A Day in the Life

Jolted Awake

Only 5 percent of me wants to drive my son to Lexington for a cyclocross race today. The other 95 percent wants to stay home to catch up on laundry and other household chores that need attention. The idea of driving six hours in one day seems like a waste of time. The 5 percent of me that wants to go knows that the one-on-one times with my children go by all too quickly, and I should take advantage of them.

When my second born jolts me awake at 6:45, as promised, I’m still dragging my feet, toying with excuses I can use to bow out of this trip. Reluctantly, I throw on a pair of jeans, brush my teeth, apply a layer of mascara and some deodorant, and scramble around looking for my flip flops. I reason that the t-shirt I wore to bed will suffice because that’s how I roll on days like these.

The sky is still dark. Who gets up this early on the weekend, I ask myself with a pouty face. As Eli settles into his seat to go back to sleep, I drive in silence. I pray. My mind wanders. I try to pray again. I ask God why he created me with ADD. My mind wanders some more.

Then I notice my surroundings. As a sleep-in kind of girl, I often miss the beauty of the dawn. But now I watch in awe as the sky turns all sorts of pinks and purples and the sun creates a golden rim around each cloud. The fog hugs the fields, shrouding the cattle and the crops in a thin milky layer of atmosphere. This is my prayer. No words, just praise and gratitude as I watch God unwrap this gift called morning.

I look over at my son who is now breathing deeply in his slumber. I wonder how often I’ve slept through the dawns of his life. Have I fully embraced the opportunities to see how God is unwrapping the gifts that are contained within him?

Sometimes. Other times I’m tired. Or selfish. Or busy with things that are far less important like laundry and household chores. And as I drive, I’m reminded that it goes so quickly.  Within a few miles, the fog has disappeared and the sky has settled into it’s regular light blue hue. Just like my boys’ childhood, it all moves along so quickly as they change into adolescents, young men and then full grown adults.

But today… today I have this incredible opportunity to watch as Eli puts his perseverance, his devotion and his entire strength to the test.IMG_0963

As he is called up to the start line, the sun full in the sky, I see the determination in his face. The whistle blows. Lap after lap he pushes and pushes. It’s hot, and he is drenched with sweat. He breathes hard as he lifts his bike over the obstacles on the course. He develops a blister on his hand from gripping his handlebars while riding the hills and dips, and as he navigates the hairpin turns with precision. And I don’t miss a moment.

I don’t miss it because my boy jolted me awake this morning. Then God reminded me to stay awake lest I miss the beauty of his creation, both in nature and human endeavor, as I watch my son Eli cross the finish line in a cyclocross race in Lexington. Where I want to be – all 100 percent of me.

Categories: A Day in the Life, Parenting Boys | Tags: | 6 Comments

My Job Contract Should Have Come With a Warning Label

When I was handed my job contract as director of enrollment at a local high school, it should have come with a big, red WARNING stamped across each page.

The top ten warnings should have read:

1. Warning – You will no longer have only four children. You will gain at least 650 more.

2. Warning – You are not simply enrolling students into a school, you are admitting them into your life.

3. Warning – You will build relationships with said children, and with their parents, grandparents and siblings. They will entrust you with intimate details of their lives. Treat them with care.

4. Warning – When you leave the school campus, your job will not end.

5. Warning – Your private life may not be so private any more. You will see students at the grocery store, the mall, concerts, and even on vacation.

6. Warning – Because your son goes to this high school, you will have students entering your home from morning until evening. Some of them may set up semi-residence.

7. Warning – You will never sleep the same again. Students will infiltrate your dreams and wake you from worry-filled nightmares.

8. Warning – High school students will surprise you, disappoint you and exceed your expectations, often all in the same day.

9. Warning – When tragedy or disaster befalls one of these 650 students, your heart will break into a million tiny pieces.

