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Wisdom is a hard-won commodity.  I’m saying that as a parent.

In high school, my son knew, absolutely knew, what he was going to do for college.  We tried to warn him.  “You need a second choice.  You need plans in case those don’t work out.”

What could we possibly know?  This is a new age!  A new world.  There is little or no resemblance to the dinosaur planet where his father and I spent our teen years.

Then Choice #1 fell through.  He was fairly unpleasant to be around even as we stifled the urge to point out that we had, in fact been right,  But he came up with a plan and it has worked out really well.

The other day, a friend asked what he was up doing and I filled her in.  Another friend, whose daughter is 3 years older than my son, started asking questions.  “He’s going to do X, more or less.”  “More or less?”  “I don’t know the details.  He’s taking care of it.”  “Do you really think that’s a good idea?  You need to –”

Not my circus.

That’s the hard-won wisdom of a college Mom.  He didn’t want to hear it in high school.  He sure doesn’t want to hear it now.  And really?  He needs to figure it out.  Adulting is tough, but he’s doing a really good job.  In another year, he’ll have an associate degree and money in the bank. He will owe absolutely nothing.  And he has a plan.

What if it doesn’t work out?  He’ll figure out another plan.  He managed to do it before in spite of our attempts to interfere.

Besides, I’m not the mom of a little kid.  I’m the mom of a college student.  When the laundry arrives, I wash it.  I make sure there’s coffee and food – enough for him and his buddies.  Because they’ve started showing up on weekends.  Adulting is tough so we’ll be cheering them on even as we make sure they get a square meal.



Isn’t it funny when your kids echo you and don’t even realize that’s what they are doing?

As a lifeguard, my son often works with young swimmers.  The other day boys from a group home visited the pool.  As a former scout, my son slipped into his older-scout mode.  These are my rules.  They seem strict but they will keep you safe.

He admits that he is much stricter than other guards who don’t explain things and then have to get on the kids.  But he was also surprised that the kids really like him.  When he goes on break and comes back, they get excited.

What he doesn’t realize is that he’s mirroring his father’s parenting style.  He always complained about his Dad’s rules but they’ve always had a great relationship.  And really? They get up to a great deal of mischief together it just happens to involve safety glasses and sometimes even hearing protectors.

But it also seems like a good reason to spend time in prayer.  If we are going to mirror what we are exposed to, it seems best that we mirror light and love in a world that so badly needs both.



I wouldn’t say that it is shame that keeps me from doing right.  It would be more accurate to call it aggravation.

It seems like so often when I feel the need to step up and step in someone is going to be irritated.  “We’re a green church.  We shouldn’t use styrofoam plates.” “There’s no need to try to intimidate her just because she’s Muslim.  You need to step back.”

Clearly, I get why someone is irritated when I step in.  When my husband and I saw the intimidated woman in the grocery, it was obvious that stepping in was sending a message that the other people were bullies and racist.  Even when one of us reminds people that we are supposed to be going green, I get it.  It can be really embarrassing to have another adult call you out on something.

And that’s something that I’m going to remember the next time someone says something to me.  We all make mistakes, myself included.  No one but God is perfect.  And it may well have taken a lot of nerve to say something to me.  After all, I’m not known for keeping my big mouth shut.  Keeping true and doing right.  It’s never easy.



Here’s a picture of the singer, Pink, cooking in her home, carrying her baby in a sling in front of her. When I saw it, I was concerned that the infant was too close to the frying pan and might get splattered with grease. I also noticed that the child in the back, climbing on the counter, looks distracted and may fall.

Now, is having this opinion actually another way of saying that I’m “Mommy-shaming” the singer? I don’t mean it to be. I suppose it’s all about intention and tact. She’s obviously doing her best to take care of her kids, as we all do. It’s hard to know how much you should say to or about another parent.

Once when my son was three years old, we stopped at a local donut shop. I kept him right in front of me, pressed against the counter so that no one would snatch him. A lady nearby was just paying for her coffee and said quietly into my ear, “They put the coffee right there on the counter near your child…just saying the coffee is really hot.” And she left.

Of course, I was offended and shrugged her off with the body language equivalent of “Well! I never!” But you know what? She was right. There was a definite danger that my son could be scalded by the cups of coffee that were being placed inches away from where I was vigilantly keeping him safe from child abductors. Sometimes we’re so hard-wired to watch for large, looming boogeymen that we don’t see the small vipers in the garden in front of us.

If conversation is constructive and considerate, there’s nothing wrong with respectfully disagreeing. Pink is doing fine. Her kids will be fine. Trolls will live under bridges, as well as in the shadows of cyberspace. Life will go on, not to worry. I look at it this way. It’s better to be kind than right. It’s better to be blessed than to be a budinsky. For our younger readers, a “budinsky” is just an old-school way of saying “troll.”

teenTake a deep breath. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

I’m never sure what to expect out of this particular holiday.  I have been the oldest woman in my family for something like 12 years now. But I’ve got to tell you – the matriarch thing has never worked all that well for me.

