This girl

loves life.


She loves the pool and the ocean and theme parks and alligators and stairs and wild peacocks and feral cats. I admit she’s not crazy about getting dressed or 12 hour car drives,

but who is? Besides,  the fact that she loves getting her fingernails clipped and sits still and zen- like easily makes up for that. 

Leila took to vacation immediately, soaking up the rays like a Snowbird in Del Boca Vista. Her elfin tongue consists of  ”b” and “p” words, making her key vacation vocab: “beach, pool, ball, bye-bye, and bird”  run together.  But everyday, as we came through the wooded path to the beach and she first caught sight of the ocean, she would inhale and point excitedly, as if to say, “It’s still here?! I’m so glad it’s still here!”, which is exactly how I’ve always felt about it too. 

When I was a child,  the ocean was the biggest thing that never scared me. I remind myself of that as I zipper little girls into lifejackets like a land-locked maniac.  I was scared of fireworks and the pulp in my orange juice. But, as a child, I wasn’t scared of the ocean. And as an adult it’s one of the few things that I don’t think…”hmm…it’s not as big as I remember it.”

We’re back and I’m grateful for rest, family,  and the euphoric smells of sunscreen and saltwater, . But mostly, here at the start of Holy Week, as I hope to be a bit quieter, a bit more prayerful, I’m grateful for the One too big for me to outgrow. 

“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger.”

“That is because you’re older, little one” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow you will find me bigger.”

C.S. Lewis Prince Caspian

Say it Clive. Have a peace-filled week Friends.

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On Fear, Rest and Calling it Good

They forgot to ask me to participate.  But I thought I’d give it a shot right now.

I’m scared of being tired. 

And not because I want to sleep. Which I do. Eventually. I’m scared of being tired because there are so many other things I want to do that I make plans and goals and set things in motion and am continually indignant when my body stops or my mood becomes horrendous.

I don’t want to be a Tired Mom or a Tired Friend, or a Tired Anyone. I don’t want to speak in that tone of voice that we all use when we’re trying to act engaged but we’re really texting. You know the one. That’s how I talk to people when I’m tired. Like I’m underwater, texting, and faking everything.

I’ve had the opportunity over this past month to speak for groups at William and Mary and for a group of women in Virginia Beach. If you were at any of those you heard me share this quote from Dorothy Bass. Because it grabbed me when I’ve read it and continues to hold on.

“The very first story of Hebrew and Christian Scriptures climaxes on the seventh day, the very first time there was a seventh day. Having created everything, God rests and blesses this day, and makes it holy. In this way, the Christian theologian Karl Barth has suggested, God declares as fully as possible just how very good creation is. Resting, God takes pleasure in what has been made; God has no regrets, no need to go on to create a still better world or a creature more wonderful than the man and woman. In the day of rest, God’s free love toward humanity takes form as time shared with them.”

God declared it good. And He rested, allowing Him to share time with humanity.

So, as I told the college students and the women. I’ve started this funny ritual of going through my house physically at the end of the day, and declaring it good. As I checked on Sophia and Olivia, I tripped over a half eaten waffle, at ten at night. I declared it good. Someone ate something, or half of something, and was nurtured here today, right?

Then I go through my day mentally and I declare it good. Not perfect, not finished. But good. With space to begin tomorrow. Because if God is truly Good, and with us and in us and for us, then do the math. In the middle and in the messes, He is good, and we can declare things good – and rest. 

So we are departing on our yearly vacation. This is that one time each year when we load up that van until it looks like something allowed only in states without inspections and we turn off the phones and we rest.

I’ll be honest this year, at this vacation point,  I feel more in the middle of stuff than ever. We’re in the middle of so much. But its time to proclaim the goodness and rest. And be with each other in that mystical way only possible when you render yourselves dependent on a rental condo landline. I can’t wait. The middle will be here when we get back. 

See you soon, friends. Go out and over- absorb some Vitamin D.

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A Real Deal…

So I mentioned in an earlier post that I avoid “free things.” Let me elaborate. I avoid free pancakes and free smoothies (they only ever give out the blue one, who wants the blue one?), Kids Eat Free Nights (total bedlam, and though I enjoy a good balloon animal, it’s never worth the noise).

