Alicia’s Good List


Hi there, readers!

For this post, I’m totally “borrowing” an idea from Tsh Oxendrider’s podcast My Good List. On the episode, Tsh interviews a guest and asks each one to share a thing, a habit, a piece of art, and a philosophy that is saving her life at the moment.

So, without further explanation, here’s my good list.

A Thing: Peppermint Bark—in all its various forms. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve had Ghirardelli squares in the house. Brad prefers the milk chocolate and I prefer the dark  so there’s no competing for our favorites. Each square is individually wrapped so they’re easy to tuck in a school bag, a purse, or in my hand. This past Friday, I also enjoyed The Cheesecake Factory’s seasonal Peppermint Bark Cheesecake. Total yumminess. Even better, I ordered the slice at the To-Go counter and had the server split the piece into two slices. I enjoyed one half Friday evening and the other half Saturday evening. A wonderful, decadent treat!

A Habit: My Advent Devotional from Regent College. A number of years ago, Regent published four Advent devotionals written by faculty, staff, and former Regent students. The readers follows the liturgical calendar. For instance, this year’s reader started on Sunday, December 2, the first day of Advent. The fourth volume is a compilation of the other three devotionals. Each day contains a morning and evening reading. I love the thoughtfulness and variety of reflections written by individuals from all over the world. As busy as life can get during this month, I find these reflections slow me down and allow me to enter into the Advent season. Unfortunately, only The Cradle and the Crown (the compilation devotional) is available for purchase.

A Piece of Art: My Brilliant Friend on HBO. Tsh uses a broad definition for art on her podcast and I’m taking that liberty as well. I mentioned in an earlier post how excited I was that HBO turned the book into a television series. I am slowly working my way through the episodes and enjoying them very much. Watching the show has been my treat after a long day’s work.

A Philosophy: “Notice what you notice.” I heard this phrase last spring at a workshop presented by Marilyn McEntyre at the Festival of Faith and Writing. I’ve since used it often in my classes and in my own life. As I coach my students in active reading and annotating, I’ve told them, “notice what you notice” as you read. Underline, highlight, make margin notes. Personally, I’ve found this phrase instructive as I read books, listen to podcasts, or as I watch television and movies. I’ve found myself jotting down snippets of text or ideas in my journal. Later, when I reread my journal, I come across these quotes and ideas and find myself mulling over them again. It’s been a meaningful way of  looking at life.


Thanks for reading. And, thank you for spending some time here this past year. As 2019 approaches, I plan to make some upgrades to this site. I’m excited to share more about these changes in January.

May your Christmas be filled with joy, peace, and love.


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Pre-Advent Meditation


Hello, readers,

The view out my window today is this: fallen leaves cover the ground. Only a few tenacious ones remain on the branches. Gray clouds fill the sky. It is a quintessential November day.

December is just a week away and with this turn of the calendar page I know what lies ahead–the three-week push to Christmas vacation,  parties and celebrations to attend, cards to be mailed and shopping to be completed, and decorating to be done. My mental and physical to-do list will be top of mind most days. I fluctuate between excitement and worry as I contemplate the approaching month.  

Advent begins Sunday, December 2. Each year, I look forward to the readings and symbolism of this church season. The waiting and emphasis on preparation seems so fitting, so appropriate. This week, however, I feel the need to do some pre-Advent priming.

Already, I feel the tug of distraction–absently scrolling through my Instagram feed longer than I intend to, oohing and ahhing over the Christmas decorations and food spreads or the fashionable holiday outfits. Distracting myself with streaming tv shows instead of editing a few more paragraphs. Not being fully present to conversations and moments because my mind is onto the next item to finish. The struggle is real.

So, I need this week to prepare for Advent. Kinda ironic since that’s what Advent is all about.

I need space to clarify what is important and worth my time, my energy, and my efforts over the next four weeks. To appreciate these ordinary days when the temptation is to look ahead and wish for the ones that “matter.” To seek moments of quiet and stillness where I can listen and discern the Spirit’s promptings.

