Evening Prayer



From the New Zealand Prayer Book

Lord it is night:

The night is for stillness.

Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.

What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done.

Let it be.

The night is dark.

Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet.

Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.

Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray.

– Amen

Friday Five: Go to the head of the Class!

I’m hosting the Friday Five over at Rev Gals. Care to play along??

It’s Back-to-School time! Are you that “A+ Student for life” or the King/Queen of Detention? RevGals want to know! We are all still learning (or re-learning) some kind of lessons!Tell us about your learning edges in:

1. Reading: what’s in your “to-be-read” stack? Fiction? Church leadership? Commentaries?

Here’s a picture… Notice my Kindle is on top. It’s just an unending stack!!  

2. Writing: are you blogging? Journaling? Developing a new book proposal? Or just crafting sermons? Any excerpt you’d care to share? (We won’t grade your penmanship!)

I have been struggling with blogging, to be honest. I have stories to tell… But some of them are impacted by HIPAA privacy rules. I’m still figuring this one out.

I have been mulling over a book idea called “What NOT to say!” It’s meant for all those horrible moments when someone says that trite pablum that makes clergy blanch…

3. ‘Rithmetic: Family budget? Church budget? National debt? What are you discovering about yourself and your church/family when it comes to handling money?

I asked this question, did I!??? Or be quite honest, I’m tired of “the budget” being given as a reason for doing/not doing something. If you are a leader, you learn how to prioritize and pay for what matters. 

4. Music: favorite new hymn or worship band?

To be honest, I haven’t been listening to a lot of Christian music. It’s had a “Jesus-and-the-money changers” feel to it. But I do like the song “My Ev’rything” by Owl City. 

I’m getting new songs these days from my 20-year-old, whose Spotify playlists were fresh and fun! I’m kinda loving Hozier. He’s so raw and real. 

5. Detention: uh huh… If you were supposed to report for detention today, what would be the note on the slip?

Probably being too loud in the restaurant last night while playing the “glamour shot” game. You Google your first name + “glamour shot” and then look at the images that come up with your search terms. Completely silly.

BONUS: Recess! RevGals just want to have fun! What’s your favorite way to unwind?

Hang out in the hammock chair on my back patio with a book. 


A humble request

I know you read a gazillion of these… but I set a modest goal of $200 for the Alzheimer’s Walk coming up in October. Every dollar helps… and I’d love to meet and exceed my goal.

So here’s my humble request… click here and donate. I don’t even know who the first donor was, but I’m grateful. $10 or $100, any amount.

On behalf of all of my Alzheimer’s patients and their families, I thank you.

New Journeys


New Journeys

Here’s to new journeys
and new challenges,
new paths to travel
and new delights.
Here’s to new knowledge
and new conversations,
new friendships
and new memories.

For all who are starting off on new adventures,
my prayers go with you.

God knows;
you do not travel alone.

Still Alice: Lessons from Literature, and Life

stillaliceI finished reading Still Alice by  Lisa Genova. Though it is a work of fiction, it nevertheless reflects the lives and heartaches of countless families around the world.

The book affected me profoundly. For those of us who work with individuals with dementia, it brought to mind patients and their caregivers, coworkers and long-term care facilities. I’ve walked with countless families as they grieve the gradual unraveling of memory and relationship, of control, of function and purpose.

It also reminded me of the power of love, dedication and compassionate care that I see poured into the lives of Alzheimer’s patients. Families and friends shift work hours to be with those they love. They try to make sense of the confusion and frustration. They preserve the memories and joys. They pay for extra caregivers. They cry, bargain and try to reason with God.

In the novel, the main character, Dr. Alice Howland, is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard. She realizes because of her training and self-awareness that something is wrong, and initiates the first call to a neurologist (not the norm, by the way). As events unfold, her husband and children find their own ways to accept and process her diagnosis, and to make decisions about her care.

Early in her diagnosis, Alice went to speak at a conference and share the perspective of an Alzheimer’s patient. This speech was, for me, among the most profound writing in the book. She challenged the audience to help individuals with dementia “live better with dementia.”

My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I’ll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every scone of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today didn’t matter.

Such true, clear words to caregivers and their support system.

As a chaplain, I see patients every day who have dementia. I hug their family members. I offer prayers for their comfort and to ease their worries. I celebrate the bits of personality and humor that pop through the tangles in their brain. I show them pictures of family and friends. I look for those bright spots of Hope.

