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2016 Oscar Showcase Summary

Four years and counting.

For the past four Februarys, Drew and I have spent two Saturdays in movie seats. Taking in screens of fantasy, story telling, truth portraying, agenda pushing, artistic awe-ing, talent showcasing, heartbreaking, mind changing, soul searching, question asking, and/or emotion engaging films, is one of our favorite couple traditions. We like good movies and long days together. It all fits.

We had great company this year and ran into acquaintances as usual during breaks. We bonded as lanyard wearing, popcorn toting fans “watching the best back to back.” Seems they took their tagline from the Royals past two years! It’s a great season in KC.

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Of the past four years, this year’s films do not stand out as most excellent of all time. There were a lot of ties for almost every ranking. I liked a lot of them third. I did finally rank them ,with angst and little expertise, in this order:

*This is how much I personally appreciated the movies, not what I thought should win Oscar statues necessarily.

*I give you one simple reason for my placement of each film.

1. Spotlight- I liked it best for its portrayal of the power of hard work, genuine empathy, and well written stories to change lives on scales small and large. 

2. Bridge of Spies – The message here was to do the right thing, even if its for the “wrong” person. I appreciated the layers and tension. I appreciated seeing strength to stand up for reasoning that there is always another side,  and a person on that side who should be considered at least, and respected and honored most times. Good Old-Fashioned Spy

3. Room-  I couldn’t get this movie out of my head. However, a hard movie to watch is most often worth watching.  Here the unsettledness in my soul moved me to appreciate how strong one can be when reality requires unfathomable strength. The film shows how brave moms are and the balance between telling kids enough truth to shape their world, but doing a whole lot of hiding what’s too hard for a little soul. She overcame loneliness and fear in ways I have never imagined one could. 

4. The Big Short- Complicated and detailed in actual content, this movie was entertaining to watch and engaging from its beginning to its raw finish- what a crappy victory for the victors. What I didn’t anticipate was how much of my adult life would be on the screen and how luckily, we came through unscathed, young and naive to boot. 

5. Brooklyn- She is beautiful and quietly determined to feel all of her feelings, letting pain direct her towards figuring out who she could be. We talked afterwards about how malleable love can be, which is a complicated and continuing conversation. 

6. Mad Max: Fury Road- While my first reaction was one of bewilderment of how this movie made the Best Picture list, I grew to appreciate it. To watch it is exhausting sure, but it’s perfect as a movie in most ways: amazing scenes, tons of action, great looking actors and actresses, and an adventure to find connection and identity- struggles we drive ourselves around in sand still today. 

7. The Martian-  Simply put, the book is way better. 

8. The Revenant- Simply put, it was too much, for too long, with amazing scenes great for a Planet Earth episode, Drew says, but not enough story to draw me into the dragged out drama. I could hardly even believe in the father son relationship on which the whole journey rests. However, I did appreciate once again, the illustration of how often we misunderstand and abuse those who are different than us. There is even a sign that points out a truth with irony so potent it took me to Jesus’ “King of the Jews” sign on the cross, and all the other violence wrought on good people who threaten someone else’s agenda. 

The themes through most films seemed to me to be:

  • survival
  • who you are and how you cope when you’re alone in a struggle
  • a journey that changes not only where you exist but who you are

The major question posed sounded to me like:

  • What will you choose to do inside your circumstances? 

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The other great movies, once again ranked, I saw this season rounded out a really fun winter:

  1. Creed
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. The Intern
  4. Straight Outta Compton
  5. Amy

I like to tell my kids to use their power- their power to say yes, or to say no. Power to make a choice or make a different one. Power to try again and power to help and heal. I appreciate each of these movie characters harnessing their power and the whole film industry for putting great stories in beautiful and artistic packaging.

Until next year…



Throwing Up and Growing Up

“Comparison is the thief of joy”…absolutely. I agree. But what about comparison when there is no joy?

My comparison in question is the sheer number of public place pukes that I have mopped up compared to other moms in their first decade of parenting.  Over the past 10 years, my poor kids have thrown up in public a pretty serious amount of times.

Public DOES NOT equal the our van/child car seats which, as locations unto themselves, have endured more than five “events”.

Public DOES NOT equal the basement of my in-laws house, the closet of the VRBO mountain home we had over Christmas in 2013, or our home…bunk bed, kitchen floor, couch, or crib.

By public I mean,

  • the carpeted elevator lobby of my grandparents posh retirement home
  • the upper deck of Coors Field during a Father’s Day Rockies game
  • the 2nd grade classroom coat rack right next to the trash can,

and just yesterday,

  • the small arcade section of our local Walmart.
  • Plus, I think I’m leaving one out. 

Don’t other families have kids who get to toilets for throwing up more often than mine? But again, why despair and compare?

I’m really writing today to acknowledge that a major shift has occurred in my relationship with Eli. He has grown out of just care-demanding-dependence and into a maturity that allows him to work for his own survival (watch him serve himself cereal on a Wednesday morning!), thriving (so much reading!), and just recently, in major ways, as a co-collaborator with me in trying times.

There was a rough night two weeks ago when Drew was out of town, Andi was at a sleepover, and  my boys and I  had a night to ourselves. Through a random course of events, with details too many to mention, my doubled Chipotle burrito bowl went into the shopping bags of a tight-lipped but kind patron three people behind me in line.

Slipping right off my tray and onto the floor, table, and their stuff (shoe boxes, a backpack, and ugh…two pairs of athletic shorts), my dinner and decorum were lost.

Eli steadied our shaky ship. He and Oakley sat at the table and ate their food, the food that Eli had carried smoothly on a tray to the table. As they sat, I slid the guacamole off the shoe box, wiped salsa off the shorts, and apologetically handed the soggy receipt to the forgiving family. Eli was strong, stable, and unwavered by the raucous. He calmly ate, interacted with Oakley and asked very few questions. He held his head high and helped me make it through.

Then yesterday, I had all three kids at Walmart in the 6:00 PM hour. I don’t do that, like ever, and don’t encourage it either.

We shopped for essentials and lolly-gagged through toys and that clearance aisle. Christmas scented candles for $2?! A small Star Wars saber for $1?! And, “Oh Mom, a kitten cuddles calendar for $.50!!!!”

Oaks had said back in the toys that his tummy hurt. I checked in shortly after to see how serious it was and it didn’t seem dire. Still, I was trying to move us out of there. I had 24 items in the 20 item check out line and was hustling. They all three asked to go look at the arcade 10 feet away and I allowed it. 

After check out, I went to the arcade to round them up. Eli and Andi had three discoveries to explain and Oaks, ignoring my request to get in the cart, climbed into the Mickey Mouse car ride. As I approached to get him out, he threw up all over the seat of the car, and then onto the floor.

I had nothing. Except regret about all that clearance aisle shopping.

I grabbed a produce bag sitting in my purse (randomly) and tried to wipe Oaks off with the thin plastic. Not working.  I told Eli to please go ask a worker for help. I left it as open-ended as that.

Eli came running back in seconds with a giant roll of paper towels. When I asked him later what he asked he said, “I went to aisle 6 and said, ‘My brother threw up in the arcade and we don’t really have anything good to clean it up with.’ and she handed me the towels.”

I was able to seat Oakley in the cart and mop up the mess. Andi and Eli diverted their eyes and kept their freak out emotions completely in check. Their calm helped poor Oakley endure. Almost done with the wiping, I asked Eli and Andi to head to customer service and let them know they needed to come clean/sanitize.

They were back in 30 seconds and had secured that maintenance would come and clean more thoroughly. Once again, Eli had calmly and honestly explained the situation.  I hope the maintenance man was pleasantly surprised when he came to see all the chunks were already cleaned up. I left towels covering the fall out area so no other kids would ride the tainted ride.

Eli returned the towels to aisle six and we left. At the car, I stripped Oaks out of his clothes, covered him in my sweat shirt and headed home to a really late dinner. During which, Oaks with his head on my lap on the bench, threw up again, five minutes into the meal.

All of this to say, I’m appreciating how steady, headstrong, calm, and capable Eli is being these days. He might not appreciate how many opportunities his burrito spilling, Walmart sick-kid toting, Mom is giving him, but since we are living it, I might as well mark it with gratitude, a little bit of awe, and a “I see you Eli and cheer you Buddy.”

If you’ve read all of this and are still hungry or interested in being my friend, you too are a strong person.



African Wisdom for Ash Wednesday


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One of the sessions Drew and I attended at YL75 was on the African Leadership Tree…a method of developing people as leaders through one on one mentoring, life sharing, and cohesive mission. The deliberate and passionate stories, diverse among country and gender, encouraged us as we realized just how big the world is how easily God’s work happens in humbly brave vessels.

They shared “isms” and essentials that direct their mission day to day and year to year. They gave non-negotiables and palpable tenets to take home and contextualize. I said to my friend right next to me, “I want my family to be formed by these ideas.” So, in efforts to remember and begin, the list of YL Africa’s intentions:

In YL Africa, WE:

  • Listen- To God. To the Spirit. To each other

  • Sing– Every chance we get.

  • Dance- Every time the music plays. We are bodies, not just spirit.

  • Pray- Cannot live without this.

  • Walk- Everywhere. Everything we believe must walk.

  • Laugh- This is power. This is life.

  • Go- Wherever the Spirit calls and leads.

  • Stay- Even when it’s dark and dangerous

  • Love-  God. Enemies. Neighbors. Brothers and sisters. Selves.

  • Obey- God. Spirit. Leaders God places in our lives.

  • Give- The nature of God. Greatest weapon against poverty: generosity.

  • Celebrate- Thank God and others every chance we get.

  • Welcome- Kids. Each other. Strangers. Aliens. Sinners. The Spirit

Furthermore, part of their DNA was described in these ways:

  • “Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka”– “The slow way is the fast way”.   No shortcuts in the Spiritual life, friendships, planting/reaping, discipleship. We value the power of time over efficiency. Only time deepens relationships with God, kids and others. We believe that efficiency does not always equal excellence.
  • Pamoja Pamoja” – “Together Together”. We are committed to unity and empowerment across every line- tribal, country, gender, class, language. We are a ministry of reconciliation.

  • Mangoes not tomatoes- Tomatoes grow easy and fast but we have to plant them every year. Mangoes take a few years to produce but then they produce fruit year after year on their own for over a hundred years. We choose to grow leaders the mango way- leaders to last, multiply, and transform.

  • Bend and not Break- Life is hard and unpredictable in Africa. Like the tree in the storm we need to be able to bend but not break. Flexibility is a high value.

Today is Ash Wednesday and time to experience a Lenten space for Jesus to enter.

My desire, this year same as most, is to empty, let go of, and lay bare what is empty, broken, hurried, frantic, without lasting meaning, and fleshy.

I’d like to give up complaining this year.

Can I make it a discipline that makes me rely on strength outside myself and calls me to rid of dark and fill with light?

Perhaps the African words of listening, laughing, dancing, staying, loving, obeying, and celebrating will call me out of complaints.

Anything on the list call out to you?

With all the world around me, sitting in my small place, I say,

Blessings on you in this season and take a walk.

More info on Young Life Africa here 



New Year, New Words

signsign 2Despite being a blog about words, I promise not to use too many.

I like words because they express meaning, make a statement, can be memorized, remembered, written in calligraphy or bubble letters,  and communicate reality. Of course not only words express reality- so do our feelings, relationships, trips to loud waterfalls, quiet beaches, or majestic mountains, the whispers of the Holy Spirit, and the unforgiving weight of gravity, among so much else.

I guess what I want to affirm is that I have a great relationship with words, really enjoy them and prefer them to numbers. Give me words in a book, on a list, in a crossword puzzle, or a fortune cookie. I’ll take the words, leave the cookie.

Every now and then, we need some new words, lest our sentences sound stale (like a fortune cookie).

How about these this year? If not new to you, then props to you…your word bank is affluent.


Affable- characterized by ease and  friendliness , pleasantly easy to approach and to talk to; friendly; cordial; warmly polite


Serendipitous- occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Magnanimous– upright, benevolent, considerate, forgiving, fair and generous

Implicit Bias  – an implicit bias is a mindset held somewhat subconsciously or thoughts implied, but not expressly stated.

My friend Hilary told me about a discussion she led high school kids through regarding race, justice, and equality just before Christmas break. She used a tool called the implicit bias quiz from the MTV Look Different campaign.  Their definitions:

  • Racial bias is a form of discrimination, often unconscious, that results in the different and unequal treatment of racial groups.Screenshot (49)
  • Gender bias is a form of discrimination that results in the unfair treatment or stereotyping of men and women because of their sex or gender.  These attitudes are based on the beliefs that women and men should act, dress or behave in particular ways.  Gender bias is mostly targeted at women but can negatively affect men as well.

The goal is awareness of what we hold deep inside and a movement to heal ourselves of the harm we did or could, cause.


The project offers a quiz  that tests your implicit bias and supplies, not judgement but proactive work in dealing with your result.

I took the quiz today and am signed up for a bias cleanse. (Conincidentally, the Crossfit Northland Clean Eating Challenge began this week…cleansing all around..mind and body!)

Constructive tension- I reread MLK’s Letter from Birmingham Jail today. The letter is brilliant and oozes humility and hope from a man and for a cause where hope or humility would have been hard, if not impossible, for me to conjure up.  On constructive tension he says,

I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettere

d realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

Indeed, tension makes us move. Movement is better than stagnation, ignorance, or inaction when justice is within reach. Constructive, non-violent tension can open up conversations, force the deeply held but perhaps flawed beliefs to be spoken, debated, discarded and forgiven.

Last words…

– Appreciation Rampage. I heard this at yoga and it’s just what it sounds like. Inside your head or aloud, say one thing you’re grateful for… then another…then another…

-Okimafire– (oak-i-mma-fire) a cool mist humidifier.

This is the word you need if you’re putting Oakley to bed these days. Please tuck him in and turn on his okimafire before you leave the room.


Let’s go…and as we go, share our words for hope, healing, help, and higher consciouness.

Enough said.


Some Mom Moments: I said YES so WE…

…Held a Home Amazing Race and went on a Mommy/Daughter Date!

I hold it as a hallmark of my parenting, or at least my best intentions, to say Yes as often as possible. I want to be a “Yes-Saying Mom” to allow my kids freedom to express and employ their own ideas, to allow them to risk and enjoy, and to let go of my own control. Last week, because I said yes, we had some marked some major moments.

Some back stories:

Drew and I have loved watching CBS’s The Amazing Race with it’s whirlwind races around the world and complicated drama on the two-some teams. We love seeing the world and appreciate the edits that offer humor concise story telling. After watching 15 or so seasons together, Drew and I decided last fall, to let our kids in on our amusement. They loved it…even Oaks. They appreciated the challenges, the beauty and awe of the places they traveled on screen, and the nuances of the game as it was played between teams.

After we watched three shows, Eli’s self spilled out.  Mid-episode, he said, “We should do our own family Amazing Race.”

This is quintessential Eli. He does not just consume or view life, he enacts it. He likes to make his own bands, sledding jumps, snow boarding practice hills, Rube Goldberg’s, arcades, restaurants, and even has one CD. (It features Drew on lead vocals and finds its way to be played when random adults guests are popping in.)

I digress. All this to say, I love to say Yes but sometimes, because Eli wants to actually create so many real life situations, I sometimes have to say No. “No we cannot build a salmon ladder for Ninja Warrior practice in our back yard…. “etc..

However, I wanted to say yes to this family/neighborhood Amazing Race request.

And I did so on Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week. I spent a day and a half writing clues, collecting items for the challenges, painting a check-in mat, and stuffing 40 envelopes with Route Info, Detours, and Road Blocks. We assembled teams with neighbors and some of their sleepover friends and had ourselves a little COVES Amazing Race 2016.

I was thankful my friend Taylor was wiling to enter the fray having very little idea what she signed up for when coming over that day. Turns out, she’s a strict but fair judge and a quick distributor of clues.

The four teams wore matching t-shirts (Drew and I have tons of the same clothes!) and completed nine tasks including: completing two mixed up puzzles, unscrambling block letters to spell the next destination (“fridge”), eating “gross” foods (cashews, pumpkin seeds, deer jerky, or pickles), climbing the tree to grab a bandana, sorting two shuffled decks and putting them in suit and number order OR creating a marble run track (that was the detour!), memorizing a quote by MLK Jr. (“Our lives will end when we stop caring about the things that matter.”) and scoring an air hockey goal against Goalie William.


Andi and Sydney- first place winners!


Team “#Speedy” reading their clue…ready to memorize.

The rules were simple. Read the whole clue. Work together always. Don’t give up. First team back to the mat wins. IMG_6057 IMG_6063 IMG_6066 IMG_6076

They pushed through puzzle confusion, playing card overwhelmedness, and memory-blocked memorization.

They were patient with and encouraging towards their partners.

Each kid impressed me at some point with an overcoming of a fear, a tenacity towards a task, or a patience with their peer. They all had fun.


Background: Mallory and Lydia sorting decks. Front: Kiley and Kaitlyn on the other half of the detour, building a marble track.

  • You can do more than you think you can if you’re put to a tough task
  • It’s worth sticking it out even when it seems hard or impossible
  • Helping another person through something is a victory
  • When you’re competing, you try harder, faster and with your whole self (instead of sometimes giving up and walking away when you’re on your own)
  • Scavenger hunts are always fun.
  • Being on a team is a good thing. We need each other in life.

I was exhausted Monday night but will do it again…probably in the summer..and at the kids’ requests, with more of the neighborhood in play.

By Friday, I had revived my mom mojo and was ready for another YES.

Backstory. Andi has been wanting to go ice skating all winter. And, Andi did not want to attend the showing of Charlottes’s Web at school because Charlotte’s death moves her to tears and she wasn’t in the mood for a PTA sponosored sob.

When I asked Andi if, instead of going to the movie night at school which Eli was excited to do, she’d like to do something with Daddy, she said, “I want to do something with YOU Mom.” I was surprised- it’s usually Drew who gets picked for the fun extra stuff. Alas, I was a definite YES for this invite from Andi-girl.

She caught me checking on ice skating hours on my phone so I went forward with the ice skating idea- shucking off the scares of a 20 degree evening, 20 miles of driving and $20 of costs. It was worth it to see the light in her eyes, the enthusiasm in her gait, and the audible excitement in her speech all day. She felt it was going to be so great to be just us girls. I did too.

We went skating, shopping and to Starbucks. She did a great job skating and was undaunted by the falls or the falling temperature. She spun and smiled and took special care to stop and ask me, mid-loop, “What was something you did with Oakley today Mom?” It was a shot straight to the heart of this mom who LOVES thoughtful questions. Andi one-upped herself later in loving me, when she asked if the radio could be turned off so we could “just talk” while we drove. This girl!

After skating, we shopped for loud leggings (she really wants pants with cupcakes, cats, or dogs on them) with no success, and then went to the Plaza Starbucks for hot chocolate and whatever else she wanted, which ended up being a blueberry muffin and a chocolate chunk brownie. IMG_6092IMG_6096IMG_6087

The night was magical. And because I said YES to Andi, I learned a lot about how we are together.

I realized most of the context of my mothering of her exists in instructions, requests, demands or questions. I think I mostly tell her what to do instead of simply slowing down, stopping everything, and playing with or listening to her. Or, when I do slow down and lean in, I’m also still half invested in cooking a dinner, or often interrupted by a brother, a text message, or a trip to the bathroom.

When we were out together, I had nothing to do but be with Andi. It was amazingly apparent we need more of these times.

We were glad to come home, giggling and tired, and learn the boys had a good night at the movie too.

I don’t get it right all the time and surely give my kids a fair share of struggle with me as their mom, but I think the race on Monday and the date on Friday will be memories we all share that tell the bigger truth: we are a family who does love, adventures, invitations, and yeses pretty well most of the time.


World Series Champs and Other Wonders

We have lived life to the fullest in an abundance of autumn adventures. It’s been unbelievably exhilarating and exhausting as well.


The really good kind of tired…

Accomplishment and exhaustion can go hand in hand. After you’ve run a marathon, hiked a mountain, or had a baby, you feel spent in each and every muscle, all emotions, and most mental capacities. It’s a very satisfying sleepiness. When you’ve stayed awake all night to write a paper, finish a project, or accomplish a task that ends up completed before morning, turning it in and walking away feels so good you can make it through the few hours you have to live before a nap.

Waking up on Monday morning, November 2nd, at 4:45am, meant I had slept for 3.5 tossing and turning hours. I was up to coach the early class at the gym and awoke very tired but very exhilerated. The Royals had won the World Series at 11:30pm the night before. I had sweated, waited, began to lose hope, then jumped, cheered, ran, hugged, screamed and celebrated with high fives, hugs, and spraying champagne. Most all of my favorite Missouri people were gathered in one room and we had soaked it in past midnight. Drew and I went to bed at 1:30am with smiles, and still a bit of disbelief, on our faces. I was tired on Monday morning. A very satisfied kind of sleepy.

For the 2015 Postseason, Sunday night’s capstone was a most perfect ending to what became an unbelievable, unprecedented, and very, very fun to watch, October.

Unbelievable and unprecedented because:

  1. Royals Post season record:   11-5 That’s a lot of wins and not very many losses- but shows they didn’t win by sweeping and knocking other teams out. They fought and clamored for almost every single win!
  2. Runs scored after the 7th inning: Royals: 40, Other Teams: No more than 5
  3. Runs scored after the 6th inning: Royals: 51, Other Teams: No more than 11 combined across all games.
  4. *The Royals trailed by at least two runs and came back to win in seven of the 11 games! (in six games, they trailed into the 6th inning!)
  5. *In the World Series itself, the Royals were down in ALL FIVE games. They went on to win in three games in which they trailed in the eighth inning or later.                                                             *World Series Record


    We met the Moose Man at Hyvee!


Call to the Banana pen?

People said and wrote about “…keeping the line moving one hit at a time”, “…never saying ‘Quit'”, “…never believing it was over or out of reach”, players that comprised a power line-up, a manager that just let them play, and a GM who crafted a team six years ago with defense, charisma, speed on the bases, and solid pitching in mind, and who made moves along the way to make it actually happen.

The city thanked the team for bringing baseball’s biggest victory back here after 30 years, for bringing a city together in rallying cheers, and giving us a month- long party.

The team thanked the city for unwavering support, attendance, spirit, fervor, and interest.

Gratitude did indeed appear to be the atmosphere at the celebration parade on Tuesday. With streets backed up and packed in, with roofs and trees dangling people from edges, a whole city wore blue and came to one small part of the city to cheer on a team that couldn’t help but humbly take in the crowd and wave back. We walked from North Kansas City for 1.9 miles to be four people deep with great views of the players, coaches, and families on their trucks.

Tuesday November 3rd was a holiday in Kansas City and should continue to be until we win again. It was the best sort of snow day there could ever be. A “snow day” with sunshine and closed offices and cancelled appointments and everyone from child to elderly executive, with obvious martyrs (think essential medical personnel and waiters and bartenders who worked for everyone’s party day!) and naysayers (people who don’t care about sports at all- even transcendent sport moments, I guess) in-between, together in one crowded place, with one common celebration and a kind and easy-going spirit. The mass of blue-clad humanity swarmed the Station and showed the world how many people have come to care in KC.IMG_0094 IMG_0097 IMG_0111

 As a small piece of the blue mass, our personal postseason included:

  • Morning newspaper pour-over sessions. Reading high lights and predecitions, soul stories and moving recaps. Appreciating the pictures and the personalities as a whole family. 
  • Late nights out and about. With no cable TV to supply the channels for the Division or Championship Series, we packed up our family to watch games at Chris and Melissa’s, a Ruby Tuesday restaurant, our new neighbor’s the Ponds, Jim and Jan Bruce’s house, Gayle and Steve Osborne’s house, bits of it at Young Life watch parties at Tate Summa’s house, and Mike and Carol Graves’ house. Our kids were late night troopers who watched, played, or read while the comebacks roared through living rooms and basements.
  • Radio game calls– the ALCS Game 2 against the Blue Jays was a late innings comeback that we listened to at home on our radio on a Saturday afternoon. Nothing beat the ALDS Game 4 however against the Astros where I listened with Oaks in the basement here at home.
  • Special food and drinks:  World Series Game 1 salmon at home, ALCS Game 6 fried green tomatoes and guac at the Graves, a Crown Royal shot before World Series Game 4 for “Taking the Crown” good luck, Minsky’s “fancy” pizza at James and Laura’s for WS Game 2, the Blue Walk off at Chappels on parade day, and much more. Eli, Andi and Oaks talked us into more sugar and pop drinking than we usually allow because, “Hey, it is the Woooorld Serieees!”IMG_0114
  • Their FIRST post season game. Andi and Eli got in on the gift of attending ALCS Game 1 at Kauffman where we had seats in right field from which we saw the 5-0 victory over those power-hitting Blue Jays. Quotable game moments:  “Andi, watch this pitch. This is a big pitch.”- Drew’s very true but very un-seven-year-old girl appropriate comment in the 8th inning of a long baseball day.  And, “Throw him a chair!”– the yelling adage from exuberant and repetitive fan in the section next to us and right on top of James and Laura. He was montonous but accurate- the Royals pitching “sat down” many a Blue Jay.
  • Cumulative efforts. What I loved and will remember is how much every player on the team contributed in some way game after game. I appreciate the very literal “team” approach they took to wrestling their way to a win or clawing the victory away from the other team. They attacked as a group and won with and because of each other. Most of our watch parties came together with a team effort as well!
  • THE BEST HALLOWEEN EVER. October 31st was a Saturday. Eli and Andi played their last soccer game on their coed, 2nd and 3rd grade, YMCA soccer team. Quinton and Erica game from St. Louis and got to see the two games. Then we worked as a family to get ready for our 6th annual Halloween party. People came at 5:00pm in costume and bearing side dishes and goodies. They indulged me my games for which even the weather cooperated. As extended family and friends came through for pictures and greetings and good, good food our party total topped 44 people and two dogs. Twenty or so stayed for the duration of World Series Game 4 which started at 7pm (the first hour of which we did our trick-or-treating with Oaks absolutely appreciating every second of it audibly), and was displayed on two TVs in our house. Yes, we borrowed a TV for the big game. Half the people watched in the family room (six people on my new sectional- a dream realized!) and half in the kitchen (including me with a seat way too close to the Candy Corn mix!). We all got to watch the Royals come back to win in the 8th. Seriously a wild adventure and a wonderful way to watch a win- with a house-full of great people and kids full of candy. And finally, a daylight savings gift that gave us an hour back that night we’d very much need for the next game. FullSizeRender (2)
  • Big Life Moments: Oakley turned 3 on October 11th- ALDS game 3 (a loss!) and we switched him to a big-boy bed on October 27th. He grew up as the Royal’s clinched titles. I held my two big fall  Young Life retreats around ALCS games 5 and 6. Heavy hearted, I went to a funeral in Springfield for my staff friend who lost her 29 year old son to an ocean accident on the day of World Series Game 1.

Hope comes up from creeping defeat. A celebration for some is a season ending sadness for others. Joy can stand right next to fear and gloom. A night of striking out can end in a single that turns the tone of the game. The Royals journey to the World Series and come from behind winning of that series, gave us a schedule altering, blood pressure raising, community building, party excusing, memory-making fall.

Thank you Royals for doing your job with a passion for excellence, attention to hard work, and concern for others. Thank you for playing when your own life was falling apart and your body was beat up. We appreciate the show, the adventure, and the victory.

Reign well, Crowned Champions. 

Appendix 1:

Below are photos of where we were and the differing levels of tired our kids were when the Royals actually WON THE WORLD SERIES!

Appendix 2:   Little somethin-somethin extra I found…Here are great videos of the final World Series Game- Game 5 on Sunday November 1st. Courteous of  and


Eli in one of many assigned lucky seats he had to fill to bring on a W!


Tension climbs in late innings at the Osborne house in WS Game 5


June takes in the World Series win…


Our 9th inning hoots and hollers woke Andi up for the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings for Game 5!





Oaks couldn’t get his eyes open to take in the Win.



Retreat but no respite

IMG_3673I’m heading out of town for four days of leading and hosting retreats for my Young Life job.

These are annual retreats and often the highlights of my year as a trainer. I get to spend quality and “quantity” time with my folks, learn from the conversations and other speakers, and I really do enjoy all the parts of hosting- planning meals, games, and lots of teaching.

This year, they just happen to be right on top of each other: Thursday-Friday and then Saturday-Sunday.

Alas, my head, stress capacity, “desk”, and refrigerator are full! Limit sign

Here’s a bit of what I’ll say, which is teaching me all over as I prepare to teach: 

  1. We cannot replicate what we do not live ourselves.
  2. Limits are life giving not restrictive.
  3. We are supposed to break through limits that limit us:   FEAR (“What if I fail?”)  and   FLAWS (“I’ve never been good at that so I won’t try now.” or “I’m always clumsy so they shouldn’t ask me.”)
  4. Teenagers are still under construction and need protection, advocacy, wisdom, friendship, love and prayers.
  5. Our identity is not our circumstances, it is knowing that we are image-bearing beloved children of God who are called to work alongside Jesus in Kingdom purposes with Spirit power.

Here’s to hoping the Royals wrap it up today before my retreats!


Ask your friends around a table sometime, “Hey, what do you recommend?” and just let them answer in absolutely any way they’d like.

Without too much explanation, if someone asked me today, I’d say,

“I recommend…”

1. Watching the Demetri Martin Live Comedy Special on Netflix. –He mostly makes jokes out of plays on words…I love words! I find his dry humor funny and less offensive than most. 

2. Unplug and check-in with who and whats right in front of you.  Spend a day away from social media every week. 

3. The “Cerise Limon” flavor of La Croix sparkling water. The tall cans are so fun and flavor is great. 

4. Leave your phone when you take your kids to the park. Play, sweat, run, chase, tickle through the bars, or just watch. 

5. Potty train a kid when they are really ready. Wait at least 3 months past when YOU want to start and make sure there are 4 of 7 readiness signs present. Then it’s just bliss and success for all. For us, the third time really has been the charm!  A few specifics here; I have to recommend:  

  1. Spend 3 days naked below the waist at home, ready for runs to the potty at anytime with no comfortable protection for them to drop or let it flow into undies or a diaper 
  2. Have multiple little potties and take them with you when you go somewhere in the first 2 weeks to month of training. Longer if you’re headed to port-a-potty or “Sorry you’re out of luck, just hold it” places like soccer practice or parks!
  3. Don’t ask or make them go on a schedule. Let their little bodies lead them. 
  4. Celebrate with a song and dance- no sticker chart or m & ms needed. Our song: “Rah, Rah, Ree Ree- Oakley went pee-pee!” If you change “Ree-Ree” to “Roo-Roo”…

6. Giving your masseuse a message.  I had a wonderful hour long massage and hour long facial on Monday. Do wish the masseuse had asked me less questions and told me fewer stories. Next time I will, and right now I recommend, telling the therapist, “I’d like lots of pressure and very little talking. Thank you.”  

7. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

8. Nights without TV. Some nights, we need to distract and disengage from real life and engage in humor or adventure on screen. Other nights, we do so and miss out on catching up conversations, really long reading times, or solitude and sleep. 


Our compost mystery vine has yielded gourds and squashes of great variety.

9. Trying to grow something outside. It’s a lot of work but a good lesson in tending to what we’ve been giving and reaping what we can sow right around us.

10. Going upside down. Do a handstand, a back flip, or a headstand against the wall. It’s good for your back and legs to take a load off and a fun challenge for your head and neck! 




What Can 12 Days Hold?


I got to be with my sisters, sweet niece June, my kids, my mom, my grandparents…and do a backflip on the trampoline on my 35th birthday!

Between August 1st and 13th, I have been a part of:

  • A funeral/celebration of life service
  • A 35th birthday party (my own!)
  • A family reunion (in Colorado!)
  • A trip to the Denver Zoo
  • A Royals victory at Kauffman stadium
  • A first day of school

Oh what a heart can hold!

Oh how summer has flown, life has changed, kids have grown, awe has inspired, and hope has renewed.

Each of these events carries emotions that ride on the surface of their label, and a reality that comes from inside their existence as an event and seeps into the rhythm of my life, now beating to a slightly different beat.

Perhaps, a zoo is just a zoo and a Royal’s game can be won without changing my life…but the rest of these, happening on top of and in-between work, meals, and a lot of packed bags, have made their mark on me-mind, body, and soul.


A dream realized- we stopped in Oakley, Kansas for a photo shoot with our 2 year old Oakley!

By definition, a “reunion” implies separation and a coming together again. For our Torell family reunion”, the characters are connected through layers of family relationships, (originating with my paternal grandmother and her two siblings) and the time passed amounts to three years.

It strikes me, definitionally, that family reunions are different than a school reunion, where the re-gathered attendees were once part of a unified whole. On the contrary, in a family, growth, addition and rippling out means new people come into a whole that does not define their origin but includes them through relationship. Yes, there is connection even if you’re a spouse or a newly born baby to a 3rd generation mom, but the origin is getting farther away from new growth. Reuniting happens at the top;  introductions and inclusion happen on the ground.

For my siblings and I last week in Colorado, we were reunited with each other, our Dad and Grandma- our original connected whole.  And we reunioned with our second and third cousins- good people we have come to know through reunions past. The benefits are many: history, tradition, memory, and connection. Plus, fun, laughter, great conversations, good food, speed scrabble, softball games, and life in Estes Park, CO.


We love our Grandpa!


Champion hikers on our Gem Lake hike!

I was honored and exhausted by the opportunity to play hostess of the event with my sisters this year. We applied our gifts and experiences, work skills, and idea energy, to bring out the benefits for the whole. We were blessed by people who played our games, sang our songs, and danced our square dance. We left with greater love and wisdom from conversations with peers and elders. We had a lot of fun and a little bit of sleep with our Sustad- sibling- and- spouse crew.

We returned to KC from Colorado on Sunday, went to the Royal’s game on Tuesday, and sent the big kids back to school today, Thursday.

School, by definition, means summer is over.

School offers routine, social interactions with friends, exposure to the real world with its beauty, risks, and flaws, and gives my kids the gift of learning…a gift we must unwrap and fully enjoy with gratitude.

This year, the first day of school has not wrecked me as it has done in the past. I don’t feel like I’m losing my kids, instead I feel like I’m sharing them with the world and trusting them to make it and themselves better. I offer them me and our house as a safe resting place for the end of every day.


3rd grade for Eli, 2nd for Andi girl!


Is Super Oaks sending them off or trying to keep them close?


Oaks has asked about them twice so far; they are missed dearly by their younger brother, feeling a bit left behind.

Today, I’m grateful for the good words of my good friend Ray who taught me:

Healthy Things Grow

Growing Things Change

Changing Things Challenge

Challenge Results In…(whining, resentment, quitting, resistance, or…) RISK

Risk Requires Trust and Obedience

Obedience Brings Health

Healthy Things… the cycle continues…

Here’s to life at it’s beginnings, ends, and inbetweens.

Here’s to connection required and relished.

Here’s to school and staying sane.

Here’s to 12 more days and what might come as we walk them out in awe, hope, and peace.

Summer Puzzles

Reentry into the heat of Kansas City we were so aptly avoiding at Castaway, has meant we have stayed in a pool or indoors since our return. (I exaggerate and generalize of course-in actuality there have been pleasant swings in our new ENO hammocks and lots of weed picking, as well as un-air-conditioned sweat-fests at Crossfit…oh, and ice cream at Sheridan’s too)

Inside however, we are enjoying being back with our old toys and have started some new hobbies- mostly puzzling!

Andi has joined Eli in the Minecraft world and they have loud fun together planting pumpkins and cruising away from creepers. Is Minecraft a puzzle? It is to me!

Oaks has not been much of a puzzling guy in his toddler days. I felt he was on the brink of pushing out of shape puzzles and into interlocking ones, and I found a box of spilled puzzles in the basement, so we sat down to play last week.

Andi has always had an uncanny ability to see where pieces fit in puzzles. When she was Oaks’ age, she was doing puzzles for 7 year olds. Working a puzzle with Andi today is an amazing thing to watch. Instead of picking up a piece and trying it in multiple locations (my method), Andi searches the pile of pieces carefully, analyzing in her head, and then places it with confidence into it’s locking piece partner.

Without the innate skill set of his older sister, Oaks plows into puzzles with his own strength: strength. He mostly pushes really hard until the piece fits…matching the colors or design is not yet part of his strategy. And yet, he’s getting it and loving it and asking to do them over and over. And also, he’s dumping them out and walking away with all the glory of a true two year old boy.IMG_5136

Eli and Andi got a word search book in a Castaway care package and have been practicing school work with it when I make them…no need to do it every day they assure me. No school for 18 more days!

And for me, as a long time home newspaper subscriber, I’ve discovered a hidden gem in our daily delivery. Crossword puzzles! I love words! I love puns! I sometimes love riddles and hard questions! How have I missed out on these for so long?!

Alas, I’m enjoying the laziness of these last few summer weeks with the kids sleeping past 8am and the schedule for the day quite relaxed. I’m puzzling and loving it.

Becoming a more “cagey” (hint: witty) “user” (hint: consumer) of “clues” (hint: helpful hint) that help me not to be a “boor” (hint: fool) as the summer days “erode” (hint: wear away).

Hope you have something fun to do today and can puzzle your way out of a problem if you’re stuck.


Big leaves, orange flowers, growing all on its own!

PS- One more family puzzle, what is growing out of our compost?!