Thursday, December 31, 2009


Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


There is no greater confirmation of the trustworthiness of God than when we trust Him
 even in the face of the unexpected insecurities and uncertainties of life.
And who knows what He has in store through you
 in terms of impact in future generations when He rearranges your life?

Joe Stowell
Strength for the Journey
December 22, 2009

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.’ ” Luke 1:30-31

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


LG's catching on. At dinner last night she informed her family that we'd better be good or we won't get any presents. Santa Claus knows when we've been bad, so we'd better be good.

Not sure how this effectively mediates her behavior because she wasn't in the least cooperative when it came time to leave the house this morning. She's a very focused t.v. viewer and mornings are all about PBS Sprout.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


He saw each note as it fell from his clarinet. Smooth, stretched, with a smokey luster that made him think of black pearls against a woman's translucent white skin. "If I Had You," it was called, an old tune with a slow, sweet melodic line. Had he ever played this one for her?
Deborah Crombie
Kissed A Sad Goodbye

I've always loved the Chicago Tribune's small book's column featuring favorite opening paragraphs. More often than I expect I am taken with an author's hook...

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Courageous risks are life giving, they help you grow, make you brave and better than you think you are.
Joan L. Curcio
ME calendar quote

Monday, December 14, 2009


LG and I did some late-in-the-day shopping yesterday. LE needs a brown long-sleeved onesie and tights or leggings to match, and a little research on the Internet indicated Gymboree was the place to go.

Friday, December 11, 2009


I admit to being a bit of a celebrity news junkie... But, enough is enough. I am SICK and TIRED of Tiger Woods and Jon Gosselin. They aren't interesting. Their actions are not only ego-manical, but devastating to their familes. Doesn't ANYONE realize that their children will grow up and they will Google, and they will be plagued by the lies, exaggerations, and notoriety of the bad behavior these so-called men have exhibited.

Vultures all of them. E! Access Hollywood, People, US... And, the experts that give conjecture, opinions, and the oh-so-disappointed head shakes. Enough! I refuse to read, watch, or think about either one of these despicable people.

Monday, November 30, 2009


"Everything in our lives," she said quietly, "leads up to everything else in our lives. So a moment in the present has a reference point both in the past and in the future. I want you to know that you--as you are right now and as you ever will be--are fully enough for this moment... "
With No One as Witness, pg. 597
Elizabeth George

Monday, November 23, 2009

BIBLICAL GUILT: A play on words

I love quiet time. Truly. Sitting in one of the two chairs in my greatroom. It's a holy time and a blessing for me. Yet, getting started is always the hard part. Distractions. Priorities. Procrastination. It's really what I'd planned to be doing now...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Life wasn’t a continuum of events, although it wore the guise of exactly that. Instead, it was actually a carousel. In infancy, one mounted a galloping pony and started out on a journey during which one assumed that circumstances would changes as the expedition continued.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


It's popular now to state that if you multi-task you don't do any one thing well. I know differently. I was a multi-tasker for years, and continue to slide into that mode on occasion. My job as an executive assistant required multi-tasking and I did it well. Very well.

Some of us are wired to keep a lot of plates spinning and have the ability to also complete tasks on-time. Currently, I choose to not multi-task. I am at a stage of life that allows me to slow down and to enjoy the journey. I've missed a lot of joy over the years, because while I was successful at multi-tasking, it left me drained and exhausted and unable to slow down the processing unless I totally collapsed into inertia or sleep. I didn't know how to dial it down. I multi-tasked everything.


Glory be! Jon Gosselin has managed to stay out of the entertainment news headlines for almost two full days. (I spoke too soon. He didn't make it through the second day.) Let's celebrate! A long time ago, when he was a loving father and husband, I respected him. Of course that was a long time ago. I think his downfall definitely started just after his father died. I think he lost his center, and the increasing media attention first frustrated him and then, as with all evil, he was seduced.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


We always dressed up. Usually as a bum or beatnik (I was going to say "hippy" but remembered they came later), or sometimes in a borrowed costume. Like for most of our growing up years, we depended on our own creativity and organizational skills. It was almost more than our parents could accomplish to have treats available for the neighborhood kids. I can remember many times when Dad would say, "Just give them apples." because in the Fall we always had a bushel of apples from an orchard.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

DYING... But, not soon

Sometimes when we touch the honesty's too much...

NC--my older sister by 13 months--already has her funeral planned. Morbid? I thought so, too, until our recent trip to Kaua'i when I was overcome with the knowledge that I know how I want my demise handled.

I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered on Polihale Beach in Kaua'i. If CA survives me, he can save a bit of ash to have buried in Eureka, IL with his decaying carcass. He is adamant that he will NOT be burned... And, so far I want Jack Johnson's music and Marc Cohen's music played at my funeral. Also, Dan Hill's Sometimes When We Touch--if CA survives me. That's not really a love song--if you listen closely to the words--but it is all about love and has been my favorite for decades.

That's all for now. Morbid? Sure, but reflective of my wishes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

RUMINATING... The Good Kind

I can do real damage to myself with pointless rumination. We all can, if we're so inclined. Lately I've been doing the good kind of ruminating... The kind where I overflow with happiness and praise for God's grace, love, and gifts.

I decided to actually retire full-time instead of part-time, and it's SO freeing. I love it. Life was a little too slow this summer as I sought purpose to go along with my freedom. That part is going to take some time, but for the present and the next four months my little ones are here from Europe and each day is full to overflowing. We'll have Thanksgiving together--all of us, including 4-3/4 little ones: LG, JA, KF, LE, and a yet-to-be named baby girl.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I have been avoiding writing about the primary thing on my mind these days--the future and how to get there. I am clueless as to what is next and freaking bored with the present. No work on the horizon and that is hell for a task-driven person.

Monday, August 3, 2009

PERSPECTIVE... The Difference Between the Brilliant and the Merely Accomplished

"You know the difference between the brilliant and the merely accomplished?" he asked.

"Net Worth?"

"Perspective/Smart people see too much, know too much. They're too easily distracted by insight and revelation. The thoughts pile up until there's too much to filter. Perceptive people are ultimately crushed under the weight of their own comprehension. They know the merciless realities of life."
from Hard Stop by Chris Knopf

Perception becomes a language... The far greater part of what is supposed to be perception is only the body of ideas which a perception has awakened.
Thomas Wedgwood, Essay on Vision

Monday, July 27, 2009


Millennium Park - Cloud Gate
Churchill and Klehr Photography

No jobs so far this summer. I haven't really felt like working, but I'm used to structuring the rest of my life around these contract jobs. I focus entirely on work for a short period of time and then do everything else I like/want the rest of the time. The bank account gets healthier and I spend a bit more.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I was 10 and my brother was a baby. I must have been home sick from school. I was home sick from school--fall or spring because I didn't need a coat. So, baby brother was a couple of months old or 8 or 9 months old. I'd have been in fifth grade.

My mom had a red print robe--small black and white design, but the red and the quilting were predominate. I loved that robe. It reached almost to the floor when I wore it.

I don't remember what precipitated the event... All I remember was mom grabbing little brother and then my hand and marching us down the street toward Gale Avenue. I remember she said something like, "We're leaving." Whatever the tone of voice I did not question her, which in and of itself would have been a feat. I always had something to say.

I remember reaching Gale Avenue. Was dad home? I don't remember how we got home or why our running-away-from-home ended. Must have been spring of 1959 because that year Aunt Margie came to take care of us and NC and I returned to Virginia with her for the entire summer.

It had to be spring because if mom was that out-of-touch with reality in the fall, how did we make it to spring?

For most people we'd call it post-partum depression. My mom's post-partum happened over and over again even when there was no birth.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


An interesting comment in the recent Patricia Cornwell book, Scarpetta. In referencing Kay Scarpetta, her husband Benton mentions that it takes awhile for her emotions to catch up to her intellect.

I love that! I identify with that. Why have I not heard or read something like that before?

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I am the biggest waster of energy. I spend way too much time anticipating events that I can't control. Once they happen, I deal with all the stuff just fine, but in the meantime I am exhausted with the anticipation.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Gigi reading to JA - Omaha in June

I was skimming through the Chicago Tribune today--scanning and opting not to read all the info/tributes to Michael Jackson--and read a bit of a column by Eric Zorn and Mary Smich. What caught my eye was Eric Zorn's reference to his "beloved mother-in-law." Wow! Not the descriptive usually attributed to mothers-in-law.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I've had that creeping, nasty feeling surface this week--discontent. I hate it and I think I am ashamed of it. I examine my days and realize that I am blessed with a lovely home and good health. I have a loving husband and fully-fuctioning healthy children, and there are 4 beautiful grandchildren 8 hours away. Eight hours by plane or eight hours by car.

Still, there's that creeping discontent. I think the shame comes from the feeling that I should be doing more--of what I can't imagine. I have been a world-champion multi-tasker my entire life, but don't have the nerves/heart/will to live that crazy-making way any more.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I've been doing a bit of reading--quite a bit. It's really my favorite pastime, but I never do it guiltlessly--even when I can. I choose to submerge myself in books when I need solitude and rest, when I'm traveling, and when I commute by train to jobs in the City. I'm a very fast reader, which is more bad news than good these days. It was great when I was a student and had required assignments, but now I run through about a book a day, and that is expensive and inconvenient.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


"Living is like driving," my grandmother used to say. "You have to pick a lane."
Kathleen Flinn
The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

Sage. But, the good news is that you can (and will) change lanes! As an adolescent I remember people saying, "Her (and, yes, it always seemed to be a her at that time in the culture) life is ruined." Un-uh. One event does not ruin a life unless it is a death sentence or a life in prison sentence and then I guess you've got me there.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Our friends have had more than their share of sorrow and loss in the years that we've known them. There have certainly been joys and celebrations amongst the sorrows. But, the extent of their losses and hurts is significant, and in the midst of a time of grief and remembrance another blow fell. God has been gracious and the end results are merciful and good. It's just very hard to understand how He has allowed another huge trauma to fall when they barely have their sea legs from the recent past.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I've mentioned... My mom was hospitalized many times during my childhood with mental health issues. The treatment was archaic and understanding was nil. Families hid the facts as they were deemed shameful.

Recently my sister JL showed me this letter she wrote to Mom during the first hospitalization I remember. I was in first grade and Grandma Jacobs traveled from her home 2 hours each way on Sunday nights to spend the weekdays with us while Dad worked. On weekends she would return home to cook and clean and spend time with Grandpa.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Club Mougins

CA and I are planning on going back to the South of France in December. We thought that our October trip to Kaua'i would preclude a European winter, but we think we can swing it. The wonderful arrangements we had at Club Mougins are available again this year, and DM & MK are planning to join us for a week or two. The villa is quite comfortable for 4 adults, and the little girls will be an added delight.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

BIRTHDAYS - Two sets of twins.

I have new great grands. A nephew and niece--Grant Allan and Charlotte Belle. Such sweet bundles of love born on 4/23/09. And, today is the 60th birthday of my childhood friends Kathleen Sue and Kristine Lou. Kathy lives near Phoenix, but sadly Kristy died too soon in the late 1980s.

Kristy struggled as a bipolar-rapid cycler, but she was a beautiful, intelligent, and gifted young woman. Even with all the traumas and dramas of being manic depressive, her death was still a surprise. It was Memorial Day weekend and she was attending a picnic in the backyard of a friend, sitting at a picnic table, passing the tomatoes down the line. When out of the blue--literally--a small plane crashed into the backyard and Kristy died instantly. She left a young son and small daughter. She was grieved by her twin and an older sister, along with her elderly parents. She had worn everyone out over the years with her ongoing high-strung, attention-getting behaviors, yet she was a beloved daughter, sister, mom, and friend. We still miss Kristy and pray that she has found peace and rest with her Heavenly Father.

Kathy struggled for years after an early divorce. They just grew apart--each one disappointed with the person the other had become. They did not mourn the loss of the marriage, but it was harder for Kathy to move on, as it is most times with young women who move straight from parent's home to a husband's. And, DP was controlling. He so much wanted Kathy to be independent and intelligent and educated, yet he also was drawn to her beauty and dependence. She was smothering under his strong hand, and made several aborted attempts to return to school or work full-time. In time, she did some testing and found that she had been coping with learning disabilities her entire life--she wasn't dumb! She was just as intelligent as her twin or me; she had been frustrated with the limitations imposed by undiagnosed difficulties. What relief! What release!

Still, after the divorce she did not triumph. I prayed that she would have a good friend who would walk along with her and guide and encourage her. I lived so far away and the myriad of phone calls were not sufficient to under-gird and help her move ahead. God sent such a friend. And, here's where I got mad! Kathy had been abusing prescription drugs for years--running from doctor to doctor and getting whatever she could to suppress and subdue the panic and depression. Years of addiction, undisclosed to me as I suffered through endless and lengthy phone calls of distress and confusion. I had not guessed.

This new friend allowed Kathy to move in if she remained drug-free, and encouraged her to put her fastidious personality to work cleaning houses to make the money she needed to survive. Much of her divorce settlement and money left to her by a cousin was consumed first by breast reduction and then enlargement because they took out too much! She was broke, but clean after a short stint in rehab.

During this time she was introduced by her pastor to a very handsome, divorced Air Force pilot. An answer to yet another prayer--that she would find someone to take care of her, as life on her own would never meet the deep needs of her personality and learned behaviors. They married within a year and settled into a loving marriage that now approaches 25 years.

Happy Birthday, KS! May all your dreams come true. I love you, my lifelong friend.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Again, as Jami Attenberg mentions in her novel The Kept Man, artists have to pretend that their parents are dead...

When I am with my sister JL we tend to ruminate over the past dysfunctions of our family--not in anger or accusation, but in order to understand and process. It turns out that there are stories we both don't remember, or didn't know to begin with. Some I think I should skip until after my dad passes away. I have forgiven him much and do not mean to harm him now.

There is the story of the affair... JL did not know this and was shocked all these years later with the details. I will leave those for later.

JL recounts a story of grandpa K cautioning her about marital choices when she was dating the dreaded Perry...

When BZ visits us on Friday at Indian Lake, we reach further into the family vault and go down many branches and share and remind each other of stories we don't remember. BZ is 10 years younger than me and almost 15 years younger than JL. She doesn't know even a fraction of our family stories, but we shared grandparents and there is a wealth of stories from that connection.

Uncle Gerald the pedophile--we believe sincerely that he abused each of his children and certainly some of his nephews and nieces. Grandpa protected his own, and none of his three girls ever showed signs of abuse. Gerald's children all struggled with the entire array of possible outcomes from abuse. Our dear, dear cousins--children of his youngest brother--probably were repeatedly abused. Yet, until the most recent years since Gerald's death, my dad would find it necessary to give each of us the current Gerald update...

WHAT! Doesn't dad have a memory. What is he thinking? Why would any one of my siblings want to hear one word about him? We avoided abuse, but Gerald certainly tried. This is a very distinct evidence of God's protection and sufficiency.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Thanks, Layla of The Lettered Cottage blog. I love the quote you included at the bottom of your most recent post:

I like to see a home like this, a home connected with people's thoughts and work; things they love.
Dewitt Bodeen
1908 - 1988

Home is where the heart is--a place of comfort and nourishment. If your soul cries out for beauty, comfort, humor, nature; then surround yourself and your loved ones with things that feed your soul. Your home will become a place people are drawn to and hesitate to leave. Your children will approach retuning home as they would going on a vacation.

While it is true that you can't take it with you, if you are nurtured and your heart and emotions are filled in the atmosphere of your home you will have so much more to give to others. And, just being in a place of beauty and respite is so scriptural--from the 23rd Psalm:

He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.

RUMINATING - Sometimes it is healthy.

So, for some reason I was ruminating on events from 10 years ago and more. I worked for a leading environmental services company for 16 years in the 1980s and 90s--in an administrative position assisting a high-level executive. The job ended with a hostile takeover of the company, but my boss for 15 years of the time was fired (for no reason other than a criminally minded new President who was fired in short-order himself) a year before the company actually was sucked-up by a raider.

My ruminations were on the boss I had during the 16th year--great packaging, but a combination of smoke and mirrors. He was Irish with a lilt of an accent, handsome in a fresh-out-of-the-bandbox sort of way, He was also mean, unscrupulous, arrogant, narcissistic, and demeaning. One morning he ranted at me because he didn't like the way I said good morning to him. He walked in, said, "Good morning," and I said, "Hello." Truly. That was it. He told me he was sick of my attitude, etc. I ended up meeting with HR (who already had his number) and the HR person begged me to not quit but to stick it out and get the severance package that was sure to come. In the end, with no prodding by me, the founder and Chairman of the company called this guy in and told him to lay off and that I was a valued employee and he required him to be more respectful of me. I got no apology, but there was no repeat performance.

It was an undeclared truce. I did not respect him, but I had always been respectful. It's funny what a person can read into a communication--totally flavored by their own paradigm.

I was foisted on him--no one wants the old guy's assistant who surely comes with loyalties and baggage. But, that wasn't how I started out. I wanted a fresh and successful start with him. I got my hair done the weekend before he started, I bought some very high-end business casual new outfits, and I bought him a lovely flower arrangement which was waiting for him on top of his bookcase. Just to be clear, that bookcase was directly across from his desk chair--in perfect view every minute he was in his office. He never acknowledged it, though there was a card with a kind sentiment, and I eventually threw it out when I got tired of not being thanked. It was my $35, not the company's.

He required me to buy his 2% milk to have available fresh in the frig in our private coffee area. My former boss was extremely self-sufficient. This guy was not. But, the weirdest thing was that every time he poured milk into his coffee (maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) he would spill milk on the carpet and then grind it in with his shoe... No kidding. He was a pig. When I met his wife at a company function a couple of weeks after he started and told her he did that, she said that he was messy at home, too. She said she literally followed him up the stairs every morning wiping the coffee spills from his trail.

One thing I loved--he got his hair styled, not cut, and he got highlights! His stylist called one day to say she couldn't do the highlights that day because of a personal conflict... That was perfect! I was tempted to write the message out in-full, but resisted... He had slate grey hair with silver highlights. He was stunning, really quite striking. But, beauty is as beauty does and he was a heel.

The Chairman fully regretted the decision to hire this guy. They basically ignored him--shunned him--and only dragged him out to appear in front of the investment banker-types when they came in for the sales presentation while we were marketing the company--"To enhance shareholder value."

My last day there, it was disgusting. This Irish guy was on the phone with the fired President who hired him and they were gloating about their Golden Parachutes and how they had made out like bandits. Really, the laughter was evil.
When I met a bit later with the HR guy for my severance announcement and termination, I told the guy, "I'm going to be the easiest person you've had to talk to." He presented the package, which was EXTREMELY generous, I signed the paperwork and went back to my desk to finalize the packing-up. The Irish guy was on the phone, so abruptly I decided to leave without saying good-bye. Most of my friends in the executive area had already left the premises, except for the one or two who would continue with the new company.

I was driving down the road toward Naperville--it was actually the night of my last class of my last course before finishing my degree and graduating, and CA's soccer team was participating in the state tournament in Naperville that day, too. I wasn't more than a mile or so down the road when I thought, "Mariellle, you're better than this. That was a tacky way to leave--you should go back and say goodbye." Then I thought about it for a quarter second more and decided no one always gets it right, and this time I would just let the chips fall. I never looked back.

Working at S-K was a great run--great people and a great business. I put two kids through college and built up a retirement account. I had been suffering from what I liked to call ennui for a few years--which is what got me back to college. The run was over, and except for the last year I got to work for the most intelligent man I have ever met. He was kind and quietly charming--shy at first, but he totally blossomed over the years. I know he used to eavesdrop on the conversations between the executive assistants. Rather than being annoyed at our conversations and closing his door, I think he loved the gossip and perspective. I have always known that respecting my boss is paramount, and I always respected him.

Friday, April 17, 2009


About 1960. From left: GJ, PM, Mom, NC, JL, PL, me, Dad

In a few weeks my family will reunite for a celebration. My next oldest sister, by just 13 months, is coming to visit from Seattle. We haven't seen her for more than 1-1/2 years, although we talk almost weekly.

There are 6 siblings--5 older sisters and a brother. My mother died over 10 years ago, but dad is stoically 87 years old and counting... His hearing has declined, but his health is good.

Anyway, families are by nature dysfunctional and ours toed that line! I carry and have shed lots of baggage from those growing-up years, but being a part of a large family is a huge part of the tapestry of who I am. God made me and guides my life, so this is what he dealt me. By almost any measure, it hasn't been a bad deal. Scars? Yes! Baggage? Lighter each year! But, the overwhelming definition I attribute to my growing up years is: sufficiency. God is sufficient, and has filled the bags of my life full to overflowing with blessings.

And, as Sue Miller so very eloquently puts it in her novel For Love: Everyone has a story. It's what you do after that counts.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Not every day is eagerly anticipated. I sometimes go through down times--where my energy and enthusiasm are sucked away by dangerous ruminations. Most of the time I am blessed with a definitely cup-half-full outlook, but there are a few periods of time each year... So, even before I open my eyes in the morning I have learned to touch base with God. Verses I've memorized and leaned on over the years cycle through my awareness.

For I know the plans I have for you. Plans for welfare and not for calamity. Plans to give you a future and a hope.

For God has not promised a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.

Faithful is He who has promised, who also will bring it to pass.

Faithful is He who began a good work in you and will also bring it to pass.

Paul's promise to the Philippians (of which I am one by marriage!) So this is my prayer, that they would overflow with love for others while continuing to grow in their own spiritual knowledge and insight. (This is the prayer that I have prayed for each member of my family for many years, and God is so, so faithful...)

These and many more... What a joyous way to face each new day.

And, I have learned that when I do not want to get up in the morning--lazy or tired or facing tasks I dread--it helps to first open my eyes, become acclimated to the room, and then my Calvinistic upbringing kicks in and I am ready for action. Well, maybe not action but at least the first tentative steps.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Our Small Group on an evening when we were absent, as was one other couple.

I don't think I've ever written about our Small Group. We have been together for 15 years--originally formed at the behest of the mega church as a way to experience community and grow in faith. This group is our church. Literally, these days.

It took almost 5 years for us to really gel--we have always been social and friendly and supportive, even open with each other. But, when the first of us lost a parent and then a brother under tragic circumstances--that was when we realized that what we have as a group is special and God-honoring.

There have been lots of weddings, funerals, births, birthdays, celebrations, outings, and gab and food fests since those early days. We get together about twice a month on Sunday nights for a few hours. We talk and eat, eat and talk; discuss and pray--all in an atmosphere of love and laughter.

Not all of us attend the mega church anymore, but we are and will continue to be bonded in Christ's love for us. We are a community. There are 16 of us--started out with 12 and no one has ever moved away or left. We treasure those we've added over the years.

Being part of a Small Group is one of the best things in life. I remember years ago longing for somewhere and someone besides CA to have intense and deep conversations--meaningful words and thoughts. A place where discussion and debate would be mixed with truth and accountability--flavored always with love and faith and trust.

Thanks, God!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Gloria Steinem & Betty Frieden

Feminism defined: the belief that women matter as much as men do.

"I hate discussions of feminism that end up with who does the dishes," she said. So do I. But at the end, there are always the damned dishes.
Marilyn French, again

I've never really considered myself a feminist, but I am well aware that my life is better because of the vocal feminists of the last few decades. Feminism is not a subject that we discuss at my house. My husband does laundry, dishes, cooks, cleans, and was always an involved father. As a teacher he was home summers and holidays when I was working. He didn't start out this good, he's just a smart guy who looked around, saw things that needed doing and did them.

I knew before I married him that he loved kids. He also loves sports and teaching. He is an authority figure in the classroom, but he likes to have fun. His brand of humor borders on lame, but still he persists. He has been a very popular math teacher and coach--successful and happy in his career and life.

I have almost always worked outside the home. I'm just wired that way. I was a late bloomer--not finishing my degree until mid-life. Wish I had gotten it together way earlier. And, I should have been a teacher. The benefits are terrific--June, July, and August. Every year. Sigh... Now he has the pension and I have a very anemic 401(k).
Anyway, these comments on feminism are leading up to a celebration of today. 42 years ago today I had my first date with CA. Yep! The story continues...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Fear is a question. What are you afraid of and why? Our fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if we explore them.

Oh, God, why don't I remember that a little chaos is good for the soul?

Both by Marilyn French

Lay-offs, terminations, down-sizing... The news is full of thousands. My dear friend just lost her job. Her first reaction is relief and acceptance--the full force of the loss will hit soon. We, the good workers, take such ownership in our jobs and careers that being made redundant is a tsunami. We see the wave coming, even assume it will make a direct hit, but still think there will be no devastation. After all, isn't hard work and loyalty rewarded?

The first rule for grief is to grieve, and the second is don't set a time limit. The third is that we will repeat the grief cycle more times than one can guess. And, months and years later we may be tempted to ruminate through the circumstances leading up to and following the loss.

We have work friends--friends because of proximity and shared experience. These friends don't usually make it into a world outside of the workplace. We will miss them. And, the stories... every day in the workplace generates stories. Some are ironic, some bitter. Some are just downright laughably ridiculous. We will miss these stories.

There is comfort in the routine, the familiar and predictable. Even if the workplace is dysfunctional--it is dysfunction we have learned to live with. And, the environment must have worked for me or why would I have stayed?

Ah-h-h... The truth is that we stay even when we are in pain and are frustrated beyond belief, because we fear change. We fear the tunnel of chaos that surrounds change. Even if we can be guaranteed that life will be better, simpler, less emotionally draining, many times we continue to hold on to the known rather than to take that step into thin air required by faith.

I remember a John Ortberg message--I think in his original series on Flow. He addresses just this topic saying that we stay in situations long past the time they work for us just to avoid taking the risk to step out in faith and trust that God will lead me through and teach me along the way. He will help us uncover lots--our character, priorities, and dreams. He will sustain us by his unending and unconditional love. And, we will find him sufficient. Every single time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This quote has been attributed to Dorothy Parker, and I love it. When I was working on my degree in communication [always singular according to the tradition of the English/Literature/Communication department of my alma mater] I really identified with Ms. Parker's comment.

Obviously, a degree in communication requires a LOT of writing. And, because I was working full time as an executive assistant in a busy corporation, I dedicated weekends to accomplishing the assignments. During that time I was a committed speed walker with a great wetlands walking path just a couple of blocks from my home. On writing Saturdays and Sundays I would head out early for my 3-1/2 miles walk--decompressing from the work week and clearing brain cells for the rigors of the keyboard.

It always worked! No surprises, some of my best ideas came during or just after a brisk walk. As soon as I arrived back at my house, I would head up to the computer--no procrastination, no delays. I was focused. It would sometimes be 3 or 4 hours before I would surface.

No matter what the assignment, by evening I was exhilarated with accomplishment and ready to set aside the project for editing after a refreshing night of sleep. I loved having written.

I also applied Dorothy's words to my commitment to walking or yoga. I didn't always love getting out of bed early to walk or head to the health club for yoga class, but I always LOVED having walked or yogied.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Flowers for Lorraine

My friend's mom died rather suddenly. She's the same grandma I wrote about back in September. The one I want to emulate as a grandma. She had a good long life and died a peaceful death--having attended mass with her family Sunday morning and then just running out of energy toward evening, winding down until she exhaled her last breath a day or so later. The funeral was a celebration of her life--with fond and joyful remembrances--just as she would have demanded.

My friend is an only child of an only child and she will miss her mom. For years she has stopped on her way to school to check in with Lorraine and again at the end of the school day she would drop her off at Andy's--a local diner--for a couple of hours so she could gossip and chat with the workers and other locals.

The priest knew Lorraine well and it makes such a difference. He spoke of belonging and how it can really be looked at as two words--be and longing. Many of us have trouble just being; requiring more action than the verb forms of to be. But, there is beauty and peace and contentment in learning to be. And, then there is longing. The longing that each of us experiences, sometimes called a God-shaped hole in one's heart, throughout our time on earth. He said that Lorraine definitely knew how to be and now she is with God and she belongs to him--all longings fully satisfied. Beautiful.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Sometimes I just don't want to be all introspective and reflective... Sometimes living in the present, no matter how mundane, is enough. Reflection is instructive and healing and important, but recently I am choosing to look ahead and not back.

There is so much chaos in our financial/political world right now. I have more time than in the past and am trying to follow current events and be informed. What a time to decide to pay attention! For whatever reason I am particularly fascinated by the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. I think because it is a small enough chunk--cross-section--of the creed and excesses of our times that I feel I can get my mind around it. And, maybe I am interested like I was in the Jeffrey Dahmer devastation of 20 years ago--an unimaginable sideshow of freakish behavior of devastating proportions.

Madoff was able to continue scamming dozens upon dozens of wealthy investors despite SEC informants and on-going questions from informed investors. It was too-good-to-be-true, truly. I don't believe he pulled it off single-handedly. People in his organization had to know--like his sons who eventually turned him in. I don't believe he was managing all those funds, payouts, deposits, and reports on his own. People knew.

I am looking forward to the hearings, and you can bet with all that intimidating wealth and power there will be hearings. And, where are all those billions? If he took in $50 billion why can they identify only about $900 million so far? I love the fact that they are talking about a "claw-back." Taking back millions fraudulently paid out to investors.

This is high drama. Rather than despairing over the economy I choose to focus on the theater of the times.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I had the same best friend from my freshman year in high school until mid-2001. We knew almost everything about each other's life. We are very different people, but we found much to share. We cared about the gritty little details. No matter how many miles separated us, we stayed in touch. She was my conscious. She, unknowingly I think, set the bar many times for me. We were entwined; a continuous thread. I loved and valued her, and I know she loved and valued me.

I can't say when things began to change, I just know that they "began" to change. I became the pursuer. She clearly needed me less. I have theories--I lived her history, so the revisionist stuff didn't work on me. I chose family first and things second. Things were always the most important to her.

It's been over for several years now. We did touch base once since, but it didn't take. She said she never understood what happened. Why we separated. I tried to explain my experience, and she came back with another version.

I hung on to my best friend until May of 2001 when, in need of closure, I wrote her a note saying let's not be friends unless you are willing to start over and rebuild this lifelong friendship into what it was, could be, should be. I recently discovered a note I wrote but never sent in January 1997--


Sometimes I feel like I don't have another cheek to turn. Both of our lives are full and sometimes difficult, but what are friends for if not to share lives and struggles. I miss having you for my best friend.

I've almost decided a couple of times that I won't chase you down again. I've felt for a couple of years that if I didn't call you eventually, you might never get around to calling me. We've shared so much over the years. I know I've been a faithful friend. Why don't you explain to me why this relationship has become so difficult for you. It is true that the less time we spend talking and being together, the less we have in common. I could just let you make this choice for both of us, but...

One time, many years ago, I made you a promise that if it ever became necessary I would kick your butt down the street to remind you of what was reality. Consider this a butt kick. Do with it what you will, but don't lose sight of the fact that God made us friends and we share His love.

Friendships are fragile and take a long time to build. This one needs some reinforcing.

I didn't send the note. Would it have made a difference? I don't think so. I practice amateur psychology rampantly, so I am tempted to inject some theories on narcissism and personality disorder. But, I think a currently popular phrase says it most concisely--She's just not that into you.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I'm ready to go home. We have been traveling since November 22nd: Vienna/Bratislava-Provence-Andalucia-Paris-Bratislava/Vienna. Our flights are on Wednesday, 1/7/09, and we are ready. We have had fantastic experiences and will have wonderful memories and conversations for years to come as we have spent our time with friends and family and some on our own.

We had talked about taking a one or two-day trip to Budapest or Salzburg, as we've done in the past, but CA has been sick most of the last three weeks starting our last full day in Spain, so that has totally slowed us down. He soldiered-on during our week in Paris, resting in the afternoons, and he even had a couple of almost-well days in Bratislava before Christmas. He is now as near pneumonia as can be and even after seeing a Slovak doctor he is miserable. He has an appointment Thursday morning with our family doctor and that is what is keeping him going...

I haven't been overly sympathetic--he gets these 3-month-long coughs a couple of times every year and has a history of tolerating and ignoring rather than seeking medical help. We have had many conversations over the years. His whole career he put his teaching and coaching ahead of his health--almost never missing a day. And, just try listening to someone with body-wracking coughing fits for three months and see if it doesn't try your patience, too.

This time he did try to take care of himself early on, but this time is uglier than ever. He has medication and he uses it and rests, but this is a violent cold/virus/infection. I'm hoping Dr. McD is very pro-active about this episode and will give CA some suggestions and directions for how to handle these colds and when to seek medical intervention.

I am feeling guilty about my tendency to insensitivity with this particular repetitive illness. He is really, really sick and the trip home is going to be a physical challenge. Our flight times are very favorable and we have a bit over three hours for our layover in London, which is ideal. We will have time to change terminals and stretch our legs without feeling rushed. More than three hours would be too much, and less is a bit nerve-wracking if our Vienna flight is delayed for any reason.

Last spring I got a three-day stay in London due to airline cancelations/delays/baggage mis-handling. This time we need everything to go like clockwork. The trip alone will sap every bit of energy CA can muster. Hopefully, he will get a bit of a boost just knowing he is headed home. No one likes to be sick away from home.

Stay tuned... I think we are going to drive just over the border to Hainburg in Austria to see a doctor tonight. I have never seen/heard him this sick.

Update: CA has acute bronchitis, not pneumonia. The antbiotic the Slovak doctor prescribed is a good one, and now he has cough medicine with codeine from the Austrian doctor. I asked if they could prescribe a gallon for us!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

TEAMS - Rah, Rah or Bah-Humbug?

Mary Engelbreitt

Teams are highly over-rated and mostly dysfunctional, at least from my experience in the academic and work world. Unlike friendships which are tried and true--you audition friends and keep the ones who fit--teams are cobbled together sometimes for an express purpose and sometimes because managing by teams has been trendy in the work world for a decade or so.

The only teams that work have:
  • a clear vision
  • defined goals
  • commitment to the vision and goals
  • concrete and doable deadlines
  • a leader who can effectively articulate and successfully communicate the above to the team members.

There also needs to be coaching, accountability, and recognition of contributions. Team members have to respect their leader and each other, and be willing to confront and be confronted when misunderstandings or negligence occurs.

Is it possible to get all of this together in the workplace today? Probably not. While there are more leadership manuals and seminars available than ever, leadership egos are large and we all know what happens when someone gets a taste for power and renown.

It's been clear to me for some time that the reason our work worlds are so dysfunctional is that the world is dysfunctional--our homes and families, relationships, churches... How can a workplace be functional when it is populated by people carrying all that baggage?

While the term dysfunctional was popularized in the 1980s, it is true that we had it even before we had the language to describe it. Yet, I believe that as our culture has become more aware of being politically correct our dysfunction has increased. No one takes responsibility. We are quick to blame and to sue and to excuse and accuse. And, as the media has learned to prey upon mis-spoken words and to hype empty-headed attention seekers [SUPER-star, SUPER-model, ROCK-star, etc.], we have come to value fame and celebrity over intelligence, humanity, honor, grace, wisdom, truth, righteousness, forgiveness, courtesy, and civility.