Branching Out

Do you ever realize something that you’re pretty sure everyone else figured out a long time ago?

Like the phrase “branching out”, for example. I’ve heard that expression—and used that expression—a million times (possible slight exaggeration), but I’ve never really thought about it…until today.

Branching out. We say it as an encouragement to try something new. “You should go! Branch out! It’ll be good for you!” Sometimes we go, sometimes we don’t; but either way, we’d probably agree that branching out is indeed good for us.

But why?

Picture a tree. A tree has branches. Those branches come from little sprouts of growth going in all different directions. That’s the key–different directions. If the branches veer only to the left or to the right, things get jammed up and the leaves don’t get enough sunlight to grow. Plus, if all the branches go in the same direction, the tree eventually falls over because the weight of the branches isn’t balanced.

(insert light bulb here)

Branching out. It’s not just about trying something new, it’s about healthy growth and keeping things balanced.

If we’re always doing work stuff or family stuff or hobby stuff or whatever-it-is stuff, we’re not allowing space for other stuff to grow, which means we’ll end up out of balance.

To be honest, this makes me groan a bit. It sounds a little like something a guy named Doug (who’s wearing a colorful hand-woven poncho) would say while sitting cross-legged on the ground by a VW van.

But then again, maybe that’s exactly the kind of thing I should branch out and try.



What Would Love Do?

A friend of mine is a big fan of personal growth. She likes learning and the process of figuring things out, so she often participates in self-help types of webinars, which I appreciate because she shares with me some of the helpful tidbits she gleans along the way. One of those gems was a phrase one of the speakers suggested: What would Love do? In a difficult situation with a particular person, what would Love do? My friend shared about how this phrase helped her with someone in her life whose actions had been confusing and disappointing. When my friend thought about him from a place of love (instead of hurt), she was able to have compassion for him as well as untangle herself from all the uncertainty swirling around.

I loved this idea. I started adding What would Love do? to the end of each day’s journal entry.
What would Love do?…What would Love do?…What would Love do?
Every day for a couple of months.

One day after I wrote it, I read it back and–without really thinking–added: “All kinds of things!”
What would Love do? All kinds of things!

For the next week or so, whenever I wrote What would Love do? my pencil added something else.
And it turned into this:

What would Love do?
All kinds of things!

What would Love do?
Love would not grumble or think the worst.
Love would cheer and think the best: Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray!

What would Love do?
Love would encourage.

What would Love do?
Love wouldn’t wait.
Love would do it now! Today! This instant!

What would Love do?
Love would hug.
Love would hold tight.
Love would simply hush and hang on.

What would Love do?
Love would keep going.
Love would push on.
Love would hope…and help…and try again.

What would Love do?
Love would try again.

What would Love do?
Love would think the best
Hope for the best
And do her best
Again and again.


Again and again.



The 5k goal has officially been met–and not a moment too soon. I had just about reached my training limit–not that I was improving all that much, I was just sick of it. Let’s do this already!

My son and I lined up near the back on race day, letting the real competitors make their way up front. Temps were in the frosty mid 30s but toasty sunshine made it bearable. The starting horn sounded and we were off!

I had told my son ahead of time not to wait for me. Even though he hadn’t trained at all (and had only tried on his tennis shoes a few days before to see if they still fit), I knew he’d be faster than me. He was. I watched him disappear up ahead as I maintained my steady trot.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was different than what I expected. Maybe I expected the Boston Marathon: big crowd of runners side by side, elbow to elbow, racing toward a common goal. It wasn’t like that at all. It was mostly a bunch of people like me who clearly don’t run much on a regular basis. It wasn’t elbow to elbow; we were all spread out on almost empty back roads, which meant I had a lot of time to think…Well, this is kind of anti-climactic, isn’t it?

Just before the second mile, I saw my son walking up ahead. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see that turkey walking. I think we both figured he’d sail right through this thing. I caught up to him and he trotted along with me for a bit then took off with his bigger, faster stride again. Another few minutes and I saw him walking–Yes! Looking back, though, I’m pretty sure he did that on purpose so that I could catch up to him and we could reach the 3.1 mile mark–my 5k goal–together. And we did! We crossed the line, high-fived each other, and started walking back the way we came because, as you may recall, this was only the halfway mark. In order to reach my 5k goal, I’d signed up for a 10k with the hope of running half and walking half. The first part was finished, now we started our stroll back the other 3.1 miles.

As we walked the road from mile 3 to mile 4 we wondered out loud if we could maybe run a little more. Maybe one more mile? Maybe even a half?

“Let’s shoot for one more,” I said. He was fine with that.

We set our eyes on the 4-mile marker where we’d start running again, pep talking ourselves into thinking it shouldn’t be too bad.


“Holy cow!” I laughed. My knees had already stiffened up. “Maybe just a half mile!” I called as he ran up ahead of me. It didn’t take long for him to disappear, but I trotted along knowing I’d catch up to him when he took a break.




Where IS that turkey?

Then I saw the 5-mile marker and I figured he probably decided to just go for it and run the whole thing–Ah, youth… But something about seeing that marker made me decide the same thing, so I kept going. I made it that last mile, up the crazy steep ending, and across the finish line. My son was there, waiting with another high-five. Man, I love that kid.

