Life has always been a series of Stories.

Some more enjoyable than others.

There’s always a Path.

There’s always a Creative Lesson.

There’s always some Pain.

There’s always some Joy.

Some days are Zen.

Some are Hell.

Some are Kittens and Sunflowers.

Some are Simply Now.

Some days we’re Aligned.

Some days we’re Not.

Life is a Line Graph.

Up and down, back and forth.

Never in the same place twice.

Except when Lightning Strikes.

When the heartbeat of my line graph flat lines,
I have to ask myself these things…

What are my trigger points and why?
What needs have I neglected?
What boundaries do I need to repair?
What am I not giving voice to?
What message is my soul desperate for me to hear?
What nourishment am I starving for?
What circulation has been cut off?
What relationships need cultivation?
What is the urgency I feel in this moment?
What is aching to Move?
What actually Matters?
What actions will help me to slow down?
What does it take to Breathe?
What programs are running?
What flow is missing?
What routines need to Be?

My dear, dear Julia
What Sign do you Need?

Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

Graph - By Aberrant Crochet

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“Why do you keep doing? It seems like no one notices. Has anyone told you they cared? What value is there in continuing to give in ways that may never return to you?”

And I don’t know what to say to her.

I mean,

I have never…


what to say

to reason.

I saw things differently as a child.

I see things differently as a mother.

I’ve been different all my life.

I’ve never focused on the “fairness” of giving without condition; of serving without thanks or feedback.

I see need and I scramble to salve it.

Because someone must.

The world is just mommy spit and kisses away from being lost.

I do not do

what I do

because I need


from anyone

other than


“But you are giving everything away and nothing is coming back,” she tells me.

I still don’t know what to say.

Is that true, I wonder?

Is nothing coming back?

Am I hurting myself?

Considering how comfortable my conscience is,

I doubt the damage would be too much.

Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.


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Making Bone Broth: 19 Must Read Resources To Teach You Why And How…

Making bone broth is one of those recipes/activities that has become a staple in my kitchen. I don’t always get to have leftover turkey bones from Thanksgiving (if I’m not hosting, I’m not usually making the turkey), but turkey carcasses make the bestest of bone broths in my opinion. Usually, I’m making bone broth from an organic chicken carcass.

Bone broth may seem “new,” with the Primal, Paleo and Keto diet movements, et all, but it’s actually steeped in history. From the root word meaning “restore,” the first “restaurants” were places you could go to get restorative bone broth, for the ill or the weary with travel.

It’s not hard to make and it’s so, so very good for you. I think everyone should learn how. So I thought I’d provide my must read list of resources to help spread the madness.

In my opinion, the list of links below represent some of the best information available on bone broth. Not just instructions, but why’s and variations. I think nearly half of these links are from doctors, which is nice if you want to learn *how* bone broth can help the body heal. With loved ones in my family suffering from diverticulitis and Lyme disease, I was especially interested in how bone broth could be helpful in healing from those diseases. I was raised on nutritional thinking and natural healing, so digging into resources on managing diverticulitis or healing Lyme naturally was second nature to me. The link below provides more on the history of bone broth. Comparative recipes and methods can be found via the other links.

The 7 day broth link, and a post from a chef that I couldn’t find again (sorry), are the resources that convinced me to cook my chicken bones for at least 5 days. In fact, I often crock pot my bones 7-10 days with no problems. Works great. I also use my Instant Pot when I want a quick fix just right now. It’s a good broth, but there’s something I prefer about a week-long simmering broth that I drink from and add herbs and vegetables to every day.

I’ve researched through far more than just these articles, but didn’t save everything I’ve read.  Hopefully this list will arm you with solid information and help get you started on your own.

Tell me how it goes!

Do you have other good bone broth links?

Please share them with me in the comments below!


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How: The Question Of Overwhelm…

Instead of asking, how can I make this easier?
Ask, what can I do to make this easier?

Instead of asking, how can I be happy?
Ask, what do I need right now to be happy?

Instead of asking, how are you going to do that?
Ask what steps will you take to carry out xyz?

Instead of asking, how are you doing?
Ask, what are you feeling?
What do you need? What is helpful?
What can I do that will make a difference?
What’s the most loving thing I can do for this person right now?

Instead of asking, how am I going to get everything done?
Ask, what can I cut out that will free up the most time?
What tasks can I rearrange to reduce the stress I feel?
What resources can help me win this?

