Pruning My Butterfly Bush and Me

The dead blooms are beginning to overshadow the vibrant purple ones -again!

Didn’t I just prune this bush last week? Well, maybe it was two weeks ago. It seems like the more I prune it, the more it grows.

I’m tempted to save every little bud I see forming, gently removing  just the tips of the spent blooms. My reward for this careful pruning : tiny new flowers.

However, when I really prune it hard, back to the strong main branch, it might take a little longer for a new bloom to appear, but when it does, it is showy and large, and the bees and butterflies flock to it.


So why do I keep trying to save the little buds? Because I see their potential and I don’t like to wait. Why destroy something that’s already starting? It might be really pretty. But I know from experience that this isn’t the best choice.

It seems that I garden much like I manage my own life. Even when I can see the beautiful growth that comes from serious and purposeful pruning, I still try to keep all those little “buds”.  The more I prune, the more ideas keep popping up. My tendency is to treat each idea as equally important instead of pruning them down and focusing on the main ones that will produce the most fruit or the most beautiful flowers. It’s so hard to let go of what could be, maybe.

A few large, beautiful blooms or lots of tiny ones that never amount to much. Guess it’s time for some more pruning.

A New School

The big yellow school bus rolled down our street and for the first time in my 19 years as a parent, my baby was getting on that bus. The fact that she was 14 years old did not stop me from watching out the window as she walked to the bus stop or from feeling momentary panic when I turned away from the window for a minute, turned back, and she was gone.

Thank goodness for texting! (Did I really just say that, with 3 teens in my house?!) But, yes, it was reassuring to know that she was, in fact, on the bus and headed for the first day of her new high school adventure.

After spending her entire schooling experience at a tiny private school (and yes, I mean TINY – she was the only girl in a class of 6 last year), she was ready to spread her wings in a larger environment. Her older brother decided to make the shift as well, as they both wanted to experience a larger high school environment so that the transition to college might not be quite as dramatic.

I thought the first week would be tough – navigating the sea of people and the large building, classes 3-4 times larger than they were used to, and all the extras that come with a bigger school. But they sailed through it all, miraculously finding a familiar face in almost every class and enjoying the new variety of courses and teaching styles.

So, here I sit in my pajamas, drinking a cup of coffee as they begin their second week of school. I didn’t have to scramble to get dressed and get everyone to school before the tardy bell rang; I just watched as they casually strolled out the door headed to the bus stop. I’m sure we’ll hit some road blocks along the way, but for now, I’m enjoying the smooth ride. My babies are growing up, and – please forgive me for saying this – I am one proud mama!

It was one of THOSE mornings…and then it got worse


It was one of those mornings we all dread – the ones where you have to laugh so you won’t cry.

You know the one – it starts with one child saying ” I can’t find my other shoe”, and another complaining,  “I can’t find my uniform tie”(and by the way my class is presenting in assembly today).

As everyone hustles out the door, just a few minutes behind schedule, I open the refrigerator to grab one last thing and a glass of wine catapults out of the fridge onto the floor, shattering glass everywhere and dousing me with wine.

Why Me?

Not wanting to raise suspicions for smelling like stale wine all day, I run upstairs to change clothes and beg my about- to – shower husband to please clean up the mess before he leaves.

Not two minutes down the road, my son with the substitute, non-approved tie casually mentions that he is actually the main speaker at the assembly, having written a 3 page  history summary which I had heard nothing of until that very moment.

As I mentally calculate whether I can rearrange my morning schedule to be there, my other son realizes he has forgotten his wallet containing the ID he needs to get into the gym for weight training. We will have to run back by the house after dropping off the assembly speaker and his sister ( of course, the assembly is at 8:00 am, so there is now no way I will make it). Mommy guilt begins setting in.

As if on cue, my son says ” Honestly, mom, I really don’t care if you’re there or not.”

Thank you…I think!

Children are delivered to school, and the wallet is retrieved. Deciding to avoid the heavier interstate traffic, I opt for the back road to drop off my older son. Then I see the blue lights flashing ahead of me.

