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The Faith & Culture Writers Conference risk

ART- fcwc - WORDS 2015  What an amazing experience at our Faith & Culture Writers Conference this weekend! I am exhausted and over-did it and felt it at night. I needed to rest more during the days. I will pay later for it later. But, I am so grateful to be alive. And, that I can smile thinking about the weekend. An exhausted smile, but a smile nonetheless.

This year, we tried something new, adding an extra experience Pre-Conference during the day on Friday that we titled “Breathing Space- A Mini-Retreat.” That is always a risk, trying something new and different. What if it flops. What if numbers are really low and it looks like a failure. And, when registration numbers were not coming in as quickly, I’m not going to lie, I was worried. As the conference director, I see the reality of the finances.

Adding the Mini-Retreat and new art spaces and live art were in response to comments from last year’s survey, saying people wanted more down time, small group interaction, fellowship. In short, not so rushed.  And, when one group leader, Nish Weiseth, had to drop out of the afternoon time frame due to a family situation just a week before the event, I started doubting even more. Maybe, this added day was a bad idea.

Then, I prayed and asked others on our lead team to pray.

Our team’s executive administrator, Bethany Jackson, encouraged me to take the group and I appreciated her vote of confidence. But, I really needed to be careful not doing so much since my accident. I was already slated to share from the main stage about my accident, so I just decided to say no to leading this small group. It was hard to say no, but I knew it would already be a grueling weekend. I reached out to a few people to see if they could possibly lead that small breakout group for that portion of the mini-retreat. Karen Spear and Micah Murray stepped in, joining Seth Haines and Brooke Perry, and Romal Tune and Tony Kriz.

God is good. He always provides just whom he needs.

Then came the conference, and people told me how amazing they felt that mini-retreat experience was. One person said:

“Okay, we can go home now. I’m filled up.”

Others said that God was working on their souls and in their hearts and they were being healed and restored and I am hearing all of these comments and this was only during the “pre-conference,” and I am already in tears of joy. Exhausted tears of joy.

Sometimes, when you risk, it flops. Sometimes it goes well. Sometimes it’s in between. But all the time it’s worth it.

I’ll write more about the weekend, but I just wanted to pen a quick post. I know this conference would not have been possible without God. That may seem obvious but seriously, wow.

The Lord was so in it.

That comment I heard over and over again.

It was God, working through my leadership team that made this past weekend possible. I am humbly grateful for their service and friendship. After my accident, they just kept on moving forward. We only had three months to go. We should not have had a conference, but God had other plans.

So many folks worked behind the scenes to make this event go so smoothly. And, these wonderful people were doing more than just running a conference. They were giving their lives. Many took note of the personal nature of our conference. Bob Welch, one of our speakers, said, “Wow, I got a hand-written note saying you were praying for me!” I’ve never had that before. We wanted to be intentional about making people feel like they mattered.

We serve a creative God who carved something beautiful out of nothing; and now He calls us to create, to fill the blank pages of our lives with our WORDS, our stories. We prayed that people would find a place of community and belonging; and, from listening to the conversations, both at the pre-conference, “Breathing Space: A Mini-Retreat,” and throughout the weekend, I think that was happening.

So, we risked, we dared, we dreamed.

And, it was worth it.



Posted in 2015 Faith & Culture Writers Conference, Culture, Writing.

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On my son turning 12 and me spreading the Nutella correctly

My youngest son Augustin Heinz Martin turned 12 a couple of days ago.

Can we just slow life down for a while. It’s moving too fast.

DSC_0501  But, Gus was ready. His birthdays are a big deal for him and they are a big deal to me as well. It’s his last year as a “tween.” Sixth grade is magical.

Gus’s birthday falls during spring break so our tradition has been to go to the Oregon beach, Cannon Beach specifically, to celebrate as a family. His sister, my oldest child and only daughter, Rachel Marianne, came home last year from Germany where she lives, to celebrate his 11th birthday.

Gus loves Cannon Beach. It has been “his days” at the beach for his birthday over the past several years. He has not even asked for a “friends” party in a while because this family time at the beach has meant so much to him, and it is just so sweet how he calls the beach his time.

We have rented this same condo each trip to the Cannon Beach area, and my Gus talks about it months in advance and we bring our kites and our sand toys and we build sand castles and go on long walks on the windy beach and we ride our bicycles in the sand to the rocky area and we look for sea salt creatures. And we make trips to town to go to the candy store and the toy store, the one that has toys that my now-12-year-old has outgrown, but that he still has an affinity for, and I celebrate that in him. He’s such a kid, such a playful kid. And, Gus likes to eat at Mo’s when we go to the beach, it’s a tradition. Even if it is not for his birthday dinner, he likes to go there, the one in Tolovana. IMG_7804_2

And, if I suggest going to a different beach besides Cannon Beach-Tolovana area during spring break, Gus insists that is just not a possibility. He wants to continue the tradition that we started years ago for spring break. And, since Gus has to share a birthday with spring break, we have honored this time.

This year, though, Gus wanted to do something different. He asked to have a friends party and he wanted it at an amusement like place, and we settled on Bullwinkles in Wilsonville. Think neon flashing lights, bright lights, and loud, with slot machines and video games and bumper boats. Perfect for kids, insane for parents.

Gus has very specific ideas of what he likes and he always has. It is something that you love as a mom but also something that drives you crazy.

When, as an example, I do not put my cell phone on “sleep mode” properly, while it is not in use, my Gus says, “Mom, sleep” as he stares at my phone in disbelief at how impossibly crazy it is that I forget.

“Mom your battery, you are ruining your battery.”

And when tucking him in at night in his bedroom, we have to get all of the corners of his sheets under the mattress tightly so no air gets through, and then the next blanket needs to be pulled to match the sheets and then the blue and green plaid comforter on the top of all of this warm cozy must be pulled to the exact corners, perfectly up to his ears and his shoulders, covering his arms up to a certain spot and then not overdone too far. blue and green comforter

And, then the way I make his lunches. Talk about exact science.

Nutella Knife “Mom, you are not spreading the Nutella all the way to the corners right.”

“Mom, it’s too clumpy in the middle.”

“Mom, that’s too much Nutella.”

“Mom, you have to go all the way to the end of the bread, and you have to spread it really thinly on the bread and you have to wipe off the extra Nutella when there is too much on it.”

Some people may say that Gus needs to lighten up and get over it and not make such a big deal out of the way I spread his Nutella on his bread; and some people may think that he needs to just take it down a notch regarding how blankets are tucked in and whether my phone is on sleep mode properly.

That may be true because it sometimes drives me crazy and I just want to say, relax, it will be okay.

But at the same time, I so love that about him. Gus is particular, he has great ideas, he has opinions,and he sees things that I do not see.

I want to celebrate what makes him unique.

When I was a kid, I was particular about food myself. I remember when I was at my dad’s parents’ house in Germany, when I was about 11-years-old, about the age of my youngest child. My “Oma” was putting out different lunchmeats on a plate, salami’s and thin sliced hams and other kinds of German meats for the adults; these were the expensive kinds of meats, the kind with less fat and better cuts, more lean.

Then there was the lunch plate with salamis and thin sliced hams and other kinds of meat that was for the kids, and my Oma brought that plate out for us to top our bread with.

I think Oma thought we would not know the difference. I did.

I quietly took my mom aside and told her that I did not like the meats on that “children’s plate” and I asked her if I could have a couple of slices of the meats from the “adult” plate.

My mom has always been picky about food as well. I’d hear her talking about meat that had too much fat on it and how she could not eat it, and I’d hear her mention that certain lunch meat, especially the cheaper kind, was not good to eat. My mom would rather give us less food but good food.

So, she understood my request. She snuck a few pieces of meat from the adult plate and placed them onto a plate for me.

When my Oma saw this she asked my mom about it, and my mom explained the situation.

My Oma did not understand. “Cornelia has to learn to eat the other kind of meat. You’ll spoil her.”

My mom, with all due respect, said to her mother-in-law, that while she understood her point, she still wanted to give me the kind of meat that I could stomach, the “adult meat.” And, she even offered to give some of her items to me from her plate.

DSC_0281  I remember as a kid what that meant to me, as an 11-year-old, to be respected like that. To feel that my opinion and tastes mattered.

I think if we respect our kids’ ideas and likes and preferences and ideas we will have an excellent chance to develop a great relationship with them and we will see them become confident young adults whose ideas matter to the world. Young adults who have opinions and ideas about things.

The opinions and ideas of kids are important, and I want my kids to know that I respect and value them. As for imagining my youngest  as a young adult, not so fast right now. I want to slow the world down for a while. And savor this age of 12. It’s so magical.

Posted in Children, Family Life, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Tweens, Real-Life Mom column, Tradition, Transitions, Tweens.

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What fills in The Dashes of our Lives?

I attended the memorial service of Gene Jackson today. He was 84. Gene was the father of my friends Allyn and Bethany Jackson.