Instead of asking, how is this going to work?
Ask, what is our plan? (Do we have a plan?)
What is our focus? What can we accomplish this week?

Instead of asking, how could they do this to me?
Ask, what boundaries have I not set?
What expectations do I have?
What needs have I not expressed?
What messages am I sending that I didn’t mean to?

Instead of asking, how was your day?
Ask, what was the most interesting part of today?
Or most entertaining? Or most terrifying? Whatever fits?

Instead of asking, how will I afford this?
Ask, what are our goals?
What do you need to meet our goals?
What actions are needed to make this happen?
What are some ways I can cut my expenses? Increase my income?

HOW is too often the nebulous, undefined question of stress, reaction and overwhelm.

For forward-motion, focused solutions and freedom, instead ask WHAT.


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I Got People For That…

Community. Tribe. Team.

It’s what human beings are drawn to.

Even when we’re loners.

A network of friends and family and resources and colleagues.

My 10th level wizard on speed dial.

Outsourcing my spells.

Ideally united in the goal of making things better in the world.

It’s who we desire to serve, and what we desire to build.

Our hope for tomorrow.

As humans have never in history ever thrived alone.

I’m not infinite enough to learn and do it all.

So I appreciate the experts in my life.

The people who are willing to be experts in the things I can’t absorb too.

The friends willing to share the collective burden of tasks gathered in a single lifetime.

I selfishly hope my mechanic and chiropractor never, ever retire.

And in truth, I’ll help them however I can, should they need my skills.

I even already have.

Exchange of comparable value.

Expertise for expertise.

An ear for an ear.

Value for value.

The freedom to know that I don’t have to worry about “that thing” that I’m uncomfortable with.

Because, “I got people for that.”

Isn’t that a level of cooperation we all seek?

I appreciate the experts in my life who can focus on the things I cannot.

I want to be someone’s “people for that.”

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Job Satisfaction…

As I wrestle with the packaging of my protein bar,
driving in the car on the way to my appointment,
I can’t help but think that I might enjoy a job in
designing better packaging for snacks on the go.

Aka, meals on the go.
Because… you know… no time to eat.

It’s probably not as glamorous as it seems in my head.
But I bet the job satisfaction is pretty high.

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To The One Struggling…

When it comes to health, never hesitate to get 2nd and 3rd opinions and be willing to travel to get them if you have to. They can be life saving.

My personal opinion is that something is happening to Generation X, biologically. I don’t know what, but too many doctors are treating us like the generations before us. Yet we are facing things at younger ages than our parents and grandparents. And perhaps even more complex things at that.

However, we’re also considered by the system to be the most stubborn and uncooperative generation of parents ever. Because even as adults we challenge the system. We ask questions and we do our own research. We unabashedly disagree with authority figures.

It’s our willingness to challenge the status quo. And to me that is part of our saving grace.

Be a rebel. Make the professionals justify their opinions, prove their theories and prove their authority before you change your future based on their advice.

It may not be perfect, but I always believe in as many good data points as possible before life altering decisions.

And honestly, you want to rule out other possible problems too.

Whatever it is that you’re facing, I pray that all the right people cross your path to help you. ❤️

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If You Want To Be In, Get The App…

I listen to the sales rep tell me about their customer service.

He says, “Really, the best thing is to download our app. It’s basically a control center in the palm of your hand. You could do anything from the app! You can schedule service, you can chat with a representative when you need help, you can order parts, and you can look up all of your service contracts!”

“Oh that’s interesting,” I say. “So can I pay my bill through that too?”

“Actually,” he says, “you have to have a different app to pay your bill. So you need this app to keep up with your service contracts, and then you need this other app in order to manage your billing and payments.”

“So… I need two apps to realize the full benefit of all your services?”

I wonder if he can tell that my inner Gen-Xer is rapidly losing interest.

“Well yes,” he says. “But then if you want our premium membership services too, then you need this other app for that.”

:: blink ::

I get why Amazon has multiple apps. I don’t get why this brick and mortar store that I walked into does.

“Do I have to have your app in order to look up my service contracts? Or can I just look them up on my computer?” I ask.

“Oh sure,” he says. “It’s just easier if you have the app since it’ll all be right there in your hand.”

