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Susan Wanderer has worked with families in kids ministry for 20 years, with the last ten years serving as Kids Minister at Mount Ararat Church in Stafford. Susan and her husband Ed reside in Fredericksburg and have three amazing kids who joined their family in 2011 and who fill their days with adventure. Come join the conversation over at www.susanwanderer.com 



My Stomping Grounds

America, Love Never Fails.

America, we seem to be in full-alarm mode.

We have Trump-ers.

We have Resist-ers.

We have Persist-ers.

Then there’s fake news, real news and SNL.

(Lemme pause for one moment…. How spot-on is Melissa McCarthy?  America needed that laugh, didn’t we? Perfect timing Melissa. Brava, Brava!)

All of this Trumpeting, Persisting, Resisting, Fake News, Real News has me wishing I had my own podium to push around sometimes. (Sean, I mean Melissa, does that so well!) .

In the middle of all the crazy, we have little people watching us make choices. Choices about how we treat each other, about what we stand for, about being a Good Samaritan or being the one who walks past the crash scene.

I don’t want Team Wanderer to walk past. I want us to stop and help heal the wounds, listen to the stories and hold the hands of the wounded.

On my way home from work one night, I realized a miraculous thing: this new order does not change the fact that we can still serve, love and embrace humanity around us.

heart on window

I arrived home and gathered my crew up. I looked them in the eyes, talked to them about refugees, the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. I told them stories of each of these populations of people. We prayed. We prayed some more and declared we will be people of action. We will not shrink back. We then sang the Nicene creed together, to remind us what we believe and the importance of the One we follow.

Before you think this was an incredibly perfect kumbaya moment, I have three kids. Which means three siblings. While it was beautiful and special and necessary, it was far from perfect. And that’s the beauty of family.

That night we asked God to open doors for us to be door-holders & room-makers & hand-holders & cheerleaders & caregivers. Y'all, this generation is watching how we handle this hot mess that America is in.

Let’s allow this generation some space to embrace and understand empathy.


That means:

They listen to the stories of people.

They have empathy towards humanity.

They have tenderness with their actions.

They have an awareness of those around them.

 

No matter who seems to be in charge in American politics, we need to stay sober and recognize that we are still in charge of guiding our own families. 

We can be determined to be angry and arrogant while living in the land of consistent eye-rolls. 

Or we can say: No, we still have the ability to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We can rise up and be families who make a difference in this world, no matter who is seated in the Oval Office or in Congress or in the Senate. 

Politics does not determine the heartbeat of who we are or who our families will become. I have been listening to story after story of refugee families.  And while they experience some of the greatest heartbreak known to humankind, their resilience proves that the government doesn’t get to be the one to determine the kind of family they become.

Our refugee friends are some of the kindest, most compassionate, most giving, most sincere friends we have known. The government didn’t tell them to be like that. They chose that kindness.

So, let’s rise above. 

May we be the ones who teach the generations behind us to calm down, take a deep breath and go love our neighbors. Because love never fails. 

Susan family

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Ladyburg Love

I pause my normally written posts at Fredericksburg Parent and Family for a PSA for all locals in the Northern Virginia area… well, all of Virginia actually. Because anywhere you live in our Commonwealth is worth the drive to this fantastic local store we stumbled upon during our holiday shopping trips.

I will gladly wear the nametag Ms. Poppins as I say, this store is practically perfect in every way. Its bath and body products have transformed my life. My dry, callused hands have been transformed into soft-as-butter.

If you have been to Ladyburg on Caroline Street in Old Town Fredericksburg, you know the loveliness I am about to explain.

The Ladyburg storefront is nestled inside the quaintness of Old Town and right beside Benny’s pizza. So, Win-Win.

It has three small sections. The first section is where all the magic happens and where all the deliciously scented lotions, soaps, bath bombs, and moisturizing bars are created. My goodness, it’s a window shopping delight. My daughter adores watching them whip up their gorgeous smelling products.

The other two sections are filled to the brim with their sensational items. It’s cozy inside and the staff is genius.  They overflow with excitement when you ask them about a certain bar, soap or scrub.

My favorite items: Sugar Scrub and Moisturizing Bar (Tobacco Flower Scent… so so delightful and cozy-warm).

Whipped sugar scrub

It’s getting close to Valentine’s Day, fellas. Any product you purchase at Ladyburg would be a lovely treat for the gal in your life.

And your lady-love will be smelling super sweet when she gives you your Valentine’s Day smooch. Another Win-Win!

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White Families - No More Excuses for Passivity

Wanderers

One year ago, while in first grade, our youngest Wanderer came home from school one afternoon full of thoughts on Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

She was passionate and ready to preach…. and preach she did:

“Mama, did you know there was a time that peach people did not like brown people? This man right here (pointing to a photo of MLK) loved Jesus and kindness and peace and those mean people didn’t like him so they killed him! Mama, SERIOUSLY? What is wrong with those people? You know what, Mama?  If Martin Luther King Jillian (I don’t know, I didn’t interrupt) had not loved Jesus, brown people and peach people… WE MAY NOT BE FAMILY. And that’s the truth! He was a good good man.”

Amen and Amen, littlest Wanderer. Amen.

Last week was a hard week in our home. My husband and I are still processing all that transpired.

I second guessed all of my parenting, all of ANY Mama-wisdom I thought I had poured out to my kids.

We talk about race and racism on a fairly consistent basis in our home. We talk about the past and hope for better for the future. Our kids understand the uniqueness of our family.

What I learned last week: I can prepare my kids with stories of the past and hopes for the future… but until they come face to face with racism on their own, they will not fully understand how racism feels NOW.

Right now, we are working through the emotions of what it feels like to be told the lie that you are less-than who you thought you were.

Racism is ugly and mean and it tears down any bit of decency in its path. When we stand silent and refuse to have necessary conversations with the generations behind us, we allow this disgusting behavior to continue.

I am a white mom raising three black kids. They are beautiful, smart, funny, Jesus-loving kids and I'll be darned if anyone will treat them anyway other than the incredible amazing humans that they are.

However, I’m learning I don't have this Super-Mom power to stop the hate towards my children. I must prepare them for the path. I CAN be a voice to perhaps alter the path and make it better. Less silence. More action.

Humanity has lost its awareness of its own depth & meaning. Humanity, all of humanity, are image carriers of God & should be treated with the value He has placed on them. On us.

To remain silent in our homes, in the conversations around our dinner tables, is where racism wins.

If you are a white family, begin to learn about the life-journey of your friends of color. And if you don't have friends of color... perhaps that is where you need to begin.

To be vocal & verbal about racism and race relations within your own tribe brings fresh awareness & a change in conversation. Then eventually this provides an altering of behavior to be handed down to the next generation.

Do not stay silent. Speak. Stand for what is right. Create space in your home for the next generation to be difference makers in how we care for and treat humanity.

White families – let's no longer make excuses for our passivity. We can do better. We can do better for our kids, for our neighbors’ kids and for the generations behind and ahead of us. We have the ability to improve race relations by actually loving our neighbors. Our kids act out the behaviors they see.  Let’s allow them to see us making a difference and widening our circles.

And to the ones of you who are already doing this... you are a gift! You are a shining example to others of how to love and live well. Keep on keeping on. 

We have much work to do.

Lace up; we are continuing the march.

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7 Things To Make The New Year Better

1. Say No To Sugar.

Hi, my name is Susan and I haven’t had a gram of sugar for 6 days. My last encounter with sugar was during Christmas and it involved chocolate and cake and all-things carby. In these six-sugar-free-days I am reminded what sanity feels like again. If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you know I am on Weight Watchers.  My de-boarding of the sugar-train was part of this process.

As a sugar addict I will say it loud loud loud: SUGAR IS MY ADDICTIVE DRUG! (pardon the screaming)

Sugar makes me irrational, cloudy, cranky, sore and crampy… then it leaves me wanting more of its goodness.Which often comes wrapped in a warm, gooey package with yet more calories. Yet I want it.

And more.

And more.

And more.

Then I feel like a rabid woman foaming at the mouth for anything sweet, carby or breaded.

My hope in 2017: less sugar, more sanity.

 

2. Say Yes to Friends

Last night we went to our weekly home group from church.  The kids were in the basement, the adults in the living room. Two hours of laughter, listening and friendship.  My tank was again full. Friendships are life-giving. I need more of this in 2017.

 

3. Order Groceries Online.

I kissed the foreheads of my three cherubs this morning and scooted them out the door. I sat on my couch, sipped my coffee and proceeded to do my grocery shopping.

I dashed between the aisles of dairy and produce and frozen foods with the quick click of my computer keys. I entered promo codes, I got good deals and I never left my house. Thirty minutes later, my groceries were ordered. There was no schlepping through the aisles or bribing my girls to keep their junk together for just a bit longer. Nope. This Mama added at least three hours to her week.  I then pulled up in a designated parking space, watched a nice college student load the groceries in my car and headed home. I spent those three hours with kids and hubs around the dinner table instead of in a crowded grocery store. Mom. Win.

 

4. Hold Sacred the Hours of 6pm-9pm.

My Goal: Create a Charging Station and limit screen time in the evenings.

Each year as my children get older, screens become more and more of an issue. However, my kids are not the only ones with screen addiction. I have an attention problem with my devices as well. Meaning, when one is in my hand, nothing else gets my attention.

In 2017, I want to hold sacred the hours of 6pm-9pm.  That’s when the magic (or crazy) happens. That’s when mamas and daddies all over the globe get to hear about their child’s day. We listen to the highs and the lows. We get to be engaged while they shovel food in their bellies, do homework or shoot a three pointer during basketball practice.

I personally need to regain focus in our family during those hours. Our screens need to be located in a charging station away from all of the Wanderer-screen-zombie-eyes.

 

5. Move for 30 Minutes Each Day.

No matter how tired I may feel… for thirty minutes each evening (or morning), go on a walk, swing a kettle bell or jump on the trampoline with the kids. The adrenaline is magic and the health benefits are glorious.

 

6. Be Kind.

2016 was an insane year of rude.  Anger and arrogance seemed to be the chief operating officers of these United States. The political arena seemed to drive people to irrational behavior. Let’s make the new year different.  For the sake of the upcoming generation that's watching us, let’s be extravagant with our kindness in 2017.

 

7. Use the Crockpot More Often.

Because who doesn’t like to walk home to a yummy smelling house with dinner already done and prepared? Amen and Hallelujah.

(If you are an Instant Pot Person, more power to you. I can’t fit one more appliance in my already full cupboards).

 

Happy New Year, friends! 

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The most important gift for your child this Christmas!

The most important gift for your child this Christmas

It's almost CHRISTMAS EVE! It’s the time of year when moms all over the world are feeling the crunch of Christmas-Memory-Making-Mode.

Each year, right about this time, I think: I only have a few days left to make this Christmas a memorable one!

I immediately feel like I am missing something:

Did they drink enough hot cocoa by the fire? 

Did I get the right cozy pajamas?

Are the Christmas presents going to bring forth the joy?

And the Happy Birthday Jesus Cake… I need to get to the grocery story!

I sat down this morning to sip my coffee in my Christmas mug and make my final countdown list til Christmas Day. 

I searched my thoughts to remember my favorite parts of my own Christmas as a child.  A delightful nostalgia filled the corners of mind. 

My father was a third generation apple farmer and my mother a preschool teacher.  My parents like to see someone’s face light up with joy more than just about anything else in this world.

As a child, every Christmas Eve, our clan of three would pile up in my dad’s pickup truck and embark upon a day of gifting. Our truck bed was full of bushels of apples and a few gifts. My mom’s hands held the list of the recipients.

I felt like I was sitting between Santa and Mrs. Claus and I couldn’t wait for our first stop.  Our list held names of senior adults, sick people, pastors, UVA coaches, homeless shelters, neighbors, and anyone else my parents had added to our schedule of surprises.  

Off we went! I was the one who rang the doorbell… such a treat! My nervous six-year-old finger shook with a bit of excitement as I pressed the button.  After a few seconds of waiting, a curious, beautiful grandmother greeted us with a smile that filled her doorway. 

My dad’s big booming voice roared behind me: "Merry Christmas! We thought we’d bring you some Christmas cheer!"

Then I was squished between the warm embrace of a dear grandmother and my mom.

After we visited a little while, dad gave her a hug, offered to pick her up for the Christmas Eve service at church, and then informed her we had several more stops, so we had better get moving.   

The woman’s shaky voice still can be heard in my ears: "You have just made my Christmas! Thank you for remembering me!"

And just like that, we were off to the next stop.

We heard statements all day long:

I was just sitting here hoping to see someone today!

You are the gift to me!

What have I done to receive such a present?

My goodness, what a wonderful Christmas surprise!

We also made a special stop to our apple farm to deliver gifts to the workers and families that lived there.  Dad sat down, read the Christmas story from the Bible, prayed and then handed out presents. Squeals filled the room as they ripped open their presents.

As an adult, I now realize the apples nor the gifts were the actual gift of this day.

My parents were teaching me the importance of making people feel seen. They showed me that serving others is a more cherished memory-maker than all the packages under the tree.

Somewhere between the matching Christmas pj's and the twinkly lights I need to be reminded that the most important part of Christmas is making room for people, showing them they are valuable & reminding them they are loved by a very faithful God who sent us love wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Serving others, that's the greatest memory-maker I can give my kids this Christmas.

So, after this cup of coffee is complete, I’m packing my kids up, going to the nearest bakery, grabbing a few pies (apple, of course) and we will make our own list of deliveries.

And today, we will make people feel seen and loved.

Merry Christmas, friends!

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Pouches' Community Corner

Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (BACA) exists to create a safer environment for abused children by empowering children to not feel afraid of their world. Imagine how an abused child feels when a group of large bikers rides up to their house, inducts them into their club and then escorts them to court to testify against their abuser.

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