I had never met Gene and wanted to go to support my friends. Bethany and Allyn had spoken of Gene’s faith in the Lord, his servant’s heart, and his warm character.

IMG_7464  When I walked into the sanctuary of the Tigard Christian Church for the  service, I saw (and heard) Allyn playing hymns on his saxophone.

How Great Thou Art.

One Day He is Coming.

When we all get to heaven.

Just steps in front of Allyn was a little memorial table that the family had set up. The table had a large framed photo of Gene, a baseball cap, a hat, an Oregon State University runner, a Peace plant, and a small red wooden car.

Pastor Matt led the memorial service. He offered favorite scripture verses that Gene liked. Job 19 and I Corinthians 11:1.

And Lamentations 3:22-23

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

The pastor also noted that the hymns being sung and played during the memorial service were picked out by Gene in advance of his passing.

I’ve done the same, picked out the songs I want at my memorial service.

The pastor continued his talk, mentioning the headstone of a deceased person’s grave. He reflected on how you have the deceased person’s name on the top of the headstone, and under their name you find their date of birth, and on the bottom of the headstone, you find the day that the person died.

Man and girl by tombstone stock-photo-35810854-father-and-daughter-visiting-gravestone-of-deceased-mother  And in between you have the Dash.

The words, the  sentence, the  quote, that comes between the dashes, that summarizes a person. The epitaph.

The epitaph on your tombstone that summarizes who you are in a breath. A thought. A moment.

What filled in between the dashes of Gene’s life? The stories, the memories that stand out about what was truly important to him?

So many noted the word “Servant” to describe Gene’s life.

Gene was born in 1930, the oldest of five children. Gene and his wife later had five kids themselves, and my friend Allyn was the oldest of those five kids. Several of Gene’s kids got up to speak during the service.

When Allyn got up to share, he reflected on the character of his father. And, a little memory got to him. That small red wooden car up front on that memorial table.

“He helped me build it when I was a kid,” said Allyn, choking up.

IMG_7467Gene was an engineer by day and also worked the evening shift at Fred Meyer Home Improvement Center for 35 years to help make ends meet. He and his wife Carolyn sought to raise their children in the ways of the Lord, and it was evident at the memorial service by the words and stories people shared that he did this.

One man remembered Gene as his Sunday School teacher, and he also recalled seeing Gene working at Fred Meyer when he’d shop there.

“Why do we remember certain stories about certain people?”

He added, “If I could think of one word to describe Gene, it would be ‘faithful.’”

Pastor Matt shared a memory of when Gene contacted him about being a leader on a youth group missions trip to Mexico that he was overseeing. Gene was over 70 years old at the time.

Pastor Matt was initially unsure how the 70-year-old would fare on this trip, but it turned out the seven-decades old grandfather was one of the hardest workers on the trip.

Another person noted how Gene helped struggling students through the Start Making a Reader Today program. His kids also talked about how he would help his kids, even when they were grown, when they got into car troubles. Gene’s servant heart was part of what filled in between the dashes of his life.

Gene’s family also spoke of how he took each of his grandkids to Disneyland when they turned 10 years of age. It was a tradition. He loved Disneyland. There was some chuckling when one of his five kids said, “But he didn’t take his kids to Disneyland when they were 10, just his grandkids.”

His granddaughter Kimberly got up and shared about her years with her grandfather. I met her after the service and encouraged her to write down the stories of her granddad.

The message of Granpa & Dad Gene’s life seemed to be simple:  “I’m just following Jesus. would you follow Him too?”

blank -gravestone-ready-for-an-inscriptionAs I think about the pastor’s words regarding what filled between the dashes of Gene’s life,  I had to ask myself:

What would fill in the dashes of my own life?

It’s a good question for all of us to ponder and one I have thought about a lot since the Accident.

How are we filling in the dashes of our lives? 

What is important to us, what do we value, what and whom do we love? Do we love God? How do we show that love for Him? Do we love people and how do they know it? Do we love our family? Are we present for our family, our friends, our neighbors, our community, our world. Do we love those less fortunate, do we give, do we forgive? Do we read God’s word, do we pray, do we choose Life, do we choose compassion? Are we just following Jesus and wanting others to follow Him too? . . .  I wonder. . .  How would we fill in the dashes of our lives?

Posted in Being present, Christianity, Faith and Culture, Integrity, Life, Motherhood, Parenting Philosophy, Writing.

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Do they feel we love our work more than them?

Maya-Quote-Nice photo 225bafc03802a9cf4e89924cb19cda88          I grew up in a household where it was a joke to say that you were worth what you worked.  Our family friend Brent used to say this about us, and it became something that we laughed about and responded with a “ha ha ha”  and acted like we were just kidding about, but somewhere deep down we believed it.

 It is something I still struggle with to this day.

 I remember one time when my sister’s friend Betsy came over when I was in college. Betsy’s smile and personality and presence were warm and deep and genuine and spirited and she exuded positive and fun. We were all students and college professors’ kids, and we were blessed to be among the few to get to attend the private catholic school for free. Can you say “tuition remission.”

Betsy and my sister were seniors when I was a freshman at UP, and Betsy seemed to “get” my German-Work-Ethic Mom. I remember this one time when Betsy came over to our house in southeast Portland, my mom offered Betsy a chair to sit on in the family room while my mom scurried away to clean up the kitchen; but instead of sitting down, Betsy followed my mom around.Betsy- schendel 10980736_10153044636359831_7020010309332323983_n

  My mom didn’t know what to do, so she said, “Betsy, feel free to have a seat,” and my mom went on to the dining room to do something else, but Betsy did not sit down. She followed my mom into the other room.

 My mom chuckled, not quite sure what to think. “Betsy, feel free to have a seat,” and Betsy said, “I can help you do what you need to do,” but my mom scurried away to finish picking up papers.

 And Betsy followed my mom with that beaming smile and warm presence.

 “Betsy, really, you can sit down, I have a few things I need to do first,” but Betsy smiled some more and said, “I can help you do what you need to do, and I will sit down when you are done.”

 “I came here to talk to you, and when you are ready, we can sit down.”

 It’s funny how I remember that from so many years ago, but it stood out as I have been reflecting a lot since the Accident on getting (or not getting) things done and the feeling of a time crunch and the obsession with accomplishments and our never being able to sit still in our lives.  

Why are we rushing around so much, to get more things done, to get more accomplished, to cross things off of our list, while IMG_0694ignoring people in our lives.

When I think about my childhood and what mattered and who mattered and then into my adulthood, what and who mattered, the people that come to mind are people who made — and make — time for me. People that were not rushing around or acting like they had so much to do, people that sat and talked and valued the art of being, the art of presence, those are the people who stand out in my mind and heart and made a difference.

IMG_0810  I think of my friend Jeanie’s mom, Mrs. Higinbotham, from Corvallis. Time stood still at Mr. and Mrs. Higs’ house on Arthur Circle and later on Harmon Lane where they moved.

 Whenever I went over to Jeanie’s house as a child to play after school at Garfield Elementary, Jeanie’s mom was there. When Jeanie and I walked the half-mile to her home on those neighborhood streets, we could see the ranch style home of the Higinbotham family from a distance, and as we got closer, we could see Mrs. Higinbotham standing in the kitchen window that overlooked the street, and we could see her smile at us as if she had all the time in the world.

 And when Jeanie and I walked into the Higinbotham home, there Mrs. Higinbotham greeted us with “Well, hello girls, how was school today?”

And we’d say that it went well.

And Mrs. Higinbotham would then say, “That’s wonderful. After washing your hands, I have some sugar cookies for you.”

And Mrs. Higinbotham placed her homemade warm sugar cookies on a plate for us on the kitchen table, and after we washed our hands, we sat down to eat those buttery, melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies, and she sat down too with us, and just talked to us.

She had time. She was not in a rush. She was not in a hurry. She did not have an agenda.

Did she have things to do? Of course. Did she have a to-do list? Absolutely. Was her house perfect? Of course it was to me, because I did not care about a perfect house. Or a house picked up perfectly, or decorated in matching colors.

As a child, I remember the warmth of the home, the non-chaotic, non-rushed, caring feeling that I got every time I went over to the Higinbotham’s home. That feeling was created by the presence of the people who lived there, who took the time to just be fully present.

What mattered there was not how much you worked, but the time you had for people.

My 11-year-old son came into the dining room area a while back and started asking me a question. I was working on my computer at the  IMG_6245 time, and looked up briefly while I finished another email or tweet and social media message or article or blog post.

 “Just a minute, I’m almost done,” I said to him barely looking up.

Kids don’t always have a minute.

What he said next was brutally honest, but it was how he felt at the time.

“Mom, you love your computer more than me.”


I know some people might think, “Well your kid needs to learn patience,” and “Your kid was manipulating you,” and “Your kid needs to know you work and have a life beyond him,” which all may be true.

But nonetheless, I think our best lessons are learned through our kids. 

In the end, it’s how they “feel,” we made them feel. IMG_6073

I put my computer away and I looked my kid in those big brown eyes and pulled him toward me.

