Wednesday, December 31, 2008


It's a snowy day, and everything is so peaceful and clean and quiet. I wanted to share this poem by Anne Sexton with you.


blessed snow,
comes out of the sky
like bleached flies.
The ground is no longer naked.
The ground has on its clothes.
The trees poke out of sheets
and each branch wears the sock of God.

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
I bite it.
Someone once said:
Don't bite till you know
if it's bread or stone.
What I bite is all bread,
rising, yeasty as a cloud.

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
Today God gives milk
and I have the pail.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Do Me A Favor?

Eleven years ago, I had a skin biopsy removed that turned out to be
Stage 1 Melanoma.

January 2007, I had another one come back Melanoma In Situ.

Between the two Big-M diagnoses, I have had several abnormal biopsies.
My back looks like I've been hit with bird shot. Jamie sometimes calls me "Frankensteen." He's a goof ball.

Well, I got a call from my dermatologist's office this week. The biopsy
she removed last week came back "moderately-to-severely abnormal" and
she has to cut out a bigger chunk to "clear the margins." That will be
the end of January.

It seems pretty clear that this melanoma monster is out to get me. I go
to Dr. Vellanki, my dermatologist (who has caught them all so far) for
skin checks every three months, and she is very cautious. But this thing
is scary. I know Heaven will be great, but I'm not in any hurry to get

So what I'm asking you to do is this: Whenever you think of me, please
visualize me as a great-grandmother, holding and playing with my great-grandchildren. See my face and hands all wrinkled and see me very old.

If you are a believer, please ask the Lord for complete healing for me
from this disease and my tendency toward it. And believe it is done.
Know it. And Thank Him for it.

I hope this is not too much to ask.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe
that you have received it
, and it will be yours.
Mark 11:24
(New International Version)

"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about
anything you ask for
, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Matthew 18:19-20 (New International Version)

Will you do this for me?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Gnomes

The first products from my studio are some little Christmas Gnomes. They are about 5 or 6 inches tall and made of 100% wool. I needle felted them with love.

Did you know that it is the Christmas Gnome who is responsible for random surprises, like finding a $5 bill in your coat pocket the first time you put it on for the year? He is also the one to thank when you find that thing you've been looking for for months (an earring, sunglasses, etc.). He is known as the Christmas Gnome, but he works year-round. However, he is quite shy and hard to catch in the act.

Yes, they are for sale.

I know, I don't have on a drop of make-up in this photo, but I wanted to give you something for scale, and I didn't want to put on make-up just for that! Sorry.

I've also started experimenting with needle-felted trees. I have lots of ideas for these, but this is just a sample of what it can look like with dyed, uncombed wool.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Few of My LEAST Favorite Things

In no particular order:

1. Flakiness
2. Wind
3. Loud noises (that aren't good music)
4. Whining
5. Dishonesty
6. Cold
7. BMs that requires lots of wiping
8. Cold showers
9. Dr. Pepper
10. Skinny jeans (on me)
11. Ceaseless barking from dogs
12. The smell of rotten potatoes
13. Being slapped on the butt
14. Puking
15. Being controlled
16. Anxiety
17. Melanoma
18. Dog farts
19. Snot
20. Obnoxious drunks
21. Sex offenders
22. Child abusers
23. Ticks (and mosquitos and leeches)
24. Gingivitis breath
25. Mullets and mustaches
26. Know-it-alls
27. Telemarketing
28. Loud talking on cell phones in public places
29. Little dirty hands on or near my face
30. Parasites
31. Static electricity
32. Poison, Whitesnake, Slaughter, Warrant, etc
33. Paper cuts
34. Electronics and gadgets that don't work right

Monday, December 15, 2008

Find Your Groove

It's all about going with your flow...not THE flow, YOUR flow.

You gotta find your groove and get into it, and then, like a miracle, all the parts of your life start falling into place.

Have you ever felt like you were swimming upstream and everything seems to be a struggle? Have you ever felt like you have analyzed situations or decisions so much that you forget who you are or what you want? Try listening a little more with your heart.

I'm not saying that working hard is a bad thing, but when the proverbial "doors" continue to shut, it's time to "walk on down the hall," as Jim Morrison would put it.

I think it is important to check in with yourself and with your God. Be still and get centered. Pray and ask. And FIND YOUR GROOVE.

Then groove out!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


My friend Chris and I have found the perfect spot for our shared studio, where we will create all kinds of art. Take a look at the pictures I took today with my camera phone. It is truly a dream!
It is located in Reeder's Alley, which 100 years ago was a mining camp, and the tiny little rooms now rented by artists and writers and massage therapists are where miners once slept after long days of mining for gold. The brick walkway and stone walls are so cool, and in the summer we can spread out a little to the sidewalk and play our guitars and even sell our wares.

One wall inthe studio is this beautiful stone wall. By the way, there is not one square corner or anything else in the space. It's just great.
The "For Rent" sign will be coming down in the next day or two when Chris and I can coordinate our schedules and get down there to sign the lease.

This views looks down the alley toward our main street, Last Chance Gulch. Yes, that is snow on the mountains. We will have a sign hanging down from the wrought iron sign hanger above our door. Our studio address is 119 Reeders' Alley. Summers here will be beautiful. I am so excited I can hardly sit still.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Looking Fine

Jamie and I went to the Festival of Trees Friday night; and we were looking good with new duds and all. I had to buy a new dress to go with my fabulous shoes!
My good friend Audrey sneaked those shoes into my luggage during a shopping trip in Portland, Oregon this summer. I had tried them on at Nordstrom and then reluctantly gave them back to the salesperson because I had already exceeded my budget. When I got home and started to unpack, there they were! Now THAT is a good friend.
Anyway, Friday night, all decked out, was a fun time for the Festival of Trees, which is a great cause: to raise money for Intermountain, an organization that cares for abused and neglected children.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

So Thankful

We had such a great time with Sheila, Jamie's sister, who flew in from Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with us. We don't get to see her enough, and she is an amazing person. We spent a lot of time laughing and playing and eating, and I always feel blessed when I have gotten to be with Sheila.
Here are some photos of our time together:

Dinner at Benny's Saturday night

At the Waterfall

At the River House

Monday, December 1, 2008

How Cool is That?

For the last five years, I have been feeling a pull to use my skills and passions to make a difference in the lives of girls and women. That's how Soul Arts was born (see very first post) and I have been searching for a way to legitimize this service, like going back to school or getting some sort of training.

I first considered getting a master's in art therapy or creative expression therapy (which I participate in as a client and thoroughly enjoy); and found that it is impossible to do that without moving away from my home for two or three years. As a wife and mother of two young daughters, that's out of the question.

Then I looked into Life Coaching. It would cost a few G's, and seems risky, considering that I live in a small, conservative city that would likely not have the demand for a life coach. My hubby didn't like the risk. He kept thinking that there had to be another way.

Then my pastor suggested I look into being a Spiritual Director, which is a person who helps others discern what God is doing in their lives and helps them find and get on the path God has for them.

Well, that seemed perfect! So I did some research and found some schools that offer a certification in Spiritual Direction, and they were even more expensive than the Life Coaching programs, but affiliated with a seminary, seemed more solid.

I discussed the options with my husband, who again said that he wasn't going to fork out that kind of dough for something so unkown. If I had some security as part of the church staff, that would be one thing, but I am part of a church plant, and we are about 20 members big so far. We are certainly not going to support even a part time Spiritual Director!

I was feeling called and stuck. So frustrating.

I took a personal day off work at the museum a few weeks ago and I spent the entire day calling around to spiritual directors and programs and my sister and my dad, pouring out my dilemma with hopes that someone would have some wise advice.

Finally I gave up on that, and I began to pray. I prayed most of the day something like: "Lord, I feel like this is what you want me to do. You gave me this passion for women and teenage girls. But unless you open up some opportunity, I am stuck! I need your help here. If I need to focus on something else, will you make that clear? Otherwise, will you show me the next step I'm supposed to take with this? Please?"

It went on like that for a long time. Meanwhile, I e-mailed the Pregnancy Resource Center and told them I'd be interested in volunteering there. I considered mentoring a girl from the Florence Crittenton Home again. I just didn't know what to do.

At dinner, as I was trying to figure out how to bring up the subject again to my reluctant husband, I got a phone call. It was my friend Audrey who serves on the board of the Pregnancy Resource Center. She said the assistant director had quit that day and the exec. director needed someone in there. She had asked Audrey who she knew who would want to do that kind of work. Audrey told her me! (Audrey and I had never discussed my working at the center.) I told her what I had been praying aobut all day. We wondered if this was God's answer.

(Meanwhile, on the very same night, my church got together to pray and my name came up and they prayed about this particular dilemma I was having. I learned about it a week later!)

So, I stopped by the center the next day to ask what the job entails. I made it clear that I am not a detail person. I won't do spread sheets or balance books or ask people for money. I will be creative and personable and compassionate and fun.

She told me that the person who got the job would be working directly with clients who are dealing with unexpected pregnancies and would also train volunteers to do the same. She said there would be a lot of room for innovation, such as starting classes for teens and new moms, etc. Oh, and by the way, the person who got the job would be paid more than I'm getting paid now, would work less, and would be trained on the job!!!!

I sat there dumbfounded. I was thinking "This could only be God."

But I had to go through the process of submitting a resume and cover letter and getting references. And, of course, I have no experience with any type of counseling -- just Soul Arts and the mentoring I have done with the Florence Crittenton Home.

Well, I went through the motions and continued to pray about it. A lot. "God, I'm just going to leave this to you. You know that's not easy for me, but that's what I'm going to do. If she offers me the job, I'll know it's you. If she doesn't, I'll know that's you, too.

Three grueling, teeth-gnashing, nail-biting weeks later, on the day before Thanksgiving, she called and offered me the job.

There I was, trying to figure out how I was going to come up with about $10,000 for school and then how I was going to make that money back. God had a better idea. He had an opportunity for me to GET PAID TO LEARN AND GET EXPERIENCE.

Is God amazing or what?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ridiculous Writing Exercise

I found this picture in an old magazine dug out of the back of a shelf at the Columbus, Mississippi public library a few years ago. I love the guy's fabulous outfit, and am still intrigued at the trick he's performing.

I decided to use it as a writing exercise for some high school students I was teaching last year, and they balked. So, I made a deal with them: I'd write a story based on this picture, too. So I did, and you can read it below. You might want to scroll up and take one more close look at the picture.

No matter what Virgil tried, he just couldn't reach that ever-evasive booger. Upon awakening from a fitful slumber in which he was wearing his favorite super hero costume, he sensed the obstacle blocking his breath, both entering and exiting his right nostril. At first he inserted an index finger -- a favored digging, scratching, pushing and gesturing tool for many -- but his pointer only dislodged the booger from one spot and deposited in another, where it became a whistle blowing a C# on an inhale and a D on an exhale.

A musical person might have tried different breathing rhythms and, with pride, kept the crusty mucus in its noisy place, but Virgil is not and never will be musically inclined. In fact, Virgil began feeling like he was slowly going insane with every see-saw see-saw see-saw.

He rushed to the bathroom and quickly unrolled a wad of toilet paper to blow into, but the effort proved futile. It left him with a headache and a magnified sense of the booger's presence.

He began to pace and sob and twirl small tufts of his public hair when, suddenly, he saw the bucket of nails and a hammer. He knew then he had a solution to his dilemma, and he went for it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Give Thanks With a Laugh

It's Thanksgiving Eve, time to make a list of my blessings and watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles -- a Thanksgiving classic comedy! I've seen it umpteen times, and still laugh all the way through it. John Candy and Steve Martin are brilliant.

My favorite part:

[another driver is trying to alert them that they're driving on the wrong side of the highway]

Neal: He says we're going the wrong way...

Del: Oh, he's drunk. How would he know where we're going?

Another funny part:

[waking up after sharing the same bed on the motel]

Neal: Del... Why did you kiss my ear?

Del: Why are you holding my hand?

Neal: [frowns] Where's your other hand?

Del: Between two pillows...

Neal: Those aren't pillows!

Our Christmas movie tradition is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, another one I never get tired of. I still laugh every time I see Cousin Eddie drinking eggnog wearing a tight white sweater with a black dickie showing underneath.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Caroline's Art

"The Snowy Night"
by Caroline Grace Carey, age 8

Eliza's Art

"Santa in His Sled"
by Eliza Paige Carey, age 5

The Present (aka: gift)

I don't know why it is so hard to live in the present. Truthfully, it's all we have. I logically know this, but, alas, my mind habitually wanders to the future -- dreaming, expecting, analyzing, planning, fearing...

The dreaming part isn't so bad. Dreaming is a healthy activity, until it gets out of hand and leads to disappointment, resentment, even fearing. And it can.

These future concerns are unrealistic and they rob us of our present joy. We should steep ourselves in gratitude for our blessings. We should emanate our joy to those around us. And that's impossible when we are stuck in the future, the unknown, which doesn't even exist.

I love the Serenity Prayer, the motto of anonymous alcoholics everywhere. Although I never touch alcohol (I'm allergic), I raise a toast and sing a resounding, "AMEN!"

We have to find our groove and go with it, surrendering the rest to God. He's in control anyway, whether we worry or not. The longer we resist the groove, the longer it will take to find our true bliss.

But I'm a slow learner.

My friend Audrey tells me to try and turn the mind chatter into a prayer every time it attempts to steal our present (our gift). She's a pretty smart woman!

Maybe the instruction to "pray without ceasing" is a call to be in the present. To enjoy the gift.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One-Word Questionnaire

Answer the following questions with single word responses, and pass the award on to 7 other bloggers:

1. Where is your cell phone? counter
2. Where is your significant other? Missoula
3. Your hair color? blonde
4. Your mother? comforting
5. Father? wise
6. Your favorite thing? travel
7. Your dream last night? Vegas
8. Your dream/goal? Truth
9. The room you're in? living
10. Your hobby? friending
11. Your fear? loss
12. Where do you want to be in six years? organized
13. Where were you last night? home
14. What you're not? boring
15. One of your wish list items? camera
16. Where you grew up? South
17. The last thing you did? lunch
18. What are you wearing? jeans
19. Your T.V.? off
20. Your pets? stinky
21. Your computer? awesome
22. Your mood? fidgety
23. Missing someone? sister
24. Your car? Suby
25. Something you're not wearing? lipstick
26. Favorite store? bookstore
27. Your Summer? fast
28. Love someone? YES
29. Your favorite color? chrome
30. When is the last time you laughed? today
31. Last time you cried? Wednesday

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wise Words

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to eachother."
-Mother Teresa

Encountering the Enemy

A few weeks ago I reconnected with an old enemy.

Her name is Beth and she was my nemesis throughout high school. To be honest, I never really had any major grievance against her, except that she hated me.

Recently, as I was new to Facebook and trying to figure out its ins and outs, someone suggested I be "friends" with Beth. I thought she was asking me to be Facebook friends with her, so I clicked on it, thinking she must be over her hatred toward me. Well, come to find out, I had asked her to be "friends."

She responded in a respectful but hesitant way, and I thought letting the past stay in the past was the best way to proceed. So we shared a few pleasantries and that was it...or so I thought.

Then, a few weeks later, I get a private Facebook message from Beth addressing the 20-something-year-old conflicts, as well as the lingering hurt she felt from them. I learned a lot from what she shared. I had no idea what all she had been dealing with as a teenager, and I was too young and naive to understand.

She vented and apologized for her responsibility in the falling out, and she mentioned some regrets.

I didn't know how to respond. I felt embarrassed that I was too ignorant to know how hard of a time she was having back then. I was also painfully reminded of how hard of a time I was having back then. I appeared to most people, including Beth, that I had it made in high school, but I was just as miserable as she was.