But I need to tell you about an event in our community Saturday because it involves something FREE on a whole different level.

Free dentistry. 


No one put me up to this, you know that’s not the nature of this place (my rants only, thank you). I just happened to be in the dental chair yesterday and asked about the t-shirts everyone was wearing. 

They reminded me that Saturday a number of dentists in our area are collaborating for a “Dentistry from the Heart Event”. Meaning they will provide dental services for free, to the first 200 people to arrive. FREE. Just show up. Early. There are no qualifications needed.

Friends, you know that I tend to not exert myself or take any form of physical risks, thus I have never broken a bone or had a concussion or gashed my head open. I actually don’t think I’ve ever pulled a muscle…

But I have felt some tooth pain. Tooth Number 19 Pain to be exact. That’s on the bottom left, second from the back, if you don’t count my wisdom teeth which are threatening to emerge thus explaining my time at the dentist yesterday and why I feel like I am TEETHING IN MY THIRTIES. 

Teething pain aside, Tooth Number 19 was a whole dramatic journey that evolved over fifteen years, beginning with an emergency root canal and ending with a final extraction. Though even after it was extracted, pieces kept emerging. This tooth would. not. die.

While this is a lot of  information that no one wants to know, my point is that the reality of dental pain is something many people live with when they are without access to dental care. I have seen people line up down the streets in other countries to get teeth pulled, without Novocain, because the pain was unbearable. I have felt that pain, albeit briefly, and though it effects none of your limbs directly,  it’s paralyzing. 

If you or someone you know, could use a cleaning, filling, or extraction, and can get to Norge Dental Center on Saturday, will you pass on the word? There may or may not be balloon animals. But there will be Novocain. And relief. 



Here are  some specifics
On Saturday, March 22nd 2014 Norge Dental Center will be hosting our 3rd Annual Dentistry From the Heart event. Our team will be providing the first 200+ patients with a free cleaning, extraction or filling. We will have several hygienists, dental assistants, dental professionals and volunteers donating their time and resources in order to provide thousands of dollars in free dental care and much needed relief to people in need in the community.

Patients are asked to arrive early as the event is a first come first serve basis. Event registration will begin at 8:00am and patients will be seen through 4:00pm that day. Patients are also encouraged to dress appropriately for the weather, to bring a chair, blankets, water, snacks, etc. as they may be waiting outside to be seen.

Patients ages 18+ are welcome with no restrictions.

For more information please contact us at 757-564-0804 or email



super-sized tooth image found here

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And it Moves Us All…

I hit a wall with the Ancient Troll Prophesy a few weeks ago and decided we needed a repreive before the DVD release of Frozen. (Tomorrow for those of you who failed to pre-order and/or are enjoying your pirated versions. You know who you are.  The truth will find you.)

So on one of our snow days we watched “The Lion King” with the girls for the first time. Travis and I have just begun watching movies on the internet. But don’t overreact. It still involves lots of cords and passwords and me secretly missing The Redbox. Why is technology seamless for everyone else?

Anyways, because I’m cool, I  already had the soundtrack to The Lion King Broadway Show, so now the girls and I cruise around chanting to The Circle of Life – Which is its own sort of experience because none of us knows what they are really saying at the beginning so we each sing something different, while playing our air drums and tribal pipes (offending someone with this post feels inevitable.) But wow, we are passionate and loud, and the other day when it was sunny and balmy before our weekly Monday ice storm, I rolled the windows down and we blasted “The Circle of Life” from the 2003 minivan, and someday maybe, you can all be as cool as us.

And in case you are still wondering, as I am here to inform, I just looked up what they are actually saying in Zulu at the beginning of the song:

Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
[There comes a lion]
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama
[Oh yes, it's a lion]
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama
Siyo Nqoba
[We're going to conquer]
Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala
[Here is a lion and a tiger]


Friends, it has been a week. A week of grief and a week of hope and a week of feeling tempted toward some metaphoric and not so metaphoric fist shaking. I have mourned this week and I have questioned and I have felt disciplined and humbled and at every turn met by the whisper of God through the presence of His Faithful. Real flesh and blood people for whom life has not felt like a circle but a long long road, yet they are peaceful and steady, patient in the His Mystery and safe in His Love, not shaking their fists but opening up their hands.

