A luxury

DSC_2885I read something today, this umpteeth day of social distancing and conducting multiple meetings via Zoom.

Planning for the future is a luxury of the privileged.

It appeared in an article about the upending of family life due to the coronavirus pandemic, and how this mom had just wiped clean the family calendar because nothing was happening. Nothing that mattered before mattered in the same way now.

And it made me think, about my own upbringing, about financial instability and relational instability in our home and volatility and how I knew if I was smart I wouldn’t dare to dream or to plan.

Nothing was within my control.

This whole experience has felt strangely familiar in a lot of ways, similar to when I found myself kicked out of college because my dad gambled my academic and financial future on his plan to sell a lot of Amway detergent (read: didn’t want to pay his taxes, a requirement for the financial aid form).

It was the best year of my college life. I had a leadership position on campus, a job at the local newspaper, and tons of friends (hard for me). And then I got the letter from the registrar, and the bursar and all the people saying I had to leave. Long story short, I conned another couple months out of them and finished the semester, but the debt I took home with me from that one semester (he’d made not one payment, and I had exhausted my contribution from summer factory work) would keep me out of school for the next five years.

Anyway, when I was driving home from the office on that last day in our life “before all of this”, I thought of that. How this felt like that. And how I was disappointed and worried, but I knew that things will be how they are, maybe even how they should be. That things would be hard, and there would be loss, but I would find meaning, and growth and I would do what I could do to help my friends and families find the same.

Then today I saw that phrase: Planning is a luxury for the privileged. I realized how lucky I had been, how blessed my family has become. And I realized how there was still, deep in the recesses of my brain, that understanding that nothing is permanent, and how loosely I still hold on to a lot of things. Hubby and I are trying to build a new house, a project started “before all of this” and it’s getting complicated, more so because of this. And I know that if it doesn’t happen, we will survive. I hope we can, but if we can’t, we’ll survive. I love my job. But if it went away, I would figure it out.

Again, the words of Jesus in the Gospel according to St. Matthew:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I want to write this tonight as some encouragement, to my scrappy, hustling brothers and sisters who know disappointment, that deep disappointment that comes with grief, from the loss of a thing that was actually yours.

You have special skills to use at this time. You know how to do this. You know that smart people always used pencil on the calendars anyway. You know that there will be an illness, an accident, a job loss, a divorce, a something. It will get in the way.

And you know that you will be OK.

You need to know that.

You will be. We will be.

It will be.

Making Do

Palm Sunday, 2020

The Russian Orthodox tradition often uses pussy willow branches in place of palms on Palm Sunday.

It makes sense, when you think of it, for Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Georgia, etc., are not known for their warm, balmy climes.

Somewhere along the line, the pussy willow trees with their little fluffy nubs (pre-flowers or something like that) became what the faithful held in their hands as the Gifts made their way in procession around the nave.

In my church, one full of Macedonians, Bulgarians, Russians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Ethiopians and German/Scott/English mixes like myself, you see pussy willow branches on the altar along with the palm fronds for blessing and then handed out.

For all of its tradition, and its great beauty, the Eastern Orthodox Church is messy, and fine with it.

I almost grabbed a branch off an evergreen in our yard today, sprinkled holy water on it and used it for week 4 of the Facebook live-stream of the Divine Liturgy. (How has this been a MONTH already. It is both the longest time, and the shortest time. I think we might be somehow outside of time.) But I didn’t have a chance to do that because in this new world, we grocery shop on Sunday mornings, as soon as it is open at 8 a.m. when it is safe, and quiet.

So instead I used one of last year’s pussy willow branches–brittle and fragile–for the service.

I can’t lie about this. As a person who sets my watch by Holy Week, I am struggling to make sense of this, to know how I should or could walk through this week to Pascha. During a typical year, there are between six to 12 services I might make it to, depending on work or whether I go to Ohio and worship with my sister.

There were no palms this year. No children turning the fronds into crosses in the parish hall, and trying to teach us how to do it. I miss my friends, my sister’s family, our choir. I miss kissing the icons, and hugging Dave in the narthex. I miss donuts and conversation. I miss church.2020-04-12 10.53.50

But I am so grateful that our leadership took this seriously. I am so blessed to have priests, bishops and patriarchs who said, wisely, this is not discrimination. This is for the salvation of the world, in a very real way.

