Sweet Surprises

I awoke this morning in the knowing that my Eliza, home from college for the holiday, was upstairs in her bed. It surprises me how, even in sleep, her presence permeates the air—as if the house itself rejoices with us. Everything feels different.

Peace in my heart and coffee in hand, I opened my email to find this sweetness from my thoughtful friend and soul traveler, Julie Marr. It is remarkable how intimately Julie knows what is going on in my life—she and I are “digital” acquaintances who have never even met. Extraordinary grace, of that I am sure.

Thank you, Julie, again.


First Thanksgiving

by Sharon Olds

When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object,
like a soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, after him, fresh
from the other world—which lay, from within him,
within me, Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing—whirling, over the months,
in a slow blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she’s fast asleep, I’ll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing, then tossed them back
into the air—I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.

“First Thanksgiving” by Sharon Olds, from Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.


Feathers, friends, and sweet little nudges

An email I will long remember greeted me early this morning, coming into focus just as my sleepy eyes adjusted to the dawn. It was from my friend Pam, a kindred spirit who finds it as phenomenal as I do that feathers appear so pointedly in my life just when I need a little nudge.

Have you read this? said the title of the email.

He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings shall you trust. His truth shall be your shield and buckler.   Psalm 91:4

I had not. But one can only think: Of course.

Day 30: When Grace is All Around You

What better way to end our 30 Days of Grace than with a walk around the Fall garden? What a nice reminder that it’s all right there. You just have to look.



































































Thank you for being a part of my 30 Days of Grace. Your shared moments, feather finds and words of encouragement have made this more than a 30-day exercise for me—they have enriched my life and my faith. Reflections on grace will always be the foundation for this blog and I hope you will continue the journey with me.

Up next? 30 Days of Things I’ve Never Done Before. Do come along! I’d love nothing more than to walk side by side with you in your own 30 Days! Just send me a link to your blog or send me your own Never Done Before story. I’d love to feature it here.


Day 29: Birthdays, boots and love

oh happy day

Today is my birthday.

I woke up giddy because I knew the day ahead held this great promise: I can wear my new cowboy boots to church.

An unusual thrill, I know, for a woman who is now fully into … ahem… middle age. But then I’m quite sure you’d feel the same if you saw these fine kicks, chosen by and given to me for my birthday by my sweet husband.

I love him for choosing a gift that is such an outrageous indulgence—an indulgence not just because they are really nice, but because there is simply no way to rationalize such a purchase. You see, I already own brown cowboy boots. In fact, I own four other pairs.

There. I said it. Five pairs of brown cowboy boots.

(My dear friend Teresa Coles will say you need only consider the CPW — Cost Per Wear. And I will certainly wear the heck out of these boots.)

He knows about the boot collection, my husband does, and still he presented these. As practical as he is, I know he did it simply because he knew it would make me ridiculously happy.

I love a love like that.

30 Days of Grace



Day 28: In Which I Work a Live* Scorpion Into A Reflection On Grace

Is there anything better than a present that is also a surprise? That’s what happened to me this week, when my friend Jennifer stopped by with a little Happy Birthday box.

When I opened the wrappings, I could scarcely believe what a saw. A bracelet with a real scorpion (*okay, it’s not live now, but it was once) in the middle.

Jennifer and I both have end-of-October birthdays, which means we also share the astrological sign, Scorpio. About this, Jenn and I (along with firey Scorpio-sister Lorie Gardner) are really quite serious. Jenn remembered that long, long ago I made a joke** about getting the venom-stingered Anthropod tattooed right on my forearm where it could easily be seen. (**This may or may not have been a joke. At the time seemed like a good idea to warn The Unsuspecting, since we Scorpios are rather passionate, complicated beings.) Of course I am never getting a tattoo, as you know. So Jenn thought this bracelet might be a good substitute.

It is perfect.

*enlarged to show detail (and for dramatic effect)

It is also a wonderful reminder to me of the connection I have, dating back many, many years, to a treasured friend I don’t see often enough.

And so inspired by Jenn and the the surprise of the Scorpio Bracelet, I vow to plan a little surprise gift for someone I care about every month during 2012.

Won’t that be fun?

30 Days of Grace

Day 25: In Which I Race With Time, And Time Wins

It is 4:45 a.m., and incredibly, I am awake and writing this post.

I note this because it is rather extarordinary. As you know, dear friend, I am very serious about sleep and rarely have trouble in that department. But in a moment of weakness last night—the cat curled sweetly on my legs and purring to beat the band, I didn’t have the heart (or the energy, truth be told)—to put him out. That would have required waking him, then chasing him from living room to kitchen to dining room three times before heading to the front door, only to have him look at me in a what on earth have you been doing? kind of way.

Yes, I should have plucked that cat from that cozy comforter and tossed him into the night when I had the chance.

Lest you judge me too harshly, do let me explain that that crazy feline, sweet as he has become in old age, simply refuses to stay inside for the full overnight. Rain, heat, snow—somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m. he wakes to create such a racket you simply must obey and let him out.

that damn cat, that beautiful rug

There’s the “I’m awake and let me wake you, as well” start: a slow walk up the back of your legs to your head, then a gentle flick to your cheek with a single claw. Oh, stop it Tiger, you think, and roll over to the other side. He comes right back at you, a little more determined this time, a little less gentle. You swat. He moves on to the bedside table, where in your twilight sleep state objects begin to move. The pretty tray rattles. A book shifts. A clink. Dammit, you remember. There’s a full glass of water.

