Counting Up?

Is this hourglass counting up or counting down?

Season 15: 2017-2018
10X50m kicks

These were the notations written on the whiteboard at the swimming pool this morning.  So many things to count. The number of seasons, the years, the length of the pool, the repetitions, and the minutes. It made me think.

Why do we count everything?

It hit me hard.

Probably because lately I’ve been doing a lot of counting. I’m counting every day right now. I’ve been counting my last of everything at my current job. Every meeting gets harder. Every minute is bittersweet. I’m having trouble choking down the tears and staying in good spirits, while simultaneously telling everybody how awesome things are going to be without me. Telling them how excited I am for the great opportunities my leaving provides.

Yep. I’m counting.  I’m also counting the impossible number of hours of work I have left to transition my job. But why? Why so much counting?

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we always have to know how much longer…how much more….how much further? Why do we encourage each other by saying, “make it count”?

Just maybe the counting comes from our desire for control and the counting helps us govern our own little worlds because, on a grander scale, we know we live in a world in which we have no control.

And why does most of our counting feel like a countdown…. number of dollars left in the budget….  number of laps left to go ….number of days left to live? Why do we always seem to count down? Why don’t we count up?

When I count up and not down, I am never done. There is always another lap to swim, another race to run, another skill to learn, another friend to meet, another day to embrace.

But, today counting up seems out of reach. I’m still stuck here counting down… desperately wishing I didn’t have to count at all.

Walking Away

It isn’t walking into an unknown future that’s scary. It’s the leaving.

There are few things harder than saying goodbye. Goodbye to people you love. Goodbye to a life you knew.  Last week I went to a funeral and watched my childhood friends and next-door neighbors say goodbye to their mom. Goodbyes are really, really hard.

Yesterday I made a difficult decision. I can safely say the hardest decision I’ve ever made. Now I have to say goodbye to my team. I must let go of work I’ve been doing for more than 25 years and embrace an unknown future. I can’t even imagine the words coming out of my mouth.  It isn’t the decision that is making my stomach do back flips.  I stand solidly behind my choice. No, the pit in my stomach comes every time I picture the farewell. It’s a sinking feeling I get when I chat with a teammate, a friend, who doesn’t know my internal struggle or can’t hear my heart screaming, “I don’t want to leave you!”  The goodbye will only sting them for a minute. I know my team will continue joyfully enjoying their work and each other — their hearts fully intact. It’s mine that will remain silently shattered.


It’s not the jump

that hurts,

nor the landing.

The fall exhilarates,

then the world solid

beneath your feet.

No, it’s not the ground

that hurts,

it’s the goodbye.

— 2/16/18 TC



What We Do Matters: A Revelation

Move over Justin Timberlake. This lady can out dance you any day of the week…even Super Bowl Sunday.

Revelation isn’t a book in the Bible most people look at with fondness. In fact, it is one of those books more likely to elicit nightmares, good sci-fi, or wild, fear-driven testimonials.  It is also a book frequently misunderstood. But this week, as I listened to a Revelation sermon in the car (having missed church), I heard its meaning loud and clear. The message: what we do matters.

How we treat people. How we treat our world. How we respond….it matters. Not because some set of good works saves you from a fiery pit in Hades (because it doesn’t), but because what we do each day matters or can matter in the life of another. And that….that is what life is all about.

Today I had a conversation with one of my bosses. After almost nine years working in an office next to mine, I am amazed how little she understands me—who I am and what I care about. I told her I could care less about climbing the corporate ladder. And so, she asked me, “What do I care about, if I don’t care about my career?” I told her…helping people. It is that simple. Helping people on our team. Helping our clients. Helping people in our center. Helping people in our company. Helping people in our world. Like circles forming ever outward from a pebble thrown into the lake.  Tiny pebbles matter. Details matter. Little things matter because big things matter.

I missed the sermon on Revelation this Sunday because on my way to church, I pulled over to help a stranded driver. As I towed his broken car to a nearby parking lot, I noticed he wasn’t alone in his vehicle. His wife was in the passenger seat. It was 12 °F. And, come to find out he had three kids under the age of five in the car, as well. No repair shops were open and they were miles from home (Canada). Stuck. I invited them to stay with us and we helped them get their car running again. A new battery, an alternator fix, seven grilled cheeses, and some long games of “pirates on trains” later, they were ready for the road. By morning, the family was on their way to Arizona, as planned. We will likely never cross paths again, but our stories will ripple out and out and out. How we treat people…it matters.

What do my kids’ old Fisher Price pirate ship, Brio train tracks, and Playmobil miners make? One very big adventure for these two little Saskatchewaneans.

It also happened to be Super Bowl Sunday this weekend, and as is tradition, our youth group made 200 lunches and spent the day handing them out to homeless folks downtown—people sleeping outside, without nachos or big screen TVs. We also handed out hand-knitted scarves and hats. My favorite gift was to an older lady who was elated to get the chicken hat. I don’t think she was homeless, but it didn’t matter. She loved that hat. She started doing the chicken dance with us. No Super Bowl commercial could have competed with the smile on her face. People….they matter.

As I walked down the street, one of the high school youth turned to me and said, “This makes me happy and it makes me sad. The last guy I gave a lunch to said he hadn’t eaten in five days. I gave him two lunches! Can you believe we thought it was hard to go a whole day without food?”

I nodded in agreement. Speechless. I couldn’t have said it better. Walking downtown with youth, contemplating how fragile life is….it matters.

I am so grateful tonight for my warm bed, my family, my life, and the chances I’m given every single day to live out my purpose. What a revelation.

Hunger Pains

Lesson for the week: Hunger can be good and bad.

Are you hungry? Many of us are on new 2018 “diets” and we know the deep rumble in our stomachs. It’s the bad kind of hunger. The kind that hurts and nothing can quench it (at least nothing that won’t make you feel bad about yourself for failing). Or the kind that is unquenchable because your cupboards are bare. Hunger isn’t always about food, but after running a 30-hour famine retreat with my youth group this weekend, I can tell you sometimes it has everything to do with food. For 815 million people around the world, hunger is a way of life. Malnutrition is responsible for half of all deaths of children under age 5. Sobering. Are you hungry?

Many people around the world walk several hours a day to get water just to quench their thirst, and when they return, there is only water for dinner.

Hunger can also sometimes make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. Last week I was hungry for a nap. After late nights of working and a long plane flight for business, I hungered for just a few minutes of sleep. While waiting for the front desk to text me that my room was ready, I fell asleep by the pool of my fancy hotel. The security guards thought I was a homeless person and put me under “house arrest” until I could produce an alibi. Once I did, they left, with no apology. The front desk heard about the incident and when I finally got to my room there was a bottle of champagne, macaroons and a handwritten apology from the manager. The range of emotions was broad and deep. (I actually wanted to take the champagne outside and share it with all the homeless people.) Hunger. It makes you do things you normally wouldn’t do.

Hungry for rest? This is a nice place to lay your head. Or maybe not.

Hunger sometimes makes us do things we shouldn’t, too. Jean Valjean can tell you that. So can my son. He knows hunger this week. He desperately wanted to go to college after taking a semester off to heal from a herniated disc–one that prevents him from sitting for any reasonable length of time. He thought he was better enough to go this semester, but it was just his hunger talking.  It only took a week in class to realize the pain was too much to take. Sometimes we do things because of hunger that we shouldn’t.

Sometimes you just hunger to sit down for a meal on campus like everyone else.

Hunger can also be good. It can make you try things…challenge yourself. I also did that this week (it’s been a busy week). It was the good kind of hunger. The type that makes you realize there are opportunities to feel full again. And just peeking in the bakery window at the macaroons is sometimes enough to motivate you to change. I’ve seen the pastries. I’m ready to change. My son has tasted the pastries and now he wants them even more. Hunger can be good.

Hunger to change.

Hunger to solve problems.

Hunger to heal.

Hunger to feel better.

Hunger to serve the world.