10. Warning – There is no end to this role. You signed up for it. It will last a lifetime. Long after a student graduates, moves away or passes on, you will find their names engraved into your heart.Image

Categories: A Day in the Life, Friends and Family, Urban Living | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Love in the Time of Tsunamis

I read through Facebook posts lately and I wonder if we’re really as calloused as we appear. We write about our dinners or the weather or March Madness. All the while, people in Japan have lost their livelihoods, their homes, their families, even their lives. In light of such tragedies, our lives can seem so small, and we can feel so helpless. But even if I lived in Japan, or Haiti, or any other area struck by devastating disasters, I’m not sure how I would or could best reach out to people who are hurting far beyond my wildest imagination.

I work part-time in a high school. I don’t rescue survivors from literal rubble but I do get the privilege of digging through life with some incredible teenagers. I don’t feed hungry families but I do get the chance to feed the passion of some budding young writers. Today I was completely humbled by the opportunities presented to me. Here are a few examples of these interactions…

Keith has an anger problem. Something made him mad today. I asked him what was wrong. He stayed silent as he took measured steps into my office. He sat down. He spoke calmly. He told me his anger management classes were helping.  I nodded my head and smiled. He got up and walked slowly out the door and then added that he’s glad he gave up cussing for Lent.

Holly’s mom has cancer. Most days she looks exhausted. Today she was slumped down in a chair in the hallway waiting to talk with one of the Deans of Students. I asked if I could give her a hug. She sat up and said yes. I walked over and gave her a big squeeze. She sat just a little taller as I walked away.

Tyler stopped me before he entered his first period class. “Ms. House, I got into college. I’m the first in my family to go to college,” he said. We high-fived and I told him I was so proud of him. I could tell he was proud of himself, too.

Julia had a lacrosse game today. She got to dress up on game day. As I was about to pass her, she asked if it was true that they’ll no longer be able to dress up for game days. I had no idea. She told me she loves dressing up and she hopes it’s just a rumor. I told her I hope so, too. I meant it.

Sally brought me a cupcake. She’s testing different flavors of her homemade treats. I love cupcakes and I love Sally. She brightens my day not because of her treats but because of who she is.

I’ve known Stephanie since she was three. Her family was new to the area and they didn’t have family in town so they invited my family to her third birthday party. (How many times can I say “family” in one sentence?) I bought her fake make-up. It was sparkly. Just like Stephanie. Every time I see her in the hallways, her smile spreads across her face like rays of sunshine.

At the beginning of the year, Phoebe wouldn’t even turn my direction when I spoke to her, let alone look into my eyes. Since she was struggling in school, she spent a lot of time in the Deans’ office, which is located next to mine. Slowly, I started reaching out to Phoebe. Soon her head began to rise and her mumbles became coherent words. Phoebe is now in a writing club I sponsor. She has a gift. She writes with honesty. She writes poetry with heart and soul. I’m confident Phoebe has the potential to make a positive mark in this world.

Today as I was walking home, I passed Erica and Brooke headed back toward the school to get a ride home. I asked what they were up to. They said they were returning from an event about human trafficking. They told me it was depressing and that they felt so helpless. I could relate. It feels so overwhelming and I am but one person, I said.  As we spoke, a man and a little girl, about 6 years old, walked up to us, holding on to their bicycles. The man asked for 75 cents for his little girl. Erica, Brooke and I told him we had no money, which was true. We watched them walk away, again feeling haunted and helpless for the little girl and the man with bicycles.

Alexis stopped by my office to see if I could meet with her after school. She’s trying to get clean, after a couple years of drug use. She says her parents don’t understand and she really wants help from someone she can trust. We meet to talk. I don’t give much advice but I challenge her and figure the best I can do is what anyone can do – listen and love.

