Childhood Isn’t for Kids


Today, I took Grace out to run some errands. I try to have something fun for us to do each day. Although every day can’t be swim class or story hour, I try for something simple like buying a doughnut at the bakery or taking a few extra minutes to see the little fish swimming around their tanks at Meijer. Nothing crazy, just something different from the day before.

When we got home after three or four very uneventful stops, I was washing her hands in the bathroom and she leaned her tired head back on me and said, “Mommy, I had so much fun. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Gracie,” I said with a laugh. Seriously, kid? We went to the UPS store, the grocery store and the library. And then I had one of those moments of clarity that left me with chills. Something so simple, but when I thought of it this way, I was humbled by the truth of it. Childhood isn’t for our kids. It’s for parents. Gracie will never remember these days of being two years old and all the amazingly awesome things I have tried to pack into our days. She won’t even remember how much she loves me in just a few more years. We’ll be fighting over when she can be on social media and why she can’t go to the mall alone.

These very patience-trying years of raising small children are not our test. They are our JOY. We get to re-experience childhood by having our children. We get to understand love deeper than anything we’ve ever known before. These beautiful and sometimes boring memories we create aren’t for them; they won’t remember most of them. Think about it–do you remember being two and your parents making every day magical for you? All you probably recall from that time of your life is knowing that you were loved. God knows I don’t remember much of anything from my childhood. My memories don’t become very vivid until adolescence and by then the memories aren’t all that pretty.

So does that mean we should stop trying to do these wonderful things for our kids? I mean, what’s the point if they don’t know the difference anyway? I don’t think so. Because these are the memories we get to take with us into old age. These are the days we will cling to when we look back on all our decades before and wonder, “Was it worth it? Did I live enough? Did I love enough?” We won’t recall our childhood years, those memories will have faded. But we will remember our children’s childhood.

As I laid Gracie down for her nap, I tried to make the kiss I planted on her forehead stick a little harder. But not for her. For me.


Grace and her Daddy going down the big slide at our parish fair this past summer. Not sure who is enjoying it more.


Gracie’s Blankets


Since she was a baby, Gracie has sucked on her muslin blankets. We bought these Aden and Anais blankets when she was a newborn and used them to swaddle her. I loved them because they were these big soft blankets that weren’t too thick and perfect for the warmer months when she was a baby. And I could use them to cover myself when I had to nurse her. When she began teething at three months old, she took sections of them, shoved them into her mouth and would use them as a sort of pacifier. Scott and I were thrilled because it meant we’d never have to pry an actual pacifier away from her like we did for the boys. Plus we had multiple blankets this way! Not like the boys’ very specific ones that can never be replaced. This has been ideal when we’ve been hit with sickness or spills happen. Grace always has a back up! And really, what was the harm? A tiny section of cloth used to self-soothe? We saw no issue. Until now.

Grace will be three in May. She has developed a slight overbite. Some people have suggested that it may have something to do with her blanket. It’s hard to say. Both Scott and I had overbites as children, so maybe it’s just genetics…? Anyway, it can’t be helping the situation. And we know all three of our kids will likely have braces in the future.The boys have a ton of crowding and all of them have very large teeth (Sorry, guys!)

So we decided last night to try taking her blanket away. She cried, a lot. My original plan was to wait until she turns three and then try negotiating her blanket away with a new toy. Scott just figured we should do it now cold-turkey. We “compromised” (which in this case was more me railroading Scott) and told her she could sleep with her blanket, but she couldn’t put it in her mouth. She actually tried very hard; we watched her on the baby monitor as she wiggled around her bed trying to get comfortable until about ten o’clock, rubbing the satin tag of her blanket against her nose but not putting the blanket into her mouth. She did fall asleep without it in her mouth! Of course at some point she forgot in the night. When I went to wake her up this morning, she had the blanket shoved in her mouth again.

Now it’s Monday. The boys are back to school after Easter Break. Grace and I are back to being just us girls. We had a fun morning of playing at the grocery store (“What color are lemons? Can you find any circles?”). She charmed herself a free cookie from the lady at the bakery counter and then we came home to have lunch and have her take her nap. As I put her to bed, I told her to try her very hardest not to put “blankey” in her mouth. She looked at me with her round blue eyes and said in all seriousness, “Just pretend you’re not home.”

