Dear Hannah, Rachel, and Rylon,

I overheard someone use the phrase, “YOLO” today for the bajillionth time and it got me to thinking.  YOLO. You Only Live Once.  Boy it sure is true… I was at the library when I heard this phrase roll off a young ladies lips and on to a pile of other excuses.  YOLO.  It reminded me of the flippant phrases, “Oh well!”  and “Life is short, then you die…” that teenagers used for excuses when I was young and it made me a little sad.

You Only Live Once.  Yep, that’s absolutely true and because it’s true, please don’t ever use it as your excuse.  Use it as your purpose!  Life is short, and you do only live once, so make all of your experiences along the way count!  Live in such a way that you are seeking meaning from each experience, good and bad, that comes your way.  Don’t couch things that are hard under a flip, “YOLO” as if to say, “This is too hard to deal with, I’m out of here!”  When homework is hard, when you don’t want to practice your guitar, when you are afraid of a looming deadline, don’t throw in the towel with a YOLO. Proclaim them YOLO because they are things worth doing with purpose and things worth doing well!  Don’t be afraid of the hard stuff in school or your future job, or relationships.  Seize the day!  You are smart, you are kindhearted, and you are filled with a purpose! Don’t shy away from it, claim it and make it your own.  YOLO!  YOLO like there is no tomorrow!  Do your best in what life brings you, so that when that preparation meets the opportunity God has for you, you will be able to pounce, my tigers!   You only live once, so don’t live complacent and content to let your best pass you by.  Don’t use that for an excuse, use it for a battle cry!

All this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have a little fun!  Go ahead!  Sometimes throwing caution to the wind is pretty cool, and especially when there isn’t a pile of “to do” waiting when you come back to reality.  So don’t be afraid to live in the moment.  You Only Live Once, so read a book for fun, put the phone or video game away when your with people you want to spend time with, splurge on something that isn’t so practical once in a while.  You’ll only go to the Prom when you’re in high school, so who cares if you have a date.  You’ll never have as much free time again as you have now, so spend time exploring the world.  You’re never guaranteed another day with those whom you love, so you aren’t a dork if you want to like your parents.   Be my otters, and make a splash!  It’s a fun pond, this big world is!

I haven’t always been very good at taking risks.  There have been opportunities missed because my fear got in the way. Sometimes I have made desisions based on what was easier than what was right.  Thoughts like, “What if they think I’m a nerd for liking that?” “Sure it’s a bad situation, but now I’m stuck!”  or “I could never be as successful at school as that guy…”  have carried on inside my brain for far too many times.   Sometimes it’s a challenge to embrace YOLO.  I’ve found that those are the times when faith has carried me through.  Faith will carry you through as well, so go ahead, my little chick.  My nest is warm and will always be here, but I have not raised you to stay here. Your wings will be strong and more magnificent than mine!  You can do it and when you do, I’ll be here supporting you in all your endeavors (and grinning… and probably bragging too, because hey, you’re my kid and I’m so incredibly proud!!!).

You Only Live Once… Do it with integrity and faith and with out fear.

I love you!

With Love,


A YOLO moment of my own sitting (almost) on top of the world!  Chicago's Willis Tower, September 2012.

A YOLO moment of my own sitting (almost) on top of the world! Chicago’s Willis Tower, September 2012.


With Love, Mom

Dear Readers (If your still out there!)

For a few years now I’ve maintained this blog site.  Sadly, I have even neglected this blog site.  I couldn’t put my finger on exacly why I’ve been absent until recently.  I think I’ve got it now.  I lost the focus!  I had strayed from my original vision and  I wasn’t getting to the heart of why I have been hanging around here!  So, I’ve decided to make some changes.  I hope you appreciate them, and even if you might feel as if you are reading over my intended reader’s shoulder, please read on!  I’ve missed it here!  I hope you’ll visit again soon, because I have some things to say and I have a purpose for saying them.