I don’t write about these things to bring attention to myself. Honestly. I write these things because my heart overflows for these kids. I write these things because maybe you feel helpless and overwhelmed by what is happening in the world and you don’t know what to do. I write these things because responding with compassion to those who live in your homes, neighborhoods or workplace is one way we can love in the time of tsunamis, even if it’s in a medium-sized high school, in an urban neighborhood, in Midwest, USA.

*all names were changed in this post.

Categories: A Day in the Life, Friends and Family | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Hearing Voices

About three this morning I heard something that sounded like people fighting outside. I looked out the front window and witnessed a man standing on the sidewalk, screaming to someone down the street. He would walk a few steps and then turn around to face his accuser. His voice spooked me. It had a sort of demon-like tone to it. Like he was playing a part in some horror film. As I waited and watched, it occurred to me that there was no accuser. At least not one that I could see.

My stomach turned as I watched the man, so obviously tormented by something that only he could hear. After about ten minutes, he moved far enough down the street where I could no longer see or hear him. I couldn’t shake the sound of his voice or the thought of the kind of mental hell he lives with each day.

I saw him again this morning, sitting at the corner two blocks down the street. As my car turned the corner, I looked over and saw him yelling in my direction. I have no idea what he said but he appeared as he had last night – racked by the voices that the rest of us cannot hear.

I’ve carried him with me today. Felt a sadness for this cross he has to bear. Wondered what he may have been like as a child. Tried to forget the demonesque voice and remember that in some ways we are alike… this man and me.

For I have voices in my head, too. Fortunately these voices are not auditory hallucinations like the ones of the man I saw last night. But they are real in another sense. They come from people I have known throughout my life, people who have loved me, as well as people who have hated me. Lately, the voices I hear are words spoken from friends who are trying to offer counsel for my current life situation. While these voices are not meant to be harmful, they can get confusing. They often become so jumbled in my head that I end up paralyzed. The friends who carry these messages, who dump them into my head, have good intentions. I know they love me and want to stop the hurt I feel. Even so, I must sift through the content to find the truth for my life. For instance, the other day I sat at the dining room table of my friends who have walked with me through many of the hardships of this past year. The couple has been nothing but encouraging to me. I have literally spent hours at their house. In our recent conversation, the husband shared part of his childhood story with me. While I know he wants me to do what is best for my life, he acknowledged that what he was presenting was much easier said than done. That’s the problem with the voices I often carry. They may sound good in theory, yet each message has implications.

If I’m not careful, I can play the tapes of these voices over and over in my head until I shut out my own voice completely. Worse, I shut out the voice of God. If I am spiritually healthy, I can scrutinize the voices within the context of a connection with a loving God and  find my way out of the maze of messages with my true self intact. If I am spiritually sick I tend to obsess about the messages, especially the ones which pierce my heart, and inevitably I find myself swimming through a pool of insecurity and depression.

When someone tells me, for example, that they do not want to talk to me, no matter the reason, I assign a message to this that says something is wrong with me. I am not worthy to be known or to be pursued. There might be a perfectly good reason for someone wanting to push me away, but when I am feeling vulnerable or weak, I can act as crazy as the man on the sidewalk outside my house last night. I do not like feeling this way. I don’t like losing myself in these voices that tell me I’m not good enough or, the contrary, that I’m too much to handle.

Today I’ve had to examine the voices I have heard the past few days. Instead of standing on the sidewalk shouting, I chose to take my journal to the local park and separate the good messages from the bad. I didn’t draw any conclusions, and I still feel hurt over some of them. I’m confused over others. But most importantly I have started the process of dealing with them. I have tools to work through them, tools like prayer, writing and solitude.

My heart continues to ache over the man who walks Alabama Street and other nearby thoroughfares late at night. His psychosis seems hopeless, but I hold out hope that somehow he can find a way to cope with the voices that plague him.

Categories: A Day in the Life, Faith | 3 Comments

The Lake House Investment

Of all the investments my dad has made over the years, the one with the highest return has to be the family lake house. I’m not talking about financial gain, although if he sold it today he would make a pretty penny. No, the lake house has more to do with relational yields than it does monetary success.

I am the youngest of three. The firstborn brother is nearly seven years older and the middle brother four years. Because of the age and gender differences, we weren’t especially close growing up. When we all married, we ended up in the same city. Yet with kids’ activities, jobs and other obligations, we still don’t see each other often, except for holidays and the occasional birthday party.

But summers are different. Most weekends, my parents, my brothers and their families, along with a plethora of friends and relatives descend on the house overlooking a lake in southern Indiana. Each family has their own bedroom so when we invite friends or other relatives, they camp out on mattresses in one of the rooms in the basement or if they’re lucky, they claim a room not occupied by one of the other families that weekend.

Couples have spent honeymoon weekends here. We’ve hosted family reunions, work parties, and silly “Olympic” games with several of our close family friends. Being on the water allows us plenty of options for fun: waterskiing, wake boarding and tubing, kayaking, rides on the wave-runner, swimming, fishing, diving competitions off the dock, floating in a circle with ropes tethering us together, playing on the sandy beach, and the occasional raft fight. We set up badminton nets and croquet courses. We eat and drink and read our books as we lay out on the dock. And if it’s a holiday weekend, there may be special events like triathlons, sailing regattas, and cookouts at a neighbor’s home.

Last night, we watched the annual fireworks which rival any mid-size city’s display. Ever since my nephews were young, we have picked a theme for the fireworks. For instance, one year we cmeonboathose cereal. As each firework exploded, we would yell out what cereal came to mind. For green, we’d shout Apple Jack’s. For the purple ones, Grape Nuts. (I know, they’re not purple.) So far, we’ve covered sports teams, soda, country flags and last night was candy. But it wasn’t quite the same. As we gathered on the dock preparing for the show, my nephews along with my two oldest boys decided they wanted to take the boat out to the middle of the lake. Our house sits in perfect proximity for a clear view of the fireworks so there’s no need to take the boat out during fireworks. I wanted to tell them no, but I figured it was a rite of passage and reluctantly let them go. I thanked God when my youngest snuggled up next to me in the lounge chair as the first firework shot into the air.

Today it has been raining all day. Even with the downpour, this place offers a type of solace we wouldn’t have at home. There may be meals to cook, dishes to clean and laundry to wash, but when you have a lot of helping hands, the burden is light. At the lake house we have several weekends to do life in community rather than a once a year shot. I get to know my family members in ways I would never know if it weren’t for this place. I’m not talking about deep and intense conversations necessarily, although those happen, too. Rather, it’s the average, day to day interactions I appreciate. For instance I sit next to my niece as she paints her toenails and I decide to paint mine too. I come downstairs in the morning to find my mom sipping her coffee on the deck and I join her in silence as we’re both waking up. When I go down to the dock, I ask my nephew how he feels about starting college. As I’m making dinner with my cousin he tells me about his upcoming cancer surgery. And when the day is done, we gather on the upper deck to tell stories about the best tubing wipeout, or share memories that quickly turn into cackling laughter fests, complete with tears streaming down our faces.

Now and then, my mom and dad consider selling the place. When they do, we either threaten to put them in a nursing home or we make sure we invite all the fun relatives to come for the weekend. We cook the best food, tell the funniest stories and get all the grandkids to talk about the memories they’re making. We figure if the threats don’t work, a little manipulation goes a long way.

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Categories: A Day in the Life, Photos | 4 Comments

My Brick is Breaking

three boysThree fourth-grade boys surround me underneath a huge oak tree. We’re in Southern Indiana, at a Benedictine monastery. Thirty fourth-graders and a handful of chaperones gather in small groups around the serene campus to pray on this day: The National Day of Prayer. One of the parents has created prayer slips for each group. The boys in my group read these prayers for families and national leaders and their school. Then one of them says, “God, please help Billy* stop being mean to people.”

I chime in. I pray for each of us to forgive Billy like Jesus forgave us. Before prayer time, Billy pushed Johnny* and now Johnny’s wrist is aching. This is not the first time Billy has played too rough. He’s a great kid, but takes some situations a little too far. Inevitably someone gets hurt.

When we finish praying I tell them they can choose to stay angry and sulk all day, or they can forgive Billy, and most likely their day will be more pleasant. Johnny looks into the distance and says, “Oh great, my brick is breaking.” I look up the hill where he is staring. I expect to see someone breaking a brick Johnny has claimed as his own.

“What? Who?” I ask, obviously confused.

“My brick,” says Johnny, in the sort of tone that really says, “My brick, you idiot.” I still don’t get it.

He notes the confusion. “The brick around my heart. It’s breaking.”

“That’s a good thing, right?” I ask.

“Nooooo,” he stresses, “because if it breaks, then it won’t hold my emotions inside. And I only let one emotion come out.”

“Which emotion is that?”

“The only one that should come out: anger,” he says using the you-idiot-tone again.

I’m astounded by his depth, even if I find out later that he learned this concept from George Lopez. Johnny tells me that his other emotions are starting to leak out and I detect tears welling up in his eyes. Even if George Lopez started this thought, Johnny has internalized it and now claims it as his own.

“If you have bricks around your heart, you are walling your heart off to God and to everyone. God wants you to have a soft heart. You know, you can have a soft heart and be a strong man.”  Now the other two boys look at me like I’m crazy. But I continue. “I’ve learned something about anger. It’s a secondary emotion, meaning it’s usually an emotion covering another emotion, most likely sadness or fear.”

Then something happens on the faces of the three boys sitting around me. They appear engaged and open. I tread lightly with the lecture but I want to to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to be a part of their spiritual formation.

“Maybe when you get angry, you’re really scared or sad about something.” They nod in agreement. Not one of them looks anxious to end the conversation. They ask questions and then one of the other boys says, “My heart is flabby.”

I laugh. “Now that’s something God can work with,” I say.

Somewhere along the road, Johnny bought into the notion that to be a strong man he must only show anger. All other emotions are signs of weakness. Later I tell Johnny’s teacher about our conversation. When we are all together again, she asks him about his brick breaking. She further affirms that anger is not a sign of strength. While it is appropriate in certain situations, anger is not the end all, be all emotion. In fact, she encourages Johnny to ask one of the dads on the trip if they think anger is a sign of strength. Without any prodding or coaching, the dad plays the cards perfectly.

I feel so privileged to be a part of this conversation, this spiritual moment in the lives of these boys. My hope is that they will remember these concepts long after the exact words fade away. I want them to remember that showing the full range of emotions is not a sign of weakness.

During our dialogue under the tree, I mention David, the small boy who killed the giant named Goliath. He had a soft heart. And he became a king. Their eyes lit up when I mentioned this great king. Because of their openness, I am certain these boys can become strong men who lead with integrity. It gives me hope for the future of my city and my country. With boys who are willing to learn and maybe, just maybe soften their hearts, I see them leading other young men in truth and peace.

May their bricks keep breaking.

*Billy and Johnny are not their real names.

Categories: A Day in the Life, Faith | 4 Comments

I’m So Eve

I wish she wouldn’t have said, “Do not touch.” I’m defiant and when someone tells me not to do something, I get all churned up and triggered. I’m not proud of this, by the way, but it is in my nature.

So when the tour guide says do not touch the walls, or my surroundings, at Squire Boone Cavern, in Southern Indiana, I make a special effort to keep my hands clasped behind my back. I’m on a field trip with my fourth grade son and his classmates. We’re walking by the stalactites and stalagmites, and they look strange. But I’m fine. I can walk along the metal boardwalk like all the 10-year-olds in front of me and keep my hands to myself. For a while. I keep looking at the various shapes and textures, and I notice the formations look fake. I joke with some of the other chaperones that the cave is really made of plaster.

