The What If Questions: The Thanksgiving Edition

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about story concepts. Every story starts out as a concept which can be a what if question. The answer to the question becomes the story. Here's an example of a story concept: What if a boy didn’t know he was a wizard?

The answer is the story of Harry Potter.

In the post, I extended the story concept to our lives. When we start asking what if questions in our lives, the answers lead us into a more exciting life story. Here's a few examples:

What if I went back to school? 

What if I stopped complaining?

What if I quit my job?

At the end of the post, I challenged my readers to ask what if questions for their lives and to explore the answers. In my Live Your Best Story Workshop, we flesh out the what if questions so participants know the next steps to answer the questions for their lives.

But, this week, I'm thinking about what if questions in a different light. I'm thinking in the past tense.

What if I never contacted Brian to speak at the youth retreat several years ago?

What if we didn't drive to London, Ohio to adopt a pug we hadn't seen or met?

What if I didn't move back to Ohio a few years ago?

These what if questions are tough. I don't have good answers for most of them. But, for all three of these questions, there is a common theme. I can't imagine my life if those things didn't happen. I don't want to think of a life without Brian or without Zelda the pug (go ahead and laugh at me). I can't imagine a life where I don't have the freedom and ability to pursue writing.

These past tense what if questions put me in a mood of gratefulness and of thanksgiving. I'm thankful for the life I have- my husband, my family, my crazy pug, my friends, my job(s), and my faith. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week in the United States, I challenge you to think of the past tense what if questions. I challenge to be grateful for where you are in your life right now, even if you are in a rough stretch.

What are you grateful for this week?

The Moral of the Milk Bone Story

Our pug, Zelda, is stinkin' adorable. If you don't believe me, check out this post. Her cuteness has won over many people, including my parents, Brian's parents, our sisters, and most importantly to Zelda, our mail lady.

Every day our mail lady delivers our mail to the slot in our coat closet. On the way, she walks by the living room window and greets Zelda. She calls her cutie and says hello while Zelda barks back. The mail lady puts our mail in the slot, but first, she slides a milk bone in the slot for Zelda. She has given Zelda a milk bone every day without fail for months.

Zelda has learned over time that the person who calls her cutie gives her a milk bone. She hears the mail lady come and runs to the coat closet door. If it's open, she walks into the closet and grabs the bone out of the slot, sometimes destroying our mail in the process. If the door is shut, she waits until we get home and then begs by the door for us to open it so she can get her daily milk bone.

Not only does Zelda retrieve her milk bone every day from the mail slot, but she also has developed a funny habit. Some days when she isn't hungry, she will hide or bury the bone somewhere, usually under blankets in our bed, on the couch or the spare bedroom. The picture above is a bone she hid in our bed. Later in the day, Zelda will uncover the bone and eat it. Zelda's adventures with milk bones are fun to observe and make us laugh.

Brian and I agree it's very nice of the mail lady to give our dog a milk bone every day. Although it may be a small act of kindness, it's unnecessary and we are grateful for a mail lady who loves our dog. Because of this, we have casually mentioned picking up a gift card to Starbucks or somewhere for our mail lady as a sign of our appreciation. Unfortunately, Brian and I never remember our idea at the right moment and so far we have failed to follow through on our idea.

This week Zelda and I noticed our mail slot was missing something important - the milk bones! And then I saw we had a different mail person this week. Zelda and I hope our regular mail lady is simply on vacation. But, at the moment, we have no idea if her route was switched or if she is taking time off.

Why am I telling you this ridiculous story? Because if our regular mail lady doesn't return, Zelda and I will be upset. Zelda will be upset at the lack of milk bones. But, I will be upset at myself for never learning my mail lady's name. I will be upset for not following through and showing her appreciation for treating my dog so well.

The truth is I don't know my mail lady's story or much about her. But, I do know small acts of kindness can go a long way. They did for Zelda and I. And I know I could have made her day pretty easily, but I might have missed the opportunity to make someone smile. And that's sad.

So today I encourage you to remember the moral of the milk bone story:

Do Something Nice Before Time Runs Out



It's Good to Be Home - A Return to Normalcy

The nights are cooler and longer. The school busses are roaring through the neighborhood. Pumpkin beer is on the shelf  in the grocery store because the summer season is transitioning into fall. But, after a hectic summer schedule, I am grateful for the transition to fall and into a regular routine.

I love my summer of mission work, camp, and vacation. It’s always fun to visit new places and have new experiences with youth, friends, and family. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. But, there is also something to be said about returning home and falling back into a regular routine.

Brian and I returned home from our last trip this summer about two weeks ago on August 11. In two short weeks, I’ve caught up many areas that took back seat to the summer craziness.

At work, I am almost ready for the start of the program year on September 9. We resume regular youth meetings along with fun outings throughout the month. I feel confident and am excited for the year to start.

At home, Brian and I are organizing, simplifying and cleaning the house. On Sunday, we rearranged and cleaned our spare bedroom. In the process, we gave an old futon away, trashed some junk, and made a pile of books and dvds to sell or trade. We also bought a new queen size mattress and frame after a few months of saving up. And in the next week or two, I plan on tackling the project of a kitchen reorganization. I love organizing and simplifying, especially when there is free time to do it.

Along with house projects, Brian and I are enjoying a regular schedule where we have free time to spend with each other, our friends, and our family. For two straight weekends, we have spent time with good friends. That doesn’t sound like an incredible feat, but we haven’t had two back to back weekends free in months. The other day, Brian and I walked to the nearby park and finally used the tennis rackets I bought for Brian’s birthday in June. Of course, we are spending lots of time playing and walking with the pug as well.

Finally, I am back into a weekly routine of writing and editing. After several months away from blogging, inspiration and motivation returned for me to blog on a once a week schedule. I also am working through first draft edits of a novel. Honestly, I haven’t decided next steps yet after first draft edits, but I’ll figure it out when I get there. I also am writing my next nonfiction book which examines the radical life of Jesus and the implications for our lives as Christians. After little progress for a couple of months, it feels great to move forward in my writing projects.

I am a person of routine and schedule and so, I am excited for the fall season. I am excited to be back in a normal life rhythm.

What about you? Are you excited for the beginning of a new season? Why or why not?

Pug Love - Four Life Lessons from Zelda the Pug

Roughly six months ago, Brian and I adopted a two-year old pug Zelda. Brian is a dog guy. He wanted a dog since we moved into our house a year ago. I love dogs, but wasn’t ready to adopt until spring of 2012 when life calmed down a bit. By that time, we were pretty set on finding a Boston Terrier. But, we got an email from Brian’s mom who knew of a pug that needed a new home in late February. We drove to London, Ohio and immediately fell in love with Princess. We took her home that day and renamed her Zelda. (We couldn’t have a pug named princess!) Six months later, I’m so glad we adopted Zelda. She has brought joy, laughter and smiles into our home. And Zelda reminds me daily of some important life lessons.

  1. Take Daily Walks - Zelda takes at least two twenty-minute walks every day in our neighborhood. She loves getting outside, stretching her legs, barking at other dogs, and chasing squirrels. Zelda’s walks have forced us to get moving every day and to meet our neighbors.
  2. We Need Play Time - Zelda loves to play with balls, frisbee, angry birds and other stuffed animals. Sometimes Zelda gets so excited during play time she does pug sprints throughout our house. If Zelda doesn’t get her play time, she becomes a pain in the butt and annoys us until we play with her. It’s not unlike me. When I get busy and stressed, my play time disappears. Without time to play and have fun, I become more irritable.

  3. Cuddle More - Zelda is a great cuddler. When it’s naptime, she cuddles with you on the couch or in the bed. She will sleep under the covers next to you if you let her. Zelda knows that cuddling and showing affection is important for any relationship. She reminds to give lots of hugs and to tell my family and friends I love them.

  4. Enjoy Life - Zelda loves her life of playing, sleeping, eating, and walking. She takes pleasure in simple things. With Zelda in the house, I smile more because she’s adorable and lots of fun. I remember to enjoy life every day, especially the simple things like a walk to the park or a meal with Brian.

It’s funny how much a twelve pound pug changed my life and routine. But it’s for the better and I can’t imagine life without the little monster.

What has changed your outlook lately?

Have you learned anything new from a surprising source?