Learning to Swim


Posted on : 22-Mar-2017 | By : Amber | In : adulting, learning to live, parenting brilliance, reflection, Uncategorized, Very Important Things



Live authentic.

I looked at those words, and the only thing I could think was “What the heck does that mean? Is this some new concept that, once again, I’m not going to grasp?” That happens to me a lot; for someone that people keep saying is intelligent, I feel REALLY dumb a lot of the time. It took me forever to not break out in a cold sweat ordering anything but black coffee.  True story.  One day, people are going to figure it out, and they’re going to revoke my adulting card. That might not be so bad, except they’ll probably take my coffee and driver’s license, and then things might get ugly. That’s how fights happen.

I’ll be honest with you; I don’t like that feeling. I’m no brain surgeon, but like I said, I’m generally thought of as a reasonably intelligent person. I have a degree, I have more academic work beyond that. I worked with juvenile sex-offenders in a locked psychiatric facility, and later I taught for many years in the classroom. I then went on to my most important and challenging work: rearing and homeschooling my daughters. I’m a voracious reader, and I write. I write all the time, even if I don’t share it. I write about not having anything to write about, for crying out loud. I write about everything, and yet a two-word philosophical phrase could put me right back in the rear of my college algebra class, struggling to wrap my brain around a concept that just didn’t seem like it wanted to be understood.

I looked at those words, and I was lost at sea, trying not to look like I was drowning.


Learning to run

Here I am, 48 years old, and it took watching my two daughters to help me understand what those words meant, and, even more important, to realize that I was, finally, living that meaning myself.

Perhaps the most precious gift we can be given in this lifetime is the opportunity to be a parent. I was given that gift nearly 22 years ago, and I have to say that I’ve learned far more from watching my children become the people that they are than I think I ever managed to teach them. You see – I’ve watched them live authentically.

I’ve been blessed to spend most of every single day with my children. I’ve been more attuned to who they are than I ever was to who I am, and now I see – so much more than I saw before they came. I’ve seen them become THEM. I watch, every day, as they struggle to find their bliss. Their fight. Their WHY. They may not have discovered it completely yet, but they go about it in a way that I wish I’d learned so much sooner.


You see, they know who they ARE. Not what they will do for the rest of their lives, not who they will marry, not things that we so often look at as being the benchmarks of a successful life. Rather, they know what they stand for. They know what they value. They know the things that make their hearts happy, and that, I think, is what it means to live authentically. They are true to themselves, true to God, and follow what makes their hearts HAPPY. Funnily enough, I think they might argue that with me, tell me that they don’t know what the heck they’re doing and what do I mean, I don’t either? But? I don’t think living authentically means you necessarily know what you’re doing. I think maybe it means remaining true to your core while you figure it out.

In the self-sacrifice that is parenthood, I have had the opportunity to learn what it means to live authentically. Not from some great work of literature, but because I’ve had the chance to live with two souls that are, perhaps, two of the most REAL I have ever known. In fumbling to help them grow, I learned what my fight was. My why. My bliss. I learned that, in order to help them live in a way that was true and right and real, I had to do the same thing myself. I had to discover the things that made my heart happy, and I had to put the effort into cultivating those things. I might not know exactly where I stood on everything, and I might not yet know exactly who I was, but when I put in effort to explore those things, every day? I was living authentically.


Maybe I’m learning to swim after all.


(the photography in the post is by both of my daughters; you can find them on Instagram at @celtaebri and @teacupukulele)

Rhiannon, New Orleans, and the Crescent City Choral Festival


Posted on : 28-Sep-2015 | By : Amber | In : Uncategorized

I don’t generally hit my friends and family up for stuff – but this is a big one, so if you’d give it a look, we’d appreciate it.

Next summer, Rhiannon will be heading to The Big Easy for the Crescent City Choral Festival.  The Virginia Children’s Chorus has provided the kids with several fundraising opportunities to help pay for the trip – I’ve put links here for all of them, and if you’d consider making a purchase (some nice Christmas gift type things here), we’d appreciate it. She’ll get roughly 40% of the purchase price added to her fundraising account with the chorus.  The fundraising campaigns are over on October 5th.