It won’t be easy. Each day will hold unexpected surprises and interruptions that could easily derail my intentions.

This past week, while hanging out in Nashville with family, I read several chapters in John’s Gospel  from The Message. I love how Eugene Peterson translates these passages. Jesus’s realness and plain spokenness about who is he and who his Father is reminds me how I often complicate the message of the Gospel. In John 6, Jesus tells the people he is the Bread of Life. They become excited and also a bit confused, thinking Jesus will give them physical bread for the rest of their lives. Like Jesus’s audience, I get hung up on one detail and miss the larger message.

Then Jesus goes on to say this: Anyone who see the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.

That’s what I desire–real life, wholeness, eternal life. Part of the beauty of the Advent season is that it prepares us to accept the Incarnation–the gift of real life, eternal life through the birth of a baby boy.

May this last week of November be filled with moments of grace, peace, and joy as we ready our hearts for Advent.

With hope.

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Part II: The Shakeout Hike

Hi there, readers!  It’s starting to look and feel like fall in my neck of the woods. I love this time of year. This past week, I built a couple of fires in the fireplace in the evenings. I never cease to be amazed at how much joy and comfort burning logs can bring.

Now that it’s colder outside, I can’t imagine being on the trail; yet, I know that are some diehards still out there. And, there are some who willingly choose to hike during the fall and winter months!

If you remember from last time, I ended Part I: The Shakout Hike hinting there was a reason why I left the trail earlier than planned.

Well, here it is: my knees hurt.

If you were hoping for something more dramatic, I’m sorry to disappoint.

I knew the terrain would be hard, but I wasn’t prepared for the ruggedness of this section of the AT. Constantly navigating large rocks and boulders and hardly ever walking on a smooth, flat surface took its toll on my body. Early in the trip, Brad cautioned me to slow down and to take it easy, especially at the beginning of the day. I should have paid more attention to his advice. Hikers talk about acquiring their “trail legs” and, in hindsight, I saw the truth of this statement.

Going into the trip, I prided myself on my physical conditioning. However, that wasn’t enough for the constant ascents and descents of The Whites. Towards the end, it was a struggle physically and mentally whenever I faced a steep descent. Those were the worst. I knew I would feel every step.

Also playing into my decision to leave early was the fact that we were approaching Lincoln, NH, a town large enough for a bus pickup. And, to be completely honest, I was ready for my creature comforts—regular showers, clean clothes, not just ones rinsed in a stream or by hand, and some fresh fruits and vegetables.

The day before I left for home Brad and I hung out in Lincoln. We began processing our hike. During our conversation, I made an important realization: a week on the trail was about my limit.

Part of the purpose of this hike was to figure this piece out. We didn’t decide anything definitively, but one idea that continues to appeal, includes me joining Brad for a week whenever he completes longer hikes.

Over the past months, I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking and reflecting on what I learned.

One of the best parts of this experience came somewhat as a surprise. It wasn’t the beautiful views and scenery, although that was incredible, even breathtaking at times. It wasn’t the sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of the day or after reaching the summit of a mountain, although that was a incredibly satisfying feeling.

It was the people.

I loved seeing the variety of individuals who hiked the trail and meeting some of them at the shelters and hostels where we stayed. On our third night on the trail, we met two women from Denmark, the mother an accountant, the daughter a pastry chef. For the mom, hiking the AT was a dream come true, years in the making. Later in the week, we met others from Scotland and Australia, each traveling thousands of miles for this opportunity. We also met a 75-year-old man, retired from software engineering, attempting a thru hike.

One hiker, a retired, middle-aged Marine from Ohio, gave me valuable advice on more than one occasion when I said things like, Well, I should be able to… or  I thought I would be able to… “No,” he said. “Do your own hike. Each person’s hike looks different.”

Wise words that apply beyond backpacking.

My understanding of hospitality also expanded as a result of this hike. I love to welcome others into my home and share a meal or host a party. For me, practicing hospitality happens largely in that space. However, I saw another facet on the trail. The moving over to make more space for someone to sit on a flat surface rather than a pointed piece of rock. Experiencing trail magic, often provided by strangers, such as leaving cold, bottled water at the trailhead. Or The “Omelet Man,” whose setup was outfitted with an open-air tent complete with camp chairs, bananas, homegrown cucumbers, water, and orange drink. Every morning he cooked made-to-order omelets for hikers on the trail. Or Chet, whose hostel is part of his home. He doesn’t offer deluxe accommodations, but he welcomes those coming off the trail and provides them with a shower, a place to sleep, and the use of laundry facilities. This is the beauty of hospitality. It’s not limited only to my dining room table or home, but can happen anywhere. Often, it surprises.

Lastly, I witnessed another side of community on the trail that had nothing to do with the Church or a small group. I’ve benefited in many ways from the Christian communities I’ve been part of throughout my life. I wouldn’t trade those experiences. On the trail, I saw a genuine camaraderie amongst fellow hikers. They wanted to see each other succeed and meet their respective goals. They encouraged. They instructed. They challenged. Sometimes, Brad and I would stop and chat with a hiker for only a couple of minutes. In those brief moments, we offered encouragement and received it as well. A “passing of the peace” in a different way than on a Sunday morning.

My categories of Christian hospitality and community stretched and grew as a result of this hike. I became even more convinced that the Holy Spirit is always with us, guiding our conversations and our moments whether or not Christ’s name is verbally proclaimed.

I love that the Christian life doesn’t grow old or stale. I love that as a woman in her late forties, truth, beauty, and goodness continue to amaze and reveal themselves to me.

You bet I’ll go on another hike.


And, Some Other Stuff

So, I’ll admit that I have often wondered if it was worth it to spend the extra money on name-brand beauty and haircare products. I feel like I read mixed reviews about whether or not the $30 splurge on lipstick from Sephora is better than the $4 tube at my local CVS. Same with hair products.

However, recently, I spent some money and I can tell a difference.

The first product I bought was Bumble and Bumble’s Thickening Go Big Volumizing Treatment. I heard about it on a blog I follow called The Small Things. (I’ve written about Kate before.) I have fine hair that needs some pumping up each day. This product works and doesn’t leave my hair feeling like it has a ton of product in it. Since my hair isn’t especially long, I think I will get a good six months out of this bottle, making my dollars stretch even more.

And, yes, I did spend $30 on a tube of Pat McGrath lipstick from Sephora. Anna and I were in the city and had some time to spare. I told the woman what I was looking foran everyday color that wouldn’t dry my lips out, yet still have some staying power. I sampled a number of colors and landed on Realness 405 (Okay, I just love that name for a lipstick color!). The packaging was beautiful and the fact that it was made in Italy brought a smile to my face.

One other perk. Because my birthday is next month and I signed up for Sephora’s Beauty Insider club, I received two sample lipsticks and some lip gloss as my birthday gift. Each time I spend money at Sephora I earn points. Definitely a fun perk!



Blessings, readers. Until next time.

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The Shakeout: Hiking the Appalachian Trail, Part I


Hi there, readers! Can you believe that October is on the doorstep?

I wanted to post this piece two weeks ago, but have been delayed. A nasty stomach virus swept through campus this week, taking down faculty and students. I was one of her victims. It’s been interruptions like a stomach bug that have caused me to realize yet again that sometimes my plans don’t play out the way I intend.

Anyways, I’m glad to be back and to continue the narrative about my backpacking travels in July. In my last post I told you what I packed for my backpacking adventure, but I haven’t told you why I went in the first place. That’s for this time.

It was Brad who suggested backpacking.

Last year, we experienced our first taste of an empty nest—Jake away at college; Anna away in England. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed to find activities that we enjoyed together as we entered this new season of marriage. Already, we saw how easy it was to do our own thing, even as we lived under the same roof. We didn’t want to end up like roommates.

