Guess What I’m Doing

screenshot 12.10.19

Just a housewife

Let me share a few things about myself which may not be immediately clear just from reading my blog:

I became a mother at age 21.

Last year I took my first commercial flight since I was 3.

I have never been outside of the USA.

I have done almost no traveling outside of the Midwest.

I was planning to be a high school English teacher before I became a mother.

I have 5 kids and two step-children.

I am entirely self-taught re scripture, religion, philosophy/rhetoric, psychology, ANE culture, and other topics I discuss here.

I have never been able to learn a foreign language.

I have been a stay-at-home mom/housewife for the last 12 years.

At this moment, I am sitting in my bedroom in a house that can be seen from I-94 ignoring 3 of my children who are bickering and pretending to be hissing cats.

All of which is to say that from the outside, I hardly seem like anyone special who would be qualified to speak on anything special.  I’m just a housewife.  It has taken a lot of chutzpa on my part to keep writing here as if I had anything anyone might be interested in reading. (more…)

Sometimes You Just Have To Be Your Own Cheerleader!

Dearest Rebecca,

Hi! I’ve heard that you’ve been having a hard time lately so I thought you could use some encouragement. I know that between being sick and hating housework and wishing you could have just one full child free day and night every couple of years, you feel like you’re drowning and can’t hold things together. Heck, I hear that you even lost your purse last week after leaving it on the top of the car. What a bummer! But, you know, shit happens. Shake it off. No use crying over spilt milk and all that. I mean look at all the things you’re juggling. You’ve got 5 kids. Everyday you make sure people are wearing clean clothes and sleeping on clean sheets and some days your own clothes are even clean. You check backpacks and harass errant students and sometimes even remember girl scout meetings before they start. (more…)

Writing my first traditional, non-sucky Haiku


I wish I could show

 the beauty I see in you

when love looks through me

Many poets say that their poems just come to them, often fully formed.  This is both how I usually write poems and why I haven’t written a lot more poetry. Usually it starts with some phrase that floats around my head for a while.  Sometimes that’s all there is.   I’ve had some phrases floating around my head for years that I’ve never figured out what to do with. (“A sense of the color of things” is my favorite.)  But sometimes, I can get a couple more lines worked out, and I’ll sit down to write.  When I’m really lucky, all the rest is just there.  There’s always fiddling to be done, but the body of the poem has been provided. 

 For the last several days, the lines above have been floating around my head, but every time I sat down to write anything with them, I couldn’t go a single word further.  This afternoon, I typed them out and once again couldn’t go any further.  So I sat with it a minute and it occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t supposed to go any further.  I counted up the syllables and sure enough, I had a serviceable haiku

It had been there all along. I just needed to stop trying to make it into something it wasn’t and look at it a little differently. Much like  life sometimes we’re so busy trying to get things to me the way we think they are supposed to be that we miss what is.  Maybe if we thought to stop and look a little differently more often, we would discover that everything has been alright the whole time.   

Now Its Time For A Love Poem

A Tweet to the first person to guess correctly how old I was when I wrote this!


A Love Story

A turn of fate

A twist of the eye

The misalignment of moonlight

The glow of stars

And you are in love

Suddenly the world is blind

And you are beautiful

You’ve found someone to share your lunch with.

You cry at his jokes

And laugh at your wedding

Then you buy a frog

and the kids live happily ever after.

So you sell the washer and dryer

To buy a garden

Where you plant ladybugs until 3 pm

When it’s time to go, dear

And you ride away on your tandem bike.

I Am The Willow In Winter

Picture Cribbed From "From the Lilypad"

I wrote this poem ages and ages ago but never thought it was very good.  But lines from it keep popping into my head lately.  So I thought I’d share. 

I am the willow in winter

Long swaying branches

like tenticles

dance on frigid air

tinkling an icy fugue

the leafless branches

are all beauty, no life.

I will be the willow in spring

reaching down to choke the deep

and pull out life.

And I will dance

in warm, moist air

full of life

green leaves

making shushing noises

as they rub together

these leaves will die again

in fall

the next time

the coldness of the world

overcomes the willow

and me.

You Like Me, You Really, Really Like Me!

The internet is so awesome.  It’s like a really broad-scale demonstration of what it would look like if we took the most prosperous 25% of all humanity and transferred their brains to the “the cloud”.  It’s like the internet – the good, the bad, the so bad it’s good and so good it’s making me want to start a meme – is just sitting out there reflecting back at us what we put into it.

The downside is realizing that apparently many of us like to spend inordinate amounts of time watching emotionally damaged drug addicts get paid to pretend to enjoy having sex with each other for the camera rather than taking the time and effort to think up something that we might actually get to try later.  (No wonder there are so many sexless marriages – no one ever has to take the time to think of fun things to do themselves!)  And apparently a lot of us figure its worth throwing a few bucks into the “get rich with an idea so simple you’ll be amazed no one has thought of it before” lottery – just in case we stumbled into one of those stories that show up about unexpected and sudden kajillionaires.  Wouldn’t want to be like the people who turned down jobs at Microsoft (if there actually are any), would you?  And every good politician knows that investment is how real wealth gets made.  It’s what people sick of working do when they don’t have enough money to gamble on wall street.

But there is an amazing amount of really good stuff wandering through our collective minds as well.  As I mentioned the other day in my post “Just a Housewife“, I am pretty much entirely self-taught when it comes to things like the bible, religion, education, psychology and the other topics I blog about here.  Probably 90% of that education has come off the internet.  For those who are interested in looking, it’s a treasure trove of source documents, unusual ideas and places to engage in serious conversations about serious things.

Just like Wikipedia has been proven to be about as accurate as a traditional encyclopedia (albeit with a much more detailed entry on Brittney Spears), I would pit the results of my internet education against more traditional experts when it comes to a lot of topics.  Unfortunately, not being a recognized, credentialed expert means its hard to get heard.  What keeps me plugging away, though, is that when people do read what I write, the response is unusually good.  A popular blog has about a 6% response rate.  In the first 24 hours after posting things (most blog posts die pretty quickly), my reader response rate (measured by “likes”, shares and comments) usually runs about 3 times that.  Several blog posts I wrote show up at the top of the page on google when you search “women’s roles in the bible” or “my burden is easy” or a few other fairly common phrases.

All of which is simply a very long (both hopefully engaging) way of saying that I need help building a larger reader base.  I really do think that I have things to say which people could find helpful or interesting and that aren’t the same things being said every where else.  So, I just want to ask and encourage anyone who likes the things they read here to share this blog with people they know and at places they hang out on the internet.  Not because I think I have all the answers, but because I think that I have some ideas that other people might enjoy encountering.  So, next time you read something you like here, don’t just “Like” it or leave a comment, please pass it on elsewhere.  “Like” The Upside Down World on facebook, mention the blog to other people you talk to or perhaps mention it on your own blogs.  I am trying to do a better job of promoting the blogs and voices I enjoy, largely through “Best of the Week” posts like the one I did last week and which I am going to try to do each week. I would also love to hear from other people who have been able to build their readership on how they did it.  Leave a comment!

One last note, I put up a donation link (that tip jar over there) which people can use to make cash donations to the blog.  In addition to milk and diapers, I would really like to be able to make a few strategic advertising purchases, but I have no funds.  If this is something you would like to support, please consider making a donation today.

Finally, I want to offer a sincerely thank you to the people who do read this blog and take the time to respond.  It encourages me more than you know.  Over the summer when I was putting The Upside Down World – A Book of Wisdom in Progress together, I was on the verge of losing my nerve.  After all, very few people showed an actual interest in the things I write.  So, one night when I really was ready to chuck the whole project, I re-read the 40+ comments people have left for me over the years in response to the most popular blog post I have ever written (which is also found in my book).  Over and over again, people thanked me for the post, shared what they were going through, how much then needed encouragement and told me that they were encouraged by what I had written.  So, I picked my fragile self-confidence up off the floor and kept going.  Because at the end of the day, I don’t really care if anyone knows my name or who I am.  But it means a lot to me to think that perhaps someone’s life might be a little more bearable, enlightened and encouraged because of the things I have to share.

Just a housewife

Let me share a few things about myself which may not be immediately clear just from reading my blog:

I became a mother at age 21.

Last year I took my first commercial flight since I was 3.

I have never been outside of the USA.

I have done almost no traveling outside of the Midwest.

I was planning to be a high school English teacher before I became a mother.

I have 5 kids and two step-children.

I am entirely self-taught re scripture, religion, philosophy/rhetoric, psychology, ANE culture, and other topics I discuss here.

I have never been able to learn a foreign language.

I have been a stay-at-home mom/housewife for the last 12 years.

At this moment, I am sitting in my bedroom in a house that can be seen from I-94 ignoring 3 of my children who are bickering and pretending to be hissing cats.