Considering that I have almost no room left on my phone, and I value what is already there, the last thing I want to do is install 3 apps just to realize all the benefits of shopping at one store I just walked into.

But that’s the way of the world today. Everybody wants you to have their app now. Everybody wants you to register an account.

Everyone wants to help you for the low, low price of your email, address, phone number and GPS location.

Just to get coupon discounts on fabric that used to come in the mail, they want me to create an account.

If I want to use any service with extra benefits, I better be ready to surrender my phone number too.

Gone are the days of just simple favors and discounts. Today everybody wants to track every conversion. Today everyone wants to plug into me 24/7.

And I can’t blame them. I mean I want to know how well my marketing efforts are working too.

However my inner rebel says enough is enough. There’s not enough of an “in” anymore.

If I don’t want it bad enough, I’m not signing up for one more account to keep track of.

Just how many different accounts with user names and apps is it reasonable to expect a single person to have? Our digital footprint is rapidly becoming humongous. And if I were to die tomorrow, how many fragmented bits of accounts are going to be left floating around out there because they’re not really that important. Should I expect my kids to go close all of my accounts for the fabric store, the grocery store, the appliance store, the department store, not to mention all the online places I might shop?

What about the newsletters for the city, the neighborhood association, the drug store?

Will there come a day when all my bills will be required to be paid via app?

Does there really need to be one more app? One more account, for that?

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The Waters Of Dragonfly Pond…

I’ve always loved the idea of having chickens, though I’m not actually sure on the follow through. I certainly enjoy buying eggs from friends who raise them.

When the kids were much younger, they took pottery and drawing lessons. The drawing lessons were especially helpful for my son, who had both dysgraphia and amblyopia.  The lessons were amazing, and came from an art studio based out of a beautiful little ranch/farm property north of town. It was called Dragonfly Pond.

The family who lived there and owned the studio didn’t really have an actual “farm” like some of their neighbors, but they did have chickens, peacocks, guineas, geese, and all sorts of other birds that freely roamed their entire property.

Did you know that peacocks will hunt snakes? Such beautiful birds, and very loud.

In the back of the art center, the owners built a little bubbling brook; a man-made fountain stream, running through the back “yard.” There were bushes and Texas holey rocks and flowers and bits of pottery projects all around.

A picnic table and tree swing was set up next to the little stream. Parents and students would wait on their lessons outside in the little garden brook area (and enjoy the scenery). It was beautiful and the farm birds roamed everywhere. There was plenty to enjoy even while waiting for lessons to begin or end.

I enjoyed some blessed little Zen moments waiting in that little garden stream area for my kids. Waiting for the moments when they would rush outside, “Mommy, mommy – look what I made!” Cheering them on. Picking up acorns, feathers and rock treasures and soaking up the fresh air.

Happy moments.

Though the art studio family had a fenced off coop for the birds at night, the chickens would literally lay eggs just about anywhere and everywhere. Eggs could be found in the rocks by the stream, by the parking area, even in the prickly pear cacti! Seeing eggs nestled up against the base of a cacti is one of those moments I wish I’d caught on film. I mean, just imagine…

Many of the chickens were very docile and there was one in particular that my daughter Jack would pick up and carry around. The little hen seemed to beg for her attention, follow her around. And once a year when the peacocks shed their tail feathers, the art studio would let each kid take home a feather.

Coming there every week was an amazing and healing experience for the kids and I both. Back in the days when John was deployed. The days when the kids first cried every night for their father.

And I always thought, you know – that’s the way to do it. It was obvious the birds were happy in this place. And it was such an organic experience for the kids and I both. If I were to have chickens, that would be the way to do it.

Sadly Dragonfly Pond has since closed and sold, years ago.  Volente bought the ranch land backing their property with the intention of putting in a water park. I’m not sure if the park will ever be built, but there was a big brew-ha-ha when the land was first bought. Several homes on the other side of the fence sold. Supposedly the water park was going to be like a Robinson Caruso theme park, with tree-house hotels. But nothing has yet ever been built. Sad.

I’m just glad someone introduced us to the studio and that we were enriched by it. And during a time we needed nurturing. I’m grateful that it became part of our treasured memories before it went away.

I’m not sure I’ll ever own chickens one day or not. But if I did, that would surely be the way.

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Making Time For Social…

Like most artists and artisans, I’m not a full-time artist. I have other jobs to do, other responsibilities and hats I don. And I have to balance family and work life too.

