Jun 232017

Can you give the gift of hope? My pastor would probably say no. He recently gave a sermon in which he argued that hope doesn’t come as a gift, neatly wrapped up. It requires discipline and endurance.

Gift of Hope quote by Laura Hedgecock I get what he’s saying, but I’m not sure he’s right. Or perhaps we’re both right. Continue reading »

Apr 142016

Bumper sticker covered car

Do you have something to say about yourself? Image by RHoch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

How do you tell people who you are? How would you give them a bumper sticker synopsis of yourself? (Of course, you could ask why you’d want to do that as well. As Rob Walker argues, “…bumper stickers are about declaration, not dialogue.” But let’s put that aside and indulge in the exercise. Consider it a brainstorming activity.)

What Would your Bumper Sticker say?

If you could tell the world who you are in just a few words, what would you say? If you were forced to have a bumper sticker—even if you’re anti-bumper sticker like me– what would you put on it? Continue reading »

Dec 142015

innocence lost illustration Innocence lost is supposed to be a traditional coming of age story. An assuming the mantle of adulthood story. A stripping of the naïveté of childhood.

For most, that maturity takes place over time. Too often, though, it turns on a dime. Everything changes as the bubble of invincibility pops.

OK, our youthful idea of invincibility was a mirage. But the mirage lent us a feeling of security in an out-of-control world. We knew bad things, even terrible things, could happen. However, until the shoe dropped very close to our backdoor, we were able to view the possibility through a protective gauze of denial.

Once you’ve experienced it, other stories of innocence lost evoke a deep empathy. Watching the news, we realize the victims’ stories could so easily be our stories. We can imagine, with an unhealthy vividness, the phone calls that came in the night. Or didn’t get answered.

A Story of Innocence Lost

Just the other week, a soccer buddy told me her 9/11 story. (We all have them you know. See post Remember When — Exactly, Precisely When). This story touched me more than most. In 2001, she was a recent widow. She and her three children had already lost any feelings of invincibility. Cancer took the person they most loved and doctors were powerless to stop it. My buddy, then newly widowed mother, took her three children to Disney World to give them a break from grief and to make new memories.

As she told me the setting for her little family’s story of innocence lost, the music of her life cued in my head. A bizarre call and response between a requiem and It’s a Small World, eventually drowned out by other happy Disney music.

Coming out of a ride—she didn’t specify which, but my imagination has it pegged as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride—she and other park attendees were told to exit the park. They were stymied by the sudden announcement that the park was closing. As park workers herded them into waiting shuttle buses, the worst thing she could imagine for inexplicable closing was a bomb threat.

She and other parents started asking the bus drivers which other Orlando attractions were open. (The music in my head slows. Disney tunes now play at slow speed, overlapped with a dun dum, dun dum à la Jaws.)

How terrible it must have been for park employees. Watching happy families go back to their rooms, knowing what the TV screens would show them. In my buddy’s case, she did get a hint. “Nothing is open. There’s been a terrorist attack in New York.”

By the time she got to her hotel room, she didn’t get the slow experience of hearing of the planes hitting the towers one by one. She didn’t see footage of people escaping and first responders rushing in. The towers were gone. The world was different. It was a place without bubbles: not even Disney World was exempt.

Your Turn:

What’s your story of innocence lost? Why was the story so poignant? How is it like other stories of coming of age? How does it differ? Go ahead—Write it down!

Sep 182015
Is technology your friend illustrated by iphone

A missing phone (Tell me if you’ve seen her!) can make you wonder. Is technology your friend or your despot?

Is technology your friend or your despot, the device that’s trying to rule the household, if not your entire life? Well, it probably depends on what you mean by friend. If you like bossy friends, you’re in luck.

My missing iPhone, or better stated, the fact that it is missing, has made me wonder about the technology in my life. My phone has been hanging out “near 28555 Orchard Lake Rd” for the last 48 hours, according my to findmyphone app. Which is great information, as far as it goes.

That address is a large office building, one in which no one has turned a phone in to a receptionist, stashed it in the potted plants (I don’t know why it occurred to me to look there), left it in the bathrooms (where I didn’t go), or placed it in any prominent place.

Is Findmyphone technology your friend? Absolutely. There’s no question that it helped narrow down the number of places I needed to look for my phone.

However, like a lot of friends, it’s not perfect. Wandering the halls calling the phone and pinging it to make sounds with three people listening, left us clueless to where in this building the little devil-phone is hiding.

Findmyphone (for iPhone) is also a despot. Having lost an iPhone, I need to log in to Apple’s iCloud to use the app. Since my iPhone is missing, it follows that I have to do it with another device. Having fallen for AT&T’s get a tablet free for renewing your contract ruse (another story), I have another mobile device. But AT&T was giving away an Android device, and iCloud, refuses to play nicely—or otherwise—with Androids. It flatly refuses to let me log in from my alternate device’s “unsupported browser,” Google Chrome. Which means to use the app, I have to recruit a friend with an iPhone to meet me at the office building. That turned out to be inconvenient as well, because she thought we were meeting at her house, and having no phone, I waited at the building for a half an hour, before finding her watching Master Chef competitions in her living room.

