I’m late for Lent.
Today Changed Your Life Forever
Dear Brand-Spanking-New Mama,
Today has changed your life forever. You will never be the same. Your beautiful baby girl has been born.
Feelings have bubbled to the surface that you didn’t even know existed, the very first being
LOVE unimaginable, unexplainable.
But I can promise you that won’t be the only one. You’ll be pummeled by ALL. THE. FEELINGS. every day for the rest of your life.
FEAR that your house will catch on fire or that no one will invite your new 5th grader to sit with them on the bus.
LONELINESS in the middle of a room full of other moms or in the middle of a sleepless night.
CONFUSION about how to feed your baby the right food or feed yourself the best information.
JOY over the first wobbly steps taken across the family room or the last confident steps taken across the graduation stage.
ANGER at the unfair teacher, your sassy toddler, her phone, your out-of-control self, the mean girl at lunch, every form of consuming media, the unhelpful doctor, on and on and on.
GUILT about not being enough or being too much.
SADNESS when the bus pulls away with your kindergartener or when your teen pushes you away, leaving you a heap on his bedroom floor.
THANKFUL for the smile laced across your middle-schooler’s face at the Holiday Chorus concert or the smile on your bride-daughter’s face as she dances with her groom.
28 years later, you will be in the middle of a three-way kiss between your baby and her baby, and that very first feeling,
LOVE, unimaginable, unexplainable,
will swallow up all the others, multiplying itself once again, which you never thought possible.
From my heart to yours,
Filled-to-the-brim-with-love, Old Mama
The (Surprise) Gift
Happy Birthday to Me!
When one of your best friends writes you a poem and your love language is words of affirmation, you post it for the world to see.
Today we celebrate
My sweet friend E
The dearest of friends
Who could ever be
You are willing to go
Where many steer clear
To the heart of those
Far and near
Loving to you
Is connection and grace
At another’s pace
Desiring to connect
With another’s soul
Then sitting there quietly
Soft and yet bold
Wanting to know
What causes others tears,
What brings them joy,
Or heightens their fears
It’s in that place
You feels most alive
It’s in that place
We all watch you thrive
You enable others to travel
Where they may have not tried
Because you have gone there yourself
Refusing to hide
Leading while being
Right in the tough spots as well
You touch our hearts
Because you’ve been there yourself
So today I want to lift you up
And acknowledge who you are
The good, the bad, the ugly
Has brought you this far
A beautiful reminder
Where we’ve been,
Is sometimes hard
But if we will embrace life
If we nurture all those parts
We can live life quite bravely
Like my friend Esther’s
I love you!
Penned with love
By Maria Pascale for
Keep ‘Em Coming
People thought we were having an affair as we sat at the community pool and laughed and hugged and engaged in some seemingly very serious conversations, while snacks and towels and “look what I can do’s” piled up from the six children we had between us.
I guess they were kind of right. We did love each other very much. I was closer to you than almost any other man on this beautiful planet.
But they were also very very wrong.
You see, you were not my “lover,” as the gossipy types might have whispered about in the parking lot with soggy kids in towels yelling, “can we please go home now?”
You were my brother and one of my very best friends.
You still are.
Today is your 60th birthday. I’ve known you for 53 years, 11 months and 10 days, since the day I was born.
You were forced to be my brother, just because of sheer genetic willpower, but you chose every single day to be my friend. I can’t thank you enough.
You taught me how to ride a bike when I was just five and you were a big giant 10-year-old.
You were the one I went to crying when I wet my pants in class at boarding school. You told me it was going to be okay.
You were happy when I was your “little annoying sister” in the school play. You even helped me memorize my lines.
YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.
You told me I was super smart and could be anything I wanted and not-so-secretly told me I should go to medical school when I was older.
You wrote me a long letter from college when I was a young teenage girl encouraging me that I was valuable and to cling to Jesus during those tumultuous years after you had learned some hard lessons during yours.
You included me in your wedding as a junior bridesmaid, making me feel like a grown-up and highly important.
YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.
You had me and some boyfriend of mine over for dinner, inviting us to share your heart and your home once you were living on your own.
You became my actual pastor once I graduated from college and you had 200+ young career singles in your care. You taught me how to love God (even though you spit when you talked and I was sitting in the front row receiving all that lovely spray).
You co-signed a loan for my “new used” car after getting the call that I had totaled my other one.
YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.
You performed my wedding and I’ll never forget the charge to us about the “fire covenant” we were making with each other.
