Clean House, Messy Heart

Today, I am going to get personal. I often talk about things “out there,” or I am ambiguous on purpose because what I’m writing about can have more than one meaning. I usually want the reader to find the one that resonates with them. So I’m going to do something in this post that I don’t frequently do — get personal.

The hubs and I have one of our best friends coming to visit for a quick overnight stay. We haven’t seen her in two years, where we normally would see her and her family three to four times a year. She and her husband moved out of the state a couple years ago and, thanks to COVID-19, we haven’t had the chance to see them or their kids. She’s “home” for a spell and is making the two hour+ drive to see us. Because of this, there has been an amount of “getting ready” happening in our home.

Something about tidying up and rushing around the house reminds me of my father. He was a tyrant. He was fastidious, to say the kindest and the least, about everything, and definitely about the inside as well as the outside of the home. The majority of my chores were outside for some reason (no clue why). It’s probably no shock that I’m way better at taking care of the outside of the house than I am the inside. But there’s more to it than that. I actually get sort of frozen-in-place when a project inside is a giant one, or when someone decides they want to rush me around. Nothing was ever good enough for him, and he never cared how hard you tried.

So, back to our friend that’s coming over. I got up this morning with a migraine and tallied up the things that I felt needed to be done before her arrival this evening. There weren’t many, and even those were pretty simple things. I had already washed sheets, dusted and cleaned the bedroom, and made the bed. I dusted the living and dining rooms a couple days ago. But there are dog nose-prints on the front window and mulberries squished on the floor from dogs that run around the backyard and then track them inside. The mulberries are a several-times-a-day project until the tree stops dropping them. Well, shoot, my vitamins are out on the counter in the kitchen and the kitchen rugs could use another wash. Some of the placemats on the dining table don’t match. Recyclable trash needs to be emptied, and there’s a stack of mail on the dining room table. My desk – well my desk has always had a life of its own! Laundry is in the dryer, so that means it probably won’t get folded and put away before she gets here. I sort of sat there with my cup of coffee in a trance, frozen-ish, headachy.

By the time I finished my cup of coffee and cottage cheese with blueberries, I was over it — not over our friend’s visit, but over being overly-concerned about what there was to do. First of all, we love her and she loves us, and I know for a fact that she is not going to come into my home and begin examining everything, and I already know she has no expectation of walking into a showroom model home. Secondly, I’m not going to have friends who are that judgy anyway. (If you are, I might just hand you some spray and paper towels and invite you to clean the dog nose-marks yourself.)

I realize that my first reaction this morning was really coming from someone/somewhere else, and not from me. I just happened to let it in. It was coming from people who have been in my life who really need to do as much heart work as they do in other areas of their lives. My heart is full of love for our friend, and I know it’s returned. My home is clean, comfortable, and welcoming. Save my desk and a set of shelves in my bedroom, my home is orderly. You can open my cupboards and look under the rugs and furniture.

I know some people who insist on a spotless home who are actually not great at being good humans, or whose lives are in complete disarray. (That’s not to say that everyone who has a spotless home IS a terrible human, so don’t email me.) But it occurred to me today that we can work so hard at looking good, appearing competent, acting organized, etc., but forget or refuse to give as much attention to becoming the person our exteriors claim we are. We may have a clean home, pressed clothes, a nice physique… but a messy heart. Take for example the person whose home looks clean and tidy when you walk in, but you better not open a drawer or a cupboard because the mess was never really cleaned, it was just stuffed away out of sight. A funny thing about that process is that even we forget sometimes that the stuff is in there or forget where we even put something!

Things become lost – like souls.

