Did you notice how people began celebrating Christmas with home decorations, parties, and drinking eggnog an entire week before Advent started? A coworker mused, "Advent hasn't started but Christmas is here!" I could babble incessantly about the rape of Christmas and the pillage of its meaning, but you've heard that country tune before. It's old, sorry and overplayed. Rather than harping, I am hopeful for what is to come.

I am leaning in a little closer to God's word, aware that things are about the change. I have a sense that regardless of the wreaths and bells and trees and lights that something is different about this time of year. The journey into redemption is coming to a precipice. We're looking over the edge taking a deep breath, preparing to jump into living with Christ for another year.

It's a long way down and there's no way back.

Climbing down isn't an option.

If the Holy Spirit didn't push me, I'm not sure I'd jump.

But He pushes every time. Hard.

And I fall.

Right into His arms.


fleeting content

One of those rare moments is upon me. Contentment. Joy. Warmth. Full.

Maybe it is the warm tea that is wafting to my nose and taste buds. Maybe it is knowing I just bought a really great gift for a friend. Maybe it is anticipation of an evening well spent with kids and friends. Maybe it is in hopes for great things to come. Maybe it is sentimentality for a weekend well spent.

The moment is here. It is fleeting, but it is content.



he's leaving me

those words

just dropped into conversation

like yesterday's scores

or tomorrow's predictions

he's leaving

no prayaboutit thinkaboutit talkaboutit

decision made


noquestions nohopes nopromises




as one










My Monday morning needed a little laughter. Perhaps yours does, too.



The questions of a junior high student are often more honest that the questions of an adult:
  • How are there spirits but yet they aren't ghosts?
  • Do spirits come out anywhere at anytime?
  • How does a demon make a physical move?
  • I don't understand how we could believe in God even though no one alive has ever seen him.
  • I don't understand how we know so much about God.
  • Why is sexual activity bad before marriage?
  • Can Satan send people to do bad things?
  • Is divorce a sin?
  • How do we really know that the Bible is true?
  • I don't know how things like the burning bush and how Jesus talked. How do I know it is real?
  • How do we know that Jesus is protecting us, we can't see him?
  • How do we know so much about God?
  • Why are spirits bad?
  • Why is divorce wrong?
I don't know if there are answers, or at least easy ones. Everything is complicated anymore.


through the fields

It wasn't exactly warm.


It was chilly.

There was a breeze,


the sun.

It was shining brightly.

We set out:

tennis shoes,




Gravel pathways through the harvested fields,



waiting for the winter.

We walked for miles

past the white house,

around the long bend.

We walked into dreams and fears,

finding beauty in the chipped and fading.

Fingers and toes numbed.

The sun,

slumped against a reddening sky.

We walked through the fields.




maria pilar

I remember distinctly as a child my mother telling someone that my sister was a painter and I was a writer. I was a sensitive child and I took this to mean I was only good at writing. I can't paint. That is my sister's role in the family. When my sister would write something well, as was her habit, deep in the recesses of my unacknowledged thought, I would feel a piece of my identity snatched away from me.

She was the painter. I was the writer.

As a young teenager, I avoided art classes because I feared pencils and paintbrushes. I dropped art class to sing in the choir and learn to blow the French Horn less like a squawking duck. When I was ultimately forced to take an art class, I went to the teacher privately to explain to her that I was not painter, an artist, a sculptor, or anything that required tactile skill.

I was the writer. My sister was the painter.

As an older teenager, living in a country where I didn't know how to ask for a glass of water, I took an art class because my only other alternative was Latin. The thought of translating from one language to another and then to my native was overwhelming enough to propel me into arte with Maria Pilar. Maria Pilar was a small woman that looked at her students directly and told them that they'd gained weight, they were overly flirtatious, or they were smart but they needed work on the social skills. Her demeanor scared me almost as much as my history teacher who asked me how my American fascist friends were doing on a regular basis.

In fear, I worked. Praying Maria Pilar wouldn't discover my lack of skill, I learned to draw, I learned to paint. Water. Brush. Color.

Maria Pilar looked me in the eye and told me my sister and I can both be painters. We can both be writers. And we are.

Thanks to Maria Pilar.


progressing chronological

  1. Rising at 5am
  2. Leaving the house by 5:45am
  3. Sitting in thirty minutes of poorly directed traffic
  4. Standing in the pre-race potty line for ten minutes
  5. Arriving to the finish line late
  6. Running with my cousin
  7. Enjoying every minute of a low-key half-marathon
  8. Finishing in less that goal time of 2:30:00 (the run/walk thing makes you go slow, you know)
  9. Feeling fantastic after the race
  10. Getting well-stretched (thanks Mathlete), well-showered, and well-fed (Thanks Kamery)
  11. Feeling like running fears were psychological paranoia about previous running experiences
  12. Feeling like despite absence of training, time was pretty good (2:22:ish)
  13. Feeling like running with the cousin was the best decision I could have made
  14. Feeling like I could do it again if I gave myself permission to go at my pace
  15. Feeling like this post should end before I get gushy sentimental grossness seeping out of my pores


things i am looking forward to and things i am dreading

Things I am dreading:
  • running a half-marathon (well. run/walking)
  • a sore hip
  • watching the ACT test administration video
  • kicking potential cheaters out of the ACT test I am administering this weekend

Things I am looking forward to:
  • finishing a half-marathon
  • eating the godfather spaghetti sauce
  • hanging out with friends and family
  • a non-regimented workout schedule
  • a healing hip
  • reading more of this book, and this book, and this book, and this book


this is my brain on exhaustion

I stared at my computer screen and thought for at least ten minutes about something that I could tell you today that was either witty or depressing or heartwarming or at least something that wasn't about cleaning or running or my sleep cycle.

Alas, I failed.

I am tired.

I'm not returning phone calls because I can barely put one word in front of the next in a coherent way. (And still I find the strength to write the word coherent.)

I'm working but I'm so tired (and cold! Do they still have the AC running in this place?!) I'm mainly reading and organizing mindless details.

I'm here but I'm really not.


the best part of running half marathons

Have I mentioned lately that I am planning to run/walk the half-marathon? My hip hurts, I don't want to cause it more damage, I don't feel like dying. Excuses, excuses.

