buzzing around….

Hello!!  Yes, I’m still here.  Just buzzing around doing all sorts of interesting things.  At least once a week I’ve been enjoying that sweet new grandbaby and playing with her older siblings so mama can nap. We’ve been homeschooling and keeping up with all the normal stuff around here, including 2 night shifts a week at the hospital.

As an addition to our homeschool learning about refugees, the girls and I have been volunteering with a local ministry that helps new refugees settle into our community.  We have very much been enjoying getting to know a family that just arrived in Boise from Malaysia, and have had fun learning bits of each others’ languages.

Along with all that, John and I have been noodling around the idea of selling our place here and moving to a place in town.  And after 22 years of beating down the weeds and doing the upkeep on our three acres, we are realizing we may be getting a little weary of having so, so much land to tame.

The chickens and the cow and the huge garden and greenhouse have been lots of fun.  But we’re wondering if maybe we’d like to shift some of our time in other directions during the coming years. This house is just about paid off and the difference in property cost between here and a place in town would be a great jump on the start of our (someday) ocean dream.  And a smaller yard is sounding more and more appealing.

So we’ve been dipping our toes in the local real estate waters. We’ve begun looking at houses to see what we might be able to get in town that would leave us some equity to put toward our beach house dream.  Lots of house-hunting has netted some possible options.  But nothing so far feels decidedly ‘ours’. I’ve fallen in love with a house or two.  So far we haven’t been able to find out that would give John some good shop space.  Maybe we’ve lived here too long to get that ‘home’ feeling about anyplace but here. But maybe there’s something out there.  We’ll keep looking.

We’ve also been looking at our own house with resale value in mind, just in case we do find a good place in town.  We bit the bullet and replaced the elderly furnace. I did some major decluttering in the garage, with the plan of eventually texturing all the walls and shooting a fresh coat of paint on everything out there.

I’m cleaning out closets and giving away all sorts of things that we don’t need. The linen closet with half its contents removed looks incredibly more spacious and well organized. I need to paint the shelves and put the door back on, and then next on the list is a similar makeover of the master closet.

Useful grey by Benjamin MooreI’ve repainted all the doors and much of the trim on the main level of the house. The trim is just a plain white, and for the walls I chose a Benjamin Moore paint in a nice soft neutral tone called ‘Useful Grey.’  Funny name, eh? To the right is the color in someone else’s home.

New paint and door knobsAnd here’s a picture of our hallway showing the contrast between grey and white.  So clean and crisp.  (It proved crazy-hard to get the paint to show up as the right color on my camera, though– thus the photo above.)

This photo also shows our new door knobs. I bought new doorknobs and hinges for the whole house, to replace the brassy ones we’ve had since the 90’s. The grand total of that project was $280, and they really update the doors, I think.

We have new living room carpet coming soon.  Our current carpet is a very worn teal green that just screams 1990’s.  :)  I got bids from a bunch of places but settled on RC Willey since their cost was the absolute best, and their work has been recommended.

As is typical for me, I want to do ALL.THE.THINGS. at once.  (Except, apparently, blogging–oops!)  It could be that after more house hunting we will just decide to stay put here– who knows?  Or maybe just the right house will show up during the next few months and we will make the leap to a new place.  But in any case these new fix-ups on our house are really fun and fresh, and (except for the boring furnace) not even all that spendy.  I keep forgetting to take pictures of my projects, but I will share more soon, because there’s lots happening.

Until then, thanks for sticking with me and checking in even when life gets busy and I don’t post often.  I appreciate your visits here!


Sweet Meg

Erika and Israel had their baby last week, sweet little Meg.


She joins brother Ranger, 3.5 and sister Ali, 2 years old.


All went well and we are so thrilled!


If you want to see more photos, visit Erika’s blog and tell them congrats!

On growing up in a big family (a letter to my children)

CampingAs your momma, there are always things buzzing in my mind that I hope each of you will remember, or know, or understand about what’s most important in this life.  But in this particular moment I’m thinking about how it’s been for you growing up at the beginning, or in the middle, or as the tail-end charlie of our big-ol crazy family.

I hope in the future you’ll remember life with us, your clan, as the great adventure that it truly has been.   There’s always someone around to watch a movie with you, or to loan you a belt, or coax into helping you drag the trash out to the road. (“Quick, the trash truck’s coming!”)  In adulthood often that looks like helping each other move, or bringing each other dinner after the arrival of a new baby.

I’m hoping you’ll feel close enough to share those favors around, and to help each other out in the many transition times life doles out.  Family adds a blessed cushion to all sorts of challenging days, whether those days involve hard things like illness or car breakdowns, or joyous things like new babies and wedding planning.

I know it’s not always been easy to parent-share in this big clan. I wish there’d never been times I dropped the ball, missed a clue that you needed to talk about something, or wasn’t there for you.  I always desperately long to be there, whether I can be or not.  Not being able to meet everyone’s needs Brothersperfectly….honestly, that’s what I hate most about being a momma of many.  (Though I suppose even moms of one or two feel that way sometimes.) Each and every one of you is precious.  Amazing.  Incredible.  Worth focusing on.  And it kills me to think there are moments when you didn’t feel like you were in the very center of my heart.  Because you are. Oh, you are.  Never doubt that.

SistersBut even in hard moments, God is there.  When you’re feeling lonely or sad, or like people don’t quite understand,  remember to lean on the only One who understands you perfectly.  The One who hears every thought before you think it.  The One who gave His life for you. In good times and in hard, I pray you will lean on Jesus for your best, truest companionship.Having fun

People these days have funny ideas about scarcity and wealth, and sometimes they make assumptions about families like ours. I hope you see it clear.  Even though we’ve always had more than enough of the essentials, truthfully there’s still been  sharing, making space, releasing something for a time to be a blessing to someone else.

Some people think a kid having to share anything is a shame.  But understand this clear:  poverty is not about that last hamburger getting split two ways, or last night’s leftover dinner getting warmed up for today’s lunch.  There’s nothing poor or shameful about a bike getting passed down four times, or a favorite t-shirt going through three kids before it finally becomes a carwash rag.

At the beach house

No, the worst kind of poverty is the relational kind– getting to adulthood without people around you who really care about you.  It’s possible to get through your whole life without ever having to share a bedroom or a t-shirt– have every luxury known to man, in fact — and still experience that kind of poverty.  The best and most lasting wealth on earth, aside from being in relationship with Jesus, comes from being in relationship with people who really care about you. Knitting sisters

Sure, those friends aren’t always siblings– there are precious friendships to be had with people who don’t share our last name or our DNA.  But wow, there’s a special power in a friend who is also a sister or a brother. So as you go out into the world, remember to also hang onto the family God’s given you.

Whether you realized it at the time or not, you learned lots about good relationships growing up in our clan.  Those experiences have made you stronger, kinder, and more generous.  Remember those lessons, and be on the lookout for the lonely, the people who need the kind of wealth, of friendship, that you can offer.  In this hard world, I want you to be a friend.  And knowing each of you, I’m sure you will.  Each of you in your own unique way is generous in heart and spirit.

Finally, I need to say this again:  I love you.  You are amazing and precious and special, each and every one of you.  I have been so blessed to share this life with each of you.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.  Go forward with confidence and enjoy everything that God has given you!

Ostyns at Christmas 2014





Part 6: Talking to strangers

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The plan for Saturday was first to  visit Julianna’s family, and then to do a little investigating to see if we could find anything at all about Emily’s family. Since all we knew about her was the police station where she’d been relinquished, that was a very big question indeed. We’d sent a searcher out a few weeks earlier to that town. He had spoken with a government official who had asked for $200 in exchange for information about the father, who he claimed to know.