His coup d’état? Clawing of the investment bedroom rug.

So you see, my friend, I really had no choice but to get up at 4:20 a.m. to let that damn cat out. Which starting me thinking of the 10,000 things I didn’t get to yesterday, and the thousand things I don’t even know to worry about because I completely lost track of them.

My name is Cathy. I am an overachiever. 

I think I’ll make some coffee and start a list of things to do about it.

30 Days of Grace

Day 24: And Then There Was This

And then there are the days you just march through, knowing you have been greatly blessed, but not exactly seeing the evidence. Or, maybe, being so frantically busy as to not even look for it.

These were my thoughts as I made my drive home from a long, exhausting Tuesday. I rounded a curve, and—I swear—there was this.

30 Days of Grace

Day 23: Two blessings and a miracle

You might be surprised to learn that two prayers I repeat, rather regularly, are these:

I am thankful to have my very own washer and dryer, right here in my own house.

I am very thankful to have hot and cold running water, right here in my own house.

So I feel a little guilty about the incessant complaining I’ve done for the last several months over losing water pressure in our shower. My husband and I built a house in 2008, and one of the things written on my “if I ever build a house I need to remember this…” list was “MAKE SURE THE WATER PRESSURE IN THE SHOWER IS EXTRA STRONG.”

I am not a great waker-upper in the morning. I have a hard time getting going, particularly when the alarm goes off and the world outside is still dark. (Seriously. Don’t you think if God meant for us to be up and productive that early He’d have the sun up by then?)  I also happen to be very serious about my dreams, so when real life interrupts them, it takes me a while to adjust. I need that burst of energy from the shower to get me going, to nudge me forward and into the day.

For a while there, we had the greatest shower known to man in our new house. I seriously rejoiced every day. Then out of nowhere, THUG, and the glorious water pressure disappeared. JUST LIKE THAT. A split second THUG, and now there is barely a dribble.

My sweet husband tried everything. He had our original plumber back to check it out, twice. Then he worked on it himself. Then he called someone sanctioned by water heater manufacturer, who said it was a city problem. Then the folks from the city water department came. Then our plumber, twice more.

Finally on Friday, a “does ANYONE know a good plumber? plumber” came to check things out. He didn’t guarantee remarkable results with my shower problem, but he did install a missing pressure regulator valve on our overall water system.

Halleluja, I sang this morning, resounding through the house. We think the shower pressure may finally be fixed. So tonight when I send my HappyRambles email, it will say:

Today I am grateful for:

my very own washer and dryer

hot and cold running water

water pressure in my shower (and the plumber who restored it)

I am one happy girl.

If you haven’t checked out HappyRambles, you should. It’s a lovely, and easy, way to keep a gratitude journal.

30 Days of Grace 

Day 22: Here’s What Happened.

Two years ago I wrote in my journal:

Here’s what happened. When a story starts like that, you know it’s gonna be good.

So I was intrigued to learn that’s how the book of Esther begins. Beth Moore always teaches/preaches right at me, so I am quite sure some interesting things are to come over the next weeks of this study.

That, and I do love a good story about a queen.

Esther 1:1-3

 1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.  (NIV)

Do stay tuned!

30 Days Of Grace

Day 21: On Friendship and Tattoos

There is one thing I know for sure: I will never get a tattoo.

I’m not opposed, do let me say. It’s just that I am not sure enough of anything in this life to have it permanently tattooed on my body. Except for this, of which I am positive: My friends mean the world to me. It comes as kind of a surprising insight to me, at this stage in life. At 14? Sure. But at 52?

Oh, yeah.

I have been blessed with long, deep friendships that still today, many years and many miles later, continue to shape and form and mold the person I am becoming. We gather together once or twice a year, our group of childhood girlfriends who are scattered like seeds across the East Coast—we, the Wise Woman. These weekends reconnect us to each other and to our inner selves, the people we are underneath the layers of sediment life has deposited there. We laugh a lot, and we celebrate the differences in our lives and our personalities.

I have been having dreams filled with these women the past few weeks. I know it is time for a visit, a re-calibration.

the wise women

Another great joy in my life is the constant presence of so many of my dearest college friends. One is a business partner I see on a daily basis; two others live within 5 miles. Our children have grown up together, our husbands are friends, we gather for football games and graduation parties and Sunday night dinners. My life is rich and joyful, and I owe much of that to these incredible women who walk the path with me, day after day, year after year.

And then I look around at my life and see it populated with so many new people who give it texture and goodness. Some I met through this blog, or theirs, connections that both astonish and thrill me. Others are friendships formed through my husband, whom I met later in life. Some are gifts via my daughter—young women I adore, Moms with whom I share a special bond. And many, many came my way through work. (This is another fact that surprises me.) The job brought us together, yes, but these connections transcend business relationships. These are truly friends.

This is why we are here, don’t you think? To find each other, as days go by? To bring strength and encouragement and laughter, at the very moment it’s needed, in that very place, in that very life.

My friends are the sunshine in my life, of that I am sure.

But I’m still not getting a tattoo.

30 Days of Grace