freedom to be different.

Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]
Colossians 3:21 The Amplified Bible

My daughter is a free spirit.

She sings. Loud. She sings Disney princess songs and hymns. Praise songs and jingles. She sings her own personal compositions. Sometimes they rhyme, sometimes not. Her own songs are l-o- n-g. She sings about everything. Love. Jesus. Her Heart. Disney. Sometimes she throws in a line about gross bodily functions before cracking herself up because it is SO hysterically funny. (She’s 7.) She sings in the car and doesn’t care who stares. She will climb to the top of a playground structure and sing her songs to an audience in the sky. She doesn’t care if people can hear her. She wants people to hear her.

Please don’t tell her to be quiet.

She dances. She twirls. She vogues. She bounces. She skips. She runs when and where there is open space. She swings. HIGH. She calls out “Watch me!” and wants me to take her picture. This is what happy looks like.

Please don’t tell her to sit still.

She loves to dress up. She can’t watch “Annie” without pausing the DVD player for multiple costume changes. She “invents” outfits and hairstyles. She wears prints with stripes, pink with orange and mismatched socks for “flair.” She loves lipstick and jewelry. She loves pink. Not pastel pink. PEPTO pink! BOLD pink.

Please don’t “correct” her wardrobe selections.

She loves to perform. The fireplace hearth is her stage. She wrote a play when she was in pre-kindergarten. She sat in a chair for hours on a Friday night, writing on one piece of paper after another. When it was all said and done, written on each piece of paper were the lines of each character in her play. When I typed it up for her later, she knew immediately which paper to read from next as she dictated the dialog for me. The spelling was creative, but the play was complete with a hero, a villain, a quest, and lots of songs to sing.

Please don’t tell her to “act like the other kids.”

She finds wonder in so many things. A lizard hiding in the grass. A crushed acorn. The shape of a cloud. She can’t go for a walk around the block without stopping every few feet to pick up a leaf, pet a neighbor’s cat or point out something interesting. She wants to see everything and go everywhere. And she wants to tell you all about it. Because it’s made such an imprint on her, she believes she should share it.

Please don’t make absentminded comments when she’s talking to you. She’s smart. She knows.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s not wild and undisciplined. She understands that she should whisper in a library, sit quietly attentive and respectfully listen to her teachers in class, and wear her uniform to school. She understands that sometimes she needs to follow directions instead of direct her own elaborate scripts. She knows to share and to take something she finds to lost and found. She knows that if we forget to pay for the case of soda under the grocery cart, that we are going back inside the store to make it right. She knows proper manners for the using the phone, how to handle a laptop computer and how to carry scissors. She understands that she can’t break out of line at school to chase a lizard or twirl. She knows not to run in a parking lot and to look both ways before she crosses the street. She knows to wear shorts under her skirts so no one can see “London” and that she can’t wear makeup to school and church. She even knows the only time her belly button should show in public is when she is wearing a bathing suit.

What she doesn’t know yet is that someday she may be too embarrassed to express herself “out loud” like she does now. She hasn’t spent time with “that” person. You know, the person who will try to convince her that her free and confident self-expression is inappropriate or wrong. The person who will introduce doubt and self-consciousness.

I pray that when faced with that person – that criticism – she is confident enough to stand strong and be herself. I refuse to silence her just because of what other people might think. I refuse to force her to wear what I think she should or tell her that she should only wear two braids, instead of six. I refuse to make her sit down when there’s no reason she can’t run. I refuse to squelch her spirit – just because it’s different than mine.

Sometimes it looks like she is dancing without music. She’s not. The music is in her heart. We can hear it if we just listen.

Not allowing your children to do innocent but different things is the logical outgrowth of a belief system that emphasizes the symbols of faith rather than it’s substance. This shallow religion measures success more by the image than by genuine authenticity.
Dr. Tim Kimmel
Grace Based Parenting

This devotional, entitled “freedom to be different.” was originally posted on Pragmatic Communion on February 19, 2008. It was inspired by the book, Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel and this little girl.

Then Sings My Soul Saturday: Leslie Philips

Continuing in my trip down musical memory lane, here’s another artist I listened to. I tried to find “Strength of My Life” which is the song I used to perform way back in the day, but I only found a live concert performance (the second youtube clip below). I loved this song because I would sign it while I sang. The sign language for it is beautiful.

This first song is contagious.

For more Saturday music, check out Then Sings My Soul Saturday every Saturday hosted by Amy at Signs, Miracles and Wonders.

Aunt Margie’s Cranberry Salad, with a pragmatic twist.

For years decades, we’ve made something special for my dad for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s his sister’s recipe for Cranberry Salad. I remember making it as a kid, as do my sisters, but since we grew up and moved out, my mother – who fondly calls this dish “cranberry crap” – took over the job again.

This year, since my mother is in Arkansas, my father asked me if I would make it. Actually, my mother also asked me if I would make it for him and offered to give me the recipe. My father thought it would be nice if I called his sister, my Aunt Margie and ask her for it. I hadn’t spoken or seen my Aunt Margie in over ten years – not because of any problems, just logistics and lack of effort. It was a great impetus for renewing my relationship with my Aunt.

We easily fell into a very nice conversation and as she gave the me ingredients and instructions, I realized. My mother had a different version of this recipe. We had not been making my Aunt Margie’s Cranberry Salad all these years. I’ll explain and show photos as I go through the recipe.

2 bags of cranberries
2 apples (peeled and cored)
2 oranges
1 can of pineapple chunks (drained)
1 cup of sugar
walnuts to garnish


Wash the cranberries and discard stems and rotten berries.


Now here’s the pragmatic twist. My father delivered a hand grinder to me when he asked me to make this recipe. A hand. grinder. Serious flashback. I remember hand grinding the fruit and cranberries. Every. Year. What a mess. Cranberry juice everywhere. Seriously. A MESS. As soon as my sisters got old enough to use the grinder without losing a finger, I gladly passed the job to them. In their young naiveté, they thought it would be fun. By the time they realized it was a sticky and disgusting job, the cranberry crushing baton was completely out of my hands. When my mother took over again, I think she switched from hand grinder to blender. So over the years, the whole thing went from cranberry goo (in the grinder) to cranberry soup (in the blender).

Although resistant, I tested the grinder and my memory on the apples first. Yep. Just like old times. Applesauce anyone?



So I pulled out my handy dandy Oster chopper attachment.


And I tried again. MUCH better.


The red pieces in the applies are from the cranberries.

I chopped the cranberries, the apples and the pineapple using the “pulse” button on my chopper. Filling the container multiple times allowed me to chop in different . . . textures? Sizes? Basically, there are three different textures of cranberries and apples, ranging from finely chopped, medium chopped and barely chopped. I didn’t have to chop the pineapple very much since it started out in small chunks anyway.

That leaves the oranges. I made two changes which were a HUGE difference from how I made this as a kid. First, I zested the orange. We NEVER did that. NEVER. Didn’t even have a zester in the house growing up. I don’t own one now. I had to use a small grater. I got the sweetness and the taste, but not the texture. I’m buying a zester for next year.

The second difference with regard to the oranges? My Aunt Margie strongly emphasized removing the “white stuff” from the orange. It’s called the “pith” and while it is actually good for you, it tastes a little bitter. There are a few ways to remove the pith, but I just rolled the orange on the counter, peeled it and then cut away the white layer that remained. I also removed the inner white stuff – I’ve been calling it the “cartilage” of the orange. It’s hard and crunchy and bitter and it is THE reason I would never eat this cranberry salad. I hate that stuff. yuck.

Here’s the finished product sans the walnut garnish. I wasn’t serving any at the time of the photo and I didn’t want to waste the walnuts. I actually prefer pecans, myself. This can be made ahead and I’ve been told it freezes well too. Panara’s got nothing on my Aunt Margie.