Now, in Ethiopia small bribes are not uncommon at all. In fact, police pull drivers over regularly asking for money. But $200 is a very big bribe around here. And Sophie and John and I didn’t like the fact that the only information he had was about the father. Right or wrong, our instinct was that a man might claim to know something in exchange for money,  whereas a woman might be more motivated by the heart. What we were most hoping for was information about Emily’s mom.
So on that Saturday afternoon after leaving Julianna’s joyful family reunion, we were willing and eager to hunt for Emily’s family. But we all, including Emily, understood that the chances of finding good information were slim. Our searcher had been able to get the phone number of the man who claimed to be Emily’s father, which would enable us to talk to him without the government official’s involvement. But our searcher himself was not available that afternoon to talk with the supposed father.
Oh, we didn’t know what to do. But we had to leave Soddo in 36 hours, and we had come such a long way. I couldn’t stand leaving without trying for something at least. We decided to have our trusty driver Dawit call the man, and ask if we could visit him in the village where Emily had been relinquished. So on our way back to Soddo from Julianna’s village Dawit did so.
So there we were in the van, pulled over at the side of the road next to Sophie’s favorite hamburger place in Soddo, listening in on Dawit’s conversation with a stranger who might be Emily’s dad, but probably wasn’t. When asked if we could go to his village, the man said he was actually in Soddo working today, at the bus station. The same bus station that was just a few blocks from our location now. He could meet us there, he said.

At the bus station
A nervous conversation ensued between Sophie and me. We so much wanted to ensure we were getting reliable information for Emily. We didn’t like the idea of meeting this stranger at a bus station—we couldn’t quite even figure out why he was there since supposedly he lived out in the country. But maybe if we talked to him awhile, and everything seemed ok, he could take us to his village to meet more family? We were so uncertain. But what else could we do?
We drove to the bus station and then our driver Dawit called him again to tell him we were there. This time the man told Dawit that he was very close, that he was taking a bajaj to the bus station and would be there very soon. Again we were uncertain. First he’d said he was at the bus station and then he wasn’t. As we waited for him to show up, we realized we didn’t know his name, or anything really about him.
After a few nervous minutes of waiting, a young man appeared at the driver’s window. So young. Sophie and Lidya and I all guessed he was maybe 25. After a quick hi at the window, he appeared to reconsider, and stepped away from the van to use his phone. In seconds Dawit’s phone rang and we all laughed, even the young man. Apparently before talking with us, he had wanted to be sure he was approaching the right people.

Dawit opened the passenger front door and invited the young man into the van to talk with us. He pulled out the paper and the pictures that our searcher had shared with him.

We had decided before he even got into the van that we would not identify Emily to him unless we came to be reasonably sure that there might be a valid reason to believe he was a relative. And we were so eager to know the truth that thinking back I’m not sure we even introduced ourselves properly but just began asking him questions. What do you know about this baby? Why do you think you are the father? Tell us the story as you know it.

We were wanting to know if his story would match what we knew, and as he spoke, all of our intuition was on high alert, trying to judge if he seemed trustworthy and was telling the truth.  Above all, we wanted our precious girl not to be hurt. You can bet we were praying hard for all the wisdom and guidance that God could give us.

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Homeschooling and new paths

A quick note about last week’s book giveaway.  The winner is commenter #24, the mysterious ‘S’, who is a longtime reader. :)  Congrats!  Email me your address and I will get your book headed your way.


Always at this time of year, my thoughts turn toward school again.  This year if I’m figuring it right, we’ve hit the 20 year mark as a homeschooling family.  We haven’t exclusively homeschooled:  our oldest daughter went to private school for her first two years, two others had several years of public school in Ethiopia before they joined our family, and most of the teens have done a bit of college while still homeschooling.  But when I did the math for  two decades of teaching 10 kids, I came up with something like 97 total years of homeschooling.  Crazy, right?

how school looks for us this yearAll along we’ve done our best to tailor each child’s education to his or her needs. Well, this year we’re taking a brand new path for two of our seniors.

