Leaving a Trail – Forging Ahead

trail-copy“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been known as a collector of “treasures.” A few awards, some mementoes collected over time, most given to me by others, lined a shelf in my office at The Salvation Army in Syracuse. There was my magic wand, all social workers need one of those, of course, and a duck one of my managers gave me because she thought of me as the Mama Duck, and the Family Services management team as my ducklings.

eagle-copyAnother of my favorites was a small framed picture another manager gave me of an eagle soaring with a Knute Rockne quote that read: “Leadership: Eagles do not flock, you find them one at a time.”

I believe that a big part of my work has been to help others learn to soar, to rise as high as their wings could go, and for my managers, to also help them discover the leadership I saw in them, to assist and guide as they cleared away any obstacles they might face, and to live with the integrity and values foundational to leaders. At least this was what I tried to do, modeling my leadership on Bobbie Schofield, our Executive Director. I think the entire executive team did the same because Bobbie inspired us so. She was an expert at finding the eagles among us, and seeing eaglets even amid a world filled with ugly ducklings.

emerson-quote-copyIn downsizing to move to my new house, I have pared away many of these items. However, a stone with a motto on it that I chose for Doug now resides on my new desk in my new home. It reads, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

I’m keeping that one.

In the woods behind my house when I was growing up, there were many paths. Some were well-worn, beaten into hard bare earth by many feet, and there was one major thoroughfare, a shortcut from our neighborhood to our school…we all followed that one.forest-path

But my favorite thing to do was to go exploring off the beaten path, searching for “discoveries.” J.R.R Tolkien described Bilbo as someone who looked at maps and questioned what lay beyond the borders of the known. That is me, too.

I love solving puzzles, meeting new expectations, living up to challenges, acing tests, designing new ways to serve an unmet need, learning new things, discovering new tidbits of interesting information, creating hypothesis and seeing if they are true, daring myself and others to go further and do more…often with less. I honed many of those skills over a lifetime, and have taken them into many unforeseen pathways.

For 2017, the latest unexplored territory will be our retirement.

unknown-adventure-copyFor a while yet, since we moved in December, it will be figuring out our house and where to fit things…and deciding some things no longer fit. As spring comes, our new yard, a pretty blank slate, will also await. So, I know there will be lots of digging in my future. And of course, there are still this blog and my book…I need to get back on track with my agent and publishing quest now that our move is almost behind us.

magic-wand-copyWhat else awaits is…unknown! What a gift! A new lease on life to discover.  New directions, maybe new work, volunteering – All kinds of possibilities to explore.

As always, I will try to leave a trail….and just in case, if you want, you can borrow my wand.

Until then, I will close out the end of this momentous year with a poem that came to me as thoughts of Dylan Thomas and Thoreau rolled through my head as I wrote this:

The Path to a Deliberate Good Night

No need to rage if life is passionately lived,                                                                           Embraced, delved, explored, even in twilight times.                                                                          The barest bones contain the sweetest marrow.

No need to abandon gentleness, goodness, caring.                                                                  Even tears shed in farewell, especially tears,                                                                         Reflect the light of love found in shooting stars.

No need to fear approaching darkness,                                                                                           Shine a light for another, raise high your lamp,                                                                               And you can always see your path.

Sing, sing away the sunset of the dying day,                                                                             Love, love away the night till morning come,                                                                                   Live, live, and leave behind a path past the horizon.

Happy New Year my friends.

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Christmas in the Stars – a Lesson from Star Wars

star-wars“The happiness your toys bring…is your gift.” S. Claus in The Meaning of Christmas

The original Star Wars movie was released in 1977. Our son, Chris, was seven, and our daughter, Gretchen, was three. So, Chris saw the movie first, going with a counselor from the church camp my husband ran as part of his job at that time. Chris had a huge crush on Julie and asked her to take him…it was his first “sort of” date. millenium-falcon-copyOver the next few years, he began to collect Star Wars figures, a Millennium Falcon, a light saber, and we saw the movie several times. He LOVED Star Wars. Finally, when Gretchen was six in 1980, it was re-released just before the Empire Strikes Back was due to come out, so she saw it as well.

snowman town lightsAs was true for a lot of our life, but especially before I went back to work, money was tight. I scrimped and saved all year for Christmas and planned it down to my last penny, like a general marshaling the last of his troops. But the universe, (God to me), had a different message to give that year. It happened this way:

christmas-stollen-copyBy 1980, we had moved to Syracuse. Doug was a Pastor with three Christmas Services on the 24th. So that Christmas Eve, the children and I frosted the last of our cookies for Santa (The recipe is in my blog post Santa Cookies – Making Christmas Memories) and I started the Stollen dough that would be our Christmas morning’s breakfast bread. Then, Chris and Gretchen and I ran to the store for more sprinkles, whose purchase was going take my last $2.00.

christmas-in-the-stars-copyOf course, front and center as we walked into the store, there it was on display: Christmas in the Stars: A Star Wars Christmas Album record. The kids were beside themselves with excitement. I don’t remember what it cost, but I didn’t have the money. So, I tried to talk them out of it – “why, we didn’t even know what it sounded like” – but to them it was Star Wars…so it had to be great. Of course, I was heartbroken as I told them I just didn’t have any more money. Gretchen still had confidence, “Don’t worry, Mommy, you have checks.” But that only works if there is money in the bank, and my Christmas money was spent. More explaining….Chris was crushed.

santa-claus-copyChristmas junkie that I am, I had always been determined that Christmas would be the one time of year my kids would not do without even if they were preacher’s kids. So, I was equally crushed. But not Gretchen, and I heard her confidently say the words every parent dreads:  “It’s ok, Chris, we’ll just ask Santa for it. It’ll be ok, Mommy.” She believed in Santa and his ability to grant wishes with every fiber of her being, the trust shining in her eyes.  Chris, who had decided immediately after Christmas the year before that Santa no longer existed, looked at me, and wisely said nothing. Yet, more explaining. “Santa’s sleigh is probably already packed, honey. He may not be able to get it into his bag on time to get it here this year.”

santa-mailboxWe finished our baking, ate what had to be a quick dinner with Doug, and went to the 7:30 Christmas service. Then, we raced home. Time to write our notes to Santa and put out the cookies. Gretchen confidently wrote in her note: “Santa, please bring the Star Wars album for my brother.”

Once the kids were finally settled down, I explained to Doug what had happened as he opened cards people at church had given him. Just as I told him, he opened one that had $20 in it. We usually used any money we received at Christmas to pay bills, and to save to give us a little bit of money for emergencies in the months ahead. It never lasted the whole year, and we needed every penny, but Doug handed me the twenty dollar bill, and I raced to the store,  thinking all the while that I would spend this money that we really needed for what would probably be the worst album that had ever been made. Yet, there was no real choice, Santa couldn’t let Gretchen down (or even disbelieving Chris, either).

c3poChristmas morning, on the very top of the jumble of gifts under the tree, wrapped in Santa paper, there it was: Christmas in the Stars. Chris actually jumped for joy – perhaps even restoring his faith in Santa a little. Gretchen, just thrilled for him, said, “I told you Santa would bring it.” The ah ha moment came to me then: Santa had honored my daughter’s faith. It’s just that like God does, he works in mysterious ways.

We put it on the turntable: “Christmas in the Stars, Christmas in the Stars, what a Merry Christmas it will be,” C3PO sang. “Christmas in the Stars, out among the stars, underneath the Christmas tree…” he continued, and “Our hearts are full of joy, full of joy,” sang back the droids working in a factory making Christmas toys.  r2d2-copyThe concept of the album was of a Santa’s Workshop where droids made toys and wondered about the boys and girls who received them.

It was hokey, “What Do You Get a Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)” [Jon Bon Jovi sang in his debut on that one] and “R2D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas” but the music was catchy, melodic, had a beat, and was well produced.

