Tackle It.

Tackling the Mess.

The day of reckoning arrived. The hallway linen closet had gained a will of its own and needed to be tamed. Piles of towels and sheets had been displaced in the laundry room for weeks, waiting for their designated cupboard parking spaces to clear. Two full Goodwill donation bags helped clear the space and I won the battle! The closet is redeemed, for now.

There's something motivating about other people's before and after stories. Which is why I want you to see these pictures -- and be encouraged. Tackling just one closet or messy drawer can be extremely satisfying.

So, if you need a winter blues boost, take the Spring Closet Challenge with me. You don't have to conquer the world and put it all back in order -- just tackle one closet or drawer. And, if you're like me, you'll find yourself pathetically walking past the newly clean space just to stop to stare.
Somehow, it's an empowering simplicity -- especially when other parts of life are feeling a bit chaotic. So, go ahead. Tackle it.


Oh ... so, THAT's Why.

The apparent origins of maternal 'smothering.'

Claire/ Wife:
"You think I smother our children?!"

"It's not your fault, honey. 'Mother' is already in the word. You never hear of anyone 'sfathering' their children to death."

Quote from, Modern Family,
"Starry Night" episode.

Microwave Orphans

An abandoned mug and a beeping microwave. Today's reminder to respond to the quiet beep of our kids.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Beep. My microwave oven has a beep which usually goes unheard. I pop the lukewarm coffee mug in for one last warm-up. I hit 'reheat'. The familiar microhummm begins. I head off to do something 'real quick.' Often, the scalding hot coffee sits too long and returns to room temperature. Abandoned, it becomes a microwave orphan.

The microwave does it's best to remind me. It lets out a quiet little "Beep." A few seconds later, "Beep." No response. "Beep."

I'll be off doing whatever I was going to do 'real quick' and stop to wonder, "Now... where did my coffee go?" I'll even wander into the kitchen looking for my mug without any recollection of my supposed re-heat, until the "Beep."

"Oh. There you are." I say. As though the mug were hiding.

I inherited this trait from my mother. So did my sisters. It's a familiar family quirk. Nobody thinks twice about it until we're together for reunions or visits. Then, our forgetful similarity becomes humorous. We laugh about it. "Who left their tea in the microwave??"

Today's little beeping reminder got me thinking about things unattended. My kids used to beep in crescendos. When they were little, they'd do the common Doppler affect call. Like an approaching truck on a highway, they'd start quiet, then louder, and louder and loudest, then quieter, then quieter, then disappearance. "... mom... Mom... MOM.... MOM ... MOM ... mom ... mom ... never mind ..." The best choice is to respond as the call approaches, before it gains decibels, and well before abandonment. It's a mother's learned science and timing.

What is beeping for attention right now? Is it noise, or importance?

If my child is beeping loudly, chances are good, whatever else I'm doing should wait. Yes, there are times when it's just TOO MUCH beeping. True. Sometimes the beeping must be curbed.

However, more often than not, they are beeping because my attention has departed -- shifted elsewhere. It's hard to step away from the computer, or the deadline, or the phone call, or the neverending list. It is. A million 'urgencies' clamor louder than our kids needs. Truth is, most of our busy-ness can, and should, wait. The people in our lives need to be first in line -- before the busy junk.

Today's Lesson from the Microwave:
I need to get better at listening and responding, lest the important people in my life feel abandoned like orphans, and grow cold like my coffee.

Speaking of which.
I'm off to retrieve an orphaned mug ...

Calibrated Scales

Looking at my cheap bathroom scale. Step on. Step off. The needle slips back and forth, left and right of the benchmark mark. The baseline moves from 2 pounds to 299 pounds to 0. The needle lists away. I adjust it back to "0", again. How much do I really weigh?

Enemies and Allies. Depending on the day, I can believe what I want to believe about my shape. My clothes are like my confidants on the matter. They are my allies or enemies, fat or skinny. Fat clothes without waistlines drape and cover me like 'yes' men and let me believe whatever I want to believe about my condition. They blur the truth. Fat clothes are my soft peace-loving and codependent allies. Skinny clothes on the other hand, are like boney adolescent enemies. They tsk and whisper to my fears without any grace, "That zipper won't go up. It's time to embrace this plump pear shape. Forever." My clothes have an opinion. Like most women, all that I choose to believe about my shape on any given day is dependent on a lot of moody variables, and which clothes are talking louder.