Making time to blog and to continue the social conversations begun within my niche community is a challenge sometimes. Sometimes we’re out of ideas. Sometimes we’re self-conscious. Sometimes life becomes an emergency. Sometimes we are buried in other concerns and forget that our world is now no longer simply physical, but digital too.

It’s easy to let digital anything fall by the wayside when other parts of life get demanding. It’s also easy to think of blogging for our businesses as an extra, or luxury. But the world of marketing and communication today has evolved into something new. And that new is the digital social landscape. Especially if you don’t own a brick and mortar store front, and you want to stay in business; seriously it’s not a luxury to skip out on social – it’s a need that will break you if you don’t satisfy it.

So how do you move past the hurdles and unfreeze yourself and your message? How do you breathe life back into your blog and your social communities if you’ve neglected them awhile?

1) Forgive yourself. Stop the should haves and just get to it. As artists, it’s easy to beat ourselves up for not being more left-brained about what we do when it comes to marketing. And it doesn’t do a thing to serve us.

2) Routines. If working on social media interactions and blogging every day is too much, then scale back. Don’t promise the moon to your followers and then not deliver. Set the expectations that they can count on and then deliver. Keep investing in the conversation.

3) Give the best you can give when you deliver. Quality, engaging content and conversation will carry you when you find that you are short on time. (But don’t over think it and freeze back up because the word “quality” caught you.) Be genuine.

4) When ideas come, keep notes. Write a rough draft or queue up a title for future consideration. Save a list of links for research. Baby steps will help you be prepared when you sit down to create. Really, I view this as no different from my 50+ unfinished crochet projects – all filed away, that I may grab one at anytime to finish up as I feel moved or need inspiration. Only in this case, I also have a 50+ queue of writing and conversation ideas.

5) Stay active socially. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. I don’t have to blog every day or even every week to keep people coming to my site. But I do need to care. I do need to interact. I should be involved with my niches and my communities. And I should generate quality evergreen content on my site that aims at helping the people in my community whom I’m already engaging with.

What evergreen content should that be, you might wonder? For me, that evergreen content reveals itself as I stay engaged with my community and listen to what that community needs. When I pour care and effort into my social media relationships within my community, and reflect that care into my blog (even when I go through dry writing spells), people who want/need my help will come to find me pretty regularly. But I have to stay active in the social side.

How about you? What are your tips on how to re-engage?

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My Current Favorite Method For Instant Pot Roast Beef…

I joined the IP madness last year on Black Friday. Got a killer deal on a Duo Plus after researching them for a few months prior.

Ever since, I’ve been absolutely smitten by this little wonder pot.

I grew up with pressure cooking, but also never forgot the time my mom blew up a pressure cooker in our kitchen. Nor had I forgotten what a pain the pressure cooker pots were to clean. So I really kind of ignored the whole IP frenzy for a few years. After all, I had TWO pressure cookers in my cabinets that I just didn’t want to use, because I didn’t want something to go wrong or have to clean them up.

Enter the magical world of Instant Pot (IP)!

Now, I wish I’d never waited. It’s very portable and travels easily. I’ve used it to cook dinner in hotel rooms and to help out when I visit friends and family.

Instant Pot would have saved the day many times while John was sick. Not to mention all those times we’d look at each other around dinner time and ask each other – “Hey, did you pull the meat out of the freezer? “No, I thought you did….” “Sigh… Sh******!”

As long as it fits into the pot, it doesn’t matter what shape your frozen food is in – the Instant Pot (IP) will cook it in no time!

My current favorite recipe right now is this roast beef method on This Old Gal. This method is surprisingly quick and exceptional.

It’s been a big hit for our family, and our gatherings, but I tweak it this way…

I use Apothic Dark for the wine, skip the fish sauce, mustard and TOG seasoning. For the rub I use grape seed oil, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, Fiesta fajita seasoning and salt/pepper instead. And 2 bay leaves added to the pot, not just one. Rub it all over with minced garlic too! This time I also sprinkled on smoked paprika. AND I let the roast rest at room temperature for a couple hours before putting into the pot. Resulting in this beautiful baby!

Instant Pot Roast Beef - Raw

For reference, this is a 2.45 lb eye of round beef roast. Ready to go into The Pot.

Instant Pot Roast - medium rare

Instant Pot (IP) Roast Beef – fresh from the pot! Slicing up thin.

Just like the recipe calls, I use the sauté setting to just barely brown the roast on all sides, then use the meat setting on low pressure for 4 minutes.

After it’s reached pressure, I let it natural pressure release (aka. NPR) for 25 minutes.

I didn’t use a thermometer on mine to gauge it. I just found that with this small of a roast, this got me where I wanted the doneness to be.

In this photo, though, the roast is a little more done than I wanted, because I accidentally let it NPR about 40 minutes instead of 25.

But still, not bad! And quite tasty!

Know what my 2nd most favorite part of making roast in the IP is?
Warming up leftovers!

Instant Pot Roast - warmed up -medium

Leftover Instant Pot Roast Beef warmed up on the STEAM function. 3 days later!

So here’s the thing. You can warm up your leftover roast (steaks and such too) in the Instant Pot – without over cooking it, without slicing it and packing it in ice and putting in the oven, and without a number of other often suggested ways that usually result in overdone meat and lots of time.

Instead, put your leftover roast into a Pyrex container on a rack inside your IP. Make sure there’s at least 1 cup of liquid in there. Put the pot on the STEAM setting for 8-15 minutes (gauge depending on the size of the roast). Then NPR for at least 10 minutes.

And voilà! It may not still be medium rare, but it’ll be hot and medium!

Just look at my photo on the right! That’s the same roast, warmed up on the STEAM setting 3 days later!

And it tastes almost like I just made it today!

Let me know if you try it! 😁


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Tonight is one of those nights where I feel discouragement. The holidays are around the corner and I have butterflies about re-entering the job market and interviews – all in order to find a good paying position with good major medical benefits. And to become debt free after all this devastation. Heck, even debt reduced.

I haven’t had to look for a job in two decades. My self-employment was helpful to the family, but it never supported the whole family all the time. It took both John and I to make things work in life. Now I’m doing his job too.

In order to make sure my son stays alive, I need to figure this out. Because I’m not yet making it financially alone and without John. So many responsibilities. Part of me would be relieved to step in to help solve someone else’s problems for awhile.

It’s been 14 months and I look around and still see so much to do. So much still to pay off. Nothing feels quite like it’s going right, like trying to work at 10 times the speed with only thumbs to help. And the world weighs heavy on me.

I know all this will pass. I know I’ve been through the worst already. I know I have good reason to be stressed and I know that being stressed doesn’t change the reality of things. I know I’ve been through hell and maybe not quite back. I know I won’t feel this way in a few years. Maybe. I hope.

But tonight is one of those times when you wonder if anything you do has meaning anymore. If you’re screwing it all up and maybe you don’t have any clue what you’re doing after all. No matter how much advice you seek or how much you study. Nor how much you pray for guidance and help.

I’ve been there for others through times like this. Surely I can do this too.


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You Know You’re In Central Texas…

Indoor Snowballs from Kohl's

Indoor Snowballs from Kohl’s

…when this is a thing.

I was tempted, yellow pee balls and all.

We’ve recently had lots of full-on freezing early in our season after lots of rain, but no actual ice yet.

It doesn’t usually get this cold this early in the year here. Come Christmas, we’re usually wearing shorts.

Probably a good thing ice hasn’t materialized. No one here knows how to drive in it. We certainly don’t have much in the way of snow gear here, so people tend to die while everyone tries to go on with “business as usual.”

But that means my kids have barely gotten to see snow their entire childhoods.

When we do get snow, there’s usually barely enough to dust the yard, and it melts super fast. We run outside, scrape together as much snow as possible and make miniature snowman on the hoods of our trucks.

And we set out bowls in hopes of catching enough flakes to make snow ice cream.

If you’ve never had snow ice cream, it’s pretty simple to make. You just take a bowl of clean snow and add sugar and vanilla to taste. Pretty simple and tasty.

I’d say avoid the yellow snow, but as you can see below, in the very rare event that we finally get snow, usually the ground melts right away and all that’s left is snow on the cars!

So if you find yellow snow on your car, I’d say you have more than one problem at hand!

This is a photo taken a decade or so ago with my daughter Jack building her mini snowman and wearing the ear hat I made her when she was quite little.

Do you know – she still has it and wears it to college on cold days. Still looks almost the same.

If ever I wanted confirmation on the quality of my crochet designs and my choices in yarn blending, she’s my 21 year proof.

One more reason I like crochet.


Miniature snowman scraped together off the truck.

Central Texas Snowman


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Speaking about my Love does not hurt me.

It grants me freedom.

Hearing his name does not make me cringe.

It’s music to my ears.

The silence is what hurts.

The desert of his name upon your lips.

You who called him family.

Uncle, brother, friend.

As if he dies a second death.

Unremembered. Unrecalled. Unspoken.

Erased from our experience.

This isn’t the way we honor.

“Please speak of me kindly and often. I cannot be there for them.”

Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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As It Is…

In life we sail united

Stored our memories at 7-Eleven

Queso dip and garlic bread

We pay homage at the altars


An artistic angle beckons

At the crossroads of bells

Leathery wings cloud the fire

West to the waterfall


A rock is desired

A clift is found

Angels lift their voices

All for the want of a Doctor

Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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Write like that…

My neighbor told me the other day “At least people always want to hire creative writers like you for their marketing teams.”

I was startled by his comment. Like, is this a thing?

When I look at job postings, they always want a marketing or business degree, not an Theology/English/Psych major. I’ve never seen a request for a creative writer to join a marketing team. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places…

We were discussing the need for major medical health insurance and having to look at corporate jobs in order to get good coverage for pre-existing conditions. I have to make sure that my family can continue to go to MD Anderson for anything cancer related now and his family has health issues he has to factor in as well.

He said he’d like to flip houses for a living, but in order to take care of his family’s health needs, he now works behind a desk.

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback about my writing, but no major company has ever told me they want me to write for their team. Then again, I haven’t outright asked one yet.

I guess there *were* those two different magazines, that pitched me to write articles for them; which I did and was paid for. It was nice to be pitched, instead of pitching them. But that’s not the same as looking at hawking your skills to a corporate job.

But I think I’m going to have to. Writing is my main marketable skill that might be able to support a family and pay for cancer treatments. Twenty years of working for myself, but never having had to support a family by myself. Now I’m having to consider re-entering the corporate environment and I don’t know how that will go. I’m far more at home with entrepreneurs.

Consulting all on my own is proving to be very difficult. People ask for my time and help, they back out, etc.. While John was the main bread winner, I could afford to be flexible and understanding with my time. Now I can’t. My son’s life could depend on the choices I make. And working for myself hasn’t yet paid off this year. Need to level up somehow. This is getting more difficult to make work.

If you know of anyone who would like help with writing content or Facebook and social ads and marketing, please pass my name along. I need new clients. Or a new company.


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Note To Self…

I ponder and purge and analyze.

I leave a record for my future self and others in need.

I mean why have a blog anyway, if it’s not to bear witness.

If it’s not to find the words that cannot be spoken.

To help others. To help us remember.

Already this blog has helped me remember things I don’t ever want to forget.

Never forget.

In the face of nightmares and trauma, such a task is more difficult than it sounds.

Every experience is data. But some experiences are like the difference between 8 bits or 8 gig.

The human mind can only process so much all at once.

And trauma tends to rape and rob us of the precious and good moments in the face of extremes.

We can focus on the trauma, or we can can dig past and seize the love.

I have sacred memories in here somewhere.

Memories I want. Memories I earned. Memories I am owed.

If I want to be able to see and remember more, I have to be willing to face the unwanted, so I can then look over its shoulder and see my Beloved behind.

But I need to acknowledge the unsavory to find the precious.

I have to dig in the muck to find my dropped pearls.

Come here Hell, it’s time for you to pay rent.

I have a job for you.

Note to self...

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Meaning more…

It’s Veteran’s Day.

John’s funeral was one year ago today.

His honor guard was made of friends and strangers, but all brothers in arms.

I got Ft. Hood to grant special permission for the honor guard to be at the ceremony an hour later than usual regs.

Friends came in from around the US to pay their respects.

Almost our entire wedding party was there for me. Save two. One of whom is in Germany.

My brother by blood came in from the north-west and stayed a few days to help me, as did our uncle.

My father and my step sister came and helped take down and clean the hall I rented.

I’d paid a non-refundable upfront cleaning fee to the city to make sure we didn’t have to worry about cleanup.

But as it turned out, half of everyone helped clean up anyway, while people stood in line waiting to talk to me.

I shouldn’t have paid the fee.

Our local American Legion let me borrow their colors and sent a representative.

The room was filled with veterans, officers, students from John’s classes, close friends and colleagues from work.

But also there were alumni from the theology college where we met. Aside from John’s sister, parents, the kids and I.

Our chosen brothers and sisters were there. As were our adopted nephews and nieces and other family we choose.

John’s and my special little ones from Houston came, the oldest of which came up to me at the head of the line. He was trying to hold it all in. When I reached for him, he let go and fiercely hugged me, bawling.

I held him and we cried together, while everyone watched.

It’s ok honey. You can cry. You don’t have to be strong. I love you. John loves you. It’ll always be so.

Friends from a variety of facets within John’s life spoke about him, his guitar playing, his singing, his service in the military, his instructing that saved lives. And then there were the 4 of our adopted girls, who expounded on the father figure he was to them. The good man they recognized him to be.

Some people didn’t know John could sing opera. Some people didn’t know he played guitar. Some people didn’t know he was another dad to a gaggle of young adults. Some didn’t know he had a theology degree and could have been a minister. But there were countless words shared with me that night about how John had changed someone’s life.

His brothers in arms made sure everything was right, that John’s honors were prepared properly.

They chose as well to give him the honor of a powerful Roll Call.

It was a simple funeral, at a city facility, but with much love and grace.

And honor.

And today, I didn’t know how to spend myself.

I wanted to reach out and find his hand.

And I resented that I had things I had to do instead of sitting and trying to hear his voice.

I looked through one of his military deployment bags and found his wallet photos of the kids and I from his first deployment. It was stuck inside a box of allergy meds. And later I saw a hawk fly through our back yard.

Maybe that was him.

Your girl just won 2 senior scholarships this week honey, for academics and for leadership. The very first senior scholarships awarded by her college, in the new degree plan she’s in. Your baby girl did it.

And your son, he’s feeling better and doing great at school, but you should hear his music. It’s amazing and so beautiful. I’m so proud of the music in his soul, that I just wish I could create a movie film for him to showcase it. He needs a Mac though. Little of his music homework can be done on a PC.

You would be so excited for them.

And your Boo, she’s just so cute every day. She doesn’t hiss at my glasses anymore. Hard to believe it was two years ago last week since we brought the kittens in and gave them a home.

I love you.


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The World Needs More Love Letters…

Another good man is dying in great pain tonight, while his loyal wife loves by his side.

She’s reached out multiple times to our prayer text chat.

I don’t know her. She doesn’t know me. We’ve never met.

A friend of a friend, desperate to try to help me through the tasks set before me, asked if I’d like to receive encouraging bible verses.

She sends them via group text every morning. I said sure.

I know she spends time, prayer and meditation on what verses to share each day and I find them pleasant. And I deeply respect and appreciate her efforts to show comfort to others.

More recently there have been extra requests for prayers, as this man’s cancer battle is ending.

The texts are brief, but potent with pain.

It hits my heart and I soul-search on what I can say that isn’t trite, or cliché, or preachy, or meaningless? Or that doesn’t send me into a tailspin of anxiety myself.

After all, I know better than most what she’s going through.

I know she feels hopeless and I’m not sure I can give her any. But I’ve found more than anything, the gift of witness is something powerful.

I no longer need someone to tell me things are going to be ok. They aren’t. They won’t be. I’ve survived more than most people can imagine and I’m quite aware that life goes on, whether I want it to or not.

But acknowledgement. Compassion. Witness. Those are powerful supports when the worst has/is happening.

I can’t stop the raging sand storm, but someone please pull out your camera and acknowledge that the storm exists. That my hair is a fantastic wreck. I really did see Big Foot.

“Ah, this is nothing. You’re too strong to let this get you.”

This stranger isn’t the only one. At least 3 of John’s and my friends are fighting for their lives against terminal cancer right now.

I don’t know what’s happening to gen-x, but deep sadness pervades our circles.

Encouragement has been a lifeline for me, and I very much want to provide encouragement for others as well.

I know how life saving it can actually be.

I also understand how hard it can be for others to figure out what to say.

No one has been trained for these things with the modern eye and understanding. No one wants to hurt me. No one wants to be afraid or feel these things or contemplate the possibilities that they might ever endure something similar to what they see when they glance my way.

Even in understanding all these pieces, sometimes words fail me when I want to encourage others.

