How to raise a child, the condensed version

There are plenty of how-to books out there On how best to raise children. My parents’ generation had Dr. Spock, mine had Dr. James Dobson. As a parent I must admit I just winged it. It would be great if someone just wrote a two page book:

  1. Don’t stress out. You are not going to warp the baby by what brand of ANYTHING you use, whether they co-sleep, whether you feed them formula or breast feed, whether you bathe them everyday or just skip it for two days in a row, or if you use disposable or cloth diapers. Who cares if you feed them hand mixed organic baby food or something out of a jar…use only healthy food in home cooked meals or swing through McDonalds. As long as they are healthy the rest is inconsequential.
  2. Don’t worry about anyone else’s opinions about YOUR kids or how you raise them. You have better things to do than please your mom, best friend, sister or mother in law. It’s your kid…do the best you can.
  3. Discipline your little monsters as you see fit. Who cares if you coddle them while you can or swat their butts when they try to stick a fork in the electrical outlet…..just try not to let them evolve into axe murderers.
  4. Love them through words and actions, provide their basics and a few extras, teach them to be decent human beings.
  5. Let them develop their own personalities, quirks, likes and dislikes, dreams and aspirations. Let them and encourage them to give it their best and work to their fullest potential.
  6. Encourage what is good in them, but discourage what is not.
  7. Remember that what you model for them has more effect on them long term than what you tell them. Lead by example.
  8. Let them make their own mistakes. Let them suffer the consequences unless doing so will cause great harm or imminent death.
  9. Prepare them for adulthood. Don’t be a helicopter parent that raises a child who, as an adult has trouble adjusting to life if they get more than 10 feet from Mommy’s apron strings. Teach them to manage money, cook, and to do their own laundry. Teach them to make their own appointments, order pizza and pore over the cellular bill. Give them basic life skills.
  10. Above all else, work less and play more. Don’t multi-task when you’re supposed to be having time with the kiddos. Make personal interaction intentional. It’s more about connecting and building a relationship than about going places and “stuff “. They’re only little once. And you don’t get a do-over.

The mark of a great parent is that his or her children become decent humans who are functional citizens in this world. That’s the bottom line.

Posted in Just Me Talking | Leave a comment

My Heart Stood Still

My heart stood still as I lay next to you,

my ear pressed against your back.

I listened to you breathe and the sound

reminded me to catch my own breath.

I was amazed to realize that in my very bosom

slept something so real it consumed me.

Within me was an undeniable force

that filled me up, and overflowed,

and made me feel complete.

My heart stood still as I lay next to you,

my inner self exposed and vulnerable.

I listened to your heart beat and I knew

that mine was safe with you.

I was bewildered to realize that

within me was a gift from God I’d unworthily received.

It was a sense of peace so deep

it permeated every fiber of my being

and made me feel complete.

My heart stood still as I lay next to you,

my soul rested peacefully, at last.

I listened to that still small voice which said

I’d be wise to invest myself in you.

I was awed to discover that in me swelled

something so great there was no room for doubt.

Within me was what started as a seed, planted by God himself,

and brought to fruition by His hand

and it made me feel complete.

Posted in Just Me Talking | Leave a comment

A Glimpse of You

A Glimpse of You

(If only for a little while)

We were excited with the news

that you would come to be.

For months we dreamed, we planned and wished,

and waited patiently.

But fatefully you’d never know

the love we had to give

because your small life was cut short.You would not breathe or live.

The news just crushed our hearts and minds;

we couldn’t think or breathe

when we learned that you’d quickly come

and suddenly would leave.

Our family gathered all its strength

though not much strength remained.

We welcomed you with feelings mixed;

joy, love, and anguished pain.

We loved you, marveled at your face,

Your tiny hands and feet,

then laid your little body down

until again we’d meet.

We’re now the keepers of your flame.

We’ll love you ever more.

We never will forget your name.

You’ve touched us to the core.

Of us you’ll always be a part

that time can’t dim, it seems.

You’ll always live within our hearts,

our minds, our thoughts, our dreams.

Posted in Just Me Talking | Leave a comment

Bad Weenie Dogs!! 