So I battled frustration with audio feeds, and a bad attitude, and impatience and all the things I’d have confessed by now, and placed my icon of the Theotokos, my home censer and a vigil candle in front of the wireless router, next to a flashlight and a police scanner and a Yankee Candle.

2020-04-12 11.04.14And my living room filled with incense, and I clutched that dried and fragile branch, and I prayed.

I know this week won’t look like anything I want. But I pray I am open to its lessons, that I embrace this season of difficulty and sacrifice and anxiety and caution in a way that doesn’t waste it.

I haven’t kept the fast the way I would normally. I know I’m not the person I want to be at this point in the Lenten spring.

But next Sunday, however it looks, the sermon will be the same one it’s been for a thousand years or so: the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom.

And He both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. 

Lord, have mercy.

Holy Week, indefinitely

2019-04-28 00.19.26-1
Pascha 2019 at Holy Assumption Orthodox Church, Canton, Ohio

We’re about three weeks out from Pascha. 

But Holy Week started about 20 days ago, somewhere around March 11, when the bottom fell out of all the world. (On that date, NBA players tested positive, Tom Hanks tested positive, things started getting strange.)

How are you doing with all of this?

I, personally, am a bit of a mess. My husband works from home anyway, largely hangs out at home working on projects during the evening or the day.  Other than the absence of church on Sundays, his life hasn’t changed all that much. (Oh and he does have to put up with me pacing around the house.)

But for me? The entirety of my day has been altered, from the small (gym before work and store after) to the large (work, SAR training, church), there is nothing the same.

My heart hurts. I worry for my family. But my situation is easier than many. I’m not trying to explain to my child why graduation won’t happen, and an open house won’t happen, and there’s no track season you’ve trained for. I don’t have elementary kids climbing the walls amid e-learning lessons.

I’m praying more though. I feel closer to Lent than I have in a very long time. I was talking with my friend Connie from church tonight, on the phone, while we walked our dogs at a safe social distance of about 25 miles. We both commented on how this all feels so holy, so profound, and how we’re so very aware of the humans with which we share our spaces.

It feels like Holy Week, still a few days away.

Holy Week always feels like that, especially as you get to the end of it, to the solemnity of Great and Holy Thursday through the Feast of the Resurrection. Your heart is so close to heaven. There’s no room left for you. You have worked so hard to scrub your heart clean of the self-centered, the pride, the concerns for what doesn’t matter. You’ve literally unplugged your life, and oriented your entire being to the services, the hymns, the prayers, your family. And that, miraculously, makes the rest of everything SO clear. It all matters. It’s all right HERE.

This feels like that. I feel strangely, horribly and magically, connected to the woman at the grocery store, smiling and remaining away at a safe distance. We are, could be, might be, existential to each other.

Metropolitan Tikhon, the head of the Orthodox Church in America wrote this to our churches in mid-March:

The life we “laying down” now is our normal life, because these are extraordinary times. We are making a sacrificial effort, which is in keeping with the present season of repentance and ascetical striving… if we stay united, relieve one another of the burdens that this virus has placed on us, “if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”

As I was writing this post, we received word from our beloved Bishop Alexander that our Holy Week and Pascha would be held online, entirely.

Alone. Apart.

And yet together.

It’s crazy.

Our spiritual journeys are always ours, alone. And yet ours together. We often say that we are saved together, damned alone. And this seems counter-intuitive to what we are experiencing now. But it’s really not.

This effort, to save our neighbors, to protect our elders, to flatten the curve, requires that we do this in relative isolation. But we must do this together.

Lent this year is going to extend beyond its normal 40 days. And Holy Week may go on forever.

But as long as it takes, so we can all reach the feast. Together.



2020-03-17 18.55.55(Note: I always tend to write more during Lent, and given the current situation, this is kind of serving as a check-in for my brain.)

I tucked them in tonight, my mom and my grandmother. They’re both in that high-risk population we’re protecting right now and my family has them wrapped in bubble wrap.

I’ll social distance my butt off if it helps my grandmother see 98. But giving up church, during Lent and marching to Pascha, that’s really hard. And it’s hard to know that our plans for this holiest of times matter not. Not even a little bit.

I’ve been Orthodox for 16 years this Lent. My life, though so far from holy it’s embarrassing, has become measured by the seasons of the calendar: the fasts, the services, and the feast days.

I missed the Liturgy of the Presanctified gifts last week, because the news starting breaking about the virus here in Indiana. I made it to Liturgy on Sunday, and knew in my heart we were sliding in as the elevator doors closed. Yesterday, the bishops cancelled the Liturgy for more than a couple people behind the altar. And while we believe it is served “on behalf of all and for all,” it’s more comforting to be there.

Anyway, it’s a weird time.

I worked from my mom’s house the past two days, taking care of Oma while mom lined up her FMLA to stay home to care for our matriarch for the duration. Her home health aids can’t promise continuity of care with the virus spreading, so here we are. I’m glad to have mom home anyway.

So on Monday, in between updating our website and editing news stories and conferring with NPR regional editors, I helped Oma with her bath. I made her lunch and we visited.

It felt sacred.

Today, she came out and bugged me while I worked, a little kid behind a wrinkled smile with a mind always working and searching. I love her so much.

We started our day praying together, reading the Prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate. I taught her how to cross herself. Mom came home and we ate supper. Then we all prayed.

We read the daily prayers, the scriptures for this day in the calendar (And the Lord told Noah to build an ark, and to enter the ark…) We practiced making our crosses. And the old girl, whose anxiety was visible all day in her drumming fingers and her questions, melted away with a smile.

Lord of the Powers be with us, for in times of distress we have no other help but You.
Lord of the Powers, have mercy on us.

The prayer in time of trouble.

We can do this, she said to my mom. While you’re home. We can do this. I feel better.

As I pulled away in the dark, my chest tight with the worry of the unknown, I know that this service, these living room prayers amid the fears of COVID-19, is everything.

The calendar marches on, and we do what we can. The crocus are coming up in the grass, one of my very favorite things. Holy is everywhere. And I’m fortunate to share it.

Lent and Communion in a time of Social Distancing

(I know, it’s been a minute since I’ve written. It might be fine)

We’ve got a handful of cases of the novel coronavirus here in northeast Indiana. That number is going to explode soon, I’m sure of it.

Schools are cancelled, people are working from home, and there’s not a roll of toilet paper to be found in the lower 48.

I’m hoarding humans. You can have your Lysol wipes. I overbought those months ago (I’m famous for buying what I just bought the last three weeks in a row). I’m trying to figure out how to keep the virus away from 97-year-old Oma and 74-year-old Spam, both of whom are national treasures and beloved by all of us. I’m sure someone’s gonna get it, but I’d like it to not be them.

And I’m not even sure tonight what I’m trying to say. I know that we are communal creatures, even those of us who are introverted, standoffish and cranky-pants. And that’s fine. That’s how we’re made. But we don’t need to be is selfish, and awful. And that’s the part that just makes me nuts.

(Is it really so important to get a minor league hockey players autograph outside a locker room? Is a cruise that important right now? You know the answers to those questions.)

DSC_0067But we are designed for touch and ritual. We hug when we’re sad, and when we’ve triumphed. We’re collective and congregational, we meet and greet and hang out. We’re pack animals.

And now we can’t. At this time when we’re dying to hug our moms, to get on the plane and go see family afar, it’s the wrong choice. It’s dangerous.

For now, the Bulgarian Diocese of the Orthodox Church of America has not cancelled services. We’ll gather tomorrow, spread out amid our pews. Our senior citizens will be home (I hope). I won’t see some of my very favorite people who are immune-compromised. I’m not sure how I’ll approach the icons. I’ll miss the blessed bread.

It’s Lent. In about four weeks, we’re to gather by the hundreds and thousands in our parishes around the world and share the Light that is the True Light. We will pound on the doors and enter. We will commune. We will celebrate.

The odds are better than not, though, that we’ll not be together as we should be. That there will have been funerals and memorials and prayers of the gravely ill.  I have a feeling I’ll be praying in my icon corner, singing the hymns as they were not meant to be sung: alone.

As we prepared this week, I found myself feeling like I feel on Great and Holy Saturday, the day after a death, after all. You go to the store and you get what you need for the celebration, when it comes, but you really are just quiet, and mournful and with the people that you love.

