The year was 2002 and I needed an email address.

I don’t recall if we had internet in our home yet, maybe dial-up.

So I signed up for a one hour computer slot at the public library and began the process of

registering for an email address.

The most stressful part was choosing the email address name because

technology was new and one wrong move meant being saddled with a

terrible email address FOREVER.

I’m a percolator meaning snap decisions aren’t in my DNA.

Naturally, I am in a library, needing to make a monumental decision and the only thing

bubbling up in my mind were the popular Bud Light commercials at that time.

Of course.

Do you remember these guys?

Over the years, I have used NetZero, Hotmail, Yahoo and GMail all proceeded by


It has become my “forever” email address and the source of laughter when people

have a flash of recognition.

Here’s a bit of WASSUP Helen?!



Caleb left Sunday for a week of outdoor school.


He is our final child to experience this 6th grade milestone.

There are 5 or 6 outdoor school sites for our area and it is amazing to us that

all three kids will have gone to Camp Howard.

No matter how long one has been a parent, goodbyes are never easy.

Six days feel long.

It’s good for all of us.

No screen time for him but instead trudging around the great outdoors and

learning campfire songs.

No carpool, practices, youth group and the “do you have homework” question.

It is a sweet blessing to press the pause button for a few days yet I know we will be

anxious to have our boy back home despite the loads of laundry to come.


While Caleb is gone, Carl and I have an added responsibility.


Meet Grover.

Caleb has wanted a guinea pig or hamster for the last two years, at least. Or a puppy.

It took us some time to completely warm to the idea.

As I have written often on this blog lately, this is a time of transition for our family.

One such transition involves Caleb being the youngest by a couple handful of years.

When we learned we were to have a third child, we heard some unhelpful comments:

“Did you plan this?”

“Oh my gosh, I am so glad it’s you and not me!” and often there was silence,

followed by hysterics.

However the helpful comments were of this variety:

“My brother was born when I was 16 and we are very close as adults.”

“I loved having a little sister so much younger than me.”

“My sister is 12 years older than me, she fascinated me.”

It’s evident, I remember both sets of comments.

But those comments steeped in experience,

I shellacked them to my front and back, propelling me

towards unknown territories  and harnessing me with secure hope.

Carlen and Courtney have been the such a sweet and crazy force

in Caleb’s life.

They have remained present in his life even when it meant a lot of juggling.

I am sure part of it is because it is what we do as a family.

We try to show up for one another. But I also believe they remember how

often Caleb was in the back of  our van or stomping around bleachers or being told

to be quiet during their school events.

His sisters are in their 20’s and forging their own paths.

Part of getting a guinea pig was to give Caleb his own thing and a companion.

We got Grover for Caleb.

But we all adore him.

He has a very sweet personality and his guinea pig antics are hilarious.

I had no idea.

As a parent, we try to do the best for each child and for each season.

We try our best to make everything equal but in reality, nothing is ever equal in

every season. There are patches of time when one child simply needs or demands

more time.

The only aspect in parenting that must be consistently equal is the size of love.

I was reminded by one child how we never got her the lizard she wanted.

Her recollection was that all she had to do was clean her room.

Mine was that it was not to be a one time event ;)


Good thing Grover is so cute.

He has covered over a lot of parental missteps and taught us all a lot about empathy.


Carl and I have been working to give our basement family room a

much-needed facelift.

It has affectionately been called the cave for years because of the wood paneling.

Painting over the darkness created a brighter and  more spacious room.

One side of the family room has a built-in bookcase.

We spent weeks sorting through our book history.

There were yearbooks, encyclopedias, textbooks, cookbooks, a few too many

diet books, fiction and a lot of non-fiction books.

We parted with bags and crates full of books.

I am not saying it was easy for this book lover but it was necessary.

I kept only books I loved, would read again, still want to read or have significant

sentimental value to me. (Shhh…I still have more favorites in my office.)

I removed and recycled  all the book jackets and  this small act completely

changed the look of each book.

Then I organized them by spine color as is so popular now.


We could use some less loved and saggy furniture and few other items to complete the room

but I am realizing how often I avoided this area because it didn’t bring me joy.

