vulnerable path

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The Key

Have you ever had a moment when you think you must be losing your mind? That happened to me a few days ago. I was looking for my spare house key. And it wasn’t in the place where I knew that I had left it. It seemed to have just disappeared into thin air. It was right there in the basket by the front door last time I saw it.

I live by habits. Maybe I could call them rituals. I am methodical, organized, and just a bit obsessive-compulsive.  It is a ritual to put the key in the same place every time I use it. Then I always know where it is. I can be confident in my obsessiveness. It works for me. It keeps me on track.

So when the key wasn’t where it was supposed to be, I became overwhelmed with anxiety. I had to figure out where it was. Did I leave it in a coat pocket? Was it in my purse or my gym bag? I began scouring the house to find the key. I emptied the basket by the door, repeatedly, hoping maybe I missed it the first time I checked. I scrounged through my purse. No luck. I checked every pocket of every coat in the closet. Nope, not there either.

And all the while, my daughter watched. She said she had no idea where the key was. She hadn’t seen it. She hadn’t touched it. I asked if anyone had been in the house. She said no. I explained that it wasn’t just a matter of having misplaced the key. I was afraid that if someone had taken it, then our security was threatened. She watched me empty the basket again. She watched me dump out my purse.

This all came about because my car was in the shop again, and I was driving a loaner. I left my keys at the shop, so I didn’t have a house key when we got home that day. Thankfully, my daughter had one in her backpack. But I needed that spare key.

After about 20 minutes of fruitless searching, I was forced to give up and continue with my evening. Time to make dinner and get ready to go to the gym. I was stewing. Where the hell was that key? It was driving me nuts! Why are things like this so difficult for me to let go? I could feel the anxiety swelling up in my chest. All that adrenalin – the tank is full but there’s no place to go; my engine was racing. This is the kind of stuff that kills people. I knew I needed to calm myself down.

Then I thought about the serenity prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Yes, that’s helpful. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. I cannot change the fact that the key is missing. Accept it. Take another deep breath. OK, I’m getting a handle on this.

So we eat dinner, and dress for the gym, and head out the door into the freezing cold night. As we are driving down the road, I see that my daughter looks angry. What’s wrong? Nothing. I said to her, “I’m not mad at you. I’m just angry about something that I don’t understand and can’t control. It’s not your fault.” She thinks everything is her fault. She is constantly apologizing for things that are not her fault. Then she says, “Well, what if I accidentally took it with me to Daddy’s and left it there.” To that I say, “Wouldn’t you know that you had done that? How can you accidentally do that, or not remember that you did it, or not be sure if you did it?” I scoffed this off. I did not see this as a half-hearted admission of guilt. I saw it as a way for the child to offer a solution where there wasn’t one.

It felt so good to get on the treadmill that night. I ran my little heart out. Emptied the tank. By the time I had run three miles, I felt much more at peace. It might have helped that I kept repeating my serenity mantra the entire time.

At home, we both get ready for bed. I helped her brush her hair after a shower. As we stood there, I once again brought up the lost key. I explained that it is so frustrating because I always put it in the exact same place. And how can it go missing from the place I intentionally always put it.

Suddenly her face turned blotchy and crimson. Her lip quivered and she began to laugh and cry at the same time. In that second I knew. And I also began laughing and crying at the same time. I said to her, “Where is the key? Child, I am not going to be angry with you for telling me the truth.” In sobs, she said that she was afraid I would be mad at her. She explained that she always gets scared that she is going to forget something when her Dad arrives to get her on Fridays. So she grabbed the key on the way out the door. And she put it somewhere at his house, and she’s not quite sure where.

I cannot explain how much of a relief this was. I felt the hours of anxiety just drain away. Thank God I am not losing my mind. However, I also realized that I now had a different problem. I had to address the lie.

People lie for two reasons – to protect themselves or to protect someone else. Often there are very good intentions behind lies. However, I cannot tolerate them. Lies have caused the deepest wounds that I have endured in my life. It is one of my top priorities as a parent to teach my child the importance of being truthful and honest.

So I take a glass out of the cabinet and I ask her to hold it with an outstretched arm. I ask her how much it weighs. It’s pretty light. Then I say, “How heavy would it feel if you had to hold it like that for an hour?” It would get very uncomfortable she says. Yes. That’s what lies are like – an uncomfortable burden that you carry around. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes every day. But when you lie about it, you’ve just made two mistakes. Unburden yourself, I tell her. Live by truth.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

© Vulnerable Path, 2015



A walk in the woods

The weather may have been freezing cold this weekend, but I was determined to spend some time outside, appreciating nature.  Here in Pennsylvania, we are lucky to experience the change of seasons.  And I try to see the beauty in all of them.

lake_editedWith the chaos of the holiday season right around the corner, I find it even more important to step aside and enjoy a quiet moment.  No better place for that than in the woods.


