September Reflections

September brought with it some much needed structure.  For us all.  Minecraft is no longer imprinted on my son’s brain.  Thumb cramping isn’t a worry for my daughter’s text playdates.  I’ve finally pulled out my query letter checklist.  And did number 1.  So maybe I’ve needed just a bit more structure than I’m letting on but it’s been a full, rich month.

Photo Review:

Vegas, Baby!

IMG_1351With my man…(we obviously are not practices in “selfies”)



Some Amazing Sunsets…IMG_1366


My stairs were finally completed.  Carpeting replaced with repurposed wood.  We love it!


While taking pictures while driving is illegal isn’t advised, I got a kick out of this truck, which had it’s political rant game on.  My suggestion, at least know how to spell the name of the person you’re bashing.  Ben Bin Laden.


This wonderful creature WAS IN MY BEDROOM.  BY MY HEAD.  IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.  I couldn’t kill her.  I let her go at a nearby (but not too nearby) park.





From my back yard…IMG_1391 IMG_1390

The sweetness of this little thing, can’t be captured in a still, but she was precious!  (and hungry)IMG_1389

I did another trip this month, Palm Springs.IMG_1387 IMG_1386 IMG_1385

…with my girls.  Missing Amy Jensen, who was also part of our group.  We were celebrating meeting together for 15 years (gulp!  How can we be that old?).  I am truly blessed in friendship.

IMG_1404September’s Inspiring Quotes:

“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.  – Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.  — Aristotle

“…The true self: “a self that is whole, both good and bad, and based on reality; it is creative, spontaneous and functioning through the mode of self-assertion…in an autonomous fashion” (p. 156).  — Masterson as quoted in Christine Lawson’s Understanding The Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship

Another quote from the above book…

“In normal development, the mother introduces the child to increasingly difficult levels of frustration so the child will learn that she does not always get what she wants.  At some point, the child’s ego realizes, accepts, and internalizes this, understanding that it is a normal, although disagreeable, fact of life.  The child with an arrested ego, however, will have a poor ability to tolerate frustration…But when ego development is arrested, control will not be internalized and develop into a reliable ego strength” (p. 161-62).

“God doesn’t promise you better circumstances, He promises you a better life.”  — Timothy Keller, podcast, “A Christian’s Happiness”

In the end, in all circumstances, I can be “of good cheer” because God knows me.

Songs on Repeat Mode in September:

Trigger by Phillip Phillips

What If by Five for Fighting

Superheroes by The Script

Beautiful Things by Gungor

Au Revoir by One Republic

May the upcoming month bring with it delicious chocolate, laughter, and joy, along with some fall weather for us in Southern California.

The Unreedemed Me

IMG_2464We’ve officially entered into middle school drama.  In the first week of school, my daughter, who spent the last three years being homeschooled  (with outside classes two days a week), reentered the land of the ” public schooled” with a trip to the principal’s office for a discussion about “a friendship book” as well as negotiating being in the middle of her two closest friends whose relationship with each other could be described as “on again, off again” friends.

Helping my daughter navigate relationship dynamics in middle school takes me back to my middle school years which can be best summarized as deviant, adventurous, and  unthinking.  In some instances, I caused great pain to classmates by my secret groups, promised friendships “if only you will (a dare), then I can be your friend,” and nicknames.  I destroyed insecure teachers with organizing timed “sit ins” (at the strike of 11:15, turning our desks over, sitting on the floor and refusing do anything the teacher said).   I acted impulsively and never really thought about consequences.

Looking back, I feel gratitude for the ways my character has changed.  It would’ve been very easy to continue relating in ways that were self-serving — made me look better, feel better.  But when I was sixteen I gave my life over to Jesus in a way that made me change who I was.  I changed how I related to others, how I talked, how I behaved and who I wanted to become.  It didn’t happen overnight and it still hasn’t completely happened.  I have lots of self-serving unconscious thoughts and feelings that can rule me when I don’t know I’m being ruled but something changed then.  I I finally got I didn’t have to do life alone, like I was feeling I had to do (even though I had parents and brothers – I felt desperately alone and confused).  It was at this time I finally got that I had a Heavenly Father who created the universe but knew every hair on my head, every tear that fell from my eyes, would be with me always for as long as I believed in Him and was, is, a God who tells me explicitly that EVERYTHING/ ALL THINGS happen to those who believe in Him (Romans 8:28..”And we know that IN ALL THINGS…”).  I don’t have a special pass on devastating circumstances and I think before sixteen, I was like, “well God, I still feel depressed and lonely and I believe in you.  What’s the use?  You are no good.”