A couple of gallons of primer and paint and some deep cleaning and a new room was born.

It will be fun to continue to work on this space over the next few months.



I needed a way to bring focus to my 24 hours.

The top notebook contains the 5 W’s which have begun to bookend my days.

I thought about 3 important areas in my life and ended up with 5

to govern my moments and for ease of remembering

found words bearing the same first letter.


Word (soul care)-be intentional and consistent about being in God’s Word.

Walk (health)-be active, make and schedule ways to add movement into my days,
even if it is simply stretching.

Work (job, household, hard things)-be a worker of excellence, do the work, be grateful,
do my best, be a blessing, extend grace, share the love of Christ, be fearless.

Write (passion/creativity)-be the caretaker of my dreams, make progress everyday,
always be an encourager.

Welcome (vessel living)-extend welcome to those who live within my four walls or come
into them. May I exude welcome wherever my feet take me and look for
opportunities every.single.day.

I am not perfect with this “system”.

Please know this.

If I was perfect, there would be no need to make an entry.

No reason to look back and see the places Perfection came to

the rescue when I stumbled over my attempts to carefully craft life.

I endeavor to write the date at the top of the page either in the morning

or at day’s end and jot a few thoughts or insights related to each W.

Some pages are crammed with words and others have empty spaces,

just as it should be,

just like life.


I will end with a book read and one I am reading.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane-I have meant to read this book for such a long time. I am so smitten by this book and it jumped up and made me cry on the final page.
Perfect read aloud.

The Miracle Morning-I may never be a natural morning person but there is such value in rising early. This book has already given me a new mindset and some hope of putting to bed
my habitual snooze button pushing.

Well, you know what I mean. Wink.


WASSUP with you?!



every little thing


I was thrilled to be part of the launch team for Deidra Rigg’s new book
Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are.
I devoured an advance copy about a month ago and have been itching to share a

quote which has continued to tumble around my brain and heart.
But this is simply one small aspect of this incredible work from Deidra.
If you ever needed a friend to help dust you off when you have fallen,
you need this book.
If you often wonder how you landed in the place you currently reside,
allow Deidra to share her own experiences with humor, wisdom and honesty.
Every Little Thing will help you discover how it is possible
to change your small pocket of the world simply by being you,
wonderful world-changing you.
Every Little Thing is available everywhere you would find stellar books.


God is in the wilderness.
Go there.

You can trust him to meet you right in the middle of
your wild and worn and weary places.
Take off your shoes.
Tear off your pretense.
Skip over the polite conversation.
It’s you he wants.

Simply you.

~Deidra Riggs
Every Little Thing

Reading and writing has always helped me figure out who I am and

what I am experiencing.

These two activities work in tandem to help me make sense of my world,

allowing me to dig deep enough to hit the core of what’s going on.

None of our lives are experienced in isolation.

There are people we love, circling our hearts and when they hurt,

it creates shared suffering.

Add our personal realities to the collective realities of others and it is

no wonder many of us feel swamped by life.

When I read the above quote and allowed my eyes to linger on the word wilderness

I finally found a peg to hang my hat.

Granted I am not unfamiliar with the wilderness.

I have logged quite a few seasons upon its terrain just like many of you.

Past times seemed dark, quiet, lonely and hopeless.

This current wilderness landscape feels polar opposite.

Forward progress appears to be impossible.

I simply can’t “try hard” myself out of these confines.

About 7 years ago, I looked up every possible definition and synonym

for the word wilderness.

There was a definition for wilderness which fascinated me all those years ago

and instructs me today:

a part of a garden devoted to wild growth


This definition sums up how I feel right now.

There is life and growth but there is also a lot of wild, massive tangles.

I see new blooms and others bent low, exploding with seeds for

another season and death can’t be hidden.

There aren’t  tidy perfectly symmetrical rows of flowers consisted of

concrete and absolute answers in this section of the garden.

Perhaps if I take a few steps backward, I will discover a garden with straight rows

nuzzled against the unruly plot of land.

The wilderness has purpose, there is undeniable growth despite its wild nature.

Weeds and blooms weaving themselves together isn’t necessarily the bad news I feared.

I just might be able to survive this section of my life garden.