[Enter the Scale]

Mine isn't working. It works just enough to give me a general idea. And honestly, that works for me because I go on how I feel in my body rather than how much my body exactly weighs. It's not the pounds, it's the feeling that matters most. That said, I do have a bottom and top target weight range. If I stay inbounds, it's all good. My scale works well enough for that. And lately it's apparent, I'm way out of range. 'Time to start back up with reasonable exercise, and some attention to the quality of what goes in my mouth. That's all. So be it. I know what to do. It's just a matter of choosing it.

This recent weight repentance has me thinking about the necessity of scales in another way.

It matters what scales we choose. If I choose to use a scale that doesn't really tell me the truth, there is still wiggle room for me to believe what I want. "Oh, the scale isn't working. That can't be right." I'll listen to my codependent fat clothes, instead. They still fit and feel good. "I'm fine." It's possible to have a scale that doesn't work, and still believe the numbers because it says what you want to hear. A scale like that won't transform my life for the better.

So, what about the things that matter way more than calories and pounds? I'm talking about weightier matters that involve the contents of my character -- things like trust, love, patience, devotion, fidelity, honesty, integrity.

What's my scale for these?

This sounds so dogmatic and preachy. I don't know how to say it otherwise. But lately, I've been thinking about my personal gauge, my moral compass. It's the contents of my Jesus faith. The numbers on my scale are Spirit and Truth. I engage with them in the sacred words of the Bible or in prayer. There's a deep and gently correcting quality in both -- if I choose to use them -- if I choose to "step on the scale". And, I go in seasons.

Out of Shape. Sometimes 'holidays' creep into the discipline of my spiritual days. And so begins an incremental accumulation of excess weight to my stride. I get slow and lazy. Procrastination creeps in. Discipline shrinks back. God's Spirit gets quieter. People's opinions get louder. Other things slide into the space in my day where meditation and study used to belong. I get spiritually flabby and out of shape. When I don't make the choice to weigh-in with something other than my feelings, I can indefinitely tell myself, "I'm fine."

Reality is, my inner shape impacts in the way I love God or people. Or rather, the way I don't.

Re-calibrated. Recently, I stepped back on my spiritual scale and re-engaged. My biblical compass tells me God's love is unconditional, regardless of what undisciplined shape I'm in. And that's gracious reason to exhale and engage. But dang, it sure feels bad to face the scale and start over. It's been like turning on the light in a dark room that hasn't been cleaned for weeks. Practically speaking, I'm compelled me to confess all sorts of crappy things to my husband and friends that seemed 'fine' only days ago: That one thing I said, that hurtful choice I made, the way I disappointed or angered someone due to selfishness or greed. It's like a reorientation -- re-calibrating to "0".

The weigh-in feels bad, initially. Pride hates a weigh-in. But, there's something cleansing and free about admission and repentance. It takes down my heavy self-absorption and resets me in a lighter learning posture. I call it 'hitting spiritual cntl/alt/delete'. And the hardest part is the simplest first step toward the scale.

So, in case you've got a little time to think, I'll leave a handful of questions:

  • Are there codependent 'yes men' (i.e. fat clothes) in your life that you turn to, instead of seeking truth about yourself? (If so, jot them down).
  • Are their judgmental enemies (i.e. skinny clothes) that cause you shame and self-condemnation? Who/what are they?
  • Where do you turn for trustworthy inner re-calibration?

Similar articles:

Grace's Weight

False Horizon

Necessary Space

Sarah Sings St. Francis

A Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury,pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.




