A little late for the usual Thanksgiving musings, but still... here are some things I am especially thankful for this year:
  • Cold morning weather to encourage snuggling under the covers with Karl
  • Living so close to my brother- and sister-in-law that I get to really be part of the anticipation of our new little niece (who should be arriving within the next few weeks!)
  • All those gorgeous colors on the trees here on the east coast! How have I ever lived without such splendor!
  • Lovely little twinkle lights up and down King Street in Old Town Alexandria - delightful and charming
  • Finding new friends out there in the cybersphere, being inspired and encouraged from across the world
  • The strength of old friendships with friends dear but not-so-near
  • Memories from my New England adventure with Mom, and the promise of another trip in the future
  • Hopes of a baby
  • Friendly neighbors don't speak English all that well but who collect our papers while we're out of town and smile when they see us
  • Reconnecting with an old friend, and finding a wonderful new mentoring relationship
  • Sisters who make me laugh, and who make me VERY proud
  • My brother being in Israel instead of Iraq

These are just a few. There are definitely challenges in my life right now, but overall I am so thankful for everything God has blessed us with, and excited to face the future. May you have more blessings than you can count this year!


A conversation Karl had recently with a co-worker:

K: So, Rob, at what point in a marriage do you completely understand your wife, knowing what she means and why she does things? Year two? It's year two, isn't it?

R: Yeah, Karl. Year two.

K: That's what I thought.


I'm writing this from Concord, Massachusetts, where we're indulging in our one "splurge night" hotel. After last night, the beautiful surroundings are very appreciated! But first things first...

Maine was beautiful. After we landed in Portland, we rented our car and drove up the coast to Freeport. Mom had read about a little old-fashioned "motor lodge" with individual cabins called the Maine Idyll Motor Inn, so we went there first to try and get a cabin. When we pulled in the "no vacancy" sign was on, but something told me we should at least ask, so we parked the car and went into the office. Tracy, who was running the desk, told us they had been sold out for months (a wedding party had rented the entire place) but she'd just discovered one couple's names down for two different cabins, and if we wanted to wait a few minutes while she solved the mystery, we might be in luck. We waited, she solved, and after about twenty minutes of phone calls and Tracy running out to check both cabins while we chatted with the owner (grandson of the man who had built the place in 1923), we had the key to Cabin 11 and a warm welcome. The place reminded me of all the little motor inns from "It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert; there was romance and adventure and charm everywhere. I especially loved the poems written by an ancestress of the owner and Friends minister tacked on the walls of the cabin, lovely little old-fashioned verses about family and friends and trusting in God. We lit a fire, made hot chocolate on the little hot plate and popcorn in the microwave, and sat up talking until very late. It was a wonderful start to the adventure.

The second day we left Freeport to drive up to Bar Harbor and see Acadia National Park on Mt Desert Island. Seeing how connected most people there are to the ocean was fascinating - from the boats at almost every house to the lobster "pounds" by the side of the road, there was an absolute sense of being aware of the rhythms of the season and the sea. There is something so valuable in such a life - I think maybe it makes you more consciously aware of a dependence on God, and on our connection to the earth. I feel the need for more of this connection in my own life, which is what makes me long for a garden to grow my own herbs and vegetables, or a place to walk away from buildings and city where the small, subtle changes of each week and month can be noticed and celebrated as the year goes on. Acadia was majestic and rugged, proud and beautiful. It was gray and 0vercast, which actually made it all feel somewhat mystical. The fog kept descending lower and lower as we made our way around the island, and when we stopped for tea and popovers at Jordan Pond, it was hard to see much beyond the green of the trees. We felt almost as if we had found our way into an enchanted forest, that there was something wild and magical around us. We stayed in another small cottage that night, right on the shore where we watched the tide come in and go out.