He melted into my arms as I said I was so sorry, and that I love him so much and that he means the world to me and that I love him way more than my empty computer.

And, my son looked at me and smiled and grinned and I hope he truly felt it inside his little heart.

That is what I try to do as a mom, to send the message to my five beautiful children, that they are my world, that they mean everything to me, and I hope that they feel it too. They know the difference between when we are distracted and when we are there with our hearts and souls. And, as a friend, as a daughter, as a sister, as a mentor, as a person, I try to send a message to people, that they matter, that I have time for them, that people mean more than an agenda.


 There is no substitute for un-rushed, un-interrupted, un-hurried, un-harried time with someone. To be present.  

 So many people I know are that way. My daughter who lives in Germany gets it and she shows that unhurried, unharried, I care about you feeling toward her family when she is home on holidays. That love and value for people.

 I want to show that value for people, that unhurried, fully-present spirit, a person who has no other agenda but to love people. And not only on vacation and holidays, but always.

 We need to make a deliberate effort to be fully present with our children, with our families, with the the people in our lives. To put away the i-phone and computer and the to-do list and agenda, and just be there for people.

To sit with them, to look at them, to be present with them. To make them feel like they matter, and that they are important. It’s the only thing that matters to them.

 Just ask Betsy. Or Mrs. Higinbotham. Or my kids.


Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment?

Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions.

I must trust that a little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits,

here in this world and in the life to come. — Henri Nouwen







Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Attitude, Being present, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Teens, Raising Tweens, Technology Free, The Extraordinary Ordinary, work, working moms, Writing.

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It’s like you’re living the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”Angel Clarence

When my friend Jenni set up the meal train for us after our Accident, there was a note that went out, to remind people of their commitment. One section of the note said that meals could be dropped off between 4 and 6 p.m., and that there would be a cooler on the porch, but the note added, “Please feel free to ring DSC_0150the doorbell or knock on the door if they are home.”

It’s been seven and half weeks since we have been home and I’ve never had a cooler out front. It felt funny. It felt too impersonal. It was just not me.

It’s important to me to get to see and interact with the wonderful people — friends and family and community members and church family and Boy Scouts and neighbors DSC_0757 —  who graciously signed up to bring us a meal during this most difficult time in our lives.

 If I had left a cooler out, it would be like a signal to folks, that they could just leave the meal without knocking. Many of the people who have come over have never been to our home before and many of the people are folks from the community who I do not know very well, but realize I’d like to get to know.

And, some of the people are folks who I’ve talked about getting together with for years and have not done so — until now.

It’s so wild that an almost tragic situation has been a way to connect people, to ground me, to remind me in bright colors about what matters.

It’s always about the people and God, is it not?

During these weeks when people have been bringing meals over to help our family, I’ve had the chance to invite them into our home, to sit down IMG_7210to talk, to encourage them to write in my visitor journal, to share stories, to ask questions, to find out about each others’ lives.

 The conversation naturally starts out with people asking about the Accident, people wondering what we remember from the    incident, and how it’s been going since that fateful Friday evening, January 9, 2015; and they tell me where they were or what they were doing when the accident occurred, and how they found out about it.

 I began writing down a  few notes from these conversations in my visitor journal and as I re-read the words, either theirs directly or my notes, I weep.

“I got home from dinner with some friends and saw a note on my email,” Suzanne, a Boy Scout mom and fellow writer, told me through tears during our visit after she brought over pasta, salad and brownies. “I was coming up that street and it was blocked with ambulance and fire trucks and police cars so I had to use the McDonalds parking lot to drive through that. I had no idea it was you. I felt badly that I did not know. You’ve impacted our community, our family so much.” Wild, because we’ve not spent a ton of time together and yet, these heart-felt sentiments.

Gracie, the baker’s daughter who grew up with my kids, came over several times to help, and she shared how she heard about the accident from her mom. Their family bakery, Sourdough Willy’s, is across the street from the accident scene. “My mom looked over and could see something going on from the bakery. There were ambulances and fire trucks and police cars and people and traffic slowed to a crawl. Then the next day, when Ryan and Larissa stopped by for goodies for the hospital, they told my mom about the accident and she called me. I just cried.”

“You’re like family to me.”

So  many others, Andee and Bethany and Lynn and Claire and Jodene, shared such affirming words of friendship and community and connection. They are sweet words that encourage me deeply.

DSC_0002  And my writing friend Brooke said that God has clearly called me to writing and that I need to share the story;

 My friend Suzy, who I used to carpool to our kids’ preschool with, said to me, after dropping off items from  Costco: “God spared you, He has more to do through you. God be glorified.

I wonder what you are going to write about this.”

 Then Ginger, a church and writing friend as well as a Boy Scout mom, said, “You have a testimony, of the blog post that you wrote wrote before your accident.”

And my friend Helen, a Boy Scout mom and pal from the community pool who was delivering our meal for another Boy Scout family, reminded me: “Remember what you told me back in December, what you wanted to do regarding gathering parents together for a conference, to encourage them in their parenting journey. Well, God saved you to do this.”

And, my two-decades old friend Kristi told me through tears, “Maybe God saved you to reach one person for Christ when you are 85,” yet she’s the one DSC_0823 who’s constantly talking about God to people.

I keep soaking in all of these beautiful words and thoughts.

And, and I keep thinking about how so many of these wonderful people have impacted me, rather than the other way around. Not just by their acts of kindnesses since the accident but in the past. And, I tell them that, and it is all good and needed and wonderful. 

As I listen to these affirmations, these encouragements, these thought-provoking statements, these reminders of past promises I have made, I weep. I am humbled and I cry and I do not deserve any of it as I usually feel like a failure, like I do not measure up. The words and stories are such great reminders of God’s plan and our interconnectedness in our neighborhoods, in our homes, in our communities, in the layers of our lives. These words and thoughts and stories that people share minister to me like sunshine to my sometimes-soggy soul.

Words mean the world to me.

My friend Bea said to me, “It’s like you are living the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ There are so many people. In life, you just don’t know how many  IMG_7146 people you have touched. You don’t even know when you touch people.”  

As in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we do not know how far our lives reach. And sometimes it is while we are in the down and out, we are reminded, as George was by his guardian Angel Clarence, of how our lives are intertwined and made richer because of one another.

Is that not true for all of us? We just do not know how we impact people in our worlds. A word of affirmation, an act of kindness, a child we help, a stranger we assist, a student we mentor, a mom we lift up, a person we encourage, a story we share. Just as people have been coming to my home after our Accident, sharing a meal and a word of affirmation with me, I return the words of affirmation to them, pointing out the ways they have impacted me.

DSC_0127It is indeed the stories and the words that mean the world to me.

As people day after day, week after week, have been knocking on my door and walking in with bags of food and pots of soup and casseroles of comfort food and trays of brownies, and as I ask them to please sit down for a moment, to talk, to visit, not only do we talk about the accident and offer mutual words of affirmation, but I have the privilege of asking them questions and hearing their story.

Because of the accident and the meal train, I found out that the Kageys go to Imago Dei Church when I didn’t even know about their faith journey to begin with. And, I had never talked to Christy before, but she told me that she had begun reading my blog before the accident and that she is doing a triathlon and she is dreaming big and going after each day with passion. You never know where your words are going out to and whom they will impact.

I learned that Beth’s kids are adopted and she is now helping with her daughter’s birth mother’s other daughter. And Beth’s brother died at age 47 moments after finishing a long bicycle race, and the PIR has a memorial race in his honor every year.

IMG_7253And, I discovered the Pizza deliveryman’s story because my son’s friend’s family, the Brooks, signed up to get us pizza on the meal train; the deliveryman said that he too survived an accident and he should not have lived but he did; and I mentioned to him that perhaps someone was watching over him, to save him and he smiled.

As I said to the pizza deliveryman, I keep asking the Lord of my own life, “Show me why you saved me.”

Today I was reading in Psalms 106:8- “He saved them for the sake of His Name, that He might make His power known.”

I will try, in God’s Spirit.

My college friend Nancy, whom I just do not see enough but now vow to see more, said to me in a conversation over the bagels she brought over two weeks after the accident,  “Now for the rest of your life, it clearly goes to God.”  

It should not take an accident to bring people together to share, to interact, to converse, to affirm, but sometimes it does.DSC_0755

Many of the people who have walked through my doors to bring us some cheer in the form of a meal or a bag of groceries or flowers have never stepped foot in my home before nor have we shared a conversation beyond “in passing,” despite good intentions. There are people I adore and have not gotten together with before, or it’s been years since we’ve sat down to talk, and I’ve known it’s been too long.  I would keep thinking, I need to get together with so-and-so, or call so-and-so, but then we get busy.

My friend Linda from church wrote in my Accident journal, “How sad that it takes your Accident for us to sit and have a nice visit.” DSC_0117

And, Cynthia, after dropping off a meal, said “God must have big plans for you.”

My friend Kelly said the same thing.