You became my neighbor in a little sleepy town and we shared birthday parties and trick-or-treating, community pool jaunts (as you already read) and Christmas afternoons.
You wound up being the “watcher of my high schoolers” so that my hubs and I could have short getaways that probably saved our marriage.
YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.
The bottom line is this. You were always there for me, in ways big and small, seeing me through the good and the bad and lots of the ugly.
I thought that was my favorite thing about you, but I was wrong.
When some really tough stuff came into your world, you did the most incredible thing of all. You allowed us to reverse roles just a little bit and made it okay for me to care for you the way you had taken care of me for so many many years.
Because of your humility and your bravery, I finally saw you, the amazing, kind, strong, faith-filled, vulnerable, tenacious, loving man that you are. It only made me love you more.
You, my friend and confidant, my cheerleader and my brother, are one of the best people I have ever known or will know.
The only thing that could be better than knowing you ALL of my life is if I had known you ALL of yours.
KEEP ‘EM COMING!!!
Grandmas drive two hours for a birthday party.
Grandmas wear their only “flannel” shirt for the festivities.
Grandmas stand in line for half an hour for twelve balloons to be blown up and then spend half an hour untangling them.
Grandmas ask “Alexa” to play the Blippi tractor song and then ask her to play it louder, singing along just to hear “again, again.”
Grandmas eat chicken nuggets and Rice Krispie treats and halves of grapes smashed onto plaid plates.
Grandmas wear left-over tractor Halloween costumes toddler refuses to don with headlights placed ever-so-perfectly (#seepicture #hahahaha).
Grandmas learn how to capture Boomerang Instagram videos and put it all out there for the world to see.
Grandmas can’t believe they’re a grandma already, watching their daughter’s eyes sparkle with that indescribable mom love, as candles are lit and then blown out (I mean spit on).
Grandmas just can’t handle how cute that little face is and want to kiss it a million times, especially when it’s covered in green icing.
Grandmas clean Amazon out of every miniature tractor, truck, police car, backhoe and excavator and every shirt, pajama set and book with pictures of said things.
Grandmas give “see you later” hugs counting the moments until the next time, which can’t come soon enough.
Kitchen Table, I Will Miss You Most of All
Here I sit on one of your chairs, spending some much-needed time with you today. What a mess you are, strewn with apples just bought at the farm stand, my purse, books I am reading, an open cereal container, a dirty plate filled with the remains of eggs and toast, my phone, some unpaid bills and a piping hot cup of tea.
You couldn’t be more perfect.
I am so sorry that I am not bringing you with me next week when we move.
You have been such a strong, yet inviting friend to me. Out of everything I am leaving behind, I will miss you most of all.
I will miss choosing you at the furniture shop over 28 years ago, my thoughts of the future with you swirling in my head.
I will miss decorating you for every.single.reason. From apples to pumpkins to snowflakes to birthdays to easter eggs to whatever tickled my fancy.
I will miss babies being pulled up in their high chairs next to you, surrounded by faces of those who love them.
I will miss the spinning lazy Susan in your middle that holds napkins, salt and pepper, the standard balsamic vinaigrette, butter and some spicy seasoning I refuse to try.
I will miss dogs licking up all the crumbs off the floor beneath you.
I will miss spaghetti-faced toddlers “coloring” you with red sauce.
I will miss sheets turning you into a fort for Dad and his little ones.
I will miss the small missing piece on your leaf where one of us dropped something hard and you paid the price.
I will miss your chairs where each one of us sat in our “assigned” places.
I will miss dishes being set on you for large family gatherings where you became the “kid’s table.”
I will miss laughing and crying, listening and talking, whispering and yelling, all of it.
I will miss nails being painted, pumpkins being carved and homework assignments being mostly finished on top of you.
I will miss the dreams shared, the scoldings given, and the “you have to try it” mantra being repeated every single night.
I will miss friends throwing purses on you and coats on your chairs as hearts were shared in another room.
I will miss birthday parties with cupcakes crumbled in your crevices and balloons tied to your chairs.
I will miss Thanksgiving soup being prepared as veggies and turkey were chopped into tiny pieces on your very sturdy, formica (but wood-look) top.
I will miss the way you endured beer-sampling, game-playing and appetizer-eating on all those crazy extended family holidays.
I will miss arguments, raised voices and quieter apologies with you right there in the middle of it all, holding us together.
