Tag Archives: family

The Humility of Being Replaceable

Spiritual Oxygen pin

Early in my law enforcement career, I was assigned to an office in an economically depressed part of Indiana. I recall going out on one particular raid with fellow agents and police in a rundown housing project. When we barreled through the front door of this dingy apartment, there were small children sleeping on a ragged couch in the living room. The spectacle of a dozen or more police and Federal agents with guns, Continue reading The Humility of Being Replaceable

The Folly of a Change of Fonts

July 17Go ahead. Try any font. From my point of view, it doesn’t matter. The shape of the letters that form the word July, the