Sometimes it takes a hardship, a catastrophe, or an Accident to make us look to God, to make us realize that all along, every day is a miracle, if we would just see it that way, and we need to seize upon life’s moments that way.

And, sometimes it takes an accident to make you realize that you need to follow-up on coffee plans that have been years in the works.

Take my friend Kelly for one. Whenever we see each other at community or school events for our kids, we connect so marvelously on life and kids and beliefs; and we would always say, “Let’s go on a walk or out for coffee or Happy Hour, soon.”  DSC_0796

But we never seem to make it happen.

After our accident, she signed up to bring us a meal; and when she brought the dinner over, we had our standard amazing conversation, this time over three hours of connecting and sharing and conversing and encouraging one another.

And, we vowed to get together for that coffee we’ve talked about for years.

It’s scheduled for tomorrow.

May we all make every moment a Wonderful Life.

“Words they are my dearest friend.” — Emily Dickinson

“My friends are my estate.”  – Emily Dickinson



Posted in Accident, Attitude, Being present, Extraordinary Ordinary, Gratitude, Hospitality, Kids, Life, Moms, Teaching Moments, The Extraordinary Ordinary, Writing.

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When we cannot “do,” we have to just “be”

“If we are not doing something, we feel guilty, and we keep on doing as a way of avoiding thinking.” –Frederick Buechner

Each day since the accident, with the exception of Thursdays, someone shows up at our house with a meal for our family.


Homemade lasagna. Papa Murphy’s pizza. Enchilada casserole. Chicken noodle soup. Costco lasagna. Pulled pork. Rotisserie chicken. Pasta. Salads. Desserts. And often flowers and cards to accompany the meal.   On the evening that I arrived home from the hospital, Sunday, January 11, 2015, there were three different families here with meals.

Others showed up throughout the evening. Family, friends, church friends, Scout friends, friends I have not seen in a while and community members and neighbors and acquaintances and people I had never met before and people who were struggling physically themselves, so many lovely people signed up to bring our family a meal via an online meal train that my friend Jenni set up. DSC_0084

Jenni had piggy-backed off of a private Facebook message train that my daughter Rachie who lives in Germany had set up for family and a few close friends whom she knew. Rachie and her husband Stefan had just returned to Germany the day before the accident. It was so incredibly hard for her to be so far away.

Imagine, you fly to another country leaving your family behind and you are up for 24 hours and you are sleeping after jet lag to get awakened by a phone call saying your mom and dad were hit by an a SUV while walking and were thrown 30 feet and they were rushed to the hospital; and your mom was unconscious for two hours and half her ear was flattened to a thin pancake, and your dad had bleeding on the brain and his pelvis is fractured his pelvis. My sweet daughter from far away wanted to be here but could not, so she did what she could, sending flowers and a balloon to OHSU and calling us and praying and starting this Facebook private message to keep people informed of how we were doing.

And I felt so helpless in the hospital. I wanted to hold all of my kids, to talk to them, to see them, to have them near and close by, to make sure they knew I loved them. I was so drugged at the hospital and I felt so disjointed and I was totally dependent on others and it was hard and continues to be hard. I felt — and still feel — so inadequate. The West Linn Tidings newspaper wrote a story on our family a few weeks after the accident, and at the end of the story the reporter quoted me as saying that, I want to spend the rest of my life trying to find out the reason why God saved my husband and me, when the odds were very much against us.

What does God want me to do, I wondered? DSC_0136

As family and friends came by with meals and flowers and cards and dessert.

And, as they sat with me for visits, they told me that they had read the newspaper article.

And as we talked about my follow up blog post, about the angels padding the sidewalk and me wondering what I was to do next now that I survived, several of my dear friends also said to me, that maybe this is also a time also to just be, to not have to do.

To perhaps reflect and evaluate and muse on everything, and especially to just soak up the love from others that ultimately reflects the love of God. IMG_7025

Maybe it is not that God wants you to “do” anything right now. Maybe he wants you to focus on just being,” my friend Ashley said during her visit.                            

“May you relish what God is pouring out to you, his

beautiful beloved. You are such a treasure.”

And maybe as my friend Judi said, this is a time to re-evaluate all that I am doing, to see maybe if there is something I can give up doing. DSC_0179

And, as my friend Janice wrote in my visitor journal, “What you do or don’t do is not what defines you.                                                                                                                

Your Father in heaven is who defines you.”

And my friend Diane is always reminding me of this, that I need to rest in grace.

That’s hard in my reality, in my world, where I am accustomed to doing and accomplishing and giving back and pouring out. In my German culture that I grew up in, where I feel I am worth what I work and what I complete and what I finish and what I accomplish and how many items I check off my To-Do list. Right now, my to-do list only consists of:

  1. Going slow.
  2. Resting my brain.
  3. Taking 15-30 minute walks
  4. Listening to the creek.
  5. Attending doctor appointments
  6. Going to physical therapy appointments
  7. Going to speech therapy appointments
  8. Going to Counseling for PTSD
  9. Sleeping enough
  10. Reading and writing a little bit.
  11. Trying to be here for my family

Not exactly a to-do list that will win Pulitzer prizes or draw a paycheck.  

But, that is all okay now. So many people have helped our family, with meals and flowers and gifts and home made cherry pies and cookies and brownies and cupcakes and calls and carpools and messages and plants and cards and helping with cleaning and folding clothes and rides for the kids and trips to the doctors and grocery store runs. Doing for me. For us.DSC_0174 And, I sob and I cry and I keep thinking I need to show my thanks and do something for them and give back and earn the gift and make sure people know we appreciate the outpouring and I need to do, do, do.  I want people to know that I want to return the favor and I want people them to know I take nothing for granted and I want them to think I am a good person and I want them to like me. 

Yet I do not have the ability right now and I am just trying to take each day at a time and to be here for my kids while just needing to get better.

And when I tell people how I feel, they remind me that people do not expect anything in return, but instead, people just want to help. Period. And even though I know no one expects anything from me right now,  I still put these expectations on myself. Because I based my worth on what I do.

And I know I need to stop. I need to just rest in this love, this outpouring, this gift. And to enjoy all the gifts.  And to not feel like I have to perform or earn it.

That these acts of kindness, these meals and visits, are a gift. Period. Nothing expected in return. Sounds like Grace, sounds like God’s grace.

I know I want to see that my worth comes from God. Alone. I know I can never measure up to try to make everyone happy in this world by what I do and how hard I work and how many things I accomplish, as hard as I may try. I know I will always disappoint someone, somewhere.

And right now, is a perfect time to just let go.

And to savor and relish the gifts from God given by others. IMG_7088

To just be.

“Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me.”  – Henri J.M. Nouwen.

“Peace is first of all the art of being.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen

Posted in Accident, Being present, Faith, Life, Writing.

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On the Accident and Angels and the Rest of my Life

When she walked through the door of our home, her eyes immediately welled up in tears, as she looked at me sprawled out on the couch. jenni and sue visit at home 1484558_10205871299124712_6478859361226003974_nYou should be dead. You should be dead. Your kids would’ve been orphans. They should’ve been planning your funeral.

Cornelia and surgeon IMG_20150109_231047704I cannot believe you survived this. 

Firm warm has-known-me-forever Kristi Hug. DSC_0169
Not letting go.
Smiles through tears.

I am so glad you are here, I am so glad you were spared. You are my dear friend.

Angels reached down, and held you, while letting you hit your head and knocking you unconscious for 35 minutes. And you lost half your ear, but even that. Look at you. That ear, you can still wear your hair down. And, No broken bones.

How. Why. It’s not possible. But. Your. Life. Was. Saved.

“In God’s infinite power, he spared you. He prevented you from dying. Maybe you’ll realize how much you are loved. You’ve always said that life is precious; you should be in a morgue. . . When you get hit by a car, you die. But, look at you, no broken bones, only bruises, and that ear. 


Angels were padding that cement, holding you for that landing.


Angels. I’ve never been an angel person. I’d hear people talking about their guardian angel protecting them and I’d smile, or I’d listen to stories of how someone literally saw an angel rescue another person from a bad situation and I’d just say, “Oh, wow,” but deep down, I did not really understand. Or believe.

So, when my friend Kristi said these things to me about angels padding the sidewalk, and when others said things like my guardian angel was working IMG_3886 overtime, it just didn’t impact that much.

The, Dead part did.
The You could 6 feet under part did.
The, Your kids could be orphans part did.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The, You could be in a morgue part did.
The, Your kids could’ve been planning my funeral part did.

But angels? Never been a huge believer.


Tears, overwhelming tears.