Since I first met Brad, I knew he loved backpacking. His sister and brother-in-law took him on a trip to the Upper Peninsula as a college graduation gift. (I wanted a watch when I graduated from college.) They hiked in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and braved the freezing cold temperatures of Lake Superior in May. When Jake and Anna were little, he took them on trips, individually and sometimes together. As a family, we backpacked for three nights in Big Bend National Park during one Spring Break. Since moving to the Northeast, Brad has been section-hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail during the summer months. Each spring, I can count on him to start brainstorming and planning his next trip. After his hike of 2017, he came off the trail wondering: Is there a way I can convince Alicia to join me?

He knew I loved the outdoors and wasn’t afraid of physically-demanding challenges so he didn’t have to convince me on those two fronts. Really, the convincing didn’t take long. My list of “must haves” was short: hot coffee in the morning, a variety of foods, and sense of clean before I crawled into bed each night.

This last one was a biggie for me. Taking a shower and fixing my hair each morning defined my daily routine for years. It mostly still does, but somewhere along the way, I relaxed my standards. My breakthrough came during a family camping trip when I realized that I didn’t need to complete so many steps each day. Pulling my hair back into a ponytail was fine; wearing minimal makeup (or none at all) was okay. I’m sure this discovery also overlapped with my deepening comfort in my own skin. Also, I realized I didn’t care so much what others thought.

For this trip, baby wipes, along with some rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab, did the trick for wiping away the dirt and the smell well enough before crawling into bed each night. In the mornings, I rinsed my face and put my hair in ponytail, ready for another day.

As for the hot coffee and decent food requirements, Brad knew of many backpacking websites and hiker’s blogs that contained all sorts of advice and suggestions. For my coffee, I used Starbucks Via packets with a spoonful of dehydrated cream. Not the gross packets you find languishing in hotel rooms. This cream comes from a farm in Indiana and is the full-fat variety. While my coffee wasn’t the same as freshly ground beans, it was certainly passable and brought me comfort on a number of levels. For dinners, we purchased prepared backpacking meals. Going this route isn’t the cheapest option available, but we enjoyed a variety of dishes. One of my favorites was a Thai curry made by Good To-Go. I noticed many of the through hikers using Knorr mixes (or something like that) as a base for their dinners—certainly a more affordable choice for the long haul.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t have gone on this trip if Brad didn’t have the backpacking experience he had. I knew the level of detail and planning he put into his trips and I trusted him. But we both acknowledged that the section of trail we were hiking (“The Whites”) was considered strenuous and difficult. Before we left, we established a contingency plan. If the trip was too much for any number of reasons, we would call it quits. We also agreed that if I wanted to head home early Brad should feel free to continue solo.

We promised each other: No guilt trips.

We called our trip “The Shakeout.” Which is actually a real term hikers use. It’s a test run of sorts, to see what we could handle, and to see if we even wanted to complete a longer hike.

For Brad and me, this shakeout hike served two purposes: to find something we could do together as we entered this new stage of life, and to see if we might be able to do some longer hikes—maybe the John Muir Trail in California—all 210 miles of it. We needed to see if we were prepared for the demands of being on the trail for a longer stretch of time.

Together, Brad and I completed 9 days on trail and 70 miles. I had hoped to go 15 days, but I’ll have the rest of the story next time.


And, Some Other Stuff

Since school started at the end of August, life’s been full. Despite long days, I’ve still found some time for reading and listening to podcasts. Here are a couple of my favorites.

I finished the final and fourth book The Story of the Lost Child in the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante. I’m glad I read the entire collection, even if the last book was a bit disappointing. Writing good endings is hard. I can’t imagine bringing a series to a close that spans decades of a character’s life. The novel lost its way towards the end, dragging and wandering its way to the finish. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend the series or that I’m not looking forward to the November 18 HBO premiere of My Brilliant Friend. The DVR will be set!