Innisbrook Gifts and Wrapping Paper (Includes Helen Grace chocolates) – please type in Rhiannon’s name when you check out.


FunPasta – When you check out, please choose “Rhiannon Murray” from the drop down menu of who you’re supporting.


Virginia Diner – when you check out, choose the Virginia Children’s Chorus in Norfolk, VA, and please type in Rhiannon’s name.  In addition, if you or your company need corporate Christmas gifts, this company offers a few nice ones.


Yankee Candle – Candles and all sorts of yummy smelling things.  I keep this in my house ALL the time.
Seller ID: Rhiannon52
(NOTE: in order for her to receive credit, please enter Seller ID as listed above.)
Group Number: 99819238


Thank you so much for taking a look at these, and maybe helping my girl out while you pick up some things for yourself or for gifts!




Memorial Day


Posted on : 23-May-2015 | By : Amber | In : Uncategorized

The Virginia Children’s Chorus Chamber Singers – “Tell My Father”

I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve written a funny post. This isn’t one, either, but it is an important one, I think, and I hope you’ll bear with me to the end.

This Monday is Memorial Day. It’s not Barbeque Day, or Pool Opening Day, or Buy A Lot of Crud Day.

It’s not a day that you wish someone a “happy” one of.

Does that mean that you shouldn’t have a cookout, or go to the pool, or buy a lot of crud? No. It doesn’t. In fact, you probably SHOULD do those things, at least the first two, but I want you to remember WHY you’re able to do those things, and I want you to spare a thought for those to whom this day strikes nerves still raw.

This is the day that we, as a country, have set aside to honor those who died while in service to the United States. That we as a people NEED to stop and reflect on those who paid the price for the freedoms that we enjoy, and to remember that those freedoms aren’t free; we are just so fortunate that someone else paid what was due. We need to remember the pain of every parent who has buried a son or daughter, every spouse who buried a husband or wife, every child who lost a mother or father. Every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman who has lost brothers and sisters in arms, for those bonds run deep.

I want you to enjoy your day. I want you to eat with your family, play games with your children, laugh with your friends. I want you to do these things because brave, brave souls gave all their tomorrows so you COULD have this day.

I just want us all to be grateful.

May your Memorial Day be one of honor, of remembrance, of gratitude, and of love.

In Flanders Fields – John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Once Upon A Time


Posted on : 06-Apr-2015 | By : Amber | In : Uncategorized

A fairy tale for you. Like all fairy tales, it offers a lesson…

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was neither beautiful nor daring. She kept her home and tended her children, and she longed for someone to share the quiet things.

One day, while walking the strange place where people shared pictures, she found a beast. He’d been wounded, and her heart hurt for him, because she’d felt those same arrows of betrayal herself in the past. So, she ignored the claws and offered herself, and pulled out little pieces of her own heart to bandage his wounds. She held him close, heedless of the blood that soaked her clothing, unafraid of the demons that never strayed far from his side.

For many months, she petted his soul and tried as best as she could to heal his hurts. His smiles made her laugh, and sometimes, when alcohol or exhaustion had loosened his tongue, he told her things that made her shiver. How he craved her touch, how amazed he was that she not only didn’t fear his demons, but danced with them. How he wanted to protect her. Those rare times kept her going when he ignored her, put up a wall against her in the picture place, didn’t answer when she called out for help because of her own hurts. He was a beast, after all, and it would take time for him to open. Surely he’d grow to value her love more than the likes and catcalls from random strangers at the picture place – after all, wouldn’t any sane beast realize that those fed his ego, but she offered to satiate his soul?

So she kept pulling out little pieces of her heart to give him when he hurt, even though it became more and more painful to do so, because she received nothing in return with which to patch up her own wounds. She hid her scars from her children and tried to go on, because her beast said he needed her. And because she loved him.

