lessons from a crab

A beach chair, a sunrise, and waves lapping on the shore. All the ingredients for a peaceful morning. 20140602-161004.jpg I was watching an egret dart in and out of the waves to catch its morning meal, when out of the corner of my eye I sensed movement by my feet.

There he was, his little black beady eyes fixed on me. A little sand crab, frozen halfway out of his burrow.

I turned slightly and seemed to catch his eye. He paused for a moment, then darted back into the hole. 20140602-161255.jpg I turned my gaze back to the lovely sunrise, the slow waves uncurling on the sand. Moments later he appeared again…..

Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off,to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. CS Lewis

Little crab, I see you.

I see you emerging, peeking out at me contemplating, as I often do.

Do I stay here on the edge?

Do I retreat back into my hole?

or stay out in the light?


photo (31)

You fix your steely little eyes upon me assessing the situation.

Retreat calls, and you fall back into your hole.

I wait, watching, counting moments until you materialize again, and throw a clawful of dirt out at me.

I laugh, relating to the frequent moments I have felt the same.

The times I feel alone, when no one understands.

Out of spite I throw out dirt, waiting to receive a response.

And when there is none, or it is not as expected, I retreat as you do back into abyss.

20140602-161201.jpg Yet light beckons

drawing out once more.

You emerge again, and scurry a little farther,

a little longer in this early morning light where everything is fresh

where daylight makes things new

where sunrise shimmers on gentle ocean waves

dissolving nocturne shadow.

On the edge beyond the safety of retreat

there is the expanse the vast ocean surf

coaxing you beyond calling you to tumble into its gentle waves

to bring you to a new place full of life.

Look beyond you little crab into the boundless sea teeming with possibilities

just past the hole you crawl into

your place of safety.

Don’t throw your dirt at me and expect me not to laugh.

I too want to crawl in that hole to bury myself in that place

where darkness stills and encloses

a place of safety

a haven from harm

a place to dig out the unwanted and throw it out

only to scuttle back in

and dig a deeper and deeper hole

until I realize I want out.

I too will sit on the precipice of that hole and decide

do I crawl back in or rise to the surface?

20140602-161111.jpg Once a hint of oceans glory is glimpsed

I will scuttle out to shore

where waves curl onto the sand

and after one tentative step

I will let those waves carry me out to sea.

20140602-161317.jpg For if you would enter into all that I have for you, you must walk by faith upon the waters. You must forever relinquish your doubts; and your thoughts of self-preservation you must forever cast aside. For I will carry you, and I will sustain you by My power in the ways that I have chosen and prepared for you…. Frances J. Roberts

mom’s gift

Rites of passage.  This weekend was full of them.

My third son off to his senior prom.

My baby, my daughter gets her driver’s license.

My second son skypes for a while to take a break from studying for finals at college.

And my oldest gives me this gift, a gift that makes every heartache, every tear, every sleepless night worth the cost of being a mom.

This gift, this video that records moments of motherhood, is meant to honor my mother, his grandmother.

But this gift honors every mom I know…every mom who wonders if her little acts of love are noticed.   They are.

Please enjoy this gift, moms, and remember every little act of love are treasures  not only to us, but to our children, even when they are grown.

20140428-105247.jpg http://vimeo.com/m/94843369



I took a Chinese painting class last week, a completely new learning experience. Everything about it was new, the types of paints, the brushes, how you hold the brush, the type of paper, how you load the brush with paint. A new way to paint. A new way to look at things.

Many times the teacher said, “In Chinese painting, don’t worry about detail. You want to capture the essence. If you make mistake, let it happen. See where it goes. Don’t try to fix it.”

His Chinese paintings were so beautiful and simple. I asked him to paint a peony for me. In a few brushstrokes, he captured the essence of this flower I love so much. So beautiful, so simple. In such few strokes, such few colors, he created something that moved me to tears.

Why did something so simple move me to tears? With a few strokes of a brush, this artist connected to my soul. He laughed at my tears, saying, “You make more tears, I make more beautiful flower.”

So here it is, a peony by artist Lian Quan Zhen.


Simple strokes, use of pure colors, light touch. Suggestion. Not all details.

Mixed in with painting lessons, life lessons.

Don’t force things. Let them be as they are.

Many things in your life you don’t understand. You do it first, then you understand.