High school can be tough.

I pondered on her note for a fews days and finally wrote her back. I spilled my vulnerable guts back to her and felt sufficiently purged. I was depressed for a few days afterward, having re-lived some serious rejection and plain-old meanness, but I'm on the mend, feeling good, like a bridge was built over some rough waters.

At first it seemed that stirring up something that is nicely settled is a silly idea. But there is a big difference between settling and healing.

Connection is good. Truth is good.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Life in Another Time

If you could live in any other decade, which would you choose?

I can think of many who would say the 60s were the coolest, what with all the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Others may say the 20s would have been the funnest. I know people who would choose some Victorian decade, but I couldn't stand those corsets and heavy petticoats.

I'm not very text-book smart when it comes to history, but I've read so many books set in so many different times, that I think I know a thing or two about times past. And believe it or not, I would choose to live in the 30s. Yep, I would zap myself right back in the middle of the Great Depression.

People were poor and hungry and struggling, and they were forced to lean on God and each other to get through it. Women spent their days working hard making quilts, hoeing in their gardens, cooking, canning, taking care of babies. Now I hate housework more than anything else in the world, so it's not the chores that attract me to the 30s. It's the comeradery. These women did much of their work together. They helped eachother take care of the kids and stitch the quilts and can the tomatoes.

My grandmother told me that as young mothers she and her sister would gather all the laundry and go out and build a fire to start the washing. One of them would wash while the other nursed the babies on her breast.

When she was a young girl in Tennessee in the 30s, her family would gather with other families on Saturday nights and play music together in someone's living room. Someone had a banjo, another had a fiddle. I'm sure there was a guitar, a Jew's harp and maybe a harmonica. They would dance and laugh and sing into the wee hours. It sounds more fun the watching TV any day.

They had barn-raisings in the 30s, where other families would pitch in and help build a barn for a family in a day. I think that is way cool. I wonder how many people would come over to my house this summer and help Jamie and me build a new deck.

Nowadays, we drive into our garages and never even have to see our neighbors if we choose not to. Thousands of us work in cubicles all day long and stare at a computer. Everyone is way too busy to even consider sitting around a quilting rack for days on end making something you can just run out to Target and buy.

But I feel like we are missing out on the kind of relationships that enriched the lives of those people living in the 30s. I think that hard times force us to depend on eachother and good times make us so independent that we can become lonely and not even realize it.

My friend Leah is an extreme introvert. She loves to go home from work on Fridays and close the blinds and hole up for the entire weekend. But she told me one day, "As much as I like to be left alone, I have to admit that every important moment in my life, every meaningful experience I've ever had, has been shared with another person."

Think of all the stories that have been told of people stranded together -- Swiss Family Robinson, The Breakfast Club, etc. These stories are written and enjoyed because they are intriguing. It's a sort of fantasy. Why, do you think?

We are created as a tribal people. It sounds corny, but I believe God made us to be communal. He did say the second most important commandment is to "Love your neighbor as yourself." It's hard to do that if you avoid people, or if your life is so full of to-dos that you have no time for true relationships. Maybe God commands us to love others for our own happiness as much as that of the receiver. Now there's a thought to ponder.

It's possible that our priorities have gotten out of whack in our generation, and we would be happier if we rearranged them a bit. It's also possible that we are headed for another Depression. If that happens, we will be poor, but we may be much richer in ways we never thought of.

Quilters can meet at my house!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dancing Freedom

I feel an expansion in me lately, an openness that is light and fanciful, and at the same time, serene and peaceful. Like watching fireflies in Mississippi in July.

My heart has been stretched, creating space for freedom to dance and its opposite (like rigidity and expectations) to crumble.

In September, I attended a training for church planting. The long weekend in Denver introduced me to a denomination that is "radically moderate" (like me!) and extraordinarily open and accepting. And they still believe and preach the Word of God. It was a liberating experience after a lifetime of stodgy legalism.

I met Christians from all over the country. Some were Asians, some Hispanic, some Southern. Some were illegal aliens. Some believed in baptizing babies, while others believed in baptism for those old enough to choose for themselves. Some were Democrats, others Republicans. One was an ex-convict. Most drank beer. Many were fun. Nearly none was weird.

I felt so validated. My secret rebellion to the conformities encouraged by the fundametalists was recognized here as an acceptable way to love Jesus. I can still be me.

Also in the last few months I have noticed an acceptance of me and my "misfittedness" among my co-workers and non-Christian friends. It's almost like I can finally breathe easily, like my faith and my church are not at odds any more. The inner conflict has vanished and maybe a new serenity shows in my demeanor, or maybe it's a confidence that I can do something for God without having to compromise my authenticity.

Then my best friend of 25 years, Ray, died unexpectedly. And I miss him terribly. He's the first person I want to talk with when I have something interesting on my mind, and he's not a phone call away any more. I think I am still going through the grieving process, but I know like I know like I know that I loved him well and that he is with God right now.

Then, last week, the United States elected its first black president. I am optimistic.

I am feeling called by God to do something that really matters. I want to work directly with women and girls, and I'm not sure what that will look like yet. I am feeling pulled to let go of my ego and spend more time loving on other people, instead of feeding my desire to know and be liked by many.

And I need to create.

But a new faith is growing in the space that has swollen in my heart. As I grow spiritually and emotionally, I feel more childlike, trusting and free. It's such a relief to realize that most shit doesn't matter.

So, here I am. Open to whatever is next.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Best Books

I'm attempting to create a list of the best books I've ever read. This is a difficult job, but it must be done. Wish me luck.

In no particular order:

To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (non-fiction)
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
Bald in the Land of Big Hair by Joni Rodgers
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls (non-fiction)
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Indian Creek Chronicles by Pete Fromm
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Brothers K by David James Duncan
Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes
I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds
Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean
Young Men and Fire by Norman MacLean
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Caroline Cast Her Vote

My 8-year-old asked me recently what the difference was between John McCain and Barack Obama. She didn't know which one she should be rooting for. I decided that I didn't want to tell her who she "should" like best, but that I would instead try to explain the differences between political parties.

Now, let me reiterate that my daughter is 8 years old. So, I thought about it for a little while, and I finally boiled it all down to what I thought she might understand.

I said, "Well, one way of looking at it is that Republicans want things to stay the same. Democrats tend to want to change things from the way they are."

Without giving me a chance to further illustrate my point with examples, she skipped away, satisfied.

Today she came home with a poster of the candidate she "voted" for in her third grade class.

Suffice it to say that in Caroline's world, things are just right the way they are!

I pray that whomever makes the big decisions over the next several years makes choices that keep my daughter's world as beautiful as she sees it now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Who are you? and What are you worth?

Have you ever had someone say to you, "Just be yourself"?

Did you think to yourself, "Okay, but what does that mean, exactly?"

Who are you? Deep down, when no one is looking, at your very core? What about you is real?

Real is who we were before we were told something different. Before our pushy parents got in the way. Before we got the idea that we were supposed to be like other girls or tougher guys, because that’s who everyone liked, or that’s who got dates.

If we weren’t naturally pretty, we tried to stand out as the smart one or the funny one, or the athletic one.. Too tall? We slumped our shoulders. Bad teeth? We never spoke or smiled.

Our "selves" have been altered by our birth order, our community, our socio-economic status, our hurts, our shame..the list goes on and on.

Many obstacles get in the way of us just being us. And so here we are, masked by these expectations and misconceptions and defenses that we use as an excuse for ourselves.

Have you ever thought that if people knew certain things about you, that you would be rejected? have you ever found yourself pasting on a smile when you really wanted to scream with rage?

I'm not saying that there is not a time and a place for certain emotions to bubbloe over. But, if we have relationships based on us living this not-so-genuine condition, what are those relationships worth? Can they be considered authentic relationships? Can you ever get anything out of them than surface pleasantries?

What if we take our masked selves to God? Even though He knows us through and through and loves us anyway, can we say we have a true relationship with God if we aren't coming clean with our whole, true selves?

Where do you get your self-worth? Does it come from the roles you play? Your job?

Give this question some thought. Go on a safari -- a safari into your heart -- and see if you can find your worth stemming from something bigger and deeper than external "stuff." Then name and claim your true self and your true value. It's a good step toward living your best life.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

One More Halloween Pic

Last Saturday night, we had a way-fun Halloween costume party for adults-only at the museum where I work. It was called "Nightmare Afffair," and I got to be in charge of the decorating and marketing for the event. After a lot of hard work, Jamie and I got dressed up as Austin Powers and Foxxy Cleopatra and went to party down with one of our favorite bands: The Clumsy Lovers.

All night, Jamie kept saying to me, "Do I make you randy, baby? Do I?"

While I kept saying, "I'm Foxxy Cleopatra and I'm a whole lotta woman!"

We had such a great time. My whole body ached the next day from all the dancing. I will wear a costume next year that requires more comfortable shoes.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

We have one adventurer and one little imp. They found appropriate costumes. Caroline went as Indiana Jones and Eliza went as a devil. They were on a sugar quest. This weekend in going to be full of energy!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ray Wood: April 17, 1970-October 15,2008

I can’t remember when I first met Ray. It feels like he’s just always been there. Just my life, a phone call away, ready to talk, laugh, debate, gossip, philosophize, reminisce...
I know it was sometime in junior high...we were 12 or 13, in the same grade in school and in the same Sunday School class at church. I was probably attracted to his wild side first – I always loved excitement, and Ray provided a flood of it -- but it was his humor and his intuitive intelligence that grabbed me and held on.

That was 25 years ago.

Back then we would sit together during Wednesday night youth group at church, Ray and I and sometimes Joe Shay Cook, and the mischief would start. Wade Ward, our youth group teacher, was patient with us. Then again, Wade counsels juvenile delinquents for a living.

We would leave youth group and go see a rated R movie or drive real fast over Thrill Hill or try to find Three-Legged Lady Road. For a while, we dared each other to go into the old, run-down house where it was said that Satan worshippers made sacrifices. Ray and I went in there one night, holding hands and tiptoeing. Now that I think of it, Ray probably made up the Satan worshipper story just to thrill me.

Wade led our youth group on our first backpacking trip into Bankhead National Forest. Several of us left the campsite at bed time to venture into the night. We were going to try and find the nearby river, I think. I was just along with Ray for the fun. We finally found water and we all perched on top of a huge boulder and conducted a seance. We tried to channel Hitler from the dead. It didn’t work, thank God. We were Christians, after all. Just naughty Christians. God was still looking out for us.

