Monthly Archives: January 2014

I’m In!

Want to know the secret to a joyful marriage?  Two words.  “I’m in.”

Just before walking down the aisle 27 years ago, my mom (who you already know gave only the wisest of counsel) asked me a strange question.  I mean, I was already poured into the white gown.  The worship team music was already playing the latest Sandi Patti tune.  Tom was somewhere in the building sweating through his rented tuxedo.  And she asked me, “Do you know for sure that Tom loves you?”  Geez mom, …duh.  Mom continued, “Well if he really loves you, then I have one piece of advice:  Never say no to him.

Wait. Wha….? There was very little time to argue this point.  My dad had his elbow poised and ready to escort me to the “have and to hold from this day forward” moment I’d looked forward to since age 4.  I remember looking at Tom on the way down the aisle thinking, “Really?  Never?” mr mrs

Of course at the time I thought she was making some reference to the bedroom.  But (and many of you are not going to like this) I have found that in pretty much every situation, saying “no” has never gotten me anywhere.  Marriage works far better when you say yes.

Saying “yes” to Tom is so, well… Biblical. Look at Ephesians 5:21-33. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” If someone loves you that much, you’d be a fool to say no.  If you are truly “one flesh” then saying no to your spouse is like saying no to yourself.  “Wives, respect your husbands.”  Mostly that means letting him take the lead.  Wives, let your husband lead and then respect his opinion enough to follow.  You’ll put a huge silly smile on his face…and isn’t that what you really wanted…to make someone you love happy?

This advice isn’t for everyone.  We don’t say “yes” to abuse, harm, or immorality.  This is why my mom qualified the advice with “Do you know for sure that Tom loves you?”  Without her husband’s love, a wife won’t want to say “yes” to much of anything.

Marriage isn’t a competitive sport.  I think that’s why hiking together is so natural.  No one is trying to win an argument.  No one has to be “right”.  Just follow the trail.  (If you get lost, blame it on the map.)  So next time your husband says “Let’s go look at power tools we can’t afford!” or “I’d like a Whopper for dinner, how about you?” remember to smile and force out the two words that will work like magic: “I’m in!”


Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail, The Word


Does This Count as a Hike?

We shoveled the driveway today, twice.  That’s it.  That’s the weekly hike right there.    tom shoveling

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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in The Hikes


The Urban Hike

Perhaps the most practical place to hike (especially in winter!) is right out your front door.  Tom and I frequently take a quick walk around our little neighborhood and find that there is a comfort in the familiar day to day sights and sounds of Gibsonia (or, as our kids prefer, Gibsomnia).  I know we watch too much Sherlock but it’s amazing what you notice if you look.  If there are newspapers in the driveway and the Christmas decorations are still up, they’re probably on a cruise.  Old carpet on the curb means they got new flooring, a strange car means a son or daughter has moved back home, …oh, the drama!  And we love to conjure up nicknames for the people we see.  Stick Man, the Bag People (avid poop scoopers), Mustafa (an older Irish looking man who always walks 10 paces ahead of his wife), and the Hollywood Squares.  I shudder to think…do they have a nickname for us?  Probably Barbie and Ken.

We were out to dinner with some true Urban Hikers the other night.  They eagerly shared their passion for exploring the city on foot.  And Pittsburgh hiking is not for the faint of heart.  Even though OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe downtown area of Pittsburgh is truly a “walking city,” let’s face it, we’ve got a hill problem here.  In the one mile from Panther Hollow to the Peterson Event Center, you’ve got a nosebleed.  Undaunted, this couple shares an intimacy with the city they love.  They choose the road less travelled, walking the back streets and neighborhood routes.  While most of us are crawling along on the parkway, they embrace the people, the Churches, ethnic enclaves, corner markets, ruins of Pittsburgh’s past, cobblestone, trolley tracks, spectacular views, and hundreds of bridges.  We listened in while they hatched a cunning plan for their next 10 miler:  From North Oakland, across the HotMetalBridge, down the River Trail to Homestead, cross the bridge, up Brownshill, through Squirrel Hill to SchenleyPark and home again.  You could see how excited they were about the plan.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  “But will you stop to see the eagles?” says Tom.  On the River Trail between Hot Metal and Sandcastle, there is an eagles nest. Last Spring, Mr. and Mrs. Bald Eagle hatched the first chick to be born in Pittsburgh in 200 years.  We’ve visited often on foot and on bikes. It’s a relatively short walk 2-3 miles from the Hot Metal Bridge along the Monongahela River.   Bring your binoculars and plan on the Hofbrauhaus for dinner.

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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail, The Hikes


Good Lovin’

mcconnells mill March 2011 019I love this version of the familiar 1 Corinthians 13 passage.  This is verses 4-10 in the Message:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. Love never dies.

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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in The Word


Hike Vs. Golf

“It’s important that you find something you can do together when the kids leave home.” I remember my mom telling me this right after all of her kids left home. Her advice was always right on target.   My mom and dad liked to camp, and garden, and run for public office.  While the bedrooms were emptying one by one, their marriage was filling up with travel, roses, and school board.  I don’t think they even noticed when the last of us kids left the nest.

So when Tom and I got hitched, I often wondered what this “something” would be.  There were things I knew we would NOT do together when our future kids grew up and left our future home.  I would NOT be rebuilding motorcycles.  He would NOT be singing with the Worship Team at Church.  I would NOT be keeping up with him on a mountain bike.  He would NOT be writing a hiking blog.


The cable car that took us back to our hotel. Phew.

But it was on our honeymoon that I also determined that the “something we can do together for the rest of our lives” would probably NOT be golf either.  It was on the third day of the honeymoon.  It was sort of a grey and drizzly day.  That “new marriage smell” had already worn off.   Tom took me to the golf course where we rented some clubs and I played my first round of golf ever.  Since the hiking had gone so well,  I was very confident in my ability to successfully play a round of golf.  I mean…how hard could it be…?  By my fifth putt on the fourth hole, all of my wedding adrenaline had crashed into a weepy, insecure puddle of feminine deficiency.  Shank. “I hate this stupid game!”  Wiff.  “Who invented this torture?”  Splash.  “Damn these evil sticks!”  Wiping away the blood that was shooting out of my eyes, I looked up to see Tom silently walking to the parking lot, leaving me standing in the drizzling rain on the 5th hole with the evil sticks and no more golf balls.  Is he divorcing me already??  I’m such a failure!!  On the drive back to our little hotel (via cable car), Tom broke the crushing silence.  His question was all I needed to hear:. “How about if tomorrow we take another hike?”

And then I knew that our marriage wasn’t going to end and that we indeed would have “something we could do together when the kids left home”.

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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail


Quote for Week 3

Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; … The only friend to walk with is one who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.

CS Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life

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Posted by on January 11, 2014 in Quotable


When You Just Don’t Feel Like It

It’s strange that the same sparkly boughs of holly that decked my halls to fabricate a magical Christmas miracle have now become an annoying assortment of glitter infested clutter.  I had a terrific headache and was completely pooped from a stressful week.   I did not feel like hiking.  I did not feel like doing anything. And we really needed to take down all those Christmas decorations. christmas 2013

Doesn’t it seem like we resist some things just when we need them most?  Tom (aka Mr. Wonderful) has some sort of hormone-detecting superpower.  He knows when I need to get out there.  We took a very short drive to one of our go-to trails near North Park.  Pittsburgh was having one of those global warming periods (they generally last anywhere from 7 to 10 hours) and it was a balmy 49 degrees.  After the sudden snow melt and 3 inches of rain, the trail/river was a royal sloppy mess but it felt good to have my boots in the mud and smell the earth again.  The stream that feeds the lake was too high to cross so we walked around it and took a steeper trail.   I was moving a bit slower than usual (slugs were passing me shaking their heads), but I kept moving.  We heard and then saw a pileated woodpecker.  (They are the big black and white ones with the bright red pointy heads…think Woody the Woodpecker if you are over 40.)  They are much easier to see when all the leaves are down.  A couple of deer stopped in the trail to look at us. (“Look dear, humans!”)  Tom rides his mountain bike here often so he knows which water pumps still work (the water that pumps up out of the ground is freezing cold—so refreshing!) and he knows where the nicer overlooks are.  An hour later, we walked back to the car.  Nothing remarkable…just a nice little break from the worries of the day and all the post Christmas blahs.  Sometimes that is all marriage is…just finding ways to say, “You are more important than my headache or my Christmas clutter, or anything else in this world.”


The Second Time

The first time was Heritage Point.  It was not a super challenging hike but by the time we got back to the hotel, we were clearly hooked and stoked to find a new trail to conquer.  The State Park Ranger, Ken, told us about another hike that takes to you a remote Patrol Cabin at the top of the mountain behind our hotel.  “Very strenuous, very steep,” says Ken.   We’re all in.  Ken gave us a pretty stern warning.  “It’s a tricky hike, not well traveled.  Take your time.  Be careful.”

Careful Shmareful.  We were young and strong and good looking.  We could climb Everest if we could afford a Sherpa.  I had a cute matching outfit on that I bought especially for my honeymoon, matching socks and little white sneakers too.  Tom was rocking a pair of cut offs.  We were so ready.

The beginning of the hike takes you on a trail that parallels the BlueRiver.  Beautiful swift water over the billions of grey-blue rocks.  Cool, breezy, fragrant.  We are loving this.  Then we make a hard left and begin what I will call the “assent.”   This stretch is not so beautiful.  It’s a rugged, ugly, and neglected road bed.  There is evidence that this was a popular place to leave your trash back in the 70’s.   It is riddled with fresh mountain spring water.  This is a romantic phrase for mud.  My adorable sneakers are no longer white.  My socks now match the car door from the brown Maverick abandoned beside the “trail.”  But the promise of a Patrol Cabin at the top of a sunny mountain beckons us “come!”  Make it to the top!  Be a part of the mountain!

We continue upward.  The sun comes out.  We march even higher into the steaming humid mountain air.  My honeymoon outfit is soaked with sweat.  (Tom wasn’t supposed to see me sweat until after the first full year of marriage.)  There are black flies the size of tator tots.  There are swarms of gnats that have an unmistakable affinity for eyeballs.  Mosquitoes pour out of the “mountain springs.”

Did Tom and Amy bring any water for the trip? A map? Bug spray?  Sunglasses?  A cell phone?  A camera?  No way, we are two crazy kids punch drunk with love…in the 80s!   We don’t need no stinking bug spray!

A few clouds form and block the sun.  We notice the sudden drop in temperature.  It must be only 117 degrees now.  There’s a bit of wind too.  We hike ever onward.  The Patrol Cabin awaits.  It’s windier now and getting dark.  My mascara has made it down to my chin.  I’m sore, thirsty and miserable.  Tom is swatting flies like a 5 year old with a piñata but staying ever positive.  We can make it!

But we don’t.

vacation 2010 009

Tom at the Patrol Cabin in 2010. We finally made it.

Ranger Ken was right.  A few items in a backpack would have eased the journey.  A map would have told us that we had only a short walk ahead of us that leveled off to meadow at the base of the Patrol Cabin.  But only years of experience reveal this kind of wisdom.  Marriage is a long hot journey. But there is a map. There are perils, irritations, and trash piles. Prepare well.  Don’t quit too soon.  Keep climbing. You want to finish at the top.


Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail, The Hikes


Your Weekly Quote, week 2

Was the map wrong?  Maps can be wrong.  But the experienced walker knows that the other explanation is more often true. C.S. Lewis  Poems, Pilgrim’s Problem

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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Quotable



This hike was recommended by a friend of the blog…

Not sure the joy is in the journey, but what a Destination!!

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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in The Hikes