Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Confession: I have control issues and I'm a fixer.

That confession will hold not one iota of surprise for anyone who knows me. I like things to go the way I think they should, and when they don't, I want to fix them so they do. If things aren't right in someone's life, I want to fix the problem, or maybe even the person.

Intellectually, I know I am not in control and it is not my job to fix all that is wrong in my world (or yours). I realize there is freedom in surrendering my control, laying down my fix-it tools, and being still.

Late last year, I was sitting in church and my mind was racing over a situation  I wanted to desperately fix (still do). I was flipping through the pages of my Bible and lighted upon Psalm 46:10:

"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted upon the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

This was not an unfamiliar verse from the Psalms. I had a name written by this verse, the notation dated 2007. It was name of the person involved in the situation that I was currently fretting over. Nearly nine years ago, I had underlined and noted this verse for this individual. For nine years, I had periodically and temporarily laid down my control and was still. Yet I found myself in the same place again and again. I still find myself there.

Since that Sunday, "Be still" has been rolling around in my heart and my mind over various situations. I try to remind myself to be still when I find myself reverting to my default of controlling and fixing. Some days I am more successful than others. I may always want to control and fix, and being still may always need to be a daily mantra and endeavor.

I didn't make resolutions this year, but have decided to focus on being still. I'm going to make a concerted effort to control my control issues (oh, please see the humor there) by:

  • Reminding myself to be still, and wait and watch and pray. Autocorrect myself out of control-and-fix mode.
  • Listening longer and well. Chances are I don't know or understand the whole story and can glean insight by listening more. I may never have complete understanding and I need to work to be OK with that.
  • Judging less (or at least less quickly). My perceived solutions may not be applicable, wanted, or even remotely viable.
  • Encouraging more and acting when appropriate. Being still doesn't mean throwing my hands up and watching situations and people disintegrate. It means waiting, watching, and using the skills and tools I have at the right time and place.

I'm hoping that my focus on being still will spill over into other areas of my life. I hope to read more (even more!) and write more. I hope to spend less time filling in downtime by mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed. I hope to continue to spend more time with the people who matter and to cull through my to-do list and commitments and identify the priorities that truly matter.

Here's to a new chapter of being still.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Back to the Blog

Well, it's been an entire year since I've typed words into this little corner of the World Wide Web. I didn't intend to come back on the exact anniversary of when I stopped, but here I am. I started 2015 with the best of intentions but fell far short of the goal, which was unspecified beyond "write more regularly." The longer it went since I wrote, the less inclined I felt to jump back in, although there certainly has been plenty to write about. Writing it out - whether here or somewhere else - would possibly have helped quiet the seemingly incessant cacophony of thoughts and words in my mind. The clamor seems especially resounding during the wee hours of the morning when I wake without a worry, just a lot of mental noise.

I'm here now and I'll keep my intentions unspecified, but my hope is to write more. It may not be anything deep, but it doesn't need to be. To be a better writer I simply need to write. I've had this little book on my desk for months and may draw upon it from time to time. It takes me back to the timed creative writing competitions during the fine arts festivals in elementary school where the proctor would throw out a topic and ready, set, write!

Next up: I'll write about my word for the year, or at least for this season.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


January 3

Recently we found out someone we know allegedly isn't who she purported to be. It appears she falsified a significant part of her identity. It’s early yet and the allegations are being investigated. It could be some time before the ramifications of her choices are clear. We are only tangentially associated with her, so we’ll be basically unscathed, but yesterday we spent time with someone close to her, someone who has been like family.

This individual is experiencing a whole range of emotions. Primarily shock, along with anger, disbelief, questioning, wondering if the relationship built over the better part of two decades has all been a lie.

Looking in from the outside, we are experiencing more questions and amazement than anything. What causes a person to weave an intricate web of deceit, which goes so far and wide and involves so many? If the allegations are true, how did this individual get away with it for so long? While it’s fanciful to create possible back stories, we don’t really what happened and we may never fully understand.

On our basement landing hangs a framed print that lists a dog’s rules for life, as written by a dog. They are both accurate and amusing, especially to dog lovers. And they are cause for human contemplation, wondering if we adopted these rules to our lives, how improved might our lives be. One of the rules is “Never pretend to be someone you’re not.” In light of the current duplicitous situation, that rule came to mind as I watched our golden retriever wag her tail and vie for attention today, immediately after being disciplined for misbehavior. She wasn’t apologizing – she was simply being who she is. The misbehavior is over, in the past, so time to play. She is an excellent example of transparency. She is who she is. If she wants to play, she tells you. If she wants love, she’s sure to let you know.

What if we lived completely transparent, authentic lives? Most of us likely live mostly honest lives, but sometimes it’s easier to say we’re fine when we’re not, take a little more credit than perhaps we should, or not correct someone when they offer us credit that isn't due. As I watch this particular situation unfold, I am challenged to live honestly and react in grace, in both big and little things. 


January 2            

Fifteen years ago today, I said, “Yes.” It was the second day of the new century, and it’s my own darn fault I can’t say I’ve been engaged or married for the entire 21st century. Brian originally intended to propose on New Year’s Day 2000, but I was in a grouchy mood and not very pleasant to be around. We spent the day at his house and unbeknownst to me, the engagement ring was under the sofa the entire time.

Sunday, January 2, was a sunny day and after church, he suggested we drive down to Baltimore for a change of scenery. I had a cold and didn’t feel great, but agreed and off we went. We ended up at Fells Point. I don’t remember what we did initially that afternoon, but we ended up sitting by the water near a water taxi dock. Looking across Inner Harbor, we could see the sign for the Domino sugar factory.

I was sitting on his lap with my back to him. He had his arms around me, then reached into his coat pocket. I thought he was reaching for a tissue (since I was sniffling), but he was reaching in to pull out a delft blue porcelain box in the shape of a heart with the ring inside. I was stunned. I had absolutely no idea that he was going to propose. To this day, he will tell you that I took a sweet forever to say “yes,” so long that he thought I was having second thoughts. I maintain that it took me no longer than two or three seconds to respond. Regardless of whose account is accurate, I did answer affirmatively. And then I cried, as taxi passengers disembarked and watched.

Afterward, we went to dinner at McCormick and Schmick seafood restaurant, which has since become our “special occasion” restaurant. We called my mom and stopped by her house to share the news, then on the way back to Pennsylvania called my dad who said, “Well, he didn’t waste any time!” since Brian had just talked to him on Christmas Eve. I called Pam, who screamed and in her excitement, inadvertently crashed the keys on the piano, making Meghan cry.

The next evening we went to see Brian’s parents. His mother said, “Well, it’s about time.” We then went to see his sister and her husband, who spied the ring as soon as we walked in. When we shared the news with the kids, we got a mixed reaction, which was not surprising – really, who wants the news that their parent is getting remarried and that a new adult is going to play a substantial role in the life of your family? While not a surprise to the kids, it was still a significant change looming in their lives.

I recently took one of those silly BuzzFeed quizzes entitled, “What Kind of Couple Are You?” Our results accurately assessed us as a “Best Friends Couple.” And truly we are. We built a friendship before a romance, and that friendship is the foundation of our relationship and has been a sustaining force through good times and bad.

Fifteen years later, there’s a little less hair and more grey strands. More lines on our faces and life lessons learned. There’s been more joy and more challenges than either of us ever imagined. There’s been plenty of surprises along the way. But that’s how life is, isn’t it? It never exactly the matches the script we write for ourselves.

In the past 15 years, we’ve covered a lot of ground. I know the journey ahead holds more joy and likely more road bumps than I’d like. But what a gift to know I will share it all with the one I said yes to that day near the water taxi – the one I’ve said yes to every day since.


January 1, 2015

The new year has dawned. Rather quietly in our case. We went out to dinner (5:30 early bird reservations), came home and watched a bit of TV, then headed to bed at the regular time. Fireworks went off at midnight – to which Shelby alerted us with barking. This morning, B headed over to help N work on his house renovation while I stayed home and did some cleaning and the year’s first load of laundry. Then we headed up to the cabin for the long weekend.

We were a few miles from home when I realized I hadn’t packed the sauerkraut for the traditional pork and sauerkraut New Year’s Day dinner. The homemade-by-a-colleague sauerkraut that has been in the fridge eagerly awaiting its big day. Back home we went and then we set out again, 15 minutes after we left the first time, which mean an extra 15 minutes of listening to Cooper’s hyper-vigilant, anxious canine whining.

On the way we received a call from Fred, our firewood supplier, asking if we were at the cabin and if so, did we want another load of firewood. We agreed and since we pay him in cash, we stopped at an ATM along the way. (ATMs are few and far between in this neck of the woods.) This stop also served as a pit stop for Shelby girl who had been making her needs known for several miles. With our two loveys, it’s a rare occasion we make this trip without a stop for something!

We resumed our journey and soon came upon a few cars that were stopped. They had been stopped by the local fire police, who were in the process of closing the road. There was an accident and from what we could gather, it was a bad one. We turned around and ended up taking a windy mountain road detour on a road marked “ROAD CLOSED,” which didn’t bolster my comfort level much.

As we drove, I commented on how thankful I am that volunteers serve as fire police, particularly in rural regions where there can be substantial distance between organized or professional fire and police departments. Brian commented, “Perhaps there was a reason you forgot the sauerkraut. And why Fred called and we needed to stop at the ATM.”

We don’t know what happened beyond the road closure, but not much time had passed since the incident occurred. Without one or both of our delays, we could have been in the accident or been first upon the scene.

It was a good reminder that sometimes – or maybe even always – life’s interruptions are serving a larger purpose than simply training me to increase my patience, humility and joy.

And so we started out the year with some minor interruptions that served as good reminders that 1) interruptions generally are minor and we should just roll with them and 2) interruptions can be part of a bigger plan beyond which we can begin to see. I’m not likely to embrace with open arms all the interruptions that come my way in 2015, but hopefully I’ll be able to step back, take a breath and remember the bigger story being written.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Books, Books, Books

This year, I read 55 books. I was hoping to make it 56, but I haven't read in a day or two and I don't think I'm to increase the count as the year winds down in the next 30 hours. We walked to the library on Friday to pick up Anne Lamott's Small Victories, but it's just been following me around the house. Various priorities (and distractions) and trying to get some work done during this holiday week have kept me from what I really would like to be doing - reading.

Since 2009, I've kept a log of the books I've read. Over the past six years, I've read 289 books. Some great, some terrible, most falling somewhere in between. In the category of "I'm sorry I read this," this year's winner is Bittersweet, by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. A talented writer, but literature devoid (in my opinion) of any moral and ethical content gets a thumbs down from me. I probably shouldn't have given it the repeated chances I did, but I kept holding out hope.

I'm not sure which book would receive the blue ribbon this year. As I look back over my list, there were many that I truly enjoyed. I finally read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and wish I had read it years ago when I first learned of it.

My list still weights toward the side of fiction, but I read a fair amount of non-fiction this year. Emily Wierenga's Atlas Girl was breathtakingly honest. A Deadly Wandering  by Matt Richtel was simply riveting and I think of it every time I am tempted to pick up my phone in the car. Lee Strobel's A Case for Christ was eye-opening, challenging, and affirming.

I'm looking forward to what books I'll read in 2015. I've pre-ordered Dee Henderson's latest, Taken, slated for May publication. I was delighted to see that Kristin Hannah has a new novel, The Nightingale, coming in January. I just learned that writer and neuroscientist Lisa Genova has a new book coming in April, Inside the O'Briens, a novel about a family facing Huntington's disease. If you haven't read her, you must pick up Still Alice, a fascinating work of fiction about a woman descending into Alzheimer's disease (movie coming out in January but read the book!). Genova's Left Neglected about the traumatic brain disorder of left neglect and Love Anthony focusing on autism were also great reads.

At the encouragement of my brother, I also hope to read Marilynne Robinson's trilogy, Gilead, Home, and Lila. And then there's always something to find on the yet-to-read shelf of my bookshelf and in the cache of my Kindle.

Here's to a great new year of good reading!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What I Learned in November

Linking up today with Emily at Chatting at the Sky

I haven't done a "What I Learned" post in quite a while, and I'm toying with whether to write seriously and introspectively or offer a more lighthearted take on the month. I suppose I'll settle for a little of each.

Oxtail tastes like roast beef. Glad I was able to sample this exotic-to-me dish at a food and beverage pairing event. It was one of those cases where I just needed to try it and not think about it.

Cutting an onion doesn't have to result in a huge mess.

Christmas tree lights are expensive! We discovered that probably half of our Christmas tree lights aren't working this year. We've gotten a lot of mileage out of those lights and the extreme temperatures of the attic probably contributed to their demise. I invested in new ones and took quite a hit to the budget.

Deicing a plane takes 30-45 minutes. I know I've sat through the deicing process before, but don't remember it taking this long. Perhaps I paid more attention this time because we had to go through it twice for this particular flight (with a roll back to the gate for a medical emergency in between).

Using an app to present your boarding pass is a mixed bag. It's great if it works. It's a little unnerving if it doesn't.

Being part of a team has definite benefits. I am generally a lone wolf. I'm not one for group projects or activities. However, when the chips are down (way down; way, way down), it sure is great to be part of a team who has your back ... and to have theirs.

Words matter. Once we utter words, they are out there. They have torn down or lifted up. They have enhanced relationship or broken it. The lyrics to a childhood song keep running through my head: "Oh, be careful little mouth what you say." Great advice for all ages.

Here's to a new month ahead and all that I'll learn in December!