The third day we intended to drive across the state line to the New Hampshire lakes region, staying in one of the little towns around Lake Winnipesauke or Squam Lake. It rained the entire way there, which always makes driving a little more stressful, and when we got there we realized that the guidebook description of "quaint little town" really meant "TINY little town." Nothing jumped out at us for a place to stay, so we kept driving... and eventually decided to head down to Concord, NH. By the time we got there it was early evening, and we soon found out that a NASCAR race was only a few miles away and every hotel for quite a ways was completely full. We kept driving south, eventually deciding to head to Portsmouth. There was nothing available anywhere we checked (in addition to the car race, there was a bike race, a car show, and the beginnings of fall foliage season we were unwittingly competing with). At nearly ten o'clock, we saw a little motor court with a vacancy sign, pulled in, and grabbed one of two remaining rooms. The place was probably built in the '50s, and I'm sure the mattresses hadn't been replaced since then (along with most of the other furniture). Everything had that funny smell you find where old people live, the heat didn't work, and we were sharing the room with at least two fairly impressive spider webs. It was NOT the best night's sleep I've ever had.

This morning we headed out to explore Portsmouth, and did a self-paced walking tour of the downtown and waterfront area. We had breakfast at a a quirky, creative and very delicious place called "Friendly Toast," where we shared pumpkin pancakes and scrambled eggs with feta, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives. As we were walking around they were setting up for the bike race; we were too early for the adult competitive race but did get to see the kids racing - there were a couple who were really determined and pedaling their little legs as fast as they could, and it was fun to cheer them all on. We drove down to Hampton Beach, which is a 1940's era seaside amusement center, with fried dough (or "fried doe," according to the signs) stands, arcade games, sand and ramshackle summer rentals on the ocean. It was so easy to imagine sailors from the nearby Porstmouth Naval facility taking their current sweethearts out for a good time on the boardwalk, buying corndogs and ice slush drinks and winning stuffed animals or having their fortunes told.

We left New Hampshire and drove down to Concord, Massachusetts this afternoon, getting a room at the Colonial Inn, built in 1716 and where Thoreau, FDR, J.P. Morgan, and others have stayed. We used the late afternoon sunlight to explore Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, looking at the graves on "Author's Ridge" and in the other corners of the hill-covered place. We're looking forward to sleeping in our pretty little room tonight, which feels safe and warm compared to last night. Tomorrow we'll head out to see the other sights here in Concord and nearby Lexington, before driving down for a day or so in Cape Cod and then circling up to Boston. So far, it's been a great adventure -it's been so good to have the time to talk and just be together. I love New England, and keep talking about future vacations here, or eventual retirement locations, or places to move to when I make it as a writer and can live anywhere I want. It's beautiful, and seems to be calling to something in my heart... and seeing all this with Mom has been just perfect.

vip treatment

Right now I'm sitting in my office looking out the window at the sun shining on the leaves of the tree outside, and my mother is in an airplane on her way here. She should land in less than an hour, and we'll start our trip tomorrow morning. Yesterday I went through my usual pre-visitor frenzied cleaning session, while my patient husband calmly asked for instructions and helped wherever needed (even if he doesn't get the purpose of such a ritual). It took a while, but I made it through my whole list - moving some boxes and random things-we're-keeping-but-have-no-space-for into the tiny storage bin we rent, washing and folding a load of laundry, making that wonderful Barefoot Contessa Chinese Chicken Salad for dinner tonight, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, getting the guest room/"Karl's Cave" ready for Mom, and all the other general straightening up and organizing that needed to be done. Karl complimented me today on being "less crazy" than usual, and I know what he meant: most of our guests are there to see us and spend time together, not to inspect my house. Making myself (and him) crazy by stressing over getting every detail perfect isn't really a good trade-off. As I've thought about it, though, I've decided that cleaning and preparing everything like I do is my way of saying "I love you, and I'm so glad you're here. You're important to me." It's a way of showing respect, and of doing what I can to make guests feel welcomed. And for me, that's worth all the beforehand preparation. (Although I will try to minimize the pain and aggravation for Karl.)


