This is how I feel right now. I never drown, but I sure do get close. I’m just so tired. Never enough sleep, never enough money, and now I’m sick. I’m so tired of throwing up. 
I don’t have the energy to parent the way I want to or to be the kind of friend I want to be. Some days it’s all I can do just to put one foot in front of the other until it’s time to go to bed again. I know it’ll pass, but today I’m just empty.

This is how I feel right now. I never drown, but I sure do get close. I’m just so tired. Never enough sleep, never enough money, and now I’m sick. I’m so tired of throwing up.

I don’t have the energy to parent the way I want to or to be the kind of friend I want to be. Some days it’s all I can do just to put one foot in front of the other until it’s time to go to bed again. I know it’ll pass, but today I’m just empty.

"Stay at home mommies complaining about how stressful their life is like Texans complaining that it’s ‘so cold’ when it dips below 50"

I think most people took this in a different way than I meant it when I posted it, so I wanted to clarify.

Pretty much all of our problems here in the USA are relative.  Of all the people in my newsfeed: none of us struggle with war, death, poverty, hunger…or any of the other needs at the physiological rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You know, the ones that are critical to life. A couple of us struggle with things off the second rung, the “safety” rung because of temporary unemployment, health or housing issues.  I’ll place myself here as my daughter’s health is spotty and I am working 3 jobs to maintain our food and housing security. Most of us are also pretty solid with level 3, the “love & belonging” tier. We all have friends and family who love us deeply and most of you, it seems, have a spouse who presumably provides you with sexual intimacy. 95% of the complaints that I see in my Facebook feed are in the top two rungs, which deal with self-esteem and self-actualization.

It is valuable to me, when I am frustrated with my lack of resources - generally time or money - to remind myself that the stress I place on myself is an illusion.  I think through my blessings and the fact that my children don’t fear for their lives or safety in our home or schools. I remind myself that no matter how frequently we eat Ramen noodles or beans and rice, at least we are eating 3 meals a day when so many others aren’t afforded that privilege.  We have a heated home and an abundance of clean water.  I focus on these things and repeat the mantra “my stress is not real” until I feel peaceful again.

Perhaps I should stop with Facebook - because I work hard to keep my own struggles in this perspective and then I come here and see so many people who are complaining and frustrated with such insignificant things.  There is a preponderance of stay-at-home moms in my feed who seem to be really dissatisfied with their lives - a life where basically, they are being paid to stay home and love their babies… well, it just kills me. Do you know how many of us would kill for that?

And so, my badly explained statement of “Stay at home mommies complaining about how stressful their life is like Texans complaining that it’s ‘so cold’ when it dips below 50”.   The analogy, I still think, is solid.  If you rarely know temperatures of 50 degrees, then yes, it seems quite uncomfortable, but you will not die. It is not, actually, cold.   The same goes for SAHMs who allow (yes, allow) their lives to be filled with the stress of … I’m not quite sure… the house isn’t clean enough? It was hard to get 3 kids ready for a play date?  The husband is away for one night on business?  This is not real stress, my friends, it is entirely self-induced.

Because I know that I create much of my own stress, as well, by forgetting to be grateful, I was offering this thought as an encouragement.  I deeply apologize if any of you took it as a judgement - it was not meant as such.  I cull my friend list regularly and vigorously which means that if you are seeing my posts, I really do love love love you. :)  I would just encourage you to remember what you have before you allow this ugly and false dissatisfaction to creep into your life.

The Tension between Authenticity and Expectations

I am entrenched in my own particular culture - suburban, mostly white, mostly upper-middle class, predominantly Protestant, smiling people. It was never deliberate to land here - in fact, I’ve fought against it on many steps. I’ve chosen one neighborhood or high school over another because I wanted as much diversity as I could get, but for now, this is our reality.
And I’ve really no reason to complain, so please don’t take this that way. I live in a lovely home with tree-lined streets. My neighbors are nice, my co-workers kind and my children never fear for their safety. My daughter’s high school class voted a lovely girl, Emily, with Down’s Syndrome as homecoming queen. They go to anti-bully rallies and have a salad bar at school. Tolerance and compassion for all colors, genders, religions…they are all deeply ingrained in my children and for that I have worked hard and am grateful.