Pain at just the thought of how so easily, in the blinking of an eye — at a cross-walk that we’ve crossed hundreds of times over the past 25 years — those things — that I could be dead could have so easily been reality for us when you consider what happened to us. I could have been gone from this earth and my kids orphans. DSC_0612I have the five most beautiful children in the world and the thought of them being without me crushes me. I think of my 11-year-old Augustin in magical sixth  grade, his deep brown eyes, IMG_6583his energy and enthusiasm and love and drive, his charm, his hugs, his warmth, the way he is Mr. social and Mr. Tech-guy and all wrapped into one over-the-top tween. And my twinIMG_8109 Wesley and Mickael Josef, age 17, identical boys, growing and changing and driving and find their areas they enjoy and dating a bit, and thinking of life beyond high school and their future callings, and I love how motivated they are and I picture them hugging their sister and engaging with their friends.

DSC_0419And I think of my fabulous two older children who are married– my sunshine wildflower girl Rachel in Germany, her beauty, her love for her family, her spark, her shine, her warmth, and her awesome husband; they were so far away when the accident happened, but my Rachel still communicated with my family and close friends, keeping them informed of how her mom and dad were doing;                      and my awesome son Ryan the engineer and his wife the nurse who took care of me and my family from the moment I was in the Emergency Room ICU to when I was  home for a week; and when they went shopping for us at the local Safeway, people approached them, people that they did not even IMG_6517know, people who said they had heard about the accident and that they were praying for us.  IMG_6588

I want to be there for my kids, to experience life and moments and love and the extraordinary ordinary and holy conversations and every day joys, big and little. To share the Love of God and helping others.

Yes, we could’ve been gone, yes, we got hit by an SUV and yes, these kinds of accidents happen to other people, but this time it happened to us. And we are here and I am so grateful to God to be able to be here — I love the truth of that cliché!  

And, I am here trying to write about it. I need to write about it. To tell the story.                                                                                                                                                                                           

This, my first blog post since my Last Blog Post, which was written an hour before the accident, that moment in our lives that changed everything, Friday, January 9, 2015. That post that I felt compelled to write, despite my house being a mess, despite me being a less-than-even-a-weekly-blogger, despite having so much else I should’ve been doing, despite the laundry that needed to be folded. My daughter had just returned to Germany the day before and that Friday was my catch-up day. But, since I did not have to substitute teach, I had promised myself that I would write. My house would always be there.

I needed to write and reflect on my daughter’s visit, about what a holy, beautiful, time we had while she and her husband were home for Christmas. I needed to write about my beliefs and feelings and philosophy of life; in the blog post, I reflected on the importance of making time for one another and DSCN0178savoring the moment and being there together as a family, spending time with one another, and spending time with extended family and close friends, as we do when my daughter is home.

My last statement in that January 9 blog post was: “May I be Mary to all people, knowing that time together, just being present, is what matters. May I treat all of my people, my family, my friends, as if they are only here a short time. Because, maybe they are.

“Maybe I am. Just as I know my daughter is.”

I titled the post, “Having a Mary mindset in a Martha World,” and I posted it on my Facebook wall on Friday, January 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm.

Fifty minutes later, while my husband and I were walking to happy hour at Linn City Pub, navigating the crosswalk at Walling Circle and Highway 43, we  IMG_6880 were struck by an SUV  Yukon, and I was thrown 30 feet landing on the right side of my body; my ear was severed and I was knocked unconscious for 35 minutes, suffering a severe concussion. My husband sustained a fractured pelvis, bleeding on the brain and a slight concussion. Emergency vehicles surrounded the intersection for hours while we were rushed to OHSU in separate ambulances. West Linn Tidings Article on Accident “Walk On”

My first memory was waking up in the ER and looking up and seeing Ryan, my engineering son. He said to me, “Mom, you were in an accident.” 

My last memory before that was walking past the Starbucks, 100 yards before the intersection at Walling and 43 where we were struck.

Our family and friends started visiting us at the hospital and people kept — and keep — telling us, “We cannot believe you survived. When you Google pedestrians struck, the stories that pop up are: pedestrians struck by car are dead at scene. Or pedestrians struck by vehicle die at hospital.”




It just gives me the chills, hearing those stats. Thinking back on the reality of our Friday Jan. 9, 2015 5:40 pm accident haunts me. At night, especially, when I am all alone, I ponder and weep and muse. I pray, Why did you spare us, God?  How did you spare us God?



While I was in the hospital, surrounded by nurses and doctors and family and friends and church members and specialists and flowers and  prayersIMG_6568 and calls and gifts, I felt such love and care from so many people. IMG_6522     I wept  seeing my kids IMG_6585and my IMG_6545parents and my husband and my in-laws, and I just wanted to hug them all and tell them I love them, and my daughter-in-law  and my friend Jenni and other friends took  lots of photos and more people came and there were folks who came who I didn’t even get to see, but heard later that they had come and all of these people were Kee and Rylike anIMG_6629gels really to me. Then more doctors stopped by and they did Cat scans and MRI’s and x-rays and tests and all of this made me realize that this was a big deal that had happened to us, that this was huge. I was in so much shock that first day,IMG_6557that it all did not hit me until later. When it would be quiet, at night, when the lights were dim and my family and friends had gone home and it was just  Martin-FINAL- lori 10352935_10152835568924652_4614894603208179415_nme and occasional nurses checking vitals, I would weep and pray. And I kept trying to think about the accident, what happened, how it happened, the events leading up to the accident. I prayed a lot and cried a lot. 

And, I kept thinking of a certain verse in the Bible. Especially, certain ones in  Psalm 91. In my college years with CRU, I used to memorize scripture as a way to help me trust the Lord, and I had verses one and two of Psalm 91 memorized, but now, not surprisingly after suffering a severe concussion, I could not recall those first two verses. I knew they were powerful though. I wanted to recall them.

There was a lot going on of course at the hospital, like getting my blood-saturated hair washed by the team of nurses and having my severed ear looked at then repaired by plastic surgeons and speaking with another team of doctors related to my concussion and getting to see so many of my family members and friends who were able to stop by and see me. Brooke visits hospitalIMG_6534

But, for some reason, I kept thinking of Psalm 91. Why would that passage not leave my head and heart?

Though I was supposed to have no screen time to rest my brain from the concussion, my doctor gave me the green light to read for 10 minutes at a time when I finally got home. I felt led again to Psalm 91. I turned there and read verses 1 and 2, to remember those past-memorized verses:

 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
 will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “You are my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

The poetry of those two verses flooded back to my memory. And then, thinking about how the doctor said I could read some more, I decided to continue in that same passage in Psalm 91:

“…Under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day. A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you….”

IMG_7038 Then, as I read toward the end of Psalm 91, verses 11 and 12, I began weeping.  

For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;  they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Angels. I sobbed. Angels lifting me up with their hands, so that you will “not strike your foot” — for “foot,” I  thought “body– for “stone,” I thought “pavement.”

 Sobbing. I’m listening, God.


The next day, our family friends from church, the Hoovers, came to visit at the hospital, and they brought me journal  for friends sign. In the front of the journal Shannon had written a scripture passage:  Journal and flowers hospital

Psalm 91, verses 1-4

1Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.


Wheel chair All kids with meAfter a couple of days in the hospital, I was released much too early to go home while my husband was sent to the Pearl Rehab Center to heal his pelvis. While he was there, friends from church and the community and Scouts came to visit him. One of the Scouts families brought him a gift, a hand made quilt. The quilt was crafted by a non-profit organization that ministers to hurt people. On the tag of that quilt was a gift card on which was a passage of scripture. Guess where it was from? I cannot make this up: Psalm 91: 10-11.

 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways. . .”

  I ponder my friend’s words:

“You can talk all you want about how everyday is a gift but you know, just think, you could be in a morgue right now; you could’ve been 6 feet under. Oh, I’m so glad you are here. God saved you for a reason.”

Oh, friend, I am a believer now. This Angel idea, God’s Presence and signature, have been so real to me, to us, to our family during this time.  I know I will never ever be the same. We will be different. We are changed, with a new normal.

And, I am making a promise, a vow. I want to journey and live the adventure of the rest of my life finding out why He saved me, and look for that purpose, that reason. I pray, Here I am. Every day. Every extraordinary ordinary day. For now, celebrating each new breath, each new moment, each new Day, which is made by God. I’ll embrace that cliche. Because it is truth. I claim it, and I am not ashamed of it.                                                                 

Here I am, Lord, as Isaiah said.


IMG_3419Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. O Thou. Thou who didst call us this morning

out of sleep and death.

I come, we all of us come, down through the litter and the letters of the day.

On broken legs.

Sweet Christ, forgive and mend.

Of they finally unspeakable grace, grant to each in his own dark room valor and an unnatural virtue.”- Frederick Buechner


Posted in Accident, Adventure, Attitude, Being present, Extraordinary Ordinary, Faith, Family Life, Gratitude, Grown children, Holidays, Home, Kids, Life, Live the Questions, Moms, Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Teens, Raising Tweens, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Slowing Down, Teaching Moments, Teens, The Extraordinary Ordinary, Tradition, Tweens, West Linn, West Linn news, Writing.

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Having a Mary mindset in a Martha World

My daughter left yesterdayIMG_5758

You’d think I’d get used to it. I don’t.