Josh and Ben have for several years been asking to go to public school.  For years we’ve chosen to stick with homeschooling, adding college classes into the mix the last 2 years to liven things up a bit.  But still they’ve been longing for the whole high school experience.  So after lots of prayer and lots of discussion John and I decided to let them try public school for at least a semester, and if all goes well, for all of senior year.

Whew, it was a hard decision for this momma. Homeschooling has overall been an excellent path for our family. It has grown the boys well too, both in their faith and in academics, enough that we’ve been talking for awhile about letting them graduate early.  Sure, they have maturing still to do; no kid has everything figured out at 17.  But John and I ended up deciding to hear their wishes, trust their common sense, and let them have this adventure.

I suspect that sitting in classrooms hour after hour it will be more boring than they’re imagining.  But there will also be new and different opportunities.  Josh is interested in Spanish 3, and in some of the music offerings at the school. Ben would love to learn welding and auto repair, among other things. So we’re sending them off.

Josh starts school the day the girls and I leave for Ethiopia, and Ben starts just a few days later.  We are praying this ends up being a blessing and a positive experience for them. Zeytuna (last I chatted with her) was still steadfastly insisting she prefers to stay at home for her senior year. I’ll also have Emily (grade 8) and Julianna (grade 5) still.

SchoolSo our home school tradition this year will continue with three students, just as we had our very first year of school so many years ago, when all the kids were little. We’ll also be starting a little later than usual, in mid-September, since the first two weeks of the school year will be taken up by our big trip to Ethiopia.

Life is just full of adventures!  I’ll keep you posted as to how all these adventures go.  Meanwhile, it’s back to packing for Ethiopia, and getting the boys registered for school.  If my to-do list is any indicator, both these events take lots of doing!


Speaking of new adventures, if you’d like an occasional ‘insider’ update from the Owlhaven, just enter your email address in the right-hand sidebar above, and click the ‘subscribe’ button.  Once every month or two, I’ll be sharing just a few extra newsy highlights from our life– fun things that won’t necessarily all make it to my blog.  I’d love it if you’d join me there!

And if you’d like to read my best homeschooling tips from two decades of homeschooling, check out my latest book Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families, available on Kindle.

The rest of the summer

Wow, the wedding was fun!  It all went off without a hitch and during the whole evening everywhere it seemed like people were having a good time. It was an amazing atmosphere, and Jared and Erika just shone joy the whole day.  It was wonderful.

Here’s a shot of the seating area, all ready for the guests to arrive.  It was such a pretty venue.  After the ceremony, kids had a lovely time running up and down the hill you can see in the distance.  And there were blankets spread in the shade of trees for extra seating during the wedding and the reception.

Waiting for the guests

Then here’s a picture of the area where the reception was– the kids did such a great job decorating.  Everything really came together, even the weather.  A couple weekends before the wedding, we were having temperatures in the 100’s.  But on the Saturday of the wedding the high was 87, which by evening in the shade of all those trees was just perfect for an outdoor summer wedding.

The Reception


Saturday evening after the wedding we all sat around in the living room for a long time talking about what a fun party it had been, not quite wanting it to be over yet.  Nevermind that it was 1:30 in the morning.

Sunday we ran around returning all the various things that we’d borrowed for the festivities.  And then Monday and Tuesday night I worked, which meant Tuesday and Wednesday during the day was taken up with sleeping.  So today, really, is the first day since the wedding that I feel like I’m truly off.

Today the older teens are all working, and the youngest two have a friend over to play– streams of giggles are coming from the bedroom. So I am sitting here blogging and making lists of things I need to do during this last part of the summer before our Ethiopia trip. We leave in 26 days, people!  I am so excited!

I already found five 32″ soft-sided bags for our checked luggage for the grand price of $14 each at  They are GINORMOUS, and they even have wheels. I doubt we’ll bring enough clothing to fill a whole bag per person– more likely two people’s clothes will fit in one bag.  But we are bringing a few things to and from Ethiopia for other people, so extra space is good.  And if we don’t need all 5 all the time, each duffel can be zipped tiny compact square, to easily tuck into another bag.