My mom gave me the passage of Psalm 37: 3-7 when I was at one of my lowest moments and feeling suicidal.  What stood out to me as I read it was God’s offer of companionship and company.  I think what stuck was that I finally had company in my soul, which had been so desperately empty.  Now, I wasn’t suddenly healed.  I still wore depression and suicidal ideation like a familiar coat — until I was 27 actually when I finally cleared enough cobwebs and space and spent enough money to buy a plot of land on therapy so that I knew I never needed to use suicidal ideation as a coping strategy again.  I still got competitive with others, with myself.  I still envied and wanted to be envied.  And I’m sure somewhere in my psyche those things still linger.  But what had shifted then, and continues to stay with me, was a genuine desire to love others and to have others love me, as well as an awareness of just how much I needed God and my friends to survive.

Recently, I came across a description that reminded me of how bad I could’ve been if I’d continued on the path of relating out of places of envy, competition, control, emptiness, and power.  The book, Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship, described with accuracy feelings I experienced as driving me during those troubled middle school years.  It was me. Unredeemed.  I could have been “The Queen Mother.”  She’s driven by feelings of emptiness.  “She holds on to what is hers, taking more than she can use, in case it might be taken away prematurely,” (p. 103).  Even in my redeemed state, I have these compulsions to gather up items that I will need.  EVENTUALLY.  At one time, I had big bins of soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste (probably all purchased on sale), not registering that each one can take months to go through OR even that if I needed something I could run to the store.  5 minutes away.  At any time I’d be awake to get it.

Looking back now, I’m so grateful I didn’t live in the city until I was disciplined with my money.  Where I grew up, the nearest mall was 90 miles away.  There was no online shopping.  Catalogs were a bad enough temptation.   I could imagine a younger me at the mall, being unable to control compulsions to buy objects of my desire.  Even now, I can turn down buying something because I’ve already used the allotted amount on clothing but my mind can’t walk away.  It will think about it over and over again until it is either replaced by a different object of desire or I make a return trip once my budget allows.  I also think it’s important to mention, that I do not frequent malls often.  It’s too tempting and overwhelming not to mention my “wanter” is activated so very easily and honestly, there are so many other things of value to fill my mind with, I’d just rather not have to battle it.

The author also describes how the Queen borderline lacks the experience of feeling special and that was certainly true for me.  Even after my conversion at 16, I strove to be special and recognized but instead of going against parents or authority figures, I became special through my accomplishments.  Being special through performance and accomplishing is an empty endeavor in and of itself.  I was only as good as my last performance.  I couldn’t rest in knowing that I was indeed special just as much as everyone is special and worthy of love and generous verbal affection.  My specialness was linked to what I produced.  Over time, production became a living hell because at the end of the day, I was still empty and I’d been at the top.  I’d performed amazingly. I was valedictorian in high school.  In college I received the top psychology student award.  I also graduated as the top female scholar-athlete of my class in both high school and college.  Yet, emptiness still followed me.  It doesn’t now.  I’m no longer linked to my performance.  I also know I’m special.  But in my specialness, I recognize there is enough specialness to go around to every human being on this earth and it doesn’t take away from my specialness.  Praise God!  Truly.  I’m not a hamster on the wheel needing to find specialness to take the place of emptiness any longer.  (Though like all our psychological challenges, I’m sure remnants linger…)

There are many characteristics of the Queen, and in most of them, I saw a piece of myself.  Sometimes, growth is tricky.  It’s so slow and for the most part mundane, it’s hard to capture.  But recognizing myself in the Queen Mother, gave me a serious window into what I may have been like, what I’m still like, and where I could go should I return to the place of isolation and emptiness.  Middle School.  It’s tough.  Confusing.  Joyous.  Liberating.  Telling of who we’re becoming.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to walk through it with my daughter, especially because she’s most like her dad, who would never have dreamed up “sit-ins,” secret groups, or stealing.  Now my son….I’m not sure there will be an experience of gratitude for walking through his middle school years.