The final tally: ran 3 miles, walked 1, ran the last 2. That was such a better result than what I was shooting for!

I don’t think I’m going to become a runner anytime soon, but it was a good goal to work toward, and it does make me wonder: What’s next?




Thanks, turkey. ❤️


When Life Gives You Hills

36 days to the 5K/10K event.
Last week I decided to take a drive and check out the course, count off the miles, and set myself some landmarks to look forward to on race day. I checked my odometer at the gate of the venue from which we’d be starting and headed down the road. As I turned the first corner, the road dipped down, then back up, then straightened out. At the next corner, another set of steep dips–down, up, down, up–then another, all through the first mile.

Keep in mind, the route had been described on the website as a “flat, fast course”. A “flat, fast course”. The words echoed in my mind as I drove up yet another hill: “flat, fast course…flat, fast course…”

Damn those bastards in the marketing department.

Alas, I’ve already paid my registration fee–and would I really want to back out at this point anyway?

I grumbled to my cheery friend about it: “It’s not FLAT! They said FLAT! Those hills are NOT flat!”

By then I was tiring myself out and just wanted her to go ahead and give me the pep talk I knew she’d been forming while I’d been shouting the word “flat” over and over. So I made it easy for her.

“What do we do when life gives us hills?” I said with a knowing eye roll.

“What do we do when life gives us hills?” she parroted back. “We say, ‘I’m comin’ after you, hill!'” she shouted with an arm pump and cheesy grin. “Then we climb that hill! We climb and climb and climb, all the way to the top! And when we get to the top, we have a beer! That’s what we do!”

I definitely wouldn’t be drinking a beer at the top of each hill, but I did like the idea of a celebratory one at the end of the day. I also liked having my own personal cheerleader telling me to get over it and just do it. I even liked the fact that I had found this out ahead of time and still have a month to be more intentional about including hills in my training.

All is not lost.
Hope abounds.
Beer awaits.
We carry on.



I’m comin’ after you, hill!


5k: Take Two

country backroads this time

Spring 2019.
I decided to finally follow through on a longtime goal of running a 5k event.
Issue #1: the beachside race I chose was a 10k, not a 5k.
Issue #2: the event was less than three months away.
Issue #3: I hadn’t run in years.
Just go for it, I told myself. Run half, walk half–you can do it!
So I started running (I use the term loosely) almost everyday, increasing from 1/4 mile to 1 mile to 2 miles in just a few weeks. Things were looking good! Then one morning my right knee shouted, “No way, Jose!” All running ceased two weeks before the day of the race. I walked the event with a friend, picked up my commemorative t-shirt, and headed home. Not exactly what I had in mind.

Spring 2022.
The 5k goal still loomed.
You’re not getting any younger, I reminded myself. Just do it!
This time I set my sights on a 5k event a full five months away, plenty of time to ease back into running and slowly build up some distance. And it seems to be working; I’ve been able to baby my way back up from zero miles to 3/4 to 1 to 1.5 to 2. Two miles is starting to be almost bearable. With six weeks to go, I have high hopes that my knees will hold out and I’ll make it to three miles a few times before race day (5k = 3.1 miles). Fingers crossed.

A couple weeks ago I went to check the start time posted on the event website, but I found this note in tiny font under the registration button: “Unfortunately, we will not host a 5k this year. Please consider the 10k as an alternative.”

Just like that. No 5k.

“Please consider the 10k as an alternative.” So polite, so simple: just consider it. Just consider doubling the distance you’ve been working toward for months. I did consider it. In fact I drove three miles, which felt farther than I thought it would. Then I drove three more miles and knew for certain that I’d be dead if I’d run all that way. I know the movies would have us believe I just need a really good soundtrack, a few days of training, and a snazzy outfit—but it’s not a movie. Nevertheless, after much debate, I’m doing it anyway. My goal is to run 3.1 miles and run/walk the other half as feet, knees, and lungs allow. To further help my motivation, my son is signing up too! He doesn’t run at all, but he’s young and healthy and competitive, so I think he’ll definitely make it to at least the halfway mark. Then we can push each other through the other half, collect our commemorative t-shirts, eat our “free” breakfast, and call it a day.

And the 5k goal will officially be crossed off the list.




You’re not getting any younger…


Empty Nest Cafe

My baby bird has officially flown the coop. He’s been inching his way out for awhile, but last month he moved his bed to a different address, so now it’s for real. He’s 19, which feels like a good age for flying solo; thus far, all is well.

Aside from fewer dishes and less laundry–and not seeing his cute face nearly as often–the most notable difference in him not being here is my lack of cooking. I used to plan and prepare actual meals if I knew my son would be home for dinner; nothing gourmet, but chopping and stirring and use of the oven or stovetop were usually involved. Now that I have no one relying on me for sustenance, however, all cooking has ceased. I walk into the kitchen around 5PM and it’s a free-for-all hosted by my imaginary personal chef, Sydney.

Sydney: Tonight’s special is a can of turkey chili paired with a half bag of tortilla chips.
Me: Ooh, that sounds delightful!