With Love,

Hannah, Rachel and Rylon’s Mom

Making Fwowers

My son and I planted about 20 lily bulbs the first summer we lived here in Iowa. The little guy was almost 2 years old when we saw the boxed bulbs at Sam’s Club and on a whim, I bought a few of them. We took our treasure trove home, and began to bury it. As I dug the holes, my boy was much more interested in making sure each bulb had a kiss and hug than joining me in the dirt with the little navy blue trowel that was just his size.

“We’re making fwowers!” he would exclaim every time I buried another bulb in the dusty summer soil.

He had no idea how long the wait would be for the reward of “our” hard work.  The first year we were eager as we waited for what would only be a few inches of plant growth to surface. There would be no blossoms to admire, but my boy didn’t appear to care. He praised the urchin like beginnings of green and burgundy foliage that peeked through the ground and looked for them when ever we were in the yard.

Fwowers, Mommy!” he would say with excitement and wonder as he pointed out the little plants with pride.  With grin on his face and a drool and dirt line on his tee shirt, he toddled about the grass from bulb to bulb discovering new growth in the fwower beds.

After 2 years of anticipation, our reward came when the bulbs finally burst forth with stunning blossoms in July. I think my son was more fascinated with his Stargazers and Casablancas than the fireworks display!

I love seeing the lilies grow each year. They get taller, thicker stocks and heartier, larger blossoms.  In some ways it’s like my almost-first-grader son who despite loosing his front teeth, can now say flowers perfectly, is beginning to read, and can now ride a two wheel bike. The flower stems have reached a higher height than the little guy this year, but I know it’s only temporary. The little guy is growing up.

Every year the flowers eventually fade, but the vibrant memories never will.

Rylon's Flowers

Speaking of 40…

I came across this picture the other day and laughed…

It’s my dad opening the tee shirt I mentioned in my last entry here.

Speaking of that entry, I haven’t forgotten about my 40 letters. Some stuff has come up in my life that has needed my full attention and I haven’t had the luxury of any spare time! I’m feeling like normalcy will be returning soon, so hopefully that’s a good thing. I am looking forward to some writing time again very soon!





We’ve all heard them. We’ve all laughed at them. We’ve all cringed at them…

“The best years of a woman’s life- the 10 years between 39 and 40.”

“The ‘I just woke up’ face of your 30’s is the ‘all day long’ face of your 40’s.” -Libby Reid

And the one that was on the t-shirt my mom gave my dad for his 40th birthday, “40 isn’t old if you’re a TREE.”

When I turned 30 it didn’t really faze me. It feels like it was just a few months ago, but I know that isn’t true because last week I turned 39. Steve Miller was right, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’… Into the future.” Getting older doesn’t really bother me any more now than it did at 30. Getting older is a gift, something I feel even stronger about since my mother’s death when she was just 52. So, I celebrate the completion of my 39th year… up next:  the big 4-0! It seems fitting that I do something to solemnize the completion of another decade in some way, so I spent this week thinking about what that should be.

I thought about making a bucket list. I have one and I could publish it for the whole world to see. A few of my friends have marked such an occasions with ‘40 things to do before I’m 40’ check lists. Those lists make me nervous. What if I don’t do them all? Sometimes I have a hard time quieting my inner perfectionist.

I thought about making a goal. A friend of mine marked the occasion of her 40th by taking up running and completed a marathon that year. I admire her accomplishment and at one time I seriously considered the challenge, but over the last year I’ve been nursing a foot injury that has been stubbornly slow in healing. I think that one is still a few years out for me.

I thought about going back to school, but I don’t have that I absolutely must or I won’t be complete drive inside me about it. School is a huge commitment that would require finances, time and sacrifices that I am not sure are really worth it for the things I hope to accomplish in my life, and besides, I have a degree, so there’s a little of the “been there, done that” element to that option as well.

So what I have decided to do is write a collection of 40 letters to my kids. When I began this blog I thought I would do more of that here on this site, and as it turns out that isn’t really where things went. Yes, I have written a lot about things that I want them to know, but I haven’t really made Hannah, Rachel and Rylon prominent as my audience. So over the next year, along with the usual style of writing I have done, I will be writing a collection letters specifically written for the 3 precious gifts that are my children. Their questions, their innocence, and their love inspire me and have shaped so much of who I am today. I am humbled and privileged to be their mom.