All of which is to say that from the outside, I hardly seem like anyone special who would be qualified to speak on anything special.  I’m just a housewife in Wisconsin.  It has taken a lot of chutzpa on my part to keep writing here as if I had anything anyone might be interested in reading.

And it doesn’t help that I come from a family filled with people who have or are doing things that are much more impressive and interesting than anything I’ve ever done.  My dad and all of his siblings all have advanced degrees.  My dad travels the world as an expert in his field, speaking at conferences, testifying at trials and conferring with policy makers in his area of expertise.  My mother has a brother who is a multimillionaire entrepreneur.  Another of her brothers married into the family that founded a large financial services company whose name you are quite familiar with.  Several of my siblings have spent time living overseas in places like Italy, Poland, Turkey and Uganda.  Between all of them, I can think of at least 15 countries my siblings have visited.  They have earned their way to each of those places themselves.  They’ve had odd, interesting jobs like working on a whale-watching cruise ship, working on a pineapple farm in Hawaii and teaching inner-city kids.  They have hiked through Alaskan wilderness.  It can be a bit hard to be a housewife, surrounded by so many worldly, impressive people.

But I know a secret that most people never learn; that the landscape of the human heart is as wild and strange and fascinating as anything in all of creation.  And I don’t have to travel the world or make a lot of money or have a fancy education to explore the human heart.  Being a housewife in Wisconsin works just fine for that.

A few years back, my beautiful sister Cindy and her husband Greg quit their jobs and spent several months traveling around East Africa, Thailand, Nepal and India.  While there Cindy and Greg stayed at a Buddhist retreat center for a week of silence and meditation.  They kept a blog while traveling and wrote one blog post for each leg of their journey.  As I read the entry from this part of their journey, I had to smile.  They had traveled completely to the other side of the world in order to experience things that I have also experienced as a housewife in Wisconsin.

I remember how during long car rides driving my husband to work and my boys to their Montessori school back when we only had one car I realized that my head was filled with a chattering, often pointless, mean and critical voice that needed to be tamed.  I wanted to hear God more easily but had to shut that voice up first.

I remember having to learn to push impatience aside to just be while reading Hop on Pop and Everyone Poops 30 times in a row.

I remember listening and letting my brain chatter itself out while doing dishes.

I remember understanding at an emotional level that we are outnumbered by insects while watching ants move their nurseries when I disturbed them when turning sod over to make my first garden.

I remember learning to cultivate quiet in my brain while going about the mundane business of driving and cleaning and walking and gardening.  Where once my brain boiled like raging water,  my consciousness became like the still water of a pond early in the morning.  My thoughts became like the ripples caused by a fish nabbing a waterbug on the surface.  Purposeful, directed, sustaining.

I remember learning to let my brain pull up the scripture verses I had tucked deep within in response to the various questions, topics and problems that would float into my consciousness through the quiet once the chattering had been tamed.

On her final day of meditation, my sister was able to enter into the joy of the Loving Kindness Meditation.  I felt a certain amount of pride and gratitude as I read her description of creating and expanding love and kindness out from herself and into the world.  Although I am not buddhist and had only heard about the Loving Kindness Meditation in passing, as I read her description, I recognized the experience.  I knew that prayer, that place, that state of being quite well.  I have sat with it often over the years.

I remember long ago when I first found that place of loving kindness in my parent’s living room as a little girl, spinning in circles with my arms and heart open wide.  I had started to pray, “God bless my mom and dad.  Bless my brothers and sisters.  Bless my next door neighbors.  Bless the people in my neighborhood.  Bless my town.  Bless my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents.”  As I prayed (I don’t ever remember saying a real prayer before this one), I brought to mind individuals and skylines and creatures and plants and rocks and maps and continents and oceans and the earth itself with its moon.  I asked God to bless them all as joy rose up in me and I continued to spin in the golden afternoon light.  I asked God to bless the galaxies in all their strangeness and the heavens with all their spirits and all that he had made and all that came before and all that would come after.  And then, when I couldn’t think of what else to ask God to bless, but still feeling the need to extend the love that felt like it was radiating from my chest outwards, I ended: “God bless you.  And God bless me.  Let me be a blessing to you.” and I was satisfied.

Because you don’t have to travel the world or live in exotic lands to experience great spiritual things.  Being a little girl spinning in circles or a housewife in Wisconsin works just fine.