Finally, though, she broke. Wounded and bleeding, she reached out to him. He looked at her, and told her it was too messy. That he wasn’t ready to give her back any of what she’d given him. He valued her, he said, just not enough to brave the blood.

And he left her to patch her own wounds and defend her own dying heart.

It’d be way too easy to say the moral here was to be careful where you give your heart. I think, though, that perhaps there is a different one.

You see, if you wait until you’re “ready” for happiness, you’ll never actually find it. In reality, it comes when you’re willing to wade through the gore to snatch it from the mess that is life. Grab it when it comes, not when you think you’re ready. It’s the fight that MAKES you ready.

I don’t know how the above story will end. I don’t know if the beast will realize what he lost. I do know that the woman, who was neither beautiful nor daring, is in fact very brave.

And the beast is a complete and utter idiot.

New Year, New…wha?


Posted on : 12-Jan-2015 | By : Amber | In : miscellaneous garbage, Rambling rambles, Uncategorized

I know you’ve heard it.  The “new year, new me” stuff that everyone starts spouting come January 1st. You know what? I’m not going to do that, because, really? I’m not at all interested in being a new me. I’ve worked really hard to get the me I have now – why would I want to chuck that all out the window and start over again?? Seems like throwing effort after foolishness, if you ask me.

I ain’t about that life.

Does that mean there aren’t some things I want to change, or do better? Heck no! But I don’t think it’s because I want a new me – it’s because I like the road I’m on, and want to continue to go down it. I hope that makes sense. If it doesn’t, well, I don’t know what to tell ya.

This year, I intend to continue writing. Writing, and writing, and writing, and I’m not shying away from things that might be “offensive” to some.  Truth is truth, and while I can do my best to speak it in love, and I do, I won’t water it down because someone doesn’t want to hear it.

I intend to continue being a gym rat. If you haven’t been in touch with me this past year, you might have just spit your drink all over your screen.  Have your laugh, wipe off your monitor, but it’s true. I don’t miss workouts. I get CRANKY if I think I might. I lift heavy. I sweat. Who am I??

I intend to keep decluttering my home and my life. The past few months have seen me tossing the debris, physical and emotional,  that comes with holding on too much and looking backwards, not forwards. I ain’t about THAT life any more, either, and it feels pretty darn good. I want more of it.

So – for me, the “new year, new me” isn’t something I’m even remotely interested in chasing. I think I’ll just keep on being the me I’ve been becoming for 46 years.  I kind of like her.


Same me, and I'm ok with that.

Same me, and I’m ok with that.

Stuff and nonsense and more


Posted on : 16-Nov-2011 | By : Amber | In : Uncategorized

Sometimes I think the hardest part of blogging is coming up with a title for the post. I’m just sayin’.

So, yeah, I’m actually writing fairly steadily now. Not sure what to think about that. It might mean I’m developing some discipline. It might mean I have a brain tumor. It might be a sign of the apocalypse. We’ll see, I suppose. Or not.

R. turned 10 this week, and while watching my baby girl grow up and reach double digits is amazing, it just underscores how time is not just flying by, but at mach 3. Seriously. I know I just heard the midwife tell me one more push and she’d be here, you know? You’d think I’d learned that with B., but nooooo…

She wanted a camera and a ukulele for her birthday, which she got. She and B. can already play the ukulele. That brings the instruments between them to – well, let’s count. Violin, tin whistle, recorder, guitar, mandolin and now ukulele. 6. They both did a headline benefit concert with the Flowing Tide Ceili Band last Saturday, which was very cool. It was R.’s first “real” gig. B. has been playing paying gigs for years. Fair bit of coin was raised for the homeless meals program at the Jewish Christian Outreach Center, which is the organization that hired FTCB. Much awesomeness all around. Lovely venue, too.

