Wednesday, December 31, 2008

new year

and so- 2008 draws to a close. It seems hard to believe that this year is over. Such a turbulent year.

My nephew, Mark, became engaged this Christmas. I sat and watched them the other day, and let my mind drift back over the last 20 plus years. He has been, from the day he was born, such a neat person- content, confident, friendly. I think he has found the perfect companion for his life's journey.

I remember so clearly the day he was born. I was working in the emergency dept. at the time, and was scheduled to go on a white water rafting trip with a group of my compatriots. One of the ER docs rented an RV- everyone was piled in, eager to hit the road- but I refused to leave town until I could see that baby. They all had to cool their heels in the McDonalds parking lot and wait for Mark's arrival. He was worth the wait.

I was thinking about that trip as I watched him. The joy of his arrival. The exhileration and anticipation of the ride down. The anxiety when we saw the river the next morning- high and fast on that day in May. The coolness of the air and the warmth of the sun. The rubbery feel of the raft and the power of the current.
The paddle felt like nothing in my hands- insignificant compared to the mighty strength of the river and the rocks looming above and below the surface. I was sure that we would hit one of those rock and be blown apart. The only thing that gave me any reassurance on that morning was the sight of the others in the raft- the confidence I had in their strength and fortitude.
Floating along the river seemed like fun at first- until I heard a distant roar. Until we rounded a curve and saw the churning, frothing, heaving rapids ahead of us. There was no opt out at that point- no way to politely excuse myself. Once in, there was nothing to do but paddle hard, dig in, hang on and pray.
Somehow- we got to the other side. When one fell out, we pulled him back in. We were a little bruised, a little battered, a little weary- but in one piece. The river flowed briskly- but the sun was brighter, the trees were greener, the sky was a deeper blue. We could relax and let the current and the power of the river carry us. We had time to look at the scenery- to jump in and play. Time to regroup and regain our strength.

In many ways getting through 2008 has felt like riding the rapids. Hang on, hold on, paddle hard and pray. I've felt it in my life, in the lives around me, in our country. But we have survived. We are all still here.

If I could have just one prayer for 2009- it would be that we would be able to regroup- to let the current carry us- to rest in the power of the One who is beneath us, above us, around us and through us. Knowing that there are rapids ahead......I pray for a blessed New Year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


We faced a dilema on Christmas eve. We have a tradition in this house - that the boys get to open one gift on Christmas eve. The problem was, opening one gift this year would wipe us out. The pile under the tree was alarmingly small.

We bantered back and forth for awhile- with me holding out for Christmas morning-and finally caving in. We opened our gifts on Christmas eve....

The funny thing is- and we all agree- this is without a doubt, the best Christmas we have ever had. We stayed up until well past midnight that night. Laughing, talking, watching A Christmas Story (for the hundreth time)

I received a beautiful shelf that my 18 y/o had made for me. My 14 y/o gave me a book that makes me cry. What more could a mom ever ask for.

There were other gifts this year- running into an old friend at church on Christmas eve. The news that my nephew had become engaged. Neighbors stopping in.

I've always yearned for a simpler Christmas. This year the economy forced it on us. It was everything I always hoped it would be. I wonder what other gifts this new year will bring?

I imagine it is this very thing that makes me love my job so much. The folks that I see have not chosen their circumstances either. They have not chosen to have so much stripped away from them. But in their circumstances, I often find a quiet contentment. Their circle has become smaller. They only want those they love the most. They are appreciative of the little things. And when you can sit- when you can listen- when you hear the stories of their lives; you find that the things they remember, really, are simple things.

Monday, December 22, 2008

playing hookey

I finished work early today- by 12:30PM I had seen all my patients and headed back to the office. There was nothing pressing to occupy me, so I wandered back out onto the streets. Restless, I called the office once again, but still there was nothing to do- so I headed south...

I came to the exit that leads home- and I passed it. Responsibility and common sense would have dictated that I head for home and prepare for Christmas- but there are times to throw responsibility and common sense to the wind.

Following my instincts- I continued south- to my grandfather's farm. The Scots have a theory that there are thin places on earth- places that are closer to heaven than any other. For me, my grandfather's farm is a thin place. Nestled on a dirt road, surrounded by peaks and valleys- it seems timeless. The old farmhouse is long gone- in it's place is a modern dwelling that seems to blend in. The outbuildings, however, are just the same. Two old barns- one newly sided in red, one worn to a soft grey. A white church sits on a hill in the middle of the farm. The stones in the old cemetery contain familar names. So many stories. John, who in his mid forties, fled from his home in Scotland, and met Mary on the boat. She was fourteen or so at the time. They married shortly after docking in New York. In pictures, he looks like a wild man. I often wonder what the child was thinking. Daniel, my great-grandfather, known for his temper and his restlessness. Anna, my gentle great grandmother.

I wonder what they found when they settled on this land. It is a blessing in my life that the farm remains in our family- It seems to me that if you have a place in your life that you can return to- you are blessed indeed. I am blessed.

I am blessed to remember an old white farmhouse and a grandmother who's arms were always open. I am blessed to remember pony carts and cousins. I blessed by the wisdom of my grandfather. I am blessed to find my father's initials carved on a large rock in the pasture- to have evidence that this man who died when I was only 5 climbed the same rocks, saw the same hills and felt the same breeze on his face.

At Christmas, I think, it is good to return for an afternoon to your roots. It is good to remember the love and the laughter. It is good to know from whence you came.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Worked today for the first time after a weeks vacation
Sometimes it feels good to slip into the routine after being away for awhile
I enjoy the time I have in the car- to think about the place I have just been and plan for the place I am going to next.....
People always ask "how can you do that?" and "don't you cry all the time?" Sometimes the car is, indeed, a good place to cry.......
Once after attending the death of a young man of whom I was particularly fond; I found myself keening as I drove through a small town....
But normally- I think about the people I have seen and the stories they have told. I think that I see the absolute best in people- the sacrificial love and caring, people putting their own lives on hold to care for the ones they love....
The car is often an excellent place to pray- long, rambling prayers that seem to have no beginning and no end- a pause in the conversation when I turn off the key, the dialogue resumes as I put the key back in and step on the accelerator
It's a good place to ponder- to wonder what is important - to comtemplate what lies beyond the confines of this existance.....
I hope that I have helped someone... I hope that I have allowed myself to be changed....

Sunday, December 14, 2008


We cut back on Christmas this year. Way back. A month ago, I was fretting about that decision. Wondering if Christmas would be lackluster and depressing, worrying that the boys would be disguntled and moody. Teenagers can be, you know.

I'm rather amazed at the way this has evolved. Christmas feels peaceful this year. I remember in years past, searching for that feeling- waiting for it- knowing that at some point I would "feel Christmasy". I wonder what it is we are really yearning for?

We went ahead and got a tree yesterday. I wasn't sure I even wanted to do that, live trees are expensive, but we did. In the midst of clearing out the room to set up the tree, we found a box full of tapes- family memories. I hadn't seen those for a long time.

And so, we put up the tree and laughed at the memories on the screen. We remembered things we haven't thought of for a long time. Everyone went to bed feeling loved, wanted and a part of something bigger than themselves.

Sitting here in the still quiet house, with just the lights of the tree and the computer screen, I feel that contentment I often seek. Maybe that is what Christmas is all about- knowing that we are part of something bigger than just ourselves.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Pondering- sort of a funny word, maybe a little overblown - but I like the way it rolls off the tongue...
Spent today with an old friend, curled up, sipping tea and talking in the way that you can only talk when you are comfortable. Sentences in fragments, half formed thoughts, trails of ideas

It was snowing lightly all day but we were warm and cozy.

By the time I left, it was blustery- snow falling all around, surrounding the car- lights illuminating the rapidly descending flakes. I turned on an instrumental CD and felt warm and cocooned all the way home. My brother called to tell me that the interstate was at a standstill, so I took a back road. Everyone was cautious, we crept along in a line at about 20m/h. There was black ice for about the last 5 miles, so we crept even slower. I was grateful to see the lights of town, to drive past the square. A nativity scene sits in the lawn of the church there- the same nativity scene I have seen every Christmas for the last 45 years of my life. Sometimes I chafe at being stuck in the same small town I grew up in. Sometimes I am frustrated with myself for never leaving..... but tonight I was grateful for the familar views, for the comfort of home. Sometimes it is good to know that whatever is happening in the world around us, some things never change

Thursday, December 11, 2008


to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate (often fol. by over or upon).–verb (used with object)
to weigh carefully in the mind; consider thoughtfully: He pondered his next words thoroughly.