Besides the big bags, we’ll each have one carry-on– most likely backpacks.  One backpack each and one wheeled bag each will, I hope, be a reasonable amount to tote for everyone.

I’m especially interested in traveling light because of all the moving around we’ll be doing.  We’ll be gone a total of 16 days, of which three are flying and four are driving to outlying areas.  So that’s 7 days on the move.  Definitely a reason not to overpack.

I don’t want to bring my computer, so I (mini)splurged on a tablet– a  Toshiba Encore  that my computer-guru son spoke highly of.  I’m excited to get it and play with it.  I also got an earbud splitter to make it easier for multiple kids to watch movies together on planes.  Oh, I love traveling!

In other news (despite the fact that I just spent 5 minutes talking about things I bought for our trip, lol) I’m still working on paring down things that we own in general.  This afternoon Tomorrow I’m going through drawers in my bathroom.  It’s funny how I can go literally weeks without opening a drawer, and yet it is still hard to coax myself to toss things that I haven’t used in months.  I paid good money for them, after all!  But I’m reminding myself that this fact should not earn them a forever place in my drawers or my home.

I am also eager to do some cleaning in our garage.  Except there is where I’ve stashed all the extra dishes I’m saving for our 4 older teens.  All hope to move out in the next couple years, and I’d like to start them out with a few dishes each, to make the move more affordable.  So there the dishes sit.

Also in the garage are lots of 8mm and VHS movies from when our kids were little, which I’d like to get onto digital files.  I bought the gadget months ago, but then never got around to taking the time.   So there’s another project to add to my list.

I guess that’s all I have for you today.  I’m off to the store to stock up the empty fridge, and then I’m taking these giggly girls to the library.  Should be fun!  How’s your summer coming along?


The wedding is THIS weekend, which means we spent Monday scurrying to find clothes for John, and shoes for Julianna, and wood for a project to beautify the reception area. In there I also managed to fit a panic attack over my clothing choice for the big day, complete with buying two other dresses that most likely I will return tomorrow since I don’t like them any better than the first one. Arg.  And double-arg because in the midst of starting a brand new job and working away from home for the first time in 17 years, I have NOT been fitting exercise in.  My loved ones assure me that I look just fine.  But the dresses (and my eyes)….they were not kind to me today.  We’re always the hardest on ourselves, aren’t we?

My dear friend texted me after seeing the dress options and said, ‘You are enough.  Slim enough, beautiful enough.  Enough.”  Just the reminder I needed, even if it did make me want to cry.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I work, and Thursday I’m finishing prepping rehearsal dinner food. Thankfully my sister’s husband is a BBQ guru and is taking care of the meat, so it will be YUMMY. We’re also doing corn on the cob and salads and sides from Costco to round out the rest of the meal.  And root beer floats.  Root beer floats are always good, right?  As long as you’re going for a down-home country-style picnic, which I am.

And lovely news– the temperature is supposed to be in the low 80’s for the actual wedding day, with (fingers crossed, knock on wood) 0% chance of rain. Soooo much nicer than the 106 degrees it was last week.  So thrilled to see Erika and Jared start their life together.  I will share pictures, eventually.  But this week is looking like a constant run of busy-ness, so this may be all you hear from me for now.

Wish us well as we celebrate!  And in case you’re like me, riddled with moments of doubt about yourself, remember who created you: the Creator of the universe who never makes mistakes. You are enough.  Really.  So celebrate!




Also this week…

The bad news is, turns out this is NOT a week for frequent blogging.  Along with two full night shifts, and half a night when OB was short-staffed and I helped out for a bit,  I got to do two days of ACLS (advanced cardiac life support) certification.

The good news is  if you collapse in front of me and your heart isn’t clicking right along, I’ll go right into chest compressions, all the while hoping that the rest of the folks running into the room will remember whether your heart rhythm warrants epinephrine or dopamine or amnioderone.   I may even remember to stand clear when they get ready to juice your heart with a nice fat shock. Whew!  But an 88% is a pass, even if it’s not all perfectly cemented in there, so I’ll take it.

