to be or not to be worldly-wise

My follow-up post may not be what you were expecting.

We wrote letters for a summer. Dated for roughly three years. We loved each other much longer than that, but, ultimately, he was meant to be a priest and I, to be a writer and meet Jon.

I love Jon.

So, no. This post isn’t about childhood sweethearts and love ever after. Rather, it’s about that 14-year-old and her reputation for being a “goodie-goodie” — a name that has stuck with her for many years. Continue reading



Writing Camp, Summer 2014

My favorite professor in college used to tell a story. As a young man, he’d been in a jazz band and then the army. He’d traveled solo around the world, dreamed of being a pilot, gone to flight school. After receiving his pilot’s license, however, he couldn’t find work. Times were desperate; money, scarce. One day, in a moment of frustration, he cried out, “Lord, please . . . What do you want me to do?!” Continue reading

the post i’ve been avoiding

templeDo you ever struggle, no, not with what to say, but how to say it?

My whole life I’ve been a pleaser. A goodie-goodie. A teacher’s pet. No, not on purpose. I’ve never taken a teacher donuts, but I have always done my best. I studied hard and made good grades. I never partied, even in college. I’ve never smoked a cigarette, and the only piercings I have are single holes in my ears.

I was raised Seventh-day Adventist, and Seventh-day Adventists just didn’t do those things.

The only area in which I’ve ever been a “rebel,” really, has been in my thought patterns. At fourteen I fell in love with a young man who would eventually choose to become a Catholic priest. Talk about challenging your faith. The Adventist church preaches that the Pope is the Antichrist predicted in the Books of Daniel and Revelation. How could an Adventist date someone who was leaning towards such an “abomination”?

. . . But, then again, who decided what books were included in the Bible in the first place?

Randy challenged me to think deeply and hard about what I believed and to not just accept viewpoints that were thrown at me as fact. Although our relationship was, in many ways, extremely painful for both of us, I have no regrets and will always be grateful to him for the vantage point he gave me. In college my questions about my childhood faith were only compounded by a rigid system (I went to a private Adventist university) in which worship and religion were forced and felt fake. I stopped going to church because I no longer saw the point. What was the value of an hour’s sermon on Saturday when all you were doing was preaching to the choir?

And then I went to Taiwan. And then my mind was blown.

Less than two percent of the population in Taiwan is Christian. Most Taiwanese are a combination of Taoist-Buddhist and worship deities and observe traditions that, to a Christian, seem crazy. You burn paper money to pass on to your dead relatives in their next life? Really?

But it was here that I came to understand how greatly my early years shaped everything about the way in which I viewed religion and the world. The Bible is the Word of God, right? There is only one way to salvation — through accepting the name of Christ, right? Right?

avoidBut would I believe the same if I’d been born in Outer Zambooblia? Even the questions I was asking were from an entirely Christian viewpoint!

And that’s when I began to see that God is bigger than religion — He HAS to be. I have good friends in Asia who are wonderful people who know about God but, for cultural and other reasons, will likely never accept Him. According to the teachings of traditional Christianity, this means they are doomed for hell.

I don’t believe that. I can’t. Salvation and access to truth can NOT be dependent on where you were born.

Today, as a blogger, I have readers from all over the world. The pleaser in me is very aware of how everything I say and do might be received by every one of my readers. So you’re an atheist. You’re laughing at me for believing in God at all right now. So you’re a Muslim. You don’t believe in the Bible; your holy book is the Quran. So you’re an Adventist. You’re upset that I’d challenge the wisdom laid down by the founders of the Seventh-day church. So you’re a Catholic. You’re offended that I’d challenge the authority of the universal church.

And all I can say is, “I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry.” I can’t say what you want to hear because I can never please everyone. God knows my heart, and in the end, the most important thing is staying true to is myself.


Images: and Pinterest



on the road to a new life


Already tired but ready to get this show on the road.

When I was 18, when most of my friends went just two hours away from home, I drove 2,500 miles for college. It was a scary time, and an exciting one. I’d lived in the same small town in Northern California my entire life. I was ready to see something new.

In many ways, that decision was a turning point and a defining moment in my life. This small town girl was exposed to a whole new world — Chattanooga, Tennessee was nothing like Placerville! You see . . . Where I came from, a “hog race” would indicate a pig race not a Harley race. Thunderstorms happened only rarely (and only during winter) at home. “Y’all” and “you’uns” were not in the dictionary. And grits? Fried okra? Sweet tea? Huh?

In many ways, it was like being in a new country, with the only difference being that English (albeit Southern English) was the written and spoken language, and I didn’t stick out everywhere I went — that is, until I opened my mouth.