Sometimes you give up things to get things.

After years of raising four children, my mind is not wired to think this way. There are many years of attempted control and order to reverse. Yet in this changing season of letting go, relinquishing control, I see the beauty of giving up things to get things. The peace of not forcing things and letting them happen. The joy of letting my grown children be as they are and blossom in their gifts.

The gift of living with someone with Alzheimer’s also teaches, for she sees things in the present, life in the small things. Through her I learn to see beauty in the shell, in the external that capsules what is hidden inside.

To see the essence, the purity of heart and soul now masked my amalagous plaques tangling the brain rendering captive the expression, the language, the emotions that once captured and endeared this person to the hearts of many.

The essence. Look at the essence.

The true beauty of this being.
Through my art I hope to see clearly the things I love. The flowers familiar, landscapes and seascapes that heal my soul. Look deeply into them unmasked.

And in turn trust that the things I see are true.

Then, lightly, I will touch the paper with brush and ink, not force what I see, not try to control it.

Instead let it happen,

And capture only essence.




The sun was setting, and in the distance

a curtain of rain

veiled a rainbow.

A pocket of clouds lay just beyond.

A whisper of hope veiled in the clouds.

A promise that everything would be ok.

We had just come from a service where a husband and three kids the ages of my children had said goodbye to their mother.

Their mother, now with unveiled face, healed from her cancer and resting in the arms of Jesus.

Their mother, whose greatest wish conveyed throughout the service is that her children would remain steadfast in Him.

I walked along the shore with my only daughter only hours after that service, my reflections mirrored in this veil

these words from Corinthians coming to mind as I imagined what is must be like to say goodbye to my children

But we, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 2:13

My friend is healed, beholding the Glory of the Lord.

And those of us left here somehow, after a glimpse of His glory behind the veil are left to be transformed into the same image, from glory to glory….

In the Greek, glory, doxa, one definition translates to this:

splendor, brightness

  • of sun, moon and stars.
  • magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace
  • majesty…a thing belonging to God.

In the dusk of that evening,

I reflect that my friend belongs to God
I reflect on the dignity and grace of her last days

the sun reflects in the sky and the moon rises

and my daughter
reaches beneath the moon, reaches forward, reaches for new possibilities… hope


I wonder why some of us are left behind, and some of us are taken
and see how there is too much transforming left to do
so I too
will reach beyond myself
reach forward, stretching to places uncomfortable and unknown

and someday, when all is unveiled
I will behold His glory
and understand



yesterday I watched those young actors on Glee act out and experience raw at the same time the grief of their friend, I think what is so moving about their pain, so touching about their vulnerability onscreen and in real life, that their gift of song that expresses their pain is so touching

pain and beauty side by side
seen in the most vulnerable moments

but on this side of the screen, we mask our hurt and pain, afraid to be exposed, to be vulnerable.

we do not hold the pain out in front of us, instead cover it up and move on
when we are dying inside

one of my favorite verses tells us

he gives us beauty for ashes
the oil of joy for mourning
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness

as I have cared for my mom over the past few years
I see the most painful moments, the ones that cut me most deeply,
are the ones where I am most vulnerable,
the ones that expose my emotions most raw
the ugly ones, the hurtful ones, the scared ones, the grieving ones

the following is one of those…….

……kathy, you who have been caring for your mom for 14 years, I give this to you…..to the others I met at the caregivers conference I give this to you….we may be exposed, raw, naked, but we are not alone….



even the word is unsettling
naked i come from my mothers womb, naked i will depart

but now before me, is my mother
naked, helpless,
as i was when i came from her body

the hands and limbs that once bathed me, dressed me, held me
are now the ones that i must help bathe and dress

but its too hard to hold
this reversal is too painful
too vulnerable

to see her naked before me
too unsettling,

for now i am the one exposed

she is the one depending on me

when i was a little girl
i was completely attached to my mother

i always needed to know where she was
i needed to sense her presence
i cried if she did not come home
when she said she would be home

now her eyes scan the room for me,
watch my moves

she is the one to question,
“where are you going?”
she asks, “where am I?
is this my home?”
i tell her no, this is my home
she says,
“i want to go home.”

this helplessness, her utter dependence on me
physically and emotionally
leave me feeling helpless

because without my mother here,
who is there for me?