Deidra’s words provided my mind with a new synapse to ponder good

rising from the wilderness.

She reminded me, I am not alone.

God is with me in every knotted length of this terrain.

He longs to meet me in the midst of my exhaustion and questions.

Most people would never choose the wilderness as their destination.

Yet God doesn’t say “see you later when you are on your way out of the wilderness”

and take a shortcut to the outskirts of the wilderness.

No, he chooses to plant himself right on the most uneven paths.

I am grateful to have read Every Little Thing because it is filled with wisdom

when you find yourself in the least likely and undesired places.

It’s a book of encouragement for when we fall down and desperately

need a perspective adjustment.

Tucked between the yellow starred covers,

I am confident you will come face to face with the realization,

it is possible to make a world of difference right smack dab where you are,

even if it happens to be in the wilderness.



an embarrassment of riches


I meant to write this post several weeks ago.

Usually putting off writing a post is due to an inadequate amount of

time to tap my thought upon a keyboard or the words shouldn’t be shared.

Here’s hoping it’s the former reason.

In my last post, I wrote about our late August trip to the beach.

I mentioned our time on the sand, what I didn’t mention was our time

on land, more specifically the boardwalk area of Seaside, Oregon.

Allow me to back track for a moment.

Carl, Caleb and I had visited the beach earlier in the summer and during one of

the days, we spent a little time in an arcade.

We had accumulated quite a few tickets but it never seems like the number

of tickets compared to the “price” of the prizes lines up the way you hope.

Been there?

We huddled and decided  we would return before summer’s end

and Caleb could add to his ticket bounty and surely acquire the most

amazing prize ;)

So one Saturday, the three of us headed to the beach, for cooler weather

but this time we grabbed  one of Caleb’s friends Archie.

We were in a celebratory mood as only days earlier

Archie had finally traversed his way off the waiting list and would

be attending middle school with Caleb.

We spent a chatty 90 minutes in the car, drove into the beach town,

picked up some bagel sandwiches to round out our cooler full of

snacks, and headed to the arcade.

Not gonna lie, I was a bit put out that the weather was very warm (again) on

the coast. I will completely own being a Pacific Northwest hot weather baby.

I also didn’t feel like spending money for me to play games, just for the boys

and that included Carl.

Tickets were starting to leak out of the boys’ pockets

and Carl and I watched the boys play a game

throwing balls at rows of stuffed clowns.

Fabulous idea to me.

Two of these games stood side-by-side and once one

became available, Carl asked me to join him.

Despite my resolve, hitting clowns is right up my alley,

I grabbed a ball and we made a great

team and added to the ticket booty.

Carl slid his game card  to play a second game. This time Carl told me

to aim for the lower row (I took no offense at his direct hit at

my lack of height) and I consented to his strategy.

As the game started, I quickly dispatched of the bottom row and Carl

demonstrated his superb crushing skills.

I was able to assist as each row was resurrected to be clobbered once again.

I could feel a small crowd gather behind us, but we kept throwing and chuckling.

The game was over and we discovered we narrowly missed

the score to earn 500 tickets.

Carl suggested playing once more while I worried about the people waiting in line.

But he slid his card as the tickets continued to spit out from the machine.

And they kept coming out of the machine.

And they kept coming out of the machine without end.

Carl and I looked at each other puzzled and wondered how could this be happening.

We looked behind us and shrugged our shoulders and widened our eyes as the people

behind us began to peer over our shoulders.

We kept repeating that we didn’t win the bonus.

But the tickets wouldn’t stop.

Carl jogged over to the ticket counter and explained our plight.

The ticket guy calmly said,

“You must have gotten the high score and won the bonus which is 500 tickets”


Carl came back and explained to me and the growing crowd.

We were surprised and I have to say a bit embarrassed.

Once the tickets f i n a l l y stopped, we told the anxiously waiting people

they could have the game we had already paid for because we were done.

My mood now matched Carl’s good one and I ran off to play one of my favorite games.

After my game fun, I found my husband laughing with a few fellow arcade dweller

and the boys alternately giving each other high-fives and giggling.

They had just played Spin-N-Win.


