deed. My Mom, too, is living in her heavenly mansion and I imagine she’s Dad’s most valued assistant in pantry stocking. And I am grateful every day for my full pantry and for the memories that fill me up with gratitude for having known and loved them all.