App-uh-latch-uh

Appalachia is more than a place. The Appalachian Mountains are rich with customs, food and dialect that is not found anywhere else. Those mountains are at the core of the people who were raised there or have adopted it as home. The mountains become part of who we are, why we are, and how we go about what we do.

Great Smokey MountainsOne of the things that many Appalachia natives are particular about is how we say our name. This is also something that many people from elsewhere do not understand. In Central Appalachia, where I am from, it is app-uh-LATCH-uh, not app-uh-LAY-sha. I am told that there are people in Appalachia who were taught to use the latter pronunciation. Fair enough, I obviously get regional dialect. Please understand, when you say App-uh-LAY-sha in much of Appalachia people, in addition to knowing immediately that you are not a local, may think you are trying to be fancy or worse. How you say the word Appalachia matters.

As you can tell, I and many others feel strongly about this word. So, when stumbling around on the internet I found a company called Pronunciation Tees I was super excited. What do these people do? Well, they get me and my people. Pronunciation Tees produces t-shirts that proudly display the proper pronunciation of Appalachia – [app-uh-latch-uh].

App-uh-latch-uh

The moment I saw this shirt I had to have it. Oh, and it gets better, the mission statement of the company is to

Help raise awareness about the infection known as [app-a-lay-sha].

I encourage everyone to support these brave and creative folks. It’s cool, it’s fun, and it’s just plain right.

Why Asking for Help is So Hard

I just never know when the next ah-ha moment will happen.

Weed Eater

The man from the landscaping company came by to talk to me about some rocks.

We surveyed the backyard together. As we did, I apologized profusely for the condition of the grass along my fence line; as if the condition of the yard was some reflection on my character. I was embarrassed and explained that I had run out of weed eater string and was working on how to replace it. I assumed this would be the end of that conversation.

I do not know how to replace weed eater string. In fact, I did not even know that the string was designed to destroy itself. Yard work is not one of my gifts.

He smiled sweetly and said “I’ll do it for you.” I, of course, said something like “oh no, no I don’t want to bother you with that.” He insisted.

I stood and watched, uncomfortably, as he laced the string into the weed eater. I apologized for using his time to do this for me. I apologized for not knowing how to do it myself. Really, though, I was apologizing for needing help; I was worried that he would judge me because I could not do this myself. I explained, apologetically, that this is the first house I have lived in where I was responsible for the yard. In the past I hired someone to do it and growing up my Daddy always took care of the yard. As I gushed, needlessly, I wondered why I needed him to know why I did not know anything about weed eaters. Why would I?

He repeated sweetly and genuinely that he did not mind. He said that he was happy to do it and that “it makes us feel needed.”

It makes us feel needed – I thought about that comment for a couple of days. He did not care that I did not know anything about weed eaters; he did not expect me to and did not judge me for it. He enjoyed helping.

He liked being needed as much as I did not want to be needy. It’s clear to me now that when I refuse to ask for help when I need it I am depriving someone else of the opportunity to feel the joy of being needed.

Turns out, needing help is not a character flaw either. It is an opportunity to give someone else the gift of being needed.

Summer Sunsets

I can’t deny it any longer.

Last week I turned off the air conditioning and haven’t turned on the heat. I do my very best to delay turning on the heat. I am not yet sure whether that is stubbornness, denial or both. But today there is a chill in the air inside the house.

Suddenly, every Saturday morning I regret my choice to not have cable. It is that one time a year when I miss ESPN, or maybe it’s just Kirk Herbstreit.

My white shoes, linen blazer and seersucker suits are dry cleaned and packed away, sadly, for months.

As I type, it is 42 degrees in Fort Wayne. Today’s high is 46 degrees.

It is fall.

In an effort to further my stubbornness and/or denial, I want so share my best of the summer sunsets.

There is not much better than a warm/hot/sweltering walk in the glow of the setting sun in bare legs and short sleeves. I am afraid that there won’t be any more of those until spring.

Indiana Sunsets:

Alaska, Arizona and Washington Sunsets:

Eating Gluten-Free on Carnival Cruise Lines

Traveling with celiac disease is a never ending challenge. Spending a week or more in a domestic or international location is difficult. You have to locate grocery stores, pack your food for the plane and beyond and research restaurants that have gluten-free menus or are rumored to cater to the needs of the gluten free. It is a lot of work.

Instead of requesting a gluten-free meal on the plane, I bring my own.

So, when my sister informed me that the 2014 family vacation would be an Alaskan cruise I immediately started spinning all the potential food-related nightmare scenarios. This was my first cruise.

We sailed on the Carnival Miracle for seven days out of Seattle with stops in Skagway, Juneau and Victoria. I shared the least dramatic of my worries with my sister and she assured me that she had made the necessary arrangements for me. I was to meet with Guest Services and then the maitre d’ to discuss my requirements. The Carnival representative assured my sister that they could safely feed me. My sweet sister then researched gluten free eating on Carnival cruises and she found a blog post by the lovely G-Free Laura. I felt better. I knew I would be worried until I was on the boat and talking to someone but this information helped.

I arrived in Seattle and enjoyed lovely gluten-free meals at Tom Douglas’s Lola, Anthony’s and Elliot’sOddfellow’s in Capitol Hill (I also recommend Elliot Bay Book Company while you there), and Local 360, which is super awesome spot where everything on the menu is local. All these meals were lovely and gluten-free.

Then it was time to board the ship. The embarkation process took less time than I expected (considering there were over 2000 people aboard). We headed for Guest Services to request the partition between our rooms be opened and to talk about my dietary needs. Unfortunately, my record did not reflect that I needed a gluten-free accommodation, it only noted a special need. I took this as – they aren’t ready for me and I have to be perfectly honest, I was scared. Guest Services confidently advised me that all I needed to do was talk with the maitre d’ and it would be fine. I had packed enough food to each one or two meals a day out of my bag, but I knew I needed at least one good meal a day from the kitchen. So, scared doesn’t really describe it, I had a minor meltdown.

We made our way to the dining room for our first meal. I met the maitre d’, Ken, at the door and explained what I needed. He promptly dispatched the lovely Jana to my table. I explained to her that I have celiac disease and would need a gluten-free meal. I went on to explain that I am medically required to have a gluten-free meal and that I am extremely sensitive. She was unflappable. She assured me immediately that they could accommodate my needs. In fact, because of my concern she offered to personally order and deliver my food herself since my server would be responsible for multiple tables of people. I happily agreed. She got me. To ensure that the kitchen would have time to specially (separately) prepare my meals I would need to order my meals a day in advance. So, every night at dinner I ordered my meals for the next day. It seems like it might be inconvenient, but I did not mind and it gave my family a preview of the next day’s offerings.

Our server, Damir, was helpful and a pleasure to be around. He understood my need and worked hard with Jana and the kitchen to make sure my meals came out at the same time as the rest of the table. This was a struggle on some nights, but they were aware and working on it. The kitchen is stocked with gluten-free bread and flour. So, many traditional items (sandwiches, French toast, pancakes, etc.) are available. I avoid all grains but rice when I am traveling, so I was slightly more limited and declined to eat the bread and flour-based items. Despite my more restrictive diet Jana was able to work with the kitchen each day to find something for me to eat that was interesting. I did eat a lot of steamed vegetables and plain meat – salmon, mahi mahi, flank steak, filet mignon and ribs. But I was also to have the seafood Newberg revised to meet my needs. Instead of the Newberg sauce they made a lemon butter sauce and put it over rice.

They were willing to go the extra step to help me enjoy my meal. As for dessert, the cream brulee and chocolate melting cake were my go-to items. Although, they did have other gluten-free choices. While dining room service was very good and accommodating, the room service and buffet offerings were off limits. I was specifically instructed not to order room service and as a rule I do not eat off buffets (too many changes for cross-contamination). So, on the ship my meals were restricted to what I brought onboard and eating in the main dining room. Know this ahead of time – eating is not a whenever-you-want-it-option unless you have a large stash of food in your cabin.

Chocolate Melting Cake

I was pleased with the attention and consideration that I was given by the dining room staff. They were genuinely concerned for me and they went out of there way to try to make my meals fun and interesting. It was not a perfect situation but the service was great and the food was better than expected. Tip your servers, maitre d’ and Jana. They deserve it.

The Polar Vortex of 2014

I came to Fort Wayne for the first time in November 2010 for an interview. On the drive to town I became convinced that it was too far from home, too weirdly flat and not easily accessed. The weather was chilly but sunny. There was talk about what the weather would be like but in this two-day visit I fell in love with the academic community and small college campus I was going to join. I left Fort Wayne trying to decide how I was going to explain this move to my family and friends.

I returned in February 2011 to find a place to live. I flew this time and found myself in the midst of the Groundhog Day blizzard. It was cold, roads were snow-covered and at some point prior to my arrival there had been a travel warning prohibiting non-emergency travel. During that visit it all seemed manageable. My realtor drive me around in her minivan. I drove myself around in a rented Ford Explorer. It was an adventure and surely would not happen all the time.

My assessment of the Indiana winter weather was true for the first two winters I was here. The winter of 2011-2012 was barely existent. It kind of snowed once. The winter of 2012-2013 was a bit more serious, it snowed twice and I learned how to shovel (there are strategies and techniques for shoveling snow). That was manageable and I learned something.

Now we have the winter of 2013-2014. This one is not like the others.

Since December it has snowed over a 12 inches. In the last week we have lived in the snow globe that was early January 2014. Thanks, polar vortex. This has been an unwelcome introduction to the other extreme of Indiana winters. On day one of the storm I shoveled 5 times to keep up with the snowfall.

A state of emergency was declared, the National Guard was called out and a non-emergency travel was prohibited. On day two the temperature and windchill was frightening. The temperature was around -20 with windchills as low as -40 and wind speeds of 20 mph. I did not venture out that day.

IMG_6041On day three the temperature got up to 5 but the roads remained nasty with snow drifts and layers of ice. On day 7 we got a break, it reached nearly 40 but it rained (yes, that is nearly a 60 degree change in 3 days).

Now roads, yards and fields are slush-filled ponds. Yesterday on a dog walk I stepped into an area with shin-deep slush on the sidewalk.

I’ve never seen anything like it. It is only January.

I’m told that this kind of weather builds character and stamina. I appreciate that and while I’d prefer to do that voluntarily and in the sun it is rewarding to know that I can handle it – I can live in an extreme weather event by myself (I was in the house for 3 days without any face to face human contact). One day when I live or am vacationing somewhere very warm I’ll say something like “I remember the Blizzard/Polar Vortex of 2014 and it was a mess, but Scout and I had fun.”

Also, snow in large quantities is pretty.

101 Reasons Why I am Thankful

I am a big fan of gratitude. I make lists of things I am thankful for, I repeat them when I pray, and I drop notes of thankfulness into my gratitude jar. Without gratitude we miss the opportunity to celebrate what we have, to experience the joy of a blessed life, and to see the greatness in everyday, ordinary moments.

These great everyday, ordinary moments are all around us, in everything we do. In fact, when I put the list you are about to read together I originally did it without numbering and before I stopped I was up to 135. I could have gone on and on. There is so much to be thankful for – so much that is so easily taken for granted.

Thank YouHere are 101 reasons – of an innumerable list – why I am thankful.

  1. A gracious, merciful, and patient (at least with me) God – I love Jesus and cheese
  2. Physical health
  3. A sound mind
  4. Healthy & loving parents
  5. A Mommy who is fearless and kind
  6. A Daddy who is a feminist and a real man
  7. Supportive & loving sister who says things like “it’s just money, you’ll make more.”
  8. Nieces that I know and love
  9. Secret 8:00 a.m. calls from the Benevolent Dictator to talk about her favorite TV show
  10. Traveling with the Princess
  11. A brother-in-law that isn’t just the guy my sister married, he’s a good dad, a great guy, and the brother I never had
  12. Chosen family – lifelong neighbors, church folks, and friends
  13. The Cosmic Sisters who persevere
  14. My law school friends who have all changed but are delightfully still the same
  15. My oldest friends who are always there and are doing amazing things with their lives despite opposition
  16. New friends who are just as special as the old ones
  17. The great ladies of prayer and faith – you, sweet ladies, hold the rest of us together
  18. Guy friends
  19. Scout – I was once told she was the canine version of me, but I think I’m probably the human version of her
  20. Cousins
  21. Aunts and Uncles
  22. Food on my table – even if it never again includes pizza or beer
  23. A reliable car
  24. A job that regularly exceeds my expectations
  25. Colleagues who care about my life and my future
  26. An employer with values and ethics who isn’t afraid to show it
  27. An education that I probably take for granted – I learned so much more than what the diplomas reflect
  28. Books – they change my life a little bit everyday
  29. Ex-boyfriends – I learned a lot
  30. Dancing, anywhere and everywhere you want – why I bought a big kitchen
  31. Music, it makes everything a little better
  32. Mountains
  33. Ocean
  34. Grundy, Virginia, for without it I would not be me
  35. Opaque tights
  36. Dresses
  37. Sparkly socks
  38. Buying the perfect gift for someone
  39. Sunsets, anywhere
  40. Getting a surprise card in the mail – I hope the postal service exists forever
  41. My backyard
  42. A fire – in the fireplace, fire pit, or at foot of Mom and Dad’s driveway
  43. Hot tea
  44. Vitamix
  45. The words thank you
  46. Prayers
  47. Waking up without an alarm
  48. Art of all kinds – it is even better when it is hanging on my walls
  49. Photography
  50. Freedom – from tyranny and from having to clear my schedule through anyone else
  51. The separation of church and state
  52. My house
  53. My parents’ house, which will always be home
  54. The words I love you
  55. Hugs, which I cannot live without
  56. A couch good for napping
  57. Ability to help people
  58. Personal and professional mentors
  59. Traveling
  60. A screened in porch in the summer
  61. Apple – my MacBook, my iPhone, my iPad
  62. People who wave when you let them into traffic
  63. Airplanes
  64. The sound of a baby laughing
  65. Crying – happy or sad – it means your alive and you can feel things
  66. Grace, given and received
  67. Unselfish people
  68. Lists
  69. Sharpie markers
  70. Laughing until you can’t breathe
  71. Garage
  72. Physicians who listen
  73. Parents who are still willing and happy to parent 36 years later
  74. Hot water
  75. The Bible
  76. Turtleneck sweaters
  77. Holding hands
  78. Warm breeze
  79. Sunrises
  80. Dog walks
  81. Naps
  82. Making someone you like smile
  83. Netflix
  84. Four seasons – I appreciate this more since it seems that Fort Wayne only has 2.5
  85. Silence
  86. Bravery – including soldiers, sailors, police officers, and firemen
  87. Text messages
  88. Old people and babies
  89. Faithfulness
  90. The truth – in all situations
  91. Indoor plumbing
  92. Tires
  93. Tradesmen (some of the smartest people I know; electricians can do anything)
  94. Love – all the different kinds of it
  95. Choices – you always have one
  96. Writing
  97. The Internet
  98. Women who know that it’s wrong to hurt other women, personally and professionally
  99. Silliness
  100. Confidence
  101. Mix tapes – yes, I know they are CDs and playlists now, but I refuse to stop saying mix tapes

Thank you for reading and I hope your holiday weekend is full of loveliness.

The Best Careers Are Not Planned

The man who invented management, Peter F. Drucker, said that

“Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values.”

I agree. The best careers happen when hard work, skill development and desire meets opportunity. You cannot plan it. Read more about it in my essay at The Huffington Post, click here.