Because the running part hasn't been enjoyable of late, I am finding ways to make the concept of the half marathon enjoyable. My favorite so far is pasta. Planning to make it, planning to eat it, making it, and eating it.

The roommate and I are hosting a pasta party on Saturday evening before the Sunday morning race. And we are making my favorite sauce that comes straight from my favorite movie.


oh. that.

Training is winding down. There are NINE DAYS to the race. I am ready to get this torturous task finished. Between a sore hip and general disinterest in competition, the racing aspect of running has become less and less appealing.

Nevertheless, I have to run at least a few times a week and a long run to be ready for the never-ending 13.1 miles on September 16th.

Running is on the periphery of my life right now. I have so many other things that I enjoy doing or I need to do or that I WANT to do, that it hasn't been a priority.

That's probably a good thing. I can focus on more important things like food and pretending I have a love life.


the lives of others

It took three tries to get past the first fifteen minutes of the German film, The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen). I'd fall asleep, decide to go check my email, or start daydreaming and forget to read the subtitles and find myself hopelessly lost.

On the third try, I trudged through and within the next ten minutes I was barely able to peel my eyes away from the screen. I went to sleep last night knowing I'd seen the best movie I've seen this year.

I had to do a bit of retrospective research on East Berlin and the Berlin Wall in order to fully grasp the historical setting of the film. Yet, I lost nothing in my viewing for being moderately ignorant of 1980s German history.

The trailer makes it seems like the film is highly sexual, highly thrilling, highly charged. And while elements of these exist in the film, it is much to subtle to be highly anything. The Lives of Others is a film of compassion and relationships.

This film shook me because nothing is as it seems. The theme of fidelity and its intricacies and complications is woven through each character's development. I don't want to detail the plot because I feel so strongly that you should see the film. It has changed the way I think of fidelity this morning and though fictional, has given me a greater faith in human compassion.


finishing touches

As you are well aware, I have sorted through every nook and cranny of my house, dejunking, reorganizing, and beautifying it. One of my lagging projects was the top of my dresser. It was a storehouse for anything to nice to be tossed on the floor and too average to be put away immediately. It looked like a space on hgtv where the host mocks the homeowner for their inability to see how awful it looked. I knew how awful it looked, but I was dragging my feet on doing anything about it. Mainly because doing something about it would entail hanging a very heavy large mirror and finding a different location to toss my too nice and too average items.

The other problem was the box collection. I've collected boxes or various shapes and sizes that store my growing collection of Kohl's clearance jewelry. The boxes are from different countries and often showcase a certain type of folk art unique to that country. They are beautiful, but individually too small to simply set on my dresser and not look like clutter. And on top of my dresser with a glass top, they would become dusty easily and I would have to look at it every time I pulled socks out of the drawer.

I contracted my sister for the project, my sister who is so thorough in planning, creating, and designing every aspect of her life that even the bad decisions were plotted down to the type of sock she would wear with her casual, but semi-dressy when worn with the jeans with a crease down the leg brown shoes. It is for this very reason that she is the perfect person to help me create a space in my newly cleaned out bedroom. Anal creativity always wins.

Within three hours and a Target run, I had a well organized dresser-top. Instead of hanging the heavy mirror and boring large holes into my rented walls, we leaned it against the wall. It is heavy enough, you can barely move it without asking the incredible hulk for some lifting assistance. I can safely say it isn't going anywhere. We bought a few shelving pieces at Target to display my collection of boxes. Now they are stashed on my wall next to the dresser in a way that makes them look like pieces in a museum. I love art museums, so living in one is a dream come true. I bought a real live orchid (God help it) to put in the corner.

My dresser looks phenomenal even if I am the only person who regularly looks at it. Since I have droned on about a six square feet of space for nearly five hundred words (you've been thrilled reading every one of them, I am certain), it is only due and proper that I also include a photographic documentation of this carefully planned space.




I'm thankful for friendly emails, for lunch dates and for laughter.

I'm thankful for lotion and friends that will help me put it on my back.

I'm thankful for support from my family to follow my dreams, to live in freedom without guilt, to honor God in my life.

I haven't realized how blessed my life truly of late. I take things for granted. I forget to say thank you. I forget and I pine after more.

But today I am thankful. I know this life is blessed. I pray these days will only glimpse the truly better days ahead of me.

Thank you.


all these things

Life feels hurricanic (Yes, I made that word up. Yes, it was influenced by my recent stint in Florida, land of the whirling tropical storms.). Vacation (err... the work trip) was wonderful, except for the ignorant sunburn. I haven't been sunburned in years. I remember why I hate it so much and why I am a sunscreenaholic.

I've got a new roommate sharing the great townhouse that Not-Roommate and I picked out and painted and loved. New Roommate has great taste and has already suggested throwing a party. I like her for this. I like her A LOT for this. Not-Roommate is on her way out of the country tomorrow. Pray for her travels!

Attending the National Lutheran Youth Gathering and seeing many of my former classmates, professors, and my beloved college roommate has breathed new life into some of my perspectives on work, life, and faith. It is so easy to forget who we are, who we have been created to be, whose we are when we are attempting to finalize a city park reservation, write a multi-age Bible study, and learn the chords to that worship song. Life is distracting and as the C.S. Lewis' Screwtape would have it, I am too often distracted by it.

The weeks are winding down before the half-marathon that I haven't trained very much for. I will be fine. I will run it, but my desire to compete and run fantastically dwindles by the hour. I'd rather not throw-up water all of the medi-tent. Or lie prostrate on my living room floor. Vacation (errr... the work trip) wedged it way in between me and the running plan. Oh well. I needed the sleep.

School begins in a few weeks, which in youth ministry means: PUMP IT UP. I've got loads of back-to-school work to do, but I know where my sights are set and it has a lot more to do with praying than pumping.

I've had a full cup of coffee and too much iced tea today. This means I feel like I am really nervous about something but I have nothing causing me to be nervous and I have to go to the bathroom a lot.

This blog is unreasonably episodic. My deepest apologies. Blame it on iced tea numero 3 of the afternoon. Lady Grey makes great iced tea. Pucha.


water: spun

You get it. Water is good. Water cleans things. Water refreshes us. Hydrates us. Water makes life possible. Water is good. You get it.