I’ll tell you what there is no tolerance for here, though - weakness.

The attitude here is that if someone doesn’t have enough, they must not work hard enough. If they aren’t happy enough, they simply need more anti-depressants. If they are overweight - more willpower. Every one is so shiny happy in public (and here, on the internet) that I begin to doubt sometimes that sadness, struggle & angst are all critical parts of what it means to be human.  

We are taught with words to value and to be authentic, but the expectation that surrounds us is to be strong. What happens when the two collide? There are many rotten, stressful things going on my life right now and I feel on the edge of tears all the time. That I can deal with.  But you know what really pisses me off? The fact that the tears make me ashamed.  I’m taking that back, right now.  My tears make me human. They mean I have empathy and sorrow and compassion and that I’m alive and exactly where I need to be. 

The pursuit of happiness makes life shallow | Penelope Trunk Blog

My daughter’s first date was this weekend. She’s a freshman in high school and she and this sweet boy have been circling each other for months at church, so it was not unexpected. I have no objections. She’s smart and self-possessed in a way I couldn’t fathom when I was her age. The boy is sweet and thoughtful and very polite. And he makes her laugh. I’m tickled for her.

But as I drove alone on Saturday afternoon to pick up his boutonniere, I was overcome by emotions. It feels like such a milestone, and I wanted to pray - to ask God to bring her happiness but I just couldn’t do it.  I know it flies in the face of all the parenting stuff out there, but that is not what I wish for her. I mean, it is, but I don’t want her to seek it. I believe that happiness comes from character and pain and friendship and serving and… It just felt so wrong to ask for.  What I finally settled on was asking God that my baby lives a life that blesses others.

Then I saw this article (click the title at the top) this morning, and it’s a great summary of what I believe. Pursuing happiness is putting the cart before the horse.  Pursue meaning and happiness will come.


When I see random thoughts from unexpected places that say the same thing, I pay attention. :)

Yesterday, I was reading Micheal Connelly’s “Echo Park” and he was describing Christians: “Whether intentionally or not, Vorlean was communicating to Bosch that his new life had been achieved through the intervention of faith. Bosch had often found that those who talked about it the most had the weakest hold on it.

And then today, I was reading an article on “The Most Annoying things on Facebook” and this was #4:  ”People who post scripture.  Truly, this is the most ironic thing for me when you look at my friends’ list.  The majority of my “friends” who continually post scripture and religious pictures are the ones who were the biggest assholes to me back in the day and still never comment on anything I say on FB or, God forbid, interact with me in any way in the flesh.  All of a sudden NOW they’re all spiritual?  Have they repented or something and now they think they can save me?  The really ironic part is the ones who I know go to church every Sunday, pray regularly, talk to me in public, (even read this blog) - you know, walk the walk and talk the talk - are the ones who NEVER inundate my FB feed with scripture.  Really makes me wonder.

This articulates something I’ve always felt. I’ve always been suspicious of people who “praise the lord” with every other breath they take. Life is hard, life is messy, and faith is complicated. Anyone who can drill it all down to “this is the day the Lord has made…” can’t be trusted. Not that there isn’t a place for that, it’s just not in every breath in a public sphere. It always feels disingenuous to me, does it to you?

Thoughts while watching the Keynote of the Xbox One

Full discloser: we love our Xbox 360. We game as a family and I love pulverizing my children in a great epic shoot-em-up. Call of Duty? Bring it on.  I avoided reading rumors about the new system as they are generally not accurate and I didn’t want to know until it was official.  I sat down today, eager to watch the Keynote and see what was in store for our favorite system.


This is sort of a stream of thought about how what I’m seeing will fit my family.

1) Wow, it’s big and ugly. It looks like a VCR from 1984. What a weird step back for design. No biggie as long as it works well, it’s just kinda curious.

2) Voice control? Yikes. That works HORRIBLY on both their current system and every other system “Say 1 for billing…” Best case scenario is if you enunciate perfectly in a silent room. I live in a home full of music and teens and pets. It’s never quiet enough to use any of the various speech to text tech I have (Siri, Dragon dictation, current Xbox, etc).  How are they going to get around that? Will I have to lock up my pets and silence my children to turn on the tv? Again I say, Yikes!

3) Gesture control? Even worse. The “scrolling” motion is a joke on the 360 and my cats moving around constantly mess it up. Please give me a remote control and let me turn this “feature” off.

4) The fantasy football has potential, but I’m betting they force you into their system (ESPN on the demo). Good luck getting your fantasy commish to switch to a crappy system (sorry, buy ESPN’s fantasy stuff is awful) just so you can see it on your big screen. If they issue some kind of api and let us use any league that builds and app (Yahoo?) this could be very very cool.

4) Body biometric stuff? OMG this is really getting creepy now.  The 360 only reads my body position accurately if I’m wearing skin tight clothing because it sees my clothing as part of my body. So when I do knee lifts on an exercise game, it keeps telling me “higher” because it sees the bottom of my pants as my skin.  Based on the presentation, this will be no better. And am I the only one completely creeped out that it can read my heartbeat?? No thank you. Eww.

5) New controller - meh, whatever. The implication of required, always on Kinect really bothers me. What if I haven’t paid the cable bill and my internet is off? Does that mean I can’t watch a DVD? Or play a game when I want? You can’t tell me it’s un-hackable…who can see into my living room? 

6) As a parent, I DO NOT like the idea of my kids being “matched” with a perfect game partner from the Xbox community. There are bad people out there. They play ONLY with people we know in real life. Surely this is a feature that can be turned off, right?

7) Oh, he has a lovely accent. :)  Oh, sports games. Don’t care, we don’t play them…fast forward? I get that it’s a big market share, just not relevant to my family.

8) Car games. Whatever, we don’t play those either.

9) It’s funny how all these game demos hype the product without actually showing anything about the mechanics. #worthlessforrealinfo

10) Not interested in cloud games…no, actually, I’m against them. I don’t want my kids playing with anyone in the community. That’s against every single tenant of internet safety that I’m teaching them.

11) Quantum Break: Must. ignore. bad. acting. Again with the no-info trailer. What are these? Politicians?

13) Immersive, personalized tv: I think they don’t understand what we use tv for, relaxation. It’s not social and most of us don’t want it to be. I don’t want to know that my co-workers are watching Survivor - it would change my opinion of them. We don’t want it to be interactive. We want to sit down, turn it on, and not move until the show is over.

14) Live action interactive Halo? Lordy, we’ve jumped the shark. You’ve seen message board trolls, right? Imagine them controlling the choices of your characters on tv. <shudder> Maybe that’s not what it means. Man, I hope it’s not…

15) I just thought of something fun…I should have taken a shot anytime someone said “Game changer”… although, I probably couldn’t type anymore.

16) Call of Duty: Ghost looks AWESOME.


So bottom line is that there’s some interesting innovation here, but based on Kinect, I don’t expect it to work well. Plus you’re going to have to give me some very granular control over the privacy and what my kids can and can’t do. I’m not crazy about individual home screens because I like to see what my kids are watching and playing. And putting and always on, connected to the internet video camera in my living room? What could possibly go wrong? That’s a deal breaker for us.






After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952), “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal.” I think this poem may be making the rounds, this week, but that’s as it should be.  (via oliviacirce)

How Evernote made me a Supermom

Evernote is one of those programs that is weird to get the hang of, but once you do, it will change your life. The secret is to use it for everything. If you use it only for this or that, it will never really make sense for you.  I’ve been using it for 5+ years and let me tell you, I hyperventilate a little bit without it. It’s the VERY FIRST THING I load onto a new computer. Over a better browser, over mail, over a calendar. The very first thing.   

It took me a while to really hone my method - I tried various things and then discarded them like outgrown shoes. Occasionally I’d abandon it for something newer and shinier, but I always come back.  And in the last two years, I’ve discovered a groove that is absolutely life changing.  I hope that something here will resonate with you and make your life easier. Here’s how I use it. 