Hello, Biscuit

Dogs on the road. For no reason, one of my sons aquired a catch-phrase for car dogs. A dog traveler would pass by in the back of a pick-up, or pant at us out the window at a stoplight, and my son would say, "Well, helllooo Biscuit." All dogs were Biscuit, the same way comman man is named John or Jane Doe. It was understood among us, and always funny.
Jane Doe Arrives. A couple years ago, a cute little boxer arrived at our door. We didn't know where she came from, but she was wiggly, loving, and built like a midget horse. She wanted to come in. Her entire stump-tailed rump wagged, her mouth looked like she was smiling, and her ears were cocked like she was asking a silent question. "Can I come in?"
In that instance, the right answer would be, "No, you need to go home to your people." I didn't give the right answer. She came in and gallopped around the house like an ADD bull in a china shop. Hilarious.
Biscuit. I took her out on the front porch and sat down with her. I searched her tags for a number to call. To my surprise, the tag around her neck said, "Biscuit." So, just imagine the dog's reaction when minutes later, my son came out to see what was going on, and said, "Well, Hellloooo Biscuit." It was spontaneous boxer combustion.
Neighbor Friends. Over the years, Biscuit has become a familiar visitor. She makes us laugh and we enjoy her family. Initially, they were apologetic and embarrassed when she'd escape. The first few times she appeared, we would call, and they would drive up get her. Now, when they see she's gone, they just drive up. It's an unspoken understanding. Once they went on vacation, and their house instructions included directions to our house in case Biscuit got out of the backyard.
In order to curb the visits, I decided not to let Biscuit come in anymore. And, then, we didn't see her at all. Ever. I thought maybe she'd been given a new home. A couple weeks ago I saw her people at a high school meeting. Since it had been so long since she'd come for a dog visit, I actually asked if she was ok. Everybody chuckled. Yes. She was doing just fine.
That little stretch of absence is over. Yesterday, I pulled up the driveway and found a wiggling mass of muscles happily waiting for us. It's like a doggie playdate. She runs around with our dog until they are both ready to pass out from exhaustion. The picture (above) was taken a few hours ago -- our second visit in two days. I had just poured a cup of coffee and had to smile when her round face was peering in at me from the porch window.

My first words this morning?

"Helllooo, Biscuit."



Paved Paradise

Part II: Lessons from the Barking Lot

Pillow Talk. I was tired of carrying my loveseat pillow around the resale store. Turns out, the comforter I was considering as a match had already been sold. So, the pillow and I headed back out to the parking lot. "Where's my car?" Fatal error. I hadn't paid attention. My car was nowhere to be found.

Parking Lot Fail. There have been times when I have wandered around parking lots looking for my car like a lost child in a mall. I end up searching aimlessly while thinking about people who have althzeimers or amnesia. One time my friend Darla pulled up next to me at Wal-Mart. She saw me wandering. I told her I'd be fine. She was doubtful, but left me to find my way. A minute after she left, I found my car and realized another car had been following me; a friendly older man and his wife. The complete stranger rolled down his window, "Did you find your car?" I wondered to myself, "Dang. Do I look so obviously LOST?" I thanked him, waved goodbye, and sheepishly unloaded my bags into the trunk.

Dog Vertigo. On this particular parking lot day, the pillow and I didn't have concerned bystanders -- just dogs. For some reason, there were a lot of dogs in backseats and behind steering wheels that day. Barking dogs. I got a visual lock on my red Vibe and headed toward it. The barking got louder -- high pitched little-dog yips were coming from the same general vicinity as my car. The closer I got, the louder they got. Upon arrival, I discovered a schnauzer and a white poodle jumping wildly in my front seat, barking at me like I was a burglar. I stood, staring blankly, like Laura Ingalls Wilder in an Air and Space museum. Nothing was recognizable.
"What am I looking at?" I asked the pillow, "Where did these dogs come from?"

3 ... 2 ... 1.
Fog lifted.
"Oohhhh. Wait. This isn't my car."

People with greater parking lot competency would have picked up on that little dog nuance much sooner ... maybe even from a distance. Not me. Not that day.

Please tell me you know what I'm talking about.

They're Back.

Breakfast will never be the same.
(Another batch of unexpected refrigerator guests, compliments of Isaac.)

40 Something

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count.
It's the life in your years."
Abraham Lincoln

Pink Fly

A random sketch of a fly, and the difficult flight of faith.

Reprint Post:
Written, April 2006

Beyond the windowsill, Pikes Peak looms large, immovable, dusted with snow and pink light. On the windowsill, the same pink morning sun bathes a big clumsy black housefly. The pink makes me think it’s a she. “She” is flipped on her back, wings buzzing, frantically attempting to right herself. Legs kicking upright in the air like a big beetle. She is fighting to flip over and fly. She is a pink fly, fat and boxy. And, she is very close to falling off the edge of the sill. Thrashing wings and kicking legs, then resting, she is teetering closer and closer to a large drop. I lean in closer and squint at her many large fly eyes, “What got you in this spot? How does a fly land on her back?” Poor judgment, I decide.
The Struggle. She rests, and then begins the flailing struggle again. Each panicked jolt moves her closer to a fall. She is trying to save herself. From my comfortable chair- turned- box-seat, I see that her only saving option is over the edge. She needs to quit struggling and fall. One helpless trusting freefall is her only hope. She can stay there, baking to a dry death in the beautiful pink sun, or she can choose to have faith over the falling edge. And the falling edge is her best option. Because clearly, when a fly falls, flight happens.