You get it. Water is good. Water is for baptism. Water is used by the Holy Spirit to clean our spirits. Water from Christ will banish our thirst. Water is good. You get it.

But water can be easily ruined. It is hard (impossible) to clean water mixed with toxic chemicals. Some water used for cleaning causes more harm than good.

Water can be scarce. Many people travel long distances to bring a single jug of water to their home, to their families. Forests burn because the branches of their trees thirst for water.

Water is precious.

Humanity is entrusted to care for its great gift.

Living Water is precious.

Christians are entrusted to share its great gift.


o father confessor

I didn't run today.

I'm tired. I'm still fighting a weird cold meets allergies. I have to clean my house. As it stands, even without running today, I am running 22 miles this week. Plus I went to yoga last night. And my hip is sore.

I don't want to.

I know I am supposed to. I know in order to be ready to run my heart out in September, I need to get out there and run. But schedules are made to be shifted. Especially running schedules.

Instead, I am cleaning my room this morning.

So spare me the guilt trips. Spare me the disappointed patronizing gaze.

Go find yourself someone else to ride with your perfectionistic training guide.


my favorite time of the year

There is something about the slowness of mid-July that makes me feel like a million bucks.

My favorite foods are bursting off the vines and bushes.

I can get up in the wee early morning hours and still be cool enough to run long distances (Unlike August when the tar boils all day and doesn't cool through the night).

The heat decreases my appetite and creates a need for an afternoon siesta. I love naps.

The pace at work allows for me to clean my office. This week I have rid my office closet of all things not mine which was the majority of the items in the closet. Hallelujah! They are gone!

The pace of life lends me time to read some great books. I'm reading "Girl meets God" by Lauren Winner which (despite a title that provokes images of teenaged girls anxious to meet their husband on their first day of college) is quite intelligent. The book must have been typed with magnetic ink because I can barely put it down. I've also read "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy--a must read for all people everywhere. Don't argue with me. I've got Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking," Augustine's "Confessions," and Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" in the must read NOW pile.

Of course, all of this reading will be put on a standstill when Harry Potter comes out. Because HELLO! All normal human beings have been anticipating this book since book five was released.

I digress.

The main reason I love mid-July is the evening time. I love going for a slow walk through the neighborhood just as dusk is settling in. Peace and simplicity faintly waft through the air. I feel alive.


i would rather be a doorkeeper

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor.

No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Oh Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

From a psalm of the Sons of Korah. Number 84.

I want there to be comfort.

I want there to be peace.

But when we are left behind, burning our oil lamps waiting to be taken, our hearts can't help but feel great loss in those who have gone before.

My eyes turn to heaven, to the ones I love in that place, to the One who loves me in that place. I ask when I can move out my tent and into his kingdom.

He tells me to trust and wait on the Lord.

And wait I will.



I am a burdenbearer. There. I admitted it.

If you come to me with your problems, I bear the emotional pain that you bear. I anguish it. I live in a small way in it, too.

I feel badly when I tell someone I don't want to (or can't) listen to their burdens. Not only do I feel badly, I feel guilty. I feel like a bad friend.

And yet, when I called her and her mom had only just died I wanted her burden of heartache to be lifted from her. I wanted her to know that her mom still loves her from her place beside the Creator. I wanted her to know that she is still loved on this side of Creation.

The burden of burdenbearing washes away and the compassion of pain stings its way into my heart.


light without breath

Mom, can I have a jar?

What do you want it for?

To catch the fireflies.

Are they out tonight?

The first ones I've seen all year.

What are you going to do with them once you have them in the jar?

Make a lamp.

You will need to make breathing holes for your bugs.


The Light without Breath is useless.

Knowledge without practice is useless.

Love without action is dead.



I don't really like the sound of the word fullness, but I love the meaning of the word. The word for me tells of a life lived abundantly for Christ. It depicts an overflowing of the spirit of love and truth into all parts of life.


I have been striving for fullness this week and in many ways I have fallen short. I have watched too many episodes of The Soprano's to claim total fullness (but I only have about ten episodes left and then I will have to wait until the second half of season six is released on dvd). I have chosen to sleep in rather than wash my hair too many times to claim complete fullness.

Yet hints and whispers of fullness have tiptoed around me in ways that have recently been ignored, unnoticed, or absent.

A fire slowly burning on my patio, laughter swirled in wine glasses, wasabi burning my lips, red bunch onions freshly resting in my refrigerator, consolation from a colleague, prayers from a friend, promises of new life, hope, and dreams, opportunities for new expression, renewed vigor to progress, joy in quietude.

Fullness trickles, flows, floods.



an actual conversation via email. after running up the emotional equivalent of ten flights of stairs or maybe more. twice.

My legs were shaking in the shower this morning….it was a good workout. :)

I am SSSSSSSSSSSooooooooooooooooooooooo tired this morning. I literally sat on my chair staring for twenty minutes. because I could. because I didn't have to get to work. talk about hardcore.

I love those workouts. :) :)


a rainy month (without an advocate)

Grief is not something in which I believe many can claim expertise. However, grief has been a primary player in my adolescent, post-adolescent and young adult life. I know the inner workings of grief in my heart. I know the process for myself, I know my mourning is in constant metamorphosis. My grief is lonely, personal, tired.

When I grieve, I find many words vacant and plastic. I often find the actions of others careless, hurtful.

I find myself bitter and hunkered into a posture of fear. But mainly, I find myself craving an advocate. Someone who doesn't say the dread four word phrase, "If you need anything..." But fills needs unspoken. Gives a ride, makes some tea, gives a few minutes, sends flowers frivolously, lends a hand. Stops and cares.

No call necessary. No "letting know" needed.

Just compassion in action.