I love my sweet, sassy baby girl.


She’s not shy about her blankey love. Here she is with my Grandpa Dan last summer. We had taken a vacation to visit them. She loves Great Grandpa Dan. He’s a great snuggle buddy. Needless to say, she was in her glory, here.


Losing My Appetite for This “Patriotism”


I haven’t written much in the last few weeks. I have been slightly horrified as Scott and I watch the evening news together or even when I take a break to scroll my Facebook news feed when things about the upcoming election are mentioned. But I have hit a boiling point of sorts. So now, you can either close out your tab or continue reading…

Today I was at one of my favorite restaurants, a lovely mom-and-pop-shop bagel place not far from the kids’ school. I was enjoying a veggie bagel sandwich when an elderly man came into the restaurant to order his lunch. The owner of the place was just explaining to a third patron, “If a person were to come in to here to steal food from me, I’d be upset, but in the end, I would think that if a person were so desperate for food, he could only steal it, then he must need it more that I need the money.”

The elderly man who was still waiting in line started up with a loud tirade, “I’d show that thief my loaded gun and see how much he still wanted that food! That’s why this country needs Donald Trump. I’m reading all about this in my book about following Jesus. It says right here…” he started flipping through the pages as if some profound truth would spill out and convince us all that Donald Trump is the Second Coming.

I think between the raging blood pumping in my ears, my food coming back up my throat and my hand crumpling my sandwich paper so loudly, I couldn’t hear him anymore. This was the first time I’d heard the promises of Donald Trump compared with those of Jesus Christ.

People I love and respect have told me that they plan on voting for Donald Trump if he is the leading Republican candidate for the election in November.  We’re quite far off from that time and a lot can happen. I only ask that even if you think you’re sure, you do some research and ask yourself what Trump really stands for. I have voted conservatively in past elections but I will not stand behind electing this man to be the representative for our country. I would choose an underdog in the election and “waste” my vote simply to show my desire for a change. If Trump is leading the Republican nomination by then, my hope is that it won’t be by much. It would restore some of my faith in the ethics of the people in our country. 

Some have argued with me saying, “He’s just a figurehead. We need to focus on Congress,” but the president does have a considerable amount of power within our government. This is the person other countries will associate with our nation as a whole. We need to choose a person with morals and integrity, not someone who postures and changes his stance on every issue when called into question. Listen to what he actually says beyond, “It’s time to make the US great again.” I agree, Trump, but something tells me you aren’t going to be the one to do it.

It’s up to the citizens of this country to stop relying on government to bail us out. People need to take responsibility for their actions and stop playing the victims of a broken system. We need to stop looking for heroes in suits spewing empty promises to save us all.

I believe this country will become great again, but it’s going to take more than a flashy president or Congress. It’s going to take each of us taking a hard look at ourselves and doing the work to get us there and electing people who stand for truth, not money. Republicans always complain the Democrats favor big government. How is supporting Trump who promises to fix all of America’s boo-boos any different? Democrats say that Republicans will allow big business to run our country. Isn’t that already happening with how compromised government has become by taking kickbacks from big business? Government is responsible for almost everything we buy (or don’t buy) now. We all play a part in things beginning to crumble.

I am disgusted that of our leading options for presidential candidates, not one is a person I would be able confidently say, “This is a person who believes in our country.” The candidates I’ve seen only believe in their inflated egos. Please do yourself a favor and read up on these individuals. Look to reliable sources, not sensational news networks with their own agendas.

I want to give my kids a country that we can all be proud of. I am not proud of the three-ring circus that this election has become. I am not proud of the men and woman who are the front-runners to represent this country.IMG_3594

I am proud of the decent people I know who put in hard work every day. I am proud of the people who don’t expect hand outs without hard work when they are capable. I’m proud of people with generous spirits; those who do have a little more but don’t look down on those who don’t and are willing to help those in need without holding it over anyone’s head.

How do we get those people elected? I don’t know the short-term answer, but I do know the long-term one: We keep raising them with kindness, integrity and love.