I’m not at all saying that someone cannot master both home and heart. What I am saying is this: Be kind and loving to your people, especially if you’re raising children. Our children grow up to be other versions of us, or worse, versions of the mess we stuff away in cupboards or sweep under the rug, and you never know how that’s going to come out. For me, it comes out as anxiety, a kind of frozen, soft-serve mess. For others it might come out like a spotless home, but a frozen heart, and for still others it might look like abuse. We raise these little people sometimes without remembering that other people have to deal with them after they leave our care or we leave this world. If you’re going to leave a mess behind, let it be the dog nose-print on the window kind, or the home overflowing with fun kind — not a person, or not the mean-spirited, heartless, not enough, or anxiety-in-skin kind that hides away or projects onto others. Your spotless home might be something to be proud of, but don’t make it meaningless in the grand scheme of it all, or a miserable place to be for those with whom you share it.

Appearances are just that – something to see; but a kind and giving heart is something to behold and cherish.

Kind of a Love Story About My Two Oldest Geniuses


NEW: You can listen to the blog post!
Small black and white photo of me with caption: Me, giving us ALL the do better look.
Me, giving us ALL the “do better” look.

I wish there would have been some kind of universal understanding from teachers and education systems like the mother in the story below when I was a kid in school. I’m still that kid in an adult body, really. (Just ask anyone who has had to be on Zoom calls with me this past year or so during this pandemic!) Thankfully, my mother had a great understanding of who I was. The story reminds me so much of two of my kids, Nate and Ben (for different reasons). They’re grown now, by the way. Nate was exactly this kid, and Ben was not a cookie cutout for learning well inside of the normal school box. Their other younger brother and sister, Josh and Jaz, special, glorious, beautiful, and geniuses in their own ways, operated differently and more easily inside the common structures of our school systems.

I should point out here that these are the observations of a mother, not their own observations or anyone else’s – just from a mama who wished for a world where her children could “just” belong in their completeness, perfection, and just absolute delicious individuality. I’ll never stop wishing and working to have that for them, my grandchildren… for ALL of us.

A photo of a smiling Nate with his daughter, and her arms are wrapped around his neck while she kisses him on the cheek.
Nate, getting loved on by his daughter, Milani, during recovery from an accident at work.

Nate was literally always looking around, as was mentioned very often by his teachers, “daydreaming,” they said. They didn’t understand that he was doing his best to problem-solve things at home and the woes of the entire world. They didn’t understand or see him trying to grow strong and broad shoulders, and the pressures he felt to do so.

They didn’t see what his individual genius was, and some still don’t.

They didn’t see that he was the one playing with the kids no one else wanted to play with because they were different in some way, always caring about them, protecting and defending them. We had our fair share of appointments in the school office because he chose to defend the kids that were getting picked on, and it mostly left him wondering why that was a problem and why no one was doing that for him at school, too. (Y’all know his mama was in that office though!)

He was (is) always aware of his surroundings, oftentimes with more attention paid to that than what was sometimes in front of his nose. I guess it’s no surprise that he became a firefighter and paramedic. His observing is oft times greatly mistaken for being unaware, not listening, not caring, not trying hard enough. It’s such a hugely inaccurate conclusion. I guess that must be the easiest conclusion to make. 🤷🏻‍♀️❓ (Do better here, folks.) Trust me, he knows more than he lets on and more than you think. He always has.

His empathy runs as deep as his feelings. If he’s quiet, he is learning and observing, or he just doesn’t trust you or your judgment and might even think you’re full of shit – and he’s right – a lot. He has always had a deep well of forgiveness that is long-standing that even I at times have a hard time comprehending. This is another misunderstood piece about him that people sometimes mistake for weakness — another ridiculous societal “norm.”

A picture of Ben standing on a lookout point of Moonstone Beach in Cambria, California, filming the view.
Ben, on a recent mother/son trip enjoying and appreciating the sights and sounds above Moonstone Beach in Cambria, California.

Ben would look around, trying to find the deeper information, thinking about the next thing. It would annoy some of his teachers, so I had to let them know sometimes that he was two steps ahead of them already and had lost interest, and on several occasions that they weren’t challenging him enough, giving him the space to expand his mind in the way that he needed to, and that it was they who should try harder to keep up with him.

They didn’t see what his individual genius was, and some still don’t.

