Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Reich Family

We can hardly believe another year has flown by! We still love our new life in North Carolina and as we continue to settle into it we realize we’ve never been so thankful for dear friends & family both near and far. We both keep pretty busy with work, church, friends, and the day to day routine. 

Last May found us a long way from our normal routine as we traveled to Europe with a group of Chowan students and faculty for a religious heritage tour. The trip through Germany, Switzerland and France left us with an even deeper appreciation for travel, the college students Keith teaches, and the staggering history of our faith. 

In this season of Advent, we’re getting a brand new perspective on this time of waiting and preparing as we anticipate the double joys of celebrating Christmas and the coming birth of our long-hoped-and-prayed-for little girl. She already has some very special boots to fill.

Monday, December 17, 2012

37 Weeks

We are in the home stretch with less than a month until my due date! I can hardly believe how fast the time has flown. In fact, I sent this photo to several friends last night with a caption reading "27 weeks" instead of 37 weeks. Hmm...typo or Freudian slip? I'll let you be the judge.

At 37 weeks, here's how things are shaping up:


  • Pretty good overall, despite being less and less comfortable with each passing day. 
  • But also quite large and cumbersome. Keith has to help me put my shoes on because I can't quite reach over or around my big old belly. Too bad winter weather requires boots or shoes with laces for the most part instead of summer's easy flip-flops.
  • As ready as I think I'll ever be. The hospital bags are packed, I've read all the books (and pamphlets, and websites, and blogs), toured the hospital, watched the videos. The stroller, car seat, and baby bath tub are all en route via various shipping methods and everything else is waiting in her nursery and ready to go.
  • But also a little bit terrified. Am I really ready? I don't think anyone ever truly is. What have I forgotten? Probably plenty of really important and not-so-important things. Can we really do this? Only by the grace of God. And even then, we will mess up, and mess up, and mess up.


  • Apples. Fruit has tasted so good to me throughout this whole pregnancy and apples have been my favorite. Especially galas and honeycrisps.
  • Dessert. Normally I'm not a huge sweet eater, but lately I love a sweet treat at the end of the day. Chocolate chess pie. Fresh baked cookies from the the new coffee shop downtown. Ice cream with some kind of crushed goodie sprinkled over the top. Yum!
  • Decaf Chai tea with steamed milk and honey. Also from the local coffee shop downtown. I'm so glad they're finally open!


  • Full nights of uninterrupted sleep. I know, I only gets worse from here.
  • Being able to turn over in bed, get up off the couch, or sit down on the floor without going through a major ordeal.
  • Sleeping on my stomach.
  • Pop. Christmas will mark a year since the last time I hugged him or saw his smile or heard his laugh. If there's one thing in the world I wish I could change for my little girl, it's the fact that she won't get to experience her great-grandfather's exuberant, incredible love. There just are not words.


  • A roaring fire, despite the fact that the weather here is unseasonably warm and doesn't feel anything like almost-Christmas.
  • The house all decorated for Christmas with presents for Addie stacked under the tree.
  • Every kick, jolt, jiggle and barrel roll in my bumpy belly. This little girl is very active. She's either inherited her Daddy's athletic prowess or her Momma's complete spazzitude. Even though she's big enough that it's a little painful these days, I will miss feeling her dance and flip around all the time.


  • There was a way to be everywhere at once, so we could spend the holidays with all of our wonderful family and friends, despite the fact that so many are so far away.
  • The Christmas cards and thank you notes that I'm so behind on were already in the mail instead of still on my to-do list.
  • For Addison to come just a teeny bit early, so Keith will have some time to just be home with her before the new semester starts.

  • For a lack of ice storms on and around her birth.
  • That labor and delivery would be as painless and complication-free as possible. 
  • A safe and healthy little girl will be in our arms soon!

Monday, November 12, 2012

There's an "inspirational" quote I keep seeing on Pinterest. If you spend any time on Pinterest you probably know the one I'm talking about. It's something about pregnancy and stretch marks and being like a tiger-mom who's earned her stripes. Something about it has always rubbed me the wrong way and this morning in the shower (I often do my best deep thinking in the shower) I was finally able to put my finger on exactly why it bothers me so much.

I've been very (miraculously, blessedly) lucky so far in my pregnancy. I had a little bit of queasiness in my first trimester. No real morning sickness to speak of. I've had plenty of energy. I've felt great! I've  been shielded from most of the complications and discomforts that can accompany pregnancy. My weight gain has been slow and steady. Manageable. Pretty minimal, really, which was not at all what I expected. And so I honestly laugh with delight when I look in the mirror and see how large my baby bump has grown.

Getting bigger hasn't really bothered me. But maybe there's an exceptional explanation for how comfortable I can feel about my burgeoning size. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that, nearly eight months, bulging belly and all, this is still not the biggest I've ever been. I have no new stretch marks from my pregnancy (those may still be coming), but I do have plenty of stretch marks. They're the tangible, physical remnants of my struggle with disordered eating. They're reminders of hard lessons learned. They're a part of me. And I've had years to make peace with them.

I don't remember the first time I felt too big, but I remember that by junior high I couldn't abide myself and my size. I hated the way I towered over the bevy of petite, beautiful girls that surrounded me. I was tall and I was loud and I took up too much space. And there was something darker and deeper that lurked under the surface of my dissatisfaction. I spent several years nearly starving myself because of some secret shame, some nameless fear, some insidious hate that made me feel unlovable and unworthy, that drove me to deprive my body of nourishment and self-care. And once I was so exhausted by that particular form of self-punishment that I could no longer sustain it, I spent several more years swinging the other way- stuffing instead of starving myself- but still driven by the same secret shameful, nameless fear. I was still not nourishing, not loving, not caring for myself. I still felt wholly unworthy and worthlessly un-whole.

