Saint Anne dishes on OCD and unconditional love

love, honor, and cherish--unconditionally

A highlight of the Festival of Faith and Writing was hearing Anne Lamott speak about writing and faith.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 7.33.41 AMAnne talked about brokenness and pain, although she was sure none of us Wholesome Midwestern Types could understand what she was talking about, because she was sure we grew up in homes where our parents loved each other unconditionally, and our family members honored one another, and we cherished each other, with no strings attached.

(This got a big laugh from the Wholesome Midwestern types.)

Because we were loved, honored, and cherished–without a whole list of requirements to satisfy first–we felt safe.

And because we felt safe, we didn’t display obsessive-compulsive tendencies like counting steps, or meticulously avoiding stepping on the sidewalk cracks, or flipping the light switch on and off a certain number of times before bed (which set my mind awhirling in a number of different directions, none of them comforting. But I digress).

Anne Lamott on faith and writing

I’ve been blogging for a year and a half about my desire to cultivate a warm atmosphere in my home. Could the bottom-line answer really be to unconditionally love, honor, and cherish? Anne made it sound so simple. Not easy, but simple.

Because that? I can do. Even when I’m angry, or upset, I love. I can honor–my husband, my kids, probably even the dog–even when I’m really pissed off. I can remind myself to cherish those I love in the midst of the whole range of human emotion.

It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

If I wanted to underscore the truth of Anne’s words, I couldn’t have done any better than diving into Elizabeth Esther’s new release Girl at the End of the World upon my return home. Holy smokes, what a memoir–and what a terrifying story of what happens when we’re not loved, honored, and cherished unconditionally in our own families.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Anne Lamott’s work, unconditional love, feeling safe, and OCD in comments. 

(For more wise words or one-liners, view my compiled tweets from Anne’s sessions on Storify here and here.)

P.S. On letting my face speak what’s in my heart, and your kids need to hear joy in the lifestyle you’ve chosen.

37 fun, useful, and generally worthwhile gifts for your kids’ Easter baskets

37 fun, useful, and generally worthwhile Easter basket gift ideasJust like with the Christmas stockings, I love filling my kids Easter baskets–but not when I feel like I’m throwing my money away on cheap, disposable crap they’ll forget about by Easter Monday.

I try to get my kids a good mix of essentials (spring/summer shoes, books, socks), seasonal items (garden gear, seeds, sidewalk chalk), and impractical fun (glow sticks).

I’ve learned through experience that I need to plan ahead, or we end up with nothing by Easter weekend, when Mama is too exhausted to put together four Easter baskets. I’m keeping my eyes out now for Target and dollar store specials, planning ahead and ordering shoes from Amazon and Zappos, and stealthily stockpiling the goods on a hidden basement shelf.

37 fun and useful Easter gift basket ideas that your kids will use after Easter Monday

To read:

1. The Jesus Storybook Bible. (Our favorite.)
2. Tomie de Paola books. (He has a series of great religious titles, and a few Easter books such as My First Easter board book (it’s a bargain book for $2.40 while supplies last) and Petook: An Easter Story.
3. Books about spring, love, and bunnies, such as The Easter Egg (Jan Brett), Guess How Much I Love You, The Parable of the Lily, and A Beatrix Potter Treasury
4. Field guide
to birds, trees, insects, mammals, or your state or region. 

To play:

5. Play silks. (We made our own.)
6. Puzzle books. (This is our favorite.)
7. Glow sticks.

8. Silly putty or thinking putty.
9. Play doh.


10. Gardening tools (pruners, trowels, shovels).
11. Garden gloves.
12. Garden clogs.
13. Seed packets.
14. Sidewalk chalk.
15. Jump rope.
16. Bubbles.
17. Frisbee (our fave).

Sweet stuff:

18. Chocolate bunny.
19. Bunny food.
20. Fair trade chocolate.
21. Altoids

To wear: 

22. New shoes or sandals. This is a great time of year for new flip flops or Salt Water sandals. (Am I the only one who always got shoes for Easter growing up?)
23. Hairbows and headbands.
 (Try Gymboree’s sale section before you try to make them. They’re so cute and you can’t make them for the sale prices.)
24. Cute panties or boxers.
25. Cute socks.