There came a point when his father, grandparents and I finally realized that the boxed-in culture of most schooling and the organizational skills taught were not a fit for him. Once we gave that up and gave him room for his own system for accomplishing and finishing things, it was better for all of us! One time I was discussing this with a friend, and he said, “Is he in Special Ed?” (💭 Wait, what? 😳) You see, this is the filters so many of us operate through, tragically, and we end up othering the children we should be learning from. (Again, I repeat, do better, folks!) I said, “Yes, actually, he’s in the Baccalaureate program at his high school…
(💭you f’ing idiot)!”

Ever-curious, ever-seeking new information and understanding about the world around him and the people involved, it’s no surprise that he grew up to be a scientist of the Earth (geology) and has deep feelings about and for the people that reside on it. He will say the “hard things” about various institutionalized and systemic oppressions without regret. When he loves you, it’s probably forever, though the depth may vary and you may not realize it. He is bigger in spirit and intelligence than his physical stature, which is often way underestimated by many because of judgmental societal expectations about how big and tall men need to be. (Lorrrrrdy, we have so much to get better about!)


Imagine the world we would have if we allowed space for individuals to be seen perfect and whole just as they are with all of their natural gifts.


Meme in red and black letters stating "Let your children be who they are. If they don't fit the prefab mold, they are here for a greater purpose. Every child has his/her/their own genius inside."
❤️ Let your children be who they are. If they don’t fit the prefab mold, they are here for a greater purpose. Every (E-V-E-R-Y) child has his/her/their own genius inside. ❤️

Here is the passage which had me write my content above:
My daughter handed me her school progress report. Although it displayed a steady stream of positive check marks, there was one check mark standing dejectedly alone from the rest.

“How am I doing, Mom?” my child asked with a level of maturity that did not match the small dishevelled person gazing up at me with smudged eyeglasses that teetered on the tip of her nose. With her small finger, she pointed to her teacher’s neatly printed words next to the lone check mark.

It read, “Distracted in large groups.” But I already knew this. I knew this long before it was written on an official report card. Since she was a toddler, this child has offered astute observations of the world around her.

After pointing out all the positives on the progress report, I told her what was written. Upon hearing the news, she gave a tiny, uncertain smile and shyly admitted, “I do look around a lot.”

But before my child could feel one ounce of shame, one iota of failure, I came down on bended knee and looked her straight in the eye. I didn’t want her to just hear these words, I wanted her to feel them. This is what I said:

“Yes. You do look around a lot. You noticed Sam sitting off by himself with a skinned knee on the field trip, and you comforted him.”

“You noticed Banjo had a running nose, and the vet said it was a good thing we brought him in when we did.”

“You noticed our waitress was working really hard and suggested we leave an extra good tip. You noticed Grandpa was walking slower than the rest of us so you waited for him.”

“You notice the beautiful view every time we cross the bridge to go to swim practice.”

“And you know what? I don’t ever want you to stop noticing because that is your gift. It is your gift that you give to the world.”

As I watched my daughter beam with the glow of acceptance, I realized her approach to life had the power to change the world.

You see, we are all just waiting for someone to notice—notice our pain, notice our scars, notice our fear, notice our joy, notice our triumphs, notice our courage.

And the one who notices is a rare and beautiful gift.

*Author Unknown*

Wooden structure with the quote by Thich Nhat Hanh printed on it: Love in such a way that the person you love feels free.
Love in such a way that the person you love feels free.

Imagine… If We Had a Superpower

People come to us whole! It is only in our own eyes that we see and make someone else otherwise. Putting “less-than” upon another person is our own shortsightedness, not theirs.

What if you spent more time appreciating your spouse’s strengths than you did on wishing they did something else better or more? How much better could it be if you celebrated the whole of who they are instead of lamenting who they are not?

What if you got to know your kids just as they are, and loved their kind of genius that is already thriving in them vs. working to mold them into who you wish they would be? True, our children need our guidance. I believe fully that they come into this world already knowing every ounce of who they are, but we think or think we should know better and we convince them of the same. How confusing! Imagine if they were guided standing in who they already are instead of what we wished we could change them into!

Imagine the possibilities, the transformation, the opportunities that could open wide up by freeing up the other from the heaviness of our shortsighted expectations. Understand that it doesn’t just free them up, but us as well. Imagine that! No, really, take a moment to go on ahead and imagine it. I’ll wait.

Now, imagine all the love and affinity you could pour into that newly freed space – that even they could pour into it. What a world that could be. In my imagination, I see families freed up from generations of cycles of all kinds of abuse, spouses and children freed up from the different levels of fear and terror they feel when they hear the other spouse’s or parent’s car pulling up in the evening. I imagine children and young people freed up to be whatever it is that they dream and has them feel like the whole and worthy beings that they always have been, and employees returning home at the end of the day feeling satisfied instead of used. I imagine whole groups of people from different cultures and ethnicities walking freely on this Earth just as they should, knowing that they are loved and cared for just like anyone else, and not only accepted but appreciated for everything they are.

So I will end with what I started with. People come to us whole! It is only in our eyes that we make someone else otherwise. Putting “less-than” upon another person is our own shortsightedness, not theirs.

Move beyond imagining. It’s a superpower we all possess.

Can You Believe How Much I Know?

Or: Why My 50’s Are So Smart

Or: Now that I Know So Much I Know How Much I Don’t Know

Or: I’m Highly Qualified to Know this Stuff; I’m Over 50!

Now that I am past the halfway point of my fifties (LORDY!), I feel mature enough and qualified enough to speak on these things. Here is what makes our fifties so interesting to me and other stuff I’ve figured out:

  1. Feeling instantaneously compelled to take layers of clothing off due to a sudden rise in internal body temperature.
  2. Feeling instantaneously compelled to put layers of clothing back on due to a sudden return of normal internal body temperature.
  3. Feeling homicidal about anyone who thinks they are going to change the thermostat.
  4. Feeling justified about feeling homicidal towards the thermostat hijacker.
  5. When I say that I don’t care what people think, I mean it literally, not like when I said it when I was in my thirties as a spite.
  6. Watching the evolutionary process of being an older parent with adult children as if I am some kind of an outsider to it.
  7. Realizing on so many occasions that my children are just plain smarter than me, and possibly than I ever was at their ages.
  8. Having friends that I have known for half a century or more.
  9. No longer feeling guilt or compelled to hold on to family members that are chaotic, unkind, and disruptive just because they are family, and having the certainty that it is the healthy thing to do.
  10. Not being sure how to do something, then figuring it out, then forgetting how I did it for the next time, and just not caring that I forgot and I now have to ask one of the kids and we’re going to laugh about it – even though it’s likely they’re laughing at me.
  11. Yeah, I know some of these are run-on and incomplete sentences. And guess what… I don’t care about that either!
  12. The thought I had when my grandkids were born that I should have just skipped the kids and gone to the fun part of being a grandparent, except now I know that I wouldn’t be the kind of Gram I am without raising those fabulous parents first.
  13. The realization that if someone doesn’t value me, then they either aren’t paying attention or they are missing something in themselves.
  14. Though my fifty-something body may not be in the strong shape my twenty-something body was, my mind and heart are stronger than ever in my resolve to be a co-creator of a world that works for everyone.
  15. Wasting time looks different to different people.
  16. Slow the f#€k down.
  17. You have to look at the stars, and the sunrises, and the sunsets whenever possible. You may not get another one.
  18. Barefoot is good — unless you are going to put them on the dashboard or window of the car. That’s just gross. Walking barefoot on the Earth is grounding. Besides being gross, the other one will get your knees shoved through your face if you get into an accident.
  19. Take care of your feet. Wash them, for God’s sake. Don’t let your nails get gross and your feet get crusty. It’s not just gross, it’s unhealthy.
  20. Don’t be the reason the person you live with feels lonely.
  21. It’s easy to take the people that care about us and/or we care about for granted, but it’s not okay.
  22. Be fearless. Say yes to things that scare you or have you stopped.
  23. Get tattoos if you like them, no matter what your dad might say.
  24. It really doesn’t matter if someone’s pants sag. What matters is when you think you are better because yours don’t.
  25. If you can look the other way when someone is cheating or being deceitful, you are an accomplice.
  26. Don’t let past regrets stop you. You have them because you are supposed to do better next time. That is the lesson from regrets.
  27. I don’t for a second believe that everything happens for a reason.
  28. I do 100% believe that there is a lesson to be found in everything.
  29. When someone is talking to you, acknowledge them, and act like what they are saying is of the utmost importance. They are giving themselves to you.
  30. As a parent, tell your kids when you could have done better with them, even if it is decades later.
  31. I think most often most people do the very best they can. But don’t let that be an excuse to keep a terrible person around or excuse their poor behavior and choices. Sometimes someone’s very best may still not be a good fit for you.
  32. Don’t think for one minute that you always know more than your children. At any age, child or grown, we should be learning from them.
  33. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to keep them around. It can; but it’s possible it can also mean “thank you for showing me who you are and where you belong.”
  34. It is the job of our youth to challenge our ideals. Each generation co-creates the world for the next generation. We fall short only because we don’t realize in the moment that it is all going to change, and that is the way of things. If you are ridiculing their ideas, that says a whole lot about you and nothing about them. Remember, we raised them and we brought them up in a world whose systems were created before us and also by us. And what did we do?
  35. We do see the color of people’s skin. Color blindness is only a real thing when you’re talking about the genetic disorders. Claiming color blindness when talking about another person is not actually honoring the person of color as you might think. It is actually dismissing a part of them that is worthy of being seen. It is dismissive and indicates you are not willing to dive past the surface to be not only inclusive of our differences, but it assumes that assimilation is key to equality. It is not. What you are actually blind to is your own privilege that you walk around in without seeing that either. You may think that by ignoring the color of another’s skin that you are making a dent in racism. You are doing the exact opposite.
  36. People of color are not here to do all the educating for you on inclusion and what it’s like to be a person of color.  
  37. When someone tells you their experience and it’s different from yours, they are still right.
  38. Teach your kids to read books, not screens.
  39. I am never bored. EVER.
  40. When someone mistreats you; that is who they are. There’s no reason under the sun to let them continue.
  41. When someone tells you something about yourself that’s hard to hear, HEAR it, and move forward accordingly.
  42. Don’t let someone talk you out of your dreams or convince you that you’re not worthy of them — big or small.
  43. It’s okay to be mad. In fact, sometimes we should be mad.
  44. It’s not okay to hurt someone because you’re mad.
  45. Therapy. Do it.
  46. You don’t have to do things like your parents. 
  47. Do NOT live vicariously through your children. You will be in their way.
  48. Children are not tiny adults, and you are a parent first and always; then sometimes you can be their friend, too. When they are grown then you can be friends, and before you know it they will slowly take over, and they may need to.  It’s that middle part that’s the sweet stuff, and if you cultivate it, they won’t mind having to take over at some point, and you will trust them to.
  49. Don’t let anyone interfere between you and your children. That should remain an indivisible bond.
  50. We all need quiet time.
  51. Your kids do NOT need to be busy all the time.
  52. Alone is not lonely.
  53. Suspicion breeds suspicion.
  54. Trust. Don’t screw it up. 
  55. Cuss if you want to. 
  56. Go out of your way to get to know people that don’t look like you or sound like you. You’ll NEVER be sorry.
  57. Embrace the frizz.
  58. Tinkerbell is real.
All in

Being A Mama ;

My middle son graduates with his
B.S. in Geology in 2 weeks.

(Photographer: Jessica Verone)

The Sole Problem of the Soul Problem Is a Heart Condition

I am angry today.  Actually, I am pissed!  Admittedly, it is not just today, though.  It has been many days for much of my life about the same issue.  But lately, and especially this week, I am angry to my core.  It is sad to say that it speaks of my very essence in this moment.  I know this, am clear about it, and am working on it.  I am told I am a green chakra, the heart chakra. Perhaps this is why I feel so deeply about what has been going on with race relations in this country.  I am sure it is why I feel deeply .

