Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I talked to Anita the other day on her actual birthday. I asked how she spent her day. Aside from spending time with her sister and brother-in-law who were in town, she cleaned out a closet.

"Stuff still needs to get done, bathrooms need to be cleaned, closets do too," she laughed.

My day started pretty similar. Up to fix Shane's lunch, just as my feet hit the floor, my mind awoke to it's my birthday! And I felt so happy.

Even though my Whole30 is over, I stayed true to myself this morning and drank my plain tea. I had Nora's awesome smoothie recipe with almond butter. I went to school to teach my class, but today I had a test scheduled. Oh the sound of pencils scratching on paper! The test took almost an hour and a half.

Lanie and I baked a pumpkin pie with a homemade gluten-free pie crust. How nice we did it together. How I am grateful to have her with me. It was so enjoyable. I said to her, "So, what did you end up getting me for my birthday?" And she left the room covering her ears.

"I'm not telling you!"

Lisa texted me that she's baking me a chocolate quinoa cake. It's cooling in her fridge right now.

Lanie texted me happy wishes while she was on her iPod time. And a selfie.

she was making a heart out of her hands

I have no idea what's for dinner. Definitely a salad.

And pie. 

(A long time ago, Sarah had us over for dinner on my birthday and made me a pumpkin pie. Many years later, Erica showed up at my door step with pumpkin pie for my birthday. When I eat pumpkin pie, it reminds me of them and good things. And today's, a gluten-free first, made with my daughter, further defines good things. Thanks, God.)

The finish line

So, I completed my first Whole30 with various success. Success being--I didn't harm anyone or myself; I got some good sleep; I worked through cravings; I got to wear some clothes I couldn't wear a month ago; my nails look really healthy; and I've had a relatively consistent joy about me (unless, you know, I was kinda pissed off.)

I also had my share of failures, if you call it that. Like the bad breath. Ugh. And sometimes wondering (early on) what was the point of this deprivation.

Things I learned: that I really feel a lot better eating real food. Real food tastes good. Real food helps my body work better. Real food helps my body look better.

All the products I was buying before, the stuff in boxes, the sweet stuff. All of it came with a promise of ease and convenience. And sweet stuff, certainly a temporary and addictive satiety. But that sweet stuff wears off and calls me back, again and again. It wasn't really filling.

Resisting temptation, however, early on seemed like a fight and a victory all rolled into one. Of course I would feel tempted for something I love to eat (ahem, chocolate). But when the wrestle is so strong in the beginning, the dilemma is obvious, and sometimes the victory in resisting is easier. When I was just starting out, I expected I would be tempted. I was prepared to be tempted. And I was also prepared to fight the temptation because it was early on.

And as the weeks went by, resisting wasn't a question. Of course I would. Of course I'd choose a healthy choice over a junky choice. I was counting down the days.

Mere days.

So can you imagine how caught off guard I was when on DAY 29, I succumbed to a few bites of Lanie's flourless chocolate cake? That morning I had been singing victory over myself with one day to go. And that night I felt like I had a rock of defeat and shame in my stomach.

One more day. I was looking at the finish line. I could hear the cheers.

I think that's how temptation works. It can be easy to resist when you're expecting it. But when you get to comfy in your success, and it knocks you flat.

"It's just a bite."

"What's one more day? You're pretty much done anyway."

These lines in my mind didn't even make me question how I would feel afterwards. I thought I would be fine. I had no idea how I would be pelted by failure and regret.

Yeah, that's temptation. Things are going smoothly and your guard lets down. You think you're invincible. And what would have been a glaring stop sign in the beginning becomes a yield overshadowed by a finish line.

I did finish my Whole30, with one glaring cheat before I crossed the finish line.

The numbers are in, and it was successful. I learned a lot in the journey, and this lesson on temptation--invaluable.

Overly full from dairy introduction today, and birthday pie tonight. Lanie and I baked it together this afternoon. Tomorrow? Back on the program. I actually feel a whole lot better treating my body better. And while the cream in my coffee was a nearly forgotten delight, I almost prefer the simplicity of a sugarless tea.

Monday, September 28, 2015

And still counting (7571-7617)

Erin's cuddles after a well-done in piano
chilly mornings
warm afternoons
a quick snooze in the afternoon
a waggy dog

the wine fridge
my dad's safe return home from the hospital
friends who pray
chats with him by phone
one more day

customer support
updated equipment
orange ginger mint tea
childhood memories of Bay Ridge

a great day in Great Books
Lanie in the class
their warm welcome and applause for her
that she wants to come back to my class again
a really good group of kids

for the situations that called "eat the cookie"
and the strength to withstand eating the cookie
my dentist
a Friday, just us
a celebration for Anita
David and me

Anita--75 years

her influence and example
her love
Lisa's help in the journey
morning face time with Julie
a good Bible study together

mums for sale to gift away
her love of math
fun times with the kiddos
an October calendar filling up with smiles
that I get to be the photographer

an easy swap for a door
camera 2
weight, lost
our dog, and her three years here
a sunny patch on the bench

creamer in the fridge
Erin's gift-giving heart
that man of mine

Friday, September 25, 2015


What happens when we confiscate Shane's phone ...

