Well, that's not exactly Christmas Talk, now is it?

It's no secret that I am often frustrated by the media these days.

And further, that while I want to make a difference sometimes I just don't know how.

I've never promised to have the answers and I am just as guilty as the next person for settling for complacency or basking in oblivion or even pointing fingers to alleviate my share of the burden.

What I share with you today isn't an End All and it very likely will be swallowed up by the Black Hole of Information Overload (or even just Warm, Fuzzy Christmas Thoughts).

But I saw this and thought well, this is exactly what I've been asking for. So the very least I can do is spread the word. And then we can all be informed.

And we can all sit around and discuss the Congo and Somalia and Sri Lanka and say together with Dr. Fournier:

"There is no question that civilians are increasingly victimized in conflicts and further cut off from lifesaving assistance, often deliberately. In places like Sri Lanka and Yemen, where armed conflicts raged in 2009, aid groups were either blocked from accessing those in need or forced out because they too came under fire. This unacceptable dynamic is becoming the norm. Our teams on the ground are witnessing the very tangible human consequences of these crises directly, either in war zones or in the AIDS and nutrition clinics in which they work. We're therefore compelled and obligated to speak out.

— Dr. Christophe Fournier
MSF International Council President

And maybe someday, hopefully someday soon, this compelling will move from a word-spreading into an action-spreading.

And relief workers will have access to help the hurting without risking their own lives and the government will commit to spending just as much to curing AIDS or eliminating childhood malnutrition as they did for H1N1 and the world will echo a resounding call for Peace on Earth (and not just at Christmas time in a cushy church pew).

May you hear hope in the sound of jingling bells this year but may you also hear a sense of urgency.

Merry Christmas, friends. See you next year.

MSF Top 10 Humanitarian Crises of 2009


All I want for Christmas is...

...a house made of Legos.

No, wait, a credit card with a ridiculously high (read: 79%) APR.

No, wait. Thaaaat's more like it...

p.s. I would also accept this, this, this, these or anything from here.


Because it wouldn't be Christmas without...

...the Holiday Armadillo!

Happy Christmas week!


A simple illustration of why my eye has been twitching since 2007:

In keeping with my Future Freakout mode as of late, I share with you today a post so aptly titled "Fear of the unknown." From here.

(Thanks Lauren for tipping me off to such a delightful blog!)


Travel with me for a moment to East Africa.

Because faces are so much harder to ignore.
Because we are family.
Because they are losing hope.

The caption reads:
Frederick Mwanzia tells a similar story: "Hunger robs you of everything - the ability to work and provide, the prospect of a better life, dignity and ambition. Without rain, there is no hope."

View the entire slideshow here.


Because a diet isn't the only thing that needs a little wiggle room.


For some, this is a time of grand adventures. World travels. Passionate pursuits. Risk. Grit. An unapologetic existence. The chance to follow one's every whim and chalk it up to "finding oneself"--for better or worse.

For others, this is a time of establishment. Of also "finding oneself"...but within the more rigid parameters of a marriage/child/job/education. And there's sacrifice. And toil. And brute determination to lay the groundwork for the future.

I find myself wavering between the two. Living in the both/and or (probably more accurately) neither/nor. Neither the romance of the Risktaker nor the direction of the Establisher.

I dream of adventures but wake up to a cubicle. I long for stability but abhor feeling stifled.

So, I just keep taking wobbly steps. In this direction or that. Or maybe even in circles. Somehow feeling winded though I feel I've hardly moved.

And it's easy to feel second-rate. And it's easy to make excuses. And it's easy to laugh it off and say Oh who knows...

But in the midst of the soul-searching and dreaming and list-making and day-to-day brush-your-teeth-do-your-laundry-fill-your-gas-tank living, I find myself breathing a bit more deeply these days.

And trying to find some solace in the whoosh of right now.


What Matters Now

If you have a few moments or would just simply like a way to dress up a rather drab day, take a gander at this.

Kind of like an e-coffeetable-book of sorts.

Each segment is a new perspective on various topics from various "big thinkers"
and features names such as Elizabeth Gilbert, Tim O'Reilly, Dave Ramsey and more.

Here are some excerpts that I found particularly inspiring. Enjoy!


If you make a difference, people will gravitate
to you. They want to engage, to interact and to
get you more involved...
Art can’t happen without someone who seeks
to make a difference. This is your art, it’s what
you do. You touch people or projects and
change them for the better.
(Seth Godin)


Until Fear is gone, (and realize he may never
completely leave) make the decision to be
courageous. The world needs your story in order to
be complete.
(Anne Jackson)

Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a
step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn
off all your electronics and surrender over all
your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a
spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the
world. But trust me: The world will still need
saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going
to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in
somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down.
(Elizabeth Gilbert)

More megaphones don’t equal a better dialogue.
We’ve become slaves to our mobile devices and the
glow of our screens. It used to be much more
simple and, somewhere, simple turned into slow.
We walk the streets with our heads down staring
into 3-inch screens while the world whisks by
doing the same. And yet we’re convinced we are
more connected to each other than ever before.
Multi-tasking has become a badge of honor. I want
to know why.
(Howard Mann)

In a down economy—particularly one that has
taken most of us by surprise—things get very
tactical. We are just trying to survive. What
worked yesterday does not necessarily work today.
What works today may not necessarily work
tomorrow. Decisions become pragmatic.
But after a while this wears on people. They don’t
know why their efforts matter. They cannot
connect their actions to a larger story. Their work
becomes a matter of just going through the
motions, living from weekend to weekend,
paycheck to paycheck.
This is where great leadership makes all the
difference. Leadership is more than influence. It is
about reminding people of what it is we are trying
to build—and why it matters. It is about painting a
picture of a better future. It comes down to
pointing the way and saying, “C’mon. We can do
(Michael Hyatt)

Education has a ripple effect...Yet for hundreds of millions of kids in the
developing world, the ripple never begins. Instead,
there’s a seemingly inescapable whirlpool of
poverty. In the words of a headmaster I once met
in Nepal: “We are too poor to afford education.
But until we have education, we will always be
poor.” (John Wood)

The word harmony carries some serious baggage.
Soft, namby-pamby, liberal, weak. Men who value
harmony aren’t considered macho. Women who
value harmony are considered stereotypical.
Success is typically defined with words like hard
(sell, line, ass). Successful people are lauded for
being argumentative, self-interested, disruptive.
But those assumptions are the dregs of a culture
that celebrates the lone hero who leads with
singular ambition all the while damning the sheep
who follow him in harmonious ignorance.
(Jack Covert)

Journalism as we know it is in trouble. The old models
don’t serve us anymore with the content we need. Now is
our chance to make it better.
(Alisa Miller)

The future of the planet is becoming less about
being efficient, producing more stuff and
protecting our turf and more about working
together, embracing change and being creative.
(Joichi Ito)

View the entire free ebook here.
Happy inspiring.


A brief interruption of frenzied list-making and coffee gulping to ask:

Each Tuesday this fall, you could find me gathered around a delicious meal with some of my favorite people at an Alpha course.

The dinners were great, the videos were interesting and our small-group discussion was fruitful, but my favorite part hands-down was the fourth part of the course--the one not advertised and
in fact, not part of the official program at all, really (but hey, Nicky Gumbel, if you're reading this, maybe this is food for thought? And maybe we could meet IN PERSON to discuss? You let me know.).

It was the ride home, the after-Alpha coffee dates, the phone calls and emails and lunchtime discussions with my long-time friend. We would sit and chat and unpack and repack and muddle through and clean up and do whatever we needed to do in order to engage with the night's discussion, all of which were centered around the basics of Christianity.

She's an Asker of Extraordinary Questions, my friend, and sometimes she'd leave my wheels spinning and other times she'd stop me right in my tracks.

One night, as the rain was pitter-pattering on my windshield, we discussed prayer. That night, at Alpha, we'd discussedGod as our Father and prayer as a means to engage in that relationship.

"So when you pray," my friend began, turning to me, "who do you picture?"

"Hmm...I'm not sure what you mean," I said.

"I mean, who are you praying to? Do you picture God as you would your own father--like curling up on the couch next to him and everything? Or more like a faraway Spirit in the Sky? Or a King on a throne? Or someone else? How do you picture God? Who are you praying to?"

"Well," I said slowly, stalling, racking my brain for an answer to a question that I felt very foolish for not knowing how to begin to respond.

"Well," I said again, "...to tell you the truth, I don't really know who I picture on the other end of my prayers because I guess I just don't really think about it. Which seems kind of ridiculous actually...

"I suppose if I had to give an answer it would be this--yes, I do picture God as a Father. But to me, I would say not as much a super-comfy-hang-out-on-the-couch-in-your-slippers-while-drinking-hot-chocolate-and-having-a-heart-to-heart kind of thing but more like just-moved-to-college-calling-home-when-its-convenient-you-don't-need-to-know-everything-about-everything kind of a deal."

And I know that seems like a pretty basic question and I know that my answer is anything but mind-blowing, but for some reason, that question has been echoing in my head ever since.

So what about you...Who are you praying to?


Because if I don't start typing, my fingers will enevitably land in the mint M&M bag. Again.

So, hey everyone, in case you hadn't heard (or had avoided your calendar like the plague because HOLY CRAP IT CANNOT BE CHRISTMASTIME JUST YET), Christmas Day is a mere two weeks away.

You're welcome for that panic attack.

And hey, you know, I'm right there with you.

I have Post-Its piled so high, I am just waiting for the moment my co-workers find my curled into a fetal position with a sticky-note quilt pulled up to my chin mumbling, "Hey, um, could you hand me a pen?"

And sure, we all know It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, but I believe this is just a nice way of saying If You Aren't Pulling Your Hair Out, YOU AREN'T AMERICAN!

I'm afraid I have nothing to offer those who feel over-committed or under-productive. I have no holiday help guide or "how-to" manual for throwing the best Christmas party.

I don't know how to better manage your stress or how to help you say no or even how to help you just relax and enjoy the season in five easy steps.

In fact, truth be told, I am the last one who would judge you for throwing up your hands and saying, "I GIVE UP. I CAN'T DO IT. JUST GIVE ME THAT ROLL OF STORE-BOUGHT COOKIE DOUGH AND NO ONE GETS HURT."


I've run across some resources that I cannot, in good conscience, keep to myself.

I do not share them with strings attached or with the intention of adding yet another component of obligation to your holidays or even by proposing within these very links lie The Ultimate Answer.

I understand some of the resources would force us to really challenge our ideas of giving and receiving and that MAN it is oh-so-difficult to challenge our traditions.

I get that, I really do, and I know that even if you do find these resources worthwhile, they will at the very least challenge you to reconsider where to shop or what to buy or maybe rethink your understanding of celebration altogether.

But as much as it confuses me, too, and as much as I'd love to look the other way and just hunker down and survive...I think that the One and Only Reason for the Season would prefer otherwise.

And in so many words, it's because this seed has been planted and it just won't go away.

So, this Christmas, I offer you this guide from this organization, which is full of creative and challenging ways to rethink the season, and in addition, their list of sources for earth-friendly products:

View the guide to simplify your holidays here (free download with free sign up).

And check out these resources:
Alternative Gifts International www.altgifts.org
Conscious Consumer www.consciousconsumer.org
Give for Change www.giveforchange.com
National Green Pages from Co-op America www.coopamerica.org
Ten Thousand Villages www.tenthousandvillages.org

...And in case I don't get to tell you in person, Merry Christmas friends.

May you find peace in this time of total insanity and know you are loved--whether you cook that fancy meal or not.



The go-to question for me from many these days is "So, how is wedding planning going?!"

My usual response is a quick smile and an "Oh pretty good! Thanks!"

And it is. In so many words.

But the question that few ask but seems much more pertinent is, "So, how is engagement going?!"

And it's not that my response would be much different (at least, not if you want the short version) and I'm not generally one to write anything extremely personal for the viewing public, especially since Adam isn't giving this a read-through before I hit "Publish" (hey, Adam! Just, you know, sharing a little of our personal life with the Internet! No worries!).

But it's just that as soon--and actually, even before--we were engaged, several married friends of ours advised us that engagement is just the absolute hardest, most intense time.

And after walking through the engagement season with several of my very best friends in the past few years, I saw firsthand how very emotional and stressful it seemed from the outside.

(So much so that literally the day after I had this sparkling ring on my finger, I turned to Adam and in all my graceful, romantic brilliance said point-blank, "I'm pretty sure we'll be fighting a lot in these next few months. Just so you know.")

Still, I didn't really know what to expect.

Yesterday, someone
asked me to describe my engagement experience and it got me thinking.

And the only way I could even attempt to explain this season for me is this (and please bear with me because I am generally not a visual thinker so this is pretty much completely out of my element):

Picture the spectrum of colors (we're talking the biggest box of Crayolas here, not just ROYGBIV).

Now imagine each color is an emotion.

For most seasons of my life, I could generally categorize my experience by picking out a few colors that are characteristic of that time. Of course, there is always a mix of some sort, but usually there are a few bold strokes of color that stick out.

The bizarre thing about this particular time--of my life, mind you, so please don't hear this as a universal statement because I am the first to admit I am far from Completely Normal...and Adam, if you are still reading, this is where you are free to jump in and DISAGREE! Ahem.--as I was saying, the bizarre thing about this season of my life is that it's so chalk-full of emotions that it is hard to begin to even separate them.

Instead, it just seems like one big multicolored blur.

And not just a stream of colors, but colors on steroids. Colors so plumped up with vibrancy and dripping with saturation that I am swimming in what can only be describe as a kaleidoscope of emotion--

Cornflower Blue wistfulness and Celery Green newness and Blushing Pink excitement and Brick Red frustration and Magenta heartbeats and Burnt Orange pain and Mac 'n' Cheese playfulness and plain Gray weariness and Seafoam dreams and Eggplant anxiety and Cocoa hope...

And they're squeeeeeeezed together and swirled around and smooshed into this very tiny speck of time that leaves me quite breathless, really.

And at the end of the day, I sink into the couch and wiggle my slippered toes and grab the hand I need to survive--the one that keeps me going, the one that pushes me along, the one that reaches out for me, too, because man-oh-man, we need each other in such a rich time of life.

And it's hard. And it's wonderful. And it's unlike anything we've ever experienced before.

And wow, is it worth it.