DSC_0558When my daughter visits from across the ocean, we stop the busy-to-do-lifestyle life.

We go to indie coffee shops and on long walks in the neighborhood and make sure we meet with friends.

We bake cookies and craft meals together from scratch and make a mess in the kitchen and clean it up together. We don’t mind.

DSC_0234DSC_0052We play LIFE and YAHTZEE and start movies at 11 p.m.

 We turn off the Internet and the X-box and the phone, at least we try to.

We talk and we laugh and we hug and we share stories and we look at photos and we watch old home videos.

And laugh some more and reminisce and recall and recollect and remember.


DSC_0533 - Version 2We go to the beach, to the mountains, to the Gorge, to the forest, to the park. We take long strolls through the sand, we cross- country ski, we hike.

IMG_6226We look at old photographs and take new photographs and smile for the photographer.

We invite friends and family and grandparents and cousins and extended family over for dinner and coffee DSC_0031and neighborhood walks and long talks. We go out to lunch and we go to the movies and we go to the mall to photobomb with Santa IMG_5848.

We sit around the dining room table way longer than usual and watch the youngest brother blowing out candles then lighting them again and we tell him not to but he does it anyway.

The brothers still fight and argue and complain sometimes but it is all okay when my daughter, their sister, is home.

I am not sure why, but it just is.

When my daughter is home, I watch her plop herself down next to her brothers and put her arms around them, and I see her brothers melt into her arms and they put their arms around their sister, randomly, out of the blue. They hug her and bear hug her IMG_5786and smile a big smile around her and when they do this I smile a big smile. It is good. DSC_0419

DSC_0410We slow down, we hug, we embrace, we realize that the ordinary is the extraordinary and we make each moment, a monument.

Because it is.

We celebrate conversation and savor stories and go on special outings and take time to talk and walk and just to be.

We take the time for slowing and sipping and relaxing and baking and cooking and being.

My daughter asks each of her brothers’ questions and listens to their stories and asks follow up questions and makes follow up comments. My daughter takes each of her brothers out on individual outings to talk with them and find out their dreams and gives them ideas and suggestions IMG_6189without preaching at them.

My daughter pops in on her brothers’ rooms when they are hanging out or putting clothes away or playing x-box and somehow she gets them to hang with her. When they are on the couches doing their homework, she nestles in next to them and they let her.

My daughter tells her brothers she loves them and that they are special and that they mean a lot to her and that they are the IMG_6074world to her and that family is the most important thing and that God loves them. My daughter comes home for Christmas break for them; she comes home on their special birthdays for them. She spends thousands of Euros that she does not have for plane tickets to visit them. She buys them birthday presents and Christmas presents with specific thoughts as to what they would like and she makes them presents and photo calendars that are so special to her middle school brother that he puts it on his wall. He never puts anything on his wall, except maybe that poster of that car.

DSC_0232DSC_0075We slow down when my daughter is home. We hang out. We just plop down on the couch and talk and laugh and share and watch movies. We just “are.”

Because we know that my daughter will only be home for a short period of time. We know that our time with my daughter, my sons’ sister is limited. We know that the time with her will come to an end and we will have to say good-bye. For now.

And what gets us through is knowing we will see her again soon.


We are Mary around my daughter when she is home. We do not even know who Martha is in our family when my daughter is home. (Luke 10: 38-42)

I know that I have to be Martha sometime again, but not while my daughter is home. I never ever want to forget who Mary is, even when my daughter is not home.

To have time for my kids, to make time for my kids, and for others. There is no such thing as hurried time. Or rushed time. Or drive-through time. Kids know it, your family knows it, your friends know it, you know it.

May I be Mary to all people, knowing that time together, just being present, is what matters. May I treat all of my people, my family, my friends, as if they are only here a short time. Because, maybe they are. Maybe I am. DSCN0178DSCN0221 - Version 2

 Just as I know my daughter is.

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Accident, Being present, Children, Extraordinary Ordinary, Faith, Faith and Culture, Family Life, Gratitude, Grown children, Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Writing.

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It’s hard, it gets better, keep on keeping on – On parenting

After the recent winter concert of my sixth grade son at his middle school, we went out for ice cream at the local Baskin-Robbins with about a dozen other families from the community who, like us, were celebrating the wonderful holiday musical event. It was my youngest son Gus’s first concert in middle school, which was true for several of the other families there. DSC_0847

B AND R KIDS  DEC 2014 GUS IMG_5434While the kids were slurping on their ice cream cones and I was downing my one-scoop chocolate chip with hot fudge sundae, I got into a conversation with a couple, who were also parents of a sixth grader. We did our usual after-concert conversation, how great it is that the kids are in band, how wonderful the music program is in West Linn, and how amazing our middle school band director, Mr. Lagrone, is.

I shared with this mom and dad, that my older three sons also had Mr. Lagrone as a band teacher, and how much we already liked him back then. Some people do not know that we have older children who are graduated from college, working, and even married.

When this mom asked me more about my older children, I elaborated on my oldest son Ryan and how he graduated from George Fox University and now works as a mechanical engineer at Hyster; I also said that Ryan married his college sweetheart, who’s now a nurse. 

After I shared this info, the mom whom I was talking to said to me:

“You must be very proud of your son.”

I know this mom meant it as a compliment, but by her tone and facial expression, I also thought that perhaps she was hinting that I was bragging just a bit too much about my now grown son.

Although I replied saying, I was indeed proud of my son Ryan, something told me I needed to share more, to tell the backstory of my oldest son; I knew that this couple have had their ups and downs with their tween son, as many of us have had. I thought that perhaps adding a bit of the backstory about my oldest son as well as my high school twins, who are currently juniors, would encourage this couple.

It gets better, kids do change, do not give up, keep on keeping on. 

Yep. It has not always been the way it is now, with my older kids, and we, as parents need to share all experiences with others. To be vulnerable. To be honest. To be real.

DSC_0931For example, with my twins, I like to joke that they were sent to the principal’s office on many occasions; they got into fights with one another and with other kids. And, when school administrators were deciding what first grade class to place kindergartners in at the end of the school year, my twins were on the top of the list to be sure they were not around certain other kids.

But, we did not give up. We refused to let our kids get stereotyped. We worked on their friendship circles, helping them weed out certain unhealthy ones; we helped them form good study habits, we worked on manners with them, we encouraged them to join sports teams, Scouts, youth group, band. We got them involved in leadership at church and Scouts as they got older.

They are now honor students in high school, have great manners, have great friends, and they are active in youth group and Young Life. People tell us all the time what great kids they are.

As with our twins, the backstory of our older, now-an-engineer son is that he also had his issues growing up, both academically and socially. He was on the younger side in school — an August baby — and that is hard on a kid, especially a boy. Our Ryan was shy and emotionally on the young side. He would burst out sometimes and we found out he was taken out of class in kindergarten to work on some emotional issues. Then, as he grew up, he struggled in school and even got a few “DNM” for a few classes, which means, “Does not meet.”  

He had that engineering brain and could be rough around the edges at times, with bottled up energy that many boys have. I appreciate it, but for outsiders — especially moms of girls only — it can be hard. There were certain friends that we saw who were not the best fit for our son friendship-wise, so we helped steer him toward other friends. We got him involved with sports, band, Boy Scouts and youth group.  

In high school, his struggle began to diminish toward the middle of his sophomore year. Though naturally shy, we worked on helping him reach out to others, to be kind and say please and thank you and to look people in the eyes. We tried to be available to help him with his homework and make our home a place where he could bring his friends. We wanted to just be here for him, to make him feel accepted and loved while at the same time helping him to grow.          

GROUP B AND R - DEC 2014 IMG_5436And, we did a lot of praying for him — and for all of our kids. Praying for his character and that he would love the Lord and that he would find good friends at church, at school and in the community. We prayed for him to do well at school, to find that place where he could excel and discover his life’s vocation. He joined the ski team in high school, and caught on to how to study and navigate the corridors of school hallways and classrooms and studying on weekends and during late night evenings. He did not date and he was fine with that and we never said anything that would make him feel any differently. He had great friends in school, both guys and gals.    

But, when he was applying to college, we knew with his innate shy personality that a large school might not be a good fit, though he did apply to Oregon State University, a large public university. We were just praying that he would find a place where he could grow and shine. That led him to George Fox University, where he got a scholarship, and with loans he took out, we were able to bring the sticker shock down to state school prices.

In college, Ryan thrived. My husband said to him when we dropped him off at school: “Ryan, you can be who you want to be here.”

Indeed, he found who he was. He blossomed in college. He joined the track team and became a Resident Assistant. He did great in school as an engineering major and he met the love of his life, whom he married after graduating. And, he got his said dream job at Hyster.

So, yes, I am proud of my son, but that is not to say it was an easy road.   As I spoke with this couple at Baskin-Robbins, they talked about how parenting is hard and they are still on one side of it and I am on that side of it as well with our youngest, age 11. DSC_0874

But, because I have been on the other side of it as well, I know that it makes a difference to continue to teach our kids manners and to help them work diligently in school and to assist in shaping character qualities, even when other parents are not. And, even when times are hard with our kids and all of the work does not seem be paying off right at the moment, keep on keeping on. Because, it does get better. Kids grow up and kids change and we need to allow them to change.

I know. I’ve been there. And I’m there now. Keeping on, keeping on.

Posted in Family Life, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Teens, Raising Tweens, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Teaching Moments, Teens, Transitions, Tweens, Twins, West Linn, Writing.

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On not hiding my name tag anymore

 Today after checking in for my substitute-teaching job at West Linn High School, I had to move my car to a different location, and decided to grab that much needed cup of Joe at the local Starbucks.

 When I pulled up into the parking lot of the coffee shop, I realized that my “substitute teacher” name tag was very SUB CLOSE UP IMG_5492visible around my neck. My mind began racing with how I felt about myself with that title so closely associated with me.

“Just a sub.”


“Don’t belong.”

“Not a part of the real group.”

 Something inside me just made me uncomfortable with people at the coffee shop seeing that label on me.

 Sub farther away IMG_5490So, I decided to take off my substitute teacher lanyard and I laid it upside down in the back seat of my car, just in case someone looked in my back seat.

 I’ve thought about this since then. Why was I ashamed for that moment about my title of substitute teacher, I wondered.

 I think part of it has to do with something I have struggled with for much of my life — the feeling of being an outsider, of not belonging, of not fitting in.

And I think a lot of other people feel the same way, for a variety of reasons.

For me it can be jobs, friendship circles, church, and citizenship. Yep, that’s right; I was born in Germany, so while growing up, I was very aware that I was an “alien.” Indeed, I was a “resident alien” with a “green card” which means I was a foreigner in this country, until I decided to become a United States citizen almost 20 years ago. green- NEW CARD80991107

And, now as an adult, some of my job titles are “outsider type of jobs”: substitute teacher, freelance writer, and freelance editor. In the past, I’ve also been an adjunct professor. For each of these work positions, I am not on staff, not part of the everyday, regular folks who make these places of employment function.

We all want to fit in and belong. We all want to feel like we contribute and are an important part of the whole. We want to feel connected to a community rather than one looking in, from the outside.

 I started thinking later that throughout the Bible, you see the theme of outsider, with many references noting that the people of God are “aliens, sojourners, not-of-this world.”                                                                                         And, Jesus was the ultimate outsider, someone who did not fit in. And, He asks us to join him, to follow him, to identify with him, even when no one else does. To celebrate that IMG_5373calling, that place, that narrow path.

I know that the most important thing is attitude. The way we approach life and our circumstances is what matters.

So, when I muse upon my work positions, I remind myself, okay, this is what I do, this is my vocation right now, these are my jobs, so embrace it. Be the best freelance writer I can be, be the best freelance editor I can be, and be the best substitute teacher I can be.

I know I’ve never thought of myself as “just a sub,” though I’ve heard that term before from students; some people may look at the role in that light. The stereotypes regarding substitute teachers may be in my head, but they are there; a “sub” can be seen as someone who is just getting by, someone who is not a “real” teacher, someone who cannot actually get a full-time teaching job, someone maybe that does not know the subject as well, or someone who is a glorified baby-sitter, and so on.  

But, I know those stereotypes are not true for many substitute teachers, and I surely approach the work much differently than those descriptions. In fact, I started thinking, why not redefine stereotypes of the position I have. IMG_9090

I actually really enjoy substitute teaching. Hey, I get to hang out with wonderful kids and then go home after eight hours and not have to prep for the next day nor grade hundreds of papers into the wee hours of the night. I’ve done that in my past.

So, I made up my mind up. I’ve made a deliberate choice to embrace my job of substitute teacher, as I try to embrace all aspects of my life. It’s all an adventure. For subbing, in fact, I made it Facebook official. (As people joke, it’s not real or it did not happen unless you post it on Facebook!) Before subbing one day this year, I posted that I was looking forward to subbing that day and that I was going to tryto inspire students and make them feel valued.

For that Facebook status, I got mostly “you go girl” type of comments, but one of my old high school friends, who’s also a teacher (but not a sub) said, “That’s ambitious, for a sub.” I know my friend was just being sarcastic, but I do think that is the stereotype. How can someone make a difference in a day as a “sub”?

But, I wrote back on my comment stream, that I do believe a sub can make a difference, even if it is just for a day or a moment,  or 10 minutes or an hour. I approach all of life that way.

IMG_5412My goal as a sub — I say “replacement teacher” — is to try to inspire students to love school and to make them feel like they are important and valued individuals. I try to do this in a variety of ways. I try to be enthusiastic about the subject matter at hand, sharing what I love about it personally; I smile at kids who are passing me in the hallways; I ask how a kid who might be sitting alone at lunch how he is doing? During classes, I introduce myself and talk about my love for literature and learning and writing. I also remind students how blessed they are to be in school in the first place, when so many children in third world countries are out working the fields to put rice on their tables. In addition, I ask kids to tell me something about themselves, how their day is going, and so on.

My role as substitute is temporary and I may only reach a few kids and some kids may not relate to me, but I can try. You just never know.

In fact, I’ve been at coffee shops and orthodontist appointments with my kids or the grocery store, and I will see past students, from schools where I have been a sub, and they will say hello to me, by name.

“Hi, Mrs. Seigneur,” I hear quite a bit. Then, I’ll also hear the students, as they are walking away, tell the parent they are with, “That was my substitute teacher yesterday.”

Wow, they remember.

So, I’m reminded, we will be remembered. Why not be remembered for good?

Why not approach life, our jobs, our words, and our roles, no matter how glamorous or small or unimportant in society’s eyes, as if we matter to others. Because we do.

Even, if you are “just a sub.”

Posted in Adventure, Attitude, Kids, Life, Outreach, Teaching, Teaching Moments, vocation, Writing.

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About that new double three-ring zipper binder

The other day, during a break at school where I was working as a substitute teacher, I got a call from my sixth grade son Gus, who was home from school as he had had three teeth removed. My husband took him as I had to work, and I was feeling really badly that I had not been able to take him.

DSC_0366“Hi mom,” he said in his sweet, innocent, determined, serious, sincere voice.

“Hi sweetheart,” I said, and asked him how his mouth was feeling. “Good,” he said with his standard answer. He does not like to complain no matter what.

My son is not one to “just call” to say hello, and I had a feeling this call was not just for fun.

“So, what’s going on?” I ask.

IMG_3095“I want to go get my new double three-ring zipper binder today. I found it at Office Depot and Office Max. They have two in stock at the Tualatin Office Depot and three at the Milwaukie one and three at the Happy Valley Office Max.

The closest store of the ones he listed was about 15 to 20 minutes away, during rush hour traffic. On a day when I had a commitment later in the evening.

And, my husband literally works within minutes of that Office Max store, I thought to myself, and practically speaking we could have called him to ask him to pick up the notebook. That made the most logical sense.

That would have saved gas.

That would have saved money.

That would have saved the environment.

That would have saved time.

That would have saved me stress.

But, the experience would have been missing.

When I got home, my son had not forgotten the double three-ring zipper binder with extra folder. So, I asked him to call the store in advance to see if they had the exact notebook he was looking for. I wanted to at least be somewhat practical. IMG_3092

They did.

Maybe I was feeling badly because I had to work while he had his three teeth removed that day, or maybe it was just so endearing to see how important this three-ring-double-zipped binder was to him.

I just felt such a prompting to go. Forget the schedule. Forget what I had to do later. Forget the time.

So, I said to my 11-year-old, “Hey, get your stuff, put on your shoes, grab your jacket. We are going to Office Max to get your three-ring-double-zipper binder

You just cannot believe how excited my sixth grader was to go.

In the car he said, “Mom, it has an extra pocket on the outside. And mom, it has two sets of those three rings for notebook paper. And Mom, it has an extra zipper area for different subjects. And Mom, it comes in blue and red and black. I like the blue but I will decide when we get there on what color I want.”

You’d think it was Christmas.

We walked into Office Max and meandered toward the aisle with the notebooks and binders. He scurried ahead of me and found where the goods were. You’d think he had won the lottery when he found them.

“Here they are, Mom. They have three colors, blue, red, black,” he tells me as he picks each of them up and turns them over. His eyes focus on the blue one as he begins to unzip it to see all the bells and whistles this notebook has.IMG_3091

“Look, see the extra three rings for paper. My other zipper binder has only one section. And, look here’s another compartment on the other side of the binder,” he carefully demonstrates as he turns the binder over.

After we purchased the binder and got home, we told my husband, Gus’s dad, where we were and that we got the binder.

And, my husband’s natural, practical response was, “But, I work minutes from that Office Max and I could have picked it up for you.”

Gus responds quite confidently, “But, I wanted to go myself.” 

And, I thought, and later told my husband, that it is about the experience for the kid.

And for me.

