1. cut out (tissue or part of an organ).


Today is a day to consider that which might need to be cut out of my life.  To consider what tissue is participating in bringing life forward, and what tissue might be destroying it.


What impedes the flow of blood

Or breath?


What grows and replicates in ways it should not?

What is malign?

And what is benign but should not be there just the same?


This is a task of

Compassion and precision.


Today is a day to remember


Today is a day to affirm life

And cut out

All that does not.




Today of all Days

I was unconscious to the thing that saved my life.

Knife slipped through skin.

Danced around nerves.  Vessels.

Cut away the danger.

Sliced out the disease.

All While I slept.

(I wonder about the conversation they had over me

Did they talk about the weather, their love lives, what they’d have for lunch

Over my splayed out body?  I’ll never know…

Why does that trouble me?)


Today I shall be awake.

To that which saves my life…

To that which IS my life.


I want to taste and see.

Smell, feel, hear.


I want to breathe

Long, cool, droughts of air.

Or even heave deep breaths

Of lung-burning.



Today calls for Super-Hero senses

To suck up all that I am alive to.


I know it may not all be good.

The kids will giggle, but they will also bicker.

I will feel gratefulness.

But I may also remember fear.


And I may seek excitement.

But feel boredom in the end.


That is ok.

It doesn’t all have to be good

To be



But today, of all days,





Adventy Advent

It has been an exceptionally Adventy Advent.  Full of darkness that I couldn’t quite explain….  full of grasping and digging in with my finger nails for any shread of light.

I’m not even sure how to tell you about it, though I have tried to several times.

It was as if I just found myself in a room where the lights went off…  like someone had forgotten to pay the power bill and the past due notices weren’t getting through in the mail and suddenly with a click and a buzz and then a stillness, the darkness arrived and I yelped out loud at it’s totality.

The thing is, there should have been more light this year.  We are at the tail end of a deployment….  As people have been reminding me since before he left, “How wonderful that he will be home for Christmas!”

An Advent of waiting has been made very tangile.  My girls and I have been straining forward in this act of waiting for months now and we are about to realize the delight of the appearance of our beloved.

That’s a metaphor that’ll preach, no?

And yet…  the darkness has engulfed me.  Flat knocked the wind out of me.  Is it the fatigue of simply being on deployment number 5?  Is it the darkness that surely the whole world is feeling with the attacks around the world-Paris, Beirut, San Bernadino?  Is it the darkness of Bigotry that potential leaders are now spewing quite vocally and visibly instead of in dark corners?

Is it biochemical?   The short, grey PNW days have caught up to me again?

Or muscle memory from other dark Advents…  the year of the miscarriage…  the Christmases when we didn’t have him home…  the year of the tumor…  the year of learning to live without my Mom.

I don’t know.

My friend, Lia, posted a blog this week that had a paragraph that hit home so hard I choked on it.

Every year I think now this year, this is the year I finally *get* Advent. The sadness, the waiting, the longing for all things to be made new. And every year I do understand it a little bit better. This does not show any sign of stopping.”

It doesn’t show any sign of stopping….  it seems to be something that is inside of me this time of year and I can do nothing but let it in to do a work in me.

I vacilate between embracing it and rebelling against it.

There are moments when I have exhaled in deep relief when I realized that it was advent…  As I’ve written before, Advent gets the darkness.  “O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”

If there is a time in the church calendar for the darkness  and the light that follows to be allowed in to do it’s work, it is this one

But in the face of fighting for the emotions that I want to have–namely relief, excitement, joy at my husband’s impending return I have also been deeply discouraged by the darkness.  Discouraged and distressed.

I have felt shattered.  shipwrecked.

And panicked honestly.

I offer no answers here…  I haven’t found the end of this darkness, though I hope that some of it will lift when I find myself in the arms of my husband again.

I only know that in this season the darkness is acknowledged and expressed and invited in to do some myserious furniture moving in our souls….

And this is so because light is coming.  “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world…”

I can invite the darkness in and hand it a snack and a blanket because it is working something out in me….  something that will be redeemed in a shaft of light, and an unexpectedely small form.

It will not get the final word.

This year, as in every year, the light will overcome the darkness…

I will hold tight to that here as I wait for the lights to come back on.





Dear Dr. C,

Dear Dr. C,

Eight years ago, I sat in your office trembling…  Because I was going to have to ask for help.  I was going to have to talk about things I didn’t want to talk about.  I was going to have to say the word ‘depression’ out loud.

And I did.  And I promptly ran away from it and denied that it could have anything to do with me.

You didn’t run away from it.  Or from me and my tears and my over-talking and my telling you about a few years worth of grief and challenge.

You listened.  You handed me a tissue.  And then you helped me want to get better.

There are these holy moments that happen during our ordinary days.  Both of us thought that visit would be pretty ordinary.  I mean, I knew it would be uncomfortable and that it was a big step to ask for help…  but I also knew that it was a 15 minute appointment in the middle of your day that was crammed full of appointments.

You couldn’t have known that the words that you would say that day would be words I called up continually 8 years later.  Or that you shared such wisdom and such insight into my life that day that I would use the same wisdom and insight to unpack events that would happen far into the future.

I must have seemed like a tea pot just hissing and spitting out water uncontrollably at you that day.  I cried.  I recounted the two years prior–the deployments.  Losing my Mom. Her illness. Being pregnant and all the memories it stirred up.

As much as I didn’t want it to be depression, I didn’t want it to be grief even more.  And you called me out on it.

You watched my body language.  You said you saw me actually try to push the words down and away from me as I told you that it wasn’t grief I was dealing with.

I was so angry that my body betrayed me to you.

But I have always felt a sense of grateful awe that you paid such close attention.

You said the word “bereavement,” and I recoiled…

I was supposed to be over the grief by then, I thought.  Only two years out from losing my Mama and I wanted it to be “over.”

You told me there was no finish line….  and that it was ok that I wasn’t through this yet.  You said it wasn’t a race and that there was all the time in the world to feel what I needed and get to the other side.

And then you cast a vision for me….  You helped me look forward in a place where all I could do was look back…  and then see where I was in that moment and feel stuck.  Just so very stuck in depression and sadness and things I just couldn’t seem to get over.

You helped me believe that it could be better and that happier moments were coming.

You told me that day, “Val.  You have faced a lot of challenges.  I can see that.  And I believe that in the not too distant future, you are going to look back at this time and say, ‘I got through that too.'”

I have echoed those words more times than I can count.  I have said it to women who were battling with postpartum illnesses.  I have said it to friends who were overwhelmed with challenges.

I have said it to myself when the mountains loomed high and my fear felt even higher.

I have gone over and over those words that happened in that one simple office visit for eight years now.  But I have also referenced those words in conversations with others, in speeches, and at retreats.

Holy moments that echoed deeply into the future that came out of you just doing your job.  Listening.  Paying attention.  Taking the time to be compassionate.

8 years later, and you no longer practice medicine here.  In fact, I heard through the grapevine that you aren’t even in the state anymore.

But tonight as I reference your wisdom yet again and think about that day and how deeply caught and cared for I felt, gratitude springs up in me.  And I desperately want the chance to just say THANK YOU.

Thank you for showing up.  Thank you for doing your job well.  Thank you for practicing the kind of medicine that sees people–even in a system that tends to push people through like an assembly line of illness.

You did cast a vision for me that day, and I grabbed on and held tight for dear life.  Your words stayed with me and have reverberated into other challenges.  You helped me get through cancer with those words–and that was years before I’d even feel a lump.  You gave me those words to call on during deployments, and other bouts of depression.

You reminded me that life would be a string of “I got through that too,” and that rather than that meaning that life was a string of challenges, it would mean that life was a string of triumphs.

Dr. C, wherever you are I hope you know that you make a difference.  I hope you are still showing up with compassion and really listening.  I hope your detective skills and your perceptiveness of body language is still just as keen.

It was an ordinary moment on what, I assume, was a very ordinary day of office visits for you.

But it changed my life in ways that continue to echo on.

It was the definition of the holy ordinary.

That’s what real healing looks like.  That’s good medicine.

With gratefulness,


The Power of Moms

Moms are amazing.

Over the last few months I have had occasion more than once to worry about things going on with my kids.  My worry radar got so loud a few times that it was deafening and I started casting it out hoping to get any signal back in return.
I checked in with experts, and some of them have been very helpful.  They gave me information and systems to try and some of them even worked.
But it’s been the Moms in my life who have come through.  Who heard the blipping of my signal and listened to me pour out my worries and fears and insecurities and instead of glancing over them, helped me to know I wasn’t alone in them.  Then they told me what worked for THEM.  They told me their story.  They told me about the times that they felt hopeless, and then the progress that they made from that point.  They told me about times that things went well and times that they really didn’t.
It’s been the Moms in my life who have said, “You know, I don’t have the answer to that, but let me connect you to someone who does,” and invariably the person that they connected me to was ANOTHER MOM.
Moms research tirelessly, they get fierce when something is hurting their babies and they strike back not with claws and teeth (well, sometimes with claws and teeth too), but with information sought out and hard-won.  They fight with trial and error.  They fight with their guts and intuition.

And then they are willing to invite other Moms paddling in the same boat into their own experience.

The thing is, there is nothing that will move you to action more than seeing your kid struggle and not knowing what to do about it.  And there is no one who can understand how that breaks your heart for your child and brings up core questions about who you are as a parent, like another Mom.

So thank you Moms in my life.  Some of you are people who I barely know, or know only because we were both stumbling around for help for our kids and ourselves and ran into one another.  Some of you are friends who have walked with me a long time and who have helped me know time and time again that I am not alone in this journey of raising kids–I hope I’ve been able to tell you the same a time or two.

Thank you for loving your kids with fire and passion and a desire to move mountains when they get in the way of your kids health and happiness.

And thank you for hearing the blips of another Mom’s worry radar and sitting with her until she feels ready to stand up and say “I got this.”

We do got this.  Because we do it together.

A Proposal for Mother’s Day

History of Mother’s Day

As I am wont to do every year at this time, I have been pondering Mother’s Day.

Since my Mom died….  almost ten years ago (how is that possible?) the day has been a hard one for me.  When I look for cards for the other people in my life who have mothered me or my family, I can’t help but feel socked in the gut by mising her.  It’s a hole that I feel all the time, even though I funcion well around it most of the time  But when this day on the calendar comes around I stub my toe on what I am missing over and over and over again.

Pain almost always opens the doorway to empathy for others if we let it.  Feeling the pain of missing my Mom on Mother’s Day opened my eyes to others for whom the day was less than celebratory.  Before long I realized that my friends who were dealing with infertility felt their own empty arms more acutely on this day.  That my friends who had lost babies missed the hand-made cards with crayon and backward letters.  My friends who had chosen not to be mother’s felt de-valued and were reminded again that society inflates motherhood in a way that can make a woman feel invisible if she doesn’t have a child.

I have friends who had difficult relationships with their mothers or who were abandoned by them.  This day stings for them too.  I have friends whose husband’s are deployed and the person who would normally lead the charge in celebrating them isn’t there.

I’ve come to believe that almost any holiday is a double-edged sword for some people, but Mother’s Day seems to be a day which can cut especially deep.

But….  BUT…  Mother’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of women who deserve to be celebrated.  And each year when I’ve felt mopey or expressed the difficulties of the day there was another voice that whispered, “Lighten up!  It’s just a day about appreciating people!  Should the amazing mothers of the world not be appreciated simply because a Hallmark Holiday is painful for several subgroups of people?”

In fact, proposing to do anything but happily celebrate Mother’s Day can actually be pretty controversial.  And that makes sense I guess.  There is a reason “Your Momma” jokes end in fist-fights so often, right?  I learned this the hard way this year when a sharing of my favorite Author’s sentiments on the subject of the difficulty of Mother’s Day rapid cycled into name-calling and anger and “I’ll celebrate Mom’s if I want!” type sentiments.

It took me a while to pinpoint why it was that the defensiveness bothered me so, but finally I did.  I realized that what that communicated to me was that in the name of clinging to the celebration of the day, people were deliberately choosing to overlook the expressed pain of others who struggled with the day.

And that led me to the idea of Support.  Because I don’t know a woman in the world who isn’t in need of support in one way or another.

What if the day wasn’t just a day of Celebration but also a day of Support?

This is what I’m proposing…  for myself at least.

For this Mother’s Day and the ones that follow, I want to focus on honoring and supporting the women in my life.  In my mind, and on my calendars I am going to cross off ‘Mother’s Day’ and make it ‘Support All the Women!’ day.

And to celebrate this auspiciously and personally re-named holiday I am going to do things like…  Bring Ice Cream to the daughters of my dear friend who passed away this year.  Because I know this Mother’s Day is going to hit them hard.

I am going to send cards and flowers and gifts to the women in my family who love me and my babies so well as Mothers and Grammas.

I am going to listen to my friend who speaks out about her choice to be childless and how she finds her highest happiness and feels the most herself because of, not in spite of, that choice.

I am going to celebrate and thank the women around me who give birth to ideas, and beauty, and the affecting of change in the world around me each and every day….  whether or not they have also birthed children.

I am going to enjoy the cards that my babies make and the flowers that they pick for me.  When my husband is home, I will revel in that, and when he isn’t I’ll revel in the love he sends me across the miles.

I am going to reach out to those, who like me, are missing their mother’s.

I am going to reach out to those who I know are battling infertility.  Or who have been pierced by the loss of a child.

I am going to choose to see all the facets of the women in my life and all the ways in which a day focused on the role of Motherhood impacts them.  Because let’s face it, Motherhood is as often villainized as it is venerated.

And I am just going to simply choose love on this day, which has been historically hard for me.  And in doing so, I think I will find the feelings of celebration that I’ve felt so guilty for overshadowing for the last several years.

Women in My Life:  Know this.  I see you.  I appreciate and celebrate you.  I love you.  I want to hear the hard of this day–and others.  I want to celebrate with you the joys that this day brings!  I want to shout out loud all the ways you birth life and ideas and creativity into the world.  I want to weep with you, and laugh with you, and be with you, and SUPPORT you.

Because above all else.  Regardless of choices or life circumstances, we ALL need support, and love, and to be seen right where we are.

Mrs. S’s Opus

Recently, my high school PE teacher came onto the Facebook scene.  She was THAT teacher.  The one that everybody loved not because she was lenient or “fun” but because she just cared that much.  And she was a PE teacher who made you feel good about yourself even when you sucked at PE  (ask me how I know).  She would wade right into the awkward and hard discussions that you needed to have in High School, but most adults wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole.  Everybody wanted her as a confidante and confessor.  And I think that was largely why during my junior year when her co-teacher died (and he could be a whole other post ) , she left teaching and didn’t come back.  It wasn’t just his death, but it was all of the brokeness that she held for all the students who came into her office.  It clean broke her open and she wasn’t sure she could recover from it.  I remember her sitting in the vestibule between the locker room and the gym just weeping the morning after we found out the news.  I remember the vacantness in her eyes and the feeling that something was irreparably shattered.  She kept showing up for us the rest of the year…. but the next year she didn’t come back.

So anyway, she is on Facebook after all of these years and a bunch of us found her immediately–most likely because we’ve all been searching her name and doing low-level stalking to touch base with her.   It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen on the vapid landscape of Facebook, to watch her interacting with former students.  She posted  a profile photo last week in which she is still looking so lovely and young.  And when people said so and someone asked her secret she said, “Well, my dear G, it is the opportunity to choose the outfit, pose, lighting etc. that helps a bunch. It also doesn’t hurt to move early and often, hydrate, sunscreen, have the luxury of working half time, yoga, looking for the good, prayer, hubby that keeps me sane, writing notes to lift others up, give legit compliments, have lovely children and family, oh, and Oil of Olay twice a day. I bet you are sorry you asked, eh?” which I just so stinking loved.

I’m watching all of these people from my past say the same thing, “You have no idea how you changed my life.  You were so kind.  I am different because you cared about me.”  And it’s the poor kids and the kids who had plenty.  It’s the band geeks and the FFA kids.  It’s the special ed. kids and the honor students.  The nerds and the popular kids.  There are names there of people who I have long put on my ‘chronically mean, don’t look back’ list, because they were the villains in my story of high school, that are saying all the same things as the rest of us.   I’m fascinated by that because they needed her just as much (probably more) than the rest of us and she SAW that and GOT it and didn’t put labels on them like I did, and have retained to this day.

That makes me challenge some of those labels and question why I’ve held onto them so long.  Truly those people who were the villains in my high school story were also just awkward teenagers, trying to make sense of the world with hormones and acne and heartache and the margins of our small town crashing in against us all.  My eyes are softer this evening even just considering that.

When she left teaching she went on to work in the university setting doing wellness programs for faculty, I think.  She found a way to balance passion with taking care of herself.  I suspect part of her felt guilty for going.  I suspect that maybe things she went on to pursue never quite lit her up as much as her years in teaching did….  But I also suspect her heart was given the chance to heal and she found gracious space as a result.   She is the kind of person who would push back the darkness in any setting and I have no doubt that she continued to change lives with her authentic and radical kindness.

Mind-blowing really, what kindness can do and how lasting the effects of it can be.  It doesn’t seem to be a power house.  It’s easy to blow off and brush by, but when a person just plain chooses to like you without reservations or labels or judgement, amazing transformation can begin to take place.

I’m watching Mrs. S’s Opus unfold on Facebook, and it’s a glorious melody.  Would that we could all change our corners of the world as she has.