Waiting

My stainless steel coffee press, with reflections of my journal and Bible.

I’m slightly obsessive about my coffee.

Over the course of our marriage, Karen, along with a close friend, have inspired me to perfect the process. I’ve used various methods of making my morning jolt of caffeine (and occasional afternoon aftershocks), some used by preference, and others by necessity. Even though it’s far from the best-tasting coffee, there have been periods in my life in which I’ve had to regularly be up really early…for work, for rehearsals or performances, for travel. I used to keep a drip brew machine that was programmable during these times. I would grind the coffee the night before and set it up, and when I woke at 0’dark-thirty, the coffee would be waiting for me. I viewed this as survival, what had to be done to get through the day, and returned to my French press on the weekends, or as soon as I could.

For the past few years, since I’ve had the luxury of either working for myself or controlling my own hours, I’ve abandoned this. My morning coffee is now almost a ritual. I grind the beans, boil the water, let it steep for exactly four minutes, in one of a variety of presses that best suit the occasion. Even though I’m apparently quite amusing before my first cup, and even though I must force myself awake before our youngest daughter (a self-proclaimed “morning dove”) rises with the sun, it’s worth the sacrifice. I’ve found there is discipline in waiting for the coffee to be ready, a spiritual gain in not having the instant gratification of it waiting for me as soon as I’m downstairs.


April has stretched on in its usual, quirky New England way. Mornings are still just cold enough to not be comfortable, an annoying fact currently given that I have to go for a run outside when I would usually go to the gym, and, two days before writing this, we woke to snow, only to see 60 degrees and sunshine the following day. Still, the time passes, and I take comfort in that. I patiently await the change in seasons so that our deck furniture can return, and we can enjoy dinners outside. Again, the patience and waiting are good.

There’s nothing that I can do to rush this seasonal change. It will happen in its own time. I am confident…confident that my coffee will be ready when the timer beeps, and that the warmth will break through into our days, bringing vivid, Technicolored flowers in its wake.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Psalm 30:5b, NLT

I long for life to return to some form of normalcy. Part of the problem, or at least my problem, with the current state of the world is that we had so little warning as to the massive upheaval that we’re experiencing. It is not, however, apocalyptic. As we are patient, so the seasons will change. The night is difficult, but there will be joy in the morning. Whatever positive may be found in our waiting…and, if you search, there is some…will be worthwhile when we hug our loved ones again, visit our favorite coffee shop, sit down with our friends in person. We don’t walk away from these sorts of events unchanged, any of us. There is, and there will be, grief as we emerge from the other side, that is certain. Our patience, though, as un-naturally as it comes for many, will prove worthwhile. I think that we will see more of the beauty of small things, appreciate time passing outside of our control, not complain about routines that we once hated but now long to return to after they were taken away so abruptly.

Our lives will be better if we let them. That is my prayer for us.

Stay healthy.

My daughters’ “fairy house” in our front garden, a sign that Spring is here.
Aside

Half Awake

I used to have these night terrors as a child, and even occasionally through college. I would be half awake, struggling to break fully free of sleep, but find myself paralyzed. I would push, and strain, and try to scream, afraid that if I stopped, I would fall backward into a state from which I would never come back. Eventually, I would wake up.

That’s what this current state of suspended animation feels like. I’m pushing, straining, trying to get to the end. Accepting parts of this would be easy…always being virtual, the end of busyness, staying “safe.” Just assimilate, stop fighting. But, while I’m discovering that placing such a high value on busyness was wrong…that I had become the person I had never wanted to be…so is giving into the throes of despair, a darkness from which one cannot awaken.

Eventually, we will wake up. We will. And there will be sunlight. There will be joy in the morning.

Don’t Panic: The Importance of Keeping Your Cool

The words "Don't Panic" drawn on the sand on the beach, looking toward the ocean.

I’ve been intending to put down some thoughts here about this pandemic gripping our world for a few weeks. The problem is that, as it has kept evolving so rapidly, I feel as though I can’t keep my thoughts straight. What I think I know today I suddenly don’t know tomorrow, and the intellectual jostling and resulting emotional whiplash has been difficult enough to manage internally, to say nothing of writing anything that’s remotely coherent.

That said, there’s a theme that I’ve seen, a through-line that’s been pervasive from the last week of February until now, and it’s a concerning one. Everyone is terrified.

The first two weeks of March, Karen and I were with my parents to see them through an important medical procedure. When we left for the trip, the dreaded pandemic was confined to the West coast…troubling news in the paper, but not impactful to us otherwise. The area in which my parents live was among the last in the country to have anyone test positive. There is some providence in the fact that we were essentially self-quarantined just by being there for two weeks. A week before our return trip, Boston experienced its first surge, but the town in which we live was free of cases. By the time we returned, restrictions were beginning to be put into place, but by that time, the underlying mood was already at a fever pitch.

As Karen and I were leaving the town in which my parents live, we stopped for gas, to find that there was none. Just as everyone was running on grocery stores for toilet paper (a topic of its own), in that town, everyone was running on gas. We finally located a station that wasn’t sold out, an older station in which I couldn’t pay at the pump. I went inside and conversationally asked the cashier if they had been this busy all day. She affirmed that business had been crazy. I commented that we were leaving for our road trip home, and I hoped that this wouldn’t be common everywhere (my overactive imagination was painting apocalyptic scenarios of being stranded by the roadside on a desolate interstate with no fuel and no one venturing out to come to our aid for fear of some Andromeda Strain). She responded, “I just hope you don’t have to through one of those states that are closing their borders! Some of them aren’t letting anyone in or out. I heard we’re going to start doing that soon.”

I’m going to be honest…by the time I returned to the car, I was a nervous wreck from hearing this (remember my aforementioned imagination). Karen and I talked it through for a moment. Were a state to do this, the amount of police and military presence required to seal a border entirely from its neighbors would be unsustainable. We decided that this was unlikely at worst, impossible at best, and, though we kept NPR’s hourly updates streaming on the drive, went on with the trip.

That gas station attendant, while meaning well and having no malicious intent, had succumbed to, and was disseminating, the fear that was beginning to grip the country. She was paying it forward, and not in a good way.


Fear is a poison. Its presence brings a toxicity to all that it touches. It drives people to purchase toilet paper, despite the absence of a logical reason for doing so (nowhere in the dreaded virus’ symptoms are diarrhea). It also spreads with a voracity unmatched by any virus. Quickly, it seeps into decision making, and there is an inversely proportional decline in the quality of those decisions when it does. Because a lack of ability to engage in critical thinking is also pervasive in our culture, the popularity of those decisions become mainstream, resulting in pressure on others to conform, resulting in blanket political decisions that do harm.

Regardless of where you stand on steps being taken or opportunities missed to handle this pandemic, our interactions with each other (especially as they become virtual and knowing that social media is a breeding ground for rage culture and mob psychology) would do well to be dialed back a bit. Advice that is meant well (there’s a big difference between staying at home and staying inside) takes on a fervor and becomes implanted with the effectiveness of the most insidious marketing campaign with enough repetition. We lash out at each other, we spread rumors which are unvalidated, we contribute to a phobia.

When we do so, we rob each other of hope. And right now, we’re all in desperate need of a bit of a hope.


A few days ago, I read some history of how the town in which we live handled the influenza outbreak in the 1900’s. The steps that were taken then were remarkably similar to the steps that we are taking now. The difference lies primarily in scale. Yet, a favorite phrase among media professionals today is “unprecedented times.” This isn’t at all unprecedented, but rather the first occurrence in our generation of something of this magnitude. We’ve dealt with it before, we’ll deal with it now. Life will be changed, but it will go on. It just will, because that’s what life does. And yes, many will get this virus…likely most of us will. And the toll will be tragic, too painful to speak of for some, and I grieve for them.

We need to take a breath, though, a deep breath. And then, we need to each love our neighbor. And then, we need to make calm, rational decisions, even though they may be unpopular and incur Twitter-rage. If we do so, we may just get through this more quickly, and certainly with less of a scar to our collective psyche when we do.

Be healthy, my friends. And be be well.

Image attribution: Ruth Hartnup under Creative Commons.

Hot Wheels Recollections

Every boy is into cars at some point. This fact is, as they say, as American as apple pie. I wasn’t any different. When I was a boy, the popular choice was Hot Wheels, which, until writing this, I had no idea were still such a big deal. And, though I would soon move on to action figures and comic books by the time I was leaving elementary school, I still managed to put together a decent collection of toy cars.

A collector's case for my toy Hot Wheels (and Matchbox) cars from childhood.
The collector’s case for my toy Hot Wheels (and Matchbox) cars from childhood.

Eventually, my parents bought a collector’s case in which I could store these cars (they were likely tired of always finding them underfoot). That case returned with me after last summer’s vacation, and our kids have quite enjoyed giving the cars contained within a second life. Last week, our oldest, ever inventive, strung a rubber band between the legs of a dining room chair and discovered that she could launch the cars to spectacular effect. She couldn’t wait to show me, and I was immediately enthralled in the game. I was fascinated by how these cars, long dormant until a few months ago, could still roll with such speed, and I have much respect for the fact that they were built well enough to still withstand the collisions and blows that come with serious play. They just don’t make them like that anymore (said every Dad ever).

One of the cars that my daughter pulled out was a Bell Systems van, modeled after the vans that workers of the regional “Baby Bell” phone company drove in our area. My father retired from “the phone company.” When I was little, he bought me that toy van because it was identical to the one that he drove for work every day. I had forgotten how we had bonded over “racing cars” in my childhood, which proved to be so important for our relationship as I think that Dad struggled to relate to my later interests. I recall one Christmas morning racing cars around the toy track that I had opened that morning, surprised later as my Dad played back the audio of the morning on a cassette tape that he had made with his new stereo system. Those were different times, and so foundational to us keeping our relationship as I moved from an obsession with comic books and superheroes to music in high school, and later to writing and theatre in college. When I came home on weekends, we would still sit down and watch a basketball game together, and those car races were, I’m convinced, the reason why. They had grounded us somehow, provided a connection.

There are signs in the mundane, tiny monuments to help us recall essential and explanatory moments from our pasts. Across all of those years, that toy van helped to connect us in a very similar way that it did for my father and I. That evening, my daughter had found a tiny miracle contained within a Hot Wheels car, without even realizing that she had done so.

I am so glad that she did.

The old toy Bell Systems van that was a gift from my father all those years ago.
The old toy Bell Systems van that was a gift from my father all those years ago.

2020 New Year’s Resolutions

It’s actually been several years since I contemplated resolutions for a new year in any serious way. As I said, though, the fact that we’ve started a new decade makes this more meaningful than other new year’s. And yes, given that January is nearly over, I’m definitely late to write these down, but I’ve been thinking about them for a while. I wanted to be intentional about them, I suppose, because marking significant points in time is important. We’re prone to forget, after all.

When blogging was in its prime…I fondly we remember those days…this is the sort of thing that we would post. I think the motivation is to just put it out there, to say “this is what I’m hoping to accomplish so keep me accountable.

Of course, I’d love to hear yours, as well.

In a nutshell, I want to work less and focus more on what’s really important this year, because I feel as though my priorities have been inverted. My faith, my family, and creative pursuits are going to receive more focus this year. So, here they are:

  1. Finish that novel. I started it long, long ago…and was nearly finished with the rough draft when our oldest daughter was just born. I plan to have it as close to finished as possible this year.
  2. Spend less time working and more time with my family. The kiddos are showing signs of not getting enough of me. I remember so fondly when our oldest was young, the time that I dedicated to spending with her and so carefully preserved. That’s slipped in the last few years, and I’ve never found a similar way to connect with our youngest. I hope to rectify that this year.
  3. Place my faith first. I’ve come to the epiphany that I turn to God after attempting to resolve difficult situations myself. I want to discipline myself to turn this around this year.

Speaking of epiphanies, Karen and I realized that my favorite color is actually grey. That’s a different story, though.

I hope that your new year is prosperous.