In embarking on our recent journey from Tennessee to California, Jon and I created something of a reverse culture shock for him — and taken it to a whole new level. If Placerville was nothing like Chattanooga, Chattanooga is on a different planet from Berkeley! From rural Signal Mountain where Jon could recognize friends by the sounds of their cars passing on a two-lane highway, we’ve moved to busy University Avenue, where traffic never stops and our closest friends live several hours away!

The best example I can think of regarding the difference between living in a small town versus a big one, however, occurred while waiting in line at Comcast the other day. Jon and I were waiting to pick up our Internet modem when a large African American woman began a loud telephone conversation in line behind us. “. . . Hey, yeah. Yeah, I’m jes’ out payin’ bills. Yeah, I know. Jes’ remember we can’t affor- no f***-ups. I . . . Yeah, I’d like to see you, too, but I’ve jes’ been so bi-sy . . . Nobody gives me no respect. You hear that? No-body. Everybody is always disrespectin’ me and the way I raise my keeds and trying to tell me what to do. And so you know what? I’m gon’ re-move myself from the situation. I’m jes’ gon’ go away so there ain’t no one can find me no more. If they don’t respect me, I’m jes’ gon’ go away . . .”

Oh, boy.

Below are pictures from our road trip across the country. We drove the northern route, through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. It was a beautiful drive, but man am I glad that it’s over. I cannot stand sitting in a car for hours on end!


At Jon’s before we left — that’s a scooter and three bikes on the back of that truck!


Hello Illinois!


Can’t forget the St. Louis Arch.


Because my friend Jeff lives in Nebraska, I’ll go ahead and say it’s an awesome place. Otherwise, I’d just say it’s flat!


Old barn somewhere along the way.


Jon contemplating our truck’s sagging hind end at a gas station. That scooter was heavy!


Hello, Wyoming.


Light at the end of the tunnel.


I heart clouds.




Somewhere in Wyoming.




Boulders in Wyoming.




Salt Lake City area.


Salt Lakes, Utah


Wind-blown and worn out


She’s still holding up!


Sky meets salt.


Jon was excited about this.


Getting closer.


Driving, driving, driving.


Almost home.



how to not die: the fall


A year ago today, on the ten-year anniversary of my rock-climbing accident, I decided to write the story of my near-death experience on Signal Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. This year, I am in Chattanooga on my 11-year anniversary, and I thought that, for the sake of my new readers, I’d repost my story (this may take a few days) . . . If you’ve already read it, I’m sorry! If you haven’t, I hope you enjoy!

Originally posted on shift:

Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is my story.


The sun was falling from the sky. Once it dropped below the hills, all light and warmth would disappear. The clouds were chameleons: yellow, pink, and purple. Somewhere a bird twittered.

An icy wind crept into my jacket. I shivered. Beyond the edge of the mountain, a silhouette was standing far below. “Just remember what I said,” my friend called.

Just remember what he said.

I took a deep breath and leaned back. My harness cut into my jeans. I couldn’t feel my fingers.

Grab the rope…

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the truth behind travel

While on my trip a dear friend from high school posted this photo on my facebook page:

fernweh3“I think you’ve been satisfying this need for a couple of weeks now,” he said.

And I wondered: Was it true?

I’ve been a seeker all my life. From the time I was ten, I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. Six more years! How would I make it? In high school, my Catholic boyfriend challenged me to examine my Protestant beliefs, and when it came time for college, I chose a school 3,000 miles from home — Southern Adventist University in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At Southern, I uncovered a whole new world, one in which umbrellas were a necessity year-round (a strange phenomenon for a California girl) and the correct way to address a group of friends was not “Hey, guys,” but “Ya’ll”! It was the start of what has made me me and a part of what eased my transition to life in Asia  — I already knew about this cicada and humidity thing!

But, I guess my question is: What is travel? And why is it — is it? — important? Continue reading

the best of the best


View of New Orleans from my friend’s apartment

This post comes as something of a surprise. I would have thought I’d be talking directly about New Orleans.

I arrived this past Saturday to a scene I’ve never really been a part of. No, no, I’m not talking about the music or bar scene. I’m acquainted well enough with both, though truth be told I rarely participate in either. (I’m a “goodie goodie,” remember? Drinking has never really been my thing.) No, I’m talking about the medical academic scene, or, more specifically, the ivy league medical academic scene.

My friend is an internal medicine resident at Tulane, one of the most highly regarded and selective research universities in the nation. Yes, she’s smart stuff, and I’m proud to know her, but I don’t usually think of her as such. To me, she’s just April, my best friend from forever, and that’s enough. All the rest is just fluff.

So at dinner the other night I was surprised as I was talking to another internal medicine resident, a friend of April’s, when he told me about his experience as an undergraduate at Yale. Continue reading