Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Last fall, I survived a torrential deluge. This year, demands and stresses of my everyday life have been a mere trickle by comparison. The thing is: when it comes to driving on rainy roads, a light drizzle can be just as treacherous as a downpour.

It’s easy to forget that.

Remember the safety lesson from driver’s ed? When it starts to rain, all the oils that have settled into the pavement loosen and become on oily film on the road’s surface. The rain will eventually wash it away, but until it does the road can be very slippery.

I think the same thing happens on the road of life. We have oils and greases and other things that settle into the pavement of our lives. They’re just the normal gunk of everyday life. But when it starts to rain, that stuff can come to the surface and create slippery spots. If you’re not paying attention, they can catch you off guard and send you for a wild ride.

How do you deal with it? The same way you do with your car:

  • Have good windshield wipers and leave your lights on: Keep your vision and awareness.

  • Drive slowly so you are prepared for unexpected hazards: I was introduced to a quote recently, “The bad news? Time flies. The good news? I’m in the driver’s seat.” Don’t get swept away. Life intentionally and in control.

  • Keep your tires well maintained for the best possible traction: Yes, you have to pay attention to the road, but you have to pay attention to yourself as well. Never underestimate the power of “me” time. A quiet moment in the morning with your coffee, or in the afternoon reading your favorite blog, or even in the evening just sitting still for a few minutes might be just the thing to help you keep your traction.

  • If you do end up in a skid, stay calm. Steer gently into the skid and stop accelerating, allowing the car to find the road again: There’s a lot of wisdom in those instructrions. “Stop accelerating.” “Steer into the skid.” “Allow the car to find the road.” I’m patient and calm when it comes to my literal car. But I need to remember to be patient with myself. It’s ok to slow down and find the road. Otherwise, a harmless skid could turn into a horrific accident. Or, how many times do I try to steer away from the skid? The answer is not to run away but to face it head on.

Drizzle or downpour, it’s important to remember that rain is a good thing. I don’t want that stuff to be on the road forever (even if it is just everyday gunk). And while the road may become slippery for a bit, it does end up nice and clean and washed of all the built-up gunk. I just need to remember to drive safely through the rain.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This Way

"The Fellowship awaits the Ring-bearer." Frodo turns and walks forward, past a veritable who’s who of Middle Earth. He’s agreed to an impossible quest, carrying an incredible weight, to protect those he loves. It’s the right thing, and the hard thing. Before him, the path winds away to either side. Trying not to break stride, Frodo whispers over his shoulder, “Mordor, Gandalf, is it left or right?” And Gandalf quietly replies, “Left.”

That’s what I picture when I read, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)

**This may not be a long post...but it's a meaningful one to me. It's also my 100th. :-) **

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Refrigerator

Here's a much happier thought (just to balance the post a little earlier)...

About a year ago, I started training for my first road race: The Celtic Solstice 5-miler.

Since then: My friends and I trekked to Frederick for the Twilight 5k; I filled in for my gym buddy and survived the hills of the Baltimore 10-miler; I ran under the Chesapeake Bay with the Fort McHenry Tunnel 5k (Which was really fun with the echoes of the Police Academy cadets cheering the whole time.); and I completed the Baltimore Half-Marathon (I even have the medal to prove it!).

So the things I proudly adhere to the refrigerator have changed a bit from when I was younger. My drawings and permission forms have morphed to magnets and race numbers, but I feel just as proud when I get to add to to the collection.

And you know, out of all the numbers that are up there, I think my favorite is for the 2008 Celtic Solstice 5-Miler. After all, It was the race that started my running journey.

I never thought a year ago that I would have been able to finish a Half-Marathon. I was scared to death of the thought of 5 miles, much less 13.1. Today, I'm setting a time goal for next year's Half, and even thinking about running a full.

What a year!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mad Libs

We all have blanks in our lives. I know 20-somethings don’t own the entire market of feeling in-between or like our blanks aren’t all filled in. But let’s be honest. Post high school and pre-family/home of your own is a crazy time. I can look at the blanks in my life and think: A noun goes there. An adverb should fit over here. A place there. A color there. And I could fill in those blanks with the options I like the best. The hitch? That’s not always my job. And my choices may not make sense. He’s the author and finisher of my faith. (Heb 12:2)

When I rush things, or just try to fill in the blanks before my plot has moved that far…I’m turning my beautiful story into a mad lib. It may work. It might even make sense. But it may not be the best possible design.

No analogy is perfect. I don’t think that there’s only one perfect option for our lives. For example: the perfect job, or the right hobby, or the perfect soul mate I may hope is in my future, or whatever. That’s just way too much pressure. And really, it’s not all that practical. (Plus, I don’t think that’s what life’s about. It’s not what you do, but how you do it. Or who you love, but how you love them. Or what race you run, but how you train and finish it. Does that make sense?)

Maybe the real secret to letting him be the “author and finisher” is paying attention to the direction I’m given. That way, I’m not trying to put an adverb where there should be a noun, or a verb where there should be number. And perhaps another part is being willing to erase what I’ve penciled in, when I realize that there’s a better option for that space. (That doesn’t apply to all the blanks, but hopefully you can see where I’m going with that. If I figure out that my job isn’t the best one for me…I can change it. If I can see that I need more quiet time instead of more socializing…I can fix that. If I need to exercise more or distance myself from a poisonous relationship…I can do that.)

But filling in blanks just for the sake of filling them. That’s never a good idea. So I guess there’s a balance somewhere in there. I can’t be afraid to move forward and write my story. After all, no one else is going to write it for me. But when I know that there are blanks that need to be filled in, to keep my story from turning into a mad lib…I need to stay in touch with the author.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Floppy Hair

Sometimes the strangest thoughts hit me when I’m watching musicians play. Last year, I spent an entire Elgar Concerto completely distracted by the cellist’s hair. It was glossy back, perfectly healthy…and flopping around as if he was on a Pantene commercial. At a tiny international club in New York, I was captivated by a hammer dulcimer player who couldn’t keep his feet still. He had this flamingo stomp thing going on, and it was fantastic. Just recently I watched the give and take between the members of Time for Three, and while their music was phenomenal, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the bass player and his crazy faces.

What do all of these things have in common? They remind me of the beauty of one buttock playing. If you haven’t heard this story, here’s a quick recap: There was a young pianist struggling to get through a piece. A famous player told him “The trouble is you’re a two buttock player. You need to be a one buttock player.” He told him to lean forward on one butt cheek and then play the piece again. The pianist was a little skeptical, but considering the older player’s reputation, he tried it anyway. The result? Almost if by magic, the pianist connected with the piece and the music took flight. Instead of just thinking about the music intellectually, he brought his body into it, using his posture to help unlock his passion.

To really get into music, and to really live life to the fullest, you can’t keep both cheeks on the bench. It’s not enough to understand the music intellectually. It’s not fulfilling to just go through the motions and hit the right notes. For things to take flight, you have to let go a bit. Don’t think about every note on the page. Think about the phrase. It’s about vision, and the long line, and the joy of playing. Let your hair flop about, find your flamingo leg, get off that other cheek …your music will take flight.