My name is Winston and I’m four months old. My big sister, Li’l Red is three years old. We live with our two sisters, Mina (3 yrs) & Dixie (9 mo). Mom and Dad moved us way out into the country about three month go. We live about a half mile from the big road. We have a huge yard to play in which we do several times a day. We get to run without leashes and sniff all kinds of sniffable stuff. The only time we leave the yard is to visit our close neighbor, Mrs. Jessie Mae who is 99 years old. (I like numbers; can you tell?) Sometimes her son, Mr. James, who is our other neighbor, works on his vehicles and we go over there and bark and bark at his tools. It’s a lot of fun.

When Mom calls us we go in…mostly cause we think we can con her out of treats. But she usually tricks us and ends up making us stay inside for a while. That is when we nap to get energy to play outside again later.

Yesterday was just a normal day ’til Li’l Red smelled somethin weird. She put her nose to the ground and then she started running really fast down the road. I thought it looked like a really fun new game so I followed her lead. We went on a very long run, stopping every once in a while for Red to teach me how to sniff those funny looking marks in the soft dirt. Red says they are deer tracks. I hope when we find this “deer” it wants to play!

After a while we were very far from home. I could only see a lot of plants that were really tall, and not much nice soft grass at all. There were lots of sticky things getting caught on my long fur. I didn’t mind, though; I was having too much fun. We could hear Mom far away. She was calling us. She sounded kind of mad and worried and sweet all at the same time. We knew she was a human so she would be ok without us for a while, so we kept on our hunt. Suddenly, we couldn’t hear Mom calling us. (We found out later she was on the phone and online getting lots of help lined up to look for us.)

About 5 hours later we decided we were really tired and thirsty. And we still never caught up with that deer thing with the weird paws. I started to be a little afraid because it was gonna get dark soon. But Red was brave. She sniffed the air and sniffed the ground (her sniffer works REALLY REALLY GOOD). She took us home a different way through a HUGE plowed field. Then we saw Mom. She was at the edge of the woods looking at the deer tracks and our tracks that went from our front yard, way down our dirt lane, and off into the woods. Red called to Mom but she didn’t hear us, so I helped call her. Then she heard and saw us.

Mom usually doesn’t move very fast because her knees hurt a lot, but yesterday she must have forgotten they hurt cause she was going really fast to see us and was smiling and crying and calling our names. She let us inside after she picked us up and checked us all over. We drank lots and lots of water and then we rested in Dad’s recliner. I don’t remember much after that cause my eyes kept wanting to sleep. I did hear Dad get home from work and Mom told him we had a 5 hour afternoon adventure and she nearly had a heart attack. (I don’t know what a heart attack is…but I’m pretty sure it means she loves us so much her heart wants to explode.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Scene Starters for “Please, Daddy, Don’t”

In the beginning…of her young life, anyway…there was very little that was good. Cecile lived in a dysfunctional family plagued by alcohol, violence, and abuse. The baby of the family, she should have been doted upon and made to feel special and unique. Ironically she was made to feel unique, but not in the way little girls should be made to feel. She felt like she was the only one who knew what it was like to feel fearful, terrified, dirty, and shameful. She had felt this way as long as she could remember and had no one to thank for her earliest living nightmares other than her own family.

There. That writing exercise was finally done. It had taken her the better part of a week to complete the assignment dished out by her new psychiatrist. Dr. Pendarvis had asked her to write about her childhood as though she was an author composing someone else’s biography.  Cecile had struggled with not only what to write, but how much detail to go into. The only element she was vague about was the blow-by-blow account of every negative incident in her past. She could not go there, not because she refused to, but because she couldn’t remember the details. A good bit of her childhood had been expunged from her memory or so it seemed to her.

Cecile neatly folded the paper that contained her writing and tucked it into the outside pocket of her handbag. She felt the smooth surface of the designer logo-emblazoned bag. It reminded her of when she received it as a gift from her late husband, Atlanta hotel magnate and societal patriarch, Thomas Latimore. She mindlessly left her apartment in mid-town and walked to her car. She had to get to a 10:30am appointment where she would give the doctor her writing assignment. She tried to concentrate on her driving but her mind drifted back to the summer she met her husband and the day he gave her this purse.

It was a Tuesday. She had recently arrived in Atlanta and had met him only two weeks before he surprised her with the gift during lunch at a cafe in Buckhead. He called it a “welcome to Hotlanta gift” and she was taken aback by his generosity and his attempt to speak the lingo of the day.

