For those in the military these three little letters are the most fearful. KIA is certain. There is closure. Pain and questions but a finality that comes with knowing. MIA is full of uncertainty, vague “what ifs” and imaginations that run quickly to the darkest places. It is dread and hopelessness. It is holding your breath and not knowing how you can keep breathing. It is wondering how the world keeps revolving and how others can go on with their seemingly happy little lives. It is grief wrapped in hope and tied with exhaustion.

It has been 2 years since I posted. I doubt anyone noticed. It’s not like I ever built a platform with followers who waited for my brilliant insights on life and the meaning it may hold. I write today as I always have. First, so my thoughts will form some kind of order and second, so those thoughts can be set free to generate thoughts in anyone who trips over this obscure corner of the internet.

The world has been more than a little crazy the last 2 years. What started as 2 weeks to flatten the curve, a noble if naïve, attempt at social responsibility and sacrifice, turned into months of isolation, fear, depression, and virtue signaling. Personal choices became common property and herd mentality spread faster than head immunity would ever manage. People got sick. Some got better and some were lost. The grief and emotions touch everyone. Life as we knew it was gone and it’s not coming back. It was killed in action and inaction.

But there are still the MIA. They are living in fear and haven’t taken off the masks. Some are so weighed down by the isolation that hopelessness has become their only companion. There are children who have never known a normal day in the classroom. There are millions of high school and college students who have no sense of closure or accomplishment because the ceremony closing one chapter and opening the next was abruptly deemed dangerous to the health of their community. There are people who are grieving the losses of loved ones they could not comfort in their final hours because someone else decided it was best for them to be kept away. They are holding back from fully entering life again. They are missing. They maybe back at work or finally in classrooms. You see them in the grocery store, hesitant and colorless. They move with a heaviness that comes from the spirit and weighs on the heart.

As the world and our country try to recover from a global crisis, hope is still under attack. Inflation, shortages and wars hammer at the glimmers of hope crushing them as they try to break through.

You may be wondering where I’m going with this and why after 2 years of silence I would choose to restart with such a heavy post. No, bright announcement that the site has been redesigned and the “brand” relaunched. In reality, no one cares if a site is redesigned except those of us who get very vocal every time Facebook is rearraigned. No one notices the silence, just the noise when it gets to be unbearable.

But the truth is, this is where every renaissance starts. There is an old saying that “hard time produce strong men, strong men produce good times, good times produce weak men, weak men produce hard times”. I believe we are facing hard times ahead. There was an article in The New Yorker in July of 2020 that pointed out the growth in society that came after The Black Death Plague. It was called The Renaissance. Out of the Dark Ages came the Age of Enlightenment.

But for those who are MIA, there must be a rescue mission. Those who care about restoring them to their lives and loved ones have to be willing to risk their own well being, leave their comfort and seek out the lost. Some are hard to find. They have been lost and wandering in the fog of fear so long they can’t see a way out. Be a light that leads them home. Some are trapped in a prison of their own making, find a key to set the captives free. Each and every one of them need hope.

I need hope. I am one of the MIA. I go to work and church. My book club meets every month and I see my grandsons most weeks. The movies and dinners out have resumed. Not concerts yet as they still have restrictions I can’t meet. But the grayness of life, the constant struggle not to get ahead but to just maintain, to keep lifting others while I feel myself sinking…to be missing from my own life. Looking in the mirror, I don’t recognize myself anymore. I need a personal renaissance now more than I ever have. I need to come out of the Dark Ages and into the Light. I need the energy of invention and creativity, the strength of life determined to go on not in spite of hard times but because of them.

So, I’m just going to quietly leave this here. Most rescue missions for MIA’s never make headlines. In fact, covert, quiet operations is how they are most successful. Those with the skills go after those in need of rescue. If you are MIA in your own life, I will be here. Maybe in a fog of my own, but still reaching out for those who are seeking. We will find out way of the darkness. We will find our way into the light. We will find our way home.

“To seek and to save that which was lost…”

Fall Back: Are you ready?