It has taken a long time to finally rest in the freedom of God's love for me and to begin, just begin, the process of learning to my whole self. Not just the bright, shiny parts I'm so proud of, but the broken and dusty and ugly parts, too. It still doesn't come easily. I'm not sure it ever will. But I've come a long way in trusting His grace and extending it to myself. While it's easier to believe it for others, easier to see beauty and mercy and goodness and truth around me, I still have to work and search and press in to the truth that God made all of us with the same beauty and truth and goodness. So I'm trying. I'm working, and searching, and pressing in.

The quote about stretch marks and pregnancy and earning your stripes struck a nerve in me. Something about it seems to imply that stretch marks are okay as long as you earn them in service to some higher good. That it's only the purpose, the holy calling of motherhood, that validates their existence, redeems them, and removes their shame. Does that mean my stretch marks, the ones that came before pregnancy and motherhood, are gross and wrong and ugly and shameful? I've learned to believe otherwise. I've learned to believe they were never shameful to begin with.

Stretch marks are stretch marks, they happen for many reasons. It's not motherhood that makes them okay. They're no more holy or less shameful whether they come from pregnancy or from gaining a ton of weight because you finally started eating again. Stretch marks are just one more of the many kinds of marks that we bear, the scars that we carry. They're just another line of the story, both poetry and prose, written across our bodies and across our lives by the invisible hand that guides us with love and grace and mercy and infinite compassion. They were already validated, already made holy. We are already validated and made holy. We are all redeemed and made new and loved and cradled by the same invisible grace.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pondering Things in my Heart

On the way to my six month appointment two weeks ago.

I was reading the different gospel birth narratives the other day, trying to find a beautiful Advent-related passage to use on our Christmas card this year, when I came across a familiar phrase that filled me with an unfamiliar regret and longing. I've never had that reaction to the birth narratives before. But at six months pregnant, reading how Mary, "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart," I can't help but wish I'd taken more time to do better treasuring and pondering of my own.

The best record I have right now of the last six months is the gaping silence on this blog. It's been such a full, busy, rich, and sometimes stressful time. I've been so busy living, and laughing, and just trying to keep up. It's been one of the happiest and most exciting periods of my life, and yet, all that thrill and adventure leaves little time for pondering. For treasuring.

Where are the accounts of hours spent on a bus every day, rolling through European country-side, with a queasy tummy and the secret knowledge of a tiny life thriving and sparking inside me? Where are the gasp-inducing descriptions of centuries-old cathedrals? The ably-recorded antics of a zany tour guide interacting with wide-eyed college students? The humbled reflections on the history of our faith, the vastness of God's goodness, the action-spurring lives of the saints before us? Where the stunning vistas from lake-sides and cliff-tops and castle turrets and covered bridges? They all hurtled past in a blink and were gone. And I never stretched out even a tiny little finger to try to stay their passage or to ponder them in my heart.

The same goes for a summer spent working and planning and traveling, hoping against hope that I would manage a balance between getting it all done and getting the rest and care that this baby and I both desperately needed. And in the midst of it all there have been girls weekends with family, and long talks with dear friends, and delicious dinners prepared collaboratively, and walks, and sunsets, and love, and grace upon grace. A few months, several teary nights, and more plane rides than I can count later, baby and I both seem to have survived, but there's no tangible trace of the struggle or the solace left behind.

Today I leave for two more weeks of whirlwind travel and adventure and fun and learning. I'll be in Texas for a week celebrating a wedding and seeing wonderful friends and having two baby showers! And then I'll be in Indiana for a week attending a marketing seminar. And I want, truly, to resolve right now that I will capture the time this time, that I will make the space and create the moments to ponder and treasure and fill my heart, properly, with all the good things that are rushing past.

And yet, I make no promises. Life is wild and wide and good and we all do the best we can. It's the most any of us can resolve, to put one foot in front of the other day after day, to fill our lungs with the next breath and the next, to open up and embrace all that comes to us with willing hearts and eager arms. And to live and laugh and just try to keep up.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dearest Little One

Dearest Little One,

This Saturday marks twenty weeks of pregnancy. Twenty weeks of you growing inside me, filling me with awe and wonder. Twenty weeks of waiting, of praying and planning. Twenty weeks of watching for the tiny signs of your growth. Twenty weeks will be the half-way point, so after Saturday we'll have twenty more weeks. Twenty more weeks of feeling you wiggle and swish and somersault in my tummy. Twenty more weeks to plan and dream and scheme. Twenty more weeks to get everything ready.

And tomorrow, just a few days shy of twenty weeks, we will find out if you are a Dear Little Boy or a Dear Little Girl. I cannot wait to know. I cannot wait to know what and (even more importantly) who you are. I cannot wait to know just every little thing about you.

I've been thinking very much lately about your nursery, about the place where you will rest and dream and learn and grow. About the space in our home that we will set aside as your very own. I've been waiting to make official plans, because your room might need to look a little different depending on whether you are a boy or a girl. But I realized this morning how very many of the things I want for your space will be the same either way. Whether you are a Dear Little Boy or a Dear Little Girl, there are so many things I already know I want for you and for your room.

For instance, I know how I want your room to feel: peaceful and still, but with the possibility of adventure and wildness tucked just somewhere around the edges waiting to spring forth. I imagine sitting in a wide, grassy meadow in the middle of a rich, deep forest. It's soft and still and smooth and quiet in the center of the meadow, but the forest all around is filled with bright colors and inky-dark shadows and around every corner and under every stone there are things to be explored and adventures to be discovered. There are fantastic beasts and brilliant creatures going about their busy lives just out of sight and everywhere there is the potential to meet a new friend or to write a new story. That is how I want your room to feel.