Perhaps because I’ve already processed too much data for the day, and my words don’t want to work anymore.

And sometimes I wish I could just reach out and hold somebody’s hand, or hug them, or cry with them to show them I care and they’re not alone. Our experiences may be different, but there’s a fraternal understanding of the nuances of trauma, grief, disease, tragedy and loss. Something I’ve come to recognize with honor.

We try too hard to do everything right, that we are willing to freeze our souls just so we don’t make a mistake. We feel compassion, but we’re afraid to show it, or speak. We’re afraid to risk, so we bury the talent we’ve been given, to make sure we don’t judge or cause harm to others.

But risk is in the very air we breathe. We cannot escape it.

Nothing which has changed the world for the better has ever come at less than the price of risk.

So much of the time we stop telling people the things we feel. Messages never said, thoughts never spoken. We should all write more “letters” in the world.

If we never held back on communicating the love and encouragement we feel, I wonder how would that change the world?

Maybe it doesn’t change the world. Maybe it only changes one moment. But even that solitary seed has to count, right?

I keep reminding myself that there is No Fear In Love.

Every small nudge of encouragement, even a simple “thinking of you” is helpful; like a palm at my elbow, helping me find balance when I’m dizzy. Like a whisper on the wind; God’s reassurance working through others.

But then there are the insightful and creative responses too. And they do more than steady me.

They sparkle.

They deliver a bit of Life essence, something I have given out so much of and need to replenish. If given in love and honesty, they’re more than whispers – they’re God breezes and life-saving Light.

I’m not the only person in the world to go through awful things. So I feel it’s only right to learn from these gifts and seed it back out to my world.

I realize it’s an assumption that others experience this as I do. But it feels like Truth. And I want to be better and more generous with my love and words.

I don’t understand God’s plan for us, but I’m convinced that if we’ll allow it, He’ll use us to transmute these things.

I have long thought of tribulations in Life as a series of Whys, that if we consciously work with the Divine, will turn into Wows.

I haven’t found my big wow yet, but I look forward to discovering it someday.

And I hope you find yours too.

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You’re Messing With My Sneeze…

My 21 year old daughter was sharing the story of her day with me tonight, while I mixed myself a cup of dandelion coffee in my Texas Starbucks mug.

I’ve found dandelion coffee to be quite enjoyable as an evening time hot drink. Sometimes at night you just want something hot to drink. And with dandelion coffee, there’s no caffeine to worry about. And plenty of health benefits to consuming dandelion.

If you’re curious, Dandy Blend is my favorite. It’s a blend of roasted barley, rye, chicory root, beets and dandelion and it tastes very nice to me.

I’m a coffee snob too, but not in the way most people are. I like good coffee, but I cannot handle dark roasts. They kill my stomach with the extra dietary histamine inherent. Many artsy coffee places are really into dark roasts, but I simply can’t be. But it doesn’t mean I’ll drink crap coffee if I don’t have to. I’d rather drink Finnish coffee over Folgers any day.

So the fact that I enjoy the dandelion coffee is kind of a feat in itself. I add milk or cream to it, just like my coffee. No sugar. Although, I do enjoy adding a dash of dehydrated marshmallows to the drink at the end. It’s like a healthier version of grownup hot cocoa. Sort of. There’s no chocolate in it, but it almost has a cocoa flavor to it. I’m guessing its the chicory that lends to it.

As I reach for the makings, my daughter’s filling me in on the deets of the afternoon.

It was an interactive conversation, though I don’t remember all the parts. But to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. We were communing and sharing and that is what was important.

When my daughter is animated, she tends to speak very quickly.

Multiple times I heard her say something about people messing with her sneeze.

Like this is something undesirable.

It’s an expression I just haven’t heard before.

However, I get it. I mean having your sneeze interrupted is incredibly annoying.

In some cases, maybe even torture.

Like worse than a shop-block.

Makes sense.

But with her words running together so quickly, while I’m rummaging with the coffee bag, I ask her to repeat herself.

“And so I’m telling them, you’re messing with my STEEZE!”

Steeze? What the heck is that?

It’s a combo of the words style and ease. So if someone’s messing with it, it’s like someone’s messing with your mojo.

Have you ever needed to sneeze and someone tickled you or did something to block your sneeze?

I’d say your mojo would be pretty messed up.

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