Thursday, July 21, 2011

Inspiration Surprise

Yesterday I was inspired in a coffee shop bathroom.

Even writing that sounds really odd, but it's true. There I was in a honky tonk bathroom in the North Carolina mountains at the local coffee shop. The day was ordinary, the weather was pretty ordinary, most of all I felt extremely ordinary.

Out of the corner of my eye, I briefly caught a lonely looking picture on the wall. I glanced quickly and was ready to walk out the door. But I didn't. I paused and studied it a bit. It was a rainy day sort of picture that provoked some serious melancholy thinking. The focal point of the painting was a glossy cross -- a hopeful contrast against the sad backdrop. Next to it in writing so tiny you had to strain your eyes to read this:

"You are mine for all time;
Nothing can separate you from my love.
Since I have invested My Very Life in you,
be well assured that I will take care of you.
When your mind goes into neutral
and your thoughts flow freely, you tend to feel anxious and alone.
Your focus becomes problem solving.
To get your mind back into gear, just turn to toward Me.
Bringing yourself and your problems into My Presence.

This made me stop right in my tracks. Words and images so powerful, I had to capture them. Have you ever had one of those moments that just sort of wakes you up? This was mine. What else have I missed because I wasn't paying attention? There is so much more to life if I could shake off my ordinary glasses to see it.

PS. I later learned that the artist is Dawne Raulet, a Southern mom who chucked her 15 years as a stockbroker to follow her dreams with art. She has a great story -- and I almost missed it, along with her beautiful work.

Check her out at

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Doing Hard Things

When it comes to doing hard things, I'm a wimp.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a church mission project for homeless people. My first response was "no way." I'm the kind of person who would rather support from afar. This is a quality I am not very proud of, but it is the truth. It is much easier to donate things like ketchup, collect canned goods or give away blankets. But to actually look people in the eye as you hand them a meal is very different.

So when this project kept coming up over and over, I knew I needed to "man up." This was not a smiley decision, this was a "do it scared" sort of time.

We pulled up on the designated spot to see hundreds of homeless people gathered in anticipation of a picnic meal. To say I was terrified to even get out of car was an understatement. My wimp self wanted to drive away. But luckily my brave self prevailed as my son and I made our way to the picnic.

I'm so glad we didn't miss it. We spent the afternoon talking to all sorts of people -- people just like me, but who had fallen to difficult circumstances. People that were drug addicts, jobless, broken, unable to return to their home countries. I practiced my elementary Spanish with those that didn't speak English. I introduced men with tatooos and piercings all over their face to my son. We even sang songs with those that felt like singing. It was a total grab bag of experiences.

After that day, I felt emotionally raw. The most surprising thing was that people just wanted to tell me their story. I wasn't there to change them, to do anything but to listen, be a friend, give a meal. Most were grateful for someone who would simply hear them, to matter in this world. In that, I am no different.They may sleep in a different place and have dark experiences to tell. But we all long for the same thing -- to be significant in this life.

If you want to find out more about serving the homeless population, visit

Or for a really powerful article about "What it means to be homeless" -- check this out:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Save Me Emily Post

Teaching my son manners has made me a mom vigilante.

Like a sniper stakeout, I am constantly surveying the landscape and pouncing on any opportunity to remind and practice manners. I sit at the dinner table and wait, ready with the "where does your napkin go?" or the classic "what do you do with your dish?" and the kicker "did you ask to be excused?"

Obnoxious, I know. But how else do the kids learn the stuff but in the heat of the moment? I've decided that with enough practice, it will come natural. But it hasn't yet. Maybe it's me or maybe I'm doing it wrong.

Everyone else's kids appear to "yes, ma'am" me with no problem. Other people's children show gratitude without the whiny prompting I give to the tone "now what do you say?" Gosh, I hate that. Maybe it's just the fact that I have a boy and the Y chromosome doesn't think like that.

Lately I have made it my mission. I'm reading "365 Manners Kids Should Know" by Sheryl Eberly -- Nancy Reagan's etiquette guru. It reads like a daily devotion with today's entry of "how to eat tacos." Not exactly what I was after, but always helpful to know how to manage those pesky things. I figure if Nancy's go-to gal says it, I probably need to work on it. At least it will mix up my vigilante style.

I read in the book that Ms. Eberly told her children they would never be invited to the White House if they had bad manners. I like that. In fact, after today my son will be ready to eat tacos with Mr. President.

PS. If you have any good tips about teaching kids manners, please share! I'd love to hear your ideas...