Hard Punches

World heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson, said: “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” Tyson is more known for his “punches as hard as iron” than his wise philosophy, but when he made that off-the-cuff statement, he was spot on.

That quote by Mike Tyson reminds me a bit of my year of blogging. Early August last year when the idea came to me to document my 60th year by writing a daily blog, I was enthusiastic. When the idea gelled and my friend, Marcelina, helped me create the website, it was like Christmas Eve. I could barely sleep with the anticipation of making this thing real and jumping in.

That was the plan and it worked, but there were certainly days I got punched in the mouth. Many a dark, late night I sat alone on my bedroom floor thinking of topics then tapping away at my keyboard until one or two in the morning, driven to stay true to my pledge. I have fallen asleep sitting straight up at my computer. However, not once did I get into bed without writing my blog. I’m not looking for kudos, I am simply stating the challenge of a commitment. 

It’s all fun and games until reality sinks in. We know, cognitively, that we are responsible for meeting our own goals. But for some reason, in the back of our minds, we think/want/need another person to help. At the end of the day, and on a grander scale, at the end of our lives, we are on your own, well, humanly speaking. Thankfully, we have a sovereign God who helps us daily and at the end, meets us.

I have never lived on my own. I went from my parents home to living with my husband and then children soon followed. When you are surrounded by those you love and who love you, it is easy to get into the mindset that someone is always there to help. That is 100% true except when it comes to personal goals. The support is there and it has been huge for me this year, for which I am grateful. 

However, the work, the grit, the sitting in the trenches, the end result, was on me, as it should be. I have learned many things this year. One of my biggest lessons was persistence.

When I was a personal trainer, I used to tell my clients that there is no secret formula. In fact, it is quite simple. Small choices over time add up to real change. Let the workouts pile up and soon you will see a difference.

Some changes are subtle. Some commitments are long. Some progresses are slow. But movement is key. It is where all things begin. 


On this day, 35 years ago, a beautiful baby girl was born. She was ‘knitted together in her mother’s womb and fearfully and wonderfully made’. I am certain that the song of her heart would include more verses from this 139th chapter of Psalm, which state: 

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me. Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.    

The name Lindsey is derived from Old English meaning the linden tree. I have written previously about that name being so right for our Lindsey. She is a lovely slender tree that moves and bends in the gentle breeze yet has the strength of deep roots to withstand mighty winds.

I fully believe that she was created to marry my son, Andrew. And he for her. 

On this birthday she is celebrating across the ocean in a little French town named Colmar. It is in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, near the border with Germany. Colmar is nestled among vineyards and is known for its amazing cuisine, charming accommodations, and bakeries full of croissants and pain au chocolat. Someone once described the town as “so pretty that it doesn’t feel real. Cobblestone streets run next to canals lined with half-timbered houses in shades of rose, sky blue, lemon, peppermint, and apricot.”  

In communication with Lindsey and Andrew today, they said they expected Belle to be singing in one of the windows. It is picturesque perfect. 

Happy Birthday to our dear Lindsey. What a gift you are. 

Serious Sunday

Christian Wiman is an American poet and editor. He was born in 1966 and raised in the small west Texas town of Snyder. He graduated from Washington and Lee University and has taught at Northwestern University, Stanford University, Lynchburg College in Virginia, and the Prague School of Economics. Wiman now teaches Literature and Religion at Yale University and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. 

My son, Andrew, who just graduated from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, was fortunate enough to have a class with Wiman and come to know him as a friend. 

In 2013, Wiman published a book entitled My Bright Abyss. It is an essay about having faith in the face of death.

At age 39, he learned that he had a rare and probably fatal cancer. His world fell apart. In the midst of his suffering and pain and fear, life felt meaningless. However, as the book ends, he is in remission.

He regained his health because of obvious medical treatment, his marriage, and his twin daughters who were born during his illness. He also credits his remission to his own will, art, desperation, and imagination. He gained his faith and felt grace. In his words, he experienced the mystery of “present joy and future hope.”       