One boy pulled the lever to spin the wheel and the other boy hit the middle button

hoping to hit the smallest of slivers marked 250.

Archie had just hit the 250 mark thus the cheering and the hand celebration.

This photo is their second attempt switching places and you can see the tickets from the

previous attempt.


Caleb hit the 250 mark as well and there was more rejoicing and so many tickets.

They played the game a few more times and  never yielded the same results.

We turned in the tickets from both arcade outings, split the loot down the middle

and the boys each came home with a Oregon root beer mug and some candy.

I wanted to share this story not because we won 1000 tickets playing 3 games.

I wanted to share this story because of the two different responses.

Carl and I were shocked and searched for an explanation for this unexpected windfall.

Caleb and Archie were full of delight and joy.

Caleb and Archie didn’t ask any questions, they simply received with open hands.

Carl and I looked around, felt the pressure of the crowd and  were

a few shades of embarrassed.

Caleb and Archie had unabashed glee and everyone within earshot craned

their necks to gain a better view.

They didn’t care who happened to witness their victory dance.

They kept trying to recapture the wonder whereas Carl and I scurried away.

They never stopped smiling or saying it had been the best arcade day ever.

I’m not sure if Carl and I thought an arcade ticket cop would come and take

us far, faraway but we should have done a happy dance instead of a private

high-five off to the side of the arcade.

Where has my wonder gone?

When did I become so concerned with what others think?

Who taught me to question unanticipated gifts?

Perhaps I have taught myself this tragic opinion.

So today, I want to ask you:

Are you allowing wonder to be a part of your life?

Do you believe wonder is simply child’s play?

What has replaced your sense of wonder?

Are you able to embrace unanticipated riches without embarrassment?

Are you willing to open wide your hands and receive each and

every gifts you been given?

I don’t mean tickets made of paper but the totality of your life gifts.

Some gifts you can be held or hugged and others are simply a blink away

Seek, pursue and hunt for wonder in the corners of your days.

Spin the wheel.

Throw down your hand and allow yourself to

stop and gaze up at wonder.

Break into a merry dance even if you are circled by spectators.

Better yet spread the high-fives around the crowd.

Wonder deserves to be uncovered and shared.

When we left the arcade, we passed a couple who stood behind

us and then played the game vacated by Caleb and Archie.

They had witnessed the avalanche of tickets and shook their

heads in tandem with ours.

None of us could resist exchanging knowing grins and repeating

our shared sentiments of disbelief.

When you stumble upon wonder, it’s nearly impossible for it to remain contained,

it leaks onto others creating heart space only it can inhabit.

What ball do you need to throw?

What wheel do you need to spin?

What button do you need to press?

What mood do you need to release?

Allow wonder to be dispensed in a steady

stream pooling around your feet.

**photos by permission

hang on, sweet mama (a gift on my birthday)


Today is my birthday.

Happy dance with me.

I am squinting hard to see your moves.

Oh, you are looking good!

Last year was all about reaching the big 5-0.

It seems after the age of 25, birthday milestones are marked by

increments of 5.

After the ages that end in zeroes or fives, comes a settled resting place,

or at least it should.

So I am embracing the age of 51 because now I get to sink into my 50’s.

Often I don’t feel my age, except on the days when my joints

make noises when I walk.

I feel the way 51 should feel for me, that is the best explanation.


For the last several years, we have taken a day trip to somewhere along the

Oregon coast during the last week or so of August.

To celebrate my birthday, to attempt to make summer last as long as possible

and because my people know my heart belongs to the ocean.

On Saturday, we gathered all the essential gear, grabbed a friend for Caleb

and headed south.

Of course it wasn’t an original destination and we waddled across the sand to

stake out our territory in as much solitude as possible.

The boys placed their chairs several feet in front of Carl and mine :)

They ran with shovels towards the wet sand to dig the biggest hole EVER.

Carl and I sat and breathed.

I surveyed the other sand dwellers and one family caught my eye.

A family of four settled to our left, weighted down by Trader Joe

bags, sand pails and two very excited little girls.

The couple attempted to lay a couple of blankets which proved

to be quite a task as the wind began to gain strength.