The app also has an annoying sense of self-accomplishment. Unbeknownst to me, every time I pinged my phone through the app, I received an email. When I got home, dejected and perplexed, it toyed with my emotions with a “Your phone has been found” email. Liar. It located the building where the phone apparently still sits, now down to 13% battery, yet somehow unfindable.

Is Technology Your Friend or your despot? Word Choices

If people talked to us the way our devices do, we’d quickly unfriend them.

Yet real people program these devices. Which makes me wonder if some of these developers should attend an etiquette class. For instance, I expect better social skills from my husband’s Nook. A bookseller developed it, so subtlety shouldn’t be so hard to come by. Instead of the ultimatum: “Plug in your device or it will turn off.” It seems like a little tact could be programmed in. “Your device’s battery is so critically low that it will turn off if you don’t plug it in.” Was that so hard?

When it comes to despots, Microsoft Windows updates take my number one spot. They recommend auto-updates, so as you shut down your laptop getting ready to board a flight, it can decree, “Do not turn off your computer. Installing critical updates.” What about my critical (non-refundable) flight? Should I just tell the other 200 passengers to hold up a sec, because Microsoft has decided, with no consultation whatsoever with me, owner of said laptop, to update in that very moment?

Ovens get honorable mention on my despot list, falling into the sub-category of passive-aggressive despots. If you lean up against my mother-in-law’s (now my sister-in-law’s, but that’s not germane to the story) “intelligent” oven while waiting for something to finish baking, it decides your distributed weight is equivalent to the pointed touch of a fingertip on the off button. Turkey delayed. Thanksgiving Dinner delayed.

Or my own oven, which has been wanting a repair-person to come visit for a while now. I think it’s frustrated that I responded to it cooking things about 75 degrees warmer than the digital input, (again, on Thanksgiving Day), by going to Target and buying a $2.50 oven thermometer and setting the desired temp roughly 75 degrees lower. (Works, mostly. Plus, I’m not called on to provide emergency baked goods as much since I’ve broadcast the unpredictability of the oven.) Last weekend, it started exacting its revenge. It just turns itself on for 5 to 10 minutes now and again.

My son suggested I store a batch of unbaked brownies in the oven so I can smell when the oven is trying to take over the planet and flip the circuit breaker switch before the terminators have to show up. I’m wondering why they don’t stress flipping the circuit breaker as a first line of defense at the engineering school he’s attending.

Your Turn

How’s your relationship with your devices. Is technology your friend or your despot?

Aug 312015
What would my ancestor think of me? At Losely Park in Surrey UK

As I visited the former home of Sir George More, I wondered, “What would my ancestors think of me?”

What would my ancestors think of me?

I had my doubts recently, as I traipsed around the UK, seeking out locations where my ancestors lived and died. As I visited Loseley Park in Surrey in England, the manor home where my ancestors enjoyed an aristocratic life-style in the 17th century. Family members not only hob-nobbed with royalty, but also acted as treasurer for Henry Frederick, the then Prince of Wales and served in Parliament under King James.

As I embarked on our trip, I planned to visit “ancestral sites” more in an effort to “feel the dust of my ancestors’ shoes,” rather than to research. (I was traveling with a son who is not into genealogy.) As we drove up the long winding road to the estate, I realize they my ancestors probably seldom felt the dust of their own shoes. They would have had staff to prevent most dust-ups, and were their footwear to acquire undesirable soil, said staff would have removed the dust or other offending matter. Continue reading »

Aug 112015
resolution - book with the end

In stories, as in life, it’s the need for resolution that keeps us turning pages

I’m tickled to present a guest post from my long-time (not old) friend Lori Schweers about resolution.

Recently I found myself in the middle of an all-out Grey’s Anatomy binge-fest. I blame the Texas summer heat which forces me to seek refuge indoors in the comfort of air conditioning and ceiling fans on high. I blame the fact that I had painters in my house that needed supervision. I blame my dogs because they needed company while the painters were painting. I blame the recently cut cable service which left Netflix as a viable option for entertainment during the heat. I blame raising young children in the 2000’s when the show started for never watching a single episode.

But really I should blame my love of resolution.

Each 42 minute episode of Grey’s ends with a dilemma in the storyline. Hence my need to seek the resolution of said dilemma in another episode. Which ends 42 minutes later with…another dilemma. I’m embarrassed to admit how many episodes I’ve binged on despite the completion of the painting project.

A podcast called, “Undisclosed” has an astounding 20 million listens (yes, MILLION according to the Facebook page). The podcast is a follow-up to NPR’s podcast, “Serial” that tracked the case of Adnan Syed who was sentenced to life without parole 15 years ago. “Undisclosed” follows the finer points of the case in hopes of discovering critical information that could prove Syed’s innocence. Once again, those of us who are hopelessly addicted to the story are searching for resolution.

Our lives are multi-layered stories with tension and dissonance and a yearning for resolution. We live in the tension of waiting for a medical diagnosis, children to grow up and fly away, employment to begin, vacations to commence, a loved one to come visit, a wayward child to find their way home and even the simple resolution of a dissonant chord played in a musical piece. Our heart’s desire is to know the rest of the story and have life’s mysteries solved and answered. It reminds me of my favorite movie, “When Harry Met Sally” and watching Harry (Billy Crystal) always read the end of the book first to decide if he even wants to read the story.

Since being married, my husband and I have endured three (a couple lengthy) rounds of unemployment. My comment each time was that it would be so much easier to bear the wait if we knew how long it would be until the unemployment would end. I want to be like Harry and read the end while stuck in the middle or at the beginning. Hanging out in life’s waiting room is uncomfortable and tense. But yet, it is a part of everyone’s story in big and small ways.

Last week I finished A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Miller likens our lives to a story narrative. It made me wonder what kind of story I was telling with my life and I can’t help but ask, how can I live a better story? How do I live well in the tension of dissonance, problems, and unanswered questions until resolution comes (if it ever comes)? That’s a tricky question.

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer. I probably have more questions than answers most of the time. I have always appreciated others who are authentic in their struggles. There’s hope in walking alongside those who are living in the tension of the unknown, but living good stories by loving others well during difficulties. I can say that my faith helps during times of waiting. I have a deep belief that there is a purpose to difficult times and waiting for resolution. When I look back at those crazy hard days when answers seemed out of reach, I can see how my character was being forged into something better and tougher. Writer Philip Yancey says, “I have learned faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” Wise and true words.

I am sure that all the hours I’ve wasted invested binging on Grey’s Anatomy will never bring resolution to Meredith and Dr. McDreamy’s story. But I do have faith that living a good story – even in the middle of dissonance and tension – will eventually bring a satisfying resolution.

Lori is the wife of Craig, mom of two grown sons and mom to two spoiled fur-kids of the canine variety. She is a coffee snob and chocoholic who enjoys writing about her observations of life from an empty nest in Texas suburbia. You can find her most current blog musings at https://blackbirdsandwildflowers.wordpress.com.



Jul 092015
Cousin once removed by way of staple remover on family tree.

A cousin once removed isn’t what (or who) it sounds like it is.

Why was my cousin once removed? Maybe that’s why my family dispensed with the first cousin, second cousin, and once removed nomenclature when referring to cousins: They knew I’d ask a bunch of questions, most of which would begin with “Why…” Cousins were just “cousins.”

“Once removed” doesn’t sound anything like it means. Unlike its general use in the English vernacular, when it’s used to describe family relationships, removed simply means from a different generation. I now think of it as “more distant in age.” A first cousin once removed might be a first cousin of my parents’ generation or my children’s generation. (See Genealogy.com’s primer.) Continue reading »

Jan 192015
The rest of the story is missing

Stories are not meant to start or end in the middle.

How many times are we missing the rest of the story?

We miss it every time a stranger waltzes into our lives and touches us in some way, then quickly exits.

I used to love listening to Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story radio vignettes. His ability to take a fact that we all knew—took for granted even—and present it with renewed and fresh meaning captured my imagination. It even altered my teenage know-it-all Weltanschau a little too. Continue reading »

Dec 012014
Tethered to the past

Tethered to the past: the ropes can keep us safe or tie us in knots

Tethers or connections? The past is an integral part of our future. When we write memoirs, memories, or histories that create a positive connection with the past, it grounds us. When the past colors our existence to the point that the present and future are drained of reason, it’s a tether to be broken–or at least loosened up a bit.

How are You Tethered to the Past?

There’s an apt German expressions for those times when you are torn about an event: “One eye laughs; the other cries.” Continue reading »

Nov 202014
Looking at Venus de Milo, do you marvel at her beauty or yearn to hear her story? Source: Wikipedia.

Looking at Venus de Milo, do you marvel at her beauty or yearn to hear her story? Photo source: Wikipedia.

Traditionally, beauty is something flawless and unmarred. However, when it comes to writing your stories, such perfection is boring. (That’s why I avoid it at all costs!) Telling meaningful stories is a process of finding beauty in the scars and sharing it with others.

We have a natural tendency to cover our scars. Perhaps it comes from our need to protect what is precious to us. A scar on our child’s face reminds us of some harm that we failed to shield him from. A chip on the coffee mug that we got on our honeymoon serves as unwelcome reminder that we’re no longer young and unfettered. And, perhaps it’s because we’re hardwired to appreciate symmetry.[1]

However, it’s a curious double standard. We never look at an ancient, craggy tree and think, “Wow, that’s too bad. I bet it was beautiful when it was young.” We wonder about the scars and admire the tree’s survival. Continue reading »