I have learned more in this past week than probably in the previous two years. If only I was a journaler. But I’m not a journaler. And apparently that’s not a noun. And apparently I am but a simple Show Tune Chanter, who all week long when I got in the car and thought I was belting out something both transcendent and earthy about hope and despair…was singing “There comes the lion. Here is a lion and tiger.”

But now I’m sitting here laughing. Which feels both transcendent and earthy.

Oh friends. Here’s to the sweetness of what we see and the Glory of what we don’t.


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On Lent, NT, and Jay Z

Lent began yesterday. I know this for a number of reasons not the least being that Ash Wednesday always follows Free Pancake Tuesday at IHOP. I went once and it so traumatized me I have not forgotten it. I avoid “FREE” events in general. There is a reason we pay for things. But “Free” involving large crowds and syrup and the smell of breakfast cooking all day. I can’t go back. 

Our church is reading through NT Wright’s “Lent for Everyone”

I am already behind. But I will tell you that I’m a fan of N.T. Pause for a moment and try to list the great writers and thinkers of the past century who were willing to  drop the whole name thing and go with their first two initials: A.A. , P.L.,  J.K., E.B., C.S., Jay Z.  We can’t go wrong.

N.T. Wright is a favorite of mine for two reasons:

1. He can get people from two different critical Biblical spectrums around the same table and still say something. He doesn’t compromise. But he doesn’t polarize. There’s a goal.

2. He has a passion for getting the “deep stuff” into everybody’s hands. Obviously he’s brilliant and reads in 9 languages but his “For Everyone” series is powerful and applicable and has become such a vehicle for scholarship informing discipleship.

Six bloggers from our church will be submitting writings on their experiences during Lent and with this book. Today’s post gives the history behind Lent and ashes on the forehead in case, like me,  you’re still stuck smelling syrup this time of year. You can follow the blog here

The 40 Days of Lent are based on Jesus’ 40 Days in the desert – when this God-man declares that God is enough. Enough. So we give up things, and we add on things and we practice being thankful and mindful all the while walking towards his death and sorrow and his resurrection and joy. We engage Him and His story in a deeper way, tied up inevitably with the ways our own stories right now bring sorrow and joy. I’m reminded as I journey through my own stuff , how much I wish spiritual growth occurred on all-inclusive trips to St. Barts. But I know, though too often I resent it, that He draws us close in the darkness, and in the unknowns. The stuff that breaks us forms us again and again. “Abraham…obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

Here’s to Lent friends. May we finish at a different place than where we began.

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If I had live-tweeted during the Oscars,

this is what I would have said.

Who is that? Who is that?
What are they talking about?
What time is it?
What time is it now?
Travis watched with me for the first two hours. When he announced he was going to bed I proclaimed I was sticking it out for the nostalgia of my youth. The problem is, even if you begin the Oscars with youth, it will not be with you in the end. I  felt like I was in a bad relationship with the show “I mean…I’ve stuck it out this far, it’s got to turn a corner eventually…”
At some point, I actually think I fell asleep then woke up thinking I was hallucinating because Bette Midler was singing “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and it was a twenty year flashback. Jared Leto’s hair had grown another three inches, further confirming that Jordan Catalano may have become a serious film actor  but he needs some help with his split ends.
Then there was this:

Okay, brilliant, even if you have trouble stomaching the Samsung product placement. I have never seen a picture that Angelina Jolie was being blocked out of and Kevin Spacey was trying to get into.  That Pizza Delivery Guy? Tell me he was really from Big Mama Pizza and that was not a set up. I want to believe that that’s what life in LA is like.

There were great movies this year. Maybe I just I actually saw movies this year.  I still tense up just seeing the clips of “Captain Phillips.” I haven’t seen “Twelve Years a Slave” because I’m too scared, but I want to, but I’m scared. Tonight we just finished watching “Blue Jasmine”, you know so I could feel personally sure that Cate Blanchett deserved it. She did. We watched “Gravity” the other night – there’s some good life perspective for you. I actually have thought to myself today, on Snow Day Number Who Even Knows, “at least I’m not spinning untethered in space…”

Though, I have to tell you that my favorite of this year was “Philomena”. It is a beautifully told ,wonderfully paced, heart-wrenching, redemptive story. Is that enough adjectives? I  was sad it wasn’t talked about enough last night. Great films are acclaimed for dealing with important issues. And “Philomena”? It deals with forgiveness. The impossible, miraculous kind. Wow. Well done true story.

And my fuzzy final thought as I clocked 3.5 hours in an exhausted stupor, in between placing fully asleep children on the toilet and eating Ben and Jerry’s Frozen Greek Yogurt, not “Everything but” because Travis is trying to be healthier (WHAT?)? When the super elegant Cate Blanchett accepted her Oscar she explained that fellow nominee Judi Dench, from “Philomena”, was absent due to filming in India and that Judi Dench  is 79, I whispered to myself the true lunacy inspired by these events: “you’ve still got a chance.” 


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Don’t Ever Say You’ve Seen It All

or you will be humbled

and horrified.

It took a moment for my mind to register what my eyes were seeing. I couldn’t figure out why she looked shorter than usual, or where the rest of her body was.

Then the questions kept coming: how did she get in there? do I need to give her another bath? does this count? are her shoes salvagable?

Yet indisputably, we are both very proud that she can proficiently demonstrate potty training readiness and locate her nose at the same time.

This girl’s going places.

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On Turning Seven

We celebrated Sophia last December 16, with a Bring your Own Doll Tea Party. There were many guests and many dolls, and many guests, cheez-its and a nugget tray.  I flew high on caffeine and birthday spirit all day. There’s nothing like the 9 days before Christmas birthday.

Along the way, I have internalized a rule for how much I say about my kids here: Before age four , all is fair game, but after age four, I limit and generalize – more  my perspective than their antics. The rule developed naturally and felt right. Before four, I noticed that they didn’t wonder why someone knew something about them that happened in our home privately. I never want my kids to doubt that they have a private world, safe from scrutiny, and even applause.

Do I over- think this? Absolutely. Do they care that they have a private world? Probably not. Am I making this up as I go like every other parent?Definitely. Do any of us know what it’s like to have been a child in the world of Instagram? No.

 That being said, I laugh sometimes as I look over the early years on this site. It is filled with Sophia and her imagination, her creativity, and her lack of inhibition. If I were to share more about her this year, I’d mention her store, her ballet she marketed to the public library, her doctor’s office in the front yard, her dog house, her doll school, the VBS she hosted in our house and how many times I have been a victim of bare feet stepping on scotch tape in the midst of her projects.

I marvel sometimes that I was 25 when Sophia was born, the same age my mother had me, and the same age her mother had her. But it doesn’t make sense – my mother was completely mother to me, total competent grown up, my whole life. Was she, too, figuring out marriage, and calling, and adulthood, over and over again?

Sophia doesn’t know it because I put up such a smooth facade, but we continue to grow up together, she and I. I’m learning – learning that she’s not me,  and learning that she’s not all mine. 

She’s super smart and sensitive and seven is different than six and five. Seven is wide eyes and listening ears. She does not miss strained conversations in the kitchen or tense bedtime routines. I’ve worked my apology muscles this year, hoping, praying that she witnesses authenticity and grace.

Because, she sees through me, so I best be transparent: Olivia: Mom are you a Rock Star? Nina: Yes. Sophia: No, you’re not.

Ohhhh seven. We’re in a different league these days. Those first years, so often are about getting enough sleep. I’m beginning to realize this next phase, and the rest of them, are about staying awake.