The time that Gus and I had together, the sharing of something so small, purchasing a three-ring-zippered binder, but something that meant so much to my little one. On a day that he had three teeth removed.

I believe we need to as parents to value and treasure the experience more than just the practicality of everything. It’s not always the most time-efficient, practical path that makes the most sense that matters.

It’s about the experience. And, there is no way to measure that.

I remember hearing a couple of moms share with me that they get their family’s yearly Christmas trees sans kids. They drive to a tree lot while their kids are at school or at sports, and purchase the tree. Another mom told me that she decorates her family’s Christmas tree alone, while they kids are at friends’ houses or other places.

“It’s just easier,” the moms have told me. Or they’ve said, “The kids are so busy and they tell me that they do not care anyway. It’s a lot less hassle this way anyway.”

And, I wonder to myself, what about the experience? For our family, it is about the experience of getting our tree as a family. Then decorating it together while listening to Christmas music.

The other day at the grocery store, a lady was in the aisle with her twins in her cart. The twins were about 3-years-old. As a mom of twins myself, I just smiled to myself thinking how I remember those years shopping with my kids.

This mom at the grocery store was walking down each aisle and before I even saw this mom with her twins, I heard this mom with her twins. The twins were so inquisitive about everything. They asked questions, they pointed, they squealed in delight when they saw something they wanted. “Captain Crunch, Mommy. Look it’s Captain Crunch,” one of the 3-year-olds exclaimed loudly.

“Mommy, there are the Gold Fish. Mommy, can we get Gold Fishes?  “And, Mommy, look, pop tarts, mom Gushers. I love Gushers. Mommy, can we get some Gushers. They had gushers at preschool.”

The mom was so patient in responding to her active twins as the sound level increased with each new item her kids wanted to purchase.

She finally said at one point, very patiently I might add, “Shh, not so loud, okay.”

In fact, she said this about the time I was heading down the same aisle she was in. Perhaps her comment was to show consideration of other people in the store at the time.

I wanted to acknowledge her, to somehow make her feel that it was okay. That her kids were okay. That she was okay.

“So, are they twins?” I ask, trying to start a conversation with what was of course the obvious.

The mom replied to me, yes, as we both looked at her kids who were scanning the next items they were going to ask their mom about.

I say, oh, they are so cute. And then I tell her I have twins and that they are 17-years-old now, and that having twins is so much fun and so crazy and wild and so amazing.

And then I tell her that I did the same thing, bring my twins to the grocery store with me.

And, that even though some people told me I should not bring my young kids to the grocery store, that it would be easier for them to stay home with their dad or with a friend, I did it anyway. Because I wanted them to have the experience with me, to see things we were buying and to help decide what items we needed. And, I as a parent wanted to watch my kids’ reaction to things and I wanted to see what interested them and what intrigued them and what gave them pause.

The mom wasn’t so sure at that exact moment but thanked me for that comment as I moved on to the next aisle.

Sure, it can be easier to leave the kids at home and it can be easier to just do things for our kids, but there are no short cuts to experiencing life.

No matter how big or small.



Posted in Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Writing.

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The art of breakfast- It’s what they remember

I love making breakfast for my kids during the summer and on Saturdays off during the school year, and when their friends have spent the night. Crepes are my specialty; crepes smothered in whipping cream and Nutella IMG_9356or sprinkled with lemon and powered sugar or in the summer, topped with fresh Oregon strawberries or raspberries and whipped cream. IMG_9392

I love gathering with my children, with the table nicely set with my good German porcelain and the pretty containers for the lemon juice and the Nutella and whipping cream and strawberries and plenty of napkins. And we say a prayer to thank God for our meal, and it is pure joy. It’s a great way to start our day together before everyone goes his or her own direction. We have grounded ourselves together. IMG_9389

When my kids write me Mother’s day cards and birthday cards, they thank me for making me crepes for them. They remember the crepes. Of all the things I do for them, they talk about the food I craft for them. From scratch. Wild. And my kids friends talk about eating crepes at my house and the my tell their friends  when they are spending the night that their mom makes crepes and their friends want to eat breakfast in the morning with our family. And while I am making them, the house is filled with the aroma of butter and fresh thin pancakes frying on the stove top and that is what they wake up to. And it makes me feel good, if I do nothing else I day long, if I’ve made homemade breakfast for my kids.

But crepes are a mess to make. My kitchen turns to shambles and greasy butter flies everywhere and the batter splashes in nooks and crannies of the stovetop and my kids eat the crepes in minutes then dash off to do other things for hours and there is still the mess.

IMG_9382But it’s oh so worth it.

My husband on weekends when he is home used to never join us for breakfast. He’d eat his granola with cold milk and take off into the yard or to the garage to get his work done.

“Takes too much time. I have too much to do,” he’d say to me about eating breakfast with us as he meandered off.

But I said to him, this is an important part of life, taking the time to have this breakfast together; it’s so simple, yet so profound. This art, making breakfast for my kids; it reaches the kids in ways that I cannot explain but it just does. Crafting crepes is an art. It cannot be measured with the word “Accomplishment” and “check it off your list of things done today.” Art is not a check-off list. Yet, like good art, it’s what matters in the end. It’s one of the things that our kids remember.

Sounds so simple. It is.

My kids once in a while get to go to their grandparents’ house, which is about 15 minutes from our house. Their grandpa makes a mean pancake and they say, “Grandpa makes the best pancakes,” and when I make pancakes, they tell me they are not as good as grandpa’s. That is what they remember about grandpa and it is fabulous. And we tell grandpa this and it makes him feel good. He has a secret recipe and he’s proud of it.IMG_9358

My husband is starting to recognize the importance of our weekend and days off morning breakfasts together. One day recently, it just hit him. He began sitting down with us to join us eating breakfasts together. And, he also began making pancakes as well. And bacon and buying good syrup to smother on top of the pancakes. It takes him away from his weekend projects for a few hours in the mornings and it is a mess and he only has so much time off and I totally understand that.

But, he realizes now that it is important to share that time with our kids.

Now, we argue over who gets to make the breakfast on a Saturday morning.



Posted in Art, Family Life, Home, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Summer, Writing.

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Outdoor Adventure with Kids Links- Rose City Forum Radio

  I began planning weekly outdoor adventures in nature with my kids several summers ago as a way to ground us as a family. I had found that as my kids started getting older, they would spend more time with their friends, arranging their own activities, wanting to hang out with their peers, doing their own thing, which is normal and healthy. And, of course, they’d want to spend more time on their technology, screen time, X-Box, and so on.

And, I felt I was losing them.

So, I pondered, what could I do to help focus us as a family, what could we do together, outdoors, in nature and in the woods, away from technology and screens? And, I thought of this “Weekly Outdoor Adventure with Kids” idea, where we’d find a new place to go together, outside, in the woods, in nature, each week; we’d  visit a new park, find a new outdoor setting, where we would experience some place new together, away from our home, something outdoors. Kids need to be outside. Kids need unstructured time away from technology. Kids need nature. Heck, I need it.

I found myself looking forward to these weekly outdoor adventures. It felt deliberate and intentional and important. IMG_2130

I was learning about new parks and new outdoor areas, sometimes just minutes from our home. And, some were just a half hour away or maybe 45 minutes away, and yet, when we are at these parks, at these nature areas, it feels like we are a world away from the high-paced rushed, electronic world.

Yet, I’m not going to lie. Sometimes my kids complain about “having” to go on these family adventures with mom. That’s okay. We go anyway. I try to make the day fun. Bringing food always helps. Easy snacks, boxed juices. And, letting them take along a friend always makes a difference; and I’d invite other moms along as well.

And, of course, as a writer, I decided to blog about our weekly adventures as a way to record some of our experiences and the fun conversations of my kids. Yep, that’s what happens naturally as we go on these outdoor adventures. Kids talk and share and pick up sticks and run ahead of one another. It is a whole new world. Outdoor world. IMG_3286

Blogging about these weekly outdoor adventures was also a way for me to share the experience with other moms; moms would ask me about places to go and blogging about it helped encourage them to get their kids outdoors, and to help them find some of the places I discovered.

Below is a list of just a few of some local, Portland, Oregon and beyond possibilities for getting kids outdoors. I have individual blog posts linked as well. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but I wanted to add this as I promised Andee Zomerman, who interviewed me today about getting kids outdoors for her radio program, Rose City Forum . During the first half of her show, she interviewed Dr. Scott Sampson about his new book, Raising a Wild Child. He is singing my song for sure. Andee linked from the show’s website to here.

Go adventure with kids! (ideas:)

Jackson Bottom Wetlands

Tryon Creek Park

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

Bryant Woods Nature Park

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

Wildwood Trails

White Oak Savanna

4 T Outing (Trail, Tram, Trolley, and Train)

Summer 2010 Outdoor Adventures with Kids

Summer 2011 Outdoor Adventures with Kids

Summer 2013 Outdoor Adventures with Kids

Posted in Adventure, Family Life, Kids, Motherhood, Nature, Outdoors, Writing.

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