It was all so much to digest at once; being in Atlanta, getting a great job, meeting Thom, and receiving a gift. She was a small town girl in a big city. She had landed a job as the assistant to the president of a prestigious private art and design college. Thom was a strikingly handsome man, though he was quite her senior. And then there was the fact that Cecile was unaccustomed to receiving gifts; not just costly gifts, but any gifts at all.

Little did she know at the time, the Liz Claiborne handbag he presented to her as she shyly ate a huge Cobb salad was the first of many niceties Thom Latimore would bestow upon her before and during their marriage. Neither was she even remotely aware what a paltry precursor it was to the estate he would some day leave her at his passing.

A horn sounded and her attention snapped back to the Billy Squire song blaring through the sound system in her car. She loved the Atlanta oldies  stations. As she hurried up Peachtree Street to get to her appointment in Sandy Springs more memories bombarded Cecile’s mind. She vividly recalled the day she arrived in Atlanta in July of 1987.  As she disembarked from the small commuter plane that flew her in from the Savannah airport the heat and humidity hit her square in the face. The smell of jet fuel, exhaust fumes, and the hot runway wafted toward her. It was invigorating. She had actually made it.

How someone as green as her came to escape that Louisiana swamp town she grew up in and eventually arrive in Atlanta was, in itself, practically an act of God and no straightforward tale. Hell, there she sat more than a decade after Y2K and she still wondered how she managed to survive her childhood and teen years. “It is pretty miraculous,” Cecile thought, reiterating the exact phrase that entered her mind when she saw the Atlanta skyline for the first time all those years ago.

When she thought about it, Cecile realized she had no clear memories of her life before she was 10. Now that she was seeing this doctor, it was coming back to her in bits and pieces. What she did know was that nothing before that time was good. With that epiphany she instantly felt a rush of adrenaline in her veins. Her brain instantly tried to recall her childhood by piecing the fragmented memories together. Cecile dodged haphazardly in and out of morning traffic and all she could think of was the overwhelmingly compulsory need to escape. She did not know from whom or what she should escape, but it was so real to her she began to sweat like mad and hyperventilate uncontrollably. Her body went numb, her mouth dry. She could feel her heartbeat pounding her eardrums. She felt as though she would faint.

She careened her shiny black 7 Series BMW into the first parking lot she could find. She slumped over the tan perforated leather steering wheel and fumbled to adjust the air vents so they would blow straight onto her face. With her eyes closed she managed to take slow, deep breaths and tried to get her head screwed on tight. Her thought process was like a demon-possessed pinball, bouncing frantically from one bumper to the next. She tried to stop the flashes from her past from entering her mind but it seemed the harder she tried to stop them, the more quickly they came and the more lightheaded she got.

Suddenly there was a loud rap on the driver’s side window. When she jerked her head up and looked to her left Cecile recognized the middle age rent-a-cop that stood directing traffic in the middle of a nearby Peachtree Road intersection every weekday morning. He looked concerned as she slowly powered down her window.

“Ma’am, are you alright?” he asked.

Cecile stuttered, “Um…yes. Yes, Sir I am fine. I, uh…’s um…a menopausal hot flash. That’s all. I just had to stop to regroup. It’s okay.”

As the silver-haired officer smiled and nodded knowingly he wished her a good day.  She let the window up and vigorously shook her head to clear the fog in her brain. Reaching into the arm rest console she retrieved a monogrammed linen handkerchief and tossed it into the passenger seat. A bit more digging and she found a wad of fast food paper napkins. She dabbed at the perspiration that covered her face, throat, and neck. Thank God she was wearing her hair up in that new style she found online yesterday or it too would have been soaked. She hastily reapplied her lipstick and zipped back into traffic as she chided herself out loud, “God, Cecile. Get a grip on yourself. You haven’t even hit menopause. You’re such a liar!” Her voice softened and she whispered under her breath, “I have to admit it was a damn good cover though. Girl, you’re good.” She gave herself kudos for her quick thinking and her uncanny ability to think well on her feet, make up a highly plausible lie, and deceive whomever she took a notion to deceive….even in the midst of freaking out. She fancied herself having been born with the innate abilities of a professional con artist as she had possessed them her entire life. That much she didn’t have to  struggle to recall.