What to do when you wake up in hell

Today, I want to share a bit more about a short story from my book The Upside Down World – A Book of Wisdom in Progress.  In the story, I imagine a conversation between the resurrected Jesus and one of his disciples when the question, “what was it like being dead?” gets asked.  From the story:

As he stared into the fire in front of him, Jesus couldn’t help but wish he could  tell this disciple the whole story.  That he had woken up dead and not in paradise as he’d promised the thief who had hung next to him.  How instead of the joyous return home to his father that he had been expecting, he found himself in Sheol.  Just like everybody else. And God was nowhere to be seen.  This was what the people following him weren’t ready to understand – how very human Jesus’ experience was.  How for moments that felt like eternity he had despaired at finding himself dead with all the other souls that had come before him.  This was not the reward he had suffered so much for.

The story then goes on to describe the harrowing of hell from Jesus’ perspective with this pivotal moment:

“This cannot be.  It just can’t.  Not any longer.”  He could hardly explain where it came from.  He just knew that after many long years of learning to love God and live God while walking the earth, even in hell, his heart could not let go of the hope that was his in God.

So Jesus did just what he had promised the Pharisees that the rocks would do if no one else would – he began to shout out  worship to God.

In the end, what he tells his disciple is this:

Jesus looked towards him and spoke quietly but firmly, “I descended into the world of the dead and preached the good news of my Father there.  Those souls that would follow were rescued from the darkness and lead to their reward in God’s kingdom.”

The disciple nodded slowly, trying to process all that this meant.  He got the jist of it – that Jesus could save even the dead.  Jesus knew that although his disciple didn’t understand it in full, the seed had been planted.  It was what he and every other follower who would come after him would need to know in order to survive: if you find yourself in hell, keep going.

This story is pretty special to me.  I wrote it specifically for the book after the manuscript was pretty much done.  It just came to me and I felt compelled to put it in.  And in the months that have followed, I have thought of its message more than once.  Which is true of many of the things I write.  When I write something, I would love for other people to find some sort of comfort, inspiration, or thought provoking idea in it.  But its not completely alturistic.  I often find myself depending on things I write during difficult times as well.

As I have mentioned before, I have a toddler named Olivia.  Olivia has always approached sleep the way most people approach death; they aren’t exactly sure why, but they are going to fight with all their might to avoid it for as long as they can.  For most of her life, we had to put her to sleep by holding her down, while also holding her hands (she pinches!) and keeping her from moving her head (she also bites!).  But in the last few months, I have been able to get her to go to sleep at night by holding her and singing to her.  I have a few hymns that I usually sing to her to put her to sleep, but there have been times when I have been so discouraged that singing a hymn was the last thing I wanted to do.  I remember one night I tried to think of other songs to sing her and was alarmed to discover that for some reason I couldn’t seem to remember the words to any non-Christian song I know.  So, some nights I think of this story and think of Jesus overcoming his despair to praise God – even in hell – and I sing the hymns that put my baby to sleep for the night.  Some nights, the words would barely come out and I just croaked them the best that I could and hoped that maybe just repeating them in the middle of my despair would count for something.  Jesus’ example gives me hope that they do.

If you like the things I write here or found this story interesting or intriguing in any way, I hope you will consider purchasing a copy of my book, The Upside Down World.  It’s an ecclectic collection of essays, short stories, poetry, ideas, spiritual memoir and more.  In it are many of the things I have written that I personally go back to for inspiration and comfort when I need it.  The book can be purchased on Amazon.  I am also offering a buy-one-give-one deal on full price copies of the book ($12 plus $2 shipping) ordered directly from me.  For each copy of the book purchased directly from me, I will donate a copy to Transport for Christ or Freedom Works Prison Fellowship.  These are two local groups who have agreed to give copies of the book free of charge to people they minister to.  If you are interested in the buy-one-give-one offer, please email me at with “b1g1” in the message.

Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge

This may sound odd coming from someone who writes and thinks about Christianity as much as I do, but I rarely read Christian books.  I don’t even visit Christian sights and blogs anymore.   Most of what’s out there is just the same thing over and over or people arguing with each other.  So its not usually worth my time.  The one current author who is, in my opinion, a huge exception to this is John Eldredge.  It’s not because I agree with everything he writes or think he’s the best writer ever (I don’t and he’s good, but not that good).  It’s because he has this compelling view of Christianity and God and humanity and what is going on and what it’s all about that really resonates with my own understanding.