I also know what I want to fill your room with. I want to fill your room with many, many good things. I want to fill your room with love, first of all. The kind of love that makes you feel safe and sound but also brave and daring. Love that can be a life preserve in tough times and a sweet song when you're sad and also a trampoline that vaults you into a crazy dance of joy. Love that will fill you up and overflow and inspire you to always, always extend the same love to those around you. I want your room to be full of love.

I want to fill your room with all kinds of songs. Silly, jiggery, nonsense songs full of funny words and plonking rhythms. Old hymns with sweet, familiar melodies and life-giving words. Folksy songs with lots of guitar picking and a heartwarming lyric or two. Unaccompanied voices raised high as we make music of our own. Because we're going to sing together, you and I. And maybe bang on a few pots and pans or some piano keys. We might even do our own guitar strumming. Music moves our souls and lets us share feelings out loud and it can suck the sadness right out of us or just plain fill us up with joy. And I want your room to be full of songs.

Lastly, I want to fill your room with stories. So many stories, all kinds of stories. But especially fairy-tales. Fairy-tales are often neglected beyond childhood. Grown-ups don't tend to take them seriously. But I'm going to tell you a little secret. Fairy-tales are the most important kind of story there is. And I want you to start learning, from very early on, that the three most important rules of fairy-tales are also the three most important rules of life.

  • Rule #1: Things are not always what they seem. The tired old woman may just be a princess in disguise. The frog can turn into a prince with just the right kiss. Death is never the end of the story. And goodness and mercy and even the tiniest of people can always have the power to save the day. Hope is never lost. You must always look harder, look deeper, to see the truth behind the appearance of things. 
  • Rule #2: Dragons are real. There are real dangers in this world and you will take real risks and experience real loss. There are forces of darkness as well as forces of good. Some things hurt and some things make us sad and some things scare us. And that's okay. Because ultimately we live in a good world that was created by a good God and we are in his care, always. And that brings me to....
  • Rule #3: Good always wins. That doesn't mean there won't be a great battle, but in the end victory always belongs to the noble and true. That's because our good God came Himself into this fallen world to show us what love and goodness really look like in earthly form. And in His final victory over death, He graced all of us with the gift of abundant and eternal life. As long as we hold fast to Him and to His promises He will make everything right in the end. 

Oh, I want your room and your whole precious life to be just chock-full of stories! And it won't be very long now before you're going to start making stories of your own. This is a wonderful, beautiful, messy, exhilarating life Dear Little One. And it's right here waiting for you. I can't wait to welcome you into it.

Love you bunches and bunches,


Friday, July 20, 2012

The Post I've Been Waiting to Write

It's funny how things work sometimes. How you hope and long and dream for something. Something particular. Something wonderful.

And how, after so much waiting and praying, that wonderful thing finally happens, but you have to keep it quiet for just a little while. You have to wait until it's safe. Until you're really ready. And it's torture to wait. To do anything other than shout your news from the rooftops feels backwards and wrong and just plain weird.

And then, when it's finally time to share the wonderful, amazing, miraculous thing that has finally happened to you...things feel suddenly awkward. It's time to shout it from the rooftops and suddenly my voice is caught in my throat. Suddenly, I don't have the words, or at least not the right words. Or maybe just not enough words or not enough space for all the words it would take to convey how amazed I am. How in awe. How delighted and grateful and also a little nervous I am.

Because it has finally happened to me. This particular, wonderful thing I've dreamed of and longed for is finally here. I am 15 weeks pregnant today. I am going to have a baby.

Keith and I (and baby Reich) have been surrounded and lifted through all this waiting and longing by a beautiful host of friends and family who have hoped and prayed right along with us. Who have laughed and cried and waited and longed every bit as much as we have. Thank you for being part of this journey with us. We love you and appreciate you more than you'll ever know.

And we're going to need you more than ever in the next chapters of this adventure.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Please Tell Me You're Watching Bunheads, Gilmore Fans

My deep and abiding love for Gilmore Girls is extremely well-know and well-documented. But all admiration for creator Amy Sherman-Palladino aside, the manner of her exit from the show and its subsequent seventh and final season left a bitter taste in my mouth. I felt a little betrayed, and I was secretly gratified when all her post-Gilmore attempts at pilots turned out to be less than successful. That's what you get for walking out on such a good thing, my friend.

I didn't have even the slightest intention of watching her latest effort Bunheads on ABC Family. The premise seemed a little cheesy to me, the trailer (posted below) didn't really grab me. And I'd love to have Kelly Bishop back on my TV screen on a regular basis, but one kick-ass actress does not a spectacular show make. But then I read what Jacob at TelevisionWithoutPity had to say about the season premiere. And I was intrigued. And then I watched the pilot. And I think I might be hooked.

Of course, it's simultaneously impossible not to compare Bunheads to Gilmore Girls, and completely unfair to do so. The quirk is there, as is the quippery, and a certain goofy charm. And though lead actress Sutton Foster is certainly capable of channeling her inner Gilmore, I don't feel like she's expected to be Lorelai or even Lorelai-light. She's versatile, endearing, and oddly captivating all in her own right. There were some truly laugh-out-loud funny moments, some truly heart-warming moments, and a plot-twist at the end that left me slightly stunned and incredibly curious about where the show is headed.

All in all, I can't wait to watch more. And I'm glad I gave Bunheads a shot.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thoughts on the Year

"They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!" 

- Psalm 22:31

It's amazing how what a difference a year's time can make. When I look back on this time in my life last year, we had just learned we'd be moving to North Carolina. We were about to make our first trip out to Murfreesboro to house hunt. After long waiting, our world was being turned upside down. We had very little idea what to expect. Life felt incredibly exciting, and uncertain.