This year in particular I find myself approaching the day with caution. My son is a high school junior and he’s facing some big decisions.  Okay, they aren’t life or death but they could be life defining.  Could be.

You see I’m not really sure that I buy into that.  I don’t think that God gives us one chance and one chance only to be the people that He means for us to be.  Read the Old Testament and you’ll see that he gave the Tribes of Israel opportunity after opportunity.  It wasn’t one chance and then the ground opened up and swallowed them.  Nope. They had a many opportunities to find their way.

But that’s how a lot of people view the decisions that teens have to make.  Inhale or say no?  Abstinence or safe sex? College or military? Make the wrong choice and you are doomed!

Next year is my son’s last year in high school.  He’s working on his schedule and trying to decide what he wants to do, what he wants to study. I’m not sure he’s struggling all that hard to make these decisions, but I do get the feeling that he is struggling to make his decisions heard.  He’s struggling to earn a little respect.

Me?  I’m struggling to give it to him. I pray for wisdom.  And I’ve asked other people to pray that I find this wisdom.  Yes, there are decisions that he is making that could have a huge impact. I should weigh in on these decisions.  But there are a lot more that seem big now but in the long run . . . not so much.

Lord, grant me the wisdom to know one from the other.
Lord, grant me the courage to keep my mouth shut.
Lord, help me to remember that it is only in silence that I can hear You.

Wisdom.  That would be the best thing I could receive this Mother’s Day.


heart and hands

At eight years old, my son taught me an important lesson in body language and soul-speak.

After walking home from the bus stop, he came through the door, smiling.

In quick succession, I issued a list of his moving violations.

  • You wore that shirt?
  • Don’t slouch! 
  • You forgot your homework again.

Posture adjustment.

From “Glad to be home from school – oh look, there’s my Mom!”

to “Guess I did something wrong and didn’t even know it.”

Looked like a tiny candle’s flame, fading. Flickering out. Poof!

That very day, I learned something. I felt terrible that I had made my own child feel so terrible.

Next afternoon, I started a new tradition.

Since that time and to this day, when he comes home from school, I don’t harp or hassle or harangue. I don’t carp or criticize or cauterize with my words.

Front door opens. I dance.

Flail around like a dadblamed fool.

Like a cheerleader hailing a champion.

I clap my hands and sing. “My son is home! My sooooon is hooooome. Yay! Tell me all about your day, son,” as if talking to Magellan, returning from high seas with tall tales.

Sure, he may roll his eyes at such a dramatic display of MotherLove; still, he walks slowly down the hall to his room, as if secretly appreciating being appreciated.

Teaching is a part of life for all of us, but I’ve never learned anything from being yelled at, picked on or beaten down.

My son may have been the one coming home from school, but I’m the one who learned a lesson.

Note to self: When people you love come home, make them feel at home.

Love your loved ones.

Sounds obvious, but this basic truth can get lost in translation. I’m so glad I finally listened.


My teen-age son has really struggled with exhaustion and health issues that have led him to be late for school quite a bit, even missing some days altogether. As you can imagine, mornings in our house can become rather, well… heated.

I ask him to wake up and he tries, but falls back to sleep. I come in again and again, each time with the same result. The bus goes by and I silently seethe. Late again. Yesterday, I blew my top and started yelling. The cat high-tailed it down the hall, ready to flee the danger zone.

Still tight, I went to another room to pray, hoping it would calm me down. I asked for Cole’s Yes Life to begin. Each morning, when I’d go in to wake him, it felt like I was part of the No Life.

Getting stressed, waking him up and being tense at him.

I prayed directly to God. “Lord, I can’t take these mornings anymore,” and I felt in my mind, No More! But on my heart, I saw the words Know More.

And it came to me, clearly.

Know that you can’t “No” your way to “Yes.” You can’t come in and rant to wake up your son and hope he has a good day. This is where the good day has to begin.

I prayed for him to have his Yes Life now: his music and friends and blessings. A life of his choosing. His own path. Every good thing.

And I wondered how long it would be my responsibility to make life work for him. I prayed, “When does a child’s life transition to him? When do they get to decide things for themselves and blaze their own trail using a map of their own making?”

I assume it is when they have the life-skills and work-ethic they need to get a job, pay the bills. Just generally take care of it all. But there’s also something else. Something that lights you up from the inside. Makes life meaningful. Connects you to your community (of musicians, or Christians, or people who like Lego) and lifts your spirits.

For me, it’s my faith and perpetual prayer. For you, it’s the zhoozh that sparks your soul. It’s something everyone must find for themselves.

So for now, I pray for answers and trust the God who posed the question. When there isn’t a clear-cut solution to an ongoing problem, bring as much “yes” as you can to the “no” in your life. Keep pushing on, and you’ll get through it.