Over the summer I started to listen to Anne Bogel’s podcast What Should I Read Next. What a treat for readers. She interviews all sorts of people—authors, librarians, teachers, writers, and fellow readers. Her smooth voice and engaging manner make each episode a treat. My TBR list (books to be read) has grown exponentially since listening. Definitely worth checking out!

And, one last recommendation that might be perfect for your weekend. If you enjoyed reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Netflix turned it into a movie. Sounds like a lovely Friday or Saturday night to me!

Blessings, readers. 


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What I Carried: Packing for the Appalachian Trail


I mentioned in my last post that I was working on a more-detailed piece about my backpacking adventures in “The Whites” during July.

Once I started writing, it was hard to stop. Rather than try to cram everything into one really long post, I thought it would be fun to start with what I carried.

As someone who has been on a quest to pack less when traveling, backpacking requires even more preparation. Unless, of course, you’re Cheryl Strayed in Wild .

If you read the book or watched the movie, you know the scene I’m referring to. Cheryl’s pack weighed close to 70 pounds when she started the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)! In contrast, my pack weighed 24 pounds at the start of our trip. Fortunately, a few weeks into Cheryl’s hike, a veteran hiker helps her get rid of a ton of stuff and it’s a funny scene reading/watching what she packed and why she thought she needed what she did.


Brad and I aren’t hard-core ultralight hikers by any mean, but we are careful about our choices.

I watched with fascination the meticulous care and detail he poured into the planning of what went into our packs. Each item was weighed and entered on the master spreadsheet. Every gram, ounce, and pound mattered! Any superfluous weight was cut, such as the handle of my hair brush, which Brad sawed off and then filed to make smooth.

Certain items were non negotiables for me: a coffee mug, for instance. Mind you, it was made of stainless steel and relatively light, but drinking my morning coffee out of a mug was important. I also carried a small journal and a pen.  

I know most of you won’t be heading into the woods for your next vacation, but just in case you ever do or if you’re the curious sort, here’s what I carried for my nine days on the trail.

My wardrobe consisted of two pairs of shorts, two short-sleeve synthetic shirts, two pairs of underwear, two sports bras, a fleece, a rain jacket, a long-sleeve shirt, a pair of tights, a pair of flip flops, known as camp shoes, and three pairs of wool socks. The only piece of cotton clothing I packed was a tank top for sleeping. Fyi, backpackers generally don’t wear cotton.

I wore my flip flops around camp at the end of the day and in the mornings. In terms of socks, I actually only hiked in two pairs, alternating between the two. The third pair was designated as camp socks, which meant I only wore them once my feet were clean. Small luxuries like these make all the difference on the trail.

My entire toiletries fit into a quart-sized Ziploc bag—a hairbrush, my toothbrush and toothpaste, my contact case and cleaner, a tube of mascara that I only used twice, but felt compelled to pack nonetheless, some Chapstick, a travel-sized deodorant, and some face lotion and body lotion. In another Ziploc, I carried baby wipes for cleaning my body.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself about my lack of stuff, I marveled at how little I actually needed while on the trail. Sure, there were moments when I wished for a hairdryer or a different set of clothes, but I treasured the lightness and simplicity of my gear for this trip. In addition to my clothes and toiletries, I carried our food bag and tent poles in my pack.

One funny story I’ll  leave you with.

The day we came off the trail in Lincoln, NH, we stopped at a shopping plaza to pick up some lunch from the grocery store. A Dollar General was in the complex. Walking past, I noticed a clearance rack filled with shorts and tee shirts.

Suddenly, I needed to buy an outfit.

I desperately wanted to wear something other than hiking clothes for our town day and for traveling home. It took a bit of hunting to find the “right” clothes. One pair of shorts that I deemed passable Brad said no way; unless, I was looking for some unwelcome advances. 😦 I settled for a black tee shirt and a pair of blue-striped shorts. The shorts were snug. (I had to do the wiggle-my-hips-back-and-forth-trick to pull them up.) Thankfully, the shirt hung low enough, hiding the tight fit.

