Taking the Best of One Year Into the Next {Plus an Announcement}

Winter SkyGravel crunched under the tires as I made my way through early morning’s darkness down the lane, away from my home in the country toward a hospital in the city. Des Moines has six general hospitals and I could picture and plot a route to every one of them. Every one except the one where my mom was having surgery that morning.

The road to Mercy was lost to me.

I checked Google Maps on our computer and while I still couldn’t envision where I was headed, I could see it on the map and pick between the three routes presented. I chose the fastest, one conveniently devoid of interstate. Years of small town streets and county highways have left me a little nervy in the face of freeway traffic.

Halfway between home and the hospital I realized my memory of the route was fuzzy so I opened the map app on my phone. It pulled up an unfamiliar way, one which put me right on the interstate. I reached into the glovebox and pulled out the Garmin, clicked the button for community resources, navigated to hospitals, and then pushed the button for Mercy.

It gave me a different route yet.

I followed the Garmin’s voice into the city, where she situated me in an empty parking lot on the back side of the state capitol building. I thought the Garmin needed to find herself, so I drove out of the parking lot so she could recompute and we could try again.

I ended up in the same place.

The Garmin was no longer in my circle of trust, but because I wasn’t sure what else to do, I decided to try one more time. I ended up in the same place.


City Sunrise

I parked and considered my options. Distracted momentarily by the sun rising in the direction of home, I stepped out of my vehicle to take a picture and I turned around to look at the capitol. And when I got back in, I noticed a sign across the road: Mercy Urgent Care.

The problem wasn’t the Garmin. It was me. I’d picked the wrong destination.

I needed to make a course correction. I still couldn’t picture Mercy or the roads that led there, so I followed the Garmin from where I was to where I needed to be. I had to take the interstate during heavy commuter traffic. And because I managed to make a wrong turn, I ended up in the tangle of one way downtown streets before I made it to the hospital. But I arrived in time to see my mom before surgery.

And at the end of a long day, I got into my vehicle and chose my own road home.

/ / / / /

For some of us, these unclaimed days between Christmas and the new year are days of picking new destinations and plotting paths to get there. Some years, in the rush to get from where I am to where I want to be, I’ve made navigational errors. I’ve set a course for where I thought I was going only to find myself in the equivalent of a dark, empty parking lot across from a tiny clinic when I needed to be at a sprawling hospital.

I’ve been guilty of trying to create a whole new way of living when I needed just a course correction, a tweak to the path I was already on.

Here’s one practice that helps me figure out the difference: Take a pause to look back over the last year. Ponder the path with an eye for what’s already happening, for what’s working and what’s not. Then press on, holding on to the things that work and looking for ways to correct what’s not.

What  Worked in 2016
  1. Sometimes, after thought and prayer, saying “yes” even when I knew it would be hard.
  2. Setting and sticking to a writing day. 
  3. A (mostly) low glycemic way of eating. More energy for me and fewer migraines for my husband.
  4. Asking for help.
What Didn’t Work {And Their Tweaks}:
  1. Saying “yes” just because something needed to be done. It’s habit I slide into easily and it never ends well. The first people to suffer are the ones I have the most responsibility to.  Once the course is set it takes time and effort to find the way out the tangle and onto the right roads. {The tweaks: Admitting I’m in over my head. Asking for help. Deselecting.}
  2. Social Media. It’s a great way to keep in touch. And I like to keep in touch. But it slices off time, a limited commodity, in such tiny slivers I barely notice in the moment. But the slivers add up. And there’s some research that indicates our brains filter out what comes in through the ears in favor of what it can get through the eyes. That means that my brain focuses the pretty images scrolling past on Instagram (my social media fix of choice) over the human beings standing in my presence. Again, the ones I have the most responsibility to suffer first. {The tweaks: Turning off notifications. Establishing times to check social media. Putting the phone down to look my people in the eye.}

Some of what works now won’t work forever and, with tweaks, some of what isn’t working may morph into something does. I’m thankful for these days that allow me to  pause, ponder the path, and press on.

City Sunrise

What would you like to take into the next year? What would you like to tweak?

The Announcement

Because I would someday like to publish a book, I need to make a few changes to my website. If all goes well technologically, the next post (or maybe the one after that) you receive from me should come from a newly launched website. It will have a new name and a slightly different look, but it’s still me. Same content. Same focus. If all does not go well technologically, I’ll let you know.

Happy New Year to you.


The Road Ahead: May


Sometimes it’s the road behind that illuminates the way forward. A year ago we had a rare May snow. It was wet and heavy and didn’t stick around. It couldn’t. Our orbit around the Sun was too deep into the warmth of spring.

So far, this spring is cold. It could snow again this May. Chances are that it won’t but if it does, it won’t be like last year. As Aslan told Lucy, “Things never happen the same way twice.”

Our circumstances change and so do we. From this May we can glance back. A glimpse of where I stand today in light of where I’ve been changes my perspective on the road I walk. Peter, who to me is the disciple of perpetual hope, reminds me that the journey is not about perfection; it’s about progress:

100_1425“Now for this very reason, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1: 8- 10

Take a look back. Think of it as a scenic pullout along your road. Does what you see give you hope to carry on or does it urge you to make a course correction? Sometimes I find both.

Happy May!



Too Many Minds

Have you heard of One Word 365? It’s an alternative to New Year’s resolutions, just one word to focus on for the year. I like the concept, but I’m more of a rearview mirror type of person. As I near the end of something I think, “Oh, that’s what that was all about.” My  word finds me when it’s all over.  The Nester, one of my favorite home and life bloggers, along with some of her blogging buddies suggest an alternative, an un-word, one that signifies something they want to leave behind. They’ve invited their readers to join them. An un-word is more my style, so here’s mine:


From the first day my son loved school. He’s an oldest child who spent his time in the company of adults, mostly me.  When we walked into the school that first day of kindergarten, I expected hear the sound of ripping velcro as someone tore him off of my leg when it was time for me to go. He surprised me, though. He just waved and sent me on my way, longing for the sound of velcro.

It was the same every year. (Not the velcro, the loving school.) And then fourth grade hit. He seemed happy enough when he arrived home that first day, but as he walked past me to get ready for bed, he slumped and lamented, “I don’t really like school. It doesn’t leave any time to think.” Roll that one around in your mind for a while.

When I shared this with a friend while we pushed our little ones on swings at the park a few days later, she cocked her head to the side and said, “I think he’s a lot like his mama.” Apparently she knew me better than I knew myself because it was years before I understood what she meant. I never have enough time to think and I don’t even go to school.

My husband tells me that men compartmentalize life. They think about one thing at a time. Not me. I think about everything. All at once. It’s exhausting.

I have to stop, which leads me to my un-word for this year, which really is an un-phrase because, well, no one word captured it: too-many-minds. It’s from The Last Samurai, and it means thinking about too many things at once. I want to be focused, present in the moment, and available to the people I am with. That I do not do in the midst of too-many-minds, so that’s my un-word for 2014.

My kids are older. That boy who wanted more time to think is a junior in high school and the girl in the swing is ten. I have less time to think than I did two years ago. With an I’ll think about that later, I make a futile attempts to table all of those thoughts I want–or need–to think. The table sags and the thoughts fall into the whirling tilt-a-whirl that is my brain. It doesn’t work.

Tonight I have nothing more than the genesis of change. I have no plan, but my calendar tells me that I’ll be alone tomorrow night. I’ll have time to think. And that is what I’m going to do.

And you? If you were to choose an un-word, what would it be? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment and let me know.

Linking at The Nesting Place.

Waiting For the Pool to Fill

We wore the road to Norris thin. Home to a geyser our family favored, it was a must-stop. Every time.

Echinus’ eruption cycle was short, thirty-five to seventy-five minutes. A half-mile path through the woods led to the broad depression in the earth that was its pool. Draining at the completion of an eruption, it would fill again as another approached. Eruptions were short, lasting about four minutes, but they were spectacularly explosive.  Echinus did not disappoint.

Even a winter’s trudge over somewhat packed snow to wait for an eruption in the cold was worth it. The pool was empty when we arrived, and we lunched in the silence of a Yellowstone winter day. We weren’t alone. A dozen bison huddled together nearby, taking advantage of the warmth of the earth and the air.

echinusbison - Version 2

One stood alone, disturbingly near the pool’s edge. I had seen skeletal remains of large mammals at the bottom of other thermal features. The ground is in thermal areas is thin and the bison was heavy. I worried that I would have to witness her demise, but I didn’t. She was alive and well when we walked away.

Frequent and predictable were all I had known of Echinus and this is how I thought it would always be. Silly girl.

We were back just over a year later, this time in May. We could see as we approached the geyser that our timing was perfect. Water was flowing into the pool. We waited, watching expectantly. The pool didn’t fill. We were joined by a guide accompanying a large herd of children on a field trip. His excitement over reaching Echinus at such a fortuitous time was evident as he explained to his young audience how Echinus worked and that it would soon fill and erupt. Except it didn’t. Water continually flowed in but the pool didn’t fill. He looked at his watch and he looked at us. He was puzzled. So were we.

This was not how Echinus was supposed to behave.

Geysers, I suppose, with their complicated and changing underground plumbing systems obscured even to scientists’ eyes, don’t consider that we might have expectations about their behavior. They erupt. We watch and enjoy. At least, we enjoy when there is something to watch.

Our skin was burned and our children were hungry. It was time to leave. Echinus had disappointed.

A shift had occurred in a hidden place; Echinus’ eruption cycle had changed and the change persists. Frequent and predictable are gone, replaced by occasional and sporadic. It happens.  Echinus is not the only one of Yellowstone’s geysers whose rhythm has changed. Water pathways break or clog. Geysers go dormant. Temperatures fluctuate. Hot springs become geysers. Geysers become springs.

Much like shifts in cracks and openings that bring water to thermal features in Yellowstone, I find that the circumstances of my life shift regularly, both near the surface and in hidden places far beneath. Children move from one developmental stage to another. School years end and begin again. We move. God works. Suddenly what has served marvelously serves no more. Life requires constant adjustment. It seems that just when I establish a routine, settle into a rhythm and find my groove, there is change, demanding that I adjust.

Adjusting is not my favorite part of life, but deep down I know it’s better to find a new groove than to wait by a pool which will never fill.

mid 08 pictures 132

We have new must-stops now. Midway Geyser Basin is home to my husband’s favorite thermal feature, Great Excelsior, once a magnificent geyser which, for now, is a boiling hot spring. We walk Midway. Every time. And instead of waiting for Echinus, we enjoy a longer wait for Great Fountain. We have a new groove.

How about you? Do you like change? Are you adjusting to anything new?