My Muses

I also hope you will enjoy the ‘40’ journey with me. Thank you so much for being my audience. Your encouragement and enthusiasm have brought so much meaning to this journey. I am overwhelmed by your support! It humbles me to think that I might have the words that speak into your own stories. To God be the glory.

I couldn’t end without a few more quotes for the road…

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” -John Burroughs

“At 40, every time you suck in your gut, your ankles swell.”

With Love,



I was listening to NPR while I was out and about today, but I suspect that I would have heard the same type of broadcast on any news radio station I chose today. Elated callers were sharing their patriotic enthusiasm for the killing of Osama Bin Laden and many of them expressed their thankfulness for the closure that taking out Bin Laden would give the families of the victims of 9/11.  I just don’t see how this will provide any closure for our family or any other 9/11 families.  “Closure”…  What is meant by that word anyway?  Now that Bin Laden is dead, should we feel lighter?  Should we feel less loss?  Should we feel like 9/11 is more behind us?

Our family, immediate and extended, has learned to adapt to the post 9/11 new normal. We have learned to live without, much like one would have to live without after loosing a limb.  I would suppose Killing Osama Bin Laden gives us as much closure as an artificial limb gives closure to an amputee.  Even though we have become accustomed to the loss, we are painfully aware of it nonetheless.  When my husband received his Doctorate 9 years ago, my mother in law celebrated her son’s achievement without her husband, when my husband’s first son was born 6 years ago, my husband was painfully aware that his father would never meet his grandson, and when our son was the ring bearer for his oldest cousin last May, their Grandpa would have been beaming and we all missed seeing Grandpa’s proud smile.  We have learned to live the new normal, not because we want to, but because we have to.

So before you thank God for giving us closure, think about much closure you would have with your artificial limb.  Think about how easy it is to open a mayonnaise jar.  Think about the way your child’s had feels when laced with yours.  Think about the joy you remember when you see your wedding band on your left ring finger.  And then think about how that would feel with prosthetic, artificial, metal or plastic hands.  Sure you’ll adjust, but you will never have closure.  Maybe instead it would be more appropriate to thank God for the strength He has given us to not live with hardened hearts and the strength found through Christ alone to every day keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Now those things, those are worth being thankful for.

Visiting Grandpa's Memorial at Arlington Cemetery

They Like Me!

Wow! What a weekend! Who knew 48 hours would make such a difference? I am on cloud 9! No, no, no… forget 9! I’m on cloud 10 and cloud 11 is with reach!

Two weeks ago I was sitting on my sofa, burning time on the web when I came across The Midwest Writing Center website and a link to the Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference. For some time now I’ve been working on a story that I’d like to publish someday, you’ve read some of it right here on this site, but I’ve been feeling absolutely clueless about how to make that happen. Having no knowledge about the business end of the intimidating publishing world and a deep sense of insecurity about my own ability as a storyteller, most days I had successfully talked myself into the idea that my dreams were just that- dreams.

The next day I took a deep breath and jumped in to the pool! I signed up for the conference and, as I prepared some writing samples for critique, I wondered about how deep my end of the pool was going to be. Serious second thoughts started flooding in and I gave my insecurities a talking to.  Either I was going to suck it up and swim or get out of the pool all together. I admit, I let my insecurities chatter a little bit more over the next few days, but on Friday morning I left the warmth of my home. Feeling a little bit like I was headed to a Polar Bear Competition, I headed to the conference. And guess what!

They liked me! They liked me! They liked me!!!

Here is how my critique ended:

“Vicki, You’ve mastered some writing skills that some intermediate writers still struggle with, so have confidence in your ability.  You have a story to tell, and you’re well on your way towards telling it.  Great job, and thanks for being vulnerable enough to let someone read your work for the first time.  If anything I’ve written discourages you, please know that I’ve nitpicked in a few places only because I see REAL potential in your writing and I know that you can do something with this!  Keep it up.”

I was so excited to have received the positive the opinion of a professional that I could have left after that meeting and been completely content, but there was still more to come!