In three days, my mom and I will be hitting the road for a long-awaited adventure together. We'd originally planned to go to England - a place she's never been and always wanted to visit, but with the flooding there and her doctors' concerns about the long plane ride and her being so far away, we decided to make it New England instead. Neither of us have ever spent much time in that part of the country, and the beginnings of autumn seem the perfect time to go (I'm hoping for some of that famous color). We're leaving Thursday to fly into Portland, Maine, then renting a car and driving around through Maine, New Hampshire, and down into Massachusetts, spending a few days in Boston before taking the train back to D.C next Friday. We're planning to go hiking, eat good food, explore the coastline and countryside, shop (or at least window shop), maybe see a show, take lots of pictures and talk even more.

My mom has been my best friend my whole life. Even in the midst of teenage angst and drama, she was my sounding board, my touch stone, and my confidante. I'm not sure if it's because I'm the oldest (and therefore the closest thing to adult companionship she had while at home with all of us), or if it's because her own mom lost her battle with breast cancer when Mom was 16, or if it's just how well our personalities seem to mesh and compliment each other, but our relationship has always been something special. In high school, she became a speech and debate judge when I was competing, so we'd travel together to and from meets all across the state - it got to the point where the entire team called her "Mom" and looked for her encouragement and support, but I was the one who would quietly make my way up to her seat at the front of the bus on the way home to lean my head on her shoulder and talk about the day. When our interest in sign language and interpreting grew, she and I decided to begin an associate's degree program in interpreter preparation at the local community college, attending evening classes during my senior year of high school and then moving to full-time the next year. The rest of the students in the class nick-named us "twin" (me) and "twin-mom" (her) because of how much we were together. The hardest thing for me about growing up and flying away from home has been being far away from her. Especially now.

For the last three years, my mother has been battling ovarian cancer. She's just completing her second round of chemotherapy (after a period of remission) and the doctors are optimistic about "controlling" it for the near future - but there's an aspect of uncertainty about the future in these post-diagnosis days that may have always been there, but is now undeniable, constant, forceful. It's such a strange thing... even when I'm not consciously thinking about the disease, or what's happening, or what may lie ahead, it's still there somehow in the back of my thoughts. This shouldn't have been such a drastic change for me - really, we never know what the future has for us, what God has planned, how things will work out or when or why - all we can do is hold on to Him and believe in His love. But nothing had smashed into my world before this to make me so aware of that. The blessing this cancer has given me is a consciousness about what is valuable and precious, and a sense of gratitude for every day we have. It's forced me to trust God more, to hold on even tighter to those promises. And it's shown me just how dear my mother is to me.

These next two weeks are about making memories, about talking and sharing and spending time with each other. About affirmation and love, family and friendship. And about hope.
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.

- G.K. Chesterton


Although Karl and I were married in April of 2006, it was August before we were actually living in the same city (I still had a few months to serve in the Air Force before I could move out to Alabama, where he was living, so we continued our long-distance marathon for a while). So, although we officially celebrated our one year anniversary in April, this month marks one year of actually sharing a house together.

I have to admit, this has been an adjustment for me. I'd lived the last four years completely on my own, the sole decision maker when it came to where things go, what to buy, whether to make the bed or not, and how to order my life. In many ways, I still am - Karl doesn't seem to really notice clutter or mess unless it somehow disrupts his life ("Where are all the coffee mugs? Aren't there any clean coffee mugs?") - but it's gotten much more complicated now that there's this OTHER PERSON in my home messing things up and leaving clothes and papers everywhere. I've had to adjust some standards, and learn to give him space to let things pile - the reason our spare bedroom is commonly known as "Karl's Cave". One of his quirkier tendencies is to leave almost all the kitchen cabinets open after he's been in there. I'm not sure what the reasoning is for this, but I can always tell if he's been in there before me. It bothered me a little until I heard a great word of advice: whenever I see those open cabinets (or the socks on the bedroom floor, or papers laid out over every flat surface) I just use it to remind myself how glad I am to have this man in my world, and to be building a home with him. All those annoying things are really just signs marking his presence in my life, and reminding me to say a little prayer thanking God for my cabinet-opening man.

In the last year we've had six different mailing addresses between the two of us, made it through an extremely tough move without the help of any friendly government-contracted moving men (a first for me), started new jobs, began putting down tiny roots in our new state, helped each other with frustrations and disappointments and successes, and learned a lot about communication and cooperation. Now I can't imagine my life without him, and I'm so excited to see what the next years bring! Happy one year TOGETHER, Karl.

kindred spirits

It's always been tough for me to make friends - at least the really good kind, the kind you can call up in tears who will listen and encourage, the kind you can be completely silly with, the kind you can really talk to about hopes and dreams and life. I'm not sure if I have such a hard time because of how much I've moved over the years, if I'm too selective about the people I allow to get close, or if it's just something instinctual in me that maintains that reserve so much. Every once in a while, though, someone comes along and it seems like I've known them forever... something in me recognizes something in them, and we're immediately connected. These special people stay in my life no matter how far away I move, or how often we talk - they are each such a gift.

When I was ten, it was my friend Christina. She was also the oldest of a homeschooling family, and she, I and our brothers used to play very involved games of capture the flag or pioneers. We met on an historic tour where the costumed guide made a speech about her 18-inch waist (which she clearly didn't have), and Christina and I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to suck in our own little stomachs and check our measurements with my mom's measuring tape. She and I wrote plays and songs together, crafted dolls, rode horses, drew plans for our dream houses and wrote out lists of what we would name all our children. Christina always seemed so comfortable with who she was, so at ease in her own skin and with her life that I felt free to also be myself.

In high school it was Katie - we sat next to each other in gym class that first day of freshman year, and all day no one could remember who was Katie and who was Kristin. After that, we were inseparable. We invented private names for people around us, wrote notes in our own code, whispered secrets between classes and sang a duet in the talent show. Katie was creative, talented and smart, and made it okay for me to be my best, too.

I met Ronda at my first duty station with the Air Force as a young lieutenant. She was a pilot and had a lot more experience than me, and she became a mentor as I tried to navigate leadership as a young officer, military rules and regulations, and a whole lot of questions about guys, kids, and womanhood. She is amazingly creative and executes every project with the same precision she demonstrated as an officer - her frosted sugar cookies are a work of art, and when she made the cakes at my wedding they were the talk of the reception.

I get to see Ronda this weekend - a work trip is taking me to the city she and her husband are living in, and I'm staying over a few extra days. I can't wait to see her, to talk, to catch up, and to just enjoy being with one of these special ladies. Somehow having just one friend like her makes up for not having fistfuls of other girlfriends around me all the time.


Karl's gearing up for Girl OVERLOAD this weekend: my youngest sister Susan and her best friend Nicole (and hence my adopted sister) are stopping here for a few days on their Great Road Trip of 2007 journey - we hope. They're driving down from New Hampshire today in Nicole's old boat of a car, and are at a garage waiting on repairs at the moment in some town in Connecticut. Hopefully it'll be fixed soon, but knowing these two it's all part of the Adventure of it all.

Susan and Nicole are both very vivacious, outgoing, talkative girls on their own, but put them together and you get that peppy, frenetic, joyful conversation multiplied, with LOTS of exclamation marks. It can be overwhelming for the uninitiated, but I think it's great to have them around. Sue is the kind of girl who makes friends as easily as most people breathe in and out, and seems to effortlessly make everyone around her feel like they're involved in some great adventure. She was Homecoming Queen and on Student Council in high school, has about a million friends on Facebook and MySpace, and is absolutely beautiful. Nicole is her blonde twin, and together they're a riot. They spent three months together this spring in Uganda working in an orphanage, and I can't wait to hear the stories.

Karl's thrilled to see them too, although the big drawback about female guests for him is that he can't walk around in his boxer shorts for a few days. He also has to expend more energy convincing me that no, we don't need to clean all the grout with a toothbrush just because someone besides the two of us will be in the apartment (I get a little crazy about cleaning for company). We've got plans to go walk around the monuments and memorials, eat Ethiopian food in honor of Susan's birthday (twenty!) and take lots of pictures.