Then one of the students asks if caves ever collapse and we all laugh nervously when the tour guide says yes. Then the jokes start flying that they had to use plaster to cover all the dead bodies left in the cave after a collapse. Now I’m being enticed. What if this cave really is fake.

Must. Touch. Walls.

The temptation grows stronger. Logically, I tell myself that this cave is real, the minerals and water are real, and there is no plaster creating these funny looking rocks. As we get to the end of the route, the class goes ahead of me and I am left at the end of the cave. Right in front of me is a floor-to-ceiling formation. I mean, I nearly walk straight into it.  Before I could pull my hand back, my index finger is on it. It was only a brief, light touch. What harm could it do?

Two of my friends are lagging behind and when they catch up to me, the temptation gets the best of me. I promptly admit my wrongs, saying what all defiant people say, “I couldn’t help myself.”

“Yeah, that’s what Eve said, too,” responds one of them. It’s true. I am so Eve. I was told not to touch, and I did it anyway.

My guilt gets worse when the tour guide stops to explain how the floor-to-ceiling formations are made. The stalactites and stalagmites meet together and make one large rock. Then she points to the formation I have just touched.

“That one back there,” she says, “is roughly 250,000 years old.” Great. I have just messed with something a quarter of a million years old. My chaperone friends tease me even more now. I want to protest and ask how many of those 10-year-olds have gone through the entire tour without touching anything. Yet, I am not 10. Besides, isn’t that just what Eve did? She tried to justify her actions by blaming the serpent. I don’t necessarily blame anyone, except my weak self, but I try to skirt the guilt and minimize what I have done. I was told not to touch, and I touched. It is wrong. Period.

I am not taking myself too seriously here, but this story makes for an interesting illustration for my lack of self-control. I wish it weren’t so. I wish I wasn’t so impulsive or irreverent. The best I can do is to continue recognizing my faults and working on them. And then, hopefully, someday I will have the maturity of a 10-year-old walking through an ancient cave.

Categories: A Day in the Life | 1 Comment

Another 911 Call?

Since we have moved into the city, I have called 911 twice. The first time was when someone was trying to break into our neighbor’s house. Then last week, I heard a terrible booming sound and looked down the street to see a city bus entangled with a car, an SUV and an iron fence. When I told my boys I needed to call 911, my oldest exclaimed, “Again?” and I told him to get used to it.

Today as I was reading my Bible…seriously, I was… and it was good (no pun intended), I heard something at my back door. The break-ins in our neighborhood usually occur via the back doors, so I was getting nervous. The footsteps sounded close and then I heard some rummaging. We have old lockers on our back porch, with nothing in them except random things the boys collect, but nonetheless I didn’t want someone rummaging in them or looking in the windows. So I slooowly reached for the phone, holding it in my hand with a finger on the 9, I crept to the back door to take a peek before dialing. When I stood up to see over the cafe blinds we have on the window of the back door, I didn’t see a thing. Yet I still heard the rummaging and then some scrambling. I looked down and there, rummaging around the lockers, was a fat squirrel. So glad I didn’t call 911 to report him because I’m sure he would have been gone by the time the cops came.

A few minutes ago, I heard the sound again and thought maybe Mr. Squirrel was back for round two. But the sound was a little different. I couldn’t quite make out what it was. Just in case, I grabbed the phone again but didn’t bother putting my finger on the 9 this time. I looked down where the squirrel had been and no sign of him. Just as I was starting to relax, a robin flew from the top of the lockers right at the door. Stupid bird. Nearly killed himself, and made me pee in my pants… almost. 

It’s still taking some time to get used to all this city business. Clearly the squirrels and the birds do not keep to the suburbs like some may think. They’re here, too. They’re just a little bolder here. They have to learn how to live on the streets and how to make a living off of rotten candy in lockers and pieces of paper from old science projects. Some of my neighbors do have nice bird feeders but I’ve noticed that these critters are more ghetto and prefer the taste of whatever is on the back porch at our house at the moment. 

So I’m putting my phone down and I’m going to start going about the rest of my day, and if I get some time, maybe I’ll put a little peanut butter and sunflower treat in the backyard for my furry and feathered friends so they don’t have to scare me half to death anymore by all their rummaging and foraging next to my back door.

Categories: A Day in the Life | 5 Comments

What Page Are We On?

Today someone said to me, “I need to know what page you are living on.” I restrained myself from correcting her prepositional faux pas, and bit my tongue instead of responding sarcastically with: “Oh yeah, well I need to know where you’re at.” I did however sit stunned for a moment.

She had not asked me if we were on the same page. She wanted to know on what page I was living. Clearly she figured I was on a completely different page than the rest of the people in the room. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m not only living on a different page, but in a completely different chapter or maybe even an entirely different book. This metaphor can play out in several areas of my life. When my boys tell me they’re going to Falador to participate in fletching where they can slay some Dagonnoth, I start asking them where Falador is and what fletching means… and before I can ask one more question, they’re rolling their eyes and half way up the stairs. Unaware of any of these computer terms I feel like I am definitely living on a different page from my boys.

As harmless as that scenario is, there are others where I end up feeling isolated or misunderstood. When my husband and I are trying to solve an issue and we can’t see eye to eye, being on a different page can be painful. It’s tempting to give in and say that we’re on the same page. But sometimes we’re just not. It’s not easy to be on page 53 when he is on page 22 (not that he’s slower than I am – that’s for another blog; kidding). Sometimes it means I simply have to wait for him to catch up, or vice versa.

Likewise if I’m living in a different book, there’s even more isolation. This happened just today. When I was told I needed to share what page I am living on, I realized that sometimes denial of particular things in my life leads me to live in a world that is void of genuine living. My page number is not only different, the book in which I am living is totally unrelated to the ones around me.

For instance, I may be living in the book, “Walden,” while my friends are living in “A Call of the Wild.” That creates a major disconnect. And until either I am willing to step out of my peaceful lakeside living or they are willing to step out of the frozen adventure they are living, it’s impossible to find any unity.

Sometimes I am aware that my life is unfolding on a different page than those around me. The danger is when I don’t see that I am living on a different page, or worse in a different book. Thankfully I have friends in my life that are willing to step into my book and pull me back into the one I should be living. I have friends that will walk into that uncomfortable and unfamiliar place to pick me up and grab me back into a page that is at least closer to the one those I love are reading and living. I give thanks to God once again for the blessing of good friends who are not afraid to go there. In addition, I hope to enter into their books, if need be. I want to be that type of friend for them. A friend who will enter into the Wild and bring them back to the peaceful retreat of Walden Pond.

Categories: A Day in the Life, Faith, Friends and Family | 3 Comments

Where I Live

The other day I started taking photos as I was running errands. Apart from a story, these are just random photos of random places in a random city. But to me, these are the places where I live. These are the places that capture my attention for several reasons…

oaks-buildingMy kids attend a private school housed in an old public school building. Every day I walk into this place and sense a peace coming over me. Many people have commented on the “feel” of this place, and some of them just can’t put their finger on what it is. I think it is the presence of God in this place and in the people who walk its halls. Even on a gloomy day, as this one started out, there is a sort of light that shines from the inside of this building.

After I dropped my boys at the door, I started a day filled with errands. First stop: grocery. Not my favorite errand to run but necessary with a house full of growing boys.

I survived shopping for the week, and when I walked out of the grocery store, I was caught off guard by the sky. It had turned a brilliant blue, which made the church across the street demand attention. It is one of the granchurchd old churches of this city. I mourn the loss of the great architecture that we seldom see in building these days. I love the crosses at the top and the reminder that even in the mundane, there is something greater going on at any given moment.

As I headed out of the parking lot and drove north to head home, I pointed my camera straight ahead of me. To the average Joe, this scene may seem to say nothing. To me, who may still be considered the average “Jo,” I noticed the beautiful Murat Temple jutting out behind the renovated condos in the foreground. Another reminder that this city has a rich history. The Shriners built the Murat in the early 1900s to resemble the Islamic temples of the Middle-east and Egypt, hence the name the “Egyptian Room” for one of its concert halls.

Personally, I have seen many a concert, attended many musicals and have even taken part in Christian worship services at this venue (below).

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In December my family will spend an evening mesmerized by the cast of “The Lion King” at the Murat, the first musical of many I hope to share with my children. In the distance, you can see the banner advertising the show.

marshWhen we moved downtown people always asked me where I would grocery shop. Newsflash: There are grocery stores downtown.

I will admit that the prices are a bit steeper and I am “shopping around” for my favorite grocery that best suits our needs. But as for urban groceries, the local Marsh, which isn’t really so local any longer, is a good bet. It is different than suburbia, but that’s okay with me.

As I drove home I shot a little iphone photo here and there. I captured this on a drive-by of the President harrison-home1Harrison home and museum. I’ve lived here nearly all my life and never stepped foot into this museum, but as life has a way of unfolding, I received a notice from school that one of my boys would be going to the Harrison Home in December and chaperones are needed. Here’s my chance to see a little more of my city’s history.

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Along with this gorgeous home, another building half a block north boasts Italianate architecture with a different appeal. The Villa Inn Restaurant and Spa is truly one of my favorite spots in town. The restaurant is situated in two quaint rooms, while the Inn has beautiful guest rooms perfect for a romantic getaway, not to mention the spa treatments in the lower level. What a way to spend the weekend. Just because it’s around the corner from our new abode, doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in a little overnight retreat anymore. Next time the occasion calls for a little R and R, I’m there.


And across from the Villa is one of the main attractions in our new urban life. The Harrison Center for the Arts is situated adjacent (and connected to) Redeemer Presbyterian Church. This is where our family goes to explore the artists’ studios on open studio nights and sees various exhibitions and musical groups from artists around the city. The shows are usually family friendly while still being hip and relevant.

redeemer(Photo of three doors)

I was just about home and I snapped a couple more of the street where I live. (below). It doesn’t look very exciting or beautiful as far as photography is concerned. Actually none of these photos are even very good. But it’s the story I was after. So the pictures of our street represented more than a location shot. What I wanted to capture were the urban homes, unassuming homes, where people gather together to share life and eat and breathe and do whatever they do in their homes.

But more than that, this is a street where the city bus stops to pick up or drop off people going to and from their homes, work or maybe a doctor’s appointment. Or maybe they’re like the man who stopped me while getting out of my car the other day. He said he was going to check into rehab but he needed bus fare. Little did he know that I had just witnessed him getting off of the bus. Maybe he was telling the truth. Maybe he needed more bus fare to get to his rehab. I do not know. I only know that he was a man – walking down the street where I live – looking for something. Like all of us really.

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Again, I didn’t take these pictures to enter into a contest. Nor do they really say much when they stand alone. But within a context they have meaning. If only for me. The bigger picture, excuse the pun, is that these shots do not merely represent buildings or streets but perhaps they tell a bit about the history of a city and a story of its people. People who work in these buildings, reside in these homes and walk along these streets.


How thankful I am for the random idea to shoot these photos as I went about my errands that day. What a compelling way to face my corner of the world where great beauty is juxtaposed with great brokenness. Where I can see a brilliant blue sky framing a breathtaking church within minutes of seeing a toothless man stumbling up to my car – along this street where I live, ever reminding me that I need not look far to find the fingerprints of God.

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Categories: A Day in the Life, Faith | 1 Comment

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