An advocate for my heart.


she married a dashing navy pilot

Ruth B. Cropp, 83, of Nevada MO, formerly of Normandy, Missouri, passed away May 13th, 2007, at the Barone Care Center. She was born September 13th, 1923 near Gordonville,MO to Alvin and Elsie (Graden) Grossheider. Ruth was the third of eight daughters and grew up milking cows with her seven sisters on a dairy farm near Gordonville in southeast Missouri. She was the first in her family to complete High School, graduating salutatorian from college high school in Cape Girardeau, MO in 1941. When she wasn't milking or going to school, she was busy in the kitchen with her mom and sisters, making sure the men working the fields were properly fed. Her favorite stories were of the completion of the harvest when the neighboring farm families would get together and dance and sing and play cards. She cherished her memories of the farm but preferred the amenities of city living. And she never wore overalls again after moving to St. Louis. She married a dashing Navy Pilot named Ralph C. Cropp of November 18th, 1950 in St Louis, MO and lived 44 years in Normandy, MO. Ruth was a lovely wife, mother and homemaker in the truest sense of the word. Ruth ran her house like a tight ship, only a lot cleaner. She sewed her family's clothes, cooked wonderfully and was especially proud of her 1985 state championship pot roast. She set the good example of her four children whom she firmly raised in the faith. She served Zion Lutheran Church of Ferguson, MO in the Women's Guild, Church Choir, Married Couples Club and various prayer groups. After moving to Nevada, Missouri she attended St. Paul's Lutheran Church as long as her health permitted. Ruth is survived by her children and their spouses: Kenton A. Cropp and wife Sally, Edgerton KS, Cherie A. Kleinbeck and husband Mark, Poplar Bluff, MO. Dr Lance E. Cropp and wife Kelly of Mansfield, OH and Joyce C. Denman and husband Bill of Nevada, MO ; 8 and 7/9's grandchildren (one on the way) Kelsie Cropp and Trevor Cropp, Christina Kleinbeck and Alaina Kleinbeck, Nathan Cropp and Kate Cropp, and Lucas Denman, Emma Denman, and Jacob Denman (on the way) four sisters: Lorene Grossheider, Aiken, South Carolina Eleanor Haman, Cape Girardeau MO, Audrey (Jean) Mc Henry, Cape Girardeau MO, and Barbara Venz of Mc Cormick South Carolina and numerous nieces and nephews, relatives and friends. Ruth was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Ralph, three sisters:Edna Flanigan, Francis Mc Neely and Roberta Robinson; and one beloved grandson Douglas Kleinbeck.Services : Funeral services will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2007 at Ferry Funeral Home, Nevada,MO. Interment will follow in Newton Burial Park, Nevada, MO. Friends may call now and until the hour of service and the family receives friends 7-8:00 p.m. on Friday, May 18, at the funeral home. The family suggests memorial contributions to Barone Care Center or to The Douglas Kleinbeck Memorial Scholarship Fund c/o Ferry Funeral Home. You may view obituary and send condolences online at www.ferryfuneralhome.com. Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 5/17/2007 - 5/18/2007.

Obituary by Bill Denman.


questions i have

Is it normal for a toothpaste to cause my cheek to shed its outer layer on a daily basis? (Because the new kind I am trying does and it is driving me crazy)

Who will succeed Jerry Falwell in driving less politically conservative Christians bonkers now that he has passed? Maybe this nut job (Read the first real paragraph. Prolific use of the word Illuminati crys out "desperate Dan Brown wannabe.")?

Can I get a few more hours of sleep at night?

Will I be able to find another quality leader for my youth servant event this summer?

What should I make for dinner tonight?

Why do some people keep talking?


the astoria alaina tuna salad

My sister was in town, visiting me this weekend, getting away from all of the family stress we've been bearing, and generally taking advantage of the open door policy I foolishly offered to her three months ago. I think she kept my key this time. Jerk.

Though today was Mother's Day, I surreptitiously avoided the topic with anyone other than my own mother. I have too many emotions wrapped up in mothers and grandmothers to uphold a standard of normal human behavior. Part of the avoidance was staying away from anything that sold food on plates by a waiter. Instead my sister and I cleaned out my fridge and with a quick run to the grocery store, we made a phenomenal tuna salad. A tuna salad that we dubbed the astoria alaina tuna salad. I think we were intoxicated on our own egos when finalized that name. At least I was. (typical.)

Here's the recipe (to the best of my recollection, we were really just making it up as we went):
1 large can of solid white tuna (12 oz)
1/2 apple (fuji, gala, etc.) chopped small
1 stalk celery chopped small
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 parsley, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper

Holy yum on a fork.


coping skills (appearances aren't everything)

Tears come quietly.

They are closeted, tucked silently against the back wall, behind my pressed pants and dry-cleaned shirts. They happen without tissues, but with shirt sleeves and a deft finger swipe and a cool water splash.

While closeted, they are prepared for parade. They are explained to a room full of wide-eyed youth wondering why my eyes are a bit red, my cheeks flushed. They are lived out fully. Navigating the time spent closeted and the time on parade is delicate, occasionally tedious.

Tears careen between the two like muddied river waters. Sometimes destroying, flooding, withholding in dry spells. Sometimes creating, refreshing, bringing life.

Tears are worn as shawls to show where life has stained and where life has wiped clean a piece of previous pains. Sometimes the shawl is spread like wings. Sometimes it clings tightly, closely to me.

Tears come quietly to protect me. Sustain me. Refresh me.


in the swing

After a week of essential running-less-ness, this week has come on like a torrential downpour.

I have risen twice in the early morning hours to squeeze a run in before the May-in-Missouri heat strikes up momentum. This is record-breaking.

It is Thursday and I am only four miles away from my 16 mile a week goal. Yeah!

I have also jumped a concrete barrier on a busy street (don't tell my mother) and battled a horrific mid-run stomach-ache that ultimately led to indescribable things. Which I will not describe because gross.

Running this week has been a stress-reliever. It has been cathartic to beat my frustrations on the concrete sidewalks rather than the people around me. Running has cleared my heart and mind.

Running this week has been weight control. I don't weigh myself ever, but I know what feels healthy in my body. Sitting in a hospital and nursing home for a week left me sluggish and dull feeling. Running has cleared me of those feelings.

Running this week has been a reason to sleep. Sleep is my weakness. I am not good at going to bed and staying there. Running has made me tired enough to get some sleep.

This week has been a reminder of why I love running.


at her bedside

Ruth lays beside me. Her steady wheeze of breath stops.