Ah, adolescence. My son and I go round and round – with me constantly saying, “What did you say?  Would you please speak up?”

I think, he’s a teen-ager, and teen-agers notoriously do not enunciate!

He’s thinking, Mom’s gettin’ on in years, and old folks just don’t hear well!

I don’t know. Maybe we’re both right.

But really. Are we even speaking the same language?

This clip on YouTube, “Shoot Christians Say” made me laugh. It pokes fun at how we tend to over-use specific language for Christian concepts. We try to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the world by using phrases such as “secular” for those who don’t believe as we do. But then again, even when you know the language, there are nuances and colloquialisms that elude us.

This clip of Tony Randall and Jack Klugman on the Mike Douglas Show from the 1970s is a great example of the disconnect between what the stars of “the Odd Couple” are saying and what the closed captioning transcriber is hearing. At one point, at about 2:13 on the clip, Jack Klugman was talking about “my barber” only to have it captioned as “Obama.”

Years ago, I dated a guy I’ll call “Guy.” 🙂 At a gathering one night, his brother told me he “used to beat people for money.” I was shocked by this and confronted Guy.  “Your brother told me you used to beat people? For money?” He laughed and shook his head.  “It’s a saying. It means I didn’t pay people back when I borrowed money from them!”  Just another colorful New Jersey phrase, causing confusion.

Luckily, when we talk to God, we don’t need to worry about being misunderstood. It’s what’s in your heart that really matters.  So if you’re a manicurist and you forget to specify when you say, “please help me to find a job,” He knows you don’t want a position as a forklift operator.  I’m so grateful that God speaks all languages and sees right through to the soul.

Last week, Pastor Helen preached on Joseph and his fantastic coat. She pointed out that not only was it most likely a range of vibrant colors, it was also long and full. This was not a coat for working. This was a coat for being seen, but it was also the coat Joseph wore on a regular basis. She explained this to the children before we read the scripture.

During the scripture reading, something that I had never noticed jumped out at me. Check out verse 2. We have a boy on our hands who runs off and tattles to Daddy whenever the older boys do something he doesn’t like. He leaves his work to carry tales. Yet, he is his father’s favorite.

Whoa. No wonder his brothers didn’t like him. He got to wear a coat that was too nice to work in and go back and forth between them working with the flocks and their father. Now, I’m not saying that the older boys did the right thing when they sold him off, but seriously? Can’t you see how his actions, and his father’s actions, fed into this?

Of course, without all of this taking place, Joseph would not have been in a place to tell Pharaoh what his dreams meant. The Egyptians wouldn’t have had the stores built up that they needed to survive the famine and they certainly wouldn’t have had any extra to sell to Joseph’s father and brothers.

To be the man who could truly serve his family, Joseph had to find out who he was and what he could do. He couldn’t do that with his father making his life as easy as possible.

As a parent myself, I know how hard it can be to let my son take the lumps for his actions. Letting him make his own way in this world makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. But I know it is what God wants me to do.

What do you do when the time comes to let your son take on a new challenge? I hope that, like me, you have a supportive friend who reassures you even while helping your turn to Our Father for love and support.


Once in a while, I’m a little dense.  Then there are those other days when I’m black hole dense.  Apparently, last  Monday was one of those days.

First my son forgot to make sure that he had a towel in his swim bag.  After practice, he had to borrow the end of a friend’s towel and use the hand dryer in the locker room.  I refused to take the blame and laid it right back in his lap.

Then, as soon as I started working, he announced that he couldn’t find his team suit for that night’s meet.  Really?  You’d have to look to find it.  Nope.  Still, no luck.  I was less than kind when I handed it to him and then let him fold a large portion of the laundry that had masked its presence.

Let’s just say that by the time he was in la-la-land and didn’t even hear the call to his last event at the meet, I had had it. Big time.  It wasn’t entirely his fault – they had canceled his lane.  But if he had been paying attention, he would have been able to tell me that when I asked him why he wasn’t getting ready to swim.  Instead, he ran around like the proverbial chicken.

The next day, storms cancelled practice.  Hallelujah!   I could get to work early, get done early, and he could attempt to find his brain.  Because I so was not going to put up with another one of those days.

Plopping down in my chair, I pulled out my list of deadlines.  July 15th – check.  I’m working on that one.  July 1st – under control.  I had to get just a bit more information and then I could rough that one out.  July 1st . . .

July 1st?

Didn’t I just look at that one?


I had completely – as in entirely – overlooked a deadline.  I knew I had to write the article but hadn’t taken note of when it was due.  I usually start these things at least three weeks in advance.  Not a week and a half.  How could I be so stupid?

Oh, I get it.

Just to make sure, I told a friend.  He groaned.  “You know,”  he said.  “God’s got quite a sense of humor.  Sorry.”

Yep.  That’s what I thought.

But seriously, a more subtle lesson would have worked.

I’m almost sure of it.





Have a Mary Little Christmas

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