Check Your Ego at the Door


The Ultimate Example of Giving

So much grief in our human experience could be avoided by doing one simple thing: putting ourselves in someone else’s point of view. If we remove our ego (our sense of self), set aside all of our self-ish tendencies and think for one minute, “How would I feel if I were on the receiving end of this action?” Would we live a little differently?

Would we be more thoughtful? Would we try harder to go the extra step because sometimes it’s so pleasantly unexpected when someone does that for us? Maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to judge each other, to assume that everyone is out to get us. Maybe we’d do things with greater love, everything from donating our time or money to those less fortunate to bagging our own groceries when we see the cashier is slammed because she doesn’t have a bagger.

The bigger point to be made here is sometimes, it isn’t all about us. Strike that. Sometimes the benefit isn’t meant for us. There is always something to be earned, even by letting go of our pride and realizing that it is more important to find growth in not always getting things exactly our way.

EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is guilty of this. Every day. I know I am. A part of me expected Scott to notice that I shoveled the driveway today even though my back has been hurting this week. I expect my kids to see how hard I work to create an ideal childhood for them each day by doing little things like writing hearts on their snack bags or setting their shoes out by their backpacks in the morning. I know they won’t think of it now, but at some point, a part of me wants to be recognized for all the things I did “right.” The reality check is, that day may never come.

The secret to happiness is that the only TRUE JOY in this world is to give everything we possibly can and expect nothing in return besides the joy of giving. We cannot do anything in life and expect to be acknowledged by other people. That’s not to say we never will, but the odds are not usually in our favor. There is one who sees it though. And those acts of kindness, understanding and consideration do have a ripple effect. Even if you’re not a big believer in divinity, those times when we do the right things even when no one is watching are what make miracles happen.

This is the magic we possess, realizing that our human experience isn’t about “ME.” It’s about all of us. So I am challenging myself to start living more consciously, to keep my eye on the horizon of humanity rather than my own day-to-day struggles. I know it won’t be easy because I have a temper and I often think something is owed to me, but I am going to try to look at it all differently. And I ask you, what if you found joy simply in creating happiness for those around you? Would you do more and expect less? I’m certain that “heaven on earth” concept will be much more of a reality than we feel it is now.

I’m Trying for Cool…For Now.


An open letter to my children, who still at this point see me as sort of cool:

Dear Noah, Luke and Grace,

I am trying for “cool” every day. I want to be the coolest mom you know, but with that, I also have to be the “mom” part of that which sometimes means not being so cool in your mind.

Luke, today you had show and tell and the letter of the week in your classroom this week is “H” (I hope). The obvious choice was “helicopter,” wasn’t it? But who likes to go for predictable? Now, I had the added challenge of you and your brother running late today because in another attempt of “coolness,” I let you sleep in an extra fifteen minutes. So I literally had a minute and a half to come up with an “H” object to meet your approval (the plot thickens).

I scanned the play room, and thank God I had given in to a garage sale purchase back over the summer; for there in an obscure corner of the room, heaped together with a bunch of little toys that never got put away, was a McDonald’s Han Solo toy. I hesitated though, remembering a conversation we had last night. You informed me that you were kind of over Star Wars. You said you liked “Sonic” now. I think my response was “What?! Sonic?! Like the hedgehog that Steve Urkel did the voice for?”  You had just stared at me blankly and all I could think was, “You are Luke, for crying out loud! Just like your hero, Luke Skywalker! You have loved Star Wars since you were in three-year-old-preschool and we wouldn’t even let you watch it yet!” I was taken aback to when Noah told us he no longer liked Thomas the Train but preferred Ninja Turtles. I won’t lie, boys, I have been a little crushed each time you’ve made these announcements. Just another thumbtack on the timeline string to let me know we’re moving along whether I’m ready or not.

But anyway, back to the show-and-tell debacle. I snatched it up and carried it apprehensively to the kitchen. Would my suggestion be met with enthusiasm or disdain? I was justifiably nervous. I knew the object wasn’t a hedgehog, like Sonic, but I hoped it would be acceptable since we’re only a day or so past your Star Wars obsession.