1. Put EVERYTHING in it.  You cannot overuse Evernote.

  • My daughter is at a swim meet. I open a note and call it “Waterford Swim Meet”. It auto tags the date and location. I jot down which events she’s in. I take a photograph of the program.  I take a handful of photos of her at the meet (terrible photos, I’m far far away) and one of the score board with her time on it when she broke a personal record.  All go in the note.  As she swims, I jot down her times for each race.   On the way out, I throw away the program (no more, “where should I put this, maybe I’ll make a scrapbook someday”) and can tell her what she placed, what her times were. I tag the note with three tags: “Leslie”, “8th grade” & “swim”.
  • I just acquired a microwave for over the stove. I open a note and call it “Microwave”. I take a photo of the sticker with the model and serial number. I do a quick google search for that model + manual, download the manual and add it to the note. Finally, I photograph the receipt and add it to the note.  Done.  I throw away box, manual & receipt, knowing I’ll always have them if I need them.
  • I’m at Supercuts with my son and I open a note and title it “Boy haircut”. In it I jot down which blade he likes for the sides and the top.  We stop at the shoe store and buy sneakers. I take a quick photo of the label on the box. I label it shoes and tag it with his name.
  • I’m at the doctor with my daughter. I open a note and label it “Dr Adams”. I jot down her height and weight, prescriptions and anything else valuable (shots, tests, etc).  I tag it “Leslie” “Dr”.  Later when the bill and the EOB from the insurance company come in, I attach those to this entry.

2. Tag with three things: Who, When, What

  • You can get (and I have) crazy elaborate with tags but I’ve found that in order for them to be most useful, you only need those three pieces of info. The’ve never failed me. Who? What? When? I don’t always use tags and I don’t always use them all. But all my tags are one or more of those items. 

3. Search here first

  • I get a phone call during rehearsal and the daughter says the director doesn’t want her to wear boots on stage, she needs flats, can I get her some black ones real quick? I head to Old Navy, pull up Evernote and search “shoes” and boom, there I’ve got her most recent size.
  • I’m filling out paperwork at the high school info night and need to know when a tetanus shot was. I pull up EN and search “tetanus” and get three entries - one for each of us. I grab the one tagged with the right kid, look at the date, and there you go.
  • I’m at Lowe’s and shopping for the little bulb in the microwave that illuminates the stovetop. Holy moly, there’s like a million sizes, what? I pull open EN, search for “microwave” and right there on my phone, boom, owners manual for my microwave that I can search through and find the secret code for the right bulb.
  • I’m talking to another swim mom about how the kids qualify for certain events and she tells me the time cut off. I pull out EN to see what my child got in that event with a 5 second search of “swim” and “50 back”.  There’s my answer.
  • I’m on the phone with student loan people and they need to know my AGI from line whatever in my taxes last year. Open EN, search for “Taxes” choose the right one and 20 seconds later, I have my answer.
  • I’m trying to find a new recipe for couscous and remember that I saw one in the magazine at the drs office a month ago. I open EN and search for “couscous” and there it is. I took a picture of it and EN found the word IN THE PHOTO.
  • What’s the name of that orthopedist I saw one time in Myrtle Beach? Open up EN and search for “orth” because I can never spell that word. Luckily, I only get hits for him and Collin’s orthodontist so we’re all good. I simply took a photo of his business card and then threw it away.
  • I’m talking to a friend who’s visiting Galveston and can’t remember the name of the pirate that we found who is buried there. Open EN, search for “pirate” and it finds the photograph of my kids standing next to the monument from the word “pirate’ engraved in the marble.

Evernote has replaced my recipe book, my filing cabinet and my filofax. It’s replaced 3 boxes of kid memorabilia in the garage.  If I want a timeline, I put “leslie” 1st grade” and automagically I have samples of her work, her art, her schedule, her report cards, name and numbers of her teachers and photos of her…all in a neat timeline. 