We went to youth rallies and flirted with kids from the other youth groups. We went on retreats and broke the rules. We sneaked around the church when no one was watching and slid on the slick floors in our sock feet. And we laughed and laughed.

Finally we turned 15 and got our drivers licenses and the adventures got a little bigger. Ray and I would drive around town looking for little-known spots. We called it "‘splorin.’" And we ‘splored alleys downtown, strange backroads, and more so-called haunted houses.

We found a vending machine outside some lumber yard or something that sold cold beer for 50 cents a piece.

One night we climbed to the very top of the trestle that stretches over the Tombigbee just out of town. It was dark as black, and Ray dropped a burning cigarette from the top and we watched its embers fall, fall, fall all the way down to the water. I was thrilled, delighted. He loved to delight me.

Another night, we went skinny-dipping under that same trestle with a few other friends. But we were very modest and discreet. Otherwise, it would have been incestuous.

We fought off boredom once by tromping around downtown until we found a pull-down ladder behind a building and climbed up. We decided to have a picnic there on top of the building the next weekend. It became our regular picnic spot for a while, where we would hang out above the street lights, looking down on the heart of our city, thinking we were pretty clever. Laughing. We were always laughing.

We would lie on our bellies in the floor of my bedroom and make up poetry together. One line I can remember said, "colorless rainbows filled the sky." We wrote page after page and giggled for hours.

He made himself at home in our house, because he had become family. My parents love him as if he were their own. In a way, he was theirs.

He loved hanging out with my dad. Ray called him "Papa Rog." They spent many hours together in my dad’s shop talking about God-only-knows-what. They called it "dippin’ and cussin.’"
We danced . Boy could Ray dance. The man had moves that betrayed the initial impression he gave. To see Ray walk, a sort of lope-a-dope, lunging sway like a lumber jack, you would never expect that he could move his body to music like he could. He could groove like no other.

Ray and I spent a lot of time with other high school misfits, like Susan Franklin, Chip Lemmonds, Chris Yarbrough, Anthony Atkins, Candie Holder, Jeff Peterson...

We made friends with each other’s romantic interests. My boyfriends learned quickly that we were going to spend time with Ray. They usually didn’t mind. He made them laugh, too.

Senior year came and I was elected Homecoming Queen. I had to choose an escort for the festivities. In my mind, there was no other choice but Ray. I had other friends, but he was my closest, most true friend. No one knew me like Ray. And no one loved me like Ray.

When I announced that Ray would be my escort, a few teachers tried to change my mind. They didn’t want the homecoming queen being escorted by a student that smoked cigarettes in the parking lot before school. And didn’t play sports. And didn’t care too much about grades. And was known to be a partyer. I wouldn’t budge, of course. And I hated those two or three teachers for flinging around their empty judgment, for their lack of depth. I hated them for not being willing to recognize the beauty, the radical love that was not so far underneath Ray’s care-free surface.

It was Ray and me against the world, or so we fantasized. We were a team. ‘Til death do us part.

The more reckless we got, the more of my protector he became.

We went on our senior trip together to Panama City, Florida. Melanie Williamson and I took off down the beach with some cute boys we met. Ray stayed up half the night walking the strip and the beach looking for us until he found us.

He made sure he knew where I was at all times during a party, he kept me away from situations, people, rooms at parties -- anywhere he thought I didn’t belong.

Everyone who knew Ray knows he loved Jim Beam and Coke, and always stirred his mixture with his index finger. It was the same finger he used to push his glasses up on his nose. The same one that held his Marlboro Reds against his middle finger.

He loved music and broke out in song whenever a word or phrase he heard would remind him of a song. I did it, too, and it became a life-long game between us, like so many inside jokes, stupid sayings and pet names.

We went to a few Grateful Dead Shows together. We went camping and back packing together. We went waterskiing together. I went off to college, and he came up on weekends, or I came home and brought friends and we’d hang out with Ray. He had a real job, and I was his date to his work Christmas party for several years straight. His workmates teased us. They didn’t get it.

I moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1993. Ray came to visit that winter. I was learning to snowboard and I made him go to the ski hill with me. I was always talking him into doing stuff that he really didn’t want to do. I don’t know why he liked me.

Anyway, we got our boots and boards and bundled ourselves up against the cold and headed for the bunny sloped. We hopped on the lift and road it to the top. We edged to the front of our seats, preparing for the descent, when suddenly, we fell and rolled and fluttered and floundered until we wound up in a tangled mess just under the lift. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. Ray was mad. The lift was stopped and people were yelling for us to get up and get out of the way, but I couldn’t quit laughing and Ray couldn’t figure out how to get untangled from me and my snowboard.

When we finally righted ourselves and I could breathe normally again, Ray unclasped his snowbaord, put it under his arm and marched down the hill cussing the lift, the snow, the snowboard, me... He walked directly to the bar where he stayed the rest of the day, swearing he’d never touch a snowboard again.

I moved to Missoula to finish college, Ray met Jackie and got married. I met Jamie and got engaged. Ray and Jackie had a baby. I was planning my wedding and I asked Ray if he would be in it.

He said, "I hate to tell you, but don’t think I’d look too pretty in a bridesmaid dress. It might ruin your pictures."