Because of this perspective, Eldredge is one of the few writers out there who can see and communicate how all of those things: Christianity, God, humanity, meaning and purpose – all work together.  I think that the key is that his perspective is so firmly embedded in both the physical and the spiritual worlds and he doesn’t try to twist one to make it fit the other as most writers do.  So he comfortably and un-apologetically uses movies and music and all the things we love to illustrate what love and faith and courage and struggle actually look like.  He’s not afraid to tangle with the messy reality of the real world like so many Christian leaders are and he takes flack for that.  And he does it without ever compromising the spiritual truths he is trying to explain.  At any rate, I really enjoy most of his work.  (If I could get every person to read one Christian book in their lives it would be his book Waking the Dead.)

The reason I am bringing this up is because Mr. Eldredge has a new book coming out called Beautiful Outlaw.  From the product description:

Reading the Gospels without knowing the personality of Jesus is like watching television with the sound turned off. The result is a dry, two dimensional person doing strange, undecipherable things.

In BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW, John Eldredge removes the religious varnish to help readers discover stunning new insights into the humanity of Jesus. He was accused of breaking the law, keeping bad company, heavy drinking. Of being the devil himself. He was so compelling and dangerous they had to kill him. But others loved him passionately. He had a sense of humor. His generosity was scandalous. His anger made enemies tremble. He’d say the most outrageous things. He was definitely not the Jesus of the stained glass.

The book is due out October 12 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Now, I am a fan of Eldredge and normally that would be enough for me to be happy to see the book coming out but it wouldn’t be enough for me to write a blog post about it.  The reason I am particularly interested in this book and I hope it does very well is because of an odd connection that came up between my book, The Upside Down World and Beautiful Outlaw.  For those who haven’t read it, The Upside Down World is an ecclectic (read odd) assortment of essays, poems, art, notes, spiritual memoir, stories and what not.  It contains a couple of essays from this blog, but mostly the material in it had been written over the course of many years.  I did have to clean up and finish a lot of what went into the book, but the basic material was created before the book was even an idea.  However, when I was nearly done preparing the book for print publication, I felt strongly lead to write a short story called “What to Do When You Wake Up In Hell” to include in the book.  It’s one of the things in the book that I’m most pleased with, actually.

“What to Do When You Wake Up In Hell” is the imaginative telling of a disciple asking the resurrected Jesus what it was like to be dead.  In it, I describe what I imagine might be the internal dialogue of both the disciple and Jesus to illuminate what each person’s experience has been and how each of them thinks about what has happened.  (You will have to buy the book and read it to get the detail; I can’t begin to do the story justice here.)  So, the day after I finished writing this section and had just re-read it and decided that I was pleased with how it came out, I happened to find a months old, unopened newsletter from Ransomed Heart, Eldredge’s ministry.  I opened it up and read about this upcoming book Beautiful Outlaw which I had not heard about before.  The letter contained an excerpt from the book and in that excerpt, I could see that Eldredge was doing exactly what I had just done with my short story.  He’s putting flesh and bones and reality back into stories that we all know, but which have lost much of their power to over-use, shallow reading, the bible’s oddly flat descriptions and so on.  And even better, the person of Jesus he’s describing is very familiar to me.  It fits with what I know and have experienced and best of all its real.  I’m mean, there’s a chapter in the book that’s called “Jesus had poopie dieapers” or something like that.  The Jesus he is talking about and which I also had in mind when I wrote that story is not some sanitized, Sunday-school approved two dimensional character, but a real personality.

Those of you who know me personally know what a difficult summer this has been for me.  But all along the way, God has been dropping little hints like pebbles left to mark the trail He wants me to follow, telling me that I’m going the right way and that He hasn’t abandoned me – no matter what it looks like from the outside.  Reading that newsletter about the book Beautiful Outlaw was one of those pebbles for me.  I don’t think it’s a co-incidence that Eldredge has a vision and an understanding of the person of Jesus that is so close to my own.  I think it is God moving to reclaim the reality of who He is and what he and his son are about in a world which desperately needs something much more real than anything the church has had to offer for a long time.  And as much as I’d like to have my book be a financial success, seeing that God is moving and there are people like Mr. Eldredge listening and responding is even better.

So, that’s why I’m excited enough about a book I haven’t even read yet to write about it here.  I hope that even if you aren’t the sort of person who normally reads Christian books, I’ve piqued your interest enough for you to consider putting your order in for Beautiful Outlaw.  And I most certainly hope you will order a copy of my book, The Upside Down World as well.  Come on, people – for every two copies of the book I sell, a 20 month old Trotter child will receive a week’s worth of diapers from Walmart.  It’s for a good cause!  lol.

Here’s a trailer for the book Beautiful Outlaw.

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