The one thing I miss more than any other living on the east coast is how far away from my family I am - I can't wait to see these two.

uninvited visitor

This weekend as Karl and I were starting our Saturday by lounging around in our pajamas and eating cereal, I noticed what looked like stuffing from the couch on the floor. We started pulling cushions off, and realized with horror that there was a small hole apparently gnawed into the bottom of the seat... and a corresponding little hole in the corner by the patio door. Yikes. We called the apartment management folks, who promised someone would come out "by Monday at the latest."

Rodents give me the creeps in a special, particular way: when I was ten and we were living in Germany next to some farmland, a large rat managed to chew its way through one of the window sills and take up residence in our kitchen and dining room. My mom, wanting to impress upon her young children the dangers such rodents could pose, assigned us to research and write a report on rats, particularly the diseases they carry and their threat to humans, as part of our homeschooling. Do you have any idea how many horrible-sounding diseases you can catch from a rat? I don't think I slept well for a week - even after I made my sister share the top bunk of the bunk bed with me. (There was no WAY I was sleeping on the bottom, that close to the floor - rats can climb!)

I'm hoping our particular situation will be resolved soon, but in the meantime neither Karl nor I will sit on the couch until I can clean the cushions. Not even seeing "Ratatouille" can convince me that rodents are our friends.


Since I hit 5'8" when I was about twelve (and added another half inch in the next couple of years), for a long time I was very hesitant to wear any shoes that added to my seemingly freakish height. I stuck to flats, even going through a phase where I switched out my shoes for ballet slippers (the flattest things I could find besides just socks) every day at high school. I felt like somehow I was sized incorrectly, especially beside some of my tiny, petite friends. It didn't help that I'm somewhat of a klutz and can't seem to go more than a day or so without running into, dropping or spilling something. As a teenager, I felt like this Amazon woman towering over everyone and breaking things - not exactly the graceful, beautiful girl I so wanted to be.

At some point, though, I figured out that there's actually a certain amount of power in being tall. People seem to respect you more, listen to you better, and pay attention to you. I remember the first time I dared to wear heels higher than an inch or so - it was actually fun to get the attention, and unbelievably exhilarating to finally start to feel comfortable in my skin. I now routinely wear high heels to work, to church, and especially for fancy evenings out, and I love feeling so feminine, confident and... well, tall. And the best part is that since I married a man who's over 6'2" I can strap on those 3 inch heels and still feel small and protected next to him. And THAT is just about perfect.


What is it that makes some landscapes just feel like "home" so much? I grew up moving all over as an Army brat, and didn't even live in Colorado until I was in high school, but somehow the mountains always calm a part of me that nothing else does - it's like returning to a place that has some sort of hold on me. I don't know if this is because the Colorado mountains were always home to my dad, a part of his conversations and the destination for our family vacations, or if it's something innate in me. I read once that there's a certain age growing up where your surroundings are embedded into your subconscious as what "home" will always mean for you, be that prairie or forest, city or seacoast, mountains or desert or valley. As much as I love the wildness of the ocean, the mysteries of the forest or the glory of the plains, it's the mountains that hold my heart.

learning my lesson

So can anyone guess what happened with our luggage flying into Colorado? Yep, that's right - lost. Since we were driving from the Springs (Colorado Springs, for those of you non-natives) up to the mountains, we didn't want to trust the airlines to deliver the suitcase (a process that would have invovled transfering it to another airline, flying it to Denver, transfering it back to the orignial guys and then to a delivery service to drive up into the mountains to the YMCA of the Rockies and, hopefully, get it to the right lodge where someone could accept it since we were in the campground... you can make your own assumptions about the likelihood of us ever seeing our things again if we went this route) and so decided to stick around for the extra half-day until it came in on the next flight. Any guesses whether or not it did in fact come in? Right again - no suitcase, and now we'd spent half a day of our very limited reunion time. Karl and I rolled our eyes, drove to Target, split up to grab crucial items like underwear, shorts, t-shirts, toothbrushes and mascara, then jumped in the car to drive the 3.5 hours up to Winter Park.