You’re reverent. It feels heavy. And you’re serious. Because you know this means something, and it’s bigger than you and it’s old.

So maybe that’s it, that’s what I’m trying to say: this is bigger than us and it is old. For it is the most human of behaviors to hunker down with those we love, to hoard the warmth of our families, to share bread with our most intimate of communities, in times of stress and crisis. It is the most beautiful of human behaviors to open those communities to those in need, and to share with those who have not. It is what we did from the moment we discovered fire. It is what we do now, with space flight and the internet.

I guess I am going to try to take this as this year’s journey of Lent, as a way to find ways to share the communion, to extend the invitation, even though it might be through a cracked window or a phone call. I will prepare and protect, and I will recognize that this is a holy and sacred time, when emotions are raw and everything is unknown and primal.

Lord of the Powers be with us, for in times of distress we have no other help but You.
Lord of the Powers, have mercy on us.


(Thanks for indulging me these ramblings. I’m an external processor from time to time.)



The Stranger

When I backed out of my driveway this morning, I noticed a guest: a small juvenile robin sitting on our door frame. It’s mother chattered nervously nearby.

When A trimmed the hedges this evening, he maneuvered around the little one, again to the chatter and now with added dive-bombing activity of the parents.

I took Helo outside tonight, to take some pictures and enjoy the freedom of a cool-ish evening before summer heat settles in. It was a long week at TJTP and I needed a breather.

I knew what was coming in the afternoon, and I made sure to spend some time in the prayer corner Thursday morning. A reading from Matthew:

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

A visit from the Attorney General demanded coverage, and I sat in room filled with old sources, old friends, and new sources and new friends. I listened to the words of my Holy Scripture being twisted into knots to justify the unjustifiable, to explain the inexplicable.

Anyway, back to the yard.

So I am trying to both take a picture of Helo and throw his tug, and I hear a cacophony from the sycamore over the woodshed. It’s both robin parents, beside themselves. The baby is nearby.

Keeping a close eye on my dog, who would eat it in a minute, I try to find the bird. There it sits, tucked in the root of another tree on the other side of the yard. My heart is glad it’s there, and worries about the barn cat catching scent. There’s nothing I can do, other than allay the parents’ fears and keep Helo out of the way. I put him up as quickly as I can, keeping him moving quickly on the opposite side of the baby.

A natural instinct: protecting your offspring. The killdeer stagger and flop around to keep Helo away from their poorly-planned nest sites. The robins, they shriek in terror, clattering and calling to their beloved.

If I am filled with compassion for a baby bird, how much more so is my God. How much more so should I be for the parents approaching our southern border to find a twisted knot of American ideals and misapplied Scriptures.

They are of more value than many sparrows.DSC_0118 (3)

Don’t stand silent. Do what you can do to keep the predators away. Move them to safety if you can. Don’t just pray and cross your fingers that it will all work out because that is not going to work if you don’t do something.

If you are a Christian, this cannot be you. He’s been clear about it from the get.

Leviticus, Job, the prophetic books–It’s all over the Old Testament.

Then there’s this verse: Matthew 25:35

I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.

That’s unequivocal. Don’t pretend it only applies to the four-walled auditorium where you spend a couple of hours on Sunday.

It applies to all of us, out here in the open. In the yard. Under the tree. Along the border. At the ballot box.

I hope the robin is OK. I’m not going to stress them out by taking her from them.

2018-06-12 09.17.00-2


The beach ball of Holy Week

DSC_0809I love Holy Week. I love Pascha and the longer I’m Orthodox, the more I like Lent (or grow to appreciate what it does for me).

Some years, I’ve been able to unplug from life during Holy Week, coming into a rhythm that allows the week to almost seamlessly merge into the celebration of Great and Holy Saturday and Pascha. Those years I’m usually with my sister, godson and their family at Holy Assumption Orthodox Church in Canton, and I’ve taken days off and am plugged into only the cycle of services and my family there.

This year is not that year. A new job and new responsibilities means less time off. Teaching made for a Lent without one Presanctified Liturgy (one of my favorite services). And life backed up into Holy Week this year, putting me in places other than the pews on days I would normally be in church.