My heart stops. Is this it? Will my grandmother pass while I am alone with her? Am I worthy of spending these last few moments with her alone?

When I was a little girl I always felt unworthy to be her grandchild. Not because I was degenerate or because she made me feel degenerate. Rather she had a little saying that she told everyone about how proud she was of her kids. “Not a single cavity in permanent teeth.”

She breaths a graveled breath. I, too, breath again. No death this time.

I always felt a bit of shame because I didn’t have great teeth and I didn’t have great dental hygiene as a kid either. I thought I’d let her down because I had a cavity. I was a serious kid.

Today as I hold her trembling hand, not knowing if she hears me, feels me, knows I am here, I know that this woman didn’t care that I had a cavity. She was just proud of her kids. I remember the way she danced around our house when she came to visit. She made it clean, too. I remember her fried chicken before fried chicken became a food unworthy of our healthy plates.

I remember the day she tried to teach me how to make her german potato salad. A little bit of this, a little bit of that... and a lot of me making a mess. If I told her that today I wouldn’t eat her famous warm salad because I don’t eat bacon, she’d look at me with a shrug saying, “I just don’t understand you people.” I imagine a heaven that involves lots of great food and her potato salad is there. I’ll eat it because pigs don’t fly out of semi-trucks in heaven and bacon isn’t made out of pig there anyway.

These days pass slowly, in a surreal passing of time. I wonder each moment if this will be a moment of mercy. If now she will be given the gift of peace and the end of suffering that she has know too well these past days. I analyze the way I pass my time. Is this what I want to be doing when she passes? Does it matter what I am doing when she passes?

Her breathing pauses longer. Then comes back steadily. This wasn’t the moment either.

A gentleman stops in. His wife is a resident here at the Alzheimer's unit, my grandmother’s home for the past two years. “I hope she does alright. She’s a dandy.”

Losing people you love must seem normal at his age. And somehow it still isn’t right.

It’s time to go to heaven.

When will you take her, Lord? When?

How long will I sing this song?

Will someone bring my dinner? I’m getting hungry and lonely sitting here.


not much to say

I'm spending my days with my grandmother, my mother, my family.

We're hoping that my grandmother's days will end mercifully soon, but no one can predict when that will be.

I'm wondering when I should go back to my daily life. When I should go back to my work, my friends, my home.

Besides all of that, there's not much to say.


every breath

The days are long.

My aunt is home, bound to her bed. Stress is unacceptable.

My grandmother breaths steadily, slowly on her side, grimaced in unknown unspeakable pains.

My mom slumped in a chair exhausted from wondering when my grandmother can finally find her peace.

My uncle chasing after kids. His mom helping him.

The kids a little lost in it all.

And me.

Praying it will soon be over.


forty eight

It has been a strange, trying, and exhausting forty eight hours.

Saturday morning, my mom called me about twenty minutes before I was to begin teaching my morning Bible study.

"Alaina, Grandma had a massive stroke. We don't know if she'll make it hours, days, or weeks."

Devastating words. Debilatating words.

My focus was divided for the rest of the retreat and though I love my youth, my heart was not with them. My heart was with my mom, losing her mom.

God is good to me and he has blessed me with retreat leaders who are dynamic and faithful. They quickly took contorl over every aspect of the retreat that I was managing. This freed me to come and be with my mom as she says goodbye to her mom.

As if that wouldn't be hard enough, my grandmother's primary caretaker is my aunt. My aunt who is 31 weeks pregnant. My aunt who was put on bed rest on Friday because her blood pressure was too high. My aunt woke this morning to some bleeding and a few contractions. She was admitted to the hospital and will be monitored for the next 24 hours.

This weekend, my primary message to the youth was a message of Christ-rootedness. When we are rooted in Christ, our perspective on life changes.

My message is being challenged within me, but I rest in the comfort of knowing that it is true.


csa does not stand for communism, socialists, and anarchists

When I told Roommate that I thought we should join a CSA, she looked at me like I had just proposed joining a nudist colony. She didn't know what the letters CSA stood for. Chances are, if you are like most of my friends, you don't either.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Which implies some sort of leftist mentality, but in actuality it is a great way to support local agriculture. Instead of taking out loans in the beginning of the season to cover up front cost, the farmer sells shares to families. In return for their cost, the farmer gives each shareholder a specified amount of his crop each week.

When Roommate understood what a CSA was, she became very excited (not quite the shrill full body shimmy excited, but very excited nonetheless). But then we realized a few impracticalities of our situation and we needed to share a share. I was adamant that this was something that I needed to do. So I talked to La Señorita and her roommate, The Reader. They jumped on board so quickly, they almost pushed me off.

We joined Three Rivers Community Farm and we couldn't be more excited. I am happy because the carbon calorie on my carrot will be low and it will also be free of pesticides. Roommate is happy because we can visit the farm and pick herbs. La Señorita is excited to support the local farmers instead of the conglomerate. The Reader can't wait for November to use her 104 Squash Recipe book.

CSAs exist throughout the country. Many seasons are just beginning, so now is a last minute chance to join. Sites like localharvest.org can help you locate CSAs, farmer's markets, and restaurants serving locally grown foods.

I am going to feel really good about my tomatoes this summer. Supporting local economy. Eating pesticide free food. Sparing the environment a few pounds of carbon.

How does your tomato taste?


light (of life)

When I was a little girl I shared a room with my older sister. Her bed rested in one corner, mine in the opposite. One of our walls was home to a large picture window. The window looked out onto our front lawn and the street beyond that. Not far from the window was a huge old tree. Years later, this tree would die and I would grieve its absence from our yard. Just beyond the tree was a lamp post. The street light lit up the entire block in front of it and a good portion of the small neighborhood park to its rear.

Every night, my sister and I would climb into bed and she would quickly fall asleep. I was never quite so blessed. I would lie awake wondering if I could read my book in the dark by way of my alarm clock's slow blinking numbers. The darkness would settle in and the street light flickered on. The tree and its limbs swayed in the night, their shadows cast eerily on my ceiling.

Even as a young child, reason told me the shadows were not a man, a monster, a sight to fear. Yet my brain crafted frightening tales of monsters lurking on our lawn. My eyes remained open for many nights in fear that if they closed, no one would be awake to protect my sleeping family.

My sleeplessness wore on my young body and soon I caved into fear and told my mom the frightening tale of tree shadows and lurking monsters. She smiled and quickly solved my ordeal with night light that wiped away the swaying peering arms and limbs of the tree.

The light cast away the darkness from my nights and I could rest easily, calmly, without fear.

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life." -Jesus


real springtime running

Cold weather and running don't go together very well.

Much like cold weather and months spelled A-P-R-I-L don't go together very well.

Through the month of January, I was highly motivated and ran on a treadmill in the basement of the clubhouse at my apartment complex. Those days ended with a trip to Belize (I know, boo-hoo) and a subsequent bouts of food poisoning and overwork poisoning. Now the thought of running on a rotating rubber band makes me simultaneously cringe and convulse. Perhaps it was the singular week at the end of March with temperatures in the 80's that ruined indoor running for me. I ran outside! Lots! It was glorious!

That week was quickly followed by rain, threats of snow, and a blustery cold wind that makes me wonder if Al Gore really does smoke crack (or distort statistics, whatever. same difference.). That was also the week I came down with a case of the "I don't wannas and you can't make mes." This is not a good problem to have when you are trying to get back in shape. (For what you ask? Ummm. I don't know. Life.)

This week, I have determined that I will turn into some sort of crab apple (in attitude and appearance) if I don't shed the pout and get out there and run. It's amazing what a few tough runs will do to you. Despite the lingering chilliness normally reserved for months that are spelled M-A-R-C-H, I have hit the road four times in the last six days. La Señorita and I even had a run together!

Spring will actually be here sometime next week. After the threats of snow are banished from the airways this weekend. (Seriously, Meteorologist Ben Able at NPR member station 90.7 KWMU, NO MORE). And all of that means running. Real springtime running.


something to mourn

An American great has passed away. And even in his death, his words still make me laugh like no tomorrow.

People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order, so they'll have good voice boxes in case there's ever anything really meaningful to say.
Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle


the longing goes on

When I struggle through anything emotional, I flail like a fish out of water. I splash people around me, they back up to avoid getting wet, and I end up flailing by myself. Alone. I've been suffering through a craving for deeper, more meaningful relationships with my friends around me. Playing and laughing doesn't cut it for me anymore. I'm afraid of being left behind. Left alone.

Cameron Conant put it well: Things change, especially when you're single. It's as if the social networks upon which you stand are constantly shifting, like plates under a giant fault line.

I don't know if there is a solution. I don't know what I want.

I'm just glad I have a rock underneath the fault lines.



As children and teenagers, my sister and I had an infamously tumultuous relationship. We shared a room and a sibling rivalry that could have been featured on a Rikki Lake episode in the mid-nineties. Even into her college years, we mastered the art of mind bullets and word spears. It was brutal.

Somewhere in the middle of my college years, things changed. We realized we weren't all that different from one another. We didn't have to share a bathroom sink anymore. We quit fighting about accidentally buying the same clothes. We started enjoying each other's company.

My sister moved back to Missouri about nine months ago to work for my parents. Despite some of the negatives of living and working for our parents, there have been some huge positives. I see her all of the time. I talk to her all of the time. We share things with each other (like recipes and music), but mainly more than anything else, we share our lives with each other.

Finally, as an adult, I am enjoying having a sister. She's a friend that will always be. No matter where I live, what I do, who I marry, what I wear, she's my sister. The brutal fighting has been exchanged for brutal laughing fits and a banter that is only possible with someone who walked down Sesame Street with you every morning when you were three.

Lately, I've been enjoying it so much it has caused me to wonder what it would be like if my brother were still here.


a resolution to enjoy

Lately life has fallen shy of the enjoyable zone, landing anywhere from the miserable to the lukewarm. It isn't because I am depressed or pessimistic. It is because at times life is dreary. With the exception of a week in paradise, February was dreary. It was filled with reminders of sin's consequence in my life. February seems to be my month of pain. Aside from the mournful, sloppy brown look of my surroundings, some of my most painful wrenching experiences have landed in February. This February was no different.

But February has passed. The prolonged days have led me to resolution. A resolution not easily proclaimed. It seems a bit too early, based in the resurrection not yet celebrated, not yet realized. But comes it from within, and stop it I cannot.

The desire to breathe again is overwhelming. Breathe air not recycled and reheated and rebreathed.

The desire to run without wear is nagging. To see it the sunlight bent in my eyelashes, shining quietly the full spectrum of its glory.

The desire to sing without hesitation is compelling. The meaning of the words are filled with a deeper sense that there is more beyond what my eyes can see.

The desires culminate into a resolution that now I must live.

Grace surrounds and opportunity abounds.



in poverty and meaness

defiled, without, within
from infection and uncleaness
from the leprosy of sin,

your robes and make them white
Ye shall walk with God in light.

in sorrow and contrition
wounded, impotent, and blind

the guilty


the troubled

may find

this fountain will restore
they that drink
shall thirst
no more

James Montgomery
Come to Calvary's Holy Mountain


a distant memory

The morning came and we were still awake. The four of us, in love. In love with life, with each other, with dreams of faithfulness. Our conversation deadened; our hunger increased. Pancakes filled with stolen chocolate chips smashed the surreality. And the responsibilities of the day creeped into our conscience.

Lives diverged, rejoined, diverged. One, seemingly a mere character in lecherous hurtful gossip. Another, living life as she always did--spontaneously. The other, gone from this place to join the One who made him worthy. And me, sitting here, pondering the morning of pancakes filled with stolen chocolate chips.


joy independent

The invasion and theft gouging a wound of vulnerability

The heartache of a life willfully taken by its owner hushing those around me.

Words cruelly announcing a beloved life taken by its maker too soon

A phone call to share a joy instead sharing the sorrows of pain and devastating consequences

The loss for words plagues me. Empathy soaks my face. Guilt darkens my soul.

Though the fig tree should no blossom

nor fruit be on the vines

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls

yet I will rejoice in the Lord

I will take joy in the God of my salvation

God, the Lord, is my strength

Habakkuk 3:17-19

My faith is my joy independent of my sorrow.


always a song to sing

There are few people who understand what it means to love U2 the way that I love the music of U2.

Bobby understood.

He shared the passion.

There was always a song to sing.

And now he's gone. Suddenly.

But the songs still sing.

Who's to say where the wind will take you
Who's to say what it is will break you
I don't know
Where the wind will blow

Who's to know when the time has come around
I don't want to see you cry
I know that this is not goodbye

Did I waste it
Not so much I couldn't taste it
Life should be fragrant
Rooftop to the basement

--"Kite" by U2


beach or dump

Best intentions aside, I only ran a few times while in Belize. Nevertheless the running was pretty amazing. Beaches, palm trees, warm rising suns, and conch shells lying on the sandy roadside made each short run a great adventure.

On my first full day on Ambergris Caye, I ran along the main road that winds out of town to the southern tip of the island. I use the word road very loosely as it reminded me of a footpath in a desert place. Fortunately, I avoided getting trampled by a crazed tourist in a golf cart or one the local taxi drivers in the 17 dusty Ford Aerostar vans on the island.

As I trekked down the road to the south, heading out of town, the sights and the sounds of paradise were all around: the gentle breeze, the coconut trees... I was so thankful to stretch my legs and grateful for good health (and how much more grateful I am today now that I can eat chocolate again). I ran past the resorts and hotels, past the construction and the lagoons. The ocean and its beaches peaking out at the corners. As I neared the end of "out" portion of my "out and back" run, I came upon a sign that made me chuckle at first and then it made me think. If I had a camera you can be assured a photo would have been taken, but the image in nevertheless carved into my mind.

The road forked. One path was smooth (as smooth as a sandy road can be) and lined with shady palm trees. The other was lined with beaten cardboard boxes, bottles, and pieces of shells unsuitable for even the homeless sea creatures. The sign clearly stated: Beach (with an arrow pointing towards the palm trees) Dump (with an arrow pointing to the trash).

I naturally chose the beach route. Why would anyone in their right or appropriately medicated mind choose the dump route? (With the important caveat that you might choose that route to properly dispose of your waste.)

This sign stuck with me for the rest of my trip and I pondered what it meant to choose the beach over the dump. There are obvious connections that you could be choose heaven over hell, good over evil, or life over death. But this seemed too obvious, too superficial, too elementary to me.

A co-worker informed us in our staff meeting today that there is a strong possibility that he will be receiving a call within a few weeks. Roommate informed me today that she is going to interview for an overseas teaching position. Friends from the college years are contemplating their first calls. Decisions, calls, and their consequences linger in the air around me. Sometimes, even when the road forks so clearly and one road is lined with shady palms and the other with yesterday's dirty socks we are still called to walk alongside the socks and their trash-bin companions.

I followed the path that was to lead to me to the beach. Actually, it just led me down a path with more hotels and more construction. Soon, it was time to turn around and head back. I never went back on that road, I opted to run on the beach the rest of the time. I don't know where the dumpy path actually led. Chances are it would have been smellier and perhaps uglier, but it also might have been a whole lot more interesting. I'll never know.

I do know that sign made me reconsider my choices that I make. Sometimes the obviously good choices aren't the best choices. Sometimes they are. The comfort is know that God is by me in both.


asking questions

This picture hangs in my office at work.

This morning I asked my eighth graders what, if anything, does this picture tell us about Jesus. Their answers were quite creative. I'll share them soon. In the meanwhile, I'm curious.

How would you answer?


it's the most wonderful time of the year

I believe that it is a commonly known fact that this time of year is not exactly a walk through the park. Primarily because a walk through the park requires ten layers of extra clothing and will likely happen after dark because you leave for work at dawn and return at sunset.

Depression is something that has had an acute presence in my life since I was a teenager. At times it afflicted me and more often people very close to me. My life experience has given me a certain type of radar with depression and a sense of advocacy about it. I am very in tune with myself and make note of any consecutive days of blah. I want others to be in tune with themselves and to set aside the inane misconceptions about it.

A few days ago, I decided that any person I may marry in the distant future will have to survive at least to Januarys with me because I just hate the time of year. It is filled with post-tramautic Christmas stress syndrome and bills stacked to my ears. I've had people explain it to me and I try to explain it to myself. In general, though, I just don't like this time of year.

I know I am not alone in my sullen mood and I am not so sullen that it has decapitated my ability to function. (In fact, my to-do list making business is quite successful at the moment) Yet, my empathy for others who are fully entrenched in its cancerous wretch is quite high. I ran across this piece of (lengthy) writing yesterday and feel compelled to share. I hope that you can take the time to gain a better understanding (or bask in the empathy of another sufferer) of this very pervasive illness.


i think i can, i think i can, i think i can

Saturday was a big day in the world of my running shoes. I kicked out a full five miles in 47.5 minutes. That is good for the non-athletic, non-professional butt kicker, non-competitor in me. I could have gone faster, but the desire to avoid freezing my lungs out in the brittle air kept me at an easy pace.

It was good to really get out there and show myself that running long distances isn't as hard as my imagination had made it out to be recently. I was able to quash a few of my irrational running fears (like that my neck would cramp up and I would fall off balance into a ditch or worse, train tracks). I was also able to enjoy being in the outdoors running.

Treadmill running is ridiculously monotonous. You can only watch so many episodes of cheesy do-it-yourself shows before you would rather lose three fingers to frostbite. The only redeeming aspect of treadmill running is the absolute control over speed. On Friday afternoon, I knew that I ran 3 miles in 24 minutes. That is REALLY good for me. I could push myself to that time because I could see what my exact pace was and I could watch my form in the nauseating mirror to the side.

But in the end, the outdoors beckon me. I can't wait for winter winds to subside calling in the springtime dew. I know it is bad form to wish parts of your life away, but I could really do without the rest of January.


you can count on her

My older sister is the most thorough person I know. By thorough I mean that she thinks through every possible worst and best case scenario for situations in less than thirty seconds. She analyzes why things are good and bad down to their minutia and rarely hesitates at sharing either.

Growing up this was often in thorn in my side. I don't really want to know every detail about why these sunglasses look bad on me. Just say, "Not for you." I don't really need a thirty minute explanation on how to load a dishwasher correctly. Nonetheless, I have carried some of these learnings with me into my adult life, but they are generally anecdotal. At least she is consistently anal. I come off looking neurotic and touchy.

While it was a pain growing up, now that I no longer live with her and have to worry about why towels should be hung precisely even on their racks I find her thoroughness quite admirable and useful. If I need to find the perfect dress, she will help me find it. If I need help finding a bedroom comforter she will look at the color, she will feel it, she count the threads, and she analyze its ability to withstand being washed frequently. She researched cheese (types, knives, boards, and proper companions) for our family Christmas Eve finger food fest. She is really Consumer Reports in a living breathing body.

She is coming to visit for the evening on her way to a distant land. I can't wait because she is going to help me decide whether to chop my bangs to look like Anne Hathaway or to shave my head like Sinead O'Connor. Your opinions, while valued, will be outweighed by whatever she says. Remember, she is the one who introduced me to the greatest band on earth. Her taste is simply impeccable.


i've got to quit reading these books

Last night I finished yet another book (ahhh... I love reading).

The book is aptly titled: Man of My Dreams. It is by Curtis Sittenfeld (of Prep fame). The story isn't nearly as witty as Prep. Nor is it as tightly written. I imagine Sittenfeld had Prep ruminating in the recesses of her mind for many years. Man of My Dreams was dreamed up later and didn't have the luxury of years of tweaking and editting.

That's fine, it was still an entertaining book with glorious lines like "Go on. Go ahead. Give each other chlamydia." You have to love a protagonist that snarks hilarity quietly to no one but the reader.

Despite its entertainment value, I've decided that the onslaught of "Ohhh.... If I could only find the man of my dreams then my life would be perfect" books in my reading repetoire has tapped discontentedness into my bloodstream. Does anyone else experience this acute affectedness from reading? Television and movies momentarily perturb me, but books have a lasting corrosive effect, as if their length errodes my immunity to wishy washy prince charming stories.

I decided enough is enough last night and as I finished Man of My Dreams, I picked up a perfectly acceptable book to transition me out of such a ridiculously repetitive storyline.

For the next few days it will just be me, the cannibals, and their sex lives.

Thanks to Kacey for the great recommendation.


a marital status rant

There are few things that drive me more crazy than married or otherwise attached people giving single people "marital status advice." Let "marital status advice" not be confused with "relationship advice." They are wholly different things.

Relationship advice deals with conflict resolution, communication, making the love of your life realize that you are standing right in front of him, blah blah blah. It is the sort of thing that we all benefit from because we are all in relationships with people.

Marital status advice is given to single people. It is given under the assumption that the single person wants nothing more out of life than to be married. It is usually vague and useless. My favorite marital status advice line is: "As soon as I let go of wanting to be married so badly and starting living my life for God, I found my soulmate standing right beside me."

Pardon me while my digestive system revolts against the intake of such ridiculous bollocks.

First of all, what does "living your life for God" even mean? I am not going to climb on my high horse and claim that I have it figured out (heaven knows I don't!), but I've been working on that in my life for quite a while now. I can't just start something up that I've already been trying to do. Should I stop trying to do so for a while so that I can restart again?

Furthermore, if I do "start living my life for God" then I will find great love? A simple causistic statement about complicated things like living life for God and finding marriage partners cannot be true. Such magic does not exist.

If someone has allowed their marital status to become a spiritual stumbling block, then call them out on it as a spiritual issue. Proposing that if they concoct the perfect God-following recipe, then they will encounter dream-mate only dodges the matter at hand.
If someone is just bumming because they'd like to get married someday, brainstorm ways to meet new acceptable and upstanding people. Veiling ridiculous advice with "God words" will not help them. It will only make them feel like a spiritual failure.

The moral of the story is that single people are great people and they don't need shallow advice. Just like married or otherwise attached people are great people and don't need shallow advice. Big surprise there.


speaking of stds... right before dinner on Christmas Day, a conversation between two sisters

"Do you know what the most phonetically pleasing word of the English language is?"

"No. Why would I know that?"

"It's syphilis."

"Are you suggesting that when I whisper sweet nothings to future lover, I integrate syphilis into the repetoire?"

"What do you mean?'

(in a hushed psuedo-seductive tone) "Oh honey, syphilis...syphilis...syphilis."

"There is a reason you are single."


time to get out of bed

My least favorite time of day is the time between my alarm ringing and me rising out of bed. However this fact would not be made obvious by the number times I hit the snooze button. I average about three times. Four or five on the weekends, Tuesdays, and other miscellaneous days-off that I attempt to be ambitious and get out of bed. God bless the man I marry, after a few weeks of being kind and rising with my alarm, I will forget that I love him and respect him and ruin hours of his life in nine minute segments. I loftily imagine that he will reconcile this fact with my maddening good looks and steely blue eyes. Let's face it, by the time we are fifty, we will sleep in separate bedrooms only because I hate getting up.

Not only do I hate getting up, but I am completely irrational while I lie sleepily on the princess and the pea (otherwise known as the ridiculously tall mattress I sleep upon). If you try to talk to me, I will either tell you that I hate you like Osama hates Americans or that it would be in your nose's best interest to remain quiet. If I don't say it out loud, the words are definitely ringing very loudly between my own ears. My nonverbal scowl might say it best.

Unfortunately, my sentiments for rising out of bed feel eerily similar to those surrounding the beginning of this upcoming training session. That's right, it is time to start training for the next half-marathon. The race is in April and a number of my friends are going to get out and run that morning. Some are running the full marathon. Others will run alongside of me. Others will join up to run a marathon relay race. It is going to be spectacular.

But I have to start training. Now. And I can't seem to stop hitting the snooze button.


back to the future

The last nine or ten days of my life has been spent in past memories.

Childhood memories.

High school memories.

College memories.

2006 memories.

Many are good memories. Many are not-so-good. Reliving old memories is always painful, always joyful, and always exhausting.

Today is the last day of this much needed vacation. It will be filled with laundry, library runs, rent checks, and of course the grocery store.

Tomorrow is re-entry day. It is back to the todays, creating memories to be relived late at night, alone in the deep darkness, together over a glass of wine and faint laughter of yonderyears. Tomorrow I'm headed back to the future.