I will miss how you held Easter baskets, babies, fondue sets, games, legos and gingerbread houses, displaying for everyone to see.
I will miss flowers, invitations and decorations scattered all over you as showers and weddings were being prepped.
I will miss normal family dinners when someone got trouble for poking the person next to them. (NOTE: It was never Dad.)
I will miss how you watched from afar as silly pictures were being taken on the computer only a few feet from you.
I will miss Friday pizza nights when you were sprinkled with paper plates and plastic cups filled with everyone’s favorite drink of choice.
BUT what I will really miss is the way you stayed with me through six kids, four houses, one marriage, lots of hellos, many goodbyes, and all the celebrations and sadness that made up our family. You stayed with me.
How good and precious for me to be alone with you right now, just the two of us, saying our goodbye to each other. Thank you for being with me as tears sneak down my cheek, a lump forms in my throat and I not-so-secretly hate leaving you behind. I couldn’t be more grateful to you. Thank you. Thank you. You have held my heart well.
You have been a mess in the past. You are a mess right now. But you have been perfect. You couldn’t be more perfect.
I will miss you most of all.
Happy Birthday Allen!
“The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.” (Thomas Carlyle)
Allen. A word that comes off my lips probably twenty times a day. A word that sometimes is surrounded by love and other times by frustration. A word like no other in my life. A word that encompasses kindness unlike I’ve known before, integrity that quietly makes a profound statement, humility that lifts others up and spirituality that is deep and genuine.
I’ve struck gold in the landscape of life. This man, who I’ve known for almost 30 years just keeps getting better and better. He’s the best gift I’ve ever been given. And he gave me four more gifts in our incredible children, as qualities I see growing in them reflect who their dad is.
Allen embodies the spirit of “being kind over being right” (and thank God for that, because I like being right just a little too much). I watch it play out in quiet moments with close friends and strangers alike. He is considerate to both immediate family and the homeless that wander the streets of New York City. Co-workers who spend every day with him and the poor who don’t have access to clean water benefit from his heart of benevolence. His gracious spirit permeates his times with his partners in ministry and the engaged couples we minister to together. As you can see, his kindness is genuine, often and without boundaries.
Integrity is the suit of armor Allen puts on every single day. He does “the right thing even when no one is watching.” I would know. I live with the guy. He doesn’t cheat on his taxes, on his expense sheet at work, or me. He is the same person in the morning at work, in a board meeting at our church, on a weekend with the guys, and our family at home. I trust him completely and utterly. What a gift!
I struggle with thinking I’m better than everyone else (#notabigsurprise). I know. I’m working on it. And one of the reasons I’m working on it is because of this man named Allen who shows genuine humility. I want to be seen and heard. He wants others to be seen and heard, including me. He’s the biggest reason why I started this blog. He wants my voice out there. He actually, deep-down-inside, believes that others are valuable and takes the role of a servant much of the time even though he is a highly successful business man with mad skills. You can find him washing the dishes, folding the laundry, performing menial, unseen tasks no one else wants to do and never expecting the notice and applause of others. I am so blessed!
My favorite thing about Allen, and probably why he’s all those other things, is that he is deeply spiritual. His inner life matters more to him than his outward persona. He seeks God with ferocity. He spends time in prayerful solitude in all kinds of places (the woods, his favorite chair in our family room, the airport as he’s waiting for a flight). He seeks wise counsel with me as we work to have a better marriage and partnership for this journey. He has a group of male friends called the Muckmeisters who meet every other week to encourage and be encouraged along their inner journeys. We share our lives with a group of couples where Allen is vulnerable and open with his struggles and successes. He voraciously reads anything he can get his hands on (at our local library because he is an accountant and keeps our money under control) that will help him on his path to becoming spiritually and emotionally whole. He is the real deal!!
Allen is not perfect by any means. No one is. That’s what makes this post even more precious to me! I spend a lot of time thinking about and dwelling on all the things he is not, the ways I wish he was different. But today, on his 57th birthday, I am shouting for all to hear the things that HE IS, the parts of him that are his truest self.
To my boys: you have a great father. I don’t want you to be him. I want you to be yourselves. I want you to see, by Dad’s example, that you can be your truest, best selves in all that God made you to be. You are already great men and a lot of the reason you are is because of the amazing dad that you have.
To my girls: you have a great father. He has been more than enough for you and shown you what a good man is. Sarah, you have chosen wisely and have two good men (one big and one little) yourself. How blessed they both are to have you as their wife and mom. Rachel, you are still to choose. I know you will choose well. Dad will be a blubbering mess when he walks you down the aisle!
To Allen today: you are amazing! You are to be celebrated! I am so grateful to share my life with you! Keep doing what you are doing! Don’t change who you are (even though at times I’m shouting otherwise)! You make the world, and especially mine, a better place just because you are in it! I see you! I salute you! Happy Birthday! I hope we have 57 more of them together!!! And even that won’t be long enough!!
Did you Know (it wasn’t just a house)?
“She was an adventurer at heart. But oh how she loved drinking this tea in this mug in this chair. Oh how she loved to be home.” (Google Images)
When you hurriedly trekked up the sidewalk with your then 10-year-old in a whirlwind house-hunting trip in August of 2002 and opened the door at 23 Cedar Hollow Drive, DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know…
the neighbor boy that walked through the door the day you moved in would become one of your son’s life-long friends and your son would share the weight of pall-bearer at his dad’s funeral eight years later?
music would fill the living room and your baby would fall in love with the guitar and piano and her playing and singing would be a gift to your soul and you miss these moments terribly?
23 Cedar Hollow Drive would be brimming with boatloads of love for and from almost every species of animal, from snakes, to dogs, to cats, to hamsters, to fish (that wouldn’t die), to every assortment of lizard and now there is only one left?
your marriage, faltering at best, would become a place of hope and healing for dozens and dozens of young couples on the verge of their own life-long journey of marriage? (in fact, you are spending time with one of them again this morning)
your nervous decision to construct a pool granted a space for family, friends, teammates, youth groups, classmates, neighbors and even strangers to rejuvenate and be refreshed? (water gun fights and subsequent peals of laughter did just the trick)
first days of school and dance pictures and phone conversations filled with both laughter and tears would mark your front stoop (and who knows, maybe some goodnight kisses by young lovers)?
extended family would gather for holidays and normal days, where sports teams would be cheered for, good food would be eaten, games (and some arguments over those games) would be played, and most significantly, unbreakable bonds would be formed?
your young daughter, struggling with severe OCD and the inability to go away even for a week would receive help through counselors and would now be a flourishing wife, teacher and mom?
an actual wedding ceremony would be performed in your living room because the bride and groom thought the church was located in your town and got their marriage license in the wrong place?
annual Easter Egg hunts (or should I say money hunts) created a place for teens and budding adults to still be kids in all the best ways?
endless art supplies and crafts from your artist would be haphazardly strewn over all available surfaces and one of those works would be still hanging proudly in your family room for your prospective buyers to see and admire?
birthdays would be celebrated in all their simplicity and sometimes complexity, giving room for sharing reasons why the one whose day it was to be honored was loved (and even liked)?
every kind of sport uniform would be thrown in heaps on your kitchen floor and not-so-carefully cleaned in your laundry room, providing a place of community and friendship for your kids? (even as you write this, two of your son’s high school teammates are asleep with your 23-year-old in the basement)
your finished basement would be filled with sleep-overs and left-overs and hang-overs and do-overs and make-overs and probably thousands of humans entered those doors?
your outdoorsy son, content to spread mulch, carefully prune bushes and chop wood with his dad, would be happiest at his job doing the same? (and he would embrace your sports teams to the full)
your family room couch would become the healing place for illnesses too numerous to count, unforeseen and planned surgeries, along with the comforting spot to take a mental health recovery day and that you let your kids skip school for only this reason (oh how far you’ve come)?
small groups filled with lasting and abiding friendships would meet, pouring over books and videos, praying through heartache, celebrating joys, living the ups and downs of life and kids and marriage and…and…and.. (one of them still met last night right in your family room)?
the pony-tailed 10-year-old around the corner and school-bus seat mate would become one of your firstborn’s closest friends, bridesmaid fourteen years later and Auntie Taylor to your grandson?
a baby in your womb would be lost yet your heart would be born anew?
your game-boy playing first-grader would help you to create your new podcast and be a regular and wise guest?
early Christmas mornings would be filled with children (and even now adults) sitting on your bed opening surprises (and not-surprises) through sleepy, yet curious and excited eyes?
a nervous breakdown would seek to destroy you but a life-long journey toward healing and wholeness would begin and continue today and that a writer’s quest would result?
homework would be finished (or not-so-much), college applications would be filled out, but most important, hearts would be taught to love and hope and apologize and respect and give and continue to learn?
your basement would be the place for a barely sprouting church youth group of eight teens and three leaders that is now hundreds strong?
warm fires would be built inside and out, where stories were shared, sleep was encouraged, s’mores were eaten, and life-giving memories were created?
fights would break out, doors would be slammed, harsh words would be spoken, yet subsequent apologies would be made and forgiveness would be granted? Love and trust would be painstakingly built brick by brick?
your two-year old would happen upon a friend in first grade and after endless sleepovers, birthday parties and bring-a-friend vacations, their college hearts would be knit together even though hundreds of miles separate them?
your glass kitchen door would be filled with chore charts and yearly memorabilia, bird-feeder and deck-flower views, and sun-soaked floors for pets to relax and sleep blissfully?
seventeen New Year’s Eves would be celebrated, some quiet with tired bodies barely making it until midnight and others loud with friends singing God Bless America on the stoop after a long-night of Bunco?
a new love would come bearing another new love?
religion would be shed over and over and Jesus would rise in its place to become the healer of your heart and the lover of your soul?
you and Allen would be more in love than you thought was even possible?
Did you know…
Thankful tears would flow because this house is a true haven of healing and that as you leave it, your prayer is the same for the next set of feet that trek up the sidewalk and open your front door and make this their home?
Yes. This you now know. You know ALL of it.
If you’ve made it this far and you like this, I am asking if you could go back out on social media where you came from and “Like” it! Makes a huge difference in how much it gets read and/or shared. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
NEW CHAPTER (maybe a whole new book) #thisis54
Just do it all right, make all the right, godly choices and life goes the way you thought it would or think it should.
What happens then?
Is all hope lost?
My friend, Maria, newly divorced, unpacks this better than I can today with a poem she’s written to herself on her 54th birthday, one where she is vulnerable, raw, truthful and filled with hope (and I am all about all of that)!
This is 54
In all my imperfections
In all my power
In all my insecurities
In every way
Owning every blessing
And every good gift
Owning every wrinkle
My 54 year old self
Could use a lift ☺
Better late than never
Better off now alone
Better to be alone and lonely
Than lonely in my home
I’m not sure what happened
Not sure why
I waited so long
But know my children mattered more to me
more than my own
I move on in power
I know its not too late
To have the love I long for
With the one I can relate
But first I love myself
I walk in all my truth
Owning my need for more
Unrealized in my youth
Time has passed by quickly
Many ways a blessed life
I thought all the answers
Were in being someone’s wife
But fairytales and stories
The things our people make us believe
While they tried their best
see the need
The need to guide in honesty
That love is more than what is seen
Its deeper, it is constant
There is passion
you can believe
The knowledge of your whole heart
Being touched and nurtured
Sweet and raw
The wisdom of its purity
That’s what will last for long
So I give this to myself now
I love myself in all my truth
I love that I am fragile
I love the wisdom without youth
I own my insecurities
How I need to feel valued and be seen
I own my need for time, connection,
Want the dream!
I call it the trifecta
Emotional, Mental, Physical
For now I give it to myself
My love tank
It is full
As “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Plays on the radio
My childhood song still resonates
My soul and heart
Know what I desire
Is more than a fairy tale
Know what fuels my fire
I will have it
I wish myself a Happy Birthday
Treasuring every good gift
that’s in my life
My family and friends
Who value me
That’s the love
I can’t deny
My journey’s just beginning
My heart remains so full
So thankful it’s not broken
But open and vulnerable still
I share this in transparency
To encourage others in their way
I want to live authentically
Boldly, wholly, deep.
In every way
Those who know me best
Love me as I am
The good, the bad, the ugly
As only good friends can
I walk into my second half of life
With so much more to give
is my goal now
There’s only one life
here to live
My faith it keeps me grounded
Shows me the way
His Love and mercy
Filling me each day
My thoughts they keep on coming
As my heart
Thankful for love and grace
Thankful that it shows
Is my gift
I give myself today
Until my dying day.
I love this! I love the picture of Maria’s and her daughter’s tattoos on their wrists they got a few years ago! How beautiful the reminder that there is always sunshine on a cloudy day! How beautiful that those words of hope ring true for her and for my own heart today! The sun always shines above the clouds, even when I can’t see it or feel its warmth! When my own life is not going the way I thought it would or think it should, this poem will gently remind my heart that there is ALWAYS GREAT HOPE!! Thank you again Maria! You are a gift!