It’s 2018. The start of something new. Are you hungry?

No Distractions – Living Out Who We Are Meant To Be

Which one is the real path and which is the distraction? Or perhaps neither are the right path at all and you must cut a new trail.

I’m addicted to a soundtrack (The Greatest Showman). It’s been some time since I have been addicted to an entire soundtrack—one where I don’t skip any of the songs. I don’t even like the whole soundtrack to the Sound of Music, one of my favorite shows of all time (I mean, who doesn’t skip over Climb Every Mountain?)!  The songs in the Showman soundtrack tell a complete and inspiring story about living out who you are and who you are meant to be. Everyone isn’t going to like you or your choices. If we chase after other people’s dreams or approval, or we try to spend our lives “proving” something to people, it is merely a distraction from the joy of being who we are and giving our gift to the world.

As I’ve been listening to these songs, they have made me contemplate my own life. Most of the songs seem to be an anthem for the way I already live. I love that! It encourages me.

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind
I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design

The part of the movie and soundtrack that has me thinking is the theme of the distraction.  At my work I have one major distraction right now, but I’m not sure yet if it is a distraction or if it’s who I’m meant to be. Time will tell. But this movie and these songs have really given me some good perspective with which to judge my actions and decisions.

I think we all second guess our abilities at times, at least I do. I wonder if I am “good enough” at what I do. The world is filled with people more talented and better than I am and I think my natural competitive nature makes me want to be the best. Not because I want to be hailed as better than other people but simply because I want to be the best I can be. The problem is knowing when to stop . When is “good” good? When is “great” great?

Sometimes no matter how hard you work at something you just don’t have the raw talent to be amazing. I’ll never be a sprinter, for example. And just being the best sprinter I can be isn’t satisfying. Trust me.

I’m toying with the idea of flexing new muscles–ones I have, but haven’t had the opportunity to develop fully–ones I think could be really great. No matter how hard I try, the work muscles I’ve been developing for the past eight years might be about as good as they can get and I’m unsure of their quality. My team is incredible and deserves the best. I may not be able to take them to the heights they could go. The raw talent may just not be in me. And without the raw talent I will forever beat myself up.

‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

I’m trying to listen to the wise counsel of others, who can sometimes see things we can’t see in ourselves. And, I’m also listening to my heart and digging deep to figure out who I am meant to be. Because who I’m meant to be has little to do with who my boss is, where I sit, if I will have friends, how much money I make, or if I’m comfortable. I’m not afraid of hard work. I’m not afraid of hard people. I’m only afraid of not taking every opportunity to be all of who I’m meant to be.

Am I living in a distraction or am I running toward it? I think I’ll listen to the soundtrack again.

Christmas Selfie Project

This year’s crop of family at Christmas.

Christmas is an exhausting week, or at very least an exhausting 48 hours. There are so many traditions and expectations tied to Christmas. But really, when you take away all the expectations and traditions, what it boils down to, at least for me, is family. Lots and lots of family. And it isn’t always the same crew every year. As our families grow, some aren’t always able to make it to ALL their gatherings in that short 48-hour time frame. Of course they are missed, but we all understand–Christmas is an impossible holiday to manage.

Because of this, I decided to try something new this year. I planned to embrace the chaos by taking a selfie with all the individuals I saw from my family this Christmas (sorry Uncle John, I somehow missed our selfie…I’ll take it next year). At these gatherings I typically think of them as a group of people…not this year. These crazy selfies made me stop and appreciate each and every individual in my life and what was unique and good about each person,  I embraced each individual as a gift and I’m treasuring these pictures as I’ve been shuffling through them on my phone this week.  (The selfies also gave me another great insight… I am going to make a more concerted effort to comb my hair on Christmas morning from now on.)

Merry Christmas family! Thanks for being the unique people that you are!

My Life as a Web Page

What if my life was a web page?  By day I am a web strategist …so of course it got me thinking. What if my life was represented on a home page? Would it be a good design?

