What can you do when there’s nothing you can do?

People mean well, they really do.

And when a friend is in crisis, they appear at the scene of the suffering, armed with the best of intentions.

Sometimes, though–how can I put this delicately?–they screw up.

As in this, which actually happened:

My friends Fred and Ethel (names have been changed to protect the guilty) were great pranksters, and decided one day that it would be fun to take a sponge cake to their friends, Lucy and Ricky. And I do mean a sponge cake. As in, made out of a real sponge. They cut the sponge to look like a layer cake, iced it up with some chocolate frosting, placed it on a decorative plate and brought it to their friends as a gift. Then they waited a few days for a response.

In the meantime, Lucy and Ricky had some friends who’d had a death in the family and, as we know, the first response of most people to death is “bring food.” They were short on time, and decided to take Fred and Ethel’s beautiful untouched “sponge cake” to the grieving family as a sign of their care and concern.

Can you make friends with annoying?

Some people are more easily annoyed than others. Maybe you are one of those. If so, just know it’s you and your kind I’m talking to here.

Because there’s a very good chance that you can turn an annoyance into an adventure…if you don’t mess up like I did.

At a Zac Brown Band concert not long ago, three young people were seated in front of us: a very pretty girl and two guys. One was obviously her boyfriend; the other poor sap she flirted with occasionally so he wouldn’t feel like the fifth wheel that he was. At least that’s what it looked like.

Apparently the girl’s raison d’etre (at least that night) was to revel in jumping up and down, throwing her arms around her boyfriend, nuzzling her boyfriend, kissing her boyfriend (who acted like he wasn’t that into all her enthusiasm) and throwing Fifth Wheel an occasional bone by flinging her arm around him. And then more jumping up and down. (Not to the music, by the way. Just random jumping, jumping, jumping.)

To be clear, I am all about enthusiasm at concerts–dancing, singing along, hands in the air and all that.

But these people were right in my line of view, making it impossible to see the stage, and they were getting on my nerves because they (the jumping girl in particular) were not acting like they cared about the music at all–that fabulous music by my favorite band of all time.

I seriously considered texting JLL followed by my “issue,” but didn’t think anyone would respond to “obstructed view due to jumping, not even in time with music.”

But I wanted them to go away, or at least change seats. I wanted to tell them–her especially–to go to the grassy section and do their acting out.

The grass was closer to the bathrooms anyway, so they could make their many trips in far less time. And I would have an unobstructed view of the Zac Brown Band. (Did I mention they were my favorite band of all time?)

Because, of course, the concert was all about me.

Yes, I am old.

Anyway, when they started in with the selfies, at first I just rolled my eyes. But then, for reasons known only to God, my heart started to soften a little, and I asked myself, “Can you just make friends with it? This situation? These people?”

And suddenly, what I WANTED to do was photobomb one of their little selfies. I seriously considered sticking my head in between Jumping Girl and Fifth Wheel, and making a dumb face.

But I didn’t.

Because it was a risk: that I would look even goofier than they were acting. That they would be hostile or think I was crazy or–worst of all–old. (Too late.)

It makes me think about the risk of making friends in annoying, inconvenient circumstances. Maybe with a person who crosses your path. Or maybe even with the circumstances themselves. Or maybe with both.

I got it right once.

During our unfortunate stay at a shelter during a flood , we were completely irritated at having ourselves inconvenienced. After a while though, when it was clear that the circumstance wasn’t going to change, we made friends with others–people on the cots to our left and right, everyone frustrated because nobody wanted to be there. We all had places to be, things to do.

One lady we’d befriended the day before told us that she was trying to get to her mother, who was in hospice care. We did our best to comfort her, and all of us on cots in her corner of the gym formed a little support group–even more valuable when, the next day, we saw her with her head in her hands, crying.

Her mother had died, and she kept repeating through her tears, “I tried to get to her, I tried to get to her…”

And all our hearts synced up and broke together.

We huddled until we were released to go in the night, one person (strangers, remember) riding with her in her car through dark, unfamiliar territory, all of us staying in touch by phone until we were at our destinations the next day.

I still carry her name and number in my wallet.

And I should have let that experience guide my behavior, if even on a more superficial level, when I found myself in an inconvenient (and annoying) place with those nearby humans the night of that concert.

Because I am now sorry I didn’t follow my instincts, and photobomb the Three Mouseketeers in front of me.

Maybe we would have talked with each other. We probably would have actually liked each other. Maybe we could have been friends. Maybe they would have sent me the picture and I would have been able to share it with you.

Sad to say, I didn’t. That time.

But you can bet that the next time opportunity knocks, I will open that door, since I now know that some kind of adventure might be waiting on the other side.

And just to be sure, I have been practicing my photobomb techniques. These people are actually friends, and this was a happy (not irritating!) occasion, but whatever. I’m locked, loaded, and lying in wait for a choice annoying inconvenience.

How about you?

If you’re just joining us, check out the very first post (Your Epic Adventure Starts Here), where you’ll learn about starting a yearlong (52 questions) quest to practice living a life of adventure. As a bonus, you will also find the backstory for that ridiculous herd of buffalo on the header photo of this website…

Envy somebody?

Oh, this is a tricky one.

Surely you are acquainted with envy.

Because everybody knows what it’s like to want something they don’t have.

But envy has multiple personalities, one of them being the Good-For-Practically-Nothing kind, which often manifests itself in ridiculous ways, such as…oh, let’s say Hair Envy.

Of this I am guilty.

When I was in high school, I so admired the long, straight blondness  that was popular back then. I wanted the hair you see in the header photo above…but my reality was this fine 70’s stylin’ you see to the right. 

Yes, I could have let my hair grow long, but it was fairly wild and woolly. It may be a little hard to tell from this picture, but those rascally curls were lying in wait in that shag haircut, just trying to make a break for it. Growing it long would have made it fairly difficult to get through doorways at the time.

Or how about Age Envy, which may also be accompanied by Opportunities-Afforded-People-Younger-Than-You Envy? For instance,

I remember the day I realized I was too old to be Miss America.

Not that that was ever actually on the table, but still.

And as inane as that one sounds, I’ll bet you have some experience with at least one kind of Good-For-Practically-Nothing Envy yourself.

What’s your problem?

Houston, we had a problem.

When I saw The Cat staring at the refrigerator, I thought we had a mouse in our midst. But when the little thing darted out and zoomed into the living room, I could see it was not a mouse, but a chipmunk.

Typically we have a loose division of labor at our house. I take care of poop and puke. My husband takes care of insects and small, rogue mammals.

But that night I was alone. (The Cat = the most non-predatory feline ever)

Now before you read further, I can imagine that you’re already thinking of your own “uninvited animal in the house” story. I’m sure you handled it with grace and aplomb, intelligence and finesse.

I, however, am not you.

Who needs your forgiveness?

Somebody do you wrong?

Trick question. I know the answer.

Because if you’re breathing, somebody somewhere at some time has done something to hurt you.

So here’s a non-trick question: Have you forgiven the perpetrator of your pain?

Let me be clear about what we’re dealing with in this little space here.

There’s the big stuff, the stories of amazing people who have forgiven the hideous injustices, unthinkable acts, and life-altering wrongs slapped against them (like this). That is a subject that has filled entire volumes, by people who know way more than I do about forgiveness on an epic level.

But I’m inviting you to start small.

I’m talking about the little things that stick in your craw for days or months or years; stuff that doesn’t exactly make you or break you; it just bends you out of shape and sends you on a weird trajectory…maybe toward a strained relationship or dark thoughts about your general worth as a human being.

You know where your tender spots are…what it takes to take you down.

Could you crash someone else’s adventure?

It’s football season, and that reminds me of something I’m not really crazy about: football.

How about you?

Chances are, you fall into one of two camps: 1) people who are mystified by the mass appeal of this sport or 2) people like my husband, Ben (a huge fan of college football, Virginia Tech in particular) who cannot wait for the season to start. Every game is an adventure to them, a trek into the Land of Unknown Finishes, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and all that.

For years I’d been meaning to learn more about the game. Then one Christmas Ben gave me a reservation in Coach Frank Beamer’s Football Clinic for Ladies. Yes, believe it or not, 700 women actually paid for a day at Virginia Tech to learn about playing with pigskin.

Who needs to hear from you?

Dear Jill,

I love you so much. I would give anything I own to be with you right now, my precious. I really don’t know how much longer I can stand to be without you. You are the sweetest, most considerate person in the world. I feel you are a blessing, a gift to my life. You are the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me.

                                                            from Ben to me circa a long time ago

The year before Ben and I were married, we were 600 miles apart more days than we were together. So we wrote to each other every day, keeping the ol’ flame uber-fanned.

These are the letters that steamed themselves open before they got to the post office.

These are the letters that one day–when our daughter finds them in the attic– will make her throw up in her mouth.

But these are also the letters that–if our house were to catch fire–I would fight to save.

Because the power of words on paper is mighty, friends.

What scares you?

I’m guessing this question isn’t hard for you to answer.

In fact, I’m guessing that, in thinking about it, a whole kennel of miscellaneous fears started barking at you if you entertained the thought for even a minute.

ALL of us are afraid of something, since there are so many opportunities to cower and shake and obsess and descend into darkness these days—on a global, regional and personal scale.

But consider this: maybe whatever is currently scaring you can point the way to a life of adventure.


So glad you asked…because that question, as always, reminds me of a story:

One year our church was sponsoring a women’s retreat titled Trusting God in the Ups and Downs of Life.  I was in charge of finding a drama and designing a set to enhance the theme.

I ultimately decided on a great sketch titled No More Womb, where the two main characters are unborn twins, hanging out in utero, discussing all that they look forward to and all that frightens them about entering the outside world.

Corralling actors was easy; designing the set, however, was a challenge since, let’s be honest, the requirements for this one were fairly weird.

So I asked a graphic artist if he could design us a backdrop that looked like a giant womb big enough to hold two adults dressed like fetuses.

Will you make a friend who’s different from you?

I grew up thinking I was not athletically gifted. It all started in the third grade on the playground during a kickball game. One boy in my class (we’ll call him Butch) was pitching the ball to me. He rolled it, and I ran to nail the thing with all my might, aiming my foot for a vicious attack.

Well, give me an A for effort. I flung my leg in the direction of the ball…and completely missed it. Missed. It. A huge, rubber playground ball. I am not sure how on earth this could have happened, but it did, which was bad enough. But worse, just at that moment, a good stiff wind caught my dress and blew it straight up into my face.

And Butch (being Butch) could not let this pass without a terrible, horrible, no good very bad comment:


I remember wanting to knock the kid into next week, but the wind was still blowing, and I was afraid of ballooning into another sideshow, so I told myself I didn’t care.

Didn’t care? I still remember it decades later. And I remember it as the beginning of the voices in my head telling me that I was not athletic–not coordinated, not graceful, not fast. Those voices ragged me for a long, long time.

No more.