I take my Girl Scouts on a wonderful camping trip every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Here are a few of the scenes I found at our lovely hide-away in the woods.


During the summer, this lake is filled with swimmers and boaters.  But on the verge of winter, it is already frozen over.  Even the waves by the lake’s edge seemed to have been frozen right as they were about to break.



rhododendrun_editedIt’s fascinating that as winter approaches, some plants in the woods are already preparing for spring.  The cold air curls the leaves of the rhododendron bushes, as though they are wrapping themselves tight against the frosty air.  Clusters of dead flowers still cling to the plant.  But the new blossoms have already formed and wait to explode in the warmth of June.


The lake is encircled by hundreds, if not thousands, of rhododendron bushes.  They have grown massive over the years.  Along one section of trail around the lake, the bushes form a canopy overhead.  What a sight it must be in the spring!


kayaks_editedThis time of year, there is not much color to liven up the landscape.  But one sign of summer lingered, brightening up the view!

I think I would have been tempted to take a kayak out on the lake had it not been frozen over!  Though, no paddles were in sight, so that might have been difficult.


frosty_leavesI love to take a close look at Mother Nature’s creations.  The smallest crystals of frost on the dried leaves were like tiny gems sparking in the morning sunlight.


Nearby, a marshy bog had frozen over.  The ice was smooth and perfectly clear.  It was like peering through glass at the forest floor trapped beneath.  What living things could be under there?  Will they be strong enough to survive these harsh conditions?


Nature is full of resilience.  And so are we.  A walk in the woods reminds me of this.  Our frozen hearts can be revived.  We are strong enough to outlast the harshest winter of the soul.  Our spirits can bloom again, stronger, wiser, and more beautiful than ever.

© Vulnerable Path, 2014


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Kitchen Therapy: Session Two

I wasn’t supposed to have time for this.  I try to write one blog post a week; however, it didn’t look like it was going to happen this week.  I was struggling to come up with a subject.  There was no time to to sit down and focus on it.  There were just too many commitments.  But, unexpectedly, I found some time today.

I have said yes to too many things.  I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.  There are Halloween party invites and a craft day at a friend’s house.  I’m making a costume for myself this year (a first!) for a Halloween themed yoga class I’m attending.  I’m planning Girl Scout meetings and testing out craft ideas for our annual Girl Scout craft fair.  And this job I have keeps getting in the way.  My laundry piles are screaming for attention.  It might be a good idea to buy some groceries and plan a few meals for the week.  And perhaps I should change the sheets and clean the bathrooms.  There is no way I’m fitting in a run today.   

I have this fantasy of a restorative, unburdened life.  It isn’t happening this week. 

But I admit I put this all on myself.  Sometimes I think I need to reprioritize.  Maybe it’s time for me to back off on some of my commitments.  Nope, not likely.  I might disappoint someone.  Sounds like I need to re-read Brene’ Brown’s Guideposts.  Exhaustion is not a status symbol.  And I don’t need to please everybody. 

So to put a little calm and stillness in my life today, I happily turned to my kitchen when the opportunity presented itself.  Here is Kitchen Therapy:  Session Two.  Though I’m not sure it’s possible to get tired of pumpkin, I have also been craving another fall favorite — apples. 


German Apple Cake

2 eggs

1 C vegetable oil

2 C sugar (less if you prefer)

1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 C flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 C apples – peeled, cored, and diced (I used Granny Smith and Honey Crisp)

3/4 C chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour one 9×13 baking pan.  You can also use two loaf pans.

In a mixing bowl, beat oil and eggs with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add the sugar and vanilla and beat well.

Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices in a bowl.  Slowly add to the egg mixture and mix until combined.  The batter will be very thick.  Fold in the apples and walnuts by hand.  I reserved some of the walnuts to use on top.  Spread batter into prepared pan.  I sprinkled the tops of my loaf pans with the reserved walnuts and some granulated sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until cake tests done.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and a steaming cup of Constant Comment tea.

photo 3

Carve out some time each day for calm and stillness.  It’s a time for you to open up an “emotionally clutter-free space,” as Brown calls it, to “allow yourself to feel, think, dream, and question.”  Be reflective.  Do one thing that makes you feel peaceful.  Keep a balance.  And breathe.

© Vulnerable Path, 2014