I love these people.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The soup

Since I decided to do Whole30, no joke, so much--I don't even know the word for it--but so much (not related to food) STUFF has happened, and none of it pleasant. I totally feel like some character dodging a constant barrage of obstacles. Each one prompting me, "Eat the cookie."

Aside from that, I've gone from the frustration of, "What's the point of this anyway? I look and feel the same!" (week one) to "I can't eat another salad!" (week two) to "There's nothing to eat."  (week three)

As yesterday unfolded, this, then that, then that other thing, and yeah, when I got home, I flung the cabinets open wide and made exaggerated motions of shoveling all contents at my face.

"I can't eat any of this," I said of the cabinet food to Lanie as she laughed at me. I fixed my salad like I knew I should.

For dinner last night, I made a soup, adapted from a friend's cookbook. And, ohmyword, not only has it become my new go-to favorite soup, I secretly wanted to cry over how wonderful it tasted.

Season chicken thighs (I probably used 6 or so) with this seasoning blend (1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne) and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock to a soup pot, peel 2 sweet potatoes and cube to 1-inch chunks and cook on high till potatoes are fork tender. Reduce heat, add 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1 jalapeno that the dog didn't notice from your garden, minced, to the pot.

Cube up those chicken thighs when the timer goes off and add to the soup pot. Add one can of light coconut milk.

Garnish with diced red onion, cilantro, and a good squeeze of lime. 

There's sweet. There's heat. There's creamy goodness. I had two bowlfuls.

Thank you, God.

There's something really beautiful about a simple meal that can call you out of your present and wake you to the very goodness of the earth.


Monday, September 21, 2015

And still counting (7531-7570)

beautiful September sunsets
the soul-warming hint of wood smoke from the wood stoves
situations not for our happiness, but our holiness
books on hold at the library
super smart, amazing high school kids

a warm welcome for Lanie
Lisa to take her for studying
and Lily to hang out with her and mentor
Friday math
Irene stickers for a cookie surprise

this life, however splintered
and the good things that come from it
good sleep
friends who pray
her tears, and mine

the guy we met who homeschooled in high school
hands to hold at the table

jalapeno mustard
tea delivery
chats around Lisa's table at dusk
kiddos laughing upstairs so hard their sides hurt
country neighbors

a prayer request from a student
laughter in the classroom
sisters who miss each other
ten-minute snoozes
Bible verses on love

the softness and warmth of a purple blanket
how good sleep feels
how good exercise feels
how good tea is
a Sunday photo gig

friends who are trustworthy
a student on drums during worship
history homework in the sunshine on the bench
a chat with my dad
his seventy-nine years

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Divine humor

"I was doing some work out by the church where (his second wife and he) got married," he started. "Funny though, I noticed ... it's on Courtney Road."

I laughed and hugged him.

Thanks, God. I love your humor.

On the whole

I worked through triggers that spark cravings. And days that would have sent me running to M&Ms didn't. Victory, people. Victory.

I lost my love for coffee when I stopped using milk and sugar. But then I discovered good tea.

I'm wearing shirts I wouldn't have considered wearing in August. And I've buttoned up two pairs of pants that I couldn't comfortably wear in the summer.

Hamburgers are good in lettuce wraps. Especially piled high with onion, jalapeno mustard, homemade mayo and guacamole. Seriously--with the exception of adding a good cheese, this burger is perfect.

Five almonds are pure magic to curb a growling tummy.

The things I've missed most: dairy things. Cheese. Milk (and sugar) in my coffee. Pizza. Mac and cheese.

And not so related to dairy: cinnamon rolls. I normally only eat them around Christmas, but good grief, I think it's tied to some very basic comfort. I can't stop thinking about cinnamon rolls.

Grilled cheese is the fragrance of heaven.

When I served up a dinner plate of salad, and side plate of a bare burger cut in half with a squirt of jalapeno mustard, Shane didn't complain. He's a good man, that guy.

I'm eating a ton more vegetables because of all this.

I kinda wish I could sample the chocolate chip cookies I made for the kids' back to school lunch. (I have not. Not even a crumb.)

Monday makes three weeks.