To write:

26. Blank journals.
27. Notecards. 
28. Pens. (Like individual Le Pens or Sharpies in pretty spring colors.)

Personal care:

29. Rosebud salve.
30. Chapstick or lip balm.

31. Hand lotion.
32. Nail polish


33. Markers/crayons/colored pencils.
34. Washi tape. (I was shocked to spot this at my last visit to the dollar store.)
35. Stickers.
36. Post-it notes (especially the shapes).
37. Small craft kits from Kiwi Crate (or Kiwi Crate for Target).

Tell us your favorite Easter basket gift ideas in comments. 

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Sharing this at Thrifty Thursday.

Spring fashion, inspired by classic literature.

I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post about Macy’s. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own. 

Macys secret garden collage

My girls and I don’t do mother-daughter outings enough. With four kids, and busy weekends, it’s hard to carve out the time for the three of us to get away for a few years. I’m encouraged to see that it’s getting easier as they get older, and after our weekend experience, I’m newly inspired to do them more often.

Last Saturday, my girls and I headed out on a mother-daughter adventure: I brought them along with me to hit up the Secret Garden event at our local Macy’s.


The event (which takes its name from a favorite classic) put the spotlight on spring’s new fashions, with music, DIYs, sips, and sweets for added fun.

Sarah flower crown

I don’t like to shop, but my girls do–and they made it fun for me, too. We browsed the racks: my girls loved pointing out their favorite outfits to me. (Coral has been my favorite color since I was about Sarah’s age, and I was thrilled to see it’s everywhere this spring.)

Macy’s had several spring-themed DIY stations set up for the special event. We took our time making floral wreaths and matching bejeweled sunglasses, while servers circulated with drinks and sweets.


(My girls have relished drinking out of those mini mason jars all week.)


The children’s department had their own DIY garden craft table set up. The girls decorated lightning bug jars and spring baskets, which Macy’s employees packed full with fresh blooms for us to take with us.


A bartender from a local restaurant was mixing up mocktails, and my girls loved choosing their own fancy drink. (Rosemary infused lemonade for them, a cilantro-canteloupe spritzer for me.)


We haven’t done enough mother-daughter outings in the past, but we had a great time shopping together. It was our first girls’ outing to the mall, but it won’t be the last. They’re already asking me to take them back, and I’m brainstorming what else we can do on future mother-daughter adventures.

Do you do special outings with your kids? Share some ideas in comments!

Ask, seek, knock. Even though it’s super uncomfortable.

Ask, seek, knock: even though it's really uncomfortable.

We had prayers for healing in church yesterday. Everyone was invited to go forward and ask for healing in mind, body, or spirit, and a priest would lay hands on them and anoint them with oil.

I knew I should go forward (because, this), but I didn’t want to because 1. I’m an introvert who would rather sit quietly in her pew on any given Sunday morning, and 2. I didn’t want to admit I needed something, with my actions, in front of the whole church. That kind of vulnerability isn’t comfortable.

I probably would have just stayed in my pew. Except. 

Over the past year I’ve been learning the power of asking.

This year has felt like a string of come-to-Jesus moments, where I’m being forced to realize–and admit to myself, and others–what’s missing in my life. As personal epiphanies go, that category is no fun.

For a prosaic example, it wasn’t until I was able to voice that we’d like to join a homeschool group that we found one (or it found us, really). It wasn’t until I asked for help in finding writing partners that I did.

It did not feel good to say I needed something, to say I was lacking. But I’m (re-)learning that it’s the beginning of everything good.

People have been eager to help, but they couldn’t–until they knew what I needed. By saying what I need–what I’m missing–I’m filling those gaps.

I’m learning the power of the ask.

It’s painful and vulnerable and kind of terrible (sound familiar?), but it’s worth it.

(I got out of my pew and went forward. The lines were long with those waiting to be prayed for: there were lots of us asking. I wonder if they had to talk themselves into going forward like I did.)

Let’s talk about asking: is it hard for you? Uncomfortable? Can you tell us about a time it’s been worth it?

P.S. Today’s the last day to pre-order Frozen. (This is the first Disney movie my kids have been completely obsessed with.) We ordered this Blu-Ray + digital copy combo for $19.96, which is the best deal I’ve seen.)