Sydney: Do you know what you’d like?
Me: Can I get a peanut butter sandwich and five baby carrots?
Sydney: Coming right up!

Sydney: Have you decided?
Me: A bowl of cereal and three Fudgsicles.
Sydney: As you wish.

Me: Can I get four microwaved chicken strips?
Sydney: And how would you like those prepared?
Me: Slightly dried out and chewy.
Sydney: Excellent.

Me: A can of turkey chili and half a bag of tortilla chips.
Sydney: Again, madam?
Me: Again.

Me: I can’t decide. What do you recommend?
Sydney: How about 12 Triscuits and Rocky Road in the carton?
Me: Perfect.

Me: I’ll have the turkey chili-tortilla chip combo, please.
Sydney: I’m afraid we’re out of chips.
Me: (sigh)...In that case, I’ll just finish off the Rocky Road.
Sydney: Very well, madam.

My son has been gone for a month.
At some point I’m sure I’ll start cooking again, most likely when the weather cools off. Chilly days have a way of making us want to stir something warm and cozy in a big pot or bake something hearty and delicious in a pie pan. It’s only a matter of time.

Meanwhile, I guess I’ll head to the store…Syd needs chips.


Beer-Drinking Girl

I’d like to be a beer-drinking girl.  Not the loud, foul-mouthed, red Solo cup kind, but the cool, quiet kind who takes a carefree swig out of a solid, sturdy bottle then defeats a cocky guy in a round of darts.  Sign me up!

At least once every summer when the temps hit 100, I try it.  I think, “Maybe this will be the year I like beer.”  So I buy a six-pack, bring it home, pop it in the fridge, then pull out a cold one all calm and casual like I do it every day.  I pop the top and a puff of chilly fog wafts out as I grab the bottle.  There’s something about the bottle that reels me in and makes me want to try a little harder.  I wrap my hand around the cold, dark brown glass with confidence, because I’m certain that’s how beer-drinking girls would do it:  strong, independent, calling the shots.  And I have to admit, it feels good.  It feels cool and refreshing but it also feels powerful and a teensy bit rebellious…and I like it.

But, sadly, I don’t like beer.  The first taste is always okay because almost anything cold tastes good on a hot day; but by the third or fourth sip, I’m over it.  I can’t get past the bitterness—or whatever it is—and I start searching for snacks to help kill the aftertaste.  I look disappointedly at my 2/3-full bottle and think about his five 12-ounce brothers waiting in the fridge. 

And I know. 
This won’t be the year after all.


Hooray for Sheep!

The sheep are back!

I live in a rural community that contracts with a sheep herder to bring his flock every spring and have them chomp down the weeds covering the surrounding fields and hillsides. I’d been waiting and watching for a couple months now and figured maybe they just weren’t coming this year. It was a disappointing thought. Not only do the sheep help with fire prevention, they also clear lots of trails that are overgrown and potentially camouflage snakes—those sneaky devils.

So it’s no surprise that a spontaneous “HOORAY!” popped out of my mouth when I spotted the sheep herder’s trailer parked out in a field this week. “HOORAY!” I squealed. “Thank you, sheep herder! Thank you, sheep!” I couldn’t actually see the woolly crowd, but I knew they were out there somewhere snacking away on dry grasses, and I was so relieved.

Surprisingly relieved, in fact.

And it made me realize I feel the same way with a handful of folks in my life–people who help clear out the weeds in my thinking and chase away any snakes of worry. It is definitely a relief to know those “sheep” are out there, ready and willing to show up if things get out of hand.

Two-legged or four-legged, Hooray for sheep, indeed!


Bottom-Shelf Books

As I strolled the aisles of the library last week, keeping an eye out for fun fonts and titles, I realized I’d been totally ignoring the books on the bottom shelves. So I stopped, bent in half, and squinted at the tiny print on the spines far, far away. Nope. Not happening. Then I straightened back up and resumed my eye-level searching.

But I felt bad for those poor bottom-shelf books, constantly overlooked, passed by day after day.
I know the feeling, you guys…sigh…

But then–I swear!–one of them winked at me.


Maybe those bottom-shelf books don’t have it so bad after all.

For example, they don’t have a bunch of grimy hands grabbing at them. Plus, they’re not stuck in someone’s stinky car for days on end. Their pages aren’t being dog-eared, their covers aren’t getting coffee stains, and their spines aren’t cracking away from overuse. If you think about it, those bottom-shelf books have it made! They’re really just on vacation, kicking back, enjoying loads of free time with their neighbors. No wonder that little guy winked at me!

Besides, they know eventually new books will arrive and everyone will shift right…and shift right…and shift right…until one day, just like that, a bottom-shelf book becomes a top-shelf book, and all those days of lounging in anonymity are over.

So enjoy it while you can, amigo.






Good Morning, Birds


The sun is barely up.
Just peeking through actually.


What’s the rush, birds? What’s the rush?


The windows are closed.
The walls aren’t paper thin.
How can your little mouths be so loud?




I said Fine!
I’m up, okay?
I’m up!
Are you happy now? Are you happy?



Of course.




Good morning, birds.
See you tomorrow.