Celebrating My Man


In my last post, I mentioned going to Vegas to celebrate Dennis’ birthday.  I felt like the mere mention didn’t celebrate him enough.  Let me just say, I’m not easy to live with.  He isn’t either.  But I’m willing to venture that if both of our mother’s compared notes, I’d win — for the most difficult.  A small glimpse into my personality — visits to the principal’s office.  Fights at school. I started young, 3rd grade.  Okay, I may be misleading you because the fight in 3rd grade was the only fight I had.  Except if you count the time I chased one of my brothers around the kitchen with a knife.  Or the times I drug my younger brothers up the stairs because they weren’t listening to me.  Or the other times when they thought they could actually mess with me so I may have punched, bit, or scratched them.  Just a little.  So it only hurt enough that they wouldn’t think they were stronger than me again.  Ever.  But this post isn’t about me, it’s about the man who keeps stealing my heart, or at the very least paying me to live with him.  (Is that crossing a line?)

Three things I love about Dennis:  How he fathers our children.  He listens to, pursues, and fiercely loves our kiddos.  As a bonus, he reads them stories, swims, plays tag, games and teaches them poker.  (Hey, if you can’t win money at the blackjack tables, teach your offspring and feel like it’s actually you winning.)

IMG_2770 How he pursues peers and mentors to speak into his life.  I’m a bit obsessed with personal growth (ask Dennis, this isn’t necessarily a virtue) and I don’t think our marriage could survive without his own commitment to grow.  I’m deeply indebted to the men in his life who continue to remind him his issues aren’t “all your wife’s fault.”

IMG_3151How he loves all things fun.  Left to myself, I can tend to be on the more serious, productive side of things. But he loves a thrill and fun.  Word picture, mom sitting on the side of the pool reading her magazine because she just needs a break — Dennis in the pool – dunking kids, playing tag, shooting water guns and piggy-back wrestling.

He’s feeling, “He’s all that.”

IMG_1292This confirms he’s not.IMG_0779Super Cool Dad, “Sand toys??  I’m bringing my shovel!”IMG_0649Best Friend: willing to listen to this here friend point out his flaws, and still love me.0376_G1023_DelValleFashion challenged100_3585aSuper Hero.IMG_9993

Uncle ExtraordinaireIMG_9916

Available. IMG_2611

Dedication Songs

Something I Need by OneRepublic

All of Me by John Legend (an obvious choice even if it’s from the “masculine voice”!)

Better With Time by Lori McKenna

He’s a keeper…

at least for as long as he listens to me and nods his head like I’m right.

My Weekend in Sin City

It’s been 15 years since I’ve been to Sin City and I confess when I left, I had no desire to return.  Smoke-filled casinos, R-rated fliers scattered on sidewalks, scantily clad women, and an environment of gluttony and excess were the memories I didn’t feel like I needed to make again.  Fast forward to last year, when we drove thru on our way to Idaho, the significant changes visible from the freeway piqued my interest and my “never to return” turned in to “maybe return.”  Fast forward even farther to this summer when Cirque Du Soleil ended their shows in LA before I saw it (sadly) and evenings were filled with family poker tournaments and Vegas seemed like a logical and easy choice to celebrate “My Man’s” birthday.