For me, I was happy to be wearing clean, non-hiking clothes. Thank you, Dollar General.


Tomorrow, my school duties resume, starting with faculty meetings. And, that means goodbye to summer.

I’ve still got more backpacking stories to share so keep checking back. I’ll be posting them throughout the fall.

Thanks for reading and enjoy these final weeks of August!


Posted in Appalachian Trail, Back to School, Backpacking, Hiking, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

What I’m Up To This Summer

It’s hard to believe July is almost over. As August approaches, I know my days of summer and free time draw to a close. With the couple of weeks I have left before school responsibilities begin, I plan to enjoy and savor each day.

Today, the lingering humidity of the past couple of weeks lessened. I could take hundreds of days like this one—not too hot and perfect for being outside.

What I’ve Been Up To

Once school ended and faculty meetings concluded at the end of May, I turned my attention to preparing for my trip to Vancouver, BC. The visit was a mix of work and play. I should clarify that I don’t consider promoting Everywhere Godwork” in the normal sense of the word. That said, I did spend many hours prepping my talks and preparing for my workshop. I led a Contemplative Journaling Workshop for a group of women one night and spoke at two different events at local churches about making space for God in everyday life. In between my speaking gigs, I spent time with my dear friend Jacquelyn who hosted me and spoiled me, and other good friends from my family’s Vancouver days. I loved all of it.


Speaking at Granville Chapel

The weather could not have been more perfect. In fact, by BC standards, it was considered hot on a few days. I soaked up the beautiful views of the coastal mountains and enjoyed revisiting a favorite walking/running path that was near our old home. For the first time, I attended a Bard on the Beach production and saw an excellent performance of MacBeth. The setting could not have been more perfect with the mountains in the background along with the setting sun.


A view from Stanley Park


I was particularly grateful for the chance to reconnect with friends over meals or cups of coffee and tea. Many rich conversations! I left for home with a heart full of gratitude for friendships that can pick up where they left off and for the positive reception I received in terms of my book. It was an affirming trip on many levels for me.

A week later, our family headed to Michigan to celebrate the fourth of July and to have a reunion. The extended Brummeler family continues to grow and we form a small crowd when we are together. Lots of laughing, eating, swimming, tubing, and general fun when we gather. We left thankful for our time and already are making plans for next year.

Anna enjoys a peaceful pontoon ride.

This is my kind of tubing.










The Appalachian Trail

Yes, this was also part of my summer! This trip was many things for me and you’ll have to wait a bit longer to get the full story. The short version is that Brad and I hiked for nine days together. I covered 69 miles of the AT, specifically a section in New Hampshire known as The Whites. I climbed 5 mountains, experienced 2 different hiker hostels, acquired a trail name—Stout Heart—and saw my first bear in the wild. Brad stayed on the trail for another five days and hiked a total of 122 trail miles.

At the top of Mt. Cube

The waterfall on Mt. Moosilauke.










I had no idea what to expect being on the trail for a longer chunk of time, but suffice it to say, I’m glad I went and I will go again. I’m working on a piece that delves more deeply into some of my experiences and reflections along with why I even agreed to the trip in the first place. Stay tuned!

My Writing Life

I’m writing. Let’s start there. I still don’t have a clear sense of what book #2 will be about, but I’m trusting this will take shape. I have ideas, but nothing firm, yet. Mainly, I’m focused on writing new content this summer. One of the best pieces of advice I heard at this year’s Festival of Faith and Writing came from another writer who also teaches. She said she uses her summer months to write new material, finding her creative juices flow more freely when she isn’t teaching. As soon as I heard this, I felt like a lightbulb clicked. During the school year, I struggle enough as it is to write with any regularity. Writing new stuff feels especially daunting. But, I can revise and edit. So that’s been my goal this summer: crank out some pieces that I can tinker and play with once school resumes and go from there.

My Reading Life

I’ve read some great books this summer and hope to finish a couple more before the start of school.

I loved Birthing Hope by my friend and colleague Rachel Marie Stone. So many powerful, gripping, and moving stories from her life, each vividly described and well written. It’s the kind of book that I want others to read and will be on my list to give as a gift.

I read two YA novels—Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson and Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata. Both of these books are summer novels my students have to read. Each won the Newbery Gold Medal and are compelling, engaging stories. Can’t wait to hear what my students think.

It’s also been the summer of memoir. Rachel’s book falls into this category as well. I read The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan and I’m almost finished with The House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. The former was recommended by Shauna Niequist on one of her podcasts. I read most of it on my return flight home from Vancouver and it captivated me. Meaning, I didn’t watch any of the free movies I could have watched on the airplane. I read. The latter was given to me by Jacquelyn. Amanda is a Canadian author who was taken captive in Somalia while on an reporting assignment. It’s her story of coming to travel the world as well as surviving her fifteen-month ordeal as a hostage. Very good and gripping.

Then, because I thought I would actually read at night after a day of hiking, I used my library’s online catalog to download the second book in the Neopotalian series by Elena Ferrante entitled The Story of a New Name. Wrong! I didn’t read at all while on the trail. A while ago, I listened to the first book in the series My Brilliant Friend and loved it. While busing and training my way back to New York after my backpacking trip, I quickly read the second book.

Now, I’m reading the third book called Those Who Love and Those Who Stay also on my phone. I know people have been reading books on their phones, tablets, Kindles, you name it, for years. But, these two books were a first for me. I have to say, I really like it for certain situations.

I love that I have always have something to read wherever I am—waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting for my car’s oil change, waiting in line, you name it. Anyways, if you like anything Italian and you like stories that explore themes of family, friendship, love, and loyalty, you will enjoy this series.


Thanks for reading. I hope your August is filled with some good books, some time outside, some delicious meals, and some meaningful conversations. Leave a comment and say hello!

Posted in Backpacking, Books to Read, Everywhere God, Family life, Good Reads, Writing, Writing Conferences | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Sane Approach to Food


Yesterday, while returning from a family weekend in Michigan, I read my latest copy of Real Simple.

To my delight, I discovered a refreshing piece entitled “Balance: The Clean Eating Rules to Follow and to Break.” Finally. An article that handles food in a way that doesn’t heap loads of guilt on the reader and make certain foods taboo.

The main point: Mom was right. Moderation in all things. Also, food meets more than a physical need in our bodies. It has emotional and mental components to it as well.

Hello, anyone ever stress eat?

Yes, I want to eat healthy and fuel my body with foods that will keep it going for many years to come. Yes, I’m grateful to live in an age where I benefit from food-science research and know that dark leafy greens are loaded with antioxidants that fight many types of cancer. Yes, I care about the planet and want my food to come from nearby (New York for me), not Chile or California.

But, I also don’t want these desires to cause me to miss out on the pleasure of food and the enjoyment that comes when it is shared with others around a table. I don’t want to “ban” certain foods from my diet and say, “I will never eat that.”

One of the best lines in the article said, “Don’t be overly rigid.” I couldn’t agree more.  

Which was why over the weekend I ate dessert after lunch AND after dinner. I enjoyed potato chips and dips. I ate foods I don’t eat all the time. And that’s just fine. Since I don’t do this very often, these splurges don’t affect my overall eating habits and I shouldn’t look back at all.

On Monday afternoon, after most of the family had left, I sat outside with my sister-in-law and my nephew’s wife. I sipped white wine and ate potato chips at 3:30 pm. We talked and relaxed. We went for a swim. Later, we assembled a dinner from some of the leftovers.

I came away from the weekend grateful—for the making of new memories with loved ones and for the sharing of stories, for times of silliness and times of seriousness, for the beauty of God’s creation so evident on Clifford Lake. And, I’m grateful for the part food played in all of it.


Posted in Celebrations, Family life, Food and Hospitality | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment