sorella minore

I was 8 years old when you were born.

You were such a beautiful baby, I was jealous of you but not in a bad way.

There are so many things about our younger years that are blurred;
we were set apart.

Destined for division.


As I got older, and constantly in trouble, I only seemed to seal that fate.

But now, as time has pushed us past the barriers of adolescents and we make up our own minds about things,

you have become the best kind of friend that I didn’t know I’d need.

You are strong and stubborn and adamant.

You are beautiful, and wildly authentic.

Loud and boisterous.

Hilarious and headstrong.

You are reliable and loyal and hard-working.

Independent and sharp.

You will always argue for the under dog, you can’t help it.

Most people don’t get to see the you that deeply thinks and questions.

Deeply feels and loves, selflessly.

You are a teacher, taking time and liberties that no one else does…or would.

You are vinyl records and recycled bottles of baby houseplants.

You are adult soccer leagues and recorder of our memories.

You are an artist.

Your instruments are everything in your reach.

Pens, pencils, banjo’s, ink,

cast iron skillet and bacon grease.

I’m so proud of you.

Proud to call you my friend .

Proud to call you my sister.








Every summer has its own story

I thought it would be fun to revisit an old post from last summer. Especially since it has a nostalgic vibe to it. Enjoy!



The summer I turned sixteen seems like an exaggerated moment in time when I think of it. Summers were long and lazy when we were younger. Watching cartoons, random tv and playing in the back yard with my siblings while our parents were at work filled the daylight hours. Lots of fighting with each other and calling mom at work only to get in more trouble for having bothered her in that way. Day after day of boredom and drowsiness.

At night I pretended to be more mature than I was and I would sneak out from my bedroom window to hangout with friends or even sneak them IN to hang out with me. I’m pretty sure that was the summer I felt like I was painfully in love for the first time and spent my thought life day dreaming of ways to see him at night. The kids I…

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Philosophy and R&B

We have a new radio station in my home town that plays pop music from the 90’s. ¬† ¬†Technically, I guess the kids ’round here are calling it an oldies station…but I just can’t go that far. ¬†All I know is, its music I listened to growing up and its funny how quickly a song can turn into a memory (you see what I just did there Mari?).

I just heard the song ¬†“Two Occasions” by Babyface. ¬†Man, this song captured the essence of my adolescent heartache. ¬†I used to crush HARD. ¬†When I decided to like a young man, I was committed. ¬†I guess I’ve always been a sensitive, romantic¬†artist type.

(Here is the YouTube link I found, the video is TERRIBLY awesome.)


Who will ever know the amount of time spent in front of the bathroom mirror singing my pain away and acting as if I was in front of a wind machine filming my music video.  You never knew a white girl could get down so hard on New Edition or Jodeci!  Time spent in front of the same mirror, perfecting the art of a messy bun or high pony-tail (with the ever necessary, carefully pulled strands of hair on either side of your face to mirror the T-Boz look).  Strait gangsta.  Never mind that I was a chubby, red-headed white kid from Northern Nevada. The struggle was real.  I wish I could get my hands on the journals and notebooks I kept my two years of middle school. That is when I discovered that writing could make me feel better about things that were bothering me, though mostly all it did was get me in trouble for writing trash talk and bad poetry about everyone.  

Back when there wasn’t anything quite as painful as not having anyone to couple skate with at the roller rink on a Friday night (that is IF my parents allowed me to go).¬†¬†The dramas that we had were so REAL and PASSIONATE. ¬†If a boy and girl dated longer than two weeks it was the REAL DEAL. ¬†The fights and squabbles we had were ridiculous. ¬†That was when we had to actually write notes with pens and pencils on binder paper, fold them up and pass them to each other. ¬†No texting, no social media. Just good old-fashioned rubbish. ¬†Simpler times that seemed so intense while I was living them. Looking back now, it only makes me laugh! ¬†If I had only known how short that time would be, I would not have rushed through it.

How cliche.

Now, I can’t help but wonder about my son who is going to be 9 this winter, and what kind of teenager he is going to mutate into in a few short years. ¬† I can’t even allow myself to imagine what kind of teenager my daughter will be yet. ¬†Gives me heartburn. ¬†I think about all of the little triumphs and tragedies they will experience that I might not even get to know about because¬†I’ll be the old boring mom. ¬†Soon enough, they will have a whole secret world of thought and dreams and loves and heartbreak that my Hubs and I will only be spectators of. ¬†Rooting and cheering or grieving from the sidelines as we watch and pray with bated breath for a strong and victorious finish.

Its only in thinking of my kids growing older that I can appreciate this line from John Mayer”s song “No Such Thing”:

And all of our parents, they’re getting older.

I wonder if they’ve wished for anything better?

While in their memories, tiny tragedies.

They love to tell you, stay inside the lines.  

But something’s better on the other side.

I wonder if my own parents watched my teenage years approach with as much reservation, nervousness and even a little excitement/sadness that I feel for my own kids?

Did they hope and pray ( as I do for mine) that I would stay inside the lines and get it right?? ¬†Did they know deep down (as I do) that, that isn’t at all possible? ¬†Will I remember¬†this when my kids are older and steeped deeply within the dramas and concerns of their social world, that they will make mistakes and not stay inside the lines? ¬†Will my husband and I remember how enormous it felt to crush on someone the first time, and be rejected the first time, and yes, even get into trouble (real trouble) for the first time? ¬† Will we lose our minds and take it personally? ¬†Will we show grace and understanding while still providing direction and discipline? ¬†Will we be able to keep a foot in the door with our kids so that we can really know whats going on with them??


Luckily, I don’t have to have all of these answers¬†today, and most likely never will. ¬†I will just have to trust God with my babies who loves them even more than my husband I do. ¬†But I do wonder about the little people they are becoming and if they will be ok.

This evolution of roles and growing up stuff isn’t for sissy’s.




I.A.L.A.C. Week


When I was in elementary school we had this week long themed week called I.A.L.A.C week. There are similar themes in schools today, some are called spirit weeks or unity week. At my sons school it’s a “celebration of reading” week. Basically how it works is Monday through Friday the kids are all given a little bit of a break to do fun stuff like wear their pajamas to school, or a have a crazy hair day. It’s a way of building up a team spirit atmosphere in the classroom and I’m sure a myriad of other benefits that I have no idea about because I’m not a teacher. But something about it MUST have been valuable because the model is repeated in almost every school.

It was no different for me and my classmates during our weeks back in the early 90’s…except for the message behind it. We were all given little buttons with the I.A.L.A.C acronym on it. It stood for,” I am love able and capable”. I can remember the teachers trying to get us to memorize this and kind of burn it into our minds. And here I am at 31 years old writing a blog post about it?! Well Done Grace Warner Elementary, well done. As I was laying in bed last night for some random reason ( my mind is a chaotic and rapidly busy place dudes…) this popped up and I began to really think about it. I woke up this morning and googled it. Sure enough, the I.A.L.A.C. message is still going strong.

This elegant and simple message of teaching children they are lovable and capable started to blow my mind. Maybe for the first time ever I really understand what the point was. It’s EVERYTHING. It’s the truest desires of the human heart.

How differently would my life look if I had believed those words and instead of just saying them for a week at school? What if I had started saying them to myself everyday? Now, I’m not saying that I wish my life were different. I’m grateful for the way my life has turned out because it led me to my faith, my husband and my children. But if I had actually believed in myself in this way…man…woulda, coulda, shoulda right?

What if I actually made an effort to raise my babies this way?? So much of the way I knee jerk discipline my kids breaks them down. I HATE it. I’ll confess that more times than I’d like to admit I’m more concerned about my kids behaving and not embarrassing me than I am about building up who they are and letting them just be kids. That’s a hard sentence to type and send out into the world…but it’s real. What if I was careful to build them up to believe they are SO lovable and MORE than capable to accomplish whatever they set out to do? What if I made MORE of a conscious effort to pray and try to protect them from whatever it is that starts to grow inside us that tells us we aren’t lovable? What if instead of getting frustrated at things that are left undone or chores that aren’t done the “right” way, I shifted gears and started focusing and celebrating the things that my children are capable of and DO WELL?

What if I started giving myself the same grace?


Some thoughts from Fathers Day

He would press my face against his belly and brush my hair up his torso towards his chest. His furrowed eyebrows and heavy breathing would indicate this was serious business. Lips pursed tight and clutching in them the rubber band he’d use to gather all of my wild red curls into a firmly fixed pony tail. My face pulled tight while smashed into his belly. Clothed in the familiar Hanes ribbed tank top and the smell of Jovan Musk cologne. My sister and I still crack up over this shared experience and the irony of our dad caring so much that those suckers wouldn’t come out that he would over look making them even. So many pictures with us donning lop-sided pigtails.

I can remember him plopping me up on the kitchen counter to give me medicine on a spoon, and being thrilled to find it hidden somewhere in the middle of a dollop of chocolate pudding.

I have the foggiest snippets of him picking me up from my grandma’s house late at night while he worked a swing shift. Carrying me out to his truck and without fail, throwing a blanket over my head to shield me from the harsh winter air. (Even now when it snows, the sweet and new smell it brings instantly reminds me of this memory.) Then he’d take me home and we would watch Johnny Carson while he took off his heavy work boots.

These are my first memories. You know, the ones that squeak through when you really squint and strain to try and recall the first moments of your life’s history. My parents had divorced just before I had turned two and despite my efforts, my memories just don’t reach beyond me being three or four. So the few of my earliest ones are just of He and I.

Our family grew over time and my Dad would add to my memory bank a new wife, new siblings and new traditions. Family life, holidays and unofficial rituals…the small and specific things that make families special and unique. Like, learning the lyrics and artist to nearly every song in the last 6 decades of music. As well as eating ice cream in a glass with milk poured on top of it. A lazy milkshake (hold the “shake”). We didn’t really know that people ate it any differently. We also didn’t know that other families weren’t holding family meetings in the bathroom while their dad was sitting on the toilet. To us, that was the norm. Despite the good, the bad and the ugly I’d say growing up we still experienced a lot of the classic “Dad” moments.

For me it was being taught the the art of the bike ridden without training wheels in the school parking lot. Truly the golden keys of freedom when you’re a kid. My Dad made boundaries between some neighbors drive-ways and I was to ride in the confines of what he deemed safe. Driving a car in my late teen years would prove to be no different. At 31 he still corrects my driving.

There were softball practices and games. Teaching me how to get under a pop fly ball…and I better not close my eyes if I’m gonna go for it…DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE BALL!

The pride of a day spent pulling weeds and doing yard work because the world has no use for lazy people… ( still working on that one Dad).

There was the disappointment of my first school dance in junior high. He, pulling up in the Oldsmobile to pick me up after school and asking how my day was. Me, trying so hard not to burst into tears. The lump in my throat making it impossible to hold a bluff. I remember him reassuring me that I was pretty and wonderful and someday there would be someone WORTHY of dancing with me. I rolled my eyes, but deep down I believed him a little. Ultimately, he’d be right.

These are some examples of a few good memories pulled from 31 years of my experience living on earth. There are too many to share. Good ones and of course the not-so-good ones that I wouldn’t share. We all have terrible stuff that we’ve had to endure and would rather forget. My dad can be extremely difficult. He is demanding and dramatic and explosive. He has had bad habits and has made bad choices. I am a lot like him! We have had as many rocky moments as good ones. But, at the end of the day I know his love comes without stipulations.

When I watch my husband and the way he is with our children I understand my dad a little deeper than I would have been able to before. Knowing my husbands heart and intentions for our son and daughter are probably not far from where EVERY parent has been trying to aim since the beginning, including our own parents. Maybe in parenthood is where we finally give our parents a break?

Wishing my hubs a happy father’s day this last weekend was important. I want him to know that I appreciate him as my children’s father. My baby daddy! There isn’t anyone else I’d rather be doing this parenting thing with than him.
But the day is more about appreciating my OWN father while he’s still around to be appreciated. Some people don’t have that luxury.

Maybe even taking a moment to appreciate all of the wonderful men in my life?
I’ve been lucky enough to not only have my dad, but also a wonderful step father and a spiritual father to both my husband and I, the pastor of our church. All three of these men have been instrumental in my life.
I also have amazing brothers who have become honorable men and beloved uncles. I am surrounded by strong men who have taught me to be bold and unapologetic about being myself. I have been given the space to freak out, ask questions, roar and be my loud and obnoxious self. I have been encouraged to be a leader and charge taker in a world where a lot of women are made to feel the exact opposite by the men in their lives.

To this, I say a huge “Thank you”.

Origins of a people pleaser

My fourth grade teacher was this large woman with a bouffant hairdo and plaid shirts. She carried herself like a man. Bold. Like a no-nonsense BOSS.
Mrs. Voskuil was tough and mean and hilarious. She was known for her “Texas fly-swatter” that she would slam down on your desk at any given moment if you should be so unlucky to be lured into a side conversation with a pal or at the very worst, to fall asleep. It’s swatter was the size of a dinner plate and when it met the smooth top of a desk it would radiate with a sharp “WHACK” that would leave even the sassiest of kids shaking in their L.A. Gears. The laughter that ensued from your classmates would have been salt on the wound, making the whole scene unbearable. The last thing any of us ever wanted was to be the reason for the Texas fly swatter coming off the hook on the wall.
Besides her disciplinary measures, one of the other stand out memories from being in her class was she and her husband had traveled the world. She had endless slides (!) from places like Denmark and Germany and China. It was wistful but boring. Looking back, I can appreciate all of the time it took to put that all together and share with us all she had gleaned from her adventures. I don’t think she had children of her own. I remember her talking a lot about her dogs.
I didn’t really do well in her class. I’ve been a terrible student most of my life. I never had good grades. I was always more concerned with the social happenings around me than to trouble myself with things like school work, homework or generally anything “official” going on. I used to cause a lot of trouble and be a bit of a dramatic kid ( hard to believe, right?). Spent a lot of time in the counselors office talking about my feelings.
Fourth grade was the year I became a published author! I wrote a poem about how much I hated math, and it was put into a collection of children’s poems.
It was also the year I stole something for the first time. It was a sterling silver bracelet from Montgomery Ward’s that I put in my neon parka while out Christmas shopping with my step mom. I wore it silently under long sleeve shirts. I loved how heavy and fancy it felt. I loved the secret and scandal of it all. Until my cousin Maria saw it two weeks later at my Grandpa’s funeral and asked me where I got it from (I never have been good at concealing my facial expressions). I got in HUGE trouble. One, for making trouble at my grandfathers funeral, two for shop lifting. Had to take it back and have a big embarrassing apology moment with some stern lady sitting opposite of me in a back room at the store. I was mortified.

Shame was born.

I could list a zillion reasons why I was a bad kid. They’d probably be psychologically sound and true. It would be a long list filled with words like, “divorced”, “remarried”, or “not in the picture”. “Jealous”, “spoiled”, “handful”, “manipulating” and “brat”.
But the truth that I heard whispered about me was that I was a “difficult pain in the ass”.
Even though the exact words weren’t said, it was communicated that I was a burden. A source of agitation. A disappointment. A screw up.

I started to believe those words.

I still do.

Except for now, instead of just being naughty I try really hard to please everyone around me. I go above and beyond to make people like me and accept me. I am fiercely loyal, sometimes to a fault…because I am desperate for the same loyalty back to me in return. The last thing I ever want to do is disappoint my family or friends.
Disappointment always leads to shame and shame must be quieted so it doesn’t crumble you to pieces. This cycle of thinking has been slowly killing me. Literally.

This week I’ve been trying to dig up the roots of my confidence…or lack there of. I came upon my old memories of Mrs.Voskuil. Not because of the funny fly swatter or dreamy slide shows. It was because later on, when I was in high school I would go visit her in her classroom.
( You can’t do this anymore I imagine?) I would get out of school and have to wait around for 30 minutes or so for my siblings to get out of school so we could all walk home. I would go to her class to kill the time and she welcomed the opportunity to encourage me. She began to entrust me with correcting worksheets and spelling tests. I felt important with that red marker, official even. After a few weeks she let me stand in the front of the class and lead a word game she would play with her kids to gobble up those last antsy minutes before the bell rings. I felt like a champion. Those kids started to look up to me and I was proud of myself.
She made me feel like I could actually inspire and teach one day. I started to believe her.
Sadly, I stopped going. I found more alluring ways to spend my free minutes. The cycle resumed.
Spending the rest of my high school career grasping at whatever might bring me love without conditions. Love that wouldn’t expire or reject me. Trying desperately to quiet the negative words that usually followed my name. Being a teenager really sucks.
Eventually, I found this kind of TRUE love in my faith.
But sometimes my old belief system keeps me from fully believing…robbing me of true confidence. Keeping me from being who I am meant to be…and thriving in it. I have to continue to press forward, even if it feels stagnant. I know I’m not there yet, but that’s where I’m headed.

In the meantime, take a moment to appreciate some unsung heroes from your own history. It did my heart good to remember ol’ Mrs.Voskuil and her bouffant hair. Wherever you are, I salute you!

Mandi Holden

Believe. Begin. Persist

>>New adventure<<



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