I’m a huge fan of Cirque Du Soleil.  I love the performers’ fierceness, athletic prowess and sometimes just downright stupidity (at least for a scaredy-cat like me).  So it was on the top of my list to convince My Man, aka Dennis, he wanted to see a show. (Birthday weekend = it’s all about me, all the time).  Convincing became a reality when Phil, a high school best friend, now Las Vegas resident, got us tickets at 50% off.  Saturday night, we hit the MGM Grand, a bit on the running side because getting to things on the strip take longer than expected.  Not to mention, we were on a tight schedule having eaten dinner with Phil and his wife, Angela, at the BEST Mexican restaurant I’ve ever eaten at located right next to a Gentleman’s club, which is a story probably best left untold on this blog, called El Dorado Cantina.  Seriously, I could write an entire blog on the flan (but I’ll spare you), which was by far the most incredible tasting dessert I’ve ever tasted, which is his mother’s recipe straight from Mexico City.  I know because the chef told us directly.  When he visited our table.  And left his card.  And paid for our flan.  On the house.  Just because.

We saw KA.  Good show with an amazing stage.  And the strength (and again the stupidity) of some of the performers…Indescribable.  This picture shows you nothing of what I’ve just written, only proves I actually went inside.


This picture shows you but you can’t see it.  Unless you are an owl.


I did have one minor issue.  You can imagine my surprise when the dragon never showed up on stage.  After all, he was there to greet us when we went in.


This story would be incomplete if I didn’t go off about the Vegas band scene. Let me say I love Imagine Dragons.  And I love them enough to have looked up their story to know they were from Vegas and had gotten a lot of playing time at local venues.  This made me curious about the music scene since I saw none of that when I was there 15 years ago.  Well we stayed by the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (notice I didn’t say IN) and knew immediately the scene at our hotel and casino was lame (for us) so we wandered over there to see what was there.  We were not disappointed.  We got to lose our money while we listened to the most incredible cover band whose name I cannot remember for the life of me but it started with Ghost and ended with ? and they opened for the Last Internationale, a band who played for Letterman earlier that week.  (Sadly we were too old to stay awake until they played at 11:30 pm.)  At any rate, this band was talented, funny, and played such a wide range of music, (Luke Bryant, U2, Imagine Dragons, and mainstream pop) that all my loved music genres were satisfied.  It was definitely a weekend highlight.

I have to say, Vegas won me over.  Now, I’m not saying I will be going every month or even every year, but it truly felt like a getaway.  Now maybe shacking up in a Motel 6 down the street would’ve felt like a getaway because we didn’t have kids, I’m open that sans kids anywhere is AMAZING.  But seriously, I’m sold.  And I think I’m sold because I’m willing to learn a few things about myself.

1.  While walking the strip, feeling Amish with personal fashion choices isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

2.  Privacy is where you look.

3.  A budget for gambling erases all guilt of wasted wages — too bad we didn’t have one.

4.  “Breathe easier” ventilation system doesn’t make breathing, easier.

5.  My willpower can only handle one all you can eat buffet a day.

6.  Working out in the morning erases all other sins committed that day.  (I’m sure it’s a proverb – either that or a direct message from God Himself to my psyche.)

7.  What happens in Vegas, leaves with everyone who came to Vegas.

8.  Drunk doesn’t look good on anybody.  No matter how cute an undrunk self looks.

9.  Hershey’s chocolate still buys cocoa beans from farms which use child labor even though they sell super cute t-shirts (probably also made in China with child labor.)

10.  Driving home from Vegas on a Sunday is made much easier with a killer playlist and headphones (while My Man worked.), especially when a thunder storm hits with flash floods and winds that topple a trailer and truck on both sides of the freeway closing one lane down.


Good-bye, Vegas.  For Now.  Until December.  Bringing My Kids.  With Blindfolds so we can return to El Dorado Cantina.  With snow gear so we can head to the mountains.  After we check out the white lions.  The Adventuredome.  The Ferris Wheel.  The Aquarium.  The Light Show (watched with side shields on fake glasses — children sizes).  The Fountains.  The Gardens.  All while discussing “privacy is where you look” and “downsides of escapism/ gluttony/ and living irresponsibly (not that I’m to judge what any of those things are and if any of those things actually take place in Vegas.)  This post to be continued.  In January.  After I return from above mentioned Vegas.  Hopefully with fondness.  And with pictures of sharks and white lions.