There is a passage in the Bible where Jesus wept for the city of Jerusalem. Near the end of his ministry, Jesus rode a colt as he descended the Mount of Olives. The crowds cheered joyfully, yet Jesus wept. He wept not for himself (even though within days the crowds would cry, “Crucify!”), but for a people who didn’t know “the things which make for peace.”
Ron and I were able to visit Israel this month. I am forever changed. It’s hard to describe . . . it’s like an earthquake trembled inside my body and left fundamental corrections on a physical level, a spiritual level, and every level in between. In addition to foundational shifts, my spirit was stirred. And I experienced a wide spectrum of emotions.
Emotion is one of my favorite topics. Our culture is obsessed with emotions, especially the one called happiness. (This puzzles me. Why would we want to feel the exact same emotion all the time?) On the other hand, I think the church dismisses emotions too hastily. True, it’s a bad idea follow every fickle feeling with an action, but emotions can serve a purpose and I think we ought to pay attention to them. Emotions are a beautiful gift from God.
In due time, I’ll write about some of my “emo” moments in Israel—Mount Carmel, Mount Moriah, the bedrock of Nazareth, the caves of Ein Gedi, the shores along the Sea of Galilee, the hallows of Caesarea Philippi, the views from Mount Arbel.
But for now, I’ll simply share this: In Israel I never had a good chance to sit with my emotions. The days were crammed. So I carried my feelings with me—accumulated them—as I tried to keep up with all the sites to see, notes to take, budding friendships to nurture, delicious Israeli food to eat, archeological lessons to learn, and biblical teachings to soak up. (At times I literally caught myself trying to listen to the tour guide with my left ear and the pastor with my right ear—impossible for my brain.)
Twelve days after we left, we walked in the front door of our Virginia townhome. When morning broke, I went alone up to my loft. The floodgates opened.
I wept in gratitude – for the trip of a lifetime.
I wept in wonderment – for a gorgeous country and the beauty of God’s creation.
I wept in reverence – for the deliberate hand of God; the intention behind his ways.
I wept in despair – for all the mornings I’ve skipped reading Scripture.
I wept in joy – for a new understanding of the living Word.
I wept in sadness – for our fleeting time on this earth.
I wept in gratefulness – for God’s everlasting love.
And I wept in sorrow – for Jerusalem, a city that still does not know peace. For a world that’s turned it’s back on God.
I’ll wrap up now, but here’s the takeaway: THIS is the greatest book ever written. Read it. Daily. Always.
“Read and study your bible every day. Find time where you can hole up and commune with God’s spirit, and God’s word, and God’s third greatest gift to man . . . coffee.”
-M. Easley, our teaching pastor in Israel
Three days after we moved (from Virginia to Virginia), I woke up and said, “Get me outta here.” The power was still out. It was still 100+ degrees and unbearably muggy. But it just so happened that we had booked tickets to Colorado for July 4. We literally traveled from one disaster zone to another. The Colorado wildfires were raging. We weren’t that close to Colorado Springs, but our town was 12 miles away from a smaller fire. We were glad when the rain poured, except that also meant lightening. Ron and I were driving out of our mountain community when he pointed to the left. “Look–that pine tree is on fire.*” At first I only saw smoke around the base. Then I glanced higher. Yellow flames. Cripes. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned how remote our cabin is . . . we are pretty far away from a fire department (although the fire department proved to be useless because it was off-hours, so when I called I got a recorded message with no option to press X to report a fire . . . weird**). Thankfully, one of the other residents in our community had a water truck with a pressure hose. 500 gallons later, our community was safe.
We always see a new animal when we visit. This time it was a beautiful Golden Eagle. I also saw a bear when I was hiking alone. I had a whistle and canister of pepper spray. You know the old joke: When I go missing, look for bear poop that contains a whistle and canister of pepper spray.*** I also saw some sort of animal (not sure what) chase and catch a chipmunk. As destructive as chipmunks can be, I marched up to the attacker and the animal dropped the chipmunk and ran off. If I had gloves, I would have taken ol’ chippy home and nursed him back to health (his head was bleeding****). But afterward, I questioned whether it was right to interfere with nature. And then I pondered how I’d feel if the attacking animal starved to death because I chased him away from his dinner.
*I would put an exclamation point here, but Ron never speaks in exclamation points. He’s very calm.
**I witnessed lightening engulf a palm tree in Santa Monica once. When I called 911 I was reprimanded and told I was supposed to report fires to the fire department, not 911.
***She was gorgeous. And honestly, I wasn’t scared in the least. She took off when she spotted me.
****I hope it was only a ripped ear.
Well, Moving Day was eventful. I decided I’d take care of the “little stuff” myself and leave only the big furniture for the professional guys. My sorting, organizing, and purging project started off with a bang, and I expected it to continue along swimmingly. I had worked out a schedule where I turned in a writing assignment and didn’t have to start the next one until the following week. Five whole days to deal with cereal bowls, lamps, and hundreds of books. I planned to dust, wash, or polish every item we intended to take with us. I wanted to decide–down to the last golf pencil–what we’d keep and what we’d give away.
There was a chance I’d have to work on-site for a publication a few days that week, but no biggie. I’d still have the remaining few days to do nothing but move. That was Plan B. When I had to work all five days, I was happy (I love the pub) and resorted to Plan C, moving in the evenings. When I ended up working long hours that ran late, I resorted to Plan D: an all-nighter on Friday (the professional movers were due at 8 a.m. Saturday). So Friday night, just as I picked up my first object to pack, the storm swept down our street. I happened to be standing by my window where, right outside, the power lines caught fire and slapped against the trees. It reminded me of that scene in Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox rides the DeLorean out of 1955 with lightening and electrical wires. I don’t know how our townhouse didn’t go up in flames. Anyway, the power went out. Darkness.
The movers showed up early Saturday. Two brothers. Young guys. Bless their hearts, they worked so hard as they lugged trunks and bed frames and dressers down three levels (old place) and then up four levels (new place) in 100+ degree heat. Meanwhile, Ron and I grabbed what we could and threw our crap into boxes. The rest of the sorting, purging, and organizing would have to take place on the other end of the move (Plan E). That night, surrounded by crumpled packing paper and bubble wrap, we came up with the brilliant idea to stay in a hotel with artificial lightbulbs and air conditioning. “The closest availability is Philadelphia,” numerous hotel clerks told us. For two days, we wandered around our new place naked and hungry.
We still don’t have power, but who cares? We’re safe. We’re happy. We took showers by candlelight. We discovered a new breakfast spot in Alexandria. We made friends with random stragglers who
weren’t smart enough to book a hotel in a timely manner either decided to hunker down and tough it out. We opted not to pop the cork on our now lukewarm champagne. But we still celebrated. In an odd way, our new place doesn’t feel unfamiliar or weird, the way new places often do. It feels like home.
Lots going on in the Rough household.
The EXIT LAUGHING readings in L.A. were super fun (except for the fact that I ate too much cheese at the after party). I’ve got to start bringing my camera to these types of events.
Ron’s firm held its first (and what we think will be annual) company retreat, and I had a great time taking his boss’s wife and boss’s daughter (8 months pregnant!) paddle boarding. Thankfully the owner of Paddle or Pedal in Chesapeake Beach did have a camera.
Ron and I are moving again (more on that later).
Ron’s firm is in the midst of making architectural plans to knock down his office wall (among a few other walls) and reconfigure the company’s space.
The stock market is as volatile as ever, making Ron’s job managing the investment portfolios rather challenging.
I’m working on writing XXXXXXX (more on that later).
And last but not least, my Book of the Month pick is Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses. Thank you to Meghan for suggesting it. I bought it for the plane ride home from L.A. When it comes to reading on a plane, here’s the deal: I take Dramamine for motion sickness. If I take half of a chewable tablet, I can usually stay awake for about 3/4 of the trip and read most of the time (writing is out of the question . . . I don’t understand how people work on laptops in those squishy seats with those silly tray tables). But no matter what, I have to . . . Have To . . . and I mean HAVE TO put down my book during the descent. Otherwise, well, you know those barf bags? I do.
Anyway, I had seen Poser in the bookstore many times before, but I never bought it because I was afraid it would be like, And I sat on my yoga mat and lengthened my spine, and then I reached my arms above my head, etc. Not at all. It’s about a writer who lives in Seattle and is trying to keep her marriage together and raise two kids (I’m particularly amused when she talks about her married-but-childless girlfriend). Right when the airplane started its descent into Washington, D.C., I hit the point in the book where the writer’s newborn baby boy, not yet a day old, burst his lung in the NICU because he was crying so hard for his mommy, and the nurses didn’t even bother to wake her up! Needless to say, I couldn’t put the book down at that point. Which didn’t bode well for me about 10 minutes later. I was thisclose to barfing up my American Airlines fruit and cheese plate (more cheese), but somehow I held everything down. Tonight, I’m looking forward to finishing the book that has been calling to me all day.
Until now, I hadn’t selected a book of the month for May because I wasn’t sure what to pick. I’ve read a handful of decent books the past few weeks, but nothing jumped out. Then, in the bookstore the other day, I found Folding Paper Cranes by Leonard Bird. Bird was in the military in the 1950s and ordered to huddle in the trenches at the Nevada Test Site while the government detonated nuclear bombs. He later died of cancer from the radiation. It’s a thoughtful memoir, a mix of his poetry and prose, plus illustrations from his wife.
He opens with a poem titled “Mourning Dove.” After describing a long wait for the KA-BOOM, he writes: I placed my hands upon the ledge and twisted from the trench . . . my outstretched hand grasped a soft, spastic form . . . . A torn morning dove flopped, twitched from spasm to spasm, its wings singed black. . . . The dove’s melted eyes oozed gray pus. And from a throat that had sung Man awake since the dawn of time bubbled a faint “squwik squwik squwik.”
I don’t know how to explain my book picks. A handful of people have told me my choices are too depressing. I guess I am moved by the serious stuff, I am drawn to unique voices, and I am interested in how people find hope in despair. Also, in this case, it was a treat to read a local author. (Since I’m a nomad, the term “local” is relative . . . last month it meant California, next week it’ll be Virginia, but right now it means Colorado.) I loved reading Bird’s descriptions of Durango’s stunning landscape (he eventually became a professor and taught English at Ft. Lewis College). Southwest Colorado is beautiful. In the past week alone, I’ve witnessed a purple sunset, a red sunset, a yellow sunset, and four shooting stars.
What a mild winter. It’s been sunny and
almost warm not freezing. Still, when Ron mentioned he had to take a business trip to Florida, I packed my suitcase in two seconds flat and waited by the door. I haven’t been to Miami or SWFL since spring break trips with my parents and brothers, so I was curious to take in the sunshine state as an adult. Here are 11 personal thoughts about Florida:
- Paddleboarding is my new favorite sport. Loved the quiet ride through the mangrove forest in Bunche Beach Preserve. What a beautiful and unique world God has created.
- Ceviche is my new favorite dish (especially Fire & Ice at Ola). Also, I love grouper. Seafood Watch says grouper is a fish to avoid because of overfishing. Tried to stick to local red and black grouper (okay alternatives). Anyway, I ate so much fish I thought I would grow fins.
- Kelle Groom is my new favorite Florida writer (go read her heartbreaking work I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl).
- A morning run in Florida is relaxing, but deceiving. I felt like I got a better workout (so much sweat!), but I covered the same short distance.
- I finally found a city (Ft. Myers) where people drive exactly the same way I do… SLOW.
- All winter long in Northern Virginia, I will put my icy cold hands on Ron’s neck…or back…or arms. He’s like a space heater. I tell him that it must be so nice to live inside a warm body. The concept boggles my mind. In Florida, I was warm all the time. It was amazing. Lovely. A dream. I loved not being cold.
- I discovered sea hares – and I even held one. Such neat little critters. When they are underwater they look prickly, but it’s just a defense mechanism. Pick one up and it is soft, like a snail without a shell. I also encountered a cute frog.
- I could live in Florida.
- If I lived in Florida, I’d have to seriously invest in hair products. Between the wind and the humidity, my hair looked like the mangrove branches – a tangled mess.
- Ocean, ocean, Ocean
- Our big treat was visiting the Hendersons – family friends who adopted Ron and me for the day. We both admire their kind hearts and strong faith in God.
The first winter I lived in Maryland, I rarely left my bed. It was 2006, and my husband, Ron, and I had recently moved to Gaithersburg from Santa Monica, Calif. Uprooting our lives had been more difficult than I had anticipated, and I spent hours fused to my sheets. I dozed. I cried. But mostly, I laid flat on my back and stared at the ceiling. I missed California’s sun and warmth; Maryland was cold and gray. In Santa Monica, I had bounded out of bed each day, eager to walk along the beach before getting to work. Now it took hours for me to muster enough energy to propel myself into the shower, and then down the hall to my home office.
Though ashamed of my sluggish behavior, I had a good excuse. In addition to feeling homesick, I had suffered a miscarriage three weeks after the New Year. The loss had been hard. So I didn’t think much about the fact that I continued to nibble graham crackers in bed long after morning sickness was no longer an issue.
A February escape to Mexico helped. As I soaked up the rays, ocean rays lapping at my feet, my sadness subsided. A warm breeze lifted the weight from my chest. When I returned home, cherry blossoms were swirling. Color had returned to the world. I dismissed my seasonal depression as an anomaly. Then winter was back, and my symptoms were, too.
By my third winter, one thing was clear: there was a pattern to my depression, and that pattern perfectly described seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
To finish reading this piece, take a look at Bethesda Magazine‘s Jan/Feb 2012 issue (on newsstands now).
. . . . . . .
A slightly different version of my article “The SAD Season” is also running in Arlington magazine. Ron and I moved to Virginia in the hopes it would be sunnier 30 miles south. The temperature is a little better, but the sky is just as grey. Thankfully, I’m finding the light (literally and figuratively). I once worked with a girl who was bothered by sunlight. Rain and cloud cover lifted her spirits. How about you? Do you prefer the sun? Or overcast skies? Anyone up for a road trip to Arizona?