It’s Been a Year

Dear Lauren,

It’s been a year since you left this world, and we miss you still the same. Our hearts ache when we long to pick up the phone and hear your voice on the other end. It’s been a year of holidays, birthdays, and special days without you to celebrate them. Life has proven that it does indeed go on for those of us still on this temporal soil, but it sure would be much better with you in it.

So much happens in one year; we hustle about in a maniacal flurry of activity. And yet it feels like just yesterday that we found out your health took a drastic turn and time seemed to stop. We lived life in the following months in slow motion. You were always so strong and never one to complain. We truly thought we had more time with you. We still have dreams about you, you know. And you are as alive and healthy as ever. And we hear your voice again. We love those faint glimpses – when the veil is lifted for a fleeting moment and we can see and hear again, beyond what this present world has to offer.

How do you properly commemorate a death day? Birthdays are filled with celebration, songs, cake, and presents. Holidays, we eat more food and give more presents. But the day of someone’s death…what do you do? Nobody tells you. There are no glossy magazine covers featuring that.

Because holding each other, talking about that day and reliving its events, and crying together just isn’t that glamorous I guess. Too bad really, because that’s where real life happens. I think this must be why human beings are so afraid of pain. We haven’t been shown how to properly grieve. We don’t want anyone witnessing the more painful parts of our stories. We are only interested in featuring the highlight reel. Like in the movie Inside Out, we don’t give sadness any room. We don’t want her having a say-so. We chase after happiness, looking good, and feeling good and make it our god.

But this year has taught me that God dwells even in the most painful places. Where maybe He feels most welcome. “Even though I walk in the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” David writes in Psalm 23:4. And again in Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Jesus isn’t afraid of our pain. He is there with us in the midst of it. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. He is our comforter. You know this now, in full, where we only know in part. Seeing God face to face, you now know this in full, even as you are fully known.

And so with a lack of knowing how to properly acknowledge this day, I write. I believe it’s what you would have wanted me to do. The Writer’s Digest magazine subscription you bought for me has stopped coming; another painful reminder of your absence. I haven’t renewed it yet. And Surprise! I am still slack about writing. Maybe because I don’t have you here hounding me about it all the time! We miss you so much. Thank you for all the encouragement. The endless cheering. The coaching. The pep talks to do more. Be more. Create more. Not because you weren’t pleased with who we were, but simply because you believed that much in each of us. In people. Thank you for the the faith you had in us and the faithfulness you modeled for your family. And most of all, for the incredible son that you raised. My husband – the man who stole my heart and still holds it. I am so grateful that I get to do this life with him.

Until we meet again,


The 10 Most Overrated Things About Fall

Oliver Pumpkin

Well, it’s that time of year again, folks. When all of social media is abuzz with the passing of summer and the approaching autumn equinox. I wish I could join in the excitement, but I am a summer gal – give me perpetual summer break, beach vacations, swimming pools, sun tans, flip flops, peaches, blueberries, watermelons, ice cream, sun dresses, and sprinklers. I get it, you all really hate the heat. But the heat isn’t a problem if you are righteously prepared with the proper clothing, a cool drink, and a refreshing body of water in close proximity. And I recently discovered after a family trip to Providence Canyon that there is indeed a colossal difference between summer in South Georgia versus summer in North Georgia, making me thankful that we live where we do. Think fresh, sweet mountain summer breezes versus hot, wet, smoldering heat trapped inside of Satan’s bed pan, complete with plagues of gnats, flies, and mosquitoes. Why anyone would choose to live in South Georgia is beyond me. South Georgia exists simply for passing through on your way to the beach. But I digress.

While everyone else gets all romantic and celebratory during this time of year, I, once again, find myself at odds with the rest of the world. It’s not that I hate Fall. There are some elements about Fall that I really do enjoy. And I reserve my hatred for Winter, the worst and most depressing season ever. Fall is my third favorite season, after Summer and Spring. Let me explain why. Continue reading

The Dregs of Summer


Around this time of year, I always feel a little sad with the passing of summer. Summer is my favorite season. Yes, even in the Georgia heat. Beaches, peaches, blueberries, vacations, sandals, swimming pools, sun tans, summer dresses, and freckles make me happy. I love the sun, and really do hate winter time. Winter is my least favorite season. While everyone else celebrates the passing of summer and the coming of Fall, I see it merely as the approaching cruelest of seasons. You can have your pumpkin spiced lattes. Give me sweat and cold drinks any day of the week. Maybe I need to move further south…

Originally posted on Adventures in Buckland:

The crowd has gathered –

It is only days until Autumn makes his triumphant appearance,

With wreaths and garlands of gold adorning his comely head.

We anxiously await his inauguration,

As we wave good riddance to his predecessor,

Suffering now the dregs of Summer.

She has given us her best, but her reign is nearing its uninspiring end.

Fruits have ceased their bearing, and vegetation has withered and withdrawn.

Hibernating underground; soothing, placating.

Pool gates are closed, and children have returned to their cells,

But the temperatures deceive us.

Searing heat, drying and suffocating the last drops of life and vitality from the vine

As we wait.

We yearn.

For a different kind of harvest; a new kind of wine.

We wait for Summer to take her final breath.  To die.

And we openly applaud her passing.

Celebrating as her rival steps up and establishes his term.

We hold our…

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Growing Up Maltese: The Football Edition

My father is Maltese. Yes, Maltese like the cross. Yes, like the dog. And no, it is NOT where malt beverages were invented. I get asked that more than you would believe. My dad was born in Hamrun, Malta on June 18th, 1950. He immigrated with his family, to Ellis Island, on December 5th, 1952, which coincidentally also happened to be my mother’s first birthday. His family settled in Detroit, Michigan, where he later met and married my mother. I was born in Wyandotte, just south of Detroit but still in the same county. It is similar to someone being “from Atlanta” but living in Sandy Springs or Roswell, both of which are included in the greater Atlanta area or Fulton County.

I am a first generation Maltese-American. From Detroit. Currently living in Winder, Georgia. (one of these things is not like the other…)

My mom is German-Jewish-Dutch, so I feel like kind of a hybrid white girl. With totally non-white girl hair.

Now, I live in the South. Where humidity rules the atmosphere like an oppressive, angry god, and smooth, sleek Pantene hair, preferably rolled the night before and/or flat-ironed, are the only acceptable coiffures of all good Christian, Southern ladies. Somewhere, somehow I hear God and all His heavenly hosts laughing at my expense.

Also, if you don’t know anything about Winder, which, really, why would you?…we are 20 miles west of Athens, the home of the blessed Georgia Bulldogs. We live in what is known as “Dawg Country.” That is not a misspelling. Come September, red and black become the unspoken required color code of all the otherwise conservative inhabitants of our city. People here take three things VERY seriously: God, guns, and them Dawgs.

I can’t even write that and not feel awkward about myself.

College football was never a priority in our home, simply because my dad was the first in his family to even attend college and graduate when I was 11 years old. Add the fact that I married a man whose father worked his way through college, and didn’t have time for frivolous things such as spectator sports, and bought one of the first TRS-80s in the late 70s for he and his young son to “play with.” Read: I married a hardworking, turbo computer nerd who actually understands technology and loves it like Kip Dynamite.

Now, I am not saying that there aren’t those out there that love both technology and football. But I kind of believe that you either have the sports gene or you do not. I know some dads who love football, and try to coerce their begrudging sons to become lovers of the game, only to be disappointed or frustrated when little Bobby would rather read Walt Whitman and listen to The Cure. My brother and I grew up in the same household, and he loves football. For whatever reasons, though, my immediate family has neither nature nor nurture on our sides of this crucial all-American football matter.

At any rate, I married a man who simply couldn’t care less about sports, and for that I get on my knees and thank Jesus every day of my life during my morning prayers, especially during the fall. Instead of watching college football, we have family viewings of Lord of the Rings and discuss ways in which the movies differ from the books, followed by listening parties of Weird Al Yankovic albums.

I’m not kidding. My nine-year old’s favorite song?

She knows every word. Every. Word.

Now that I think of it…mine and Al’s hair look eerily similar…

Our sports of choice are karate and swimming; where being a small, skinny nerd actually works in your favor. And, they are co-ed, which truly helps cut down on the nights of the week that I have to run them all to different, gender-specific extracurricular activities.

How’s that for some nerdy efficiency?

So, just for kicks, let’s clarify all this again, shall we? I am a first generation, Maltese-American from Detroit, homeschooling nerd, with ethnic hair, who has a general disdain for spectator sports living in Dawg Country,

God. Help. ME.

I know that by typing this, I am outing myself and my poor family, risking our very lives with a potential attack by a mob of angry Bulldog fans. But I feel it is necessary, so there are no misunderstandings. Thus, I beseech you, Dawg fans and fellow citizens of Winder. Have mercy upon us. Remember that we are, first and foremost, Christian brothers and sisters. Even if only slightly first and foremost. What’s even more hilarious about all of this…I actually graduated from UGA. I am a holy and sanctified UGA alumna. During my entire college career, I only attended two games. I had no idea what was happening the whole time. I have never felt more out of place in my entire life.

So here we are. Football season has begun. The Bulldogs won their first game against Clemson, 45-21. My Facebook newsfeed is filled with status updates written by friends and loved ones in a strange language that I do not understand. Nowadays, instead of screaming at the television when a player makes a bad play or the referee makes a bad call, it is acceptable and customary to funnel all of your fury into a status update! So this is the time of year when I will happily take a Facebook respite. But don’t worry. I’m giving you all a taste of your own medicine when political season rolls around!

Stay tuned for part 2 of Growing Up Maltese: The Early Years.



Observations from a Piano Bench

My daughter, Josephine, age 9, sat at her piano, practicing. She called to me from her seat, “Hey Mom! Did you know that a flat is sharp and a sharp is a flat?”

“Say what?”

“The black keys are both sharps AND flats! It just depends on what note you’re playing!”

“That’s neat. So, based on your perspective, the same key can have two totally different names.”

“That’s right! To A, the black note, or the sharp, is a big brother. But to B, the SAME black key is a flat. It’s a little sister.”

Two things: 1. Having your kids learn a musical instrument is an education all by itself. 2. Kids are naturally brilliant and I highly recommend hanging out with some on a regular basis.

The Kind Gentleman


My husband’s father, Lauren Oliver Buckland, Sr., passed away on July 28th, 2014. There was a memorial service held yesterday in Atlanta at Church of the Apostles, a church they attended for many years. It was a beautiful service and a wonderful tribute to a man we loved dearly and who will be greatly missed. I had the great honor and privilege of speaking during the time of reflections from friends and family. It is a great honor that I could call myself both. This is what I wrote for him.

It is difficult for me to wrap my mind around the fact that Lauren is gone. There is a part of me that keeps waiting for and expecting him to walk through the door, any minute, with a kindly “Hello!” A smile. Some sage advice for Ren and I. A hearty laugh. A bear hug or a “Papa lockdown” for his grandchildren. I can’t help but imagine how his absence will be felt at every family gathering henceforth. Every birthday. Every holiday. He was always there. A vital, faithful, and dependable presence in the life of our family.

Compared to many of you here, I didn’t know Lauren for very long. I first met Lauren 16 years ago. But in that brief time, I came to know him and love him as a dad. He treated me like a daughter. He loved me, accepted me, and encouraged me. Chided me when I needed it. And he taught me so much. I have heard each one of my kids echo that same sentiment this past week, saying “Papa taught us so much.” He had a mantra that he taught his own children, that he passed on to ours. He taught them that “Bucklands never say ‘can’t.'” He would clarify and tell them, in typical Lauren speak, “You may say ‘This presents a challenge to me.'” In doing so, he taught them that no problem was too big. That every problem was a potential opportunity and a chance to learn something new.

I was honored when Ren introduced me to his parents in 1998. Fran was warm, friendly, and inviting, and I loved her instantly. Who doesn’t? But I have to admit that Lauren was a little intimidating to me at first. He was, and still is, one of the most intriguing people I had ever met. He was fiercely intelligent, and it wasn’t long before I discovered that he was a libertarian, the first one I had ever met. Lauren was a libertarian back before libertarianism was cool. As you can imagine, I immediately started praying for his salvation, because at the time I couldn’t wrap my small mind around the fact that he called himself a Christian and was anything but a card carrying Republican! How ironic that I am now known around our small town as the radical libertarian soccer mom with the Ron Paul bumper sticker on her Suburban!

I absolutely loved talking to Lauren. He wasn’t afraid to talk about things you weren’t “supposed” to, whether it was religion or politics. He could talk about anything. And talk about it well. He had an unlimited scope of interests and hobbies. And he was prodigious at them all. He was an artist. A writer. A poet. A skilled orator. Attorney. Veteran. An officer. Army Ranger. Accountant. Christian. Father. Brother. Husband of 49 years this Friday. Grandfather.

He was a modern day Renaissance man. In his 75 years, he accomplished so much. Yet he was humble and very modest about all of his accomplishments. He believed that everyone was just as capable of all that he did and more. That we were all just as smart as he was. Just as talented. Lauren didn’t like to boast about himself, but he loved to brag about the people he loved. Whether it was his wife, Fran, or Ren and Lori, or his brother, Stan, or his grandkids. He would often wait until Ren was out of the room, and whisper to me, “I am so proud of him!” Knowing I would later tell my husband what he had said. Whenever I gave him a compliment on one of his paintings, he would say, “Oh no. I am just a technician. Now Stan [his brother], HE is an artist. BRIAN [his son-in-law] is an artist!” He was so hesitant to call himself an ‘artist.’ I think it’s safe to say, by looking around at all of his paintings here today that he was indeed worthy of that title.

But even more than his accomplishments, he touched the lives and the hearts of so many around him. Maya Angelou famously said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I have so enjoyed hearing this past week how people remember him. How he made us all feel. My favorite phrase that I’ve heard used to describe him was that he was a “kind gentleman.” So many of have used words to describe Lauren that echo the famous words from 1 Corinthians 13 about Love:

“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs. Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIRV)

Many of these words can also be used to describe Lauren…He was patient. He was kind. He didn’t brag about himself. He was never rude. He didn’t look out for his own interests. He was not easily angered, even when his grandkids made a mess or spilled paint on his papers. He didn’t keep a track record of other people’s wrongs. He was not happy with evil, but always rejoiced whenever truth and justice prevailed. He always protected those he loved. Always trusted. Always had hope. And he never gave up.

He left us with a legacy. His can-do spirit, his work ethic, his integrity, his ability to see potential and possibility, and every problem as an opportunity, have left an indelible mark on all of our hearts. If he were here with us today, he would remind us how quickly our lives go by. And that today is the day to do something significant with our lives. Today is the day to start a new business. Or dream a new dream. To take up a new hobby. To learn how to paint. To become a lawyer. To write your own autobiography. You are never too old to begin again, or reinvent yourself. You still have time…make the most of it. He certainly did.

And Lauren made whoever he was with feel that there was nothing you couldn’t do. That the only person holding you back, was YOU. That the only limits we had were the ones we placed on ourselves. We could do anything. Be anything. He always lovingly encouraged those closest to him to strive and do and achieve, not because what we were currently doing wasn’t enough, but because he knew we had it in us to do. He encouraged me in my writing and speaking, and made me feel like the best writer in the world, even when he was only one of five people that faithfully read my blog.

He truly was a remarkable human being. And he would never give the credit to himself. He would always point back to God. He believed in the power of human potential, especially when that human potential was dedicated in service to The Lord, giving glory and honor to our maker. In Lauren’s eyes, anyone could be anything they wanted to be, if they set their mind to it. Great things were possible if we believed and worked hard, and gave it all to God.

I have been blessed beyond what I deserve to have not just one wonderful earthly, father, but two. He was one of my favorite people on earth. And my family and I will miss him terribly.

But as sad as I am that he has left this earth, I know his story isn’t over. I know that because of his faith in Christ, that he is still painting, that he is still writing, and probably having healthy, heavenly debates with some of the greatest thinkers in history! And I look forward to the day that we will see him again and join in on all the fun. So until then, so long, Kind Gentleman. You are loved. You are missed. And you will never be forgotten.

Let’s Ban #BanBossy


Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, and a bunch of other important people, are on a mission to ban the word “bossy.” They argue that the word is too often used as a negative label describing girls with natural leadership qualities.

Really? I thought I was using it to describe someone, male or female, who is kind of a rude jerk.

Before I rant about all that is wrong with this campaign, let me just state for the record that the campaign makes many points with which I actually agree. I am all for children, boys and girls, using their words to speak up and be heard. I am in favor of kids learning how to lead and assert themselves in positive ways. In a world where the voices of many of these young ones are ignored, even stifled, we need to empower kids to speak up. We need more leaders and fewer followers. So those are the positive elements I see in this campaign.

And now for the negative… Continue reading