Friday, December 2, 2011

Sweaty Fingerprints, Stars, and Bad Pictures

The sauna temperature was 139 degrees this morning when I ran my hand through my hair, then leaned on the wall. The image it left struck me.

I have certainly seen my handprint before. But have I looked at it recently?

From Wikipedia: Fingerprint identification is the process of comparing two instances of friction ridge skin impressions, from human fingers, the palm of the hand or even toes, to determine whether these impressions could have come from the same individual. The flexibility of friction ridge skin means that no two finger or palm prints are ever exactly alike in every detail.

But have I thought recently about what that means?

Doubtful. Who has time to think about fingerprints? Who has time to think at all?

When I was 10, two of my friends came up behind me as I was doing yard chores. They heard me talking, but I was alone. Susie asked what I was doing. I told her I was practicing being interviewed, because one day I was going to be very famous. They looked at each other, then at me, with puzzled faces. After a moment, Susie said, "You're weird!" And off they went.

That notion of special-ness had been with me for as long as I could remember. I always thought I would be different than the average bear, that I was not destined for a "normal" life. Had no idea what that meant, only that I felt that way.

And I remember that day in my front yard as the first time I doubted myself...because my friends doubted.

That's generally how life is. Kids start out thinking nothing is beyond superstar, homerun king, Broadway actor, being the best teacher or dentist ever. Then the world sneaks in. Friends make fun. Family says, "People like us don't do those things."

We don't disagree. We wonder if they are right. We see "normal/mediocrity" all around us, and, eventually, we believe that is our destiny.

The handprint reminded me of a prodigal spirit of uniqueness.

So did the postcard I received in the mail yesterday. My cousin Kim sent it. Her brother Kerry was sitting beside someone at a summer picnic. It took me a few seconds to realize the person with Kerry is ME.

In a flash, the postcard and sweaty handprint snapped together like puzzle pieces.

I didn't recognize myself.

I didn't recognize myself.

Sheesh...what has happened???

Quite a bit, actually. In the last two years, I have changed careers, walked through cancer with one of my dearest friends, walked through triple bypass with my mom, and had a drawn-out situation that has tested everything I know about faith, trust, strength and patience.

I have been struggling lately. Lost my swag. Misplaced my MoJo.

Has that ever happened to you?

Please are no less unique than I am. Maybe you never entertained thoughts of being well-known. But there is something you dream about doing or accomplishing. There is a star you long to reach, even if no one else will ever know you reached it.

My star is labeled "Best-selling author/highly sought-after motivational speaker/philanthropist/Blessed to be a blessing."

I have known it, literally, forever. Dreamed it. Practiced it.

And yesterday, I didn't recognize myself. My overweight, MoJo-lacking, momentarily Swag-less self.

I have allowed circumstances to cloud my vision. Circumstances. How ridiculous is that?

You can answer. You've done it too, haven't you?

You have neglected to embrace the uniqueness of the loops and swirls that belong to only you, that are never duplicated. Do you even recognize yourself anymore? Do you still see the star?

Yesterday, I didn't. Today the Light broke through. My circumstances haven't changed. My weight hasn't dropped dramatically.

But in the sweaty handprint, I could see the ten year old practicing for interviews, the kid who always knew she was destined for a BRIGHT star.

All thanks to a really bad picture of me, and a really hot sauna, and the faithful God who made, and never loses sight of, the unique unrepeatable miracle He made in me.

And in you. Look at your hand. It's all there, waiting for you to reach again for the star.

See you soon...BP :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

To Non-Staters: Careful about that pointing finger...

Consider this information from

"An estimated one in 20 teenage boys and adult men sexually abuse children, and an estimated one teenage girl or adult woman in every 3,300 females molests children. Although that's well over five million people, most families mistakenly believe that as far as molesters go, there has never been one in their family, and what's more, there never will be.

If we use the conservative estimate that two in every ten little girls and one in every ten little boys are victims (based on the population reported in the 1999 U.S. Census statistical abstract) well over three million children are victims.

Take a moment to think about that. Three million children is a staggering number of children. That's 46 National Football League stadiums packed with children who are, today, being sexually abused, and who believe they have no adult to go to for help."

These are horrifying numbers. The Penn State family is deeply disturbed to have one of our own be among those numbers.

But those outside our family should not be pompously mislead. 1 in 20 men, an estimated 5 million people who are molesters? You are foolish if you think there are no molesters at your university, your church, your country club, your neighborhood.

So, will you join us in this fight or just continue to hate?

Many have expressed outrage over the support we have shown each other. You have mocked us for saying you don't understand. Our Penn State family has 557,000 alumni and 94,000 current students. When a crisis comes, a true family circles the wagons and supports each other. If you don't understand that...well, you don't understand Penn State. We aren't naive, or blind, or ignoring what has happened.

But we are a family and we are so much more than football.

We are the 43rd best university worldwide, according to the 2010 Academic Ranking of World Universities.

We are the top-ranked university according to a 2010 Wall Street Journal survey of 479 corporate recruiters who were asked to identify "whose bachelor degree graduates were the best-trained and educated, and best able to succeed once hired."

We are THON, a student-run philanthropy which has raised more than $78 million for The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital (

We are #ProudPSUforRAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) and we have raised over $255,000 in less than 3 days in support of victims.

We will continue to support the young men who have worked so hard to wear the Blue and White at Beaver Stadium. They have no culpability.

99.999% of us had nothing to do with this horrific crime. None of us are victims.

We are standing together to clean house, to support the victims, to stop abuse.

What are you doing...besides hating?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To All Non-Penn Staters

We know you don't understand. Generally, we don't try to explain. Unless you are a Buckeye or Fighting Irish, you probably don't get how an institution embeds itself in a student's life. And that is fine.

But right now, we want you to know this:

We are distraught and truly sickened by this horror perpetrated on young victims by a man who represented the Blue and White, and perpetuated by others at the University. We aren't blind followers who drink Blue Kool-Aid. We grieve for and with the victims and their families. We pray for them to find healing and peace and a way to live a good life.

We know that while many people had responsibility, the most visible one almost always goes down first. We are not disputing the need for this to happen.
We are not "defending" anything. We are simply crushed and heartbroken. This is not the Penn State we love, the Penn State that is part of our being.

What you know of Joe Paterno probably comes from television or magazine articles.

We know the man who has lived in the same McKee St house for decades. We have chatted with him as he walked to practice. We have eaten ice cream with him at the Creamery. We have studied in the new library wing his money helped build. We have visited the sports museum and spiritual center he also helped build. We have seen him cheering on other Penn State athletes. We know he loves Penn State as much as we do.

Some of our friends, brothers, husbands, sons have been privileged to put on the Blue and White uniform and listen to 100,000 fans in Beaver Stadium. We know how hard they have worked, how much time they have devoted, how many of them have been part of an excellent scholar/athlete legacy...and how much they love this man and this program.

We aren't stupid or naive. We know Joe Paterno has culpability. We know he could have made different choices - he admitted that. We don't think he is God or always perfect or saintly. But he is the greatest college football coach ever, and he is PSU family, and we don't want his exit to be like this.

WE ARE...not closing our eyes, ignoring reports, pretending this isn't a wretched occurrence.
WE ARE...angry that innocents would be violated under our care.
WE support of appropriate punishment for every person involved.
WE ARE...demanding change to a system that would allow this.
WE ARE...not concerned if you do not understand our love and devotion.

WE ARE...PENN STATE proud and we will rise again.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chizzie's Tale

(Note to readers: I wrote this piece several years ago, but decided to post it today in memory of my sweet Chizzie who passed yesterday at the age of 12.)

Chizzy's Tale

Jeremiah 29:11

This has always been one of my favorite Bible verses - a "life" verse. But just because I have a verse memorized and say it’s a “favorite” doesn’t mean I have fully embodied it. A wise person once told me that God’s plan has two parts, His and mine. I can’t do God’s part – and He won’t do my part. This verse is filled with promise - but do I listen? Do I obey? Do I believe?

One morning, while meditating on this passage, I received inspiration from the cat curled on my lap. Yes, God truly speaks in many ways.

Chizzie is unlike any other cat I’ve had. He is absolutely devoted to me. My friends say he is madly in love with me. And, I guess he is, as much as a cat can be.

When I pull in front of the house, he is waiting in the window, even if I am later than usual. Then he bolts to the front door and does a little dance when I come in. If I park in the garage, he’s waiting at the back door.

He follows me everywhere, and when I sit down, he is immediately on my lap, bumping his head against my arm until I pet him. If he has fallen asleep and I need to move, he doesn’t get irritated, just follows me again.

Every time I speak his name, he looks at me.

He sleeps at my side and his day starts when mine does, even when that’s 5:30am.

When he’s hungry, he waits until I go to the kitchen, then he sits at the top of the stairway leading to the lower level and stares at me. When I start to move toward him, he runs down the stairs… and when I reach the bottom he is sitting in front of the empty bowl waiting.

And I think…I need to be more like this cat!

You see, God has a plan for my life and for yours. It’s a GOOD plan.

But when God is an hour later than I expected him to be, do I still dance for joy? When I am waiting at the front door, and He comes in the back, do I run to Him – or do I let it be known that MY plan was different?

Do I follow Him through every room of my life? Are there rooms I won’t go in? Rooms which are dark and unfamiliar, and because I can’t see the plan at that moment I refuse to go in?

Yes, I do rest in His presence. But if I am comfortable, do I grumble when He says “Get up”?

Do I allow Him to be the “alarm clock” in my day or is it inconvenient to have to change my schedule to cooperate with His masterful plan?

Am I in tune with Him to the degree that I turn and look at Him each time He speaks my name?

And when I have a need, do I keep my eyes on Him? Do I wait with calm assurance knowing my bowl will be filled?

Do you?

God has a plan. It’s a GOOD plan. A plan to prosper me, a plan to give me a good future and hope for my final outcome!

And God keeps His promises. He is going to do His part.

My part is to listen for His voice, trust in His provision, follow where He leads, rest in His presence, and dance for joy.

Chizzie has it right...I should pay attention and do likewise.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fleas and other woes I brought on myself

My dog missed getting her flea repellant last month. No big deal, right? One month. How can that hurt?

Let me tell you how...on Monday I shaved and bathed 2 twenty pound cats, stripped my bed to the mattress, then used a flea fogger. Tuesday brought another fogger application, this time in a very large closet where the cats like to sleep. On Wednesday, I bought flea spray which is now being used in addition to flea collars. The dog and I have been sleeping on the couch all week.

So yes, missing one month was a big deal after all. And it was simply negligence on my part. I do remember thinking she needed to be treated, but I wasn't home at the time. And It clearly was not made a priority in my mind.

It happens in your life, doesn't it?

We know something should be done, but it isn't convenient - or even possible - at that moment. "Forgot" is a readily used excuse, but not really valid. I remember most everything I truly want to remember. It's when I don't commit something to memory or take the time to create a reminder that I "forget."

Other times we know but simply ignore. We think other choices are more important...or that no one will know. Maybe we are busy, or it doesn't fit our mood or our needs at the moment. Sometimes we know for certain it is wrong, and we do it anyhow. Because really...what will it hurt?

Sometimes it is maintenance issues on our home, car, body, spirit. Other times it is an ethical or spiritual issue. Always, we ignore the immutable fact that sow = reap. Every time.

There is no reason for me to be irritated by the time-consuming nuisance the fleas have is my own fault. Not the dog's, certainly not the cats'. All mine.

The craziness of my life could be an excuse. Unexpected work issues, unexpected health issues for family members...blah blah blah. Excuses. I knew it needed to be done and I didn't do it.

Conversely, I knew eating whatever I wanted for the past few years was unwise. But in a thousand separate moments, I justified it.

In each of these cases, I choose to do what I FELT LIKE doing. And the result is that now I must do some less than enjoyable tasks to right the situations.

Sow always always always = reap. Don't change the oil, the engine blows. Don't stain the deck, the boards rot. Don't eat well and exercise, the weight comes on. Don't nurture your kids, the relationship is gone. Don't choose love and respect first, the relationship dies.

Certainly, there are situations outside of the norm. But most aren't. We find excuses. We don't feel like trying, don't feel like exerting, don't feel like sacrificing or denying our desires.

One lie, one betrayal, one (more) spouting of hurtful words...we justify it because we have been hurt too, ya know. So that makes it right!

One more day we put off checking the tire pressure, one month we neglect flea repellant...we justify it because we are busy or we don't like to do it.

When we follow our feelings and emotions, when we live the way we want in spite of knowing better, the worm always turns. And we have no one to blame but ourselves. As individuals. As a family. As a society.

Live now by what we want and feel and must have, pay later. Live now by what we know to be right, have more freedom later.

Simple. Not easy.

Gotta's time for another application of flea spray.

See you again soon.

BP :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn, fallball, and opportunities galore!

If you know me, you know this is NOT my favorite day of the year. Summer is gone. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do love 90 degrees and sunny. And landscaping chores. And 15 hours of sunlight.

But autumn is not without its charms. Each year the "back to school" spirit inspires and motivates me. It can be a time of new dreams and possibilities, no matter your age. A time of getting back to business after summer fun.

This year, I am standing on the edge of some opportunities that have been a long time coming. How about you? Any exciting possibilities in sight?

Did I hear you say there is nothing exciting on the horizon?

I used to say that, too. It was almost a mantra for me. Then came this realization: The problem was not the horizon. It was my sight. Ouch. And Hallelujah!

Now I have a passion for helping folks see the immense potential that is waiting, right there within arms' reach. Funny how lost time/opportunity makes the present and future seem more urgent. Looking back with regret is futile, and a waste of time and energy. But there are lessons to be learned.

It was my spring of my senior year in high school. I had been accepted to Penn State. Because my high school is large, a PSU representative came to hold try-outs for the Blue Band. I had played clarinet and saxophone for 8 years - had never been told my playing was unsatisfactory. But I was too afraid to try out.

5 months later. Fall semester at University Park. Softball try-outs. I was the last player cut - in fact, my name was visible on the list but had been scratched out. The coach told me I couldn't hit fast-pitch well enough.

Two missed opportunities that shaped my days at Penn State. Please understand - I am not mired in regret. I don't do "What if" because it is unproductive. But these are excellent examples of skewed vision.

There was no good reason to avoid trying out for the Blue Band. I used to believe I had been afraid of failing. Now I believe the fear of success was even stronger. Yea, think about that...

And while the softball incident was upsetting, it was my reaction that cemented the coach's decision and the effect it had on me. I could have worked harder, learned to hit fast-pitch, attended every game, offered to be a student manager then tried out again the following year. What I chose was to not try out for anything else during my time at Penn State. I chose to accept someone else's judgment.

In each case I did what seemed to be easier/safer at the time.

Now, I know that one coach should not have been given the power to hold me down...and easier rarely equals better. That knowledge is a gift. One I am obligated to share with great enthusiasm.

What is in your sight line? What opportunity is waiting for you to grab? Don't tell me you are too old. That's a cop-out. God doesn't open doors of opportunity based on age. Don't tell me you are too busy. If someone hands you a million dollars, you won't be too busy to spend it. But what if it is a million dollar idea? Can you adjust the routine to grab THAT?

Look around. Football players are vying for an opportunity to play more. Softball and baseball players are putting themselves in position to be starters next spring.

What is in your sight line?

Retailers are preparing for the biggest time of the year. Nature is gathering its strength for winter and the impending newness of spring - yes, spring, even now.

What is in your sight line?

Are you ready to grab opportunities? Do you sense a good vibe? Or is your spirit downcast, accepting the same old life, day after day, believing there is nothing better?

Think about it.

Open your eyes. NO - open your heart and mind. Take the first chance...then the next...then the one after.

Remember these words: If you're interested in achieving success, you'll do what's convenient. When you are committed, you'll do whatever it takes. - John Assaraf

We will talk again soon...right now, there is much to do!

BP :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Greek wisdom, one day at a time

Someone asked my age yesterday. The number - 51 - does not bother me in the slightest. It just feels odd to hear myself say it...and I often think, "How did THAT happen?!?"

Of course, the answer is rather simple. It happened one day at a time. Trite but true.

This is it; this is it. / This is life, the one you get, / so go and have a ball!

In the Greek language, there are two words for "time." Chronos is time measured in hours and days. Chronos was also the Greek god thought to be the personification of time. Kairos means the right time, or the opportune time, or a moment when something special happens.

Big difference. We often obsess about chronos and completely miss kairos, don't we? Ironically, chronos is completely out of our control...we can't make more, can't speed it up, slow it down, get it back, move it forward. Kairos is what we can grasp.

Perhaps we have become numb to the message: we have only have one life, each day is a gift...moving through our consciousness with little impact.

This is it. Do we get that? I love my life and am generally mindful of the preciousness of each day. But not always. Some nights come with the realization that I have not truly been present the entire day. "Being" was run over by the freight train called "doing." "Being" - a smiling light, a helper, an encourager, a witness to my faith in Jesus Christ.

Final score for that day: chronos 1, kairos 0

This is it; this is it, / straight ahead, and rest assured, / you can't be sure at all.

Am I alone in having too many days that are just a long "to-do" list?

BUT, you say, there are obligations, steps to take every day. Of course there are. Laundry, groceries, bills, kid taxi, cleaning, work...necessary to life. NOT life itself. Do we get that?

Do we?

We strive to be in control of our job, money, relationships, time. We convince our kids they should follow the "good grades + good college = good job (and maybe good spouse)" plan and life will work out.

And we do them and ourselves a great disservice. Because in truth, there is very little of which we can be sure, and very little, outside our own hearts and heads, that we control.

Do you get that? Have you been there? Have you stood dumbfounded, frozen in place by sudden tragedy?

The doctor says "cancer," a family member takes his own life, a job is lost, a marriage is shattered or the foundation of life is shaken in any of the numerous ways that can happen.

In a second. In the time it takes to turn your head. In those storms, no accomplishments or possessions will keep us afloat. Only loving relationships will carry us to safe shores.

Nothing in this life is certain. Do we get that? Are we prepared?

So, while you're here, enjoy the view, keep on doing what you do. Hold on tight; we'll muddle through

Christopher was 19 when his car rounded the last bend he would see on this earth. He is the oldest child and only son of my dear cousin/sister Kelly. "Utter devastation" is grossly insufficient to describe what this does to a mother and a family. Seven years have not lessened the pain. Nothing will.

So each day Kelly chooses. Chooses to get out of bed, go to work, to laugh when she can and reach out to the people who love her most when she can't. Chooses to enjoy the flowers in the memorial garden she planted the following spring, chooses to be the same person we have always known, chooses to cling tightly to God in the moments when that person is punctured by the thorn in her heart.

Choosing is the essence of life, our great privilege and responsibility. Each day's choices are a step in some direction - forward, back, laterally - we get to choose. Choosing has brought me here...choosing to embrace this life, choosing to value time rather than simply count it, choosing move ahead even in uncertainty, choosing to be present one meal, one golf game, one family gathering, one walk with my dog...all the way to my last breath... one day at a time...

51 is nothing to worry about.

I'm so glad I get it. Do you?

See you next time.

ps. My apologies to readers who know the song - it has been stuck in my head for days. Enjoy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Krissy Z, Stinky, and my stiff neck

I am going to see Krissy's team play tonight. Haven't seen them for a long time and I'm not sure why. I love basketball , and it would be difficult to find a coach who is more skilled or more animated.

Krissy won her 500th game in February 2010. She started coaching at Saint Vincent's College in Latrobe, PA shortly after graduating from Penn State, and never left. 27 years, 512 wins. Accolades too numerous to mention. So why wasn't I there more often?

Believe me when I tell you this particular writing has been in my head since mid November. I can't keep it in any longer.

I can't keep it in my head any longer because I won't see Krissy at the game tonight. Oh, she will be there for sure, but not for any of us to see. On Dec 25, God took Krissy home. At 52. In a twinkling, unexpectedly.

In the midst of the sadness, I am once again reminded of my stiff neck. The same reminder I got when Stinky passed in November. I didn't write about it then because it is uncomfortable, because I am not proud of my stiff neck. But it is a reminder someone else might need.

Understand that these words have nothing to do with my sleeping posture. Here are synonyms for the stiff-neck in question: bullheaded, obstinate, mulish, stubborn, intractable, willful. God used this term to describe His people during the Exodus. Clearly, it's not a positive trait.

Krissy and I met through mutual friends. She was great fun, a wonderful story-teller, always the life of the party. I knew she was a good coach, and I had attended some games over the years. But in the last nine days I have heard about a Kristen Zawacki I never knew. A coach and athletic director who was held in tremendous esteem by colleagues and administrators alike, a woman who was deeply spiritual.

I truly liked Krissy. I considered her to be a friend, and hope she did likewise. But 2 weeks ago, I would have used to two words to describe her - funny and loud. "Funny" I appreciate very much. But I just don't do "loud" - never have. My stiff neck immediately associates "loud" with obnoxious and overbearing. And it keeps people at arm's length.

It was the same with Stinky. I liked him. I think he liked me. But when he was in the room, you knew it. He was very forward about who he was and what he believed. And I just don't always find that to be necessary or attractive.

Stinky was also immensely gifted at playing character roles, and assisting in production of shows. More than that, he kindled a love of theatre in hundreds of young people...and that gift keeps his spirit alive. He was a beloved son, brother and friend. But the one thing I didn't appreciate about him kept me from embracing any of that.

So, for the most part, I missed the wonder of both Stinky and Krissy because my stiff neck doesn't like "loud." I focused on that one trait that put me off, and missed all the traits that could have connected us. I am not proud of that. It does not reflect the One I follow, the One who preaches love and gentleness with others.

But here are two cool aspects of walking with God: He, thankfully, doesn't bury me with a list of all the ways I need revision at once. AND He sticks with me until I get it, until I learn the lesson.

I thought about my stiff-neck when Stinky died. I did...apparently not hard enough, however. If it had sunk in, would there be opportunity to be more open to Krissy? Could it have changed things in a month? I'll never know.

Two lessons of which I am sure:

1. People have to put up with and overlook things about me. You are probably shocked by that, but it's true.

2. Getting over myself would be a really smart choice, not only so my actions = my beliefs, but also to prevent further recurrence of this nasty feeling.

Maybe you could learn from this lesson as well? Or is it just me?

Here's to a new year of more compassion, and better relationships!

And to Krissy and Stinky...I'm sorry. I look forward to seeing you again...and, yes, to a LOUD reunion.