I assured him he could wear a tux if he would still be my bridesmaid. He agreed to do it.
He brought baby Anna to the wedding and we swooned over her. I was so proud that Ray was a Daddy. But not as proud as he was. For the next 12 years I listened to him brag and brag and brag about Anna and Georgia. He beamed with pride over his girls. He’d say they were "tough," "whip smart," he’d say. "May baby" did this and "My baby" did that.

My husband loved him immediately. My kids love him, too.

I had to tell them the day he died that I would be going to Mississippi for a few days because something has happened.

Caroline, my 8-year-old, said, "Why are you sad, Mom, did somebody die?"

I said, "Yes, Sweetheart. Ray died this morning."

She thought for a few minutes about it and then she said, "Mom? Did Ray love Jesus?"

"Yes," I told her, "He loved Jesus a lot."

"Then he’s in Heaven and we should be happy, right?"

"Yes, Caroline. You are absolutely right," I told her.

"Well we’ll see him when we get there. So be happy," she said.

So I told her, "You are right, but I’m still going to miss him a lot until then."

She thought about that for a little while, and then she said, "Is it like when I lost Googie?"

I laughed a little. Googie was her security blanket she’d had since she was born. Googie, whom she referred to as a "he," was lost last year, and she wandered around for weeks feeling lost. A year later, she still misses Googie and includes him in her prayers.

And I thought about that, and I said, "Yea, Caroline. It’s a lot like losing your Googie."

Thursday, October 16, 2008


My dear, precious friend Ray Wood died yesterday. He was 38 years old.

Ray and I have 25 years' worth of wild and crazy memories together.

I will miss him.

partying in high school

partying in college

partying at my wedding

June 2008

(the last time I saw him)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Memoirs of an 8-year-old

Here is what it says:

The Things That I Like

My name is Caroline Carey and this story is about me! The color of my eyes are hazel and my hair is blondish brown. The color of my eyes are the color of my dads and the color of my hair is the color of my moms. I love bright green because I love to be bright and fun! My favorite sport is football because I like to tackle my dad and throw the ball to my dad. Wrighting is my favorite subject because I just love to wright storys and my mom says I wright really good storys. I am going to be a auther when I grow up. I was very proud of myself when I threw a ball so hard that my dad could not catch the ball. I was born in Helena Montana, but my dad was born in Chicago and my mom was born in Mississippi. My mom and dad met in Missoula. Know what makes me laugh? Jello. Jello is the funnyist thing on earth! It makes me laugh so hard! I eat it all the time. Pigs are my favorite animal. I love there oinks and I love there cute little curly tails. They are so cute. I like the song Bubbley Toes by Jack Jonson because it is modern and has a very nice tune. I like the show Scooby Doo because the gang always has mysteries to solve and it is very funny. I hope you learned alot about Caroline Carey.
The End

Isn't she awesome?

But, for the record: We NEVER eat Jello. I mean never.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I flew in to Helena after four days in Denver. Jamie and the girls picked me up from the airport and informed me they had a surprise to show me when I got home. I envisioned a super-clean house or some fresh flowers on the dining table.

Then Eliza, my 5 year old, told me it started with a U. Hmmm...Underwear off the bathroom floor? Geez...I couldn't guess. Then Caroline, who's 8, said, "No it doesn't. I think it starts with an E." Jamie kept quiet.

We walk in the door and I was told I had to close my eyes. I stood in the door way, exhausted and happy to be home. They shouted, "Open your eyes now!" And before me, I swear to you, I saw a baby green iguana. It is our new pet.

Yes, this is my life.

I admit, he is kinda cute.

Tuesday, I found myself buying a mango at the grocery store just for Dave. If you can't beat 'em...

Monday, September 29, 2008

come together...right now...

I can remember being in the fifth grade and thinking, "Why are Christians so uncool?" I thought I would one day pull off being a cool Jesus Freak and really make a difference for God.

More than a quarter of a century later, I've learned a few things. One of the things I've learned is that I'm not at all cool, now that I'm pushing 40. Not at all.

More important, though, I've learned that going against the current is difficult and discouraging.

The Christian current in the U.S. is the predominant fundamentalist movement, in which people gather in their buildings every Sunday morning and look just alike and act just alike and vote just alike and do freaking everything just alike. It breaks my heart that so many of these Christians are in bondage to unnecessary expectations. It's sad that Jesus' message gets diluted by fear. I know about this, because I've been there and I've done it.

I've tried to be a part of those churches over and over, in different buildings in different cities and locations, but I have never fit in. No matter how hard I try, I can't be like them. And I can't buy it that God wants me to!

This summer, I finally decided it may be time to just give up on church. It has evolved too far from Jesus' original plan.

Right about that time, my pastor friend Matt told me at the coffee shop one morning that he is planting a church with a denomination called the Evangelical Covenant. I like Matt. A lot. He is a great friend, and he enjoys diversity. He loves Jesus, but he's cool...well, in the same way I am, which is to say 'probably not at all.'

I'm a few months into the church plant with Matt now. I have just returned from a training given by the Covenant denomination, where we had a great time and where everyone was different: different races, different political beliefs, different thoughts on baptism, different ways to worship God, different beer preferences...

It was beautiful.

For the four days we were there, I kept thinking to myself, "These are my people."

Just when I was beginning to think there was no hope for a "different" Christian like me to have any connection or respect in a church, God has brought it all together. He has even given me a leadership position. God likes diversity, too. That's why He made us all different. Duh.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Misunderstood, Politicized Christianity

Since I enjoy people and getting to know people from all walks of life, I often find myself smack dab in the center of extreme beliefs and values. Even though I feel like this kind of socializing offers me a full, interesting life, it puts me in a place to see severe misunderstandings and unnecessary stereotyping that I can't do anything about.