The year brought us a new home and new friends even as it left a sweet aching for what was left behind. Keith has finished his first year of teaching. It's incredible to think that little chapter of our lives has already closed as a new one begins. It feels a bit like we are once again waiting to have our lives turned upside down. Even as we look forward to another year in Murfreesboro, another year that may look much like the last one, I can't escape the feeling that we have no idea what to expect from the months ahead. I am still, I am always, excited and uncertain.

All we can do, really, is lean in to God's faithfulness and continue to gather our friends and family as close as possible. And wait. And hope. And love.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Okay, This is Really Cracking Me Up Right Now

Apparently Baylor's baseball team has a new sub-mascot and new team slogan....

If You Feed the Beaver The Hits Will Come

Click the link (from Waco news channel KWTX). Watch the video. It's really pretty cute!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Life and Death

It's been over a week since I've played in the kitchen. Over a week since I've sliced, diced, minced or slivered. My finger are itching for the smooth steel of a skillet handle. My ears are twitching for the soft shush of a saute. My nose is tingling in anticipation of the smells, my mouth is watering, my stomach is rumbling. I guess I'd better start a grocery list.

It's also been over a week since I've written one single sentence that doesn't have to do with either work or my grandfather's passing. I've been writing obituaries, tributes, funeral programs, and thank you notes. I've written lots and lots of to-do lists. I've written press releases, product descriptions and direct mail messages. But it's been too long since I've picked up a pen and just poured my thoughts, my heart, onto a page.

Life sort of stops for me for a while in the aftermath of death.

It has to. Because it's hard for me to absorb such a blow on the move. And it is a blow. And I must absorb it if I want a healthy grief. So I've had to sit with it a while. I've had to let it in.

Life sort of stopped for me over the last week.

But then, eventually, it has to keep moving.

This week is a beautiful one, if still tinged with sadness around the edges. It's sunny and cool. The world outside is completely different every single day. Being from Texas I'd never experienced a true Spring before, so I'd never truly realized just how much Spring is about transformation. Everything around me looks different with each new morning. It happens overnight, and it just keeps happening.

It's an achingly beautiful image of the way all of creation will one day be transformed, renewed, restored. Every reminder of winter's death has been swallowed up in an overflowing, riotous explosion of life. Redemption has spread itself over the landscape, and life is all that's left behind.

"What's lost is nothing to what's found...And all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup." -Frederick Buechner

Monday, April 2, 2012

Celebrating the Life of Marvin Albert Schwarz

On March 23, 2012 Pop greeted his favorite kind of day. With an unstoppable smile on his face, a mischievous twinkle in his eye, a purposeful stride and shoulders squared, he couldn’t wait for the day to begin. He planned a full day of working on the ranch in his caterpillar. He grabbed a tacquito, danced a little jig around Grandmom, smacked her good on the lips, and with a big smile said, “See you later.” He skipped and danced out the door because he was so enthusiastic and excited about his day. But that won’t surprise anyone. He started every day that way.

He insisted on doing the work himself, even at 84 years old. There was no stopping him and no reasoning with him. And to tell you the truth, we wouldn’t have had him any other way. One minute he was sitting on the caterpillar in his cowboy hat and jeans and the next he was in glory. He left this earth just as he would have chosen: doing something he loved with his family nearby.

When a man is larger than life itself, it’s hard to imagine this world without him. His life and presence overflowed even the largest rooms. His laugh shook the rafters and lifted our hearts. His hands were big and strong and kind. He spent his life working the land, living with joy, and loving every single person he met. He was a hero, a true Texas cowboy. He was a singer, a story teller, a track and football star, an amazing husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He was a friend to everyone he met.

I have been so blessed to have this amazing man for 84 years. He loved this life. He loved his family. He loved his friends. He taught me to live this life with utter, complete joy. Joy in little things. Joy even in the face of adversity. He knew from the top of his cowboy hat to the tips of his boots that we belong to a Good Lord, who gave us a Good life, and a Good world. He believed, no matter what, that Good was always coming to him, and to all of us.

Thanks to all for your thoughts, prayers, and support through this last week. We have been surrounded, uplifted, and strengthened through your love and the through the Grace of our Good Lord. Death is not the end of this story. It's never the end of any story. Our Savior defeated death and now He reigns, full of Grace and Truth, offering abundant life forever. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Monday

Monday mornings aren't usually my favorite. As I stood in the shower this morning the usual refrain began in my head. Ugh, Monday again...I'm so can the weekend already be can I be so tired... That's just my brain on autopilot on a typical Monday morning. And then something clicked, shifted, pivoted, changed. For some reason I stopped the usual refrain mid-whine and actually checked in with myself. How does my body feel right now, in this moment? What's actually going on in my thoughts. And it turns out my usual refrain was dead wrong. I actually felt pretty darn refreshed. Energized. Clear-headed and focused. Well-rested. Content. Ready to start my week. It kind of caught me off guard.

This last week was a wonderful week, and it was capped off by a wonderful weekend. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but I didn't. So here's a quick summary in list form instead.

Planted: Three nandinas, two camellias, one azalea, several new clumps of monkey grass, one maybe-gardenia (? we're still not sure).

Waiting to plant: Lots of seed packets for our herb garden (cilantro, mint, parsley, thyme, etc...), several clumps of daisies and black-eyed susans, and four gorgeous peonies (two pink, two white).

Friday night: Friends over for dinner, chicken and white bean enchiladas with green chile sauce, spanish rice, fresh guacamole, great conversation.