This is obvious from a box seat. But it’s less clear as a fly on a windowsill. As she struggles, I realize. I am that housefly; awkward and clumsy, such an unlikely candidate for flight. That pink fly is a picture of my gawky upside-down struggle to live a Christ- Following faith.
I bought a lie early on that has continually landed me flailing on my back like the fly. It has to do with control. It has to do with inner personal strength, and being all put-together, and having the right answers, and doing the right things. I used to think my faith needed to look like a walking advertisement of God-given self-sufficiency. But I’m starting to understand the lie for what it is. It’s not Christ Following. It’s controlling self-preservation. There is very little control in Following Jesus. There is no preserving of self. I’m called to follow; no matter how bad I might look in the process. Sometimes I hate that part.
Hidden Mess. I am a recovering clothes slob. Every few days I have to conquer the pile of clothes that accumulates at the foot of my closet. If left unattended, a long mound of clothes and laundry begins to grow and spread like cancer. My husband and I have to trip and step over and around it to get into the bathroom. That’s the truth. But I don’t want everybody to know that.

One spring morning, my clothes mound was in full bloom, and I had a group of women coming over. I spent an hour or so of fast hustling to get my house clean and looking perfect, so, that I would seem perfect for the new friends who arrived at my house. We were going to meet to get to know each other, and talk about our spiritual questions. There were all sorts of busy hospitality issues to tend, in order to make myself look tidy and all 'put together.' In the end, none of those fussy perfectionistic things mattered. Not one.

Uncovered. Before the little meeting, every part of my house was spotless, except for the malignant mound of clothes around the corner in my bedroom. It was hidden from view. Nobody would need to use that bathroom. Nobody would have to climb over that laundry mountain. Or so I thought. Jane brought her 6 year old son. He wasn’t feeling well. When he realized that breakfast was coming back up for a visit, the guest bathroom was occupied. So my friend, and her son, in a panicked pre-vomit rush, ran into my room. My mound of clothes slowed the sick boy’s run. He threw- up all over my clothes.

There were many things to learn from that experience. The bigger lesson wasn’t about laundry. It was about weakness exposed. I came to realize later, of all the women that came that day, Jane most needed to see that one very imperfect thing in my house. It matched her own weakness. She needed to know I don’t have it all together. It was beneficial for her to know how I would love and accept her, even if she entered my vulnerable place and her children vomited there.
In the clothes mound, I found new understanding of letting go of control. It's important to embrace the moments that expose my imperfections, even when it feels like failure. The relational bond that resulted from unchosen barf on my hidden clothes is an important reminder. God has the ability to weave unexpected beauty and freedom into vulnerable moments of weakness.

Falling and Dying. This way-of-being plays out in many harder ways; ways that feel like being upside down with our legs scrambling in the air; ways that land me on my back and make my pride flail on the window sill like the gangly Pink Fly. These are the crisis choices of surface struggle; when false horizons scream that God's ways are not to be trusted.
When a job is evaporating,
or suicide is beckoning,
or addiction returns,
or a child is abused,
or chronic illness goes unhealed,
or a spouse is betrayed,
or a house is burned to the ground …
Sin-cursed issues like these force a choice. The first most obvious choice always appears to be an all out surface struggle -- self-reliance, self-preservation like the up-ended fly on the sill. But often, the best choice is a counter-intuitive trust in something other than self.

Fact is, faith isn't lived by sight. Sometimes a spiritual life has to choose in opposition to physical evidence: even if it means looking foolish, even if it all looks hopeless, even if all my weaknesses are exposed in the process and I end up with vomit on my clothes. This upside down Way is still Life, even when it feels like falling and dying.
Trust and Flight. I want to learn to embrace faith in God’s control and quickly flip my flailing into graceful falling and trusting flight. But fact is, I still buy the surface lie. I still see the physical world first. I still control. I still doubt. I still want to look good. And I certainly haven’t figured out how to embrace dying-to-self in a way that feels more like flight, and less like the clumsy pink fly on her back trying to right herself. It takes practice to be otherwise. It takes time to be transformed.
The Fly. This brings me back to the window sill. I wish every daily choice were always as obvious as the fly’s struggle. From the box-seat, it is clear. But, she doesn’t see it. Even though that fly has 1000 eyes, her physical sight is of little value. She doesn’t see that she must choose a helpless freefall. She needs to skootch all the way to the edge of reason, and choose a blind leap of faith in order to fly again.
Maybe her surface struggle is a necessary means to knowing flight. And for me, maybe the physical struggles of this planet are the best access to truly seeing and knowing the one Saving God. I feel like that fly; because, a lived faith is often accompanied by a clumsy, falling, dying sensation. Like her, my best option, is usually to quit struggling, stop, trust, and just fall into flight.