The message was better.

The last song on the album, The Meaning of Christmas, actually brought me to tears. It still does. It begins with this discussion between C3PO and S. Claus, Santa’s son (singing in italics)

C3PO: Mr. Claus, pardon me for asking, but what does Christmas really mean? Could you explain it to us.

S. Claus: “Of course, I would be happy to.”

Christmas is a time for joy. Christmas is a world of snow. Christmas is our own face shining with a special glow, and as any child can see, Christmas needs a Christmas tree, linking tiny lights with family close at hand. Christmas wreaths on every door, Christmas carols by the score, Christmas is a time for peace and love.

star-wars-boy-and-girl-copyWhen we say, I can love you, my gift to you, is that I do, will you all say with me to each other, I can love you, my gift to you, is that I do, I do.

I don’t know if our kids ever knew how much love I felt that Christmas morning. Love for my son who adored Star Wars. Love for my daughter who loved her brother and believed in Christmas. Love for my husband who probably had a hundred uses for that $20 – but gave it to me without a second’s hesitation to make our son and daughter happy. But what I do know is the belief in my heart that day, the joy in the knowledge that our children were the greatest Christmas gift I ever received, and that while we ultimately replaced the record with a CD, Christmas in the Stars is the first album we have listened to every Christmas morning since that day.

So as C3PO says at the end of the album: “Merry Christmas everyone, and may the Force be with you always.”   Want to listen for yourself (seems appropriate that my first YouTube in a post is this):

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A Different Christmas – A Lesson from the Grinch

grinch-movie-copy“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

“Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams, I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams.” Bing Crosby

christmas-mantle-copyThe days are racing. Usually, this time of year it would be my count down to Christmas. It would be putting the candles in the windows, and putting up the tree, picking gifts, baking cookies, wrapping presents, placing Santas I’ve collected on the table, stockings on the mantle and a big Santa in front of the fireplace, a manger set, lights everywhere, while carols play on the stereo, I am a Christmas junkie!  While I wrapped the presents I had carefully selected, I would watch A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

I wait all year for Christmas…and Doug runs around and says, “Bah Humbug” and worries that the real meaning of the season is easy to lose in the paper and the bows. We always seem to find perfect balance between us, each equally overboard in our own way.

christmas-tree-copyThis year there are lots of boxes, but no ribbons. This year it is sorting and taking lots of things that used to be important to the Habitat for Humanity  Restore…hoping they can be just the right thing for a different person, and packing the things we will keep to take to our new home.

Yesterday, at last, we got a “present,” our moving date, December 15th when the moving van will load up our boxes in Edenton, and then arrive at our new home to unpack on the 16th. The marathon of the following week will be to finish cleaning the Edenton house and set up what we can at Shady Stroll Lane.

You see, one week after we move, Doug will have surgery. He will spend Christmas Eve in ICU and Christmas in the hospital. The best present of all will be that we think  the surgery will let Doug truly enjoy his life in retirement.panorama-of-christmas-copy

So, Christmas will be different this year.

“It will arrive without ribbons. We won’t have any bows,
no wreaths, no lights, no presents to show.                                                                                   No star topped tree with a village below.                                                                          Christmas will come as quiet as snow.

Christmas will be different this year.

There’ll be no stockings to hang,                                                                                                      No big celebration, no great large whiz-bang.                                                                               No bells to jingle, no gong to clang,                                                                                               Just beds to set up, and curtains to hang,

Christmas will be different this year.

But if we had no bed, no place to stay,                                                                                               A stable our home, a manger with hay,                                                                                             A star overhead would still shine till the day,                                                                              And the song of the angels would still have its way.

As silent as snow, peace would drift through the door,                                                          Good will would still find us and show how at its core                                                   Christmas is not having wrapped gifts galore,                                                                                In fact, Christmas could never be bought in a store.

Hearts always grow larger this time of year,                                                                                   As we stand hand in hand with those we hold dear,                                                                   For the shepherds and angels draw ever so near,                                                                       And tenderly fill them full of good cheer.

Christmas never changes, not for you or for me.                                                             Christmas is family, not what’s under the tree,                                                               Christmas comes from sharing love, I know that you see,                                                      Love is the true Christmas gift and always will be.

It will be a different Christmas this year, but will still be same                                               The child always faithful who knows us by name.


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Pack Up….and Smile

duffle-bag-copyPack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile.
Don’t let your joy and laughter hit a snag
Smile boys, that’s the style
What’s the use of worrying
It never was worth while
So, pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile.


Last week, was Thanksgiving and the closing on the first house we have ever owned. book-boxes-copyThe week before that family came from all over to celebrate my husband’s retirement after 45 years in the ministry, so finally we have begun to pack in earnest.  Perhaps with a little luck, we will actually even finish before the moving van pulls away from the manse.

Doug used to have a nightmare that recurred on Saturday nights that he would get to the pulpit on Sunday and wouldn’t have done or would have lost his sermon. Occasionally, it was that he had forgotten his pants and hoped no one would notice since he was wearing his minister’s robe! (Believe me, they would have!)

wrapped-pictures-copyMy latest nightmare is that the moving truck is pulling up and nothing is packed…or we are only half-packed. (Great motivation to get up in the morning and pack like a fiend!)

We moved to Edenton just a little more than 9 years ago, so how could I forget how awful packing really is? The only good news is that I no longer feel the need to exercise. Bending, lifting, and toting boxes of books, kitchen items, china, paintings, and miscellaneous do-dads are aerobic enough! I went to the doctor today and I had lost 4 lbs!

packing-stuff-copyAnd as for reading and pretty much writing (except for  a break in the evening before bed), my mental challenges right now are about how to encircle precious breakables with bubble wrap and get them in a box well enough that they are not reduced to shards of glass when they arrive at our new home…some so precious we are transporting them ourselves, just to be sure!

We came here from a house we’d lived in for 28 years. I thought we had really gotten rid of so many things then, but a few have hung on. The largest hanger ons in our lives have always been books. Doug got rid of many when we moved, but we still moved 100 boxes to Edenton. Thankfully, our Clerk of Session was a librarian, and he and another church member turned an unused room at church into a library for Doug – with wonderful hardwood book shelves. More thankfully still, while again Doug has given many professional books away to some young men about to go off to seminary, the church offered to keep Doug’s library and grant him visiting privileges!


But we have collected quite a lot of books at old bookstores in Cape Cod over the years, Journeys Through Bookland, old Harvard Classics, Collected works of Dickens and Shakespeare, American Heritage editions of most of the great must-read classics of English and American literature, 5 large bookcases full. So, while our paperbacks will go to the used book store, plenty will still go to our new home!

The hardest things to weed through are what my grandmother called cacko (chat-sko) or cacki (chat-ski), the little mementoes that connect to memories of people and places I have loved. I pick up a piece and before I can weigh out if it should stay or go I am off on a walk down memory lane, making it really hard to let any go. Hardest of all for me are items from my childhood, things that started as my mother’s treasures.

tape-gun-copyEven the twins suffered from this dilemma when I asked them to sort through the toys I began collecting when they were babies….they got very sentimental about quite a lot of them…and we kept all of those…a whole bin, in fact.

So long story short, this has to be a short post since I need to get back to work! Not much time for nostalgia or blogging. As quick as I can, I need to get back to sorting the real treasures from the “send to the Habitat for Humanity Restore” items, and still get as much packed into the old kit bag as possible.

whipping-mixer-copyNow, if I only I could decide if the hand-cranked beater my mom always used to make whipped cream has to come with me to the new house…such an odd little treasure. When I was a child we would take turns cranking and cranking the handle, listening to the crazy metallic whirring, competing to see who could turn it the fastest  until we bent the handle , and…savoring the strawberry shortcake all the more for the work….

….what do you think…maybe there’s just a little more room in our kit bag for memories and a few more smiles?

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Cast Iron Wisdom – On Seasoning and Giving Thanks

gourds-and-pumpkins-copyTomorrow, I will sit at a Thanksgiving Table at our son’s house. As usual, before I do, I will think about the year and of all the things for which I am grateful. As you know, the ending of this year has been one of mounting intensity not only for our country, but for Doug and me as we arrived at his retirement. So this year, I will ask God’s protection and blessing for America, and I will give thanks for all Doug’s years of ministry, for all the churches and people he has touched, and for all of the ways they have touched and cared for us.

turkey-with-wordsI know I will pause in gratitude for the new home that we closed on this week, making it  our very own, and remember Kris Cuddy, our agent,  and Trione, our finance manager, who gracefully turned a dream into a reality, and I will feel a few thrills of excitement over all that awaits: moving and then decorating, gardening and inhabiting Shady Stroll Lane (best name for a retirement street ever!) turning it into Nana and Boppa’s house.

Then, as always, I will spare a moment for all those who went before, without whom this Thanksgiving and all the ones that have led to it, could not have happened. As they used to say in a TV show from my childhood, most of all I will “Remember Mama.”

mother-and-child-hands-copyWe all take in our mother’s everyday teachings: “Don’t touch, HOT….Watch where you’re walking – I tended not to…Pick up after yourself…You turned it on, so turn it off…Always be polite, say please and thank you…Don’t touch what doesn’t belong to you.” I know you remember all those basics your mother taught you, critically needed to get on in the world…or famously the things you had to have learned by kindergarten.

My mother certainly taught me those things, but so much else as well. I have shared some of her wisdom sayings in past posts, because over the years more and more of her wisdom has become real to me.

mark-twain-copyMany of my mom’s lessons to me were apparent at the time. Others required life experience to understand.  Over the years, something she said would sit far back in my mind until just the right moment and then pop back into awareness when life handed me a reason to see the wisdom of her words.

I’ve always been a great fan of the reputed quote of Mark Twain’s, “When I was fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could barely stand to be around him, but when I was twenty-one I was surprised how much he had learned in seven years.”

I never thought my mother was ignorant…or the virtual swear word in my family, “stupid.”  If you acted ‘just plain stupid’, you were in trouble, for that was almost unforgivable….as in “How could you do something like that, are you stupid?” Stupid equalled ill-mannered and poorly brought up, making ill-considered, irresponsible choices or acting in ways that embarrassed or brought shame to the family.  (To clarify, this was not a condition of intelligence – It was a choice of behavior.) My mother was never stupid. I tried not to be.

But sometimes, I thought I was smarter than she was. I thought I had learned more, or that times had changed rendering some piece of advice no longer relevant.  Now that was ignorant. My mother’s wisdom has stood the test of time.

teflon-frying-panWhen I was 21, I still hadn’t quite reached Twain’s maturity. So, when Doug and I were getting married, I wanted all the latest in my registry of desired wedding presents including….Teflon pans. They were new!  They were non-stick!  I got them. I scratched them. I replaced them over the years, more than once. I gave some to my mom.  She liked them. She sometimes used them…she rarely scratched them.

eggs-in-cast-iron-pan-copyBut one of my mom’s treasures was an old cast iron skillet.  She always made the eggs or pancakes we had for special weekend breakfasts in it. It was the one pan my sister and I were never allowed to wash when we did the dishes.  Mom would carefully wipe it out and put it away.  When I asked why, she said that if we washed it we would ruin its “seasoning.”

That was a piece of wisdom lost on me – I had teflon! New improved, scratched replaced…so new again. She had that old cast iron skillet, seasoned over time, until the day she died.

large-teflon-pan-copyWhen we cleared out her apartment, I took it home. I’m not sure why, but perhaps because I could picture her making meals in it when I was a child. I kept it. And the old skillet sat in the cupboard untouched for years. After all, I still had teflon.

Well, segue ahead. Ten years after my mom died, cast iron pans began to appear in recipes. As they say, everything old becomes new again, and cast iron wisdom began to reappear.

cast-iron-pans-copyI don’t know how long it took for me to finally learn it, to get out the pan, read up on “seasoning,” and learn to care for it.  My mother’s was an old wisdom even when she was young, I had to get older to get it.

You see, she invested in something made to last a lifetime if it was cared for, something that acquired character as it was seasoned by meals and memories. Something meant to be passed on.

I had foolishly fallen in love with the new and momentary, the designed to be replaced, instead of what was designed to endure.

toad-in-a-hole-casts-iron-copyNow, you know I always use these examples from my life as the basis for lessons – today’s is seasoning: Just like mom’s pan, character is created by endurance, by the life experiences we get through, by the choices we make. The polishing of ourselves, like the surface of my mother’s skillet, happens as we are worn to a shiny patina by living our values, sharing our lives with integrity with those with whom we live and work and, I believe, by reaching out to those in need, (or, to stretch the analogy a bit…by feeding others from our pans.)

rusty-pans-copyThe corollary is that if we don’t care for ourselves as well as others, if we make the pragmatic choice because it is expeditious, or would bring a quick reward, or we want to get revenge, or thumb our nose at others, or only serve ourselves, if we contravene our values, we erode. We create pits in our purpose. We rust. We become of no earthly use.

As a social worker, it was easy to live these values in my job, as a pastor’s wife I did that in my church, and as a wife and mother, in my home. We all have these opportunities.

My mother worked for the air force. She could be as gruff as any of the military guys she worked with, but she had a heart and a passion for caring for the people she encountered. She didn’t need to be a social worker to create a patina of kindness as silky as the butter in her pan. burgers-in-cast-iron-skillet-copyShe “mothered” and brought home airmen away from their families, and was the very best and caring friend, and she believed in her children’s abilities, backing up that belief by working to assure we had college money in an era when mothers didn’t work. Her cast iron enduring wisdom is my foundation.

Teflon, the non-stick, slick surface may last for a while – like a candidacy where nothing the candidate said, no many how egregious it was, stuck, but white nationalism cannot succeed forever in a country ever more diverse. And at our roots, our country is grounded on solid values and they will pop up again and again and keep reasserting themselves.

thanksgiving-bounty-banner-copySo for me, this Thanksgiving I am going to give thanks for the things that sustain us, the love of family, the heritage of wisdom, and try to keep polishing my character. Cared for, cast iron will endure forever.





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Roller Coaster Ride

“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day-to-day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”  Viktor E. Frankl

“The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word: ‘grace.'”  Max Lucado

sunset-roller-coasterGetting over the election overshadowed much of last week for me. Usually, I am a news junkie.  I couldn’t watch the end of it. It felt like watching some terrible unexpected accident unfold.  The odd thing is I often have voted for a candidate who didn’t win, but I had never been this depressed and distressed. I felt like there was a sinking pit in my stomach, the same feeling I have often gotten on a roller coaster as it drops precipitously.

the-comet-copyWhen I was a child, we used to visit family in Buffalo and then cross the Peace Bridge to go to Crystal Beach in Canada. We’d swim at the beach and go to the amusement park there. It was rudimentary by Disney standards, but it had a fantastic roller coaster.  The Comet, reconstructed in 1947 from the 1927 Cyclone, was and still is   considered by many as one of the all-time world’s best roller coasters.

the-comets-first-hill-wikipedia-copyOnly the big kids got to ride it. Year after year I waited to grow, and the excitement built until finally my cousin, Paula, and I were tall enough to reach the height limit. I still remember the build up as the cars slowly moved up the slope of first hill leading to the first peak. We were tipped backward, getting more and more scared and then, the 87 foot drop.


the-comets-historic-landmark-sign-copyWe shrieked, we shut our eyes, terrified, fighting the tears the wind speeding past brought to them. Up and down and round corners that made you feel you would fly off the rails, the Comet never failed to bring the feeling that the bottom was dropping out beneath us and the world was about to end. We thought we would surely die and felt the thrill of surviving afterwards.

(In its honor, let me just say it was so good and so notorious it still exists to this day.)

wild-mouse-sign-copyYears later, Crystal Beach unveiled The Wild Mouse.  It was a Coaster of sorts. It had quick fast turns and small but quick up and down hills.

wild-mouse-car-wikipedia-copyInstead of long cars holding pairs in rows, the Mouse had cars seating four. It had plenty of g-forces, but what I remember the most was bumping my knees on the bars and slamming into Paula, and her into me, hard, as we were shaken and twisted in this wild ride.

I only rode it once.

Last week, after the long build up of a bumpy, brutal campaign, the bottom dropped out for me in the election. I was left shaken and afraid. The Wild Mouse had won.

hands-surrounding-family-copyYet, the week ended with a wonderful celebration.  On Saturday, there was a different kind of mounting excitement as family started to gather. Doug’s brothers flew in, and next my cousins, and finally Doug’s former intern, Michaela, arrived from New York with her sister. We all joined some local friends for a dinner at a local restaurant. We joked and laughed, toasts were given, and we recounted family stories.


church-sign-copySunday, after 45 years of ministry, Doug held his last service at the Edenton Presbyterian Church and retired. Following the service was a celebration dinner and then a “This is Your Life” program filled with humor and laughter.

There were letters from colleagues lauding his ministry with tenderness and touching recollection, and speeches including one by our daughter that I will never forget. The end of last week’s ride was filled with shared love and yes…surrounded by family and friends…it was filled with grace.

cross-copyThat afternoon, for a few hours, our grandchildren got to know family who last saw them as infants or small children.  Then, Doug’s brothers left to meet their flights home and our kids left for Raleigh and work. Sunday night, my cousins,  Michaela and her sister sat around our dining room table with us continuing the laughter and the denouement of this special occasion. Monday, after meeting for coffee, our cousins left for New York. Today, Michaela and Gabriella will leave.  Luckily, this has been the gentlest of slopes, and our twin grandchildren, Ella and Grey, who are on a school track out, remain to ease any bumps of re-entry into ordinary valley time.

our-house-copyNext weekend will bring another peak experience, Sunday, the final walk through at the house we are buying, and next Monday will be our closing. We will then own the first home that is really ours.

You see, life is a roller coaster ride.  So, even though some roller coasters are bumpier than other, and we are not sure where the next ride will take us, we are still ready to go. Why? Because cushioned by the love of family and friends, we know the ride will be often so sweet that even during times when we experience slams in life that bang us up, it is worth it.sunset-roller-coaster

Grace is always waiting at the end of the line.




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The Day After America’s Brexit

connected“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
― Winston S. Churchill

“United we stand, divided we fall.” Aesop

“With malice toward none, with charity for all…let us bind up the nation’s wounds, and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves…”   Abraham Lincoln

presidential-election-copyI wrote a post the day before the election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump thinking Hillary would win. This is not exactly that post. Though those were the quotes I was using, and I still believe them.

I said in it I would post it Wednesday, today, regardless of the victor, but though I have edited it, and fear it will be more difficult with the candidate who won, my feelings are the same.

This has been the ugliest election I have ever witnessed and it has done damage to individuals and institutions from the Democratic National Committee, to the Republican Party, to the FBI. And now, America has chosen an angry isolationist who has made promises no man can keep. Maybe he will remove regulations and some mining jobs will return, but just as innovation led to assembly lines, technology has led to automation. Cheap labor will remain overseas. And the only jobs left in manufacturing will be for those who go out and get advanced technical training.

Backbreaking jobs may always exist but they won’t make the kind of money they used to. Even if that is what those who elected him think Trump meant. The world has moved on and looking backward will not change anything. But we do have to move on, and we have to find a way to move forward together.

america-in-red-white-blue-starsYet, I am not writing this to point fingers, to parse out words or faults, to endorse or defame any candidate. I am writing this to make the same plea I wanted to make two days ago.

Like the phoenix, please help America rise above the ashes of this election.

I guess the hows have slightly changed but basically remain. How can we do this:

  • by encouraging the victor to reach out to the loser’s party…and by doing that ourselves.
  • by choosing to no longer demonize either candidates or party.
  • by accepting that there needs to be respect and attention to the losing party’s issues.
  • by everyone acknowledging that the fight is over,  but the governing remains.
  • by understanding that governing means the opposite of to the victor goes the spoils – so that for the best outcomes, the winning party does not get everything they want, and the losing party gets some of what they desire  (That has not been the GOP position when Obama was in office and they have opposed everything. I pray they will be magnanimous and the Democrats do not take on their attitude.)
  • by choosing to work together to find fairness,
  • by finding ways to address issues together through compromise

unityAnd America we have to hold our representatives to that standard. They work for us, the collective us, for our nation, for the best interests of our country which is best served when we work collaboratively, when we seek the common ground upon which we were founded.

We must resist polarization and not be controlled by it.  By running to extremes, we may hold the other side in check, but all sides lose. It is only by meeting in the middle, by finding compromises, that there can be a win – win for all. And that is the way America has been governed except in the worst parts of our history.

lincoln-statueI listened on Tuesday to the Diane Rehm’s show and heard them describe the country as being as divided as it was just before the Civil War. Tribal and racial politics and a tribal media are dividing us into a white America and a minority America, into differences by gender, by class, by race, by wealth, by country of origin (though other than native Americans all of us come from elsewhere), by rural versus urban dwellers, by education level, by older versus millennial concerns. And with those differences, have come grievances.  But we are one America and we can one be strong if we do not let ourselves be divided, if we choose to stand up not just for self but for all. America, at heart, has always believed that we rise together. but we need to see that belief actualized with no one left behind.  And we cannot insist that benefitting the rich always benefits the poor…it has been demonstrated time and again that it doesn’t.

What we need is for both sides to believe the country needs to be governed and the framers of our Constitution created a shared government that worked together – certainly with some checks and balances – but not a government that refuses to work, committed only to thwarting the other side or reversing anything its predecessor achieved,

lincoln-memorialMy view is we need our president to heal these divides. That is an immense problem and even a Lincoln might have struggled if he had lived.  Unfortunately, neither candidate was or is a Lincoln. We need one.

But WE are still the Land of Lincoln. WE are Americans first before we are Republicans or Democrats. WE are the people and if we insist that America works, it will.

What will that take?  A commitment to LISTEN to each other. To hear the concerns that underlie the positions. To really attend to and value those needs. To find the ones that WE share.  We clearly have some. We all want America to be strong. We all want America to remain a place of opportunity including for the blue-collar formerly middle class workers whose jobs in manufacturing, in mining, have been lost, and the struggling underclass. While we have always had “millionaires,” we have never had an oligarchy. We have always seen America as a land of opportunity…for everyone. WE need to make that true.

statue-of-libertyWe need to listen to business concerns and make the American economy strong AND see that there are workers at the bottom who are still struggling though the economy and the Stock Market have returned to the pre-2008 levels. We need to solve health care for everyone. We are a nation of immigrants and we need to decide how we respond to the humanitarian refugee crisis while still keeping ourselves safe from terrorism. We also need to realize we are not the boss of the world, but that the world does rely on us. As John F. Kennedy quoted, “From those to whom much has been given, much is required.”  [Luke 12]  If we are going to remain great, we need to use that greatness for good.

We have to stop being EITHER OR and return to a BOTH AND concept of governing and loving in the world.

flag-copyAnd VOTERS that can happen if we come together and if we insist Congress and the President come together, if we insist Gridlock is over and Democrats and Republicans can and must work together.

If you are reading this on Wednesday November 9th, or later, I ask you on this day to commit to America coming together again as One Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all and insist whoever leads us at any time in our future,  they lead us in that direction.


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