Soon she arrived and parked at Sandy Springs Physicians Tower. Cecile was haunted by the thought that this session with her shrink would go no other way than horribly. She needed to psych herself up. She was in the habit of talking to herself.  The advent of cellphones with wireless earpieces and mics built into earbud cords made that habit appear less crazy.  “Smile,” she told herself, “be positive, think happy thoughts.

The happiest memory she ever knew had nothing to do with the wealth, power, or social standing she had attained by marrying Thom Latimore at a young age. Conversely, it had everything to do with having been stolen away in the night four years prior to her arrival in Atlanta. Cecile had been rescued and taken to south Georgia’s coast.  At the time it was a blur. She came to herself a week afterward, living conspicuously as the only white person in a black family the predominantly poor, black neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia known as Dixville. Although she lived in one of the worst places on the south side, in the Hopkins Homes projects, she did know now, deep down in her spirit that it was the single best thing that ever happened to her up to that the time. She poignantly realized that her then 15 year old mind could not possibly have fully grasped how that fateful trip had the potential to change the course of her life.

Now, at midlife, it had been years and years since she had spent any real time thinking about her past.  She spent so many years since then recreating her past to suit the situation. Without question all these thoughts and memories from her former life were Dr. Pendarvis’ doing. Seeing him was what she had to do at this point. Cecile didn’t really have a choice since her personal attorney had advised her to seek an evaluation after Thom’s death.

The time leading up to her weekly doctor’s visits made her apprehensive and anxious. While she was in the chair she was practically a basket case and when she left the well appointed doctor’s office she felt a mixture of relief, dread and excitement. She was inevitably relieved when each session was over, but she always dreaded the flood of memories that were sure to follow.

Seeing Dr. Jonathan Pendarvis left her feeling like she didn’t know which way was up or down. The feeling was akin to losing her grounding, her firm footing if you will. She was definitely on the proverbial slippery slope since she started seeing him, emotionally anyway. And it didn’t help that he looked like a young Brad Pitt. She secretly wished he looked more like Julia Roberts’ ex-husband, the homely Lyle Lovett. It certainly would make these visits a lot easier. Thinking about the good doctor, Cecile swung wide the heavy glass lobby door, straightened her straight black hair and threw her shoulders back. She took a deep breath, pasted on a smile to die for, and started toward the elevator. Every ounce of her buxom 170 pound frame sashayed and did so gloriously.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Mothers Day: Best or Worst Holiday EVER?

sophia loren mom quote

Mothers Day….ah, the joy and celebration. Love and hugs and warm fuzzy feelings abound. Retailers are making a mint. Kids are burning breakfast and pouncing on their mothers’ beds in the wee hours with handmade cards, hugs, and kisses. The Hallmark Channel is playing sappy mom-themed movie marathons for the week prior.

All the while there are throngs of people who avoid the holiday at all costs. There are those who duck and hide, avoid the greeting card aisle or shopping altogether, or sequester themselves at home dreading the ring of the telephone or doorbell. While the masses celebrate, there is a portion of society that mourns, grieves, avoids, or cocoons its collective mind in an insular hideaway.

Though many choose not to embrace the holiday because they grieve the loss of a beloved mom, others make the decision for vastly different reasons. Outside of the idealistic fantasy that all moms are the moms the greeting cards celebrate, is a reality in stark contrast. Some mothers are narcissistic, manipulative, mean as hell, or abusive. Many are absent, neglectful, or simply emotionally hard. Some withhold the basics in life, nurturing, and affection. A percentage are active addicts or alcoholics. Many birthed children and are technically mothers, but leave the children to raise themselves for all intents and purposes. Other mothers give their children away or have had them taken away. A select few are just plain toxic. From the perspective of many of the adult children who came from households with such mothers there is little reason to celebrate Mothers Day. It is those people who either cry or want to puke in the Hallmark aisle.

This year my own card-shopping experience made me think more deeply than usual about my own mother. She is not perfect, nor is she horrible. As a young mother I, like most young moms, tried to glean the good I remembered about my own mom’s mothering and avoided the negative. That statement alone opens up a can of worms. What was good and what was bad in my childhood experience as it relates to mothering? What is my mother’s perspective about that same question? On the other hand, do my adult children think I did well or poorly as their mom? How do I think I did? Every mother fails daily to some degree. Not every mother sees her failings or victories the same as her children view them.