My dad said he could tell the difference before he even tasted it, just from the way it looked. So could I. I tasted it, my younger sister tasted it, our dinner guests tried it – all with positive reactions. None of the kids would touch it. Big chickens. My dad took most of it home. I understand it’s great with vanilla ice cream.

I’m wondering, if I retain some of the fruit juice, heat it up and thicken it with cornstarch and stir it into the fruit mixture – would it make a good pie? I may test it next year in a Pillsbury pastry.

As always, I’m providing a print friendly version – CLICK HERE.

Find great recipes and helpful kitchen tips at Kitchen Tip Tuesdays hosted by Tammy’s Recipes!

And click on over to check out the recipes at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday hosted by Lisa at Blessed With Grace

i’m allergic to scrapbooking.

I tried. I really tried. I just can’t do it.

I cannot find any joy, satisfaction, relaxation or anything else from trimming photos, cutting paper with various scissor patterns, gluing with non-acidic adhesive, creating pithy quotations, and perfecting my handwriting with non-acidic gel pens. I understand that some people scrapbook as a hobby. It appears that my hobby is limited to the collection of scrapbooking paraphernalia.

Case in point? I’ve been married 17 years and I haven’t finished my wedding album.

So. Thanks to Shannon, this “Doesn’t Work for Me Wednesday” has prompted me into action. I have decided to part with the space hogging plethora of scrapbooking supplies which has lived – for the last 10+ years – on a bottom shelf in my laundry room.

ebay, here I come.

Instead, I’ve signed up for Blurb. Now this is MY kind of scrapbooking. A digital alternative for those obsessed with technology! With prices comparable to the cost of scrapbooks and supplies, “real” books with glossy pages and requiring a LOT less space, this is the freakishly organized way for me!

I was introduced to this site by Chris at Notes From the Trenches. She made a beautiful book and posted some great photos. Check it out!

Don’t miss this special edition of What (Doesn’t) Work for Me Wednesdays over at Rocks in My Dryer!


“Dear God, please help Mamaw understand that real freedom is about caring and sharing with your family and who you love. Please help Pappy not be sad and help him be okay that Mamaw is going away . . .

Then the sweet talking that only happens at bedtime. She is snuggled up under the covers with the stuffed animal chosen tonight, petting a cat who somehow knows she needs him right now, in a dimly lit pink room, with soft music playing. Her night light is a 2 foot Christmas angel, dressed in white, holding a candle lit by a small bulb.


“Yeh, honey?”

“I love Mamaw, but is it okay if I like Pappy more?”

“Yes, sweetie. I know you love Mamaw, but you do more stuff with Pappy, so it makes sense that you like to spend time with him more. He does lots of fun things with you.”

“I know you’re supposed to love everyone in your family, and I really do, it’s just that Pappy really understands my imagination and he’s the best drawer ever! He can draw anything! He even helps me draw hard stuff.”

“I know. I love Pappy’s drawings too.”

“Even though some of my family lives in Georgia, I still love them too. They live far away and I love them, so now Mamaw will live far away and I can still love her. But some people in my family are more fun to play with than other people. Like TeenageGirlCousin is lots of fun and CollegeBoyCousins are lots of fun to play with but that doesn’t mean that I love them more, it just means I like to play with them more, right?”

“That’s exactly true. I know you love your family and that you love Mamaw too. But I understand that some people are more fun to play with. That doesn’t mean you don’t love the people you don’t play with. I know you love your Mamaw, but I also see how much fun you have with Pappy, and he really does understand your imagination. You’re right.”

Thinking. Petting the cat.

I kiss her soft, sweet smelling cheek , say goodnight and go into the office right next to her room to wait on her to fall asleep. Minutes pass.


“Yeh, honey?”

“Just checking.”

“Okay. Goodnight honey. Love you.” (yes, sweetie, I’m still here)

“Love you too.”

during. and after.

We told PinkGirl today.

My parents were coming over to borrow FirstHusband’s truck. My dad was helping my mom by picking up a bed given to her by a friend and they needed the truck. So we knew PinkGirl would be seeing her grandmother. We knew that my mom would be leaving in 8 days and we knew we couldn’t put it off any longer.

FirstHusband and I sat down on the floor of the family room with our coffee and asked PinkGirl to come sit with us. We wanted to talk to her.


“Because we want to talk to you about something.”


“Well, if you come and sit down, we’ll tell you, silly.”

She sits, looking at us suspiciously.

“You’re not in trouble, don’t worry.”

“oh.” Grin. Giggle.

Now this is all meshed together, so realize I’m pulling things from my memory and they may not be (probably won’t be) in order. And some of the conversation is missing.

“Mamaw (pause) is very unhappy (pause) and she has been unhappy for a long time, she’s just been pretending she was happy. She has decided (pause) that she doesn’t want to be married to Pappy anymore (pause) and that she wants to live in her own house. (pause) Her new house is in another state.”

Silence. Eyes watering. Now she’s in my lap. Arms around my neck, face in my shoulder.

“Why?” (oh. How I have been DREADING this question.)

(pause) then almost simultaneously, FirstHusband and I say, “We don’t know.”

“Why can’t she just stay married to Pappy? Why can’t she just tell the marriage people, ‘Yes, we’re happy?’ When the marriage people ask them, ‘Are you happy?’ they could just say ‘Yes, we’re happy.’ and then they could still be married. They could still live together.”

“Sweetie, (pause) Mamaw and Pappy are already divorced.”

Head buried in my shoulder. “I don’t want a grandmother anymore.”

“oh, honey, why not?”

“Not if she’s not married to Pappy.”

“Sweetie. She’s still your grandmother, even if she and Pappy aren’t married anymore.”

“But why does she have to move away? Does she not want to be with us anymore?”

(Second and third most dreaded questions.)

FirstHusband and I both, first talking over top of each other and then taking turns: “No, honey, this has nothing to to with us . . .” (and all the other stuff you say to kids when you want to assure them that divorce has nothing to do with them.)

“But why does she have to move away?”

I take this one, “We don’t know honey. (pause) What reasons can you think of?”

“Well, maybe she doesn’t want to live in Florida anymore.”

“That could be one reason.”

“Maybe she wants to live where it snows.” (PinkGirl saw snow for the first time in March.)

“Maybe. That could be another reason.”


“Maybe she just wants freedom.”

“Freedom? What do you mean by ‘freedom’?”

“Like, freedom to live by herself. In her own house. And not share it with anybody.”

We’re speechless.

“PinkGirl, that is VERY smart.”

Then, silence. Thinking.

FirstHusband says, “PinkGirl, we need you to know that Mom and Dad will NEVER get divorced.”

“But what if you . . . “

“Nope. Never. You know who my best friend is?”

PinkGirl points at me.

“Yep. Mom is my BEST friend.”

“And Daddy is MY best friend.” I add.

FirstHusband continues. “When you are thirty and have finished college and YOU get married . . .”

“Da ad!”

“. . . you need to make sure you are marrying your BEST friend. And you need to date for a long time so you know how he handles things when you disagree with him. Marriage isn’t like Sleeping Beauty, where you are singing and dancing in the forest with a Prince. Marriage isn’t always exciting. You need to make sure you want to be married to him even during the boring times and during the hard times. You need to date a long time and make sure you marry your best friend. ”

I jump in, “And most of all, after you get married you have to work really hard at being married. People who get divorced start having trouble being married a LONG time before they actually get divorced. Mom and Dad make sure that we fix the tiny problems when they first happen, so that the problems don’t last and last or get bigger and bigger. If you make sure you work out little problems when they happen, you can stay best friends. (pause) Do you know what Daddy told me once? He said that every day, he asks himself a question. He . . . Daddy, you tell her.”

FirstHusband says, “Every day, I ask myself, ‘What can I do to make Mommy’s life easier or better today?'”

I pop back in, “Daddy does nice things for me all the time. It’s one way he shows me he loves me. I try to do nice things for Daddy too.”

Silence again. Thinking.

“Maybe Mamaw doesn’t know that real freedom is sharing.”

We are speechless. Again.

Then I say, “PinkGirl? You just figured out something really important about life.”

Small Grin. Silence. More Thinking.

“Can I ask Mrs. FirstGradeTeacher to pray for Mamaw? To pray that she will understand that real freedom is sharing?”

“Remember when we talked to Mrs. FirstGradeTeacher last week for our conference? Well, we told her that this was going to happen and you know what she’s been doing? She’s been praying for you.”

Grin. Then recognition.

“You knew already? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, I knew you would be sad, so I didn’t want you to be sad for a long time between finding out and Mamaw moving, so I decided to tell you later, so you wouldn’t be sad for so long.”

“When is Mamaw moving away?”

“A week from tomorrow, honey.”

Tears again. “Why didn’t you tell me THEN? Now I have to be sad for a whole week!”

(Do I know my daughter or what?)

Snuggle hugs, and then I say, “PinkGirl, Mamaw and Pappy will be here in a little while, are you okay with that?”

Thinking. Then, “Well, just act normal. I don’t want to cry in front of her, so act like you told me, but that I’m not freaking out.”

“So you don’t want to talk about it with Mamaw?”

“No. If I talk about it, I’ll cry.”

Then Daddy says, “Hey, there’s something not fair here.”

PinkGirl looks confused.

But, I get it. “Mommy has been getting all the snuggles.”

PinkGirl climbs into Daddy’s lap for a huge hug.

Strategically, I ask, “Hey, would you like to invite someone over to play today?”


PinkGirl spent the rest of the afternoon playing with two friends – sisters. Happy. She went to bed without “tummy worries” as she sometimes calls it when she is upset over something.

There’s still the farewell to go through. But today? She’s doing okay.

Me? I can’t stop thinking about this.

before. and after.

We’re going to have to tell her.


We’re going to have to tell my sweet 7 year old something that will cause her to grieve. It will prompt a sadness in her that I won’t be able drive away with hugs or snuggles. I won’t be able to distract her, to make it better or fix it. It’s a loss she won’t understand. It’s a loss I don’t understand. It just is.

Thank you to Jenn at Mommy Needs Coffee for sharing this amazing post from Breed ‘Em and Weep. It was only after I selected these paragraphs to highlight that I realized Jenn had chosen some of the same words to quote:

Tomorrow we will tell the girls about a difficult loss. It is a peculiar thing to sit on the edge of your child’s bed, watching her sleep, knowing that tomorrow you will say something that will stop her heart briefly and force her through a door she would not have chosen herself. Children do not take kindly to loss, and why should they? As adults we can barely stand it, barely have the ability to comprehend the who-was-who-now-isn’t, the what-was-that-now-is-lost . . .

. . . I rock some more. I think: Loss is loss; there is rarely recovery. Recovery is a myth; change is what comes after a loss, not recovery. There is merely change . . .

. . . I would stand between them and the losses of the world if I could. This is why I cry. Because I am clever; I know well how to create secret compartments and tuck away unpleasantries as needed. It has not served me well over time, not really, but I have a talent for it.

My parent’s divorce is final as of today. My father will continue to live in the home they shared for the last 30 years, twenty minutes away. My mother is retiring and moving to a new home, which is a two day drive from us. She will be leaving on May 11th. Yes. That is Mother’s Day.

11 days from today.

FavoriteSon already knows. But, we are going to have to tell PinkGirl.


Stealth Birthday Streamers

This simple tradition is so easy (and inexpensive) and it makes my kids feel very special.

In our house, when a kid has a birthday, they wake up to a room which has been lovingly “T.P.’d” in colored paper streamers. The night before, after the kiddo falls asleep, my husband and I sneak in and run paper streamers all over the bedroom – from one corner to another, all over the ceiling fan, from the curtains, the bed and any protruding toy on a shelf. We stumble in the dark, say “shhhhhh” way too loudly and make confusing gestures at each other in the dark, trying to convey directions. You would not believe how loud tissue paper is when you unroll it in a quiet room! Despite all that, we’ve never had a kid wake up in the middle of the sneaky decorating and catch us!

The next morning, the kid wakes up to a maze of bright, colorful streamers. In the beginning, there would be a balloon or two as well. Not anymore. We can’t seem remember that part until we’re actually streaming the room and we will NOT drive to a 24 hour store in the middle of the night to buy balloons. We love our kids. But not enough to go out and buy balloons at midnight.

We usually leave the streamers up for a week – sometimes two. Lately, we take down all the streamers on the ceiling fan except for the ones draped over the blades. Then we can turn the fan on low and the streamers will twirl and drive the cats nuts.

Last night, putting my 6 (soon to be 7) year old daughter to bed, I said, “hmmmm. We’re going to have a hard time putting streamers in this room tonight. It’s so messy we can barely walk in here.

“Oh my goodness! I need to get out of this bed and get my hiney cleaning up this room!”

(If I knew that’s all it took to get her to clean her room without nagging, I would definitely have been the room more than once a year!)

just journal, even if it’s just one sentence.

Life goes by FAST. I’m so busy living it, I forget how fast. If I’m not careful, I can spend so much time trying to check things off my computerized (and nagging internal) to do list that I can arrive at the end of the day without having even one non-task related thought. For me,

Journaling slows things down. When I write, I think. I need to think. About things other than deadlines, carpool, permission slips, doctor appointments, haircuts, cats with diarrhea, groceries, vacuuming . . . there goes that internal to do list again. I need to reflect and I can’t see my reflection in the swimming pool if I’m always scooping leaves off the surface. Journaling is a float and a cool drink. The leaves can wait for ten freaking minutes.

Journaling reminds me of the past. Recorded data points help me make conscious, intentional (and, hopefully, better) choices today. I can avoid repeats of negative situations if I can remember what got me into a mess in the first place. When I write about a successful outcome, sometimes I can identify what I did and do it again. I can learn from both my losses and my wins. But only if I remember them.

Journaling captures memories. When my son or daughter (or husband, or friend, or parent or sibling) says something funny or profound, I think I’ll always remember it. Yeahhhh. No. When I jot it down, not only do I always remember it, but my children can as well. Some of my journal entries are a simple quote, with a date. Reading that one little sentence, the memory floods back. And when I read it, I’m so thankful I took the time. Such a simple thing, such a priceless reward.

Journaling helps me figure out my goals. When I journal, I can’t help but think about what is important to me. I can start an entry blabbering about all the stuff I have to do and how stressed I am and by the time I’m finished I realize which of those things are counter-productive to the life I really want to live. It becomes glaringly obvious which items on my plate I should never have cooked up in the first place. It’s also a reminder to to hold my hand over the plate and say “No, thank you.” the next time someone else wants to dish out some more. It reminds me to yank the plate away and say, “I said, no.” when someone tries to put stuff on my plate anyway.

Journaling is more convenient and much less expensive than therapy. I can journal anytime I want, not just on a Tuesday morning at 10:00 (or whatever time my weekly appointment would be.) If something (or someone) triggers anger or melancholy or any other reaction commonly addressed during therapy, I can write about it, and discover as the words land on paper, something I hadn’t considered before – either about me or another person or a situation. Journaling leads me to understanding, calmness, tolerance, choices. So much more.

I’m sure journaling has countless benefits in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned here, probably many I’ve never even considered. But these few are enough motivation for me to stop.

In the middle of the rushing forward, I have the power to stop time. So do you.

Wield it.