I’m learning to accept reality and not push against what I cannot change. It’s liberating.

For example, I deeply value efficiency. But when you have a kidney stone and a stent in place, it’s not going to be a quick process. There’s surgery to remove the stone and then, a week or so later, another surgery to remove the stent. Meanwhile, you wait around for things like a surgery date. You take all the medication. You rest. Nothing feels efficient or productive. And you don’t feel like yourself. And because of the stress on hospitals and the health care workers from COVID-19, everything might be delayed.

What does it look like to work within this reality? I’m learning this: acceptance is a beautiful and powerful thing. This is what’s happening, and because of God’s sovereign care of my life, it’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. These things are, of course, difficult to believe, but when I just take each moment as it comes, it’s all OK. I look for the hidden blessing. I find the flair!

So right now, I’m thankful for the gifts of soup and sunflowers today from loving neighbors. I’m thankful for cats curled up, warm blankets, and sunshine filtering through golden autumn leaves. I’m thankful for television and TikTok and for my flexible students. I’m thankful for candles and hot showers and freshly made bread.

And if you ever have a very large kidney stone, I’ll know how to help you.


I Can’t Do Anything Today

The Italian Mama tells me this lesson that it took her 10 years to learn: “Don’t push yourself. You need to rest to recover. It’s a hard lesson to learn.” 

Recover! Rest! Don’t push!

After this past surgery and while I await the next one to remove this enormous kidney stone, I’m on this couch. I’ll watch Gilmore Girls. I’ll eat the food sent from neighbors. I’ll do nothing. I won’t even blog (well—I might blog).

Maybe we all need to rest to recover today.

PS: The angelic nurse who wheeled me into surgery could sense how nervous and scared I felt. She said something I cannot stop thinking about. She looked down at me and said, “Now, this is where I leave you. But you are in the Lord’s everlasting arms. He is carrying you now.” 

Maybe someone needed to read that.




My Writing Day Turned Into a Night and Day at the Hospital

My plans for a beautiful writing day ended at 1:00 AM when an 8 mm kidney stone announced itself. What followed? Pain! Pain till the ER gave me relief. Then a scan, then surgery to place a stent. Now, I wait to make sure there’s no infection, and then another surgery. The day is almost over.

Did I write?

No! It was the opposite of a cozy writing day.

At once point someone said “You’ll write about this one day.” Ha!

I’ll write one day.


How to Plan a Writing Day

When a writing deadline approaches, you might want to think about planning writing days. I tell students to plan a writing day like it’s an event. You need everything you would need at any other event including a chosen location and special food and music. When you’re at your scheduled event, you do the thing you’re supposed to do there. You don’t attend another event. You focus on where you are and what you’re doing at the event you’re attending.

So eliminate all distractions. It’s your writing day. You aren’t doing anything else. Don’t respond to the phone or texts. Don’t answer the door. You’re busy. (If you’re a parent of younger children, this is the day you’ve sent everyone away to a fun event with a babysitter! If you work full-time like me, this is a Saturday event.) 

Before your writing day, prepare your meals ahead of time so you don’t have to take long breaks to make food. Writing makes you hungry! Stock the fridge with soup, sandwiches, or fresh fruit. Stock the pantry with nuts and chocolate and really good coffee. You might consider ordering something like pizza or Chinese food to get you through you the later afternoon hours. Splurge! It’s your writing day!

For your actual writing day event, have a good breakfast with your great coffee. Settle in to your location shortly thereafter. Maybe it’s your home office, a coffee shop, or a retreat location like a little cabin in the woods with a roaring fire (I wish!). Then, write for two hours, taking a 10 minute break after the first hour to stretch. You might feel discouraged that the writing day still looms ahead of you. It’s just the morning! But you’re going to love this day. Play music. Light a candle. Refill your coffee. Put on slippers and anything that makes you feel cozy and at home.

Around 10 or 11 (depending when you start), go for a nice long walk. Then eat something. Then write for two more hours. Repeat the snacks and walking (or stop for a big meal) and then go back to writing for two more hours. By this time, you’ll be thinking you need a long break. Watch a show. Walk. Take a bath. Put a chicken in the oven to roast. But know that after an hour, you’ll return for your final 2 hours of writing. 

Before you know it, you’ll have finished that paper or that chapter. You’ll have put in a long day of writing–8 hours of it! Maybe this should be your plan for your Saturday. I think it might be mine!


Learning New Things About Writing

As you know, I love grammar. After teaching writing for 25 years, you’d think I would know everything about writing. You’d think I’d become bored.

Well, I don’t. And I love that I don’t. There’s always more to learn about the craft of good writing. It makes writing and teaching writing continually exciting.

This year, I’ve been studying how to help technical writers improve their craft. I normally teach more creative writing for those in the humanities. But when you work with scientists, mathematicians, and engineers (aerospace, computer, architectural, civil, mechanical, chemical, electrical), you teach them mostly about precision, clarity, and order in a document. You help them simplify complex concepts. Besides all the things I regularly teach (strong verbs, audience, persuasive techniques, pacing), I find I’m teaching so many new things and emphasizing new skills:

I teach about descriptive versus functional headings and how to guide readers through a document. I teach the advanced grammar of using interrogatives (asking the reader a guiding question) avoiding nominalization (when you turn a verb into a noun), perfecting parallel structure in a sentence, and making use of adjectival nouns to eliminate too many prepositions. So many new skills! I’m loving it! Do you know all these concepts? I didn’t! Technical writers need these skills. It turns out I do, too.

I’m becoming a better wrier. I’m becoming more precise.

I think about all these genius students who will go change the world. I think about all the things they’ll write in their lifetime. What a joy to be part of their journey!


Doing Nice Things for Strangers

It feels good to do nice things for strangers. Try it! Think about intentional kindness to strangers as a way to live with flair. If the day feels boring or purposeless to you, you can set your mind to find strangers to bless. I love the challenge of it. I love imagining what I’ll do.

It feels part of a “sent” identity. What if God sends you today to bless a stranger?

Once, at the airport, instead of complaining and sitting in misery over a delayed flight, I thought about helping others. I tried to notice people around me. That day, I helped an older woman with a walker who looked disoriented find her way to the bathroom. Later, she was scared and confused about where to go and how to make sure she was in the right place, so I sat beside her until she boarded the right flight. Next, I helped a young man with headphones on who almost missed his flight to Montreal. I noticed his Canadian passport and realized he couldn’t hear his name being called over the intercom because his flight was departing. I shook him and sent him running out to catch that flight. He couldn’t stop thanking me as he ran on, arms flailing as he burst through the doors to his flight. I imagine him home, safe and warm in Canada.

So far today, helping strangers meant letting a car turn in front of me in a long line of traffic this morning. The driver seemed so grateful and relieved to inch her way in to an otherwise solid block of unrelenting cars.

It meant complimenting someone’s plaid pants. I walked by a woman on the way to my classroom and just said, “I absolutely love those pants.” She turned around and said, “Oh! My pants? Oh! Oh, thank you!” I think it made her day. She tilted her head up and walked on, probably feeling gorgeous.

Who’s next? I think about where I’ll be this afternoon and which strangers I can bless with some kind gesture. I think about those times in my life when a complete stranger helped me. I can be that person.



God Acts on What He Hears

I’m reading The Listening Life by Adam McHugh. In one chapter, McHugh talks about God as always listening and acting on what He hears. God doesn’t listen and ignore. God doesn’t listen and forget.

God listens and acts. He’s already responding right now to what you’ve asked in prayer.

Consider Psalm 37:5: Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

Think of Isaiah 30:19: He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.

He will act. He will answer.


Far Too Small

Yesterday, I read the lyrics to “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (written by Isaac Watts in 1707). This verse captured my heart:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Think of it: If you had everything, but no Christ, that would be far too small a thing. Our hearts were made for the fullness of Christ. Every other present—in fact anything we might possibly gain here on earth—won’t ever be enough. Everything here is simply far too small for us.