Is there a story you need to tell?

All right now, raise your hand and roll your eyes if you’ve ever heard someone at a family/friend gathering tell a story for the zillionth time.

But I beg you to show no disdain for the storyteller, because you know good and well you have a couple of these in your own back pocket. And even more important, chances are there’s a very good reason that tales like this keep resurfacing.

I say this because I myself have such a story. I’ve told it in A Hope Deferred and in The Embrace of a Father and in Born To Be Wild. My husband and daughter and many of my friends could retell it with no trouble.

And now I’m sharing it with you…for a very good reason. So put on your sweatpants, grab a hot mug of something and a leftover Christmas cookie, and gather around the fire. Aunt Jill is at it again.

Once upon a time…

Can you change your perspective?

Ever get some news at Christmas that tests your powers of positivity?

Me too.

Not so long ago, I’d been experiencing some hip pain, but I certainly didn’t expect to hear the doctor inside my phone saying, “Well, no wonder you’re in pain! You have pieces of cartilage all over the place in there, and there’s almost no cartilage in your hip joint. I recommend a total hip replacement.”

Whaaat?? Me?? Strong, healthy, invincible me??? Too-young-for-a-hip-replacement me? I was absolutely floored. Apparently I was born with dysplasia (yes, I know, dogs have it too) that, after a “number of years” (ahem) precipitated this wear and tear; finally, the cartilage made a break for it. A fast break.

We set the surgery up for January, and I spent the Christmas season on crutches. I searched hard for ways to get in the Christmas spirit; the best I could do was gimp around, brandishing a crutch and saying, “God bless us, every one!”

To tell you the truth, though, I was bummed in a big way. The nerve of God, letting this happen at the “most wonderful time of the year.”

How about a “humor adventure”?

It’s almost Christmas. Perhaps your life is not perfect.

A few Decembers ago we ourselves had a challenging Christmas season. Our daughter had some pretty serious surgery that required a lengthy recovery, so Ben and I took turns staying with her in her apartment in Boston.

We had all missed a bunch of festivities, and spent Christmas Day in her little apartment, sans friends and extended family, with a virtual yule log burning on a TV screen, and a daughter who was loopy on painkillers.

There was nothing essentially humorous about this situation; however, at one point, Ben and I decided it was time for a little adventure in levity.

What makes you uncomfortable?

Your answer to this question can tell you a lot about yourself.

And to be clear, I’m not talking about Spanx-type discomfort. (Although that kind actually does speak to me. It says, “No. Nuh-uh. Not doin’ this.”)

I’m talking about the kind that sits in your gut, saying, “Wish I would, maybe I could, I really should,” but then hesitates, because thinking about doing that thing makes those insides of yours churn a bit. And, let’s face it, we all prefer insides with a peaceful, easy feeling.

But haven’t you ever done something that made you uncomfortable, then in the end been glad you’d done it?

I’ll bet you have; and I’ll also bet there are more adventures queued up inside you, waiting for a turn.

So exactly what is making you uncomfortable?

Putting your thoughts out there in a book or a blog?




Fear of lookin’ the fool? of failure?

You’re not alone. But consider this:

What can you find by getting lost?

Ever find yourself lost?

You might be a person who traditionally would prefer to cut your head off rather than ask for directions. You might also be a guy. Not that I am even hinting at a connection between gender and requesting assistance with global positioning. No. Not at all.

Siri has eased that tension a bit because, let’s face it, lots of people are quite fine with asking a fake person for directions.

The truth is, though, mostly nobody enjoys being lost.

However, my husband and I learned a while back that there’s a lot to be found when you’re ignorantly wandering around in the wilderness…so to speak..

What’s so great about today?

How’s your head lately?

Maybe your mind is a whirling dervish, bouncing around the room and off the walls, jumping in and out of windows and slamming doors. You’re thinking about–oh, you name it:

all the stuff you have to do,

all the stuff that’s on your mind,

all the stuff that isn’t right in this world,

all the stuff that isn’t right in your life,

all the stuff that should be but isn’t,

that you should have done but didn’t,

that you did but shouldn’t have,

that you want but don’t have,

and most of all ______________________. (Fill in the blank with your own current personal peace-stealer.)

I don’t claim to have the cure for the Tasmanian devil that’s running rampant all over your head. But sometimes you just want a little taste of “all’s right with the world,” just a taste of some positive in the middle of all the crazy.


This is your invitation to join me in an Advent adventure that’s practically guaranteed to bring more than a few tidings of comfort and joy.

Who cares?

So. The holidays are comin’ like a freight train.

And also like a freight train, they are loaded.

Loaded with joy. Or sorrow.

With hope. Or hopelessness.

With peace. Or stress.

Maybe you have too much to do. Or not enough to do.

Maybe you have family drama. Or not enough family to create drama.

Maybe you look forward to the next six weeks. Or maybe you just wish it were over.

Whichever side of the tracks you’re on this year, I have an invitation that will increase the joy you already feel, and also be some crazy good therapy for the blues you may be singing:

Tap into a passion of yours and use it to launch a Kindness Adventure.

Why not?

Have you ever in your life broken the law? Even a little break of a little law?

(Pause for a few great stories. I wish I could hear what’s happening in your head right now.)

Feel free to share the incriminating details below–if nothing else, to teach us all a lesson. Because that’s what I’m about to do.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I got a ticket for making an illegal u-turn. This was because I didn’t see the sign…and that was because I was first in line at the stoplight, and the “no u-turn” sign was to my left and so high up, it wasn’t visible to the first car at the intersection. I thought I had a case, especially since my husband Ben had recently gotten out of his ticket by appearing and humble and respectful before the judge.

So I took pictures, got my little speech ready, dressed up in my most humble and respectful looking clothes, and headed off to court. When it was my turn, the judge was not interested in my story, nor was he interested in my pictures. “The sign’s there for a reason,” he said cruelly and inhumanely.

And I had a choice: pay the money or be sentenced to traffic school.

What’s over now?

Who doesn’t love a good breakup song?

So satisfying on a number of levels: full of torment and regret with just the right touch of revenge and strength.

Think Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.

Or Garth Brooks’ Friends in Low Places.

Or Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger.

All great songs, reminding us that working though the process of acknowledging what’s over and taking steps forward is undeniably tough.

You can bet your angst-y Spotify playlist on it.

The good news is that, even though breaking up is hard to do, apparently there’s more than one way to do it.

Think Cry Me a River–two ways.

First, listen to Susan Boyle’s version here.

This woman is in bad shape. Her man done her wrong, and now he wants her back, but she’s having none of it. She’s so mournful and so low, she’s bringing us all down to melt in her puddle.

Somebody please scrape her off the floor and pour her into a chair, for crying a river out loud.

Now listen to Joe Cocker’s version here.

Same song. Same words. Same story. But oh, the attitude is crazy different.

Obviously, this guy is way further along. As in sass, attitude, energy. He is up and off the ground. The man has most definitely moved on, and is booking down the road with his bad self intact.

Don’t we all wish we could transfer directly from crisis to Cocker in one easy step?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way.

If you had one year to get really good at something, what would you try?

You may have to think about this one, as you fight off the flock of boo-birds attacking your mind, but let’s suspend reality for a moment.

Imagine that you have no restrictions–time, money, opportunity–for one year, and instructions to get out there and get good at something that’s been lollygagging around in your soul for a while. What would you try?

Of course, some folks may have trouble suspending reality for any length of time.  And I understand the dilemma.

This is a risky exercise because, let’s face it, you may find that you’re terrible at the thing you want to do well. On the other hand, you may indeed get really good at it. Or, on the third hand, the whole adventure could evolve into a big ol’ surprise. For example: