A few weeks ago I went to a dinner party.
Now, before I continue with my story, let me just tell you that I do not do well at dinner parties.
Or birthday parties.
Or team parties, baby showers, get-togethers, or pretty much any event where social interaction is expected.
Seriously. I don’t know how to handle myself.
I’m just a dork.
So what I have decided is that the thing that works best is when I take on the role of The Good Listener.
I stumble through the introductions, and then quickly ask questions that will get the other person talking, while I just listen and nod.
Have you ever seen the episode of Friends where Ross over-bleaches his teeth and spends the whole time on a date hardly speaking just so he doesn’t open his mouth?
Yeah. That’s me.
Except without the weird teeth-bleaching thing.
So back to my story.
I was at this dinner party, and I was Listening.
But rather than listening to small talk or inconsequential details, I was listening to someone share her heart. She was brave, and honest, and allowed me to hear her story.
And as she was sharing, she said something that struck me to the core. In fact, she vocalized thoughts and feelings that I had been wrestling with for years.
As she was talking, I’m not sure what I did, but something in my expression changed. She looked at me, and nodded.
“You too?” she asked.
“Me too,” I answered.
And in that moment a friendship was forged. She knew that it wasn’t just her. And I knew that it wasn’t just me.
And that knowledge is awesome.
Rather than just listen, I also shared. We encouraged one another, and continue to encourage and challenge one another.
About a year ago my dear friend and fellow author, Craig Bowler, talked to me about an idea that he had for a book. He was going to take a bunch of his friends and ask them to respond to one simple sentence:
I am the one Jesus loves.
I was intrigued. Immediately. Because as I thought about that sentence, I had a wide range of reactions.
I still do.
After compiling his friends’ stories and weaving them together, Craig sent me the draft and asked if I would be willing to endorse the book. I went and set up a workspace at my local Starbucks, and began to read.
Before long, tears were streaming down my face. Because as I read the stories of these courageous people, all I could think of was, “It’s not just me.”
And I can guarantee you this: It’s not just you.
Here is the endorsement I wrote for the book, and a link to where you can get it.
You won’t regret it.
“When we are really honest with ourselves, we realize that deep down at the core of our being, in the places we don’t like to acknowledge or share with others, is the longing to be chosen. We want to be important. We want to matter. We want to be loved. Craig Bowler tackles this desire head on in his latest book, I am the One Jesus Loves. With his signature style of bold truth and refreshing honesty, Craig weaves together the stories of 24 different people as they wrestle with the reality of one simple sentence: I am the one Jesus loves. The stories are real, raw, and at times brutal. Some are encouraging and uplifting, while others will break your heart. However, as you join Craig and his friends on their journeys, you start to see the delightfully messy hope that comes with realizing that you, yes you, are the one Jesus loves. No matter what.”
See you soon.
Right now the news is full of stories about sexual abuse/assault/harassment in Hollywood.
It’s everywhere. Actors, actresses, politicians, and anyone who has ever been anywhere near Hollywood are all being called out – some by name – and asked to comment on this.
And they are. Or they aren’t. And it feeds the news cycle. Story after story, headline after headline, on and on it goes.
And as more people speak out, an all too familiar pattern has emerged:
- Sure the guy was wrong, but why didn’t she say something sooner?
- What’s the big deal? He asked ten times, and she said no ten times, and so he listened. Finally.
- What is she looking for with this? She’s probably in it for money.
- She’s rich and famous, why should she complain?
- That’s just the way is there in Hollywood.
- This happened 20 years ago, they just need to get over it.
- She’s known to sleep around, so it’s not that big of a deal.
- And on, and on, and on.
And it makes me sick. Absolutely sick.
And what I want to say to anyone who has ever been a victim of abuse is that I am so sorry, and I hear you.
I know. I know that you see these famous actresses, beautiful and seemingly flawless, and you hear people doubting them, belittling them, and ignoring their claims. And I know that it makes you think that if no one listens to them, then who would listen to you.
And I’m so sorry. And I hear you.
I know that when you hear the audio of someone in power trying to coerce someone, you are flooded with terrible memories.
And I’m so sorry. And I hear you.
I know that when you hear victims talking about feeling ashamed, guilty, and even complicit in their abuse, you hang your head a bit, having struggled – or still struggling – with the very same things.
And I’m so sorry. And I hear you.
Friends, the issues in Hollywood are real. The pain is real. The victims are real. And I pray for everyone who has been hurt, that they can find the help that they need in order to heal.
I pray that eyes are opened and that a system that is so deeply flawed and damaging can be completely overhauled.
But now I need to look around me, on a more local scale. And I ask you to do the same. Find ways to help victims of abuse. Learn to look for warning signs.
Learn to listen.
Watch your responses to public victims of abuse, because you never know who around you may also be a victim. The statistics are staggering, and sickening.
We can’t do nothing. We have to do something.
Every single one of us.
And repeat after me: I am so sorry, and I hear you.
See you soon.
Almost two years ago we visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. It has been firmly established that we are a Baseball Family, so obviously this was an incredible experience for all of us. And it wasn’t our last – we went there again this past summer, and I have a feeling we will get there as often as we can. There is so much to see and learn and appreciate.
I knew that I would love it, but something happened there that really shocked me. As I was walking through the Plaque Room and looking at the stories of the men and women who have achieved greatness in the sport, I came across the plaque for Lou Gehrig, and I immediately began to cry. I know that is not the normal reaction that people have at the Hall of Fame, but as I read his story and thought about his life – and death – I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my Papa. See, almost nine years ago my Papa died from ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease. So reading about a man who suffered the same way as my Papa impacted me in a way that no one around me truly understood.
But even though they didn’t understand it, my pain was real. My heart was broken again. And I was hurting. My husband noticed, and gently rubbed my back. My oldest son looked over and said, “Thinking about PaPaPa?” I just nodded, and so did he.
He gets it.
A year and a half ago we were at my favorite place in the world: Ocean Beach, California. We were having a Best Day Ever, which is where we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the beach, capped off with a bonfire and s’mores.
In the afternoon, I walked down to get some coffee. It was a walk that I was dreading, but a walk that I knew I needed to take. It was a coffee shop that I didn’t want to go into, but I knew that I had to visit. Because the day after that particular Best Day Ever, I was going to attend a memorial service for a friend who had lost his life in a surfing accident. And that coffee shop that I visited? That was where he and I had life-changing conversations. I had to go there again, to remember him. To thank God for placing him in my life. And to pray for his precious wife and children.
So there I stood, surrounded by surfers and children and families. I ordered the coffee with a trembling voice and tears in my eyes. Again, not a normal reaction to the location. But intensely real, intensely personal, and pretty understandable when you know the full story.
Three weeks ago my daughter found a new type of candy at the store that she had never tried before. She brought it home, and everyone tasted it. Some liked it, some didn’t. I didn’t.
Not because of the candy. Objectively, the candy is pretty tasty, and I actually really like a very similar variety.
But this was not the first time I had ever tried that candy. The sight, sound, smell, and taste of it brought back the memories of when I used to eat that particular treat, which was during a dark time in my life. A very dark time. One I do not wish to go back to, and one I do not wish to share the details of.
So we don’t buy the candy anymore.
Some may think it is strange to avoid a silly thing like a box of candy, but that’s what I need to do. It’s what keeps me healthy and keeps me looking forward.
And if you knew the full story, you’d probably understand.
We live in a world where social media has allowed people to share their hearts and minds in a public forum. We can share what makes us happy, what makes us sad, what angers us, and what we find funny.
A lot of times, this is a very good thing. People celebrate together, comfort one another, encourage each other, and laugh together. I can support my friends across the country and around the world, and I know that they will support me. I have seen tragedies averted and families reunited through the power of social media.
But then there’s the ugly side.
The fact that we can share our thoughts and feelings in such a public manner means that we are open to judgment, ridicule, and scorn.
It comes with the territory, I guess. But that doesn’t mean that it’s right.
And that doesn’t mean that I need to participate.
It’s easy to see someone post about being offended and roll my eyes at how ridiculous it is that they’re upset over something I find so trivial.
But is that right? Is that what I should do? Is that what I want people to do to me?
Is that what Jesus would do?
No. No. No.
I don’t know. I don’t know their story. I don’t know their background. I don’t know the things they have seen or the pain they have experienced. I don’t know why they hurt, or what will help.
So I am left with three choices: I can mock them, ignore them, or reach out to them and try to find a way to make their lives a little bit better.
Too many times I mock. And I need to stop. Because that’s just not okay.
Too many times I ignore. Sure, I might not be able to actually do anything, but that doesn’t mean I should pretend they aren’t hurting. I should not ignore pain. I can at least stop and pray for that person, pray for relief.
And too few times I actually reach out and try to find a way to help. But I will keep trying.
Because I have been there. I have been the one having an intense reaction to a seemingly minor situation. I have been the one driven to tears by a song, sickened by a photo, and hurt by insensitive words.
I have been mocked when I was broken and taunted when I was in pain.
And you know what? It sucked.
So I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’ve hurt instead of helped, and ridiculed instead of relieved.
I will try to do better.
Will you join me?
Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:31
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:37-39
See you soon.
The past 9 days of our journey have been incredibly busy, full of history and learning and experiences and tons of fun.
They have also been full of extremes.
We saw buggies in Amish country, and rode the subway in New York.
We ate lobster on a beach in Maine, and pretzels off of a food cart in Central Park.
We saw Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
We looked at Babe Ruth’s bat and paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso.
We drove through the woods of Pennsylvania and across the Brooklyn Bridge.
We visited Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts and Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue.
And we took in the stunning views of Vermont and the lights of Times Square.
Through it all we walked and talked and saw friends and family.
And we truly enjoyed being together.
One of the highlights of the trip for me occurred at about 1:00 AM after our final day in New York City.
We had just come back from a taxi ride that none of us will ever forget. (I will spare you the details, but heed this warning: If your kids are prone to getting carsick, DO NOT take them in a taxi. Trust me.)
We had finally gotten back to our tent, everyone was gathered around our bed, and the kids began to talk. They shared their favorite things they saw, asked questions, and laughed at funny memories.
As I listened to them, I realized that those are my favorite moments of this trip. When I get to see my kids learning and growing, right in front of me. I see their minds working, see them processing things, and see them teaching and learning from each other.
And it is truly incredible.
In just a little over two weeks our trip will be over. Davey will start teaching, and we will get to know our new community. The kids will start school and sports, and we will settle into our new routine.
Until then, though, we will continue to enjoy our journey. We will be seeing more friends and family, visiting historic sites, and eventually ending up in my favorite place in the entire world: Ocean Beach, California.
The best part, though, is that I know the kidlets will continue to talk, and laugh, and learn, and grow.
And I also know that it won’t stop once we’re done traveling.
And I love that.
See you soon!
When I was growing up there was a staple that we had at every fancy meal: Pink Stuff Salad. It was a combination of cottage cheese, cool whip, pineapple, and Jello powder. Sometimes it was strawberry flavor, sometimes raspberry. Sometimes we got adventurous and used lime flavor, which, of course, changed everything and made it Green Stuff Salad.
The only problem with this salad was that no one liked it.
I mean, sure, we all took tiny helpings to be polite, and we choked it down as quickly as we could. But it was not tasty.
Finally at one Thanksgiving we had The Talk with my mom.
“No one likes the Pink (or Green) Stuff Salad.”
She took the news quite well, and never again have we had that stuff on our table.
Well, a few days ago I wondered if this Journey was the kidlets’ Pink Stuff Salad. Was this something that Davey and I love, but they just don’t enjoy? Were they going to look back on this summer as something annoying that they had to endure, or do they love it too?
I got my answer in three very unique places: Just outside of Winnemucca, NV, just outside of Lincoln, NE, and just inside the Pennsylvania state line.
In Nevada the kidlets were talking about whether or not they wanted a teleporter to just get to where we were going. The answer was a resounding no.
“Then we’d miss The Journey,” The Girl said. “The Journey is a big part of the fun.”
In Nebraska, Davey and I were trying to decide whether or not to stop at a hotel or drive through the night. The kidlets just listened to our conversation, not saying anything. We finally realized that in order to get where we wanted to get, we needed to just press through. Once the kidlets heard our decision, they all responded in the exact same way.
“Yes! We love driving through the night!”
Finally, we crossed into Pennsylvania just as it was getting dark outside. I looked and saw a firefly, and I got so excited.
I love fireflies.
I pointed it out to the kidlets, who were watching a movie at the time. They decided to turn off the movie so they could watch the bugs outside.
For the next hour they stared out their windows, excitedly pointing out every time they saw a flash of light.
So I am so happy to know that they love this just as much as we do.
No Pink Stuff Salad here.
Speaking of this…
Since my last post we have travelled an additional 2900 miles, bringing our total 6700. We have also spent 60 more hours in the car, bringing that total to 125.
We saw more great friends, camped in ridiculous wind, and visited our nation’s Capitol.
We walked along the Vietnam Memorial, slowly looking over the seemingly endless list of names.
“That’s so sad,” Jar said.
“So many people,” The Girl added.
We stood on the spot where Martin Luther King delivered a speech about his dream. We looked out over the same sights he did, and wondered about what he’d say today.
We read the Gettysburg address, etched on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial. We talked about division. And turmoil. And hope.
We read the signs of the protestors outside of the White House and Supreme Court, and we talked about freedom. Freedom to speak out, and freedom to stay silent.
We walked the steps of the Supreme Court, and we talked about decisions that impact the lives of people everywhere.
And today we rest.
Once again we are settled in a campground, and as I write the kids are reading, journaling, and playing with the little trinkets they’ve picked up along the way.
Tomorrow we head out again. We will make a few stops along the way, but our destination is Cooperstown, New York.
We will spend two whole days exploring a town that is devoted to baseball.
Those will be great days.
Until then, we will continue to rest.
Oh, and eat soft shell crab and Philly cheesesteaks, because what’s a Journey without food?
See you soon!
We ended the Northern California part of our journey in the best possible way: water skiing on Lake Tahoe.
Davey grew up skiing on the lake, and 21 years ago he taught me to ski there. Now it was time for the kidlets to learn.
Although the boys gave a valiant effort, and loved rocking the wetsuits, it was The Girl who was the most determined to make it happen.
And I loved watching her determination.
The persistence, the strong will, the absolute refusal to quit.
It isn’t an easy skill to learn, and it isn’t an easy place to learn, either. The water is so cold, and that feeling of floating there in the enormous lake, shivering, as the boat circles around to once again pass you the rope is not exactly a fun feeling.
But I knew by the look in her eyes that she would not quit.
And then finally the time came. She was ready.
Her sweet little voice yelled out, “Hit it!”
Davey took off, and she popped up. For two whole seconds, she was skiing.
We all cheered and yelled.
I was so proud of her and happy for her. Not because it was the best ski run ever, and not because I have visions of her being a professional water athlete.
But because she saw what it was like to stick it out, even when it isn’t exactly fun anymore, and have it pay off.
She saw that grit and guts are very, very good things to have. It’s a lesson I hope she never forgets.
As we went back to get her, all three of her brothers were smiling and happy for her, and as we reviewed the highlights of the day, watching their sister get up definitely made the cut.
I love this more than they will ever know.
All of our time wasn’t spent on the water. We also visited the Bay Area and Sacramento, taking in all of the sights. Sea Lions, Cable Cars, Boats, and Bridges filled our days.
Throughout this Northern California time we ate great food, drank great coffee, and reconnected with more friends and family. We also met up with wonderful people who had been in our youth group years ago, and got in quality time with two girls who think nothing of spending hours talking with the kidlets and their stuffed animals.
All in all, it was awesome.
We are three weeks into the journey. 3900 miles, 65 hours in the car.
And now we head east.
See you soon.
About 30 years ago Davey and his dad walked into Candlestick Park for the first time. They had just moved up to the Bay Area, and they were there to take in a San Francisco Giants game.
Will Clark, Robby Thompson, and Matt Williams were all on the field, and Davey was hooked.
About 30 years before that, my father-in-law, Scott, had walked into a stadium with his father to see the New York Giants play.
Willie Mays was on the field, and Scott was hooked.
Two nights ago, Davey and I walked into AT&T Park with all four of our children. We were there to see the three-time World Champion San Francisco Giants play.
Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Crawford were on the field, and although the kidlets were already hooked, they now love it even more.
As we sat there and ate garlic fries, yelled along with the bleacher chants, and danced to Steve Perry, I couldn’t help but think about the history of this team and our family.
Davey and I went to games together before we had kids. We went when I was pregnant, and when J was an infant in a backpack. When the older boys were 5 and 8, they collected cans and did odd jobs to earn money to go to a game and buy souvenirs.
Not too long after that we moved away from the West Coast. Although we caught the Giants on the road a few times, we had not been back to AT&T Park.
The kidlets had once again done special chores to earn money for souvenirs, and we made sure to enjoy every moment of the night.
The Giants didn’t win. But that’s okay. Because that night wasn’t about baseball.
It was about family. And connections. And history and tradition.
It was about dancing and yelling and cheering.
And it was about being together, sharing something we love.
See you soon.
“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things.”
― Jamie Tworkowski
My dear cousin introduced me to this quote during one of our stops on our journey. And I love it.
I absolutely love it.
Because this portion of our trip has been all about the people.
We saw friends and family, friends who are family, and family who are friends. We saw a bunch of people, and not enough people. We talked and laughed, listened and cried.
We asked the tough questions and heard the tough answers, told happy stories and sad stories. We listened and learned, knew and were known.
One of my favorite times was when we went to visit my grandmother. She lives in an assisted-living facility and, to be honest, I was a bit nervous about what it would be like. What I saw made me so happy. When we first got there we ran into a large group of people who were also on their way to visit her, and she welcomed us all with a huge smile.
She took us all around, introduced us to her friends, and proudly showed us the garden she helped plant.
She wanted to take us to lunch at the little Bistro, but after nearly nine decades her feet just aren’t as nimble as they used to be. The solution was for her to cruise along in her wheelchair, greeting everyone as she rolled along.
She knew them and they knew her. I teased her about being so popular and she just giggled.
During our meal, her twin sister came to chat for a while and a few other friends stopped by to say hello.
My favorite part of the visit happened at the end of the meal. The server came to see if we wanted dessert, and she looked at my grandma and said, “I know what you want. A scoop of vanilla with a little bit of caramel.”
My grandma just smiled, and later said it was the perfect little treat.
There are several residents in the facility, covering the full spectrum of physical and cognitive abilities. From independent living to advanced Alzheimer’s care, the residents are treated with dignity and respect, to the point of knowing their favorite dessert.
It was tough to say goodbye, as it always is, but I also felt so relieved knowing she is happy. She was about to go and listen to her favorite accordion player, and she was looking forward to doing some art in the coming week.
And I know that when she wants something sweet, she will get her scoop of vanilla with a little bit of caramel.
For this next part of our journey, we are home. Not home home, because that won’t come until the end of July, but Northern California home.
This is where we met, fell in love, and got engaged. It is where we had our first career jobs, learned how to live as husband and wife, and where all four of the kidlets were born. The sights, sounds, and smells are comfortingly familiar, and there are memories around every corner.
As much as we like to wander and explore and seek adventure, sometimes it’s nice to just come home for a bit.
So here we are.
See you soon.
In this first week of our journey, I sure have learned a lot from the two youngest kids. We call them The Littles. Now, I know that 4th and 5th graders aren’t normally considered little, but in this family, they are. The older two are The Boys and the younger two are The Littles. That’s just how it is.
We spent three wonderful days camping in Flagstaff, AZ. Those days were full of dirt, relaxing, campfires, and outdoor living. You know, all of the things that make life just a little bit better.
One of the days that we were there we went and explored the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful and incredible and breathtaking and all of the adjectives you would expect when you go and see one of the Natural Wonders of the World. We stood and looked and pondered the wonder of it all and our insignificance and our significance and all of the Thoughts You Think at the Grand Canyon.
Well, all of us except Jar. Jar was more interested in the people. As we walked through the parking lot, he read all of the license plates. He wondered about the families, where they came from, and where they were going. He listened to the accents he heard, watched the different customs taking place, and wanted to know more about the lives of the people he saw. He was fascinated by everyone around us, noticing the little things that we all ignored.
As we pushed past the people to stare and watch and think, he saw the people and wanted to know their story.
I want to be more like my son.
When the camping was over, we came back down to the Greater Phoenix Area. The Girl had some softball to play and we had some cheering to do.
This is The Girl’s first year playing fast pitch softball. She played baseball for five years before this and knows the fundamentals, but this was her first time with the bows and the cheers and all the softballness. She loved it. She is still a bit confused about the bow, but she loves softball.
Her team went undefeated for the regular season, and the pitcher was incredible. I’m talking several no-hitters, way beyond the rest of the league incredible. Strike after strike after strike. It sure was impressive.
The Girl plays 3rd base and shortstop, and I never got tired of watching her out there. Every single pitch of every single inning, she was ready. She would hop into position, glove down, eager to make a play. Now, 19 times out of 20 there was no play to be made, but she didn’t care. She was ready.
She received no attention, no glory, and most of the time there was no external reward for her actions. But that didn’t stop her. Every pitch, every inning, every game. Doing her job to the best of her abilities, no matter what.
I want to be more like my daughter.
So now we are off again, ready to see what we see and learn what we learn. Oh, and also enjoy the company of our kids, who are pretty awesome people.
See you much later, Arizona.
Nevada, Oregon, and Washington… we’re coming for ya.
See you soon.
“I’m just a young boy, living in the journey…”
Those are the lyrics to a song my youngest son wrote. One time I asked him what the song meant, and his response was simple.
“Well, Mom. It means that I’m just a young boy. And I’m living in the journey.”
I love it.
Living in the journey. And I get to live there with him.
This summer our family is living in an extended journey. My husband is a teacher, so he has the next two months off. He’s also switching schools and districts, which means we are moving as well. We had two options: Move in to our new neighborhood in June and spend the summer in the Valley of the Sun (uh….), or throw our stuff in storage and travel the country.
For the next 60 days we are traveling all over the Lower 48. West Coast, East Coast, Northwest, the South… you name it, we’ll be there. Seeing friends and family, exploring new places, visiting our favorite spots. Camping, hotels, couches… we’re doing this.
And I’m going to chronicle it all here. Because that’s what I do.
So… before we get started, I’d like to introduce you to the characters in this journey.
J is Jeremy. He is 15 and just finished his Freshman year of high school. He likes reading, music, and all things baseball.
The Kid is Micah. He is 12 and just finished 6th grade. He loves building, creating, and all things baseball.
The Girl is Alexis. She is 10 and just finished 4th grade. It is because of her that we get to explore all of the National Parks for free! She loves drawing, writing, and all things baseball and softball.
Jar is Elijah. He is eight and just finished 3rd grade. He loves camping, swimming, and all things baseball.
“Davey and Jane”
We are Davey and Jane. We love our family, traveling, and all things baseball and softball.
Marvin is Dr. Leo Marvin, our 7-month old lab-mix. We were told he was lab/golden retriever. We see the lab… He loves playing, sleeping, and all things chewing.
Goliath is our new tent. We figured that since we would be spending at least 2/3 of the next 60 nights in a tent, we might as well get a good one. It fits 14 people. We are a family of six, so this is a very good thing.
And here we go.
Just a family, living in the journey. Maybe you’ll join us!
See you soon!