Wednesday, July 31, 2019


At the beginning of June we set off. 

First a flight to Miami, then to Heathrow. From there we rented a car, took the Chunnel and drove to Bruges, Belguim.  From Bruges we drove to Flanders Field, then headed to  Falaise, France. While in Normandy we visited Omaha Beach, Mont Saint Michele, Paris then drove back to London, this time by ferry via Dover, cliffs and all.  We disembarked in Dover, drove to London and after a day and a half parted ways at Heathrow. Some of us were flying back to the U.S., others continuing on to Zurich, then Belgrade then Vienna then London again, eventually taking a direct flight from Gatwick back to Orlando. 

Upon return we left again, this time to Satellite Beach then back to Orlando, in order to get ready for our road trip to Fort Collins, Colorado via the shortest Google Maps route - about 1900 miles - which we devoured in three days. That's how long it took us to drive back to Orlando, except we stopped to see friends in Allen, Texas that added another 100 miles, totaling the return to a 2000 miles. Today we are back in Orlando (at least our bodies are) and all I can think is,

We were ALL OVER THE MAP! Literally. 

I am exhausted just writing out our itinerary, not to mention everything else. The activities, events, people, relationships,... It would take me months to narrate the rest and I still couldn't even begin to capture the fullness of emotion, the sights, the afterglow...

There is a feature in our GPS I frequently used while travelling, to find where exactly I am on the map. I can wander off any distance in any direction, but when I touch the RE-CENTER, it automatically zooms me back to where I am, with the path to the chosen destination highlighted right before my feet, so to speak..

Sometimes life takes us way outside our natural borders – geographic, personal, emotional, relational. We are all over the map and the end result of the process can be supremely exhausting and paralyzing. I found myself in that state this morning; I don't know what to do, and it's not for the lack of things needing to be done, mind you! Plenty to do, but where to start?

RE-CENTER seemed to be just the right word for the worn out, overwhelmed, don't-know-which-way-to-turn-anymore moment. It zoomed in to the place where our life starts.  Back to the center. Back to the core. Back to the heart.  

Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for all of life springs from there. Proverbs 4:23

Friday, July 12, 2019


We've bumped into Emmet (Emmet, like Emmet Brickowski from LEGO Movie, but I was too scared to clarify) on our morning walk. Ever-cheery, bursting at the seams with health and energy he was loading up the van, when I made a mistake and did a Floridian thing, making small talk by complaining about the weather, already sweltery and it wasn't even 8 AM.

This is NOT hot! Emmet roared.

It isn't?!?!! I was shocked both by the roar and the meaning of it. What is YOUR standard of heat?

He pointed at the van, This doesn't have an A/C and the other day I measured the temperature and it was 114. And guess what, I drank a lot of water and I was just fine.  I am 75 and don't even take an aspirin!  

You look great, 
I couldn't dispute.

And you would, too, if you do these three things.  Before I knew whether I should be offended, he lifted one finger in the air as if to indicate number one:

Stay active -  as you are .... 

It serves me well to be served an unsolicited sermon of sagely advice for my whining, I kick myself on the spiritual shin, even though I know that kicking is wrong unless you play soccer.

It requires higher reasoning powers inaccessible to my brain so early in the morning to argue with him that my commendable physical activity has left me with less than desirable  health track record. That is, unless one aspires to become a survivor, cancer survivor. 

I don’t have to wait for numero dos long because he has already added another finger to the one already raised. 

Number two - never be in a hurry.

Even though I know he is right (at least in theory) I feel my body temperature raising beyond the already complain-worthy point. More often than not my ‘fast’ has been infinitely slower than other people’s ‘slow’, and yet, such pace didn’t make me an embodiment of health and vitality.

Lastly, he raises the third finger, Never worry about anything! And YOU, women, are particularly susceptible to that!

Having delivered, Emmet feels great for being so helpful, and I feel crappy for being so doomed. Funny thing is, I actually had pretty good morning, as mornings go, before we ran into him.

I am almost to our front door, when it crosses my mind. There is only one more thing Emmet lacks if he wants to be as perfect as he believes himself to be. As he drives by with his windows rolled down, I wave back at him, noticing four fingers lifted,

And number four, Never give an unsolicited advice. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Linus and Lucy

We came to Satellite Beach to take care of Linus and Lucy our friends’ Dave and Lisa’s dogs. (No, no Charlie Brown or Snoopy, for right now). 

Linus the Daschund and Lucy the Schnoodle represent the unashamed embodiment of the ‘it’s a dog’s life’ expression, but not in it’s original 16th century meaning.  They live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, on the second floor of a new condo building right on the beach. The dogs are surrounded by incredible creature comforts, afforded to them solely by the virtue of belonging to the T family.   

Everywhere around us, there is a perfect marriage of tradition and technology, nature and nurture. The view is stunning - the azul above and the blue below separated by a extra-fine horizon line where the two kiss each other. Alexa is playing Vivaldi on a loop. iRobot Roomba is vacuuming the floors. The beds are comfy, the climate controlled interior is tastefully decorated by exceptionally talented, genuine artist with classy flair. The dog’s food bowl is never empty, the water bowl never dry.  Five times a day, we take them out to the fire hydrant where they do their doggie business, returning home wagging their little tails.

I scratch my head, wondering what have these dogs done to deserve such fortune? I don't have to think hard to find people I know and love who can only dream about such luxury. 

Life doesn't seem to be fair. 

If you were here with me, however, along with all the magnificence, you would notice that there is more to these dogs’ life story than meets the eye.  You would see Linus hobbling along, barely able to walk, really preferring to be carried around or just left alone to nap most of the day. None of these glories around him matter, as long as the old dog can rest in peace.

This is where Lucy comes in, an adoptee from previously abusive situation.  The way Lucy works out her fears and trauma is by barking at what she perceives as danger, which is almost everything which really is all nothing at all. This disrupts Linus’ peace and makes him bark and growl, their little dog heaven shattered by the residual suffering of Lucy’s old life.

Linus may think that his life would have been perfect if he wasn’t for getting old and weak, and if it wasn’t for Lucy…

Lucy may think that her life would have been perfect if she didn’t have to drag around her past like a chain around her neck, yanking her to awakened flashbacks with every accidentally dropped utensil, every stranger ringing the doorbell to do human things she doesn’t understand, like spraying for bugs, or fixing the A/C.  So she goes into fits of barking – bark, BARK, BARK!, until Linus joins in.

Despite her behavior, in fact, quite counter-intuitive to it, I noticed that talking to Lucy in a calm, reassuring voice, in the midst of her ‘misbehaving’, telling her things like,

You are a good girl, Luci. It’s O.K. The rattling is just the A/C coming on, you don't need to be startled. You don’t understand what’s going on, but everything is just fine… You are such a good dog, Luci…

Lucy LOVES this kind of talk. She perks her ears, tilts her little head and looks at me, her eyes glowing, begging for more. I know she trusts my assessment of the A/C situation, so she can rolls back to sleep.

Linus doesn't say anything but opens one eye, grateful for his peace restored so he can go back prancing around young and healthy, inside his doggie dreamland.

Saturday, July 06, 2019


It was uncharacteristic of my parents to be so late in picking cherries this year. But this year has been uncharacteristic in many ways.

By the time we got to the picking, the season was almost over which meant that among those few good cherries still hanging on - perhaps even sweeter than usual because of the time spent attached to the tree - there would be many that went bad in all the ways cherries go bad – dried out, worm-infested, or just plain rotten.

The important job of separating the good from the bad was assigned to my four year old great niece, Nera, her dad (my nephew) and me.  Nera took the assignment to heart and with each cherry that landed in her hand, she would ask,

Is this a good one? 

We look, noticing a rotten spot, point it out and have her discard it.  Then she picks another and ask,

What about this one? I ask her back,

What do YOU think? How does it look to you? She peers at it with a squinted eye, and upon careful examination notice a worm hole.

It has worms!, with a loud scream only a little four-year-old disgusted girl can produce, she tosses it out.  

The cherries that passed Nera’s fastidious goodness test went into the bucket until it was full.

It may not seem like rocket science, but to Nera, discernment was a hard, hard job that required superior knowledge, focused attention and lots and lots of practice under patient guidance of those of us, a bit more experienced in telling a good cherry from the bad.

Eventually we pronounced the job done, and took a well-deserved break. The two of us opted for a short walk. We headed towards a place where I knew a plum tree was growing right next to the old gravel road.  It was still early in the season for plums, but I thought if we were lucky we may still find a few that were ripe.

The branches were loaded with fruit, mostly various shades of green, indicating we were too early indeed, but here and there I could detect a handful of yellowish-orange ones. I knew those were ready to eat.  I pointed them out and said,
Nero, pick the yellow ones. They are good.

She picked the first one, still mostly on the pale-green side of the color wheel, and asked,

Yellow? Is this one yellow?

I’d thought I’d gotten away easy, but she reminded me that the noble duty of practicing discernment never ends...

Tuesday, July 02, 2019


On the way to Orlando International Airport in early June my friend Julie, who has never been to Europe, asked if I/we would be willing to send her a photo or two each day of our vacation, so that she, too, albeit vicariously, could enjoy the sights of the old continent.

I took her request as demand (in the noble kind of way) and have placed upon myself, to the best of my ability, to capture with my iPhone 6 camera what my eye could see, so my friend too could get a taste of delicious feast we were partaking in, not just for the eyes, but also for the soul and the spirit.
Little did I know that I was embarking upon truly an impossible endeavor of the most frustrating kind, and this wasn’t for the lack of my exceedingly earnest trying.

Day after day, I was sending the pictures of places, with each ‘send’ my heart growing more and more heavy, keenly aware how woefully inadequate those snippets were to portray what we were both seeing and experiencing.  It felt like I was sending my friend shriveled up potato peels while we were gorging ourselves on cloud-fluffy mashed potatoes doused in pork chop drippings gravy.

Each photo, on Julie’s end, was received with enthusiastic  ‘oooohs’  and ‘aaaaahs’, and genuine gratitude for the privilege of sharing in our experience.

This went on for several days, my frustration at my incapacity growing with each illustrated text.  I felt I was cheating my friend, offering her a poor, pathetic substitute for the real thing we were immersed in every moment of every day. Eventually the pain of this culminated into a revelation of sort.

If it was so difficult for me to describe the diverse glories of poppy fields in French countryside, the curious history of Mont-Saint-Michel, the crunch of the fresh baguette laden with Camembert, the nooks and crannies of old towns like London, Paris and Belgrade, how much more challenging would it be to portray the glories of the infinite God. No wonder our words and our pictures, even those most carefully chosen ones, lead to frustration and keen sense of inadequacy of those who make such attempts.

And yet, like my friend Julie, even a tiny glimpse of His manifest presence is bound to elicit the ‘oooohs’ and the ‘aaaahs’ and a deep sense of gratitude for the privilege of sharing in such delight.

I guess next time, there is nothing else to do but bring my friend along with earnest desire and prayer that she too can enjoy to the full the feast that only 'being there yourself' can procure.