Friday, September 18, 2015


At some point in the night, Erin came into our bed because of a nightmare. She's been having them a lot lately, but not always bad enough to get under our covers. I made Shane's lunch and decided that I was going to sleep in today.

Bed feels so good.

It was daylight and after seven, I knew, but just rested and thought about nothing. Erin squirmed next to me.

"Mom, look at the clock. It's 7:45! Aren't you glad this isn't a school day!" because we'd be running crazy late to get out the door.

"Yes," I said for a variety of reasons. "I am glad it's not a school day."


A good friend just got word his cancer has spread to his brain.

We just learned of a dear couple's split.

It has been a very prayerful week.


I can hear the road traffic in the distance.

There's a note at my computer to remind me of a Sunday photo gig.

On my second cup of Vanilla Almond tea. (Not an affiliate link.)

I found a local place that is an exclusive gluten-free restaurant. They have cinnamon rolls.


Monday is day 21.

This past week I got to wear a pair of pants I couldn't even button back in June. They fit comfortably.

Tonight we are having burgers on the grill, wrapped in lettuce instead of buns.

I found really terrific jalapeno mustard at Aldi.


"Can we start school at 9:30, Mom? I want to play for a little bit," Erin asked. Lanie has been at work since after her breakfast.

"Ok," I replied.

I lit the votive to warm the Satsuma oil. Mug in hand, warm tea.


I think about cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors and vacuuming.

I think about opening windows and wonder when I'll start wearing socks around the house.

In my heart, there's a warmth--there's no place like home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New season

The first homework Tuesday. It was bumpy. Reentry is sometimes turbulent.

Got up, did laundry, had a good breakfast, I know I worked on something solidly, but it was so long ago--morning--that I don't remember. I know I prayed. I know got a cabinet organized. I know I got the table cleared and wiped off and Erin's stuff all laid out and highlighted.

Lanie and I worked together on her things, and it was really nice. She has always been so independent, that it was really awesome to work with her in this new way. A day with hugs and love you's.

Monday she asked if we could all hold hands at the table and say a prayer before meals like Lisa's family does. So we did that day on Monday for lunch, and I cried. I cried for a lot of reasons: my family apart, this wonderful influence on Lanie, emotional exhaustion from stressors. 

"It's not the same without Erin. I miss her," Lanie said.

I crashed hard that night.

Yesterday seemed like the longest homework day with a third grader transitioning to a very different workload.

The pool was closed.

Crickets replaced the sound of summer splashes.

By four, I felt an exhaustion calling me to surrender.

Soon I'll be stacking wood. And as if by queue, the wood stove emits the faintest hint of last winter's woodsmoke smell--reminding me a new season is near.

Lanie is going to be thirteen this year. I love the opportunities of her being home. I'm thankful for the doors that immediately opened for us just before the school year started. We talked about the open doors, how if we just enter in, there's a whole new realm of possibilities for her--new friendships and experiences.

[I can't help but think of the move. If I had stayed, I know what it would have been. Leaving meant new possibilities, and a whole new set of experiences. So while I miss a kitchen and the memories we made in that home, how cool was it that there was this whole realm just waiting for us to step into it.

I think it's the same this year.]

"Think of all the new people you're meeting," I said. And even the subtle example of Lisa's home on her in just one day--Lanie said that's how they pray before meals on The Waltons too. And she wanted us to do that.

"I felt so sad," I told Shane about Erin's first day. Schedule splintered. Family splintered.

"I feel so bad!" Erin had said before bed--I packed her lunch so special for her, and the cookies in the bag with the sticker to seal. I wanted to see her expression, but an earlier class let kids reach into lunches for a snack, and I missed it.

"It's ok!" I said. "I wanted you to enjoy it and you did!"

This season--new to our family. Some parts of it, however, are like the hint of woodsmoke, reminding me of a former winter.

Monday, September 14, 2015

First day, round two--ushering in seventh and third

I started last week. The "thrill" of it has worn off for sure for me, but Erin was a jumping bean of energy and excitement last night. I hope I mirrored her enthusiasm, however quickly my own is diminishing over the school year.

Note to self: listen to God. He knows better.

I packed up her lunch today. Shane made me laugh:

"I just can't help notice the juxtaposition of these lunches," he started. Because of the strawberry cake post, he likes to play with juxtaposition--as if it is my word. "Look at the care you packed Erin's lunch ... and then look at my lonely sandwich in a corner. The bread doesn't even line up. You didn't take a picture of that!"

I laughed and grabbed my camera.