Archer got to go play with the sheep the other day, and I have to say, he did really, really well. He’s matured so much, unlike his owner, and is starting to think before he does something, watching what the shepherd is doing, working in balance with her. No, the shepherd is not me. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing with sheep. I can do neat things with their wool, but not while it’s on their backs. That would just be weird.

Does anyone else on twitter worry that when someone you tweet to doesn’t respond, you’ve been blocked or are considered a pain in the butt? No? Guess it’s just me, then. Figures.

Actual conversation in the car the other day:

B: So, I’m so going to end up married to a military guy.

Me: How so?

B: Uniforms are just hot.

Me: Is that XXXXX in the uniform there?

B: Mmm-hmmm

Me: OMG. You have a type.

B: No, I don’t!

Me: Yes, you do! He could be XXX’s brother, and you have a type!

B: Well, so do you.

Me: I know. Tall, handsome, and carrying a weapon. Have you looked at your father? Why do you think I drag him to the range as often as humanly possible?

B: I try not to.

And that is why I won’t be getting any mother of the year awards.

R and I, on one of the days that she decided it was cool to hug her mother.

See? I can do the regular bloggity-blog thing.


Posted on : 07-Nov-2011 | By : Amber | In : Uncategorized

It’s way later than I should be up, and I should be writing on my NaNoWriMo project, but since I’m really, really good at procrastination muti-tasking, I’m writing on this instead. Where, you know, I don’t need to worry about things like plot, or income, or – yeah.

If you’re wondering what NaNoWriMo is, you can go here and find out. I’ll wait.

Pretty neat, huh? At least I’m hoping it’ll really force me to finish my @#$% book and stop looking at my lack of words-on-paper as a personal failure.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. Yeah, I wanted to be a veterinarian, too, but since I passed out when the vet let me sit in on my dog’s surgery, that one sort of went out the window. I did my internships in college and wrote for a local magazine. I taught English for 8 years (and yeah, I’d have snatched a kid up for using these run-on sentences), and I enjoyed that, but – couldn’t say I’d achieved my ultimate goal. I’ve written for OTHER people’s blogs and got paid to do it, which was pretty cool, because, hey, getting paid to do what I actually enjoyed, even if writing about RV refrigerators wasn’t the most exciting thing ever. But – it wasn’t the writing I wanted to do for ME.

So, here I am, and I’ve got this FEELING hanging over me that, if I don’t get this done, I’m going to have to cross it off my list unfinished, and I’m just not willing to do that, not yet. Life will always have a string of “I wish I’d have”, and I accept that, but this – this one I’m not willing to count among them. Not yet.

I don’t expect a lot out of the first draft of this. All first drafts are crap, it’s been said (and by much better writers than yours truly) and, really, my biggest obstacle is getting the whole thing down to start with. I tend to over-think. I tend to over-analyze. I tend to then procrastinate, because I’m fed up with my over-thinking and over-analyzing. I think this is where the whole “daughter of a Special Forces military guy and an artist” really shows itself. I wage this constant battle between organization and happy chaos.

So, this is where I ask for you guys to help out. You see – I really do better when there are outside forces curbing my ADDish tendencies and redirecting what brain cells I have back to where they need to be. If you know me (and you probably do, because, let’s face it, I think all of four people read this), nudge me. Poke me with a stick. Whenever you think of it. Try to think of it often, please. I need it.

A lot. Really.

If you don’t know me, but think that’s something you might enjoy, you can poke me with a stick, too. I do carry a gun, but take it very seriously, so you’re not in any danger.

I DO. Take it seriously. If you lived here, you’d carry, too. Just sayin’. I’ve got daughters to protect!

See, there goes that whole tangent thing again. I told you so.

Wow. I stink at this whole updating regularly thing.


Posted on : 28-Oct-2011 | By : Amber | In : Dogs, homeschooling, miscellaneous garbage, Rambling rambles, Uncategorized

I’ll try to make the post worth your while though. You might want to pour a drink. I find it helps in dealing with me.

So I’ve been TRYING to get into the whole “homeschooling for a new year” thing since the end of August, and to be honest, I still feel like I’m swimming upstream. Wearing ankle weights. And a sweater.

We’re managing, but I haven’t managed to attain that zen attitude I keep hoping for. Maybe I’m just not a zen sort of person. Maybe it’s because my man is sitting next to me yelling at Texas in the World Series. Maybe I’m the one that needs that drink. Stop judging me.

You’d think, with Halloween so soon upon us (wow, that sounded posh), that I’d be more excited. Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited. I’ve invested so much time making sure that my daughters truly appreciate the macabre and bizarre that I could miss the actual donning of the costumes/sugar coma and still enjoy the moment. Thing is – well, to be honest I dunno what the thing is. I think I’m just in one of those weird places I get when the days get shorter and P. yells at professional athletes. I need to spend more time with Archer the Wonder Dog. That makes me, if not zen, then at least not bitey and snarly. And I cook more.

Archer the Wonder Dog

My pup makes me happy. Handsome boy, isn\’t he?

I HAVE been writing, which is a good thing, and I’ve been doing it the old fashioned way. No, not stylus and wax, I’m not that old. Shut up. Fountain pen and paper. This has been good for my creative process, and for my manicure, because I’m sort of a beast at the keyboard. I type violently. I don’t know what this says about me. However, I am discovering that I can still type with nails! I am discovering this right now. This instant. It pleases me.

Writing this way must be good for my creative process, because I’m having very vivid dreams, that I actually remember, and my characters are starting to stand up for themselves and tell me what they’re really thinking, and I’m pretty sure that means I’m becoming more in touch with my creative side. Or more insane. Either/or, really.

I am glad that cooler weather is here, because sweating when you’re just walking to the car is just not on, and my pups really, really, really don’t like the heat. Of course, Ceili the Elder Dog doesn’t like the cold, either. She does like raw chicken, so there is something left in the world that makes her happy. Cooler weather also means, maybe, Archer will get to play with the sheep some more, and that will make him happy. And tired.

It will also give Bri more of a chance to work on her action photography, and Rori a chance to, well, be a kid on a farm for a few hours. There could be baby ducks. There will at least be eggs, and she’s got a good imagination.

If Texas loses tonight I’m going to have to buy a pound of taffy and force feed it to Patrick. I don’t know how much longer I can take the yelling at the television without doing something suddenly and all over the place.

I have a short fuse. Deal with it. Or don’t, really. It’s all ok.

Veteran’s Day


Posted on : 11-Nov-2010 | By : Amber | In : Uncategorized

If you’re looking for the weirdness that is the usual discussion of my life, you won’t find it here. You see, this day is important to me, for a lot of reasons, and I think that deserves one of my few serious moments.

Because of the men and women who stood, and still stand, in defense of our country, I have the freedom to write these insane, irreverent ramblings. Because they took up arms in dark times, I can choose what church I want to walk into, or choose not to walk into one at all. Because they donned a uniform, I can decide where and how to educate my children. Because many died on foreign soil, I can not only criticize my government openly, I can change it by walking into a voting booth.

I can bear arms to protect my family. I can speak openly and freely. I can choose my career, my spouse, my religion. I can do so many things that others elsewhere only dream of – because of those who once served, and who still do.

My father served. My father-in-law served. My uncle, my grandfathers – they served. Dear friends of mine still wear the uniforms of the armed forces of this country, and I am proud to call them friends.

So: Phil, Don, Willie, Rusty, Billy, Alex W., Bob C., Bob L., Cade C., Cathy S., Chris F., Chris H., David L., Derek B., DJ G., Doug R., Eugene P., Jerry R., Joe B., Josh K., Kevin S., Keaton B., Mark H., Matt P., Mekala P., Patrick L., Robert S., Ross S., Shawn C., Staci C., Steve C., Todd M., Richard L., Michael S., Pat R., Denny R., Wade S. – and so many others – thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.