Also this week, I finally found a wedding dress for our youngest daughter. (Jared and Erika’s wedding is NINE days away, people!!!   :)  )

A 10.5 year old is hard to shop for.  At least my 10 year old is!  She’s all anxious to look like a big person, and I’m feeling like, ah….this is one of my last chances to buy her a little-girl dress. But of course the dresses that looked like they were designed for a 25 year old were the ones she was drawn to, like a lemming to a cliff.   (No…….!) We were working at cross purposes for awhile there.

Jul's DressBut one of the really great things about surviving the parenting of a whole slew of teens  is that finally (despite the opinions of my 17 year old sons), I’m actually really truly becoming less of a control freak.   I did nix the pale peach formal that I was sure would have grass and/or food stains on it an hour after arriving at the big wedding– the kid still loves to run and play, after all.  But I didn’t make her choose the purely lil-girl dress, even though it matched the wedding theme PeRfEcTlY– and looked utterly precious.  Sigh…..sniff…  And her second-best choice turned out to be my second-favorite also.  So that was a compromise I could live with and she looks stunning in it, even if a lil more grown than I would prefer.  (Sigh.)

In other news, wedding planning is in full swing.  On the agenda for this afternoon is the testing of the Christmas lights so that the shaded area where the reception is to be held will be properly awash in twinkle.  Wish me luck to find (hopefully) a few that actually work.  Because buying Christmas lights in July is ridiculously spendy.  Also, if you happen to live in these parts and have some good lights you’d be inclined to loan, I’d love ya forever.  I’d even label them with your name and come pick them up from your house.  And return them to you in a week or two or six.  Definitely before November, anyhow.

Today we’re having fir fir for lunch, which is a delightfully spicy Ethiopian dish comprised of injera, butter, onions, shiro and LOTS of berbere. Spicy fabulousness……  I am absolutely LOVING the fact that Boise now has an Ethiopian restaurant —Kibrom’s— yummy!!!

Green Eggs!Also today we got these!!!  Our spring chickens have already started laying eggs, and finally, finally, after years of wishing for eggs in Easter-egg colors, we have them! The type of chicks we got are Araucanas.    We got 20, and it’s looking like only 4 of them are roosters.  So between the new hens and our 7 old hens, we should be utterly swimming in fresh eggs.   Such fun.  I’m really surprised they are already laying– I was totally psyched to wait til fall.  And aren’t those baby eggs cute?  Once the hens have matured a bit more, the eggs will get a little larger, tho this breed does not lay really big eggs.

That’s about it from here.  In a few days I’m planning on posting my mom’s fabulous gluten free bread recipe, so stay tuned!




Night owl again

Friday and Saturday were my first two night shifts. The first night went pretty well, though I was tired, and also discouraged to see that EVERYONE on night shift is yawning often by 4 AM, no matter how seasoned they are to night shift. Bah. I guess I had hoped it was possible to not be tired…?

Saturday morning I slept from 8 til 1, and then it was time to rush off to my soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s wedding shower. Somehow by the time I got out the door I’d spilled some of the fruit we’d prepared right on the floor, AND forgot to put mascara one eye. Luckily we’d done tons of fruit so the little I spilled was not missed, and there was a Walgreen’s on the way where I hastily bought and dabbed on mascara so that my eyes matched.

And the shower was an utter and complete delight. Truly.  Such a sweet time.

Driving home I realized I had a migraine due no doubt to lack of sleep. And so there was a stop at yet another convenience store, this time for Advil and coffee. And by the time we got home, it was exactly one hour til I had to leave for work. So I lay down and closed my eyes for half an hour. And then I got up and ate dinner with my family. And off I went to work again, headache subsided and by the grace of God somehow ready to carry on.