First, you might ask, what makes a good design? There is no perfect answer to this question. It depends on the purpose of the site. There are visual design principles one might typically want to apply. Use of negative space, or white space, is one, for example. It adds balance to the page.

Web pages are built on grids. So I started with a 16-column grid and separated it into boxes to represent hours in a day.  If I were to represent my average day, how would it look? I figured out the areas of my life where I invest my time each day and laid it out on the grid to represent the hours spent.

Then I added some visuals to represent the activities that occur in those boxes.

Did this make a good life home page? It’s not bad, I suppose. I have a lot of boxes, so that means I have some variety in my life, but do I like the size of them?

What I noticed was pretty obvious. The very small 15 minutes worth of nothing—the white space.  These are super rare minutes in my life, but I know what they are. Sometimes they are the  minutes when I contemplate life before my eyes shut for the night. The minutes I spend writing a blog or sketching. Sometimes it is the minutes in my car—purposely sitting —not getting out quite yet. Or excusing myself from my office and sitting in the “quiet room” at work just trying to breathe for a few minutes where no one can see me. White space. And looking at this page, I think more of it might be needed. The activities of the white space get relegated to the footer of my life page, the less used but persistent “links” of my life – the soul time where I can create things, walk in nature, or just be.

Unfortunately, I can’t stretch the page like I can in the digital world and and make more time and create more white space. I must make one box smaller to make another bigger. I’m pretty sure I’ve pushed sleep to my limit at this point in my life. So that leaves the rest to try to jiggle around.

Granted these boxes aren’t perfectly labeled. Life isn’t this segmented. The Learn box could sometimes be labeled Play.  It just depends on the day. And I do Learn at Work sometimes, or Work when I Give. But generally speaking, the time averages are about the right size and I’m not sure I like what I see. The Work box is a tricky one. It’s not really an option to eliminate it, but change it….possibly…. dare I say….shrink it?  Yes. This could be considered. Do I need different boxes than the ones I have here? Does this design communicate my purpose? Does it say who I am or who I want to be? These are the questions I must ask myself.

That’s what the new year is for, right? To evaluate. Some of these frames are in need of growing and others in need of shrinking and I’m determined to find ways to do a little website redesign of my own in 2018.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace


Silent night.

Suicide is a logical option, but not a good one. This is #7 on my list of top ten midline crossings—things I’ve learned that have shaken my world and changed the way I act and live. I have neglected to write about this topic yet. I’ve started to on several occasions, but stopped. Today is the day.

I understand the option. I understand the logic and the rationality behind the decision. People may say it’s irrational, but I don’t think so.  It makes sense in so many ways. When you get a cut, you put on antibiotic ointment and a Band-Aid. You fix it. When you break a bone, you put on a cast. You fix it. When you are suffering inside, a place no one can see…a place no Band-Aid or cast can protect….there is a way to fix it. Quickly. Permanently. I get it. All can be calm, all can be bright….you can sleep in heavenly peace.

So if it is such a great fix for the pain, no different from a Band-Aid or a cast, why might it not be a good option? I think because the “fix” actually breaks things. A Band-Aid heals a cut, a cast heals a bone…suicide heals one wound, but in turn, creates many more. Band-Aids don’t do that. Band-Aids are personal. Suicide is not. It might feel like that, but it’s not. Suicide might be a logical fix, but not a good one.

All death brings pain to the survivors whether sudden or long-suffering. Tragic deaths are surprisingly painful—lives that seem to end too soon. Suicide is both tragic and long suffering. The long suffering just doesn’t often show on the outside, like cancer or heart disease. It’s a hidden kind of heart disease.

And now the suicide rate is at a 30-year high and has increased by 80% for white middle-aged women since 1999.

I’ve watched too many lives close to me, including my own, be hurt by suicide. Healing? Never. Scars? Yes. Never full healing. At least not in this life. Just scars. And this week I’m watching it, feeling it… again.  Can I be glad for my friend? Happy she found the peace she was looking for? Maybe…if I think about it logically…or from her point of view.  But I can’t see anything happy right now. Her pain has now turned into another wound on my heart. And there is nothing happy about it. It hurts. She couldn’t see what fixed her heart broke so many others.

It’s hard to see in the dark.

And now here we go again. It’s Christmastime. Flickering candles. Twinkly lights. Bright stars. It’s easy to start saying “if I only….” and to tell ourselves we just weren’t bright enough to shine light into her dark. These are the scars – the internal wounds we now carry.

As I stared blankly into the lights of my tree last night, it made me sad. One light is out. And it is missed. And yet…I know even the smallest light can illuminate dark places. So I’ll keep my light on, weak as it is today, and maybe give an extra hug to the middle-aged women in my life.


The zookeeper tossed a lunch sack into the panda area at the National Zoo. Inside was a delicious treat. The panda happily opened the bag and let us watch as she savored every bite.

In April 1972, the government of China gave the United States two giant pandas (Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing) as a gift following Richard Nixon’s visit to the country. I saw those pandas right after they reached American soil (or so I’m told). I was 5.

In return for this gracious fluffy gift for peaceful international relations, we gave China a pair of musk oxen. Really? We couldn’t come up with something better than musk oxen?

This week, as is my tradition when traveling for work, I embarked on an adventure in my spare time to see something besides the screen of my computer. As I had not seen the pandas since I was 5, this seemed like a perfect quest. And let me tell you….a simple quest became joyful pandemonium!

This guy put on a show for us at the National Zoo. He lumbered down the tree, which we were surprised could even hold him, and promptly tumbled off the last branch, eliciting ooohs and ahhhs from the crowds.

The giant pandas at the National Zoo are delightful and entertaining. I watched one climb, take a dip in the pool, and, best of all, sit in front of me and daintily lick an orange and cranberry popsicle. The experience was so moving, I just had to have a panda of my own. So my colleague and I bought pandas at the gift shop…… and that’s when the pandemonium really started.

I learned that many people have misconceptions about pandas. They are actually not lazy. They eat 40 pounds of bamboo a day and that takes walking to find it and a lot of hard work. They also do eat meat at times—they are not strictly bambootarians. They are also not sweet and cuddly. They can be quite aggressive.

Armed with this knowledge, we deemed it important to take the pandas out for some fresh air to see the rest of the city and eat! So, after hours of long meetings, we took Chuck and Elizabeth (we gave them American names) out for a walk. And they really enjoyed the sites.

The WWII Memorial was a nice rest stop for the pandas on their first major outing outside the National Zoo.

The pandas were very impressed by the scale of the Lincoln Memorial.


It’s true! Pandas don’t just eat bamboo. They were hungry after their long journey.

The pandas enjoyed learning about their heritage at the Mandarin Oriental. Thanks for the gift, China. Goodnight, pandas!

Story Time – The Adventure Continues

Our best bedtime stories never had a single word on a page.

A time-traveling elephant named Hubert Cumberdale. A teleporting oak tree and a prized German chocolate cake.

A city spared by aliens from a worldwide pandemic using magic stones, then destroyed because of human greed and power.

A slave who saves his master to gain freedom from natives on an island south of Iceland.

Sound interesting? It is. And it happens every Wednesday night in front of the fireplace at my house. Each Wednesday one member of my family is on point to tell a story. Next week, I’m in the spotlight.

My children were never into athletics or board games growing up. Instead, our family sport was storytelling.  At bedtime, after reading a book, our boys would congregate in one of their rooms for what we called “adventure stories.” My husband and I took turns telling the story each night using three random items given to us by our children. As my kids grew, they joined in the game and began telling the stories, too.

Now, years later, our young adult children have come back around on Wednesday nights to break bread and tell stories. Apparently, my husband and I weren’t the only ones who missed the creative family bonding time we enjoyed during their first 18 years.

We never wrote down any of the stories. We never will.  They will simply continue to feed our imaginations and fill our souls using a treasured family oral tradition. Attempting to write them down would turn joy into work.  The stories are simply shared and the chuckles and smiles in the remembering are more precious to me than the stories themselves.