Saturday: Brunch at the Green Onion in Norfolk (French-pressed coffee, eggs benedict, biscuits and gravy), followed by Wicked (the tickets were my birthday present from Keith), followed  by an amazing dinner at Byrd and Baldwin downtown (rib-eye steak, crispy salmon on creamy risotto, lobster mac and blue cheese, chocolate sin cake with vanilla gelato), followed by a trip to Trader Joe's, followed by a group of friend hanging out on an awesome porch enjoying a lovely evening.

Sunday: Some friends had a bunch of us over for brats and burgers in the backyard, followed by badminton (alliteration purely coincidental), spent the rest of the day resting and preparing for the week, ate cherry pie a la mode for dinner.

And today, I finally did something I was absolutely longing to do all last week. I carted my laptop outside and have set up shop to work from the patio table all day. My hair was already wrecked from walking Keith to school in the morning mist and there may not be many days that I can really do this, so I figure I should take advantage while the opportunity is at hand. It feels good.

Wishing you all a happy Monday and a gorgeous week. Do something you really want to do today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Spring has sprung. Everywhere I look. all around me, all around town, leaves are budding and stretching, flowers are blooming, grass is greening, things are changing. New life, fresh life is everywhere. Every day is a discovery, especially in our own yard.

It's been fascinating the last couple weeks to discover what's actually growing in our yard. That's one of the things about moving. This was someone else's house, someone else's garden, before it was ours, and we're not always sure what's been planted here. North Carolina is home to some familiar plants and trees and shrubs (nandinas, crepe myrtles, magnolias, gardenias), and a host of new things I've never experienced before (azaleas, camellias, dogwoods).

A few weeks ago we discovered the bare stems of a few daffodils just beginning to emerge from the ground. They're now in full bloom. We learned that some of the bushes along our property line are azaleas. We discovered even more azaleas under a tangle of vine. We have what appears to be a gardenia by the back door. What appears to be hydrangea around the side. Several more things that we can't identify yet. We're just waiting for them to introduce themselves properly.

It it Keith's spring break this week and he's spent most of it weeding and trimming and digging and planting. He's such an amazing man! As we get more acquainted with our little piece of earth, we're also beginning to make it just a little more our own. It is really beautiful and I'm amazed once again at all the good things that can grow from the earth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

There's Always a Bright Side

I know everyone's on about Daylight Saving Time today. I know Spring Forward isn't the most popular day of the year. I know you're all pinning things and blogging things and tweeting things, hilarious things, about the giant cups of coffee required to make it through your day and the need for more winter hibernation and how stupid and painful everything is today.



It's nearly seven o' clock in the evening. I've been off work for nearly an hour. And I've been able to enjoy some actual sun on my face. I've taken a walk and puttered in the yard and enjoyed the remnants of an absolutely delicious day. A day that's been spent mostly inside, because that's life when you have a full day's work to complete. For the last four months, I've ended my workday in the dark. And tonight the sun is still shining. I love it. I've never been so excited about Springing Forward. And I never expected to be. 

I sympathize, I really do. No one's ever accused me of jumping out of bed too early (except my brother every Christmas morning). I'll grant it can bring a little havoc to our otherwise well-grooved routines. So I don't blame you for hating. I've just been reminded that there's always a bright side. And sometimes it is truly gloruious. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Buffalo Stampede

Sometime in the past year I've become kind of a fanatic about buffalo chicken recipes. Which is weird, because I've never really liked buffalo wings. They're too messy to eat and they involve too many bones. I never really saw the point of them. But I do love me some Frank's hot sauce. And I love the cool, tarty tang of blue cheese crumbles.

It started with this twist on a classic. Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Blue Cheese. Oh so delicious. Comfort food with a kick, gussied up, made exciting.

Then I moved on to Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Which, again, is a classic comfort food from a new angle.

And then it was Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip. Perhaps my favorite of all. Equally delicious with chips or sliced veggies. Red bell pepper is a particularly fitting complement to the creamy, sharp flavors. Are we seeing a pattern here? Apparently I can no longer resist any recipe that's a take on buffalo chicken.

Case in point, our dinner last night: Buffalo Chicken Soup. When I discovered the recipe I wondered if I might be taking things a little too far. Could it possibly be delicious? Or just one of those novelty things, more interesting than tasty? One way or the other, I just had to find out. And oh my goodness, can I just say you should get to the grocery store right now and get all the ingredients so you can make yourself a big old pot of this soup without wasting any more time. Seriously, it's that good.

This soup is creamy and rich and oh, so flavorful. It tastes like a more complex version of the chicken noodle soup you crave when you're sick with just the right kick and zing and I love it! I lightened it up a tiny bit by subbing reduced fat for regular cheese and using a little less cheese than was called for. I also cut the Frank's to 1/2 cup instead of 2/3 and it still had plenty of kick. When I make it again (I will definitely make it again) I'll probably double the yellow onion and carrot and add a couple ribs of celery too, because I would have enjoyed more veggies in it. Do with that what you will, the soup is so good I don't really think you can go wrong.

Click any of the recipe names above for links back to the originals. Enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lenten Lessons

I'm enjoying this Lenten season almost as much as I expected to. I find that I'm learning good lessons from this time. I'm learning the joy of limiting excess. I'm learning the peace of consecrated moments. I'm also learning to choose a handful of things I love- things that make every one of my days more livable, purposeful, magical -and make them an unexceptionable priority. 

I'm cooking somewhat elaborate meals every night with my favorite sous chef. I'm taking smaller bites of only the most delicious foods. I'm chewing slowly to really savor every nuance of texture and flavor. I'm leaving room for big smiles between almost every single bite.

I'm taking walks almost every day. Long walks. And short ones. I'm paying closer attention to the landscapes I pass. I'm using the time for phone dates with friends and family.

I'm setting aside extra time in the mornings for essential non-essentials. Lingering over a third cup of coffee. Reading really good books. Writing in a big, beautiful journal with a favorite pen.

I'm drinking mug after mug of hot tea on chilly afternoons. I'm cranking up the space heater under my desk. I'm working in cute, comfy clothes and warm, soft slippers.

I'm enjoying myself and feeling more peaceful about my days. I'm breathing deeper and feeling stronger. I'm trusting. And I'm content.

It's pretty nice. And I'm deeply grateful.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Simple Pleasures

This has been making me extremely happy this week. There's just something about a pretty little china cup, white and pristine, sitting in a dainty little china saucer. Filled to the brim with steaming goodness, sweetened with just a drop of honey. On a sunny afternoon.

I've been craving tea more ever since the last visit to Texas. Many thanks to Grant and Jenn for sharing several cups while allowing me to stay with you! It was amazing. And it appears you're rubbing off on me.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Invitation to Beauty

I believe God's presence is everywhere. Yet it's hard, sometimes it's so hard, to enter and to remain there. I sit in stillness for a few moments and find that I'm so distract-able. I see the violin and want to pick it up. I desperately need to practice today! I see the vacuum and want to pick it up. This house is a mess! I see my coffee cup and want to pick it up. It's almost empty again! I see my pen and want to pick it up. I need to capture these thoughts, these moments!

I want to pick up everything I lay eyes on, yet I'm supposed to be here, present to Presence, laying it all down. I think to myself, this is why we teach children to close their eyes and pray.

So I close my eyes. My thoughts still flit and falter like a hyperactive child. And my ears find new distractions. For a moment I think about the soft hissing of the gas fireplace. Then a ripple of birdsong pierces the air and I think about that for a moment. I close my eyes tighter still and try to find some center in it all. Some wellspring of peace.

From somewhere, the thought comes that I was created to love beauty. I was intended to enjoy the ripple of birdsong, to admire the soft hiss of the fireplace. My love for the beauty on earth calls me back to, calls me deeper into, my love for the Author of Beauty. I am free, called even, to revel in it. I am invited to take more of my moments and consecrate them to awareness and appreciation and adoration. To center them on the Beauty of the Divine in this world. In His world.

Oh, what an invitation!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Three Years Ago Today...

I married the most amazing man in the world. 

Here's to many more.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ash Wednesday

The pattern of my spiritual life might resemble nothing so much as a series of arcs. A continuous pendulum swing, back and forth, careening wildly between grasping attempts at ordered discipline and desperate free-falls of complete abandon. I have always, I think, tended to extremes. And though neither apex is sustainable for long, and balance is something I have always sorely lacked, there does seem to a sort of grace in the sweep and swoosh and swing. There does seem to be some sort of peace in the middle.

I mention this because I have been looking forward to this season of Lent with undue anticipation. That may seem strange to some, but upon reflection, it makes perfect sense for me. The last year of my life has seen some of the most tumultuous upheaval I've ever experienced, almost all of it good, but jarring nonetheless. The six months leading up to our move were filled with to-do lists and problem-solving. And the six months that we've been settled in North Carolina have felt...not quite so settled. Between all the newness and all the travelling and the constant slowly-dawning realizations of just how much we've left behind, I think it's fair to say that I'm just beginning the process of finding new rhythms of home and routine and friendship and grace.

I responded to all the upheaval, not by exercising rigid and rational control over my life and my schedule as some would, but by losing myself wholly and wholeheartedly in the chaos. My life has been characterized by anything but discipline lately and my nearest impulse has been to indulge, to soothe, to comfort. Sounds fun, a swan-dive into decadence, but it isn't really. And so visions of Lenten discipline float like oases on the horizon and I find myself craving an altogether different kind of comfort. The comfort of surrender and sacrifice, of restoring some order to the chaos I've created, of saying no to my urges once in a while. The comfort of self-care and self-discipline rather than self-indulgence.

And so Ash Wednesday swept softly by last night. I had one of my deepest floods of homesickness, so far, sitting on the back pew of our new church. DaySpring was the place I first experienced Ash Wednesday and the subdued joy of Lenten practices. I missed the cool stone walls of the chapel. I missed the sweetly-bitter scent of palm ash burned so recently the smoke still lingered in the air. I missed the familiar faces. I missed the particular feeling of a DaySpring silence. Silence has always felt different to me there. Full of promise instead of empty. Ready to spring instead of reposed.

So it's with a sigh and a feeling of deep relief and strange joy that I begin this season of Lent. Lord, help me be still, and silent, and yours. Let mine be a silence full of your promises and ready to move at your urging.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Breakfast Anyone?

What do you eat for breakfast when you're....?
a) lazy
b) not a morning person
c) not particularly fond of any breakfast foods
d) all of the above
Because seriously, I'm all of the above, and I'm kind of at a loss.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I just can't seem to do it. I don't really enjoy cereal. I detest eggs in almost any shape or form. Don't like oatmeal. Don't like yogurt. Can't eat fruit alone first thing in the morning without experiencing a major acidity problem.

Most days it's just coffee with Splenda and a dash of fat free creamer. For a while I was pretty consistent about half a bagel with a little smear of cream cheese, but, let's face it, that's pretty much the nutritional equivalent of chewing on a little bit of cardboard. Actually, cardboard probably has more fiber. This morning I had an apple and a spoonful of peanut butter at my desk around ten o'clock. Is that even enough to call breakfast?

I'd like to start my days right, with a healthy meal that I actually enjoy. Something that's quick and easy to put together and won't require getting up more than fifteen minutes earlier. Ideally nothing egg-based.

Does such a thing even exist? Anyone got any ideas? Because I could sure use some suggestions.

Morning Walks

One of Murfreesboro's historic homes.
Keith and I walked a great deal the last six months that we lived in Waco. We were trying to get a little more exercise, and we both love being surrounded by woods and trees. Since Waco is home to several amazing woodsy park areas (most notably Cameron Park, the nation's second largest city park after Central Park in NYC), it was easy to make walking part of the routine. We could meet up at the head of any number of favorite trails right after I got off work, log several miles, and be back home in time to cook dinner. Easy.

And another one. Two chimneys, how delightful!
Now we live in Murfreesboro. And there are several pretty amazing state parks with woodsy trails running through them, all a "short" thirty to forty-five minute drive away. Add in the fact that my working hours are now nine to six (and it gets dark at half past five), and we've got a bit of an obstacle to overcome. It's taken us this long to come to a solution, but I believe we've found one: morning walks.

Through the breezeway in the back, you can just make out a wishing well. Keith laughs at me because I call every well a wishing well. But who's to say it's not?
For the past few days, I've been walking Keith to school (his day starts with office hours at eight), then meandering my way back home through town. It feels like a pretty good compromise. I can get a fair bit of walking in and still be home in time to straighten the house before my own office hours start. And though I would prefer a woodsy, moss-covered lane with nary a car in sight, the streets of this town offer some pretty decent "scope for the imagination."

My footbridge. Like a portal to a forgotten time.
I've been making a loop through the town's historic district to admire the lovely old brick structures that have stood here for hundreds of years. I've made crossing the footbridge part of my daily routine. I love bridges and I love water and I love the wild tangle of tree and shrub and vine that surrounds it. I've been noticing things and people I haven't had the chance to notice before.

Walking back up the driveway toward our little "cabin in the woods".
When you walk past the same places at the same time every day, you pick up on changes that might have slipped your awareness otherwise. Yesterday, for example, I noticed slim, light green stalks poking out of the fresh earth everywhere I looked. They were just stalks, swaying in the chill breeze. But yesterday afternoon, the weather warmed up considerably, and this morning those same slim stalks were topped with the bobbing heads and preening bonnets of dozens and dozens of daffodils.

A lovely little surprise in the front yard.
 I even found a few slim stalks in my own front yard, just biding their time, waiting for their own time to bloom.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Breaking Silence

I'm just going to come out with it. I really, really want to be pregnant and I'm really, really sad that I'm not.

These are things I almost never say out loud. Things I've only spoken to a handful of people. And lately they are things I try not to even think out loud. Does it makes sense to say thinking out loud? Sometimes my thoughts are very quiet little whispers, faintest rustlings that disturb me very little. And sometimes they are giant voices shouting in my head. Sometimes my thoughts are very loud.

And as the days go by and I'm not pregnant, the desire gets a little stronger, and the sadness gets a little bigger, and the thoughts in my head get a little more shouty.

It's my inclination to hold these things to myself. To carry them close, so close. To never, not ever, put them on display. These hurts are too tender. The desires run too deep. And if I hold them tightly, maybe I can control them, maybe I can subdue them, maybe I can shrink the hurt down to a manageable size. Reduce the desire to something saner, more logical. As if desire has ever had anything to do with logic. 

But I'm holding tighter and tighter, and I'm covering over so very much of myself in the process, and the desire still gets stronger, the pain more insistent, the thoughts more and more shouty . . . and the lump of it all, the very dense, hard, massive ball of all the things I'm shoving down and down and down is getting bigger and messier and harder to breathe past and the silence isn't helping me anyway, not really. So here I am. I'm just coming out with it.

I really, really want to be pregnant. And I'm really, really sad that I'm not.

I'm going to try saying that a little bit more and a little bit louder for a while. Saying it out loud and not just to myself. I may even write about it a little more here. And maybe then my thoughts will settle back down to their normal, if mildly cacophonous, hum.

Friday, January 27, 2012

God's Grandeur

God’s Grandeur
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

It Will Be Long

The words come slow and halting
Up up up
From deep down things

They gurgle and falter
And sputter and spit

They've been left
Where solids erode into dust

It will be long
Before they run clear again

The words rattle and snap
Like dry bones
Tumbled in heaps akimbo

Bleached and creaking
Stripped and laid bare

They've been lost
To a merciless sun

It will be long
Before they are whole again

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More Wendell Berry


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

My 9 Second Elevator Pitch

Post Number Three as I continue my new obsession with Fascination. Need to catch up on One and Two?

I am the Intrigue:

According to research, the average person in our time has an attention span of 9 seconds. Which means we can basically pay attention to something about as long as a goldfish can. So we have 9 seconds to make an impact on a potential employer or customer.

I build connected relationships...

It sounds incredibly difficult to boil down an entire person or an entire brand into 9 seconds, but sometimes that's all we've got. And Sally Hogshead shared a tool at her session last week that helps get it done.

through my multi-layered communication...

I don't want to reveal too much about the details of the tool, because I don't know that it's available for wide release yet. I got a little advance access to it thanks to my attendance at the conference last week.

selective insight...

I will say that it's incredibly fast, simple, and fool proof. It's based on using your Primary and Alternate Personality Archetype (revealed by your F-Score Test, get on it now, people!) to define your strongest skills and your unique approach to them.

and paradoxical problem solving.

And here is the result of my labor. My 9-Second Elevator Pitch.
I am the Intrigue: I build connected relationships through my multi-layered communication, selective insight, & paradoxical problem solving. Whether it's employer to employee, customer to brand, or father to son, connection is key.
Tomorrow I'll experiment with applying the Seven Triggers of Fascination at a brand level to define brand personality archetypes for a 9-Second Brand Elevator Pitch.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Falling In Love with Wendell Berry

How To Be a Poet
(to remind myself)


Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.


Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.


Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

I'm Fascinated with Fascinate

Many of you could have predicted this. I'm keenly interested in exploring more about the Seven Triggers of Fascination that I posted about on Monday. I downloaded the Kindle version of Sally's book onto my iPad last night and I can't wait to dig into it this weekend. In the meantime, I sated my curiosity by combing through Sally's website, blog archives and (you'll never believe it) Facebook page. And you all know how much I hate Facebook.

I have a few comments to make about my F-Score results. Passion as my primary trigger makes perfect sense. I'm definitely a warm, connective, emotionally available person, and I do believe people are drawn to me because of that. And I'm certainly a communicator.

Mystique as my secondary makes sense too. As expressive as I may appear, I still usually conceal or leave out more than I express. In fact, I'm most likely to channel my Passion/Connection primary trigger towards others in a way that make them feel comfortable expressing themselves. Frequently that means my own expression takes a back seat while I suss out and explore the emotions of others.

But let's talk about Rebellion as my dormant trigger. Sally's model equates rebellion with surprise, creativity, and untraditional ideas. If Rebellion is my dormant trigger that means I am least likely to fascinate in this way. And yet, I'm normally perceived as very creative person. In fact, creativity is a vitally important part of what I do on a daily basis. I can certainly agree that I'm not likely to surprise others. I'm usually pretty dependable. And I'm not likely to buck a traditional system unless I see glaring errors in it.

I honestly thought my dormant trigger would be Alarm, because I almost have an aversion to people and situations that are all about urgency and negative consequences. I'm a deadline girl only when I have to be, when I need to meet expectations within a work environment. So even when I adhere to Alarm, it's being driven by another facet of my personality (Trust). And I almost never apply pressure to others in this way.

It's interesting.... Maybe the scores were pretty close between dormant Alarm and dormant Rebellion and there was one little question that tipped the scales? Or maybe the model is flawed/skewed by equating creativity with Rebellion and rule-breaking. Aren't there lots of other ways to be and be perceived as creative? Or perhaps my creativity is just another trait that's expressed through the lens of my Passion/Mystique archetype, and as such is more subtle and nuanced. Because I'm certainly not an in-your-face, different-just-for-the-sake-of-difference kind of person.

One way or another, it definitely has me thinking. Tonight I'm going to walk through Sally's template for creating a 9 Second Elevator Pitch. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, take the F-Score Test! Email me your results!

Above image from Fascinate on Facebook. Don't you think that pretty well captures it?

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Makes You Fascinating?

Last week at a conference in Indiana I heard a new take on an old favorite....personality typing

Sally Hogshead is building a brand (and publishing a new book) about Fascination and the idea that we are all hardwired to Fascinate (essentially compel, hold the attention of, bewitch, captivate) and be Fascinated by others. 

According to Sally's research, there are 7 different triggers that we can use Fascinate and we all have primary, secondary, and dormant triggers. 

I love, love, LOVE personality profiling, so you know that I whipped out my iPad and was awaiting my own results before the session was even over. Please take the test too, so we can compare results and fight about whether or not this a brilliant new approach to personality types. I can't decide where I stand.

The link to her assessment is here. Check it out to see what (supposedly) makes you fascinating. And read through my results below to see if you think they ring true for me.

F Score
Meet Your Triggers
Your primary fascination is PASSION. (Nicely done, you.) Even without realizing it, you're already instinctively applying this trigger when trying to persuade others. Your secondary trigger is MYSTIQUE, and your dormant trigger (the one you're least likely to apply in your personality and behavior) is REBELLION.

Your Primary TriggerPASSION
You quickly create warm emotional connections.
WHO YOU ARE: Expressive • Intuitive • Social • Impulsive • Enthusiastic
» You captivate others with your vibrant and attractive style of communication.
» Your approachable and transparent style makes you an "open book."
» You intuitively understand ideas and feelings of others.
PASSION TRIGGER LEADERS:Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo da Vinci, Tom Peters, Jim Carrey, Jack Welch, Nicholas Sparks
PASSION is one of the most immediately fascinating triggers. Your primary PASSION trigger means that you capture widespread attention through colorful words, ideas, and actions. 

Your Secondary Trigger MYSTIQUE
Your subtle style makes every detail more influential.
WHO YOU ARE: Understated • Complex • Rational • Reserved • Deliberate
» You persuade others by selectively culling your words and actions.
» You make careful decisions, usually thinking before acting.
» When you do share an idea or opinion, it carries more influence than it would for those who tend to "over-share."
MYSTIQUE TRIGGER LEADERS: J.D. Salinger, Johnny Depp, Bobby Fisher, Marilyn Monroe, Vincent Van Gogh, Greta Garbo, Agatha Christie
Having MYSTIQUE as your secondary trigger means you have a complex mind and reserved demeanor. These natural strengths are perfectly suited for certain professional scenarios.

Your Dormant Trigger REBELLION
YOUR DORMANT TRIGGER (the one you are least likely to use): REBELLION
You are unlikely to fascinate others with creativity and surprise.
» You are perceived as stable, trustworthy, and consistent.
» Most likely, you influence others through strong relationships and respect.
» Your word is your bond.
REBELLION adds freshness and surprise. It can spark fresh creative ideas. This trigger encourages people to break out of old ways of thinking, and find more innovative solutions.
Should you dial up your REBELLION trigger? Perhaps, if you want to shake up dusty routines, and become a more pioneering force for your message.

Here is YOUR personality’s fascination archetype:
You are The Intrigue.
You are:
  • Selective
  • Subtle
  • Multi-Layered