The first half of the night was quiet on the labor unit, which made the hours drag a bit, but I found some busy work, and even in the slowness could tell I was less tired than I had been the first night. And around 2AM, in came a momma in labor– hooray, hooray!!– and the last 5 hours of the night flew by. They were fun, even.

And then Sunday I managed to sleep til 2:30 in the afternoon, thanks to loud fans and room-darkening shades– ah the bliss!

My next nights to work are Wednesday and Thursday.  And judging by the difference between how the first and second nights felt to me, I’m thinking that this will be a lot better if I turn into a night owl again, even on my days off.  In the very early days of my blog, I’d routinely stay up til 2 or even sometimes 3, writing, then sleep til 9 or 10 in the morning.  So I think I may try to get back into that habit.  It’s 1 now as I write this, and tomorrow morning is quiet enough that I should be able to sleep til 10.  I think if I sleep that way Wednesday morning too, maybe the all-nighter Wednesday night will be less of a shock.  I’m yawning now as I type this— we’ll see how it all works! But we’ll give it a shot!  And hey, maybe I’ll even find some late night blogging time again!

This evening I am also excited to be booking a guest house for our stay in Ethiopia in August– at least the nights we’ll be in Addis.  It’s a 16 day trip altogether, and along with some time in Addis, which is the capitol city, we are planning to visit two outlying areas, which are each a 7-8 hour drive away from Addis in different directions.  This means that of the 16 days we’ll be gone, we will be spending 7 traveling, either by plane or car.  It will be an adventure!

In still other news, we are planning another 4th of July barbecue with our kids this weekend, featuring lots of water games as usual.  The grandbabies are big enough now to also participate in some simple games, so that should be really fun.   If you are looking for ideas for a bash of your own, here are some posts featuring previous years’ festivities: 2014 |  2013 | 2010.  Goodness, how have my kids gotten so grown??

Here’s hoping all is well with you!


Inside Out

This week we took Emily and Julianna to see the new Pixar movie Inside Out (trailer here).  It’s a movie that goes into the head of an 11 year old girl during a time of turmoil in her life.  She and her family have just moved to a new city, and she is struggling to find her place in this new life.

InsideOut2Although this movie is an animated film, it explores deep concepts.  It shows the wrestling match between all the feelings that exist inside every human during times of loss and challenge.

The five feelings voiced in this story are anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and joy.  They were shown as manning the switchboard of Riley’s mind, each taking a turn at control. As each feeling was shown, I couldn’t help but think which of the feelings in my life, and in the lives of my children, are most often voiced, and which are shoved aside, and not allowed expression.

Inside OutI’m one of those Pollyanna people who is most comfortable with Joy, often to the exclusion of all other feelings.  Joy is my comfy place.  And yet there are other feelings down deep, of course, feelings less comfortable, less socially acceptable.  Feelings that I don’t even want to admit.

But as much as I could identify with this movie because of my own internal life, it hit me even more deeply on behalf of my adopted children, some of whom have experienced great loss in life. I’ve struggled so much to help some of them break free of anger and sadness, and find their way to joy.

Before me on the screen was a vivid and compelling description of the way loss can make anger and fear and sadness take over a person’s soul, causing all joy to flee, at least for awhile. At the peak of her struggle to settle into her new life, Riley became almost a different person.   It was only after she found a way to voice all her feelings that she was able to come to a more balanced place, to embrace her new life, to appreciate the richness that even the hard feelings add, and to find joy again.

It was such a great reminder to me that we as parents need to show our children the way to that more balanced place, where they can safely express all the feelings, not just the pretty, socially acceptable ones.  In being open to all their feelings, we can love them more fully, more truly, and support the kind of balanced emotional health and well being that many people struggle all their lives to find.

Though the concepts were deep in this movie, they resonated with my 10 and 13 year old daughters, and we had some good discussion on our way home from the movies.  Have you seen this movie yet?  I’d be interested to hear what you think of it.

Other thoughts about this movie:

The Roots of Real Joy

The Inside Out of Grief