You’ve got to be kidding me!

It’s just a minor wreck, so we navigate around it. My van is running on fumes, so I coast into the gas station, fill up, and head off to a scheduled meeting with a friend – now 20 minutes behind schedule, and it’s not even 9:00 am!

Thankfully, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a morning like this!

As my friend and I are catching up, she asks if I’ve heard about the death of an acquaintance of ours this past week. I had heard that it had happened, but not how.


He’d been struggling with depression and had just changed medications. The very thing designed to help him had taken his life.  He left behind a wife and young children reeling in pain.

That could have been me.

Suddenly, my morning aggravations seemed much more trivial.

Though I barely knew him or his wife, I was on the verge of tears all day. It hit too close to home, and I could just imagine how she felt.

You see, four years ago, my husband was in the throes of a major depression. I had lived through those volatile periods after a medication switch.  I never thought my husband was suicidal….but no one thought our friend was either.

It happens so fast – that downward spiral, the dark thoughts, the split decision to just make it all go away.

It could have been us.

The monster of depression is a merciless beast, tearing apart families and destroying lives in its wake.

I want to hug her, to cry with her, to let her know that I really feel her pain because I know it could have just as easily been me.

Thank you that my husband was here to clean up the broken glass  this morning.

Thank you that my kids have a dad who can laugh and play with them.

Thank you for the friends who walk alongside us on this rocky journey of life.

Beware, my friends. The depression monster lurks in many unseen corners, often popping up in unexpected places. This beast is much more insidious than he first appears.

Don’t let the next family he tears apart be yours.

He Restores My Soul

He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. So go the words from Psalm 23, verses I have heard in various forms all of my life. But I think I just finally GOT what those words really mean. He can’t restore your soul unless there is something missing. And in my early years, there wasn’t. Not really.

But the last few years – okay, pretty much the last decade- would fall into the “this is not what I signed up for” category. Life in its various forms took a toll on our family, and the stress had become overwhelming at times. As we have created a new normal over the last year or so, I have gradually been able to let go of that stress and relax in a way that I had almost forgotten how to do.

At the beginning of the summer, I began waking up early and sitting out on my deck, reading, journaling, or just enjoying nature. This was not a planned thing; I just woke up so I got out of bed. Soon I began craving that time, looking forward to waking up at 5:30 or so just to have my time alone before anyone else was stirring.  Often, I would be there for two hours or more. I needed that time alone, though I wasn’t entirely sure of its purpose.

He restores my soul

I mourned the beginning of August because I knew that the school routines would start again, and my quiet mornings would be replaced with cries of  “What can I pack for lunch?”,  “Where are my socks?”,  and of course,  “Did you sign my permission slip?”

Not that I don’t love being a mom. I do. I really, really do.

I had just found a connection to a deep part of my soul that had been disconnected for so long that I hadn’t even realized that it was missing.

I tried to rearrange my schedule to allow for coffee on the deck after the kids were off to school. We are three weeks in to the new routine, and I find that the joy in this alone time has diminished.

As I sat here this morning, the words flowed through my mind: He restores my soul.

That still, small voice spoke loud and clear.

That’s what the early mornings this summer were all about. He restored my soul. That’s it. Whatever else I read, thought about, or discovered during that time, the purpose was simply to restore my soul.

I find that I am no longer waking up early on my own; it’s back to being greeted by radio voices as I stir from my sleep. It is still relaxing to sit and reflect, but the need for it is not there right now. In fact, I sit here with a sense of  anticipation of things to come.

He restores my soul.

I am filled up enough to give again.

Life is back in balance.

Snow Blocks, Ice Blocks, and Mental Blocks

Have you had some unexpected schedule changes this week due to the snow or ice? In many parts of the US, winter has shown its force, to the delight of many school children who have gotten several days off of school. Surprisingly, my kids were not happy the second day that school was canceled because they had tests to take and essays to write, and they just wanted to move on and get them done.