Every year at the end of the Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference they give out one award- The Promising Pen. This year the one who received the coveted award was (Drum Roll Please!)…


Here’s the beautiful proof, my first award as a writer!Yes, I am very excited, but I am also so extremely thankful for you, my supportive readers. You have been and will continue to be appreciated more than I can adequately express! Thank you for your encouragement! You breathe life into my story.

Now, on to cloud 11!!!

What Do You Think?

I’m writing this today as a plea for your opinion!  I have been toying with the idea of attending a writing conference for some time now, and I’m going to take the plunge!  Yesterday I came across an opportunity that is too good to pass up and I’m going to get the chance to have a piece of my writing critiqued by a professional writer.  I am really excited about this, and yes…  very nervous as well!  Here is were you can help! I would appreciate your feedback on what your favorite entry on this blog has been.  You all have been so supportive of this adventure and that has really meant so much to me!   Please just take a second today and drop a comment in the comment section below, with the title of your favorite post, because here is the kicker… I have to submit my selection by tomorrow for critique!   Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  Ready or not, HERE I GO!!!

My Genealogy and The Search For Bono’s Hairbrush

Sorry I haven’t been writing lately.

I’ve been hanging out with the likes of these folks…


Nealy Pierce and Maybelle Mahalah

Nealy Pierce and Maybelle Mahalah Thompson

and this guy, who I found today…

John "Hunter" McHenry

Sorry his picture is so small, I’ll have to look for a better one!


And we can’t forget this character…

James "J.T" Thomas Thompson

Did you hear that?  I could have sworn I just heard the tune to ‘The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly’?

Yep!  You guessed right, I have found Ancestry.com and I can’t stop the genealogy search!  It has been so fun!

Unfortunately, the whole reason I started this search was so that I could gather information on my mother’s Irish family roots, and so far, I have come to dead ends on all fronts.  I’m so sad!  When I started this search for my genealogical roots my kids would tease me that I was searching to find out if I was related to Bono.  Hahaha!  This was just a joke!  I know my people were Irish ‘travelers’ and I am gonna guess Bono’s are not!   However, I have to confess, every night when I log off the Ancestry.com website, I see that enticing little button that reads ‘DNA’ and I often wonder if it would be an easier assignment to go Mission Impossible on Bono’s hairbrush than it will be to find the O’Gormans!

Wish me luck!  This Irish girl needs it!

Memories of a Very Important Snow Day

January 10, 1980

He arrived to the birthday party that afternoon in a huge truck that was the color of light brown sugar.  A formidable opponent it was, for the 9 inches of snow that had blanketed Vancouver that day, as it was very tall, sitting on huge tires and had a sturdy black roll bar on the back.  Hopping out of his truck he looked just like an old west cowboy coming off of his horse.  I noticed the way my mom looked at him like he was something special and I wondered what it was about this rugged stranger that appealed to her.  He greeted her with a smile and discrete kiss.  I couldn’t help but stare.  Mom invited him into the house and took his winter coat and cowboy hat.

I stood half-heartedly hiding in the hallway of our little ranch rental home as my mom hung his coat.  “Hi,” I said to the man who stood next to my mom.  My natural curiosity never allowed shyness to win out and this was no exception.  “What’s your name?”

His voice was gentle and kind, and he seemed to be a little nervous as he answered me, “I’m Vance.”

I drew in an excited breath upon learning his name.  “My name is Vicki and it starts with a “V” too!”  I exclaimed!

“That’s what I hear,” he replied with a friendly smile “Nice to meet you, Vicki.”

As I played with my cousins at the birthday party, I kept an inquisitive eye on the man whose name started with a “V” and who so clearly had the interest of my mom.  He had a thick dark head of hair and he wore a long but groomed moustache and beard, both noticeably streaked throughout with gray.  His eyes were dark and warm and behind all the facial hair he had an easy going smile.  He wore an earthen brown suede vest that had a sheep sheer lining, a plaid western cut shirt with pearly buttons, jeans, and well-worn cowboy boots.  His clothes, his truck, his mild and humble manner, everything about him were mysterious to me, and all throughout the party I kept careful track of the attention he gave my mom.

To Be Continued…

Mom With Her Cowboy, Vance.