I agree that guns are not THE problem. Bottom line is that an absence of love is the “soul” root of it. However, guns and gun attitudes are a contributor to the problem. How to solve this, the conundrum. On a related note, I do think if you have actual amorous feelings for your lethal weapon of choice, and/or you think it is actually an ANSWER to what is going on, then there is something wrong in your head. If you read that last statement to mean that I am against guns for self-protection, I suggest you get out of the head I was speaking of and re-read it. Do not bother arguing with me on this because I am not wrong, and there is no way to prove otherwise, so do not send me your manipulated stats or stories to prove something to me. The only thing that will prove is that you are still missing the point.

Oh, and by the way, just because someone chooses not to own a gun does not make them a “pussy,” as a few of you have so eloquently put it! If a person is not comfortable with a lethal weapon, then they should not have one. Shut the hell up with that, seriously. Guns are NOT for everyone… as evidenced by every other day on the news! Here is another thing on that note to shut the hell up about:  it being a liberal agenda.

If you are sick and tired of me being on my soapbox about the gun issue, or about the way people of color are seen and treated, whether friend or family, say goodbye to me now, because I will not sit down and be quiet.

If red-headed, freckled, or blonde and blue-eyed, or people that look like me (white, brunette with brown eyes) were being marginalized — or worse  — were being TARGETED for slaughter (YES, SLAUGHTER!), would you still be sitting quietly? Would you still be rolling your eyes at me if these people being assassinated, murdered, looked like your very own children???  This is the world I have had to bring my children up in, and that my children will have to bring their children up in. I had hoped for so much more! And if you still cannot seem to align your conscience with this, consider that it is the same world you are bringing your white children up in. Hello!  The huge difference is that some of these people have targets on them. Would you feel differently then?  What if it was YOUR sweet little seven year old blonde daughter… your 87 year old grandfather… your favorite red-headed Irish pastor… your young up-and-coming cousin…  the single mom next door…?  See?  THAT difference of reaction is an ABSENCE of love at its core! And I CANNOT tolerate it and neither should you! I’m so SICK of the apathy.  As I stated in a previous post:

Your disinterest in what I have to say, your scoffing at my personhood and my knowledge and feelings, your racial brush-off to me translates that you think that somehow my children are less important to me than your children are to you.  

And I will add to that to be even more clear:   Not only is there a disconnect in that some do not comprehend in real-time how important my children are to me, but the really scary part is that my children’s value is MADE less because they do not look like them, because they are black.  Their lives are not as valued.  (And, yes, literally my children are biracial. No need to attempt to make a point with that here.  Truth is, when my children walk out my door, the world sees a black person.  And even if they were able to see a biracial or multiracial person, they would still marginalize them because of it. Because… not white.

My oldest (“Sweet”) shortly before he got promoted to big brother in 1989.  Then, I had hopef thst the world would be a kinder, more fair place for him.  Still hoping.


The very same people who were up in arms over Sandy Hook or the Colorado movie theater slaughter (rightfully so) are now silent about the Charleston 9 terrorist attack, and it is noticeable. So I do not think it is only the terrorists in these incidents whose heads need to be examined. Further, it is not just a problem in the head, it is a heart condition, a sick soul condition in mankind. I cannot say “in humanity ” because sometimes I feel I can barely sense its existence.

So if you now find yourself annoyed with me over this, I label you as having also a listening problem and incapable of examining yourself and how your very own attitude actually plays a role in this soul sickness.  Another label.  No one likes them.

Yeah, I am BEYOND angry. Fed up. In fact, for once, I cannot even find that single adjective to describe my feelings. What I recognize is I am struggling with anger and do not like it, and that I will no longer participate with others in stifling myself.

I have some work to do.  I hope you recognize what there is for you to do.