Many people were stuck at home because the ice made driveways and roads impossible to navigate. They were blocked from following their original schedule and forced to change their plans. When these unexpected blocks happen, we can give up and just complain about our situation or find a creative solution. At our house, we got some extra baking done (yum!) and cleaned out a few spaces that desperately needed reorganization. The change in routine motivated me to come back to my regular activities with more focus. I think the time away even gave me more creative ideas for my business – totally unrelated to anything I was consciously focusing on.

It’s funny how the brain works – we think we can only be “productive” when actively pursuing our goals. We hit a mental roadblock and get frustrated, trying to force that block out of the way, when what we really need is to find a creative way around it. Often the most productive activity is the one that doesn’t look productive at all- doing something completely different that relaxes us. While we’re busy “doing nothing”, or so we think, our brain is busy putting together all those ideas that have been lurking in our subconscious mind. We come back to our “work” refreshed, bringing new solutions to problems that we hadn’t seen before.

In a season where it is so easy to hit roadblocks of overwhelm, I hope you’ll take some time out to relax and enjoy yourself , and you just might find your mental blocks melting away as your creative side takes over. Happy Holidays!

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Traditions. We all have them, from religious rituals to which kind of stuffing you expect with your Thanksgiving turkey.  Traditions are, by definition, customs that are handed down from one generation to the next. But is it possible to start new traditions?

I have heard that with children, something becomes a tradition if you do it more than once the same way. And we certainly developed a unique Christmas tradition in our family because of a spontaneous purchase one Christmas when our kids were small. I thought it would be fun to get them cans of Silly String, not knowing that I was starting a whole new Christmas morning routine. It is now expected that each child will have at least one can of silly string in their stocking for the Christmas Morning Silly String Battle. And woe unto me if I should forget the importance of such a tradition!

We have also added new traditions that enhance our faith; or perhaps I should say that we have resurrected long- forgotten traditions of our faith and we celebrate them in a new way. When I first learned that the Christian tradition of communion was based on the Jewish feast of Passover, I was astonished. I attended a traditional Passover Seder and began studying about Passover and the other Jewish feasts. Imagine my surprise to discover that in Leviticus, God commanded the Israelites to keep these feasts forever as a reminder of what He  had done for them. He didn’t say until you get to the Promised Land, or until the Messiah comes, or until you get tired of doing it. He said forever.   So I figured that probably means that we Gentiles who got His word later had some catching up to do.

Now, I don’t want to start a debate about whether or not Christians are obligated to observe the Jewish feasts, but I will say that when our family and friends have celebrated these events together,  we are blessed and our faith is strengthened through the experience.

Which brings me to today – Rosh Hashanah.

Today is the Jewish New Year, also celebrated as the Birthday of the World. That’s an easy way to introduce this holiday to your kids – who doesn’t love a birthday? The first year we celebrated it, we had a birthday cake for the world and thanked God for His creation. Traditionally, apples dipped in honey are served to remind you to have a sweet new year. Again, an easy activity with kids.

As our kids grew, and our understanding of the holiday grew, we added more of the Jewish traditions and traditional foods.  A hallmark of the celebrations is the blowing of a shofar, which is a long, curled ram’s horn. We don’t own one yet, but it is on my wish list. (We have substituted my husband’s old Boy Scout bugle.)

My favorite part of the Rosh Hashanah celebration is called the Tashlikh, which is a time when everyone gathers by a river or other body of water and empties their pockets or throws stones into the river. Some traditions tell you to write on the stone something that you want to be forgiven for, and the act of throwing it in the water symbolically gives you a fresh start. I like to think of the verse where God tells us that He throws our sins “as far as the East is from the West”. I imagine Him throwing whatever I have written on that stone, and envision it disappearing in the water.

We all need a fresh start once in a while, and I love this holiday for its reminders to throw away the old and start fresh in the new year. The fact that it comes in the fall when we are all starting back in our school routines also makes it a great opportunity to reflect on how we want things to be different in the coming months.

In what areas could you use a fresh start?

If you’d like to learn more about Rosh Hashanah and how to celebrate it in your home, I highly recommend this book:  A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Robin Sampson and Linda Pierce.

EENS: Early Empty Nest Syndrome

Wow! It’s been quiet in my house this week. Too quiet, in fact. All three kids are away at camps so my husband and I have the house to ourselves. We were pretty excited about it – for about a day.

Why is it that when your kids are finally old enough to go away for a week without much hassle, you don’t really want them to any more?

I’m getting a glimpsemptynestpice of the empty nest, and I don’t like it very much. I only have two years left with my oldest, and only seven before the youngest one leaves. Such a short time to complete this awesome task of preparing our young people to pursue their calling in the world.

It seemed like an eternity way back in the days of sleep-deprivation, diapers, and toys strewn about the house. But, suddenly, it seems all too soon.

I took the kids shopping a few weeks ago to find gifts for their young cousins, and as we wandered through the toy aisle at Wal-Mart, I remarked sadly that there was nothing there that interested them any more. You see, I love good kids’ toys, and teach about their educational value to young moms, so for me, it was not only letting go of their childhood, but setting aside a part of me that is very passionate about the value of “childish things”. Video games and sci-fi just don’t hold the same appeal for me!

And yes, I cried during Toy Story 3. My teen son has a battered and worn bear that has been with him since birth, and I imagine it will go off to college with him, if only in a box in the closet.

Of course, there have been signs that they were growing up – my kids’ homework is too hard for me, mountains of food disappear very quickly, and the aroma of young men has replaced that of dirty diapers.

But still, they are my “babies”. When did they get so independent?

I spent their early years pouring into their lives, reading together, going on field trips, and homeschooling them, and I’ve tried to let go gradually.

In the past year or so, I began to work more on building my own business and finding new places to focus my energies. My plan has been that as the kids need less daily time from me, the business will grow and take more of my time and efforts. I love what I am doing, I’m excited about the personal and professional growth I’m experiencing, and the kids are enjoying watching their mom develop in ways they’ve never seen before. So, all around, it’s been a good thing.

And, by the time the kids really are all gone, the business will have grown enough to fill the void left by their absence.


Flying Solo: Reflections on The Soloist

I think I am Hollywood’s dream audience member – I am profoundly moved by stories that I see played out on the big screen, particularly if I know they are true. While my filmmaker- wannabe husband is analyzing the lighting and camera angles, I am completely caught up in the story -  identifying with characters, feeling their pain, and cheering them on.

Because of this tendency to get caught up in their onscreen lives, I have to choose very carefully what I watch. Violent or creepy movies can leave me feeling physically ill and on edge for days. This restricts me mostly to dramas and feel-good movies, but I’m okay with that. Most of us could use a few more “happy endings” in life, don’t you think?

But, when I think a movie will have a happy ending and it doesn’t, it leaves an unsettled place in my soul. That is what happened Saturday night when we watched The Soloist.thesoloist

The movie, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx, tells the story of an unlikely friendship between Steve Lopez, an LA Times reporter, and Nathaniel Ayers, a  homeless man who turns out to be a Juilliard dropout. At first, Lopez investigates Ayers’ past because he sees a great story, but he finds himself drawn to the schizophrenic man and desperately tries to help Ayers break out of his personal prison created by his mental illness. Over time, Lopez must accept that his hopes for Ayers do not match Ayers’ own wishes, though their friendship does change both of their lives for the better.

I wanted what Lopez wanted for Ayers  – for him to seek professional help, regain a “normal” life, and share his incredible musical talents with a wide and appreciative audience.  He was created to play beautiful music, but very few people will ever hear it.  It was just too hard for him to fight the voices inside his head. He chose to stay where he was comfortable, playing his music for his own enjoyment. In fact, during the filming of the movie, the real Nathaniel Ayers was invited onto the set, but he couldn’t make himself go in. So he went outside across the street and played the cello by himself while they filmed, truly earning himself the title of “The Soloist”.

That’s not the way it was supposed to be. We were created to be in community with others, sharing our gifts and talents in a way that benefits ourselves and everyone else. But sometimes, we choose to fly solo. And the rest of the world suffers loss.

Though most of us are not burdened with the weight of a mental illness, we all have voices inside our heads that guide our actions. We have a choice every day of which voices we are going to listen to, and the choices we make impact our life and the lives of those around us. We can choose to take the sometimes frightening steps into the unknown, where we will grow and have a greater influence in the world, or we can choose the safe path, the comfortable way that keeps us right where we have always been.

It tears at my heart when I see people choose to “play it safe” because they AREN’T playing it safe. They are risking missing out on the glorious life God had planned for them. He is waiting for them to take the first step. That step looks different for everyone. Maybe it is taking a class, learning a new skill, hiring a coach, or making some type of life change. It probably means relying on someone else’s talents and skills to help you get where you need to go. If you’re flying solo, you’ll never find the support you need to make that change. And you’ll miss out on the glorious growth that is LIFE.

Shining through the Chaos

Three Days. A thousand entrepreneurs. One unforgettable experience.

That was the tagline for Ali Brown‘s Shine event, held November 5-7 in Las Vegas, which I was privileged to attend after having won a scholarship by submitting a video about myself and my business. And for me it was an unforgettable and truly life-changing experience.


I was thrilled and honored to be chosen as one of the Scholarship recipients and completely shocked to then be chosen as one of the three candidates for a mini- business makeover on stage with Ali and James Roche . It was such a confidence booster for me to see my ideas taken seriously and I was humbled by the generosity of so many people in the room who sought me out afterwards to offer leads and ideas to help me grow my business.

I have known over the past year that the time had come for me to really grow my new business, but I kept holding back and couldn’t figure out the root fear. But I nailed it during Shine.

I was afraid that the more I succeeded as a businesswoman, the more I would fail as a wife and mother.

Until I came to this conference and heard the stories from women running six and seven figure businesses out of their homes, I subconsciously believed that women had to make a choice between being a nurturing, loving mother and a hard-nosed, determined business woman. I didn’t think it was possible to be loving, feminine, passionate, AND successful in business. Now I know how wrong I was.

I am no longer worried that as I build my legacy that my family will crumble behind me. Now I see that I really can build a business that I love in a way that fulfills me and enriches my family at the same time. What a blessing that weekend was for me!

On the heels of that transformation in my thinking came the decision in the last few days to invest heavily in myself and my business to grow it substantially over the next year.

Talk about scary! I haven’t invested this much money in myself since paying for college ( okay, never… my parents paid for my college!)

But I know, deep down,  that it is the right decision. As  Alexis Martin-Neely, The Intrepid Mompreneur, says, its about being afraid and doing it anyway.

Do you have that little nagging voice that creeps in from time to time to tell you what a fool you are? Well, it came to visit me last night, as I knew it would. So, I fought fear with faith. I woke early this morning and prayed that God would clearly show me if somehow I was on the wrong path.

God may have spoken to Moses through a burning bush, but for me, He uses songs. Even if I have  heard a song dozens of times, all of a sudden, it is playing just for me. And that’s what happened today.

I dropped the kids off at school this morning just as this song by Sanctus Real began playing on the radio:

Whatever you’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but somehow there’s peace
It’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see
but I’m giving in to something heavenly

Time to face up
Clean this old house
Time to breathe in and let everything out
That I’ve wanted to say for so many years
Time to to release all my held back tears

Whatever you’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but I believe
You’re up to something bigger than me
Larger than life something heavenly

I nearly had to pull off the road, blinded by my own tears.

But once was not enough.  God wanted to be sure I got the message loud and clear.

I pulled myself together, ran an errand, and got back in the car. This time, as soon as I turned the key, a Matthew West song was playing:

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything?
Instead of going through the motions

No regrets
Not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind

Helena Summer Medena, a fellow Shine Scholarship recipient, wisely pointed out that other people suffer when we are not doing all that we were put on this planet to do. I don’t want to spend my whole life wondering  what if? …what if?. and  the voices in my head have held me back long enough. It is time for me to step fully into who I was created to be.

So, just like the scene in the Indiana Jones movie, I’m stepping onto that invisible bridge. It’s scary, it’s exhilarating, and I know  it’s going to be oh, so worth it.