who is there to comfort me when i am down
or run to when i have exciting news
or sit with a cup of coffee to share my day

even grown daughters need their mothers

she is here

trapped in this jar of clay
with a fading mind
but still a treasured spirit

some days she cries and asks for her mother

she says she wants to go to her

i tell she’s not here anymore, she’s been gone a very long time
she looks at me with crestfallen face
trying to remember
then recollecting

she looks at me and tells me
“i’m ready to go.”
ready to go where mom?
“up there.”
she smiles and points to heaven

this treasured spirit
in a jar of clay
yearns for her heavenly home

her fragile mind has broken free
from the restrictions of this world

this world that knows time
hurts, anger, pain,
overcommitments, stress, sorrow

all have been shattered
by this disease called Alzheimer’s
a blessing in disguise

for we are called to live in the moment
to love in the moment
to enjoy only the thing set in front of us
to hold on to the smiles
to pray
to hold
to touch

sometimes the grief is too much to bear
so a hold and touch is too much to give

the nakedness is too much
the rawness is too much
from grieving the person
she once was

she once was
just like me
full of laughter and life
the center of her family
caring for their needs
and keeping them together

who says she is not keeping us together now
in prayer

at night she says to me
“thank you for taking care of me.
may God bless you for all you do
i always pray for that.”

so i continue to care for her
this treasure in this jar of clay
and when this jar is finally broken
i will be able to pick up the shattered pieces
and hand them back to the Father she loves

the spirit that yearns for Him
will go home

Homecoming redefined


Homecoming…. a time when we revisit our roots. When we return to the past. Come back to where we were grounded.

A hometown gathering of students parents, alumni and crowded into the stadium at West Orange High School last weekend for the homecoming game. That night, Travjuan “Bubba” Hunter and Semone Adkins, two students with Down’s syndrome, were crowned King and Queen of their court.

It was a privilege to be part of a community where a diverse group of young people–white, black, hispanic, asian, football stars, cheerleaders, honor society and class officers, dance divas–chose to honor Bubba and Semone as homecoming royalty for their senior class. Bubba and Semone captivated for us what homecoming should always be…a celebration. With unbridled joy and enthusiasm Bubba waved and pumped fists as he rode around the field in his tuxedo in a black Ferrari convertible. Semone waved with elegance and charm in her elegant long golden dress from her red Ferrari.

When they were each crowned king and queen, the crowd erupted into cheers, stood on their feet, some cried tears of joy and pride (including me). Bubba ran down the line of guys, a handshake and hug to each one the court. Semone beamed regally as the other girls crowded around her.

This event made headlines around the county, the state, the country, the first time students in this area, a school of 3760 in the 10th largest district in the nation, have elected down syndrome students to their homecoming court, much less king and queen. So you wonder why this would garner so much attention. Why should this be a big deal. Why should this be the exception?

Does it redefine homecoming?

Returning home, to our grounding place, to examine our roots. To remember things simply. To remember how we viewed life before we were influenced by others, media, expectations, how things should be, how things should appear.

When we didn’t care about the color of skin or facial appearance or body type or speech, or accomplishments or stature, but instead saw the person inside for who they truly were, raw, untouched, motivated only by sharing love, a hug, a fist pump, and pure joy in the moment.

It was disappointing to me the next day, the day of the homecoming dance, to hear stories of students forgetting, of lapsing back into the groups, of who was cool, of who was wearing what and doing what, trying to impress who. I was proud of my son, who remains steadfast in who he is, in what believes, in what he will and will not compromise. Who did not have the moments I had hoped he would have in his senior year homecoming dance because the simplicity, the innocence, the joy of the coronation the night before was buried again in the same veneer of appearance that our kids, our society walk in daily.

Still I hope that Bubba and Semone’s crowning will be a marker. A start. Of how we redefine what it means to come home, to be be grounded in the simple, pure things of life. To find joy in the moment and express love to all just because you feel like it, just how Bubba does.

My daughter came home earlier this week going on about Bubba, how happy he was, how he smiled and talked to everyone in the courtyard and said hello to her. No holds barred. Sheer joy.

If this homecoming would stir up this much attention in the news, in social media, it must be something we are all looking for, yearning for. To be acknowledged, loved and honored for who we are, no matter who we are. To find joy in the simplest things. To see what matters most is what is on the inside, and not what appears to be.