March 20, 2023

You wrap a cuff around an arm and say, “tight arm hug,” when you wish you were giving that little body a giant bear hug

You give a shot, put a smiley face band-aid on top of it, and then pull a green dinosaur out of the treasure chest. His mouth drops open, he looks down at the matching dinosaur on his t-shirt, clutches the toy to his chest, and grins. Tears still shining in his eyes, he laughs when I make a joke about the silly dinosaur.

“Silly dinosaur,” he repeats.

You wave goodbye, when you wish you could say, “It’s not your fault . . . you did nothing wrong . . . this world has been bad to you . . .”

And you shift gears to the next patient. A blood draw. I look at the order and grab my supplies.

When I walk into the room, mom looks over to me from her son’s side, and she smiles. “See,” she says, “it’s Anna Grace. She’s gonna tell you it’s ok . . .” 

I realize that, just over a week ago, I had done this for his older sibling.

He was not exactly reassured by his mom’s cheerful reaction, though. He stared at the tube and gasped: “You have to fill THAT?”

I nodded. “I promise you, though, it’s not as much as it looks like.”

Then, a few moments later, “That’s it!” I say.

“Huh? That’s it? I mean, yeah, ‘course . . . that was no big deal”

My whole body feels like it’s grinning. I love my job.

I step outside for my lunch break, my mind repeating the day’s most-used reassurances.

Tranquila. Tranquila. Hay menos dolor si no estás nerviosa . . .  ¿confías en mí? puedes confiar en mí   

Looking up to the heavens, I see a stunning contrast between the cerulean blue of the sky and the springtime-green of the expansive oak

I breathe in the beauty, and I breathe out the words,

Confio en usted.


March 12, 2023

“I feel rather Princess-Bride-ish at the moment,” I remarked. Jenn, smiled and nodded. “She hugged me?” she suggested.

Pleasantly surprised at how well she knows me, I smiled back. and watched the little one bounding onto the next object of her affection. As we did a repeat of the last few lines of the closing hymn, she had run up onto the stage, barreling towards me and wrapping her arms around my legs with a joyous, “Anna!” 

I realized that even the sound of my own name coming out of her mouth surprised me a bit.

“I’m used to being invisible,” I said. Jenn raised her eyebrows a bit. “Well, maybe not invisible . . . but not the kind of person people get excited to see. I’m more functional.

She let out one of her great head-tilted-back, gleefully un-self-conscious bursts of laughter.

“What? I’m serious!” I insisted.

She attempted to regain her composure, without success.

I sighed, reminded that, for as long as I can remember, I have had the gift of managing to be highly entertaining to others without intending to. My attempts at humour are effective only for my own entertainment; I will continue, mind you, to laugh, heartily, at my own jokes!

Later in the day, I found myself replaying the interaction in my head, and wondered why I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It occurred to me that I’m not even sure when or why I settled on this “fact” about myself. But I don’t think I’m alone in having a set of ideas about who I am and who I am not, oftentimes thinking of them as unalterable truths.

I do think there is truth to the fact that I do not have the sort of personality that draws all living things to me. I see this trait on a daily basis in my own husband.

But I should also recognize that there are people in this world who smile at the sight of me, just as I cannot help grinning widely at the delight of glimpsing a face I love. 

There may never be clamoring crowds around me, but I have no need of many. 

I have what I need-a significant few.

A very significant one of those significant few strolled around a botanical garden this past week. I could not help but smile widely at the “face” of this beauty. One of those things I tell myself is that I do not like showy things. I’m a daisy person. But the truth is that, as much as I do love a daisy, I also adore the “showy” elegance of a rose. And the vibrant showiness of my blooming tulips. And the brilliant cluster of daffodils on my table. And … and … and … 😉

pushing a pea

February 19, 2023

The call comes from the clinical side to where I sit, a stack of bills next to my computer. A simple summons: “Blood work.” 

“Coming,” I say as I’m rising from the chair. I put down the papers and gather my supplies. Looking at the order I gulp. This is no routine draw, but a five year old with elaborate tests being run. 

I can’t do this.

Lord, help me do this.

Tucking her into her daddy’s arms, and asking him to hold a phone for her to watch, I feel for the vein. It feels good. Looking up to see that she is still distracted, I slide the needle in. Nothing.


Pushing a pea around on a plate, my memory reminds me as I think fast to all I have learned . I envision the vein rolling and gently pull back, angling back up. There. I feel the slight puncture, and the flow begins. I let out the breath I was holding. 

Lord, let it keep flowing.

As I’m popping in the second tube, the doctor walks in the door.

“Can you add a purple top?,” she says. “I decided to add a test.”

“Sure,” I say

I hope so! I think

And then, a few minutes later, it is done. I’m wrapping the little arm in a pink bandage, and sending her out with a smile and a “See you next time!” I’m still sweating, but breathing easily once more. I am spent, and I am filled with gratitude for this moment in time.

Never, in my wildest imaginings-even when I was preparing to launch into this new medical career-could I have envisioned myself here: not only doing venipuncture but, bizarrely, loving it. Of course, it is not the act itself that makes me feel alive; I mean, really, sticking needles into arms??? But the focus that this work requires, and the taking-every-ounce-out-of-me, and the joy of easing the fear when I manage to do the job well…it leaves me with a deep sense that this is what I am meant to do. Not in some ultimate calling sort of way, but simply that, here, in this season of my life, I have stumbled into a place that I couldn’t have created for myself, but that I see is very, very good.

Hold onto this awareness, I tell myself.

On the days when it is not going smoothly, when I’m not feeling up to the task, when I feel like I’ve messed up…remember this truth:

This is my place. 

This is my life. 

This is good


February 10, 2023

I had just started unloading the car when I saw the text, “Call when you are ready.” Delivered two minutes ago. Peter had walked out to meet me, and started pointing out the comet. With my eyes following his pointing finger upward, I held the phone to my ear. She picked up immediately, and I could tell she was moving. Birds chirped in the background and she told me that yes, she was out for her morning walk. 

When she had texted about scheduling a call, a week ago, I realized it had already been a year. The last time we spoke, we had been batting back and forth edits to a series of visa application letters. She asked for my editing help, and I had wracked my brain to try to think of the most convincing arguments i imagined might sway the G embassy. They did not. I had been so certain that this was what she was destined for-with her broad mind, traveling experience, and language skill, she would, of course, fall in love with someone from another part of the world. She, who had been raised in a small village, would go far. When the doors all seemed to close, I tried to talk myself out of the disappointment. Who am I to imagine what is best for her? Surely there is something, someone else …?

A decade ago, we had been the three musketeers. When I arrived in the South east, the two of them were already fast friends. But, somehow-I can’t even recall how we found each other amidst the large group of staff there at our 300-student school. But we did. They welcomed me into their circle and, for the next three and a half years of my life there, we walked (and ran, and biked, and swam) it together. She was there when I began to talk about this quirky water project engineer I had begun learning Ju Jitsu from. She rejoiced with me when we joined together, and she listened, and counseled, when I talked about that transition to married life. Then, around the same time Peter and I moved to Ghana, she, beyond all my imaginings, raised support and set out on a vessel that sailed the world…placed, miraculously, on the same vessel that the third corner of our triangle had also been placed on. We parted ways, two of them still together. 

A year later, settled in Ghana, I got an email from her. My jaw dropped, and I grabbed Peter’s arm, “M and V are coming…HERE!” Their vessel would dock, for a month, here in our city. They requested leave to come stay with me and, for a long weekend, we were once again the three musketeers. I still shake my head in awe at the marvelous serendipity of that reunion.

So last night, catching up on the phone, I couldn’t help but revisit my niggling dream of managing to reunite once more in yet another corner of the globe …

She asked about my work. I started to try to tell her about how much the skill of venipuncture means in my current work life, but I kept interrupting myself with the clarification that I didn’t know why it was such a big deal to me. She stopped me and, with the wisdom that has so often astounded me before, pointed out that it really didn’t matter why: if I loved it, then I should just focus on it without worrying about why I love it. I laughed at the truth I’d been blind to and told her, “Yes, of course, you are right.”

After a bit of light chitchat, she moved into a sort of storytelling mode. I leaned into the words, riveted and eager to hear where her life had taken her. And then I was laughing out loud, interrupting her with rapid fire questions. It was, as it was years ago, beyond my imaginings:

They had found a way. The two had met in a neutral country, and had sealed the intent of their relationship. He had asked her father’s permission. And now the paperwork is underway. The doors are opening. It may take up to three months now but the process is moving steadily. She is preparing for the move, at peace, and ready. 



*About the photo: I was visiting my great aunt a couple weeks ago and paused outside her door to learn a bit about my cousin’s woodworking project. I took this shot thinking, as I did, that it was surely an odd thing to photograph…but I found the cedar truly beautiful so I did it anyway. V is someone who sees the truly beautiful in this world. I know she would have wanted to take the very same photo

the dinosaur in the room

January 29, 2023

Driving home from work last night, I sunk into my seat with a contented weariness. I realized that I missed this feeling of exhaustion from work that is consuming, and fulfilling. It was a feeling easy to come by when I lived in other countries, working in cultures out of my comfort zone and encountering daily struggles to, at times, simply exist. In this modernized western world, conveniences and technology can strip us of the privilege of having to work hard for our livelihood. 

That said, I should clarify that my husband and I had both grown jaded and burnt out from our years abroad. For all that we loved about the work we got to do, and the people we got to do it with, we were tired. Tired of the rootlessness. Tired of people leaving us as soon as we grew close to them. Tired of moving.

We were ready to make a home.

So now, nearing four years into life as homesteaders, we are just now starting to feel as if we are settling, putting down our roots, able to function as reasonably normal-yet admittedly odd-Americans. Life is good.

Yes, this is what occurred to me on that drive home last night. Life is good. 

Remember this feeling, I told myself. 

The next time you are stressed to the max, overwhelmed with the dailies, insecure, or anxious, remember this: in the great and grand scheme of things, all is well. You have a home-a good and solid and quirky home.

You have work to do. As my great aunt so wisely quipped last week, while I updated her on life, “You feel happier when you are working, don’t you?” Almost embarrassed to be understood so well, she then added, “I know I always did.”

Relieved by her admission, I smiled. “Yes,” I admitted.

Yes, it is good to have a job that I love. Sure, some days I readily proclaim as “poopy days.” But others I leave with a deep joy. Perhaps this is prideful to write “out loud,” but yesterday I felt as if I had done really good work. I had cared for the patients to the best of my ability, and had felt the satisfaction of blood draws done well, with the outcome of smiling and relieved youngsters. 

Thinking about this, on that drive home, I inadvertently pictured my grandma. I remembered how proud she was of me, and how much she longed for me to be fulfilled. Yeah, GramBea, I whispered. I know you’re proud of me. You knew I could be a good nurse.

Later that evening, I leaned on my husband’s shoulder and I wept. He didn’t need me to explain more than a blubbering “GramBea.” He quietly held me until the tears dried up. I got up to make tea, he went out to close in the chickens, and the dog barreled in a few minutes later, looking for the pat of butter he assumed would be waiting for him (I’ve created a monster.)

This life is good.

*photo is from a walk with a friend. A walk on which I shared with her some of these same thoughts I am writing now. And a walk on which we, of course, took a selfie with a dinosaur. As one does.

fist bump

January 19, 2023

Today I got a fist bump. It wasn’t a great work day. Truthfully, I spent the majority of the day staring at my computer screen and frantically typing, trying to keep up with the flurry of concerns, troubles, problems coming out of the mouths of furrowed-browed parents. I wished I could do more than type their words. I ached to speak out loud, to use my hands. But that was not my role today. Today I was scribing, on a day in which the schedule did not even allow a moment for me to switch to a nursing role. But for a moment, a brief moment, there was brightness. We had gone into a visit with a child who, the last time he had an appointment, had been combative, violent against attempts at any physical contact. When we walked in, I rolled my stool next to him in the room and began to type, continuing my habit of the day, focused on the screen. But then, as I typed, I saw him gazing at me. I looked up. He looked into my eyes, lifted his arm, and held up his fist. Copying his motions, I did the same, holding my own fist a few inches away from his. He grinned, then gently bumped my fist. I smiled behind my mask, heart lifted out of the day’s stress. About to go back to my typing, I realized he was still staring at  me. I looked back to see his palm opening. I copied his actions and then he gave me a gentle “high 5.” One more fist bump completed his routine. The doctor moved to his physical exam. I resumed my typing. But a part of me stayed suspended in that moment, inwardly beaming, à la “Princess Bride” …”She kissed me” 😉


January 8, 2023

This new year, I resolve (will try) to:

  1. Watch more TV (discovered that there are about 3 superb shows out there right now that peter and I both enjoy. The ability to focus in that manner, not just have it as background to something “productive” is a skill that I would like to develop 
  2. Read less books (and take more time to enjoy the ones I choose)
  3. Spend more money (it’s ok to sometimes be impractical about a purchase rather than scrimping all the time)
  4. Waste more time (do a jigsaw puzzle, pet a rabbit named Stew, kiss a Doe named Dosie. A young friend recently told me she had a pet bird named Bread. “Bread?” I asked. Yes, she nodded. Her mom added that Bread used to have a mate named Butter. Until their pet cat decided to demonstrate the circle of life …)
  5. Let my house get messy (I recall my childhood discomfort with homes in which I was afraid to touch anything. I don’t want an unwelcoming home)
  6. Drive faster (just kidding. but I was pulled over last year for driving too slowly. A couple friends know the sordid details …;)
  7. Write shorter (and less) lists
  8. Leave things…
  9. …unresolved 

2022 reading life

January 1, 2023

out of curiosity last night, after hearing various people talk about their year in books, I did a quick inventory of my reading journal. I’ve never actually tracked my reading-in part out of a knowledge that I need to be careful about adding anything that might become another goal to add to a daily checklist I invariably create for myself.

that said, I have enjoyed keeping up my journal this year and figured I might as well make a bit of a tally. So I went through the pages, first counting the books I completed. Then I circled in blue all those that stood out to be as fabulous. This came to 20 that I called my “honorable mentions.” Next I narrowed down the list, drawing gold stars over the truly standout titles. This conveniently came to a total of 10.

without further ado, here are the snapshots of the applicable pages in my journal

*the right column is where I wrote my brief reaction upon finishing the book

**titles that are crossed off are those I abandoned. If I though I might revisit it, I included the page number where I stopped. But these titles were not included in the number tally

A weight. Await

December 24, 2022

Last night I finished a book (one that may make it to my top-10 of the year), in which the main character ends up moving into a cave intending to live out his days as a solitary monk. After spending his lifetime as a healer, performing apparently miraculous feats, people eventually hear word that he is in hiding and begin coming to find him. In return for his help, they bring gifts of bread, meat, and other sustenance which he had learned to just do without, compared to the norms of human need. Come winter however, which was, as the book described it, the harshest he had ever experienced, people forget to come see him. So consumed with the business of trying to survive on a day to day basis, the villagers simply don’t have any margin left to wonder how Laurus is managing there in the mountain cave. 

I doubt it would have occurred to me, at least since moving back to the industrialized western world, that I would suddenly be able to identify so much with a description of life in the Middle Ages ….in Russia!

But here we are, waging a full-on war against the elements. Here in the southeast, we are not suited to the single digits. Pipes are freezing. Mandated power outages are being implemented to try to regulate the energy use required to heat our homes. And it horrifies me to try to imagine the plight of the homeless. 

But in the immediacy of it all, on our little farm, I have no margin beyond survival …

…Creative heating when our HVAC has to pause to catch its breath (this is not the only country I’ve lived in where I resorted to an open oven door when faced with the lack of central heating).

…Hourly collections of all the animals water containers for refilling. At one point yesterday Peter went out for his scheduled round and discovered that an hour was too long: it has already frozen.

…Cutting out all usual enjoyment of outdoor chores: all the tasks and errands are done in a dash to get it over and done with, and race back to shelter.

We are weary. My husband is nearing the brunt of it.

We are uncomfortable. Tired of being cold.

And, shocker, we are feeling less than festive on this Holy Eve.


I hear myself say that word and I wonder …

Mary, what did you feel that night, as the traveled on the back of a donkey, searching for shelter, heavy with child?

Was it, perhaps, rather weary? 

Was it, perchance, uncomfortable?

A thrill of hope.

The weary world…


advent of joy

December 12, 2022

You came to me in my dream last night. You gripped my hands, and you smiled that smile, and you said my name. “Anna. I knew you would make it.” I had made it. You were there. Pa Charley walked up behind you. Beaming. “I’m SO glad to see you!” I gazed, open-mouthed, at the two of them. Tears springing to my eyes. JOY filling my heart. I’m that moment the dream melted away. I had not arrived at the place to which I thought I was journeying. But a far better destination had been found. On this 3rd Sunday of advent I awoke to the reality of JOY. Happy 95th GramBea. Thank you for the best birthday party ever.