I had a sneaking feeling this would happen. I usually care A LOT and my frustration of missed expectation causes an anxiety and frustration that are the exact opposite of the mindset I tried to cultivate during the Lenten season. I tried to do better this year, and it helped.

I finally got to church tonight, for Holy Unction. I missed the Bridegroom matins services earlier in the week (though I subjected Huntington University’s CO342 to a video of the hymns. My class, my rules.)

As I stood before Fr. Andrew, my palms open to receive the holy oil, I almost felt as if time closed in around me. The feelings I battled all week, like trying to keep a beach ball under the water while sitting on it, dissipated and nothing else seemed to exist.

I never wanted to leave.

Those who know me, know how much anxiety the current political situation is causing me. You know that, for someone committed to truth-telling, the constant lying, gaslighting and nonsense is beyond a challenge. I have not done a good job of keeping what matters in the foreground. I surrendered Lent in some very real ways to that which I cannot control. Another beach ball: something too big to keep under wraps, and too buoyant to keep under control.

I have three more days of services left in this journey: the Liturgy of St. James with the marathon service of Holy Thursday (the 12 Passion Gospels) that takes us to the Cross, and the Lamentations service of Holy Friday leading us up to the Feast of the Resurrection, Pascha.

There will be some work in there, a rubble pile, weather to complain about and distractions aplenty. If you’re thinking of it, I’d welcome your prayers for continued growth and focus during the remainder of this journey.

The beauty of the weeks leading up to Pascha–the Sunday of Mary of Egypt, Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, etc.–is that I am constantly reminded that it is never too late, I am never so far gone that I cannot welcome the King.

After Fr. Andrew anointed my head, my throat and my palms with the oil, I kissed the Gospel book, the icon of the Theotokos and Christ, and I slowly left the santuary.

The journey of Holy Week continues.


What is on my mind when left unattended on Christmas Eve…

I’m alone right now on this Christmas Eve. Aa answered a fire page, so he’s either on his way to a family interrupted by their CO alarm, or a vehicle sliding into a nearby pond. The roads are terrible, which is why we didn’t go to church, and that made me sad.

The Nativity Vigil is one of my favorite services, but as I crept down the road on what should have been a 40-minute drive and was clearly going to take much longer than the time I allowed, I made the decision to head back home. I didn’t feel like being the reason for someone else’s fire page tonight.

I love the Nativity because it is a study in contrasts, as are all our Holy Days. Darkness gives way to the light. Morning dawns. Stars shine and lead the way. Pascha is explosive–the shock of the Resurrection. But the Nativity? It’s a gentle beckoning to come and see, the Giver of Life in a manger, a foreshadowing of His stone tomb. It was just a baby, after all.

I have a friend who has been sitting by her husband’s bedside for nearly two months now, awaiting his recovery from a near-fatal heart attack. He’s far from out of danger, and I pray for them (when I’m disciplined enough to get that task accomplished in my day). I have another friend who has received a bad diagnosis. Another whose mother just died. And still others who have also recently lost their mothers or are awaiting the loss of their mothers. Friends are recovering from divorce. Friends are awaiting justice.

I have friends who are so very sad. I am sad for them. I am sad with them.

For me, this has been an odd season. I started a new Job that Pays, and am back in the news business. I am happy and grateful for a chance to rejoin the fight with The Fourth Estate, especially in this difficult period in American history. My family is healthy. We are, metaphorically, inconvenienced by things like CO alarms. We are well.

We are not currently in the ditch, or hanging off the road too close to the water. I have an acute awareness this is not a permanent condition. We will be there, someday. Probably soon.

I do not know why there is suffering. And I have long-ago tried to stop offering the simple platitudes of “purpose” or “reason” or “God wanted him/her/them home.” But I really do wish it were that simple.

We all sit in the darkness, I guess. Sooner or later it gets scary. I want you to know we do not sit alone. We have people, and family; our tribes and our packs. If you are reading this tonight, this Christmas Eve,  you are not alone. I hope you see the daylight breaking, really soon.

Aa just sent me a text as I write. The car-into-the-water was a “disregard.” The disaster didn’t materialize. No one is at risk.

It’s not a big thing. But it’s something. It might be grace.

Merry Christmas to you all. May 2018 find you in a safe, peaceful and healthy place. God bless.

(Thank you for indulging my little blog post.)Icon of the nativity

I promise.

Here’s what I have. I ask you, my sisters and brothers, to hold me accountable, to add to this list, or to expand it in your own life where it applies.

Or ignore it completely. That always remains an option.

I want to go on record.

I promise to do my dead-level best to:

  • Love mercy
  • Do justly
  • Walk humbly with my God
  • Expand the Garden of peace beyond the borders of my own spiritual community whenever possible
  • Pray more
  • Love better
  • Do whatever I need to do to build stronger connections, maintain the bridges between us, and to repair the places that have eroded due to neglect and error.

I promise I will step in when I see injustice. I promise I will try to always stand on the side of the oppressed, the minority, the wounded, the suffering, and the wandering.

I promise I will help you find your words, perform your duty, carry your burden, and find rest.

I promise there is no such thing as alternate facts.

I promise you Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and the people who voted for them, are icons, made in the image of God.

I promise I will always try my best to tell the truth, to call out falsehood when I see it, and to encourage others to do the same.

I promise to continue to mean what I say every liturgy “we pray for this country, its ruler, its people, civil authorities and armed forces.”

I promise to speak out against greed and injustice.

I promise to listen to your stories.

I promise to have “Lord, have mercy” on my lips as much as possible.cropped-mg_6828.jpg


Thankful thoughts

For my peeps, whom I love. The extended version.


I posted Wednesday night on Facebook about how grateful I am for the people in my life. I meant it, and I want to expand a bit on it here.

Believe it or not, I am an introvert. I behave like an extrovert for TJTP, but I do not find big groups of people enjoyable or energizing. However, I really do love people on a personal level. I love hearing their stories, seeing their scars, learning from them and watching them grow.

And I have been richly blessed by the people in my life, with genuine connections to so many people. It makes me tear up sometimes when I think about it. (shhh don’t tell)

The main difference between Orthodoxy and all other strains of Christianity I had explored is literally “Communion,” the sharing in the Sacraments. The Mysteries of God really do connect us in a way that is mystical and sturdy. I find an instant connection with those in the Church.

I often say that training Helo is working for my salvation. I believe that quite wholeheartedly. Training dogs is humbling work. Admitting you don’t know how to communicate in a way that’s understandable is embarrassing to a professional communicator. It’s humbling to fail so much at something into which you are putting so much. It is always very hard for me to ask for help. It’s hard to put yourself out there, with your dog, in testing, or competition or work. It’s even harder when you fail.

Helo and I have failed. Many many times. But we’re getting better. We’re growing.

I know that I have had the support of my Church people, through prayer and encouragement. Thank you all for that. Thank you for asking me at coffee hour how training is going, for listening to me talk about the joys of human remains detection over donuts, for praying for our safety in our work, and for praying for me and asking about the TJTP. That job gets a bit lonely at times and I know I have your love there. It means a lot.

My family and non-dog/SAR friends have been pretty awesome as well. I have been a total chatterbox for two years now on the miracles and wonders of lying in the woods and waiting for a dog to come and bark at me. I have badgered many about coming to hide in holes and boxes, regardless of weather or conditions. I have moaned about our latest struggle and babbled like a brook about any success we have had. Please know I am trying not to take you all for granted. We can’t do this without you and your patience. Thank you. Thank you.

At some level too, not the Mystical one of actual Communion, but at a very deep and meaningful human level– a way that I think it should be for everyone somewhere in their lives– my dog people have saved me this year too. There has been a true communion of connection and support.

When you are passionate about something, and you find others who share that passion and that drive; and who are committed to helping you cultivate it more in yourself, it’s just extraordinary.

New friends whose paths I crossed at seminars or elsewhere, for whom I felt an instant “THIS PERSON needs to be in my life”; Facebook friends who have trained and worked for years, who are quick to answer questions, to offer tips and patience; my teammates who deal with me with unfailing patience and humor, for you all I am so thankful.

Such connections are a gift. To those reading this for whom this is true, thank you. Thank you for investing in my life, in my skills, in my dog. Thank you for caring enough to check on us, spur us on, pull us up when we’ve been down.

I light candles in the back of the Church for those whom I love and who are on my mind. It’s been a veritable forest quite frequently in recent months for all of you.