Last night, I heard something clicking every time I moved my sleeve. The face on my Garmin slipped off, anchored only by a skinny twisted cord.  I’ve had it just over 3 years. Zac bought it for me with his own money 3 Christmases ago. I only take it off to shower. The rubber wristband is torn and almost ripped beyond fixing. It tracks my heartbeat, giving me a resting average every day (last was 47).  It tracks every step I take and how far I run. It beeps imperiously at me when I’ve been sitting too long by posting Move! at regular intervals. It has consistently registered the calendar date as tomorrow’s date, despite resetting and no matter what day it actually is, giving me a kind of faint hope that there will *be* a tomorrow. It has been a constant companion, through traveling, seasons and sameness.

I debated about whether to wear it while I ran. But to what purpose? Would it track things in a dormant state? Would I care about the run if it didn’t get calculated or counted somewhere? Would it matter in the universe? How would I know about mile splits or if I had enough time to run farther? In the end, I left it. I ran without any data. My left wrist felt strangely naked as air rushed over it. I pushed to 3 miles (yay!) and was glad I did. I considered the things I do for me whether anyone else knows about it or not. Writing falls in that category. So does running. Sometimes I need reminding.

Back home, I kept pushing the Garmin’s face back on.  It won’t stay in the square face frame. It lights up if I push the right button. However, it registers nothing, knows nothing. It’s blank and more than a little creepy. I googled how to fix it but couldn’t find anything definitive. Jonathon said he’ll take a look at it, but it’s probably time to buy a new one.

Coincidentally, Zac left home for Texas again today. He’ll be back at Sheppard AFB this afternoon. I hated to tell him it broke. It was the first thing I think he’s ever bought me that cost him in any significant way. It seems like the end of an era.

We all felt the gravity of his leaving this morning. We prayed as a family, then Jonathon and Zac walked out the door. Every time he leaves now, he returns as more of an adult. He’s released into the world and learning to fend for himself. He’ll cross yet another chasm where I can’t follow. He must go on alone. We will run our races simultaneously, connected by the shared intertwined cords of love and faith, but not on the same course.

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Year 2019 in Review

apocalypse 2019

How I feel about this year. Buh-bye! Too much?

Folks, this was not the best year. At all. Not only did I fail at every single resolution, but some major things went wrong. If you’ve been following along you might remember…

Jonathon’s mom, Barb, passed away in July. Her brain tumors were inoperable and eventually shut down her movement and then speaking ability. It was a great loss for all of us.

Jonathon lost his job. He was out of work for 6 months, receiving halftime pay for 3 months prior to that. His old employer graciously allowed him to vest. He interviewed for several positions and has landed with Northwest Educational Partners, for now.

My mom entered a veterans’ home on October 31. Her Parkinson’s has curtailed her ability to walk, stand, talk and eat. She eschews meat these days and prefers to drink most of her meals through a straw. She continues to lose weight. Speaking is difficult. We visit as much as we can and bring her to our place for festivities.

Some fabulous changes came about this year. One of the good things was me starting a master’s program in public administration. Still going strong on that. I have 2 quarters left, if I can stay the course. It’s been going well and I’ve learned a lot about ethics, leadership and actual project management. January quarter starts on the 13th and I’ll be taking 3 classes. Pray for me!

Zac joined the Air Force. On October 15, he began basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated December 13 and is now enrolled in tech school at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, TX. It was an 8-hour bus ride. Fun! He is doing well and finding his way.

Despite not meeting my mileage goal, I did get more consistent about running this year. In fact, last week I ran more than 9 miles over 4 separate sessions. Not a lot of mileage, granted, but I’m not as into the distance as much anymore. I’m doing it for attitude adjustment and fun, not weight loss.

I have been consistent on another thing, too. I read a great book called Delay, Don’t Deny by Gin Stephens. At the risk of sounding trite, it changed my life. The health benefits are cumulative and amazing! If you’re curious, look up ‘autophagy’. I’ve been intermittent fasting since August 2017, and I plan to continue for the rest of my life, God willing. I’ve lost about 10 lbs and numerous inches. It should really be called intermittent eating, because I fast 19-20 hours most days and usually eat for less than 5. I eat whatever I want in my “window”, though I am a food snob now; not all foods are “window-worthy”, and some make me feel crummy afterwards.  On this program, I feel really good. God has revealed deep things that needed healing, areas I would not have been aware of otherwise. Additionally, it contributed to healing a stress fracture in my right foot, keeping my immune system primed, and clear-headedness for an entire workday, and fitting into ALL of my clothes. I listen to my body now and don’t push too hard. I don’t have to prove anything. Exercise is fun and not a punishment. Huzzah! I need to stay healthy and be the best that I can every day.

I know God is still in control, even though this year was a slog. Looking forward to a new start in 2020. As believers, our hope is continually renewed. The best is yet to come.

How about you? How was your 2019? I’d love to hear about it.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17



Texas Time

Canyon Lake.jpg

We’ve been in Texas for 3 days now. I would have written sooner but it’s been go, go, go since we arrived. This is our view from the balcony. We are staying in Canyon Lake, a little more than an hour outside San Antonio.

Because we’re here for….drumroll, please….Zac’s basic military training graduation at Lackland AFB. Yes, he made it! He did very well. Passed his PT test in the 3rd week and was named a student leader. He got his Airman’s coin. He is officially an Airman and no longer a trainee.

Air Force coin

The coin ceremony was amazing. We nearly missed the Airman’s Run, the first event that started at 8:00 a.m. sharp. Traffic was horrific and has been pretty much every day. Washington’s construction season ends sometime in November, generally. Not here. Zac said the humidity just eased off a couple of weeks ago. Back to the coin ceremony. Each flight – and Zac is in 037 of the 320th squadron – marched out.

can't stop the rock 320

They sang the Air Force Song. The (sad) drum and bugle corps played the National Anthem and all the other music. I felt bad for them. Hard to keep your instrument warm and play in tune when it’s 40 degrees outside. Each flight’s MTI (training instructor, like a drill sergeant) handed out the coins to the individual airmen. Zac’s flight was facing us. Ruby was able to pick him out.

“He’s on the end, Mom. Over there.” She pointed to the second from last in the second to last row. Ah yes, the jawline. Each airman stood at attention, then put out his hand. He received the coin. As each row finished, that row took a step forward in unison to allow for more room behind them. It was beautiful. The coordination, the esprit de corps.

Afterward, all the proud parents and families streamed onto the field. No running allowed, though we wanted to. He stood at attention until we mobbed him. They practiced that ceremony for 5 weeks, he told us. Five weeks. Five weeks to get in sync and know each other and cover and anticipate the end. Wow.

He is a man now. He got his debit card and bank account working. He purchased his plane ticket home for Christmas. He volunteered to pay for it.

“I don’t care what we do today, it’s so good to be with you guys,” he said multiple times. We felt the same.

He admitted the 8.5 week training wasn’t that hard.

“I just had it easy.”

Yes. You did.

He looks people in the eye and says “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am”. He speaks up for himself in a respectful and kind manner. He wants us to go to church with him tomorrow, and he’ll go with us to ours when we’re home. I love the changes, but I struggle to know this new, full-grown Zac. He knows all the rules. Has to cross in the crosswalk. Has to wear his hat outside. Has to greet and salute any ranked officer he encounters. No swimming. My favorite? Can’t walk and talk on the phone at the same time. Not that his flight got their cell phones back. The last graduating flights ruined it for them. More people should adopt that standard, methinks.

Zac spent quite a bit of time wondering what to do next. He didn’t like college and came home. He worked a construction job, then lost it. He wandered. He waited. We all wondered. What of the smart little boy, reading at age 4, curious about the world and the people in it? But God is faithful, and His timing is perfect. Many of you joined us in praying for him. Thank you, because it worked.

Despite being one of the shortest guys in the flight (sorry, son!) and eating in the last element of his flight for every meal, he came out of himself and found his people. He made a lot of friends in BMT. Early Monday morning, he leaves for tech school at Sheppard AFB to study avionics; many of his new friends will also be on that 2:00 a.m. bus ride. His new-found confidence is palpable and I am so proud. He is a man.

Zac dress blues



Prayers Take Flight


Bald Eagle Flying

We got a letter from Zac. Yay! That was a week ago Saturday. To greatly summarize, he said he had made a huge mistake.

Uh oh.

We prayed for him a lot. For me, almost all day every day. He had training instructors who were out to get him. He couldn’t do any of his assigned tasks. The food was – is – lousy. The second letter talked about how he couldn’t see himself fitting into the military machinery, but his flight’s (like an army platoon) esprit de corps was wonderful. We kept on praying.

But then…yesterday. We received 3 letters in the mail. Each was more positive than the last. From October 27: “I think it’s finally coming together”.

“You’d think 46 guys in a room would be a madhouse – it’s not even that bad!”

Introvert, where art thou?

“We do what we’re told better than the other flights”. Translation: less supervision! Also, no infighting in their group, unlike the other flights.

Then October 28:

“BMT (basic military training) really ain’t that bad… ” This, despite 26-minute sessions of running 3 days a week. Who IS this??

“I get a 15-minute phone call next week. It’s my guiding star.”

Then October 29-30:

“Tell John Doe thanks for the letter” (name omitted to protect the awesome).

“Entry controller duty is trash…my shift tonight is 4:00-6:00 a.m., up in the wee hours protecting a dorm in the middle of an incredibly well-guarded air base.”

He mentioned a Facebook page, which I will investigate. Finally! Good news. He is finding his people and this week he has career counseling.

“I *might* be able to come home for Christmas…”

Thanks be to God.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. – Philippians 4:6-7


Wild Blue Yonder

Family October 2019.jpg

Three days ago, Zac entered the Air Force.

Oh, my heart!

He’s been wanting to do this for about 18 months. He had to get his braces off first, as the military wouldn’t take him otherwise. That was in June. Then he had to get a recruiter to meet with him. That took a while. Then, the ASVAB. Then MEPS. Then another test, the EDPT, for really smart people. Zac tested so high he qualified for it. After MEPS, they gave him a ship out date of October 15, unless one of his top job choices came open sooner.

But nothing came up.

The time dragged. He played video games. He did one-off chores when we asked, like mowing the lawn and emptying the dishwasher. He played with Dakota every day, tossing the ball up and down the yard. He teased Ruby. He cooked dinner on Thursday nights.

This past weekend, it all hit. Friday came and the weekend felt like this great gulf to get over. Ruby turned 14 on October 13th. Zac would go to the recruiter for the last time on the 14th, then take a shuttle to the hotel. He would leave for Lackland AFB on Tuesday.

Oh, my heart!

I took half of Monday off so we could drive up to Lacey together and say goodbye. The day was cloudy but dry. I pounded the pavement for 3 miles that morning in order to release the emotions.

Eagle sculpture.jpg

Parking lot sculpture, filled with little birds.

Zac had his own methods.
“Mom, look at this rash,” he said. His hands had some dry spots on the knuckles and the back of his other hand.

“Just dry skin,” I said. I gave him some lotion.

“This could keep me out,” he said, worried the checkup would disqualify him.

Then he wandered around. We all did, making laps in our house. I couldn’t concentrate on school. Jonathon couldn’t grade discussion posts. We felt the weight of waiting.

I asked Zac to clean his room before he left. I told him to bag up anything he didn’t want. He started on Saturday, putting out 3 bags of college bedding, jeans, clothes he no longer liked, which included a rainbow-colored windbreaker (don’t ask), and sundry papers.

Then he took it all out and put it in the trash can.

I forgot that Zac is a very literal person. I didn’t think I’d need to say something like “sort it”, but I guess I did. Jonathon fished out the bedding and a pair of jeans. The rest got buried under kitchen trash bags filled with food scraps. Nobody had the energy to dig more out.

