The Circle Maker and the Miracle (Our Homeschool Story), 2

If you're just popping in, be sure to read pt 1 of the story: The Seven Year Prayer.

In January of this year, our small group at church began a video series by Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker. I was intrigued. The premise of the book is: Dream Big. Pray Hard. Think Long. Batterson talks about the story of Honi, a man who changed everything when he drew a circle around himself in the dirt, praying for rain, and refusing to leave the circle until the rains came. Guess what? They came.

The four week series drew me in, as he asked us "What's YOUR biggest dream? What's your Jericho?".

I thought long and hard over this, dumbfounded at the idea that my biggest dream could be, anything I wanted it to be. So often I've thought I needed to pray hard for others, for things needed. But to pray about something, I wanted? I felt selfish. Soon, I began to realize actually, God wants to hear about what we want. He wants to hear about our dreams.

Soon, my dream of homeschooling made it's way into my thoughts, quickly I brushed it away thinking, nah, it won't happen, there's no changing the fact that my husband's heart and mine aren't in the same place.

Boy was I wrong.

The Circle Maker inspired me. I began to believe, trust, hope. I prayed over Matthew 21:22, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." I circled it. Literally. I wrote it on the chalkboard wall, on post it notes. I told a few friends, my grandma, and asked for others to circle it too.

I did this every morning, as the sun was still sunken behind the hills, long before my babies would wake for school. I prayed, and I believed.

I told God, "I believe you'll do a great thing - but if this isn't what YOU want, please remove it from my heart, because to be honest, this is exhausting. Year after year, conversation after conversation. It's yours, not mine, it's not in my control, it's in Yours."

A few months later, I decided to have the conversation, prepared for the reply I'd gotten every year now. Instead, he listened, asked a few questions, voiced a few concerns, but said yes, he would pray about it.

Say what?

He. Said. He. Would. Pray.

Internally I was screaming, outwardly, I was trying my best to put on a chill face. Not sure I accomplished that, but I did my best.

The following weeks I spent in great anticipation. I continued to circle the verse in Matthew, to wake before the sun, to pray over this. I'd made it this far, but there was still a lot of Jericho to go around.

The next conversation was rough. I felt defeated and discouraged. I wasn't sure how I would ever change his heart.

I forgot, it wasn't my job to be the heart changer, no, it was my job to be the prayer warrior.

Husband asked me to create a proposal. This is like asking a Panda if she wants to eat Bamboo. Um OKAY. I set to work, designing a gorgeously branded, nineteen-page, PDF to present to him. Yes, I know, I take things ten steps too far. Whatev.

Weeks I worked on this, researching, planning, praying. I poured myself into it. Finding local co-ops to join, planning activities and possibilities, and even making both personal and academic goals for each of our three children.

There was no stone un-turned, no page un-read. All the t's were crossed and i's dotted.

In the meantime, God was working in other ways:

  • Left and right friends came to me, unknowing that this was brewing, to tell me they had decided to home school. In fact, two of these are two of my closest friends.
  • The leader of a boys group our guys are joining soon, mentioned casually he and his wife just started homeschooling their little ones. WITH THE CHARTER WE ARE APPLYING TO.
  • An old buddy of Justin's was now in touch with him, praising he and his wife's choice to home school. WITH THE CHARTER WE ARE APPLYING TO.
  • Our basketball coach gladly agreed to let the boys play in his league regardless of where they attend school.
  • Luke's teacher not only supports the idea, but has been one of the biggest encouragements, offering to help in any way we need in the coming year. (Have I mentioned how much I love her?)

I could go on and on, it seemed that daily, something happened, or fell into my lap. I could almost SEE the Lord smiling down upon me.

Then just as I was finishing the proposal, we had an eye opening appt with our oldest's therapist. An amazing, wonderful, Christian, man. Divine intervention if you will.

We're now in the process of a probable ADHD diagnosis. Which, if you've been through it, explains, everything. It's almost a feeling of, relief. So many mixed emotions.

His therapist then said the words that about made me cry, "it's too bad there isn't an educational option that would really allow him to learn the way he needs to learn best."

And with that, and half hour more of talking, our therapist told me that homeschooling could really benefit Danny right now, learning how he best learns - instilling the lost confidence, encouraging his wounded spirit, reminding him he is capable, intelligent, and worthy.

Needless to say, the following day, as I handed my lovely, brightly colored, proposal to my husband, I felt a peace beyond description.

I smiled, sat next to him, and watched God do a miracle.

When the words "I 100% support this, let's do it." came from my husband's mouth, I felt as though Heaven had nearly opened up and rained unicorns and rainbows upon me. Or endless iced coffees and gift cards to Target.

No really.


Tuesday April 12, 2016 I witnessed the biggest answer to prayer I've ever seen.

We're gonna homeschool.

We're gonna homeschool.

We're. Gonna. Homeschool.

The final part of the story, What it is and What it isn't, tomorrow.


The Seven Year Prayer (Our Homeschool Story), 1

They need knowledge, but they also need just as desperately to keep the creativity they were born with.

My pal Sharon McKeeman wrote these words on her blog, and when I read them recently I stopped in my tracks. Because this sentence, these words of hers, perfectly summed up what my heart is bursting to sing.

Desperately. They desperately need, I desperately need, our family desperately, needs.

And so, here begins part one of our story. I'm thrilled to share that, the Warrens have decided to bring our babies home, to educate them here (or outside, or at the beach, or in a car, or on a tree...).

The journey to this place is not a short one, or has it been easy. I'll tell you one thing, one big thing, and that is this: God has heard the prayers, seven years worth. He's done it in His timing, He's handed me a gift I thought for many long years, I'd never have the joy to receive. He's done this humongous, great, vast, incredible thing - and I'll not speak of it quietly.

Homeschooling has always been on my heart, let me re-phrase, it's been a huge part OF my heart. Since our Danny entered Kinder in the fall of 2010, I've wanted him to be home. My husband however, did not share that heart tug with me.

This is the topic that drove massive amounts of misunderstanding, hurt, anger, and the like, into our days - all the things that tear down a relationship.

Each year, we sent our kids off to school, both public and private (all GREAT schools, all three of them our eldest has attended). But each year, my heart hurt. It physically, ached. I'm the mom that cries when summer break is over, or holiday weekends. My children are loud, and wild, and crazy - but I genuinely enjoy them home, under my wing.

So every year, as school registration approached, I timidly brought the idea up, only to remember, my husband's heart wasn't aligned with mine.

The funny thing about not getting what you want is, years later, if you're super lucky, you'll see why it was the best thing that you did not get what you wanted, in that time.

I see it now. I eat my words. I smile and nod.

I wasn't in the right place, our kids weren't. God wasn't ready to give me the desire of my heart, because He knew, in His sovereign foresight, that it wasn't the right time.

Year, after year, after year, my heart hurt. I watched friends share their days through social media, those friends that home-educated. I envied that, oh did I. Was that right? Of course not. Still, the heart wants what it wants.

So I prayed some, here and there. Sighed and gave up, yet again, on the dream to school my kids at home.

Husband had concerns, valid concerns. Many of them. Concerns that a lot of people have.

Did I feel hurt? Sure. Did I want to be rebellious and do it anyhow? Yes, often times I did. Do I see now, that again, timing wasn't right? In 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 even? I do, oh I do.

Do I share this to bash my husband? Hardly. Not a bit actually. In fact, he is often wiser than I give him credit for. God was doing a great work in us both, in our marriage, in us individually. I share this to encourage you. As I was encouraged just a few months ago by a dear friend (thanks Tara!!).

Whether you're hoping to get your husband on board with homeschooling, or something else. Hear me when I say, choose grace, joy, even contentment through it.

I urge you: pray without ceasing. Give it to God. Honor your spouse, whether your hearts meet on the issue or not, love them.

Love them, love them, love them.

Be still, and know that whether it be seven weeks or seven years, He hears our prayers. He is good, all the time. Even in the midst of wondering what the bigger picture is, in the midst of the aching.

Tomorrow, I'll share part 2. The Circle Maker and the Miracle.


Messy, Beautiful

Life is messy. Just like bathroom mirrors. But guess what? In the midst of mess, is *the* most incredible stuff. Beautiful stuff.

Losing my mom was messy. The grieving part of me wanted things, impulsive things. If it weren't for the gentle but firm insight of those closest to me, I wouldn't get to see the miracle of timing.

I couldn't see, in that time or even years prior, into the future. No way I'd have known the incredible things that would shower upon me in the spring of 2016.

But from this side of the mess, I can say without a doubt: His timing is perfect. It's amazing. It's awe inspiring.

This side of the mess is full of goodness and grace, and years of prayers answered and opportunities I quite literally never expected to experience.

As I step out of the comfort zone and into the future, our family, I'm anxious in the best way for what's to come, I feel giddy. Like. A kid at Christmas.

I am insanely excited to talk more about it. To share of His goodness. And I will.

For now. To encourage you, be still. Be resilient. Don't give up. Dream big. Pray hard. If you're in the mess, know it will clean up. It will shine. Again.

I am in Detox

I sat down to dinner tonight with the family, and reached for my phone. My finger hovered over towards the left where my SOCIAL MEDIA apps are and, I remembered.

I deleted them.

And I was struck with a familiar feeling, an aching, a jagged, a gutting remembrance: I am in detox.

I walked away from social media, intending it to be permanent, in the winter of 2014. It would, in the end, last about five months. It was a decision spurred on by a hundred different things, and those first few days were nothing short of, weird.

I mean, weird. Detoxing from a digital addiction is one that you really feel. I mean, you feel it. Out of no where your habits change, you begin to find just how much time you spent doing that one thing, when you don't have it to do, anymore. But. You experience things more fully, un-reliant upon letting an entire world know your every move, it's a place and space that is so unrecognizable, most of my friends & family wouldn't dare consider going to.

And that's okay. I don't dare invite anyone on this journey. It's a very personal one, and for many social media is a key element to their business. I don't put anyone down for it.

For me, it just got to be too noisy. Again. I found myself obsessed with scrolling. Again. I began to find my anxiety heightening. Again. Conversations with my kids, husband, friends, were taking a backseat to the phone in my hand.

A G A I N.

And sitting down at dinner tonight, surrounded by my people, with nothing new to check, I began to realize, I'm here again. I'm back in that corner, fighting for my time and my family and my heart.

So with my apps deleted, all but Periscope, (one can make their own rules, yeah?) I'm reflective. I'm thinking of 100 thousand things I want to blog about. I'm looking at photos of my babies and seeing them with the eyes of a mother, a photo journalistic mama, who is shooting them for me and for them and not to hashtag or prove to any invisible account that I am someone.

Because I am. Someone. To a good Father, to an amazing husband, to three wild and crazy children, and to those friends and family I hold most dear.

I'm good enough, and I don't need a following to prove it.

I'm Angie, I'm detoxing from social media, but I'll be just fine.


PS how lovely is our green, green CA grass? We're quite enjoying it for the few weeks/months it will stick around.

We're All Just Made for Slow

motherhood // angie warren

We were running errands, us two, and my list was a mile long.

"C'mon Quinny, let's go, go go!" I said, with as much joy as I could muster.

She didn't, go go go. She was, slow slow slow.

"Honey, mama has a lot to do today, take my hand." I reached for her.

She continued to shuffle. Taking her precious time, one foot, ever so slowly, then another. The parking lot wasn't busy, but I could see time draining down an invisible sink.

"Mom," she paused. "My legs aren't made for fast."

And I turned, and I looked at that girl. And I had that sinking mom feeling when you realize, holy crap, I'm old, I've become my mother, and my kid just showed me.

She did, though. In the most innocent, small voice possible, she reminded me. Her legs aren't made for fast. They're made for exploring, for savoring, for living.

And in my rush, in the middle of the life-sucking to do list, I wanted to make it all fast. To get through it all, for, what? What is it, that illustrious prize I'm running for?

An award? 'A ribbon? At the end of the day do they hand out chocolates and silver coins for the busy mom who finished first? What about those who finish, last?

Those who remember even they aren't made, for fast? Whether four, or fourty. What about the ones who come in at the end of the "race", I think those ones, should get the award, the chocolate. Because in my mind, those that go at it slow, with the mind of a child, I think they are the real winners after all.

They're the ones that won that day, they weren't in a race to the end, they were just walking along. Smelling the flowers, flipping the pancakes, reading the bedtime stories - regardless of what else weighed on them, they made time, to make time.

I want to be that. I want to remember I'm not made for fast. The less I slow down, the more I wilt. The less I take time, the faster time goes.

It's not easy, in this go-go-go life. But here's the thing: the bed will always get unmade, the sink will always find itself full, the floor will, inevitably, be covered in dog hair. My babies? They're growing, much too fast for my comfort. I feel it in my gut, and I'm deciding for me, it's not too late. There's till time, all I have to do, is remember: she's made for slow, and so am I.

Five Tools That Help Me Write

Five Tools That Help Me Write //

I've been writing, a lot, lately. The new year landed the idea in my lap to revisit the memoir, and after a lot of thought + prayer, I've committed to really finishing it. I've been busy goal-setting and writing and dreaming big!

Today on my Periscope (@angiewarren), I shared these 5 tools I use in writing/blogging, but the replay wasn't saved, so I thought I'd pop on and list them out here for those of you who missed it!

These five things (plus a bonus!) keep me sane and help tremendously when I sit down to get words to page.


Am I the only one who needs music to write? The majority of my writing these days are musings of motherhood, and the obvious: my memoir. Both of which require 99% instrumental. I can't really do words, with just a few exceptions. I really connect with sounds, so my jam for writing comes from my ever evolving Writing Playlist on Spotify. I'm adding to it daily, but they're basically a collection of some of my favorite pieces for the current season of writing I'm in.

Feel free to listen too! CLICK HERE to go to my playlist.


So, when I'm putting down 3k words, sometimes I need a bit of help. Okay, even if it's just a blog post, I need help. I'm obsessed with the Power Thesaurus app. Like, I use it every day. It's sort of a crutch. Man am I glad for it.

Download it for Apple HERE. Download it for Android HERE.


This app I use for a multitude of things. It's like the sister to my Voice Memo Recorder feature. Originally my friend Tracy urged me to get it for documenting the cute things my kids say. Which I do, and love it for that. But I also love it for jotting quick thoughts down when I get an idea for a blog post or part in my book.

Sorry, it's only available for Apple. Download yours HERE.


I love Pinterest, who doesn't? There are a handful of bloggers/writers I follow, and I find myself easily spending an hour just on their writing tips boards! So I created my own, and have been slowly adding to it. There is a bit of something there for every aspect of blogging/book writing/proposal creating/agent finding, etc.

You can check out my Writing Board, HERE!


Connecting with other writers is HUGE. I have a handful of trusted friends, most of which who write, that graciously read what I'm working on, or simply allow me to bounce ideas off of them. I'm so grateful for this. Community is huge.

I found Compel last fall and signed on pretty quickly. It's basically a monthly membership community FILLED TO THE BRIM with insight, interviews, audios, downloads, worksheets, and more. I haven't even had the chance to take in all of the content, but I do when I can! I've especially loved the private FB group I was placed in. There are a lot of them through Compel, keeping the numbers somewhat low, so you feel cozy and are able to really get involved. We offer critique and submit pieces for our peers to critique as well. It's been a great asset in my journey!

Click HERE to go to the Compel site, there's even a free e-book if you scroll to the bottom!


Dropbox saves. my. life. It holds not only documents and files, but photos, and so much more. When it comes to writing, I use Dropbox in the obvious way: sharing files. When I get a piece written, often times I'll upload it there and share with a select few.

The other thing I love about Dropbox is holding audio files. I like to download some interviews and features from Compel, and save them to my Dropbox to listen to on long drives or the rare occasion I'm alone in the house!

Any tools you particularly enjoy in your blogging/writing? I'm always looking for something new! Hope you'll share.


The Red Comb (The Chorus Feature)

When Amy Grace connected with me it was as if, fireworks went off. I fell hard and fast for her project, The Chorus.

So when she asked if I would consider submitting a piece - I knew just what to send over.
I am now slowly making my way through the beautiful, heartbreaking, soul freeing submissions that I'm honored to be a part of.

The Red Comb is an excerpt from my memoir, I'd love if you hopped over to take a read. It's full of incredibly brave and honest works.


Jagged Edges and All

Valentines Day & Grief //

Her last Valentine's Day, my mom wrote a small poem on a paper heart for each of her children.

I lost mine.

For two and a half years I searched, unsuccessfully. Until last month. I happened upon it, slightly ripped but alive, and well.

It's kind of like my own heart, in a way. Damaged in ways not easily fixed, but still very much a heart.

Such a treasure it is on this day, reminding me I'm not completely broken. I'm still able to give and receive love. Even with my jagged edges.

Hope you're feeling the same, today.

Tea for Two

tea for two // motherhood & grief // angie warren

Dear sweet girl,

Today it was just the two of us at tea.

In my dreams though, the table is full. There are five generations of us 'round it, completing the circle of a tradition started long ago.

In my dreams the sound of cups hitting plates is a chorus, the five of us. There's chit chat, the stirring of spoons, and the pouring of Earl Grey.

In my dreams we're fighting over the cucumber sandwiches, in my dreams Nana hands me the lemon custard even though I know it's her favorite.

In my dreams it wasn't just you and I at tea.

In my dreams the sweet laughter of your great-great grandma is there, her dark hair bouncing around. I think she would have called you "little Miss America", like she did me.

In my dreams your great grandma is beside her, instead of 3000 miles away, in a cabin, in Ohio. She loves you dearly, my girl.

In my dreams Nana is there. She's helping you spread the devonshire cream and taking you potty. She's showing you how to put the napkin on your lap, and savoring every bit of time she has with you.

But the truth of it is, there are only three of the five of us left here on Earth, and today it was just us two.

So while my mind wishes for those beautiful tea parties, and memories I ache to hold - I shall tuck today deep into the pockets of my heart, to unfold and cherish each time I wish for my dreams to return.

Thank you Quinny, for the gift of new beginnings and of doing scary things. They aren't as hard with you by my side.


Let Me Be Your Beacon // Post Partum Depression

post partum depression // angie warren

It was a Thursday.

The ground was crisp and solid, the air, fresh, clear. One moon rise after welcoming her earth-side, I sank back into that place. Dark and murky, frigged and still.

Her hair the color of chocolate, soft against my nose, her eyes, bright as the sun. I held that baby skin to skin, breathing her sweetness deep into my lungs, willing it to release. Begging. But it did not.

She wasn't the first of my womb to paralyze me, she wasn't the only one I would hold in the dark of night, covered in my own tears. Try as I might, the anxiety crept. Try as I might, the depression settled. Try as I might, I would struggle to overcome something I had no control over.

And then, as I began to see the light, as the broken pieces of my soul found peace, and as that sweet girl neared the age of two, my own mother was taken from me.

The earth shifted, and I was back there again. Back in the murk and mire.

I'm on the other side, now - a side where I hear the beauty in a chirping bird, the side where I can laugh, smile, even a side where I can speak of Post-Partum Depression without the twisting of my gut.

And I find my heart tender for those fighting the fight.

I want to smother them with love, the fighters. I want to smother YOU with love. I want you to see that there is light. I want to tattoo on your heart, that in the darkest of dark, there is always hope.

You need a beacon? Let me be it. You ache to bring noise to the quiet? Let me rage. You want to know you aren't alone, even in the blackest of your thoughts? Hear me out - you. are. not.

You're not alone. You're not alone. You're not. alone.

Let me whisper it, allow me to scream it. Let me promise you, as you crawl through each day, weary and tired, you'll stand again. You'll walk and you'll run and your legs will have a strength money can't buy.

Okay? Okay.

Carry on fighting mamas, carry, right, on.


Somewhere in Between Boy and Man

on raising boys // angie warren

There's a space in time, somewhere between boy and man, that baffles me, as a mama, as a woman.

It's a place where Lego battles are inviting but play-dough isn't. Bubble baths turn into showers, and play dates are called "hanging out".

It's an awakened dance between us, sort of a fumbling Bambi waltz, really. I want to help him, to show how strong his legs are, that he can lead. But he's unsure, these new limbs are lanky and lean, and he's just getting used to them.

Mothering at this in between place is such beautiful heartbreak. I cover my eyes and wince as he learns hard lessons, I inhale the conflicting scent of Old Spice as he walks past me. I watch him in conversation with friends, one finger pressing his glasses up, he laughs. They laugh, I smile.

I see an eleven year old who is in a vast ocean, sinking, swimming, sinking, swimming. He's wrapped up in a confusing and strange body, but he's doing his best to stay afloat.

The boy who made me a mother, is walking the boardwalk to man-hood. I'm wanting to swim ahead, clear the path so he doesn't stumble. Every cell in me wants to watch the waters, ensure they're calm. I'm breaking apart inside, wanting so much to do and be and save and allow.

I want to protect his journey, but instead, I choose to swim beside him. It's here I get to hold out my hand, a life raft, not too close and not too far, as to allow him to find his own way, too.

He will swim with strength someday all too soon, and I'll watch with proud eyes, likely full of tears, for the small boy turned man. I'll clap and praise and sigh the best sigh knowing I did it, we did it, and the world is a better place because he's in it.

Our boys are becoming men, mamas. Before our very eyes, they're shedding their life vests. They're changing shape and finding strength. Our boys are stepping out of our boat, and into the sea. We're putting away play-dough and getting our water gear.

Are we gifting them their sea legs? Are we adjusting our sails? Or are we trying to swim for them? Though the waters may be choppy, we're raising swimmers. Hold on tight my fellow mamas. It's going to be a glorious ride.

The Magic Stripes

The Magic Stripes // angie warren

"What are those stripes on your belly mama?" she asked as I stepped out of the shower.

I thought for a moment, how does one begin to explain the stories these stripes hold? The twenty-seven months they grew three babies, the way they changed me, morphed me from one person to the next.

Is it possible to relay to her tiny mind the vast significance of the stripes? That someday she too will likely carry them, just as I do, just as her Nana did?

I ran my hand across my belly, soft, now empty of babies. Three of the four that began within me are now in my arms. I watched her eyes, big and full of wonder.

Almost a whisper, then I leaned down and said, "Those are mama's magic stripes! I got them as a special gift for getting to carry you and your brothers inside of me." She smiled and told me she likes them.

I do too, you know. I like that it's something my own mom and I shared. I like that they made me a mother. I like my magic stripes and I hope she, some day, will like hers as well.

Every scar has a story. How lucky am I to get to share these with her.

Let's Let Them Be Little

let them be little // angie warren

She made her way in, sleepy-eyed and groggy. "Mama, I accidentally had a accident in my bed." Annoyed, and tired, I huffed out of bed in search of clean PJs.

Peeling the wet ones off I asked, with a tone not so kind, "Did you not go potty before bed?" she whispered, slowly, "I think, I accidentally, free-got." I sighed, a big sigh.

Not much time passed, I lie awake, one part of the now Quinn sandwich that has become our bed, and my stomach turned.

How unfair of me. How silly and childish of me. I turned and quietly spoke towards her but no one in particular, "I accidentally free-got to let you be little. Mama's sorry." It's so easy to get caught up in being a grown up. A grumpy, sleep-deprived, adult with a bad attitude.

But it's also easy to apologize. To let our kids know we are human, and we love them regardless of our sometimes less than stellar choices. It's not the first time I've had to apologize to her, and it won't be the last. Just another piece of mothering.

Let's decide not to "accidentally free-get" our children are children. For only so long. They deserve the occasional mistake or two.

Let's gift them with the ability to make them - to have accidents and spill their juice and drag dirt onto our clean floors.

Let's gift them with better attitudes when they're simply being little, but then humbling ourselves when we don't.

Let's gift them with childhood. Shall we?

The Soundtrack of Motherhood

the motherhood soundtrack // angie warren

Baths are her beloved, and during the day when her brothers are at school, I get to pretend it's just us.

Like it was with my first born so many years ago, two people - one mama, one child, going about our days in a slow, romantic sort of dance.

Snack time, laundry, the music of her favorite movie, all play the soundtrack of our day. The water splashes over the side of the tub and she giggles, adding another track.

Soon the house will be filled with noise, the sounds of boys, bickering, stomping, laughing and yelling. Soon, our dance ends, for the day.

I return to the role of mama to all, she returns to the role of little sister.

Right before pick-up though, in the car, our soundtrack changing, something akin to the wind in the windows and the hum of the engine, I look in the mirror.

We lock eyes, smiling big the both of us, and she says, "Spending the day with you is my best, mom.".

I nod, "Me too, Quinny. Me too.".

Cactus Loving Addict Hugger


Loving a drug addict is like hugging a cactus.

It hurts, and you hate it, then it blooms and is beautiful and you love it. You don't see the needles because the flower is so lovely, and, inevitably, you embrace it again.

I have loved an addict or two or three for the majority of my life. I've watched bodies waste away, change, crumble. I've seen eyes dark and sad, I've listened to the gritty sounds of detox, felt the tears of regret, hot and liquid that fall from their eyes.

I have screamed - cried tears of anger and pain, the begging, gut-wrenching pleading of my heart, the cactus loving addict hugger. I've hated them with a ferocity that can only be known to someone who loves an addict. With my hatred-love came the sinking, undeniable realization, that beneath the addict, is a person.

An actual, warm-blooded, living and breathing, person. Beneath the addict is someone's child, husband, mother. Beneath the addict is a person with hopes and dreams, someone who is simply bound by an illness that too often feels so powerful, they can't overcome it.

Beneath both the needle scars and the invisible ones, lies someone with hopes, dreams even. That person was once a pastor's kid, a governor's wife, heck even a minister themselves. Addiction sees no race, gender, or background. It cares not about one's press page or list of achievements or Golden Globes. No, it sees only a person with a willingness to try.

In the midst of watching the addicts I love continue to choose their drug over me, in the throws of grief and pain, I would raise my hands to the heavens and cry out, "Why, why, why?". Why won't they change, why can't they see, how do I fix them?

And in doing so I came to the finality of the situation: I was addicted to trying to save them. It consumed me, the lies and manipulation, the wondering, and second-guessing. I became a slave to their addiction, and in doing so, found myself dark and gritty. Aching deep inside, for answers, for help, for recovery. For one more chance, for one more try.

You see, it took a long time, many years, to finally emerge from the place of salvation-giver. It isn't up to me. I'm not the fixer of lives, I don't heal addiction, I can't, it's not in my power. What is in my power? To love. To water the cactus. To remember and open my eyes to see what and who lives beneath the cloak of addiction.

Often times the wounds they leave us with in the wake of their choices are gaping, oozing. They hurt, with the pain of something that's ripped open time and time again. The cactus deceives us with her flowers of red and magenta, and we hug again.

I believe that is the beauty in it, the flora. I believe if we can find it in ourselves to see the bloom, it's quite possible that more addicts find their way. Too many are lost, too many are gone. Addiction claims the lives of our mothers and brothers and friends and children, each, and every, day.

I am no stranger to it. I am however, someone who once hated the cactus, every stage of it, but now, it has become something I choose to see as beautiful. I see the cactus plant with potential, with life.

Even if loving an addict is like hugging a cactus, I'll bleed until the end of time.

On Being Yourself

angie warren // motherhood

Today at lunch she asked me what it means to "be yourself".

I thought long and hard over that one. I squeezed her tight, remembering she's an old soul and her mind works in incredible ways - so I told her all about it.

"Quinny, being yourself is amazing. It means showing kindness to others, to never let someone's words harden your spirit. It means to always create, even if your idea seems silly or different. Being yourself is a gift, one you give to everyone around you and, to yourself. It's about laughing loudly, with your belly. It's about speaking your mind, about leading, about walking confidently forward no matter who is following. Being yourself means always being the Quinn I know today."

She looked away for a moment and the smiled, her face aglow. "Mama, I be myself and you be yourself, okay?"

And I was struck with a realization, these words I so easily spoke to my daughter, instructions on living fully, on never allowing someone to dim your sparkle - were words I desperately needed to tell myself.

Crazy how that happens isn't it? Life lessons at lunchtime.

On Mothering Boys

angie warren // motherhood

There is nothing quite like mothering a little boy. I am hanging on as tightly as I can. Losing grasp with one, fully engulfed by my other.

It's a game of tug-o-war really, and in the wind I hear the gentle whisper of reminder: let the rope loosen with your eldest, Angie. Give him a bit of slack, let him find his own way.

I fight, claw really, relentlessly after him. My heart saying one thing, my mind another.

How lucky am I though, as my grip loosens with him, I am smothered with affections from his brother. I have the gift of foresight, you see. I know what is around the bend.

So I take him, my middle, into my arms, the weight of his seven and a half years solidly on my lap. Inhale, exhale.

Soon I'll have to loosen the rope for him, too. And I will simply step back, watching these boys become men, and hope with every fiber, that I've done them good.

Mothering boys is a beautiful heartache. I love it so.

A Soft Place to Land

angie warren // motherhood

In the blink of an eye he's in that fragile place: stuck between boy and man. Floundering, falling, finding his wings, and sooner than I want, he'll fly away.

I oftentimes take for granted being home with them after school. More than I'd like to admit it's a hustle of homework and nagging and fighting and noise.

But what if it wasn't? What if I put intention into welcoming them home. The place they find comfort and refuge from the difficulties of growing up. What if I take him and his brother under my mama wing and offer a soft place to land?

That's the desire of my heart. To be their safe place, to lay my selfish desires aside and simply mother them. With intent and selflessness and plain old, love.

Ready? Go time.

Why Am I Not Shooting?

angie warren // documentary photography

I've been asked quite a bit why I'm not shooting anymore, in business. It's a big question with a lot of answers. I think ultimately it boils down to this: the images I would want to make for people aren't the ones I used to make.

Though I have a fierce love for beautiful fields and well posed families, (so many of my talented friends rock at those), they don't stir my heart as an artist.

These do. Dirty hands, chicklet teeth, messy yards. Kids. Being real. Being crazy. Being in love with life. Don't get me started on grain. I have a hard love affair with it. I've always been pulled to these portraits - for as long as I can remember.

And I simply don't know if I'm the only one anymore. I just don't know that others hearts stir the same as mine does. So. That's the long and short of that answer.

I am happy, more than happy, to shoot them. My three. I document their lives. And because they're awesome, they allow me to. I think they're so used to seeing me with a big ole camera in front of my face. I am forever thankful for the gift in allowing me to make their portraits.

Like I've said in the past: if they're my only subjects, from here until my last breath, I count myself the luckiest artist ever there was.

Finding Thanks in a Nutcracker Tea Party.

When you hand your camera over to your almost-eleven-year-old you are handing over your heart.

Your insecurities.

Your love.

You are handing him the reigns in this crazy world, to capture laughter and joy, and a tea party complete with the Nutcracker soundtrack because your almost-four-year-old begs for it.

You are finally in the picture, instead of always being the one to make the picture.

And after a bit you even forget he is shooting, until one cold November morning a few days later, you look through the images and your breath, catches.

Because he's actually found joy in a world that feels scary and sad and overwhelming. He's documented a morning in your life, regardless of shower or makeup or flattering angles.

And you thank him, and you squeeze him, because your tattered, anxiety-ridden-over-the-state-of-the-world heart is scared. You needed to be reminded of the beauty. Of the gift, of another day as their mother.

The gift of another day to wear the warm sweater and Uggs, to make them lunch, to enjoy their smallness. To have tea, and speak in a British accent, and laugh deep belly laughs.

You forget for a while about the worries that plague you. You simply find thanks.