I am currently reading the book. Weeks ago when I started it (no, it should not take me this long to read this book, but Mama and work and life often get in the way of reading), I immediately loved it. Nine pages in and I was already underlining phrases. One of those that I truly loved was this:

If grace woke me to God’s presence in the world and in my heart, it also woke me to his absence. I never truly felt the pain of unbelief until I began to believe.”

Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. We also, sometimes, don’t realize our emptiness until we experience fullness.

I love the title. My Bright Abyss. How great is that? Can a word, a thing, like an abyss actually be full of light? Be completing? Create “present joy and future hope”?

Occasionally the pounding of hooves is not a horse, but a zebra. And occasionally an abyss is not dark, but bright. 


It is 12:14 a.m. We are peacefully exhausted. If it can be said that a day of funeraling was a good day, then I will say that it was.

Two hours on our feet, talking, hugging, laughing, crying, remembering. When you have a large family and a large circle of truly great friends, these events become a homecoming celebration. These days become something that the one lying in peace would have orchestrated on his own, if possible. It was possible.

Flowers and military salutes and a lingering summer breeze through the trees at the cemetery. Home-cooked food, memories of childhood and youth and just for fun, removing sport coats and shooting baskets in the church gym, photos, smiles, prayers. Old friends, such old dear friends. Priceless.

My four men in suits, freshly starched and pressed white shirts, perfectly tied ties. Grandpa would be proud. 

It was a day of honoring. It was a day that pushes us to the next one and the one after that and the one after that. 

Because of the one lying in peace, we have the responsibility to love harder and louder and bigger and better. 

And we will. 

Waiting by the Phone

As mentioned in a previous blog, my father-in-law lives at the Ohio Veterans Home, at least for now. He is close to passing from this world into the sweet arms of Jesus. We have been spending hours with him, simply watching him take breath to breath, his thin chest rising and lowering. So very difficult. So very difficult.

Tonight when we were heading out of the building, I saw this on the wall. A pay phone. A pay phone! I loved that. I love that the Ohio Veterans Home did this thoughtful thing for their residents. Ninety-two year-old heroes wearing WWII Vet baseball caps do not need an iPhoneX. They remember when the purpose of a phone was to call someone you care about. Done and done. And it is low enough on the wall for a person in a wheelchair to have access to it. Perfect.

Twenty-five cents for the first five minutes is a pretty good deal. And just because, I pushed my finger through the change return to see if there were any coins in there. Of course I would have left them but it is always fun to make that discovery. 

These days are long but they are important. Sometimes being seemingly inactive is the most proactive thing one can do. There is great power and grace in waiting. It is not for sissies. Though, not one person at the OVH is a sissy, not the staff, not the vigil-sitting family and definitely not the weak-bodied ones lying in wait for the general of all generals to call them home.

Family Reunion, Ben Carson, and Chemistry

I had a tough day with Mama. We have discovered that following a large family gathering, there is much confusion. Everyone means well and loves her so much but it is a simple case of over-stimulation. In kindness, nieces and nephews come to her with hugs and kisses and pure motives of explanation to connect her with themselves. It is sweet and lovely and unraveling.

We spent much of this morning going over names and faces, trying to connect which one of her eight brothers and sisters to whom this one or that one belong. I patiently explain but it does not permeate the concrete parts of her brain. 

Quite often, Mama confuses generations. She believers that children of her siblings are actually her siblings, still living and young. She occasionally thinks I am her younger sister, which, of course, makes it impossible that I could be her daughter.

The morning melted into noon and both of us ended up in (soft) tears as we talked about what to make for lunch. 

By early afternoon, I was able to keep her busy with some outside chores. She pulled weeds out of my brick-paved sidewalks and swept my front porch till every piece of dirt and flower petal and pebble were gone. 

She then talked on the phone with both of my sisters and by dinner, she was a bit more cheery. 

In the evening, there was some family tension in the house with my youngest son, Noah, struggling though chemistry summer school. It’s a bear. He has been working very hard, yet it still brings great frustration.

Mama loves my boys, for which I am so grateful. She saw (and heard) Noah’s struggle, which hurt her. In God’s kingdom, He is able to turn something difficult into something good. Mama forgot about her own troubles for a while. She focused on someone else. 

Though, it was momentary. A few minutes later, we were sitting on the front porch, eating a bowl of chocolate salted caramel ice-cream (hey, she likes it) and she stated that she was very worried about her plastic Adirondack chairs sitting on her fenced in, canopy-covered back deck. I said: “Mama, forget about those chairs! No one will steal them while you are with me.” She looked at me defensively. “Let’s pray for Noah tonight and not worry about those chairs, for goodness sake!” 

I snapped her back to reality.

After helping her put on pajamas and brush her teeth, with her own toothbrush, not one of the boys this time, we sat on the edge of her bed and prayed. I held her hand and listened while she smoothly and beautifully and flawlessly called out to the Lord for help and strength for Noah and for all of her grandchildren. It was as if she were 70 years old again. 

I then prayed and first, thanked God for the blessing to sit and pray with my 90 year-old mama. What a gift it truly is. 

I tucked her into bed and told her I loved her. She (mostly) smiled and said she would read a bit of her Dr. Ben Carson biography (on whom she has a mad crush) but would then fall asleep in continued prayer mode.

Fair enough. 

Serious Sunday

My maternal grandparents were humbly devoted to God. They lived it out every.single.day. They lived it in their love for their children and their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren and for strangers. They also lived in out in their love for each other. 

I have sweet memories of my grandma wearing dresses, with full front aprons and hose, and I don’t mean panty hose, out to work in her flower garden. And she sang. She sang about Jesus. And she laughed. Man, did she laugh. She had this great gold tooth that gleamed as brilliantly as her laughter.

I need to check with the family historian, my cousin, MJ, but I believe it was the late 1970s that we started a tradition of celebrating Grandma’s birthday, which was June 10. We had a family reunion/picnic in the park. Of course Grandma and Grandpa awakened in Glory years ago but we have continued the tradition to this day. 

And this day was that day. The crowd waxes and wanes from year to year but there is always a group that sets aside the day to come together to eat wonderful food, including myriad desserts that would make Grandma smile. We talk and we laugh and we take photos and we remember how important is the bloodline. 

It is rich and red and strong and runs through us with vigor and persistence. We know it is bigger than us as individuals. When we are together, it is fierce and fearless. We never forget from where we came. And we are grateful.

The prayers of my grandparents, the love of my grandparents, and the faithfulness of my grandparents are the shoulders on which the rest of us stand. 

Our legs may get wobbly, our eyes may occasionally fall away from the prize, our hearts my wander, but we are never far from Grandma. Her voice is the tether that keeps us close. She never lets us go.

I pray that we continue on the journey and that those who come behind us know that their ease in walking it is only possible because our grandparents forged that path.

The two in the photo are my mama, Evelyn and her younger brother, Jay. They are the last of their generation. They are listening for the voice of my grandma as she sings about Jesus. And that voice is getting clearer. 

Serious Sunday

The fisher who draws in his net too soon,
Wont have any fish to sell;
The child who shuts up his book too soon,
Won’t learn any lessons well.

If you would have your learning to stay,
Be patient – don’t learn too fast;
The man who travels a mile each day,
May get round the world at last.

This little poem called Persevere appeared in the Children’s Book of Virtues by William Bennett. It is a children’s version of the original anthology, The Book of Virtues. These books aim specifically at the time-honored task of moral education of the young. Moral education meaning the training of the heart and mind toward the good. It involves many things; rules and precepts and the do’s and don’ts of life with others. It also involves the example of adults, who through their daily behavior, show children they take morality seriously.

There is much talk going around about how important it is to “have values,” as if they were pretty stones you collect and put into a pouch. Bennett stresses the importance of morality and virtues not as something to possess but as the core of human nature, not as something to have but as something to be.

The above poem, Persevere, is all about stick-to-it-iveness. Sticking to something makes all of the difference, whether that is math, history, English or life.

The years go by so quickly, which certainly seems to speed up exponentially when you are over 50 or 60 years old. Oh, how well I know.

If time is going to continue moving swiftly on, we may as well travel a mile a day; do something to head in the direction in which we want to go. Pretty soon we may actually get round the world at last.

Whatever world that is.


Serious Sunday

The idea of obsession refers to a disproportionate or unusual focus on something. For instance, someone can be obsessed with pottery making or Facebook or going to the gym. It simply means they pay more attention than most people to something, even most people who are interested in something. This is when obsessions can get tricky.

No one who has ever achieved anything impressive or made an outstanding contribution to anything, has managed do so without a certain level of obsession. An athlete, a musician, a writer, a scientist…these endeavors make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others.

However, when an obsession becomes an addiction, that obsession can unbalance us. We often begin to neglect parts of our lives we shouldn’t. Obsession can become consuming and cause us to devalue important aspects of our lives to the point that they atrophy and even collapse.

The goal is to keep our lives in balance. If the object of our obsession is taken from us, we may find ourselves devastated, often convinced that we have lost our last chance at happiness.

But that belief is a delusion.

Our happiness never depends on any one thing, no matter how important that one thing may seem. That bears repeating.

Our happiness never depends on any one thing, no matter how important that one thing may seem.

When properly harnessed, the drive, the determination, the increased energy and even the resiliency a (healthy) obsession brings can serve us. It can motivate us to find the creativity to solve difficult problems.

It seems that nearly everything in life requires that delicate balance.

The thought of the weekend message was ‘pay attention to what you pay attention to’. There are no holds barred on that statement. It brings immediate clarity to what it is we give our attention. And it is different for every one of us.

On a lighter note of the same subject, here is a bit of where my attention goes.

Some people drive down the road and stare a little too long at a car or a pretty woman walking down the street or a handsome man in his yard or a tractor…you get the idea. If I am ever going to run off of the road staring at something, it will be flowers.

In the spring and summer, I always, always, always notice flowers in a yard. And if I see window boxes with flowers in them, it gets really serious.

If I am ever pulled over for suspicious driving, it may be difficult to explain to the officer that I was simply looking at flowers. And if I am asked to walk a straight line, I cannot guarantee that I will pass the test if there is a winding row of daffodils I have my eyes on.

A significant part of what we give our attention to is who we are; who and what it is God created us to be. I fully believe that some things are simply within us at birth. Even those things may need careful cultivating.

For other things, they may need that aforementioned harnessing.

One of the most beautiful joys that God wants us to experience is freedom.

I often say two phrases: Knowing is everything. Peace is everything. But oh, freedom is truly everything. ‘Knowing’ and ‘peace’ are huge, but they pale in comparison to freedom.

Pay attention to what you pay attention to.






Day #11 of Twelve

Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful apostles. In Catholic Church history, day number eleven commemorates St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Cincinnatians well know Seton High School on the west side of town. Seton is a highly rated, private, all-girls Catholic school. The school motto is “Hazard Yet Forward”, meaning, in essence, “whatever the peril, ever forward.” I like that.

Life is full of peril. Peril is defined as “immediate and serious danger”. Though we may not always be in physical danger, our mental and emotional and spiritual dangers are in constant flux.

Perhaps you have plans to get more fit and healthy in 2018. I encourage that. It is in my plan, too. I also press (not simply encourage) you to keep your mind and emotions and spirit in shape as well. These things should be thought of as muscles that need training in order to be strong. They need to be prepared for whatever peril comes your way.

Mental fortitude is often an invisible weakness. The brain, like your triceps, gets flabby and atrophies. And emotionally, we are weak and broken. That, too, unfortunately, is easily disguised.

On this Healthy Thursday, take a look at your life holistically. Keep your body strong. And keep your mind healthy by being prepared for what life brings your way. At the risk of sounding negative, expect trouble. Even if you do not seek it, it will find you. It is a reality of life. At the risk of sounding positive, you can help yourself be ready.

Benjamin Franklin said: “A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”

The faithful eleven apostles kept going. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton kept going. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We must accept nothing less. Hazard yet forward.