The fact is we are each the owners of our experiences. We may have had other actors alongside us in life’s play, but each of us has a different take-away from our experiences. If you ever doubt this just commiserate about a childhood experience at a holiday meal. In our family each of us siblings have a different recollection of our experiences…and our parents’ version is different enough to make our collective eyes roll back in our heads. Most of the time these differences in perception of shared experiences is simply comedic fodder. For some, however it is serious business and for others it is devastatingly painful.

That being said, it lends the question: What if we, as mothers, received in our old age only the measure of love, affection, kind and harsh words, and attention from our adult children that which we gave them when they were kids? What if we were dealt a like hand, in our twilight years, to what we dealt our children in their youth? Some of us would live out our old age in bliss while others of us would have a miserable existence.

If you either no longer have your mom on this earth, or cannot find a reason to celebrate your own mom…..the next time Mother’s Day rolls around try to celebrate someone else’s mom. Was there someone who was there in your mother’s stead? Celebrate that person. If your own mother was great but you have hurting people in your life, support them through this emotionally difficult day by acknowledging their experience, listening to them, and loving them. Plant positive words and deeds where negative emotion abounds. It will do them good and work wonders for you as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I’ve recently reconnected with a high school classmate via FaceBook.

I remember him well. Back then he was Murray Paul Mitchell. He was a shy boy, slight in frame, with a nice smile. He was soft-spoken. He was mild mannered. He was reserved. He was the only boy with four sisters.

We lived in a very small rural farm town in the 70’s and 80’s. Back then, as it is still today (for the most part), there was distinct segregation among races and classes of people there. Murray and his family lived on “the black side of town,” my family on the “white side”.  At school, white kids sat together in the hallways and the lunchroom, and black kids sat together. Regardless of that, I remember Murray being nice to everyone… or white. He was just nice.

I always wondered what ever happened to him because somehow, even in the self-absorbed world of a teenager that I lived in, I felt as though he was sad and hurt inside. I don’t know if I perceived that because of his oral presentations in Speech class, or because of anything he’d ever told me. I know now that he was sad and hurt, and that because I was too….for similar reasons……I must have recognized those things in him back then.

Fast forward to now. Murray Paul Mitchell reinvented himself. He did that for lots of reasons, but I think he did it mostly to become whom he felt God destined him to be instead of being chained to the abuses and hurts of his younger life. It was his catharsis….his rebirth.  That fuzzy sweet little caterpillar wound himself up in a cocoon. While he was in there he spent 22 years in the military serving our country. He traveled the world. He had relationships that molded his character. His body became strong and muscular. His brain became more adept and sharp. He increased in knowledge. He developed his own style of humor and wit. He realized it was okay to dream and pursue those dreams. He came to realize that he was worthy of a new and better existence.

When the caterpillar that was Murray emerged, he was no longer a caterpillar….but instead, was Paul Trahan, a majestic Monarch butterfly. Paul uses his given middle name, and changed his surname to one with close personal significance. He discovered God and has a personal relationship with Him. He found his voice and writes beautifully, sharing from his heart and soul. He is a fine physical specimen, a handsome man with an air of confidence without pride. He is an all around good guy.

paul trahan

I’ve introduced you to my old friend because I believe that we reconnected for a reason. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in God, through the Holy Spirit, orchestrating the lives of people so they intersect at a time most opportune for God to reveal himself to both parties.  I’ve introduced you so you can see for yourself what an awesomely cool guy he is! Yep….the Murray Mitchell I knew would never have believed in high school that the buxom blonde girl with the sassy mouth would ever call him “cool”, but I am…..because he is. And I can because our God is awesome enough to see fit to cross our paths again and I have subsequently been able to see the results of Paul’s metamorphosis. My God, what a change! And the best part is….he is not just my friend……he’s my Brother in Christ.

So….check out his WordPress page! You’ll be inspired now that you know some of the back story!

A Soldier’s Journey on the Wings of the Wind

May your day be blessed and your being enriched by the things you find there to inspire your soul.

Link | Posted on by | Leave a comment