When I forget things, like where I left my cell phone (yeah that did just happen!) or can’t find my car keys, I am brought up short. Am I getting dementia? I give myself a quick MMSE (Mini-Mental State Exam) and relax.

What Still Alice provided me, most of all, was a reminder that the patient’s perspective must not be ignored or glossed over. I can’t assume “they don’t know what’s going on” because, on some level, they still do. I am more devoted than ever to honoring that perspective, and try to actively bring it into the conversation of the interdisciplinary team.

Beyond condescension, individuals with Alzheimer’s need to know they are “still” who they were before their memory faded. Still parents. Still friends. Still professionals. Still funny. Still… LOVED.

That’s the most important task of all.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Published by Gallery Books, 2009. ISBN-10: 1501106422

P.S. Since you are taking the time to read my blog, I want to make a special request of you. I will be walking in the DC area fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in October. I have a fundraising page and would love your support! As I write this, I’m already 25% of the way to my goal! Click on this link to support my fundraising efforts. Thanks!

IN APPRECIATION: Michael J. Doran, Ed.D.

DrDoranWe heard the shocking news today that the principal of our daughters’ high school, Michael Doran, was found unresponsive in his home this morning and pronounced dead. (More details here…)

Dr. Doran was first of all a kind human being and family man. His children grown, he was free to invest many more hours than the school day required at Wootton events, sports, arts programs and more. I doubt he knew my name, or our children’s, but he did know how to speak to the needs and issues of a large public high school. (I should comment here… He was totally approachable. If they had wanted to talk to him, they knew they could.) He was a consummate politician, a detailed administrator, and a class act.

I reflected this evening on the impact of school culture and its leadership. Public schools have an almost impossible task, with overbearing requirements from people who are not teachers. (I’m looking at you, Department of Education.) Among the challenges Dr. Doran left behind are the competitive nature of college admissions and the demands of Wootton parents, the grind of AP classes, (another blog post in itself), the increasing numbers of ESOL and special needs students, and the time-honored high school issues of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Being an educator is not for the faint-of-heart. I think of my friends and family members who are educators and take my hat off to them. If you don’t think teachers work hard, imagine a classroom full of students like your kids on their worst day ever. Then multiply it by 10, add committee meetings, required testing (that may or may not make sense or fit the curriculum), inane requirements to demonstrate you are a “master teacher” and so on. I tried to be a teacher. I wasn’t cut out for it.

Despite all the crap that goes on in public schools, there are bright spots to celebrate. Creativity in the classroom (my daughters experienced it daily). Support during difficult “seasons” of adolescence by some caring, understanding teachers (you know who you are). Opportunities to participate in college-level theater productions in the pit orchestras. Travel abroad. And a top-flight Arts and Humanities Signature Program.

Am I glad we are done with public school as parents? Oh my, yes. But my hope is that schools like Wootton will continue, despite all of the problems, to raise the potential of each student to learn, grow and find their way to a happy and productive adulthood. And that most importantly, they will remember to hire administrators and principals who never lose sight of the students they are there to teach.

Dr. Doran loved his job and did it well. The Wootton community will miss him, and yet will pull together, somehow, to start the new school year strong.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory. And may those who knew him best and love him the most be comforted and find grace to get through these difficult days. To my friends who teach at Wootton, if you need someone to listen, I’m here for you.

2014-08-12 19.54.07

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

She Takes Flight: A Prayer in Memoriam


She rests in peace.
Her soul takes flight
into the Arms of the One
who knew her best
who loves her now.

For those whose tears are flowing
and hearts are broken,
I pray for comfort,
for peace to surround them,
for grief to ease.

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine
Et lux perpetua luceat ei:
Requiescat in pace.

Eternal rest, grant unto her, O LORD,
And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.

Oh where is my iPhone?

  It was a busy day. Errands for the back-to-college Reedy Girl (with driving lessons). Shopping for the impossible-to-find perfect purse. Pharmacy, Tarzhay, new eyeglass selections (you’ll have to wait!), and a quick grocery trip to get dinner ingredients. 

I helped with some sous chef tasks, cleaned a litter box, and then took out trash and recycling since tomorrow is collection day. And then… I couldn’t find my phone. 

Nope. Not. Anywhere. No flat surface in the kitchen. Not on the couch. Under the couch… Nada. We dialed it a gazillion times and listened… And heard nothing. 

Horrors. Is it in the trash? (You know where this is going, don’t you?) 

Yes. It was a trash-picking party at Chez Vaughns. Thank heavens for surgical gloves! Reedy Girl helped us look. Bag after bag of stinky, funky trash. Then we took apart the car and looked in every crevice and cranny. We even took the trashcans  for a walk down the street to see if “Find My iPhone” was helpful and showed the phone really WAS in a trash bag. (News flash: unlike what you see with McGee and Gibbs on NCIS, it’s NOT that accurate!)

Hot, sweaty, and tired, we regrouped back inside. One more search. 

And yes. I found it. In the pocket of the apron I was wearing during dinner prep. I had neatly hung up my apron in the pantry on a hook after dinner. 


Bless my family for their help. (It was an amusing trip down memory lane, when we trash picked a hotel garbage bin for a retainer… And found it.) 

Is there a moral to this story? Oh… Only this. Those who really love you will not judge but help you. And find ways to offer help and support (and laughs) as you go through the stinkiest things life can throw at you. 

And now… Goodnight. 

Friday Five: Blessed Rest

I’ve already had my “vacation” this summer. While it WAS restful, this Friday Five speaks to a vacation where I am really ON vacation…

1. Tell us about a place (retreat center or other getaway spot) that offers especially good hospitality. What makes it so for you?

I don’t know one so I’ll be reading about ideas from others!

2. Is there a ritual of renewal that you seek, or that you find especially helpful, while on retreat? (naps, reading, knitting, staring out toward a different landscape…)

Walking the beach. Always renews me.   

3. Retreats/getaways often have a way of washing over us with its own gifts, no matter what we may seek from it. Tell us about a time that such a gift made a lasting impression.

I went on a retreat once where there were constant gifts and reminders of God’s love for me. They were sent by people who didn’t know me but wanted me to experience an outpouring of love. It happened all the time.  Every day. All day. Every time a new event started. It was very heart-warming. 

4. Imagine that a gift bag was waiting for you on your bed when you checked in for your time of sabbath. What would you like to find in it?

A map to local haunts or hikes, REAL recommendations of places to eat — not just a list! (and included gift cards), and a free pedicure/spa treatment. 

5.   Besides a dessert buffet featuring chocolate, what is something you would love to see a retreat/getaway offer that is typically not part of such an experience?

Ummm… You had me at “chocolate”!

Bonus: You’ve been granted a weekend off, and the means of getting away is provided. Where would you like to go?

Quiet beach, someplace with an ocean breeze and A/C, and fresh seafood. I don’t have to drive, cook, clean or be with people unless I want to be. Yes, I’m an extrovert. And I enjoy time with my extended family. But time off with my own agenda sounds wonderful. 

Safety Recall: Hurry Up and Wait

The other day I went for my “free” recall repair of a defective airbag assembly in my trusty Honda Pilot. The repair came with a “free” loaner car. What wasn’t so free was the time I spent waiting… For the rental car company to pick me up. For the rental car car company to have a car for me to rent. For the rental car company to get the car I was going to use cleaned.

I had some morning appointments… that had to be moved. Philosophically, I tried to see it as a chance to relax and play a mindless round of games on my phone. I tried to look polite (and not as annoyed as I felt) when I got the next update that started with, “well, it’s going to be a little longer because…”

There are times like these “hurry up and wait” moments where one’s patience is tested and one’s upbringing to be courteous and kind is challenged. And then… I thought of the times that I had kept someone waiting. More times than I would care to admit, actually! Sometimes it was because I planned poorly and didn’t take into account the traffic I might face. Sometimes it was because an errand or a phone call chewed up more time than I planned. And sometimes… it was a lovely intersection of bad luck and someone else’s poor planning.

Ugh. Not a fan of waiting. Not at all!!!

Hurry up and wait…

My friends in the military use that phrase to describe the time they spend in formation, waiting for a dignitary (or officer of the day) to show up. It seems pointless. It appears arbitrary. It’s also a good way to describe the way I have grumbled against God not being on my timeframe for an answer to prayer.

In the end, the car had to stay in the shop another day because they ran out of parts. And yes, I got to drive a zippy little sports car (for free — almost — I did have to buy gas!) as I blasted XM radio rock stations. The chaplain rocked her caseload that day. Not a bad result from all that waiting.

OH… wait a minute… I get it…