Or maybe she’s just a clumsy Pink Fly who found her way to the window’s edge and flew away. And I’m making way too much of it all.

“If anyone would come after me,he must deny himself and
take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me, will save it.”
~ Jesus


Image: "Pink Fly" logo from PINK FLY womens boutique and environmentally friendly products in Victoria, Australia.

Paved Paradise

Being twin-car-families with strangers in a small town can cause embarrassing wave mix-ups and serious parking lot confusion.

Lessons from the Parking Lot:

We used to have the same big old maroon buffalo ( a.k.a. GMC Suburban ) as another family here in town. Friends of the other family would mistakenly wave at me now and then. I didn't mind. It was funny to see the wavers suddenly realize they'd mis-waved. I'd smile and wave back anyhow.

Even though we never actually met, our families obviously had things in common. The other Maroon Buffalo family also had kids at Columbine Elementary School and they shared our tendency to go too long between car washes. In a moment of great confusion, I discovered one other coincidental similarity between us.

I had just dropped off a permission slip for Lucas' 4th grade field trip. On my way back out to the parking lot, I sifted through my pockets and fished out my keys. Completely on auto-pilot, thinking about my next errand and without looking down, I reflexively stuck my key in the hole and opened the door. It should have been immediately apparent. But I stood there, staring at the front seats like Laura Ingalls Wilder in a Simply Mac store. Nothing was making sense. Nothing was recognizable. "What am I looking at?"

Wrong interior. Wrong bucket seats. Wrong worn out console. 3. 2. 1. Fog lifted. "Hey ... this isn't my car." We even had the SAME KEYS as the other Maroon Buffalo family. What are the odds?

I immediately relocked and shut their door. While searching for the correct vehicle, I wondered if the other Maroon Buffalo Mom had ever done the same thing with our truck. She would have seen the goop spills -- or unidentifiable objects may have come tumbling out at her feet. Not to worry. Since we were living in parallel universes, I suspect she would have understood. We'll never know. One thing I do know, our twin key family could have really been a great scape goat for a whole lot of shoes, coats and assignments that dissapeared without explanation. "I don't know where that went. But, there's this family, they have a key to our truck ... " That handy little trump card might have been valuable, but, it went un-played.

With our twin Buffalo days now gone, I kind of miss having the other family's friends wave at us. But I must say, a parking lot is a lot less confusing when you don't have identical cars and keys in common with strangers.

Again ... what are the odds?!

False Horizon

A Floating Black Suitcase. July 19, 1999, Martha's Vineyard. JFK Jr. and his wife were still missing when the wreckage of their airplane started to appear. "There is always hope," said Coast Guard Lt. Gary Jones, "But unfortunately, when you find certain pieces of evidence, you have to be prepared for anything." U.S. Coast Guard officials confirmed that debris from the aircraft was recovered in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 yards off the Vineyard, along with a black suitcase. Evidence of lost lives had come floating to the surface.

Ashes. Four days later, hope abandoned, three brass urns were all that remained. In a shipside ceremony, the Kennedys and Bessettes released three loved ones into the sea, one by one. Next of kin scattered the ashes of John F. Kennedy Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette; and her sister Lauren Bessette into the waves.

What happened? John Kennedy Jr. was an American icon. As the 'Prince of Camelot', the legendary son of a legendary president was regularly seen smiling on the covers of tabloids. His photos are a part of US history. Burned into our collective memory is the image of him in those red shoes, standing by his mom, saluting his father's passing casket. As his life-long audience, Americans wanted answers for John Jr.'s sudden crashing death.

Weeks after the fatal accident, the National Safety Transportation Board would investigate the accident and find no mechanical malfunction. The fatal error pointed to the pilot. According to the Washington Post, JFK Jr was what aviators call a "low-time" pilot; he had his license, but he had only logged around 300 hours in the air. He had broken his ankle playing sports the month prior. And he was at the controls of a high-performance Piper Saratoga after spending most of his two years of flying in a smaller Cessna -- a complicated plane beyond the pilot's ability or preparation. Experts said that "300 hours would have left Kennedy at an experience level when pilots often become overconfident and are not sufficiently seasoned to recognize dangerous situations."