Once they had wrestled the blankets to the sand, the dad

jogged towards the shoreline to begin the first of many trips

filling buckets with water for castle building.

I on the other hand, strolled towards the shore, snapped

a few photos of the sand excavators and reminded them

to alert us before they ventured into the water.

They assured me they would give us ample warning

and Caleb proceeded to share a story explaining the reason

you never turn your back on the ocean.

Back at our chairs, Carl was sinking deeper into his chair

and I  happily joined him without hesitation.

I glanced over to the family again, the dad was entertaining

the little girls and the mom was sitting with a towel  over her

shoulders with her back to the ocean, reading a book.

Perhaps half an hour later, this was the scene:



Oh sweet mama.

I feel your fatigue deep in my bones, in my soul.

I have known the need to turn my back on majesty in favor of rest.

Even now being in this mothering game for half of my life, I still have ever-present

exhaustion, but it’s not the same as when your children are very young.

I applaud your husband for giving you room to rest without requirement and his delight

in playing with his daughters.

Sweet mama, when you all gathered up your belongings to leave (at just the

right time, before a sand storm took residence), as you passed me, we gave

each other a gentle smile as fellow travelers do.

It was all the more powerful as you went on your way because I realized

you spoke in a foreign tongue which I didn’t recognize.

Mothering has no language barrier.

So if we could share a few moments from one mama a bit farther down the road,

this is what I would share, my gift to you, one I should have opened more often.

  • Hang on.
    Hang on to who you are in this season of high needs and demands.
    Hang on to the knowledge that today is not forever.
  • Say yes.
    Yes to naps.
    Yes to help.
    Yes to taking time for yourself even if it a few moments horizontal
    or reading a book because little moments amass but taking zero time for
    yourself always calculates to zero.
    Yes to good enough over perfection.
    Yes to lived-in messy over untouchable clean.
    Yes to doing a few things well and letting go of the other things.
  • Say no.
    No to being supermom or a martyr.
    No to finding your worth by attempting to do everything.
    No to obligation over calling.
    No to comparing yourself with other moms.
    No to comparing your children with other children,
    the scales will never balance because children are
    not mass-produced but should be greatly loved.
  • Remember
    Remember to keep life simple.
    Remember you are doing a wonderful job
    and are a great mom. You are, even when
    you lose your temper.
    Remember to say thank you to your husband.
    Remember if you are walking this road without a mate,
    ask and accept all that others want to offer.
    Remember that asking for help is not weakness,
    it’s wise.
    Remember how well you feed your children,
    feed yourself well too.
    Remember what brings you joy beyond your family
    and if necessary, for now, keep it tucked away until you can
    fully pursue it.
    Remember how everyone says how fast the life of child
    flies by? Well, it is true.
    Remember to be fully devoted to this time when your
    children are the ages they are now.
    Remember not to worry about your child at an age beyond
    where they reside (I’m still working on that :) )
    Remember you are equipped to be their mama today
    and you will be equally armed when you arrive at the later years.
    Remember to smile.
    Remember to laugh.
    Remember to play.
    Remember, we moms who are walking ahead of you,
    we think you are a wonder.

So hang on, sweet mama.


P.S. I have written so much lately about losing my rhythm in this season. I had lamented not planting my row of sunflowers along the fence. Time kept slipping past me to do such a simple task. But one day in July I believe, I decided to toss a few seeds figuring that by October perhaps a bloom or two would visit. I scattered mostly Mexican Sunflowers because I developed quite a crush on them last summer but the photo above was what greeted me on Sunday. August didn’t leave without a bloom erupting. God has been teaching me how small offerings left in the hands of the Maker can bring forth a different harvest than envisioned. I have missed the long row of towering sunflowers all summer but I am deeply entranced by this solitary flower bringing delight to a steadfast bee.


friday joy (wonder edition)

Our summer rhythm of the last decade has been a bit upended this year.

The combination of my returning to work, the hot weather and life events  colliding with

routine  has made me feel like we have lived the past months literally

by the seat of our pants, well make that capris or shorts.

We came off of a few days at the beach back into routine and quickly realized

we had no plan for Caleb’s days.


Courtney was on a road trip taking her college best friend to her first teaching job

in Texas and Carlen was working as she should be.

We limped through Monday with Carl coming home at lunch to munch

and shoot baskets with Caleb.

I adjusted my hours to be home an hour earlier which also meant

a shorter commute time :)

and sent out few text message pleas (begging) and

friends helped immediately and into next week as well.


It was a triumph to get to Friday, my day off and what was on Caleb’s mind was doing

something outside of the house.

I definitely had my list of somethings as well but Caleb was the priority.

He began the day by FINALLY mastering the art of paper airplanes by reading

a section out of this book:


Simple fulfilling joy.

We had a unhurried lunch at Chapel Pub.

I wanted to eat outside because we could but Caleb wanted to sit

in the air conditioning. I couldn’t argue as these days it is a gift

not to be covered in sweat.

Caleb is approaching 12.

There is still the little boy humor which I have been told

and seen plenty of evidence doesn’t evaporate…ever.

We have begun to have conversations richer in-depth and meaning.

We talked about how it feels to not have Mom always, for the most part, available

to his every need.

He expressed his excitement and nervousness for his new middle school but is

still really sad about how much he will miss his friends in other schools.

He’s holding his breath to find out if he will get to learn to play the guitar in

school next year as a year-long focus or one of his art rotations.

He talked about starting a band with friends.

He always politely declines when asked if he wants to see the children’s menu.

It was a first as he took his time over the menu and ordered something other than a


He snapped up my phone and took a picture of me.


He submitted to a selfie I didn’t have in mind.


This is 11.

We paid the bill and walked over to the library to grab my waiting book loot

and for Caleb to collect on his reading.


Our next stop was a nickel arcade.


We raced around and tried our best to amass as

many tickets as a $5 bag of nickels would allow.

I got to play several games of Centipede so my day was complete.

When it came time to redeem the ticket winnings, I found myself

wanting to direct Caleb to other prizes, better “deals”, you know more

bang for your buck.

If this was truly the case of getting a good deal, we should never have

set foot in the arcade as there really is no way to come out ahead for

any outlay of nickels.

In the end, he spent 490 of his 500 tickets on these items:


A giant pencil and pen and a mini whoopee cushion.

The man at the counter told Caleb he still had 10 tickets to

spend but Caleb said that he was good with what he spent.

But then he decided to buy me two mini Tootsie rolls for 8 tickets.

The counter man said he could have three.

Caleb gasps and with large eyes said “thanks”

and it was the first time I saw the man smile during our visit.

Shared wonder.

We made our final descent towards home but not before

Caleb cashed in his summer reading prize with a  free Slurpee.

(This prize redemption has ceased to change it is always a free Slurpee.)

The days are long and often toasty.

Each moment can easily be filled with essential tasks but what if

now and then we allowed our seconds to be saturated by spending

time in the midst of wonder.

Or lifting our eyes from the relentless black and white lists and

beholding the magnificent shades of wonder which are everywhere.

I recently heard Rob Bell say:

“We need to make it our discipline to not lose wonder.”

I agree.

Wonder is an 11 year-old reaping the reward of the patience practice

of creating until  the first successful flight.

Wonder is found in venturing outside your usual order and tastes.

Wonder does not come packaged in perfectly posed and focused photos.

Wonder is recognizing new paths don’t obliterate the tried

and true ones.

Wonder might just be found while plucking the wrong strings

attempting to bring forth music.

Wonder can be found in a bad investment of nickels.

Wonder is getting something a little extra and puffing up with gratitude.

Wonder can certainly be slurped through a straw.

Wonder doesn’t wait until the house is clean, the fridge is well-stocked

and you are sufficiently rested.

Wonder comes when you let your lungs expand, hands unclench

and surrender to the call,

the practice,

the discipline

of scouting for wonder.

Still need convincing my Friday was full of wonder?

wonder (noun):

  • a cause of astonishment or admiration: marvel
  • a miracle
  • a feeling caused by seeing something that is very surprising,
    beautiful, amazing, etc.
  • the quality of exciting amazed admiration
  • rapt attention or astonishment at something
    awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience
  • a feeling or doubt or uncertainty

When was the last time you experienced wonder?

Be a wonder seeker.