Because Evernote lives in the cloud, it doesn’t matter if my phone breaks or my house burns down, I’ll always have access. And I’ll always be able to find what I need quickly and not have a home cluttered with “I better not throw this away”.  It’s absolutely priceless.

Where do I keep my photos?

My major project this year is getting all my photos digitized, rightsized and organized. I’d like to make photo books of each year of our lives but first, I have to figure out where to put them.

My requirements:

  • Nested folders. This is not negotiable - it’s how I think. I want to be able to have a folder that has each year, and inside that folders with months and inside that events.
  • Full sized downloads. Don’t give me a gimpy copy if I want to re-download it. And batches, please. Don’t make me click one at a time. They are MY photos.
  • Mobile accessibility
  • Price
  • Tags are nice, but not a deal breaker.

I’m looking at Picasa, Flickr & Shutterfly initially, but may add more.


“Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and he gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we had only leisure.
It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.”
~Elisabeth Elliot from Discipline: The Glad Surrender
Homeboy Industries employees at the bakery counter (photo by Homeboy Industries).
Hear our interview with founder/executive director Father Greg Boyle here.


“Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and he gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we had only leisure.

It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.”

~Elisabeth Elliot from Discipline: The Glad Surrender

Homeboy Industries employees at the bakery counter (photo by Homeboy Industries).

Hear our interview with founder/executive director Father Greg Boyle here.


(via xkcd: Na)


Journey Home Experience

My typical context for #productiondesign is a 50’ish wide stage. This post is a chance to share a little about what has become a very enjoyable way to apply my skills: Helping to create another environmental, walk-through experience.

This past week at Kensington (in conjunction with our 6 week weekend series and their small group curriculum) people have been going through the Journey Home Walk-thru Experience.

My friend Kristen pointed the project, and I was humbled to work with her in creating a story-telling experience for people in these 3rd floor classrooms. I love ideating with such minds as hers to come up with ways to maximize our minimal resources. How could we use what we had and harness amazing volunteers to pull off the magical in a very short timeline? Huge thanks to such new friends Ed (who pointed the construction) and his wife, Michele, who applied her artistry with staple-gun and brush. Thanks also to such friends as Kyle, Mark, Andrew, Collin, and the unnamed others who helped transform some stark rooms into something magical. Thanks again, Kristen!


  • Lumber - some new (especially for the foundational construction) but lots harvested - old pallets and also some genuine barn wood (thanks to the beautiful openhandedness of my friend Josh)
  • Related to the lumber that we used for both construction and decor, Corrugated Metal.
  • Also related was a bunch of branches. Some turned into curtain rods; others bunched for decor in corners.
  • Fabrics - We placed an order from RoseBrand for Muslin (IFR) to make the Tepees and the window treatments. We also reused such fabrics as Black Tergalet, Burgundy Commando (both recycled from last year’s Easter as well as the Story conference - and as usual, some Duvetyn (I find endless uses for this amazing bang-for-the-buck product). Yes, I’m a fan of RoseBrand… Also some camouflage netting that we used for Easter ‘08.
  • Recycled Props like lamps from Christmas, fake stone pillar reflecting pools from a Midweek series ages back, several benches and chairs, etc.
  • Pillows, drapes, sand for a sandbox, and custom created signage.
  • In addition to lamp-posts, candles, suspended light bulbs, lamps, and chandeliers; I created a light-plot using a few theatrical instruments including pars & lekos with gels&gobos, RGB-LED fixtures, as well as some home-made track-lighting pin-spots that we recycled from a previous experiential walk-through on the 2nd floor. The benefit was that we eased guests into the experience and therefore could get away with things being pretty dim. For what we had available to use, I was very happy with how it turned out.

It was originally scheduled to run last week, but has been extended through at least tomorrow. If you have a chance, you should come experience it in person. 


And I started working out again, which is good, you know, healthy.

Look how toned her arms are though!

I LOL’d.

(Source: tinafeyys, via fitspiration)




Jennifer Lawrence - a healthy role model


Love this girl. Love her. 




Jennifer Lawrence - a healthy role model


Love this girl. Love her. 

(via wilwheaton)