Shane's sad sandwich

the stickers I got for Erin

she was so excited

she is so awesome
Life doesn't look like what we expected it to. Lanie spent part of the morning at a friend's and I had my class. I peeked in at lunch to see Erin and her bento. I felt very lonely, my family splintered. I went to have lunch with Lanie, and we both missed Erin terribly.

A friend texted, "She'll be home with you tomorrow."

Lanie held my hand at the table and we prayed, and I cried. This was actually such a beautiful moment with my girl--and her request.

Thankful for this sweet opportunity to have a year with Lanie. For doors God has opened for us. We talked about what we're looking forward to, and laughed at funny faces we make.

So, here we go. Day 2, done.

And still counting (7499-7530)

the power of prayer
calm in a storm

two weeks behind me
black coffee
Republic of Tea's Orange Ginger Mint herbal tea
hugs and kisses from my kids
a back-to-school batch of cookies

my family
learning boundaries and priorities
a great day for my girl at CBS and math
Kellie at the pool

last splashes with friends for the season
a Saturday walk with Nora
red onions on my salad

a great first day of class
message sent (during my class) and message received (during church svc) (John 13:35, NLT)
and how it was the final influence for my response
sleeping in till 7 a.m.
the sweetness of grapes

open doors
a foggy morning
peace, as fleeting as it is at times
a Pinterest message reminding me who I am in Christ
a place for Lanie

Marshall's Mom

Friday, September 11, 2015


I started school on Wednesday. The class itself was terrific. I sailed through it, by God's grace, despite a morning skirmish on the playground. I talked to my class about expectations, home mantra, communication and love.


I wore my Batman pin.


Lanie started CBS with a friend this week. She was bouncy and joyful afterward. I felt thankful.


I'm on day twelve of Whole30. It's been educational and revealing. It's been a struggle and a victory. And it has certainly increased my reliance on God. Because when a girlfriend hurls a fiery arrow in your direction, nothing is more soothing than the sweetness of chocolate. But then, on Whole30, I found nothing was more soothing than my Father's arms.


Lanie starts a math class today, I suppose making this her official first day of seventh grade. She's excited. She even decorated the folder with hearts. For math.


I think it's interesting how key words find me. Reading through first ancient chapters this morning, the emergence of civilizations and communities. That word community has been a big word for me, in the periphery sure, but also in the focus.


Erin made a kid's menu so she can pick from it for her meals. (Ha!) Today she requested grilled cheese, so I made one for her (gf of course). The house smelled wonderful with butter melting and bread browning. She pulled it apart and stretched her hands so that the cheese made a bridge.

"This is so good," she said.

And if felt like fall.


I included this scripture at the bottom of the letters I wrote to my students.

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3, NLT.

I think I will need to recite it daily. Because I've got a lot of stuff trying to slow me down right now.


Cleaned the house, mopped floors and all. Probably the nearest to clean we'll be for the school year, because the crazy pace is officially full speed on Monday.


The pool gets closed on Tuesday.

Monday, September 7, 2015

And still counting (7474-7498)

my dad making something for Lanie
a pleasant talk with him by phone

for things good enough
food in the fridge
math pages, completed
country-mile neighbors over to play
the big mums for sale down the road

pool dates
a great night's sleep
a joyful day
an accountability friend

my family
cold water
a getaway
roller coasters
water park

Red Robin, gluten free
the hallucinogenic sweetness of dates
encouragement from a sister

black coffee--for the win
lettuce wraps
new opportunities

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Yeah, a lot of this summer was unpredictable. We had one set of plans. We followed a completely different set. It worked out for the best: healthy kids, home perspective, and gratitude found richly in the midst.

When Erin asked me, "Remember when we went to (this place) and you got me a Beenie Boo?"

I couldn't remember. And then I started to think about how this summer was one big blur of books.

I asked Shane if he thought we could get away for one day. He said yes.

We packed up for a trip to a family favorite. The day went fast. The kids enjoyed some favorite rides. We picnicked. We went out for dinner to a favorite--though this time as a gluten-free family.

Lanie and I stealth-purchased a Beenie Boo for Erin while she rode (what I call) the sky nightmare down to the entrance. Below: a squishy family selfie; Erin; Lanie and Shane; Erin and me; Erin on a horse; Lanie; Lanie and I hiding the Beenie Boo from Erin as they rode the sky nightmare; the slides (I didn't go on those this year. I'm really ok with that.).

It was a quick getaway.

Now I'm back to recurring co-op classroom nightmares. Shane had a nightmare of his own last night.

"I think I would have had a better time in your nightmare," I told him, and we laughed.

I start teaching high school on Wednesday. And like this summer, I had my plans (for the school year) and plans got changed (Lanie not going back; questions about community; a heftier workload and the runaround). Finding hope in the anticipation of gratitude rich in the midst of this.