For example, I am among a group of a dozen or so people teamed up with a dear pastor friend of ours named Matt Randles to plant a church. In searching for a place to meet and worship, we asked the director of the science museum where I work if we could rent the museum once a month. A few of my co-workers were appalled that a church, of all things, would be allowed to meet in museum's space.

What is clear to me is that just the word "church" is immediately equated with religious, right-wing extremists who are at odds with science and live lives of hypocrisy and judgment toward others. The word "church" makes eyes roll and mouths mutter things like "Oh, brother."

When did Christianity become so politicized? When did Jesus' teachings of love become seen as hate? Where did Christians go wrong and how can we turn this screwed up image around?

Christians are just people. And for some reason, human nature leans toward a need for structure and rules and categories. Christianity has nothing to do with this type of organization. But being imperfect people, we have clung to unnecessary rules for a sense of security, I guess, or a sense of control. It's hard to grasp the truth that Jesus has done all the work for us, and we are free from all of this junk. It's too big a gift to totally accept.

In fact, Christianity is the only religion that does not require people to be "good" and earn salvation (in whatever form that may come). Christianity is a belief that we as people will never be good enough to earn anything close to eternal life with God, so He provided a way for us through Jesus.

Jesus said that the most important thing for us to do is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds. The second most important thing for us to do is to "Love our neighbor as ourselves."

Christians haven't meant to be shitty and judgmental. Christians are just people. And Christians are not the only people who are shitty and judgmental. And Christians are so excited to have found Jesus, they want to tell everyone, but it's just too overwhelming to think that He covers it all and we just have to believe and love and use our gifts He's given us.

The outspoken Christians are the type-As, just like the outspoken anti-Christians. So it seems the squeaky wheels create the stereotype.

Christianity, itself, is a beautiful, liberating gift. It's love. Don't get confused by the misunderstandings. People are people. Jesus is life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mission Statement

Do you have a mission statement?

Mission statements are used in businesses and organizations for a number of reasons, one of which is to remind themselves (and employees) what they are about, in case they tend to get off track. Another reason is to use it as a checklist or a guideline when a decision has to be made. If an option doesn't fit the mission, then that option is out.

Having a personal mission statement is not a new idea, but I think it's a good idea, especially for those of us who have many interests and fret over small decisions.

So I've put together my mission statement. I plan to post it where I can see it often. I hope it will help me to keep my true self in the forefront of my life, instead of being covered up by self-imposed obligations and crap that wastes my time!

Here it is:
To live a life of radical love, boundless passion, human connection, and creative expression, and to encourage and empower others to do the same.

I've been thinking lately about going back to school to get a master's degree. I just ran it by my mission statement to see if it lines up. I'm thinking now that to spend the enormous amount of money a graduate degree would cost, and to be unavailable to my family much of the time for two or three years would make no sense. It could not give me anything I need to pursue my mission.

My husband will be thrilled. I just saved us tens of thousands of dollars!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mother-Daughter Book Club

My 8-year-old daughter Caroline and I decided to start a book group. I came up with the idea after giving up on forcing her to read her required five hours a month for her third grade class. She's a hopeless extrovert, so sitting alone quietly reading is the last thing she ever wants to do, no matter how good the book is.

We kicked off the book club with a "Mother-Daughter Get-Together" at our house Friday night. We sent invitations to 12 mothers and their daughters; and six showed up. That added up to 14 people in our small house, half of whom are 8 years old and were running and screaming with zero interest in discussing our ideas for the book group.

Finally, I rounded up the girls and told everyone about what I envisioned we could do with and for our daughters. How I hoped that looking forward to the group meeting each month would inspire Caroline, as well as their daughters, to stick with a book to its conclusion. How I hoped that with all her friends reading the same book, maybe they would talk about it together during lunch or something. Jenn mentioned how she liked the idea because she wanted the accountability to spend that time with her daughter, which I was also thinking. This would give us a reason to read together and take advantage of opportunities to discuss issues the book brings up between the two of us.

The mothers listened. The girls grabbed some snacks and towels and ran outside with shrieks and shrills headed straight for the horse trough we use as a pool.

A few of the moms got sidetracked and paired off to have their own conversations, so the rest of us made some executive decisions. Those were: 1.) The idea is a good one, and it is worth a try. 2.) We won't expect too much from our children. Fifteen minutes may be all they can stand for book discussions. 3.) We would meet next month at Jennifer and Jaci's house. 4.) We would read Because of Winn Dixie.

I sent around a sign-up sheet to get everyone's phone numbers and e-mail addresses; and before the sheet was completed, two girls came into the house sobbing huge, dramatic, heaving kinds of bawling sobs. One was feeling left out, and she needed her mom to come outside to comfort her. Caroline was being accused of "being mean," and that just broke her heart. All of them were soaked to the bones and shivering in the nippy fall weather, dripping on my floor. None of them had permission to get wet, so I'm feeling a bit uncomfortable, myself, since my assistant hostess, Caroline, was the ring leader of the rebellious uprising.

It was truly a disaster.

Perhaps the idea of a mother-daughter book group was a few years premature?

I'll keep you posted.