The air changes in the fall. Becoming crisper and thinner, it has a way of invigorating you while tempting you to sit quietly with a cup of hot chocolate or the harbinger Pumpkin Spice Latte. For many it marks the end of summer, freedom and flexibility. Packing away shorts and bathing suits, sweaters and scarves take their place in the drawers. Trips to the beach give way to bonfires. For others, it marks the beginning of winter with its structure and compressed expectations.

Farmers watching the sky for rain, check the temperature and the forecasts, anticipating the timing of harvesting crops. Too soon and they aren’t ready. Too late and the frost or storms may wipe out a year of work. Anticipation shadowed by fear. The trees dropping their leaves and fruit remind us that time passes quickly. The shorter days prompt us to be more deliberate in our use of the light hours.

For teachers, students and parent, fall means back to school in one form or another. Back to carpools and lunch boxes, back to missing homework and permission slips, back to routine and rhythm that will just be established by the time Christmas break rolls around and everyone lets out a sigh of relief. The books and classes, a challenge to grow personally and mentally while the fields lie dormant and still.

Fall Back has been the easy way to remember the artificial change of the clocks. The illusion of an extra hour of sleep, an extra hour of daylight in the morning, an extra hour of life, gives a sense of cheating nature and getting just a little ahead of the game. Make no mistake. It is a game.

Trust Falls have been around since team building became a thing. The idea of falling backward and trusting your team or partner to catch you revealed a lot about who was trustworthy and who wasn’t. For those with serious trust issues, knowing who literally had your back made all the difference when it came to the moment of falling.

Fall itself is untrustworthy. One morning you bundle up to face the chill of the day only to find yourself shedding the sweater because the warmth of the afternoon lures you back for one more trip to the beach. Unexpected days off from school tease with the freedom of summer. Leaves change colors and fall to the ground without questioning if the ground will catch them, if they are supposed to fall, or if the wind that shakes them is for their good or an attack. Just as you start to get settled, the wind blow through stirring up those leaves and hinting of snow to follow. Fall by nature, no pun intended, is unsettling and settling at the same time.

Fall invites questions. It’s uncertainty makes us prepare and second guess our preparations. Plans are at the whim of the weather, and like the weather, subject to sudden change. Without fall, the fields and the trees do not rest, trust is not tested, and the stark contrast between summer and winter would be vicious, leaving many caught unprepared. Are you ready to catch those who trust you to be there for them? Do they keep looking over their shoulder to make sure you are there or do they just know you are?

As sure as the leaves fall, you will fall. Those you love will fall. Those you look up to or count on will fall. The days will get colder and shorter. Bring your harvest into the barn. Open the books and your mind. Glance over your shoulder and see who is there to catch you. Put on your sweater and go for a walk. Breath in the crisp air and if you find a big pile of leaves…fall back.

I’ll put the kettle on…

If you watch much BBC you will hear a line repeated often…”I’ll put the kettle on.” Many times it’s preceded by “fancy a cup of tea?” For those not familiar with this social cue, it translates to “this conversation is going to need some time…time for the water to boil…time for the tea to steep…time for the tea to cool enough to drink and time to actually drink the tea.” It’s an invitation to sit and share what’s on your mind.

For the past 2 years, I have been struggling. Having moved to a new town in a new state and knowing only a couple of very busy people, making new friends has been on my list of things to do. My new town is a fairly old, established town. The house we bought is 120 years old. Most on our street are newer. They are right around 100 or so. The few neighbors we have spoken with have lived here most of their lives and are now much closer to the end than the middle of those lives.

I have been on the lookout for opportunities to connect with like minded people. I love reading and thought the library was a natural place to start. The day I walked in to get a library card, the woman at the desk asked me if I had my state issued driver’s license. I said I didn’t. As she turned her chair away from me to go back to reading her magazine she said “come back when you do.” I guess having the actual deed and title to the home we own 4 blocks from the library and a wallet full of ids wasn’t going to get me a library card.

The next attempt was reaching out to the historic society. After all I have a 120 year old Queen Anne Victorian house. I thought Renaissance Wife would be a natural corporate sponsor for the historic museum in town so I filled out the application and sent in a check. Crickets…. but the check was cashed. On their Facebook Page and website, they listed a book club. “This has to be my on ramp,” I thought. I bought the book. I read the book. I went to the museum the night of the book club. No one was there. Not even a sign on the door saying it had been canceled or moved. Nothing. I posted my experience on the Facebook event…more crickets. And, the book was about manners holding polite society together!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I tried a women’s Bible study group. I went on line, created an account, registered for the group, paid the $13 for the book and was excited. These had to be my people, right?

Not so much. When I arrived there were 5 women all focused on their cell phones. One looked up and asked me if I was new. When I replied I was, she told me to sign the sheet on the clipboard because she sends out an email with information each week. Ok. Signed in and sat down. Over the next 10 minutes or so 12 more women came in and sat down in the circle of chairs. Not one said hello to me. When the women who sends out the emails started the study, no one offered to share their book. After an hour and a half, she closed in prayer. I stood up, put on my coat, picked up my purse and made my way to the door passing 4 women on the way. Not one said a word to me. Nothing….

A week later, having heard nothing from the email lady, I emailed the church and asked for a refund for my registration. They processed it very quickly with no questions asked.

All this to say, I am confused about how to connect with people in this day and age. I admit freely that I have some old fashioned ideas when it comes to hospitality. I believe in making people feel welcome when they enter my environment, in being where I say I’m going to be and that a women’s Bible study should be the most gracious place for a new person to find themselves. I believe in putting the kettle on. I can’t believe hospitality is dead. It can’t be.

While I have been writing, I have had a cup of Daily Beauty Blueberry Lavender tea. You see, even if we are not in the same room, when I write I feel like we are having a chat and you are so kindly listening to my heart. Having a cup of tea with you is a very deliberate action. My tea kettle in on the first floor of our home with my office on the third floor. I waited for the kettle to boil, brought the mug up two flights of stairs, and logged in to talk to you about my heart. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to “listen”.

Now, it’s your turn to talk. I’ll put the kettle on…how do you take your tea?

The Kitchen: The Heart of the Home

Make it special

Holidays seem to come with the expectation of home cooked dinners, desserts and specialties reserved for once a year. Perfecting creations without someone to teach you and opportunities to practice can put added pressure on inexperienced or under trained cooks. Many times the tradition was passed on but the knowledge wasn’t.

Years ago, I tried to make divinity fudge. My grandmother had made it every year for Christmas. She passed away without teaching me her secrets. Last month, I spent an evening teaching my grandson my recipe for Cowboy Chili. I sat on an old red kitchen stool and talked him through each of the steps. When every step had been completed and the chili was simmering, we sat at the kitchen table and talked through it again as he wrote the recipe in a Moleskine Recipe Journal. From memory, he was able to list the ingredients, amounts and process for each step. At the end of the evening, he told me how much he loved cooking and spending time in the kitchen with me.

Make it fresh

When I think of Renaissance in the kitchen, my friend Misty is one of the women who come to mind first. A single mother raising sons in the beauty of North Carolina, she has built a company literally from the ground up. Growing her own produce to supply her products and provide for her family, she relies on her knowledge of gardening, weather, and preserving with skills most have lost or never had.

Make it your own

Maybe you know how to make divinity. Turns out my grandson does and is going to teach me! Maybe you know how to make Cowboy Chili. If not, I will be doing an instructional video soon. Maybe you know how to make jam from the produce of your own garden, if not you can order it from Misty at Ma’am’s Hot Jam. My favorite is the Blueberry Seven Pepper Jam. It’s so good on fresh hot biscuits or pork chops or goat cheese with crackers.

Don’t be afraid of your kitchen. If you don’t have a grandmother or mother to teach you, it’s ok. You can still learn to make special dishes and memories. Look around our kitchen for ideas and inspirations and links to learning. Then get creative and make something new!