The great part was getting to spend time with my sisters, and my brother Peter who came home from Iraq a week early. He'd e-mailed me beforehand about the possibility, but no one else except for my Grandma knew - one of the best parts of the reunion was watching my mom's face when she saw him walk in. It was so good to see him, and spend some time with him! Overall, great reunion: the mountains were beautiful, it was fun to see all my cousins' little kiddos, and catch up with people I don't see often enough. There's something about family - you gotta love 'em.

And in case you were wondering, the suitcase made it home with us.

family reunion

Every three years, my dad's family gets together for a reunion up in the Colorado mountains - since he was one of eight kids, this gets to be quite a crowd. I have something along the lines of 26 first cousins - not counting cousins' spouses, kids (first cousins once removed? Second cousins?) or miscellaneous pets.

Since our wedding was fairly small, this will be the first time for Karl to meet a good portion of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. He's not sure if he's excited, nervous, or just resigned to three days of small talk, goofy jokes, and trying to remember names. As one way of providing a bit of a buffer, we've decided to camp nearby instead of staying in the lodge with everyone else. This lets us babysit my sister's puppy - which also gives Karl the perfect get-away excuse: "Sorry, I'd love to stay, but the puppy needs someone to go check on her/walk her/feed her." Should work beautifully.

We fly out tonight, and I've been trying to calculate the odds of my bag being lost for the third time in two weeks...


After all my talk about learning my lesson and packing necessities in my carry-on, I failed to actually follow through for my flight home... and of course, my bag was lost again. Fortunately, my husband is sweet enough not to mind the mascara-less version of me, and since I managed to catch a horrific cold on the way home that knocked me out for a few days, I didn't care much either.

first impressions

Being the obsessive planner that I am, there's always a nagging little voice that cautions me to pack some "necessities" (i.e. clean underwear, deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste and mascara) when flying, just in case they lose my luggage. Being the optimist that I am, I usually ignore that little voice. This week I'm re-thinking that policy.

On my way to Oklahoma City for a workshop I'm running I ended up checking every box on the "Frustrating Things that Can Happen to Delay, Complicate or Hinder Your Travel Plans" checklist. Stuck in the plane for two hours on the tarmack in a massive thunderstorm waiting for weather to clear up so we can take off? Check. Missing the time for my connecting plane? Check. Finding out the connection was also delayed due to weather, going to that gate, realizing the gate had switched to a totally different terminal, finding the new gate and waiting another hour before hearing the announcement that the flight is cancelled? Check. Spending an hour and a half in line waiting to re-book? Check. Realizing that all along I had been re-booked automatically and could have just gone to the mysterious, unlabeled machine sitting ten feet from me and printed a new boarding pass? Check. New, re-booked plane being delayed an hour and a half (making the total time spent in this second airport nearly 6 hours)? Check. Finally arriving at my destination, only to spend forty minutes watching every single piece of luggage wobble by on the conveyer belt - except mine? Check. Standing in line for another twenty minutes to file a claim? Check. Being assured that my bag would arrive "on the next flight, or at the latest early tomorrow morning," and that the delivery service would bring it to my hotel right away? Check. Finding out that the delivery service collected my bag by 7am, yet not getting it until after 3pm? Check.

I can certainly understand all the weather delays (after all, I don't particularly want to be flying in a massive thunderstorm, anyway), but losing my bag meant not only that I didn't have the projector needed for the presentations, but that I'd have to welcome 33 workshop attendees wearing the sandals, jean skirt and t-shirt I wore on the plane, with washed but otherwise unstyled hair, and (gasp!) no make-up. I'm not kidding when I say that mascara is critical to my sense of peace with the world, so this last bit was particularly horrifying.

I'm not sure how I came across to all these folks, but it wasn't exactly the professional, suit-wearing, put-together image I wanted. And, once my suitcase did arrive and I snuck upstairs to change and remedy the lack of mascara, I noticed a definite difference in their interaction with me. Isn't it funny how first impressions are formed? Karl teases me for caring so much about what I wear, even changing clothes multiple times in the morning because "it just didn't feel right," but it's so clear to me that it does make a difference.

Next time I pay attention to the little voice. At least about the mascara.