With no mechanical or structural defects found, investigators determined that "Kennedy lost his bearings, and then control of the plane, while flying over a dark ocean in thick haze. Hundreds of pilots have died in similar conditions, without visual cues to up and down. "

False Horizon. There is a gauge on a pilot's panel designed specifically to indicate the true horizon. Certain cloud patterns or weather conditions can occur during flight and mix-up the line of horizon. The visual illusion causes internal disorientation. Sideways feels straight: upside down, right side up. Only the gauge on the pilot's panel says otherwise. This phenomenon is called a false horizon. In the midst of it, a pilot must trust the reliability of the gauge; not emotion.

The false horizon indicates a larger everyday-life reality. Whether legendary or ordinary, all people live under the same dark fickle sky. The world is full of misdirecting mirages that can cause us to lose our bearings. Sometimes sideways feels straight and the appearance of reasonability can't be trusted. Clouds converge in the form of temptation, deception, pride, intimate betrayal, unexpected death. Even the stalwart walls of Camelot can come crashing down; ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
When there is no visual cue of up or down; when things feel and appear one way, but in reality are another ... what do you choose? Times like these, a truly objective measure, a wiser form of direction is necessary.
We all need a 'panel gauge' that speaks the true horizon.
This idea raises a lot of deeper spiritual questions. If it's true that some directional circumstances can't be trusted. When gut feelings, over-confidence, or intuition are 'logically' pointing toward a destructive or even fatal path, then ...
  • How do you recognize false horizons in your life?
  • Do you have a trustworthy compass?
  • What is it?

False Horizon definition and illustration: http://www.answers.com/
JFK Jr. Image: People Magazine.
News & Quotes:
Washington Post
"JFK Jr. Feared Dead in Plane Crash"
By Michael Grunwald Washington Post Staff Writer: Sunday, July 18, 1999; (Reuters).
"Kennedy, Bessettes Given Shipboard Rites"
By Barton Gellman and Pamela Ferdinand Washington Post Staff Writers: Friday, July 23, 1999.

This Too Shall Pass

If you haven't seen this video-gone-viral, check it out ...
(My sons keep me updated on stuff like this).

Burning Down the House

Oh, the irony.

There was nothing free about my last freelance job. I am now in a season of writing other people's projects and I have a lot to learn. The nuances of proposals and bids and time management are still clunky. I'm practicing the new juggling rhythm.

My last job seemed simple enough. It was a re-write. Take one article, re-write it four ways. The topic, how to create a relaxing backyard, was right up my alley. The clincher came after all contracts were set. Long story short, I ended up having to write 4 new articles; all original content -- not "re-writes." Four times more hours. Four times less pay. Same deadline. New level of stress. My poor family.

My disposition went sour. Little things set me off. Even the dog kept her distance. Ugly. Really. When I ran out of fresh ideas for relaxation, I had to start researching. In the absolute apex of my stress melt-down, my butt was in the chair and I was forcing myself to read and take notes on various ways to create a relaxing environment. I was finding insightful tips for building your own breathing space. Hammocks. Pathways. Bird baths. Meditating spaces. Flower gardens. Wind chimes. Deep breaths. Because, "Relaxation is a choice."

"Clunk!" The irony hit me between the eyes like a patio brick. I'm writing helpful hints about how to relax and yet, I am allowing this exercise to completely unglue me at the seams. Pay attention. The thing that is causing you the most stress at the moment actually may actually be the gift you need, right at your fingertips. "Relaxation is a choice." Duh. It became funny. I went downstairs to tell Steve and the boys.

They were all posted at the farthest part of the house -- a safe distance from my wrath. I walked downstairs and told them my calming epiphany. I think they were cautious, but relieved to see me smile. After I finished explaining, my son Isaac paused for a second and said:

"It's like letting a stress-free candle burn down the house."

Amen. A word from the wise.

So, next time you're being eaten alive by a stressful situation, think of the candle. We have options: Slow down, find the beauty, take a deep breath -- or burn the whole house down. It's always a choice.

Candle Image from Pottery Barn.
PB Pillar Candles available at www.potterybarn.com


Our driveway is challenging. The truck guys that came to pick up some furniture weren't expecting the icey uphill turn ... it didn't go well. 'No 'furniture spill' to report. Everybody got where they needed to go. But, we all relate to the panicky sweaty feeling of driving too close to the edge.

In honor of today's driveway mishap, let me remind you to take it slow today. Nothing that crosses your path is worth sending you over the edge. Nothing. If there's something right now that has your stress elevated and your life in a tipping balance, stop. Breathe. Take it slow. Pray. Call somebody for help. Whatever it takes. Don't go over the edge.