I never posted about Sophia’s birthday last year. I was in her classroom passing out birthday popsicles while the tragedy occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary. I didn’t exhale much that weekend, and couldn’t bring myself to write about my six-year old. I kept thinking about those mothers and that we were all pregnant together back in 2006. I cried and I prayed and I let myself be really angry and really afraid. I didn’t allow myself to write this post until I sent a message to the families, which I finally did tonight. It was an awkward, halting message, pledging to lift them up on every birthday I get to celebrate with Sophia. I told them about her. I mentioned all the scotch tape. The site, just built on the one-year anniversary is sweet and beautiful and hopeful. I went to offer peace to these families and they ministered to me. Visit here:

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The Magic of Snow Days

can wane.


I committed a key error Tuesday night, as the big beautiful flakes began falling. I lost three hours of my life to HGTV. I watched young “Property Virgins” scour McMansions in far-reaching Atlanta suburbs for the just the right-sized Man Cave.

Man Cave?

Travis had to make phone calls on the Snowed In Day. He looks at me, hiding in the bedroom from the children and their debris, weighed down with the anxiety of having had set high productivity goals for this week and reaching none of them because no one ever left and because I still buy the lie that being present is not being productive, that though God is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, I’d rather just create and redeem rather than do all of of this endless sustaining and maintaining, and fuming because, (read: HGTV poison), for the love, it is audacious to assume that I can survive snow without a MUD ROOM, equipped with matching hooks, bins, and benches from Restoration Hardware,

and says “I guess I’ll go to the car.”

“Can I come? ” I asked.

It has not been my best week. Maybe the schedule disruption threw me or just the constant grasping for thumbs in those mittens. “Is your thumb in? Is it in? WHERE IS YOUR THUMBBBBB?”

Last night I was doing my desperation deep breathing in the kitchen and said, “Girls I need some music.”

I grabbed that baby, with food in her hair and hair in her eyes and we twirled around the kitchen to the sounds of Disney making more money, kicking away the plates and knives that litter the floor when a 15 month old unloads the dishwasher. We laughed and I told myself, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will put on make up and get some real stuff done.”


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Wanted: One Lady’s Maid


I will then sit in a chair at my dressing table as she brushes my hair in the morning and the following dialogue will unfold:

Nina: “Lady’s Maid, I’m thinking of trying that new style in my hair that I saw on our holiday in France. Please do it. And have the children had their breakfast yet?”

LM: ”Yes, they have and are now playing quietly in the Nursery with the new non-scary and class discriminating Nanny.”

Nina: ”Wonderful. Oh Lady’s Maid! I do not know if I can go on with all my duties today!! What with the dining and napping and my subconscious angst over this stagnate social system!”

LM: “But you are very strong and brave, Miss, and if I must say so this new style looks wonderful on you.”

Nina: “You are right on all counts. Now hand me my fabulous flapper clothes and beads, and I will take my breakfast here in my room”


Leila gave me a black eye on Friday. She was bouncing on my lap and  nailed me with her head. I’m learning about black eyes. They are not really black for one, as Olivia pointed out after noticing it four days later, but black, purple, and yellow. I could really have used a Lady’s Maid this week to run up to London for just the right concealer.

I also could have used one to dress me in the snow clothes that I don’t even own. Or she could have just helped me pull the thumbs of the children into the right place in their snow mittens, and pull them off. You mid-western/northern/arctic parents? New respect.

I watch TV to escape, not to confront. I read to confront, grow, be challenged, inspired, moved, and escape. But TV – just escape. (Which is why all I currently watch is Downton Abbey , Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and occasionally, !Nina Has to Go!, the new mini show on Disney Jr. dedicated to reminding preschoolers to use the bathroom.  I wait my whole life for a show with my name and that’s what I got…)

So I had a bit of a moment with Julian Fellowes two weeks ago – in my head. Did he not know, that this was my hour to escape into a world of Maggie Smith one-liners? Did he really need to make his point so demonstratively, that the realities of violence and the unprotected, shame and secrecy cross class lines as well as historical eras?  And, that evil is  occurring while the rest of us are hanging out listening to opera?  Or at the least, remember Julian, you get to make this stuff up so why wasn’t that slimy yet so endearing Barrow downstairs at just the wrong time, which would have been the right time, this time,  - like he is every other time?


I’m not thinking about any of that.

I just want a Lady’s Maid.



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