“Hey, Mom! I found twenty bucks!” Zac hadn’t really paid attention to his birthday card from last year. So at least he didn’t throw that away.

He did three loads of laundry. He stripped his bed, kinda. I could see the floor when I checked on him. He paced back and forth, looking at his phone. Then he stood still.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish,” he said, crestfallen.

“Let me help,” I said. I folded his clothes, organizing into categories as I went. I gave him tasks to do. Throw this out. Put this in the dishwasher. I asked him which clothes left on the floor were dirty. He regained his sassy attitude.

I peered into his carry on, partially full. He was only allowed 3 changes of clothes.

“You need a pair of pants,” I said.

“I have pants. See?” He pointed to his joggers, which, for your edification, are glorified sweat pants with cuffs at the bottom.

“You need a pair of jeans at least,” I said.

“No, I’m good.”

When we got to the office, the recruiter, also named Zac, asked if he had pants.

“I’m wearing pants,” Zac stated.

The recruiter looked at me.

“Can you go across the street and buy him some pants? He’ll need them for the swearing-in,” the recruiter said.

We bought pants.

As we waited, an airman in fatigues entered the office. He was over 6 feet tall, all arms and legs. He sat down next to Jonathon. He asked a couple of questions of the recruiters (two in the space), then found out Zac was leaving for boot camp.

He told us how he enlisted. His dad, very ill, wanted to see him in uniform before he died. The guy had a full ride to St. Martin’s. He enlisted and was gone within a month. He gave Zac all the lowdown on boot camp.

“Don’t drink the water from the hose. There’s better water at the end of the line. Trust me.”

“There will be a shark attack your first night. They will bang on lockers in the middle of the night, yelling and screaming, to freak you out. Count on it.”

“Make sure your uniform fits. Don’t be afraid to ask for another size.” He pointed to his pants, which were definitely high waters.

“Stay mentally strong. Be friendly. These will be your companions when you have free time on Sundays. I’m still in contact with guys from my flight” (Air Force term for squad, battalion, etc.).

“Go to church.” This from the recruiter. I liked this other Zac more and more.

“It’s 2 hours off, and some groups give out candy and let you nap.”


The young man spoke again.

“You know what got me through? Millions of people have done this before. I can make it. The first 3 weeks are the hardest, then you know the routine.”

Zac listened intently, glad to have such direct input from someone who had been there only 8 months ago. He breathed in all the encouragement and advice.

The young man went on.

“I cried really hard at graduation. I was so proud of myself. And my dad was there, too.”

He was in intelligence and couldn’t reveal his job. Zac will probably go that route as well. I started to realize this airman was a God-incidence.

Finally, the shuttle arrived. Zac and another young man going to MEPS loaded up. We gave our final hugs and I tried not to sob, so proud of him and yet feeling lost.

He texted me as his last flight to Texas took off.

Ok we’re taking off, love you mom

Love you, too, Zac.

When we see Zac again, he will not be the same. He will be well on his way to adulthood, to manhood. He’s been in the cocoon of change for some time, shedding the caterpillar, sprouting wings. Soon he will soar on his own.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11





Starts and Ends


Tis the season for changes.

On Thursday, Jonathon’s mother died. Just one year ago, we travelled out to Wisconsin to celebrate his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. In August, a month later, they discovered her 2 inoperable brain tumors. All the pictures are now coming up in my Facebook feed. The picture just before we got on the plane. The mustard museum. And more. This week, Jonathon’s youngest brother kept in close contact via text. She was fading fast, marked unresponsive last Saturday. She was unable to swallow or speak, yet managed an “Love you” to her youngest son. She also said she  had no pain. They increased her morphine as her body shut down and she was able to let go in peace. Barb passed into glory on their 51st anniversary.

Two days day before that, Zac travelled up via shuttle to MEPS in Seattle. MEPS is Military Entrance Processing Station. You stay overnight, in Zac’s case in a hotel room with one other guy. Staff examine you physically, take blood and urine samples, and put you through bizarre fitness tests, like duck walking wearing only underwear. Zac took the ASVAB to enter the Air Force, scoring 97 out of 99. He was sworn in on Wednesday. On Thursday, after he returned home, he was offered a fusion analyst position. It’s a good gig, only open to the top scorers. Zac turned it down. He wants to return to MEPS in order increase his overhead lift from 80 to 100 lbs. and take another technical test to earn his first-choice position. He is psyched and encouraged and ready, practically jumping out of his skin.

It’s been a bittersweet week.

As I put Dakota through her paces this morning, the blush sunrise and setting gibbous moon greeted me. My head swirled with logistics for the trip back to Wisconsin for the funeral, the 3rd in a year. Need to get dress clothes for the kids, as Shelton’s uber casual style won’t cut it. Zac desperately needs a haircut. How will I keep up with classes?

Barb was someone who challenged the word impossible. She took on daunting tasks, creatively solving problems and making the best of the worst. We ate Isham pizza in her honor last night, a recipe she created while living in New York City as George completed graduate school and the two oldest Isham boys were toddlers. She got her B.A. in Fine Arts in her 60s. She pretty much planned our wedding back in 1992. She held out hope for hopeless situations long after many of us. She bought my wedding dress, on sale for a (then) astronomical $200. One of Barb’s fondest wishes was to see Zac graduate from boot camp. Zac’s endless term with braces precluded his entering any military group until very recently. I like to think Jesus whispered of Zac’s acceptance to her before she left us. Somehow, she knew.

I looked up at the towering trees. The air smelled piney fresh. We’ve had days and days of tropical, humid weather. Rain, dark clouds and gloom lasted way into our usual summer. But now, sun.  I thought about road races. Often, the start and finish are at the same place. You make a great loop of sorts and end up right where you began, passing through hills and valleys and sometimes dodging traffic. Everyone runs their race and finishes the best they can. We all came from our Father who created us; to Him we return when our race is run.

See you on the other side, Barb. Enter into His rest. Thanks be to God.





Snowmageddon Update

So. Today is the third day we’ve been home. All of us. This includes Dakota.

USPS has not delivered mail, and our full recycling bin sits lonely and abandoned at the top of the street. Shelton schools have cancelled every day so far. Thurston County closed Monday and Tuesday but opened on time today. Snow is up to Pepper-car’s bumper, a good 8-10″ of crunchy white powder.  This morning, Jonathon cleared off my car and tried to drive out of the piled-up snow. I saw the car’s lights turn on, a good sign. He pulled forward a little. He backed up a little. Again on both, and done. He came back inside, stamping his boots. I wasn’t going anywhere and neither was he.

snowy fence.jpg

Ruby and I have been watching the birds. We’ve seen some of the fattest birds ever. They have pinheads and chubby torsos. It’s like they knew they’d need to stock up, forewarned about the white stuff somehow. They hop around on snowy branches and look for food. We saw one of these on Monday: a golden crowned sparrow. He stood out amid all the white.

golden crowned sparrow.jpg


Was this now Noah felt, trapped on the ark with his immediate and extended family, plus a menagerie of animals? Rocking up and down, battling seasickness, no relief in sight as the rain poured down and the animals yelped, roared, barked and whined, he probably felt a little crazy. Oh, the whining! Then, a sudden calm as the skies cleared. Noah peered out of the ark’s narrow windows to see…nothing. Only water, water everywhere. I wonder if he and his family held a quiet ceremony for all the people and places that were destroyed as their new reality dawned. After more than 8 months (!), Noah let a dove out, but it returned to him. It had no place to land. It took 2 more weeks for the earth to regrow foliage and dry out enough for the bird to be safe to fend for itself (Genesis 6-8).

We’ve had a few losses on the property. Some bushes and trees keeled over due to the snowfall’s weight. Snow bowed the holly tree. The camellia bush was about to bloom before the snow started. The arborvitaes by the front gate look like a peeled banana, according to Zac. Meantime, I’m going to get the most out of it, completing schoolwork and playing with the family. But soon, the snow will melt off, allowing space for spring to step in. This too shall pass.

walmart primroses

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1