I tried to play it up a bit, as if I’d found something only slightly less exciting than the bones of a real Wookie. “Luke! What about…” (dramatic pause then whip the toy out from behind my back and wait for half a breath to whisper-yell) “HAN SOLO.”

A moment to process the discovery and then your merciful reaction: your eyes light up and you say, “YES! That’s perfect.”

Dad even chimes in, “Good one, Mom!”

Phew! Cool points before 7:00 a.m. That is the beginning of a great day. And maybe I have a little more time to bask in the joy of your Star Wars days. A kiss on your forehead, one for Noah, and a smooch on the lips for Daddy and you guys are out the door for school.

I know days are coming in which I will be a lot less popular around here. “Mom! Everyone has a cell phone! Why can’t I?”

“Mom, you are so lame. Everyone goes on spring break without their parents. You’re so paranoid!”

“Mom, I was only fifteen minutes past curfew! You are overreacting.”

How do I know these things will happen? Because I was young once too. And I now understand that all these “lame” decisions my parents made were not to thumb me down, but were made out of love. And someday when you’re holding your first baby at three in the morning, in that mental fog between love and delirium, you will swear to yourself, to God and to that baby that you will never ever let anything bad happen to him or her. And you will know how mom went from being the most wicked awesome mom in the world to being the most terribly mean and strict beast of a mother you’ve ever met.

I will be incredibly uncool if that’s what it takes to keep you from getting hurt. But I will also [reluctantly] let go of Star Wars and embrace Sonic if that’s what it takes to make you happy.

I love you, my angels,



My sweet Obi Wan, sassy R2D2 and the ever-lovable Darth Vader


Surprise! You’re Invited!


When I walked into our den to write this, an ornament spontaneously fell off our Christmas tree with a solid thud to the floor causing me to jump a mile. I thought it was so fitting for what I intended to write this evening.

Not long ago, I was at an event with a friend of mine and there was a guest speaker there who shared a profound concept to consider. What if we woke up each day not dreading the events that would come, but looked at each day as a surprise party? Because, as we know, the most ridiculous thing any of us can do is to try to plan our lives. Somehow, something always manages to go awry. There is always some incident that will come our way and cause us to have to change our course slightly.

Christmas Eve, Scott and the kids and I loaded into our minivan to go to church for Christmas mass. We were actually on time, for once! We had managed to eat an early dinner and had avoided any spills requiring outfit changes. Everyone was in a cooperative mood. It was all too perfect, of course. That’s why when Scott started the car and the check engine light came on and started flashing, I had to laugh. Once again, God, or the universe, or whatever it is we believe in, is always quick to remind us, we are not the ones in control of our lives.

The kids are always a surprise party. No matter where we go or what we do, one of them is ready to shake things up and make life really interesting.

Gracie has begun this “charming” habit of identifying people by their color. Sometimes it’s the color of shirt that they are wearing or sometimes by the color of their hair or skin.

We recently had new refrigerator delivered to our house. The delivery men came right at lunch time and I was in the kitchen making a grilled cheese when the doorbell rang. Gracie raced to the door to peer through the window. I couldn’t leave the stove immediately because it was seconds away from burning. Then my sweet two and a half year old shouted to me from the front hall, “Mom! The brown guys are here!” I cringed and prayed that they had kids and know how good children are at creating awkward situations as I hurried to the door to see the delivery men who did in fact have brown skin standing on the porch trying to conceal laughter.

Always quick on my feet, I resorted to my inner Jewish grandmother and said, “Hi, thank you for coming. Are you guys hungry?”

One of the merciful men said, “You know what? I am. What are you cooking? It smells really good.”

I was caught completely off guard by the response but went with it gratefully. “I was just making a grilled cheese sandwich. Do you want one?”

“Would you mind?” he asked.

“Oh, of course not!” I said. “Give me a second.” I went to the kitchen while they pulled the enormous refrigerator into the house and I whipped up a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches.

I laughed about it to myself the rest of the afternoon. Kids are the ultimate equalizers, aren’t they? They make us take a hard look at ourselves, at our expectations and prove over and over, it’s not up to us, how this day is going to go. The only thing we can control is how we handle it.

Life isn’t about changing the hearts of others. It’s about changing our own so that we find gratitude in every moment, even the tough stuff, realizing it brings us closer to understanding who we are meant to be.

As I stumble awkwardly into 2016, my only intention is to act with as much grace as I can. I am looking forward to another 366 surprise parties (It’s a leap year!). Knowing whether I am ready or not, every day will be filled with personal lessons. Instead of dreading that alarm clock each morning, I am going to do my best to view it as a wake up call to unrevealed opportunities.

Welcome to the party, everyone! Have a blessed and happy New Year!


Luke drew this picture earlier in the school year. When I asked him (nervously) how he felt when he drew the picture, he said he was sad. But then he pointed to the two green figures over his shoulders and explained the one on the right was his guardian angel and the one on the left was Jesus. Maybe something good to keep in mind for all of us on days that we feel like this.

Birthday Letter to Noah


Our printer hasn’t worked in over a year. As a writer, this makes me crazy. I am always worried about losing my work if my computer were to take a dive. I have things backed up to something called Google Drive, I think…I’m not very tech savvy. But it looks like something is saving there when I am done working on a piece. Anyway, there are three folders that I think I would cry for weeks if I lost them. They are birthday letters I’ve written to Noah, Luke and Grace. Each time one of their birthdays are approaching, I really reflect on them individually and write something for them. My plan is that when they leave home to join the big world, I will give them each their letters. It will probably have to be after college, too because I don’t think we ever fully appreciate our parents until we are paying a mortgage, experiencing the joys of marriage and/or holding our first child.

Each letter I write to the kids, I try to share some small insight with them so they’ll understand not only what they were like, but what their life has meant to me up to that point. Someday, they might want to understand “why Mom seemed so frustrated all the time” or “why Mom always tried to embarrass me by hugging me in front of my friends.” So maybe these letters will help them when they go through it themselves.

I wrote Noah’s last night and while it’s very personal, I know many people may find it rings true for their own lives. And if for some reason I’m not around to tell my kids when they’re older and Google Drive does bomb out or my house goes up in flames taking all of my work in the inferno, someone can vouch for how much I loved my kids even if I’m not here to tell them myself. I know, very dramatic for a Thursday morning. Maybe we just need to buy a new printer…

Dear Noah,

Tonight as I was tucking you into bed, I sang you a song and the whole time you wanted to be tickled. Normally, I try not to let your last burst of nighttime energy irritate me, but I was getting frustrated thinking of the dishes downstairs to be done and your lunch which needed packing for tomorrow and I snapped and said sharply, “Noah! I need to go downstairs!”

You started sulking and rolled to your side and said, “I don’t think you love me! You used to lay down with me to calm me down at night and you never do any more.” Well, that did it. You broke my heart in two because while you’re so wrong, you were right that I haven’t been the best about showing you how much I love you.

Buddy, we’re approaching years when you are going to test your limits. You are going to start getting louder and stinkier and sassier. You are going to make me want to yell at you. A lot. I can already see it now. You will find a noise that you like making and will do it repeatedly until I can only scream “Shut up!” to get your attention. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t ever say that to you.

When you grabbed my arm tonight and begged me with those big, hazel eyes of yours to stay and lie down with you for a minute, I remembered, you are still my baby. You are still that big-hearted, wide-eyed boy with more energy than God knows what to do with. You still like to watch Thomas the Train sometimes. You still won’t eat a raw tomato to save your life. You still get nervous of thunder storms and windy nights. And every once in a while you still need me.

And truth be told, I need you. I need your calm, big brother ways with Luke and Grace, always finding ways to keep them entertained even if it means making a giant mess. I need you reminding me where I leave things when Dad isn’t around; you always know where I put my phone! I need you to remind me when we’re getting low on snack foods in the pantry, because God help us if we’re only down to pretzels, cheez-its, goldfish and fruit snacks. I need your missing tooth smile greeting me every morning and every day I go to pick you up at school. I need your hugs, your furry little arms wrapping around me and your sweet voice saying, “I love you, Mom.” You know, you’re the first person to ever say that to me? I need you, my angel. I will need you all my life.

So you’re about to turn seven. Can you believe it? Well, I’m sure you can. Time seems to move extremely slow when you’re a kid. But for me Noah, I can’t believe it was seven years ago you were in my belly and I was waiting to meet you for the first time. For seven years, you’ve taught me something new every day and I know we have a lot further to go. But I promise you, no matter how crabby I get, I will love you with all my heart and soul.

Not so long ago...

Not so long ago…

Thank you for choosing me to be your Mommy. And yes, I’m still Mommy.



Does It Serve You?


“Does it serve you?” If we examine aspects of our lives that make us feel bad, we should ask ourselves this very important question.

Many things hold us back in our lives. Often, it’s something we hold on to very tightly basing a significant part of our lives around. Wealth, power, pride, bitterness, anger, greed, sadness and fear are all things people use as background colors of the tapestry of their lives.
I look back on most of my twenties and I can recall significant life events which left me feeling empty and hollow. At their core was insecurity. That was the theme of my twenties. At that time, I worried constantly that I was being left out or that I wasn’t enough to matter to anyone. The problem was, I was always looking for others to validate my self-worth rather than looking within. Perhaps motherhood and the mellowing of age have brought me perspective and clarity of my place in the world. It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with my insecurities at times, but I don’t feel as if they rule me anymore.
It is a very freeing and powerful thing to let go of emotions that no longer serve us. When I realized insecurity was my issue, I remember quite clearly waking up shaking with the thing that had possessed me for so long and I thought, “I’m tired of this. I don’t want to live this way anymore. But how do I stop? I don’t know any other way to be.”
Desperately seeking an answer, I sat very quietly staring out the window of my bedroom in the calm of surrender. I felt the answer wash over me within moments. “You are enough.” I felt my body soften to the realization. I felt the tension melt away. I began to cry tears of relief and happiness. I knew it was true because I had never even considered it before.
I did what I always do when inspiration hits me. I grabbed a pen and wrote the following message from what I could only describe as a divine source: “You are enough! You have always been enough. I’ve been waiting for you to remember this. You are here to bring forth change. Every person in this world has a great purpose for their soul. You only need to listen for it and be open to it. You are now. Hello again.
“Let your heart be open to people. Share your truth. Inspire others to look within. This is a time when people are forgetting who they are because they live in a state of not-enough-ness. Social media has only enhanced the problem. People think they need to be keeping up with one another and they are losing sight of their own personal journey. Please, help to shine the light of truth for those lost in the darkness of their fears; Every person on earth has tremendous power and an important mission. No one’s path is the same, but the destination for each is.”
I could barely recall writing the words. They flowed out of me with such ease. I know there are some who will not believe my story. It isn’t the way every one will come to their own truth. But for some, it will touch their hearts and resonate and they will know, “I am enough.”
You really are! You matter to someone and because of that, you matter to everyone. We are all connected by the same spirit. Some call it God. Some call it The Source. Some call it nothing at all but simply feel there is something bigger than themselves. What we often fail to see is that it’s not only external. This thing is inside of each of us. It is divine. It is Love. And it is real.
So now, ask yourself, “Does Love serve me?” If you imagine this divine power, this blinding love being the core element of your being, do you have room for your anger, for your sadness, for your fear? If you feel the power of Divine Love within you, all those other emotions will become reduced to ashes. You can look at any question in your life and Love will make the answer perfectly clear.
For Christians, we see this is how Jesus lived every day of his life. He was Divinity made human, just as we are, but he chose love every time. He felt the same emotions we do, but he knew that love was greater than any fear he felt. He died on a cross to prove this. He forgave those who put him to death. He asked God to forgive us. If this man could do this, why can’t we?
We can! We can choose love every time. Skeptics will ask, “So why are we given any choice at all? Why can’t there just be one way of living life to avoid all the misery we face each day?”
One of the most powerful quotes I can think of, and I know he was channeling Divinity when he wrote it, was when C.S. Lewis said, “Why then, did God give them free will?” Then he answered the question, “Because free will, though it makes evil possible, it is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
This is our truth.
Here’s a fashion tip as you dress today: Your best accessory is Love. You can never go wrong with it. Love is the new black.

Lily Pads

Painting by Cindy Rashid

How to Be the Change You Wish to See


A few years back, before Noah and Luke were born, I worked for a non-profit called The RARE Foundation. Its goal was to inspire young people to see the presence of Everyday Heroes in their lives. The founder of RARE was an attorney, Gil Cox Jr. He decided to start the foundation when he saw that athletes and celebrities, usually glorified by the media and in turn idolized by young, impressionable minds, were often the ones making such poor life choices. He thought, “We need to show young people that there are real heroes to look up to who have stronger ethics and moral fiber. They may not have a Grammy or a Super Bowl ring, but they are the people making a positive difference in the world.”
So Mr. Cox and other sponsors funded a project partnering with Detroit Newspapers in Education in which elementary students participated in a writing program that encouraged them to recognize and celebrate the everyday heroes in their own lives. I had the honor of joining RARE about ten years into its efforts and the joy of implementing a new program; a scholarship contest for Michigan High school graduates. In the first year of the scholarship program, I received over 300 essays from students all across the state. Each student was hoping to win a $1,500 scholarship to a Michigan college, university or a post-secondary education institution. I had the unfortunate luck of only being able to award four of them. It was such a challenge, especially when I read the soul-baring stories of many of those kids. I loved reading those essays more than anything I’d ever done at a job before.
When those crumpled, ambiguous orange/tan/yellow manila envelopes crossed my desk, my heart swelled. As I read each essay, a voice would come to life telling a story about his or her life and the “average” human being whom they looked up to. Of course none of these people were average. Among some of the most touching stories were those of cancer survivors, victims of domestic abuse, entrepreneurs who started their own organizations to help people in need, missionaries, and reformed drug addicts who help others suffering with addiction. I often sobbed as I read the stories of these souls who had overcome amazing adversity and found incredible purpose within their lives. And while my hope in humanity was revived through these stories, the ones that often touched my heart most were the stories I read about young people admiring their mothers and fathers.
I would giggle at the opening line of nearly every essay, “Many people think a hero is someone who flies or wears a cape…” But as I read on, four out of five essays were students saying that their parents inspired them more than any other individual in their lives.
WHEN WILL WE GET IT? These kids look up to us! Everything we say, everything we do. We are shaping their perception of the world. Jim Henson once said, “The attitude that you have as a parent is what your kids will learn from, more than what you tell them.” Our attitude affects them: How do we make our children feel? Do they feel loved and accepted for who they are? It applies to our significant others: Do we choose our words toward our partner as words of respect and love or do we degrade and criticize? How do we talk about the people in our lives? Do we gossip and spread rumors, or do we refrain from judgement realizing that we are not in the shoes of others and do not know how they feel? THESE are the things our children will observe and adopt as their methods for facing the world.
Last week, I was horror stricken at the images of innocent children washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean. Syrian refugees, desperate to be free from a country of tyranny and oppression, a place ravaged by fear and war. These people consider themselves already dead but pray somehow their children may live and may make it to freedom. My heart is broken for these people…
Who is responsible for saving the world? I know many times, I catch myself thinking there is nothing I can do to change these tragic events. I have young kids. I can’t fly there and physically be there to help. I have responsibilities here. I mean, I can give money, right? I can collect supplies and send it overseas and that will be a temporary fix. But how do we change the fundamental problems that exist within the government and belief systems that perpetuate these events? How do we prevent these things from continuing to happen?
The answer is quite simple. We need to realize that we are not human beings living a spiritual life, we are spiritual beings living a human life. There is so much untapped potential and greatness within all of us. But we are numb. Many of us go blindly through our days in a series of motions thinking we are nobody of importance, we can’t change the world. But what if we all believed we could instead of thinking that we couldn’t? What if we pass that attitude to our children as well and BELIEVE it. We can make a difference. We will and we MUST.
We need to share the spirit of love with humanity. It’s not “us over here” and “them over there.” We are all pieces of God. We recognize the divinity within the ordinary. Everyone is special and no, that’s not just a way of saying no one is. We all have it in us to be “heroes.” Let’s raise a generation of kids who feel empathy. Let’s teach our kids that compassion and selflessness are the characteristics of substance. If we chase wealth and fame and physical success, they will learn to do the same. Ask any “rich person” how much happiness monetary wealth has bought them. Jim Carrey said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
The way to find purpose in life is to serve others and not to expect anything in return. Believe it or not, there is receiving in giving. I was thinking about all of this today because it’s my mom’s birthday. And like those high school student essays I used to read years ago, my own essay would look very similar. My mom is my hero. She’s not a celebrity (although she is a

My hero: my mom with my sister and me.

My hero: my mom with my sister and me.

wonderfully talented artist and is winning awards left and right). But what I admire about her most is the way she steps up to help anyone in need. She doesn’t ask for any recognition or praise. She lives to serve. And what’s even more incredible is it doesn’t make her boring. It makes her beautiful. She has a light that glows from within. People tell me all the time how beautiful my mom is. Living a life rich in virtue does more for your physical appearance than any plastic surgery. You radiate love and joy. People are inspired just by the presence of those who share their inward light; their divinity.
This is what I hope I can pass along to my children. I want to leave them a world of people who see their greatness and won’t stand for injustice or intolerance. I always see the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I love it, but sometimes it feels vague. After all, what can I really do to change the world?

Well, to start, I can serve others; any act of kindness will do. Whatever is in my power this minute is an opportunity. Everything from holding the door open for someone to flying to impoverished parts of the world and handing out clean water is demonstrating an act of God. What’s our moral compass? How do we know what to do? Everyday, we are given choices between love and fear; the way we talk to our children, how we treat our friends, it all reverberates from our thoughts, our words and our deeds. The only thing anyone needs to be a hero is the ability to act with love.

All You Need is Love.


Early this morning, before the sun had even risen, my boys clunked around the lower level of our house, proudly breaking in their new school shoes not yet smudged and stained from the adventures that awaited them on their first day of school.

Noah entered first grade and Luke began half-day kindergarten. Noah was dressed in the official school uniform, complete with shirt tucked in and a belt around his waist, notched at the loosest possible hole (might be time to buy him a new one, but that one will work for now). And I just watched them both with a big grin glued to my face.

Last year, on the first day of school, just as each year before, I was a ball of nerves. I jumped at every chime of my phone; would it be the school telling me to come right away? Something had gone horribly wrong…but no. That call never came. I just worried every day that it would.

Instead, for the first time on the first day of school, I felt quietly reflective. After I kissed their fuzzy little heads good-bye, I sat on the couch and watched the sun rise over the trees in our backyard and felt joy in just being. I also feel a sacred part of my own journey has begun, not only as a mother, but as a human being. I finally feel I understand what it means to choose to live a life of love. I know it may seem to many of us that we are living a life of love. I thought I was before, too. But now I know I wasn’t because I see how much fear and anxiety ruled my emotions. Even my most joyful moments, I nearly ruined because my next thoughts were often, “Okay, but what is going to go wrong?” It was almost as if I didn’t think I deserved to be completely happy.

But I do! We all deserve to be blissfully, stupidly happy, even those of us who struggle with challenges of health or circumstance. We are NOT OBLIGATED to “get through” the days of our lives. We are given the OPPORTUNITY to choose love instead of fear to meet each day, regardless of what situations the day greets us with.

And in truth, I love, love, LOVE being a mother. All of it. I recognize that my Truth is to love who I am right now, in this minute. I love that my kid dropped the F bomb the other day. I love my daughter who even after six weeks of being potty trained, crapped her pants yesterday while watching t.v. I love that my boys will not eat any vegetables and I can’t bribe them with all the ice cream at every Dairy Queen in the U.S. to try a piece of broccoli. Of course I could think of less frustrating things to do. But I love that these are all opportunities for me to choose love to guide my reaction; not to worry about the end result.

Noah the First Grader and Luke the Kindergartener

Noah the First Grader and Luke the Kindergartener (A.K.A. Avid protesters of vegetables)

So what is that end result? Will my son have the mouth of a sailor? Will Gracie need to wear diapers in high school? Will my boys never eat a salad? I think the answer to each of these is, “Not likely.” The result I can count on and what brings me back to my center is that no matter what I do or don’t do, my kids are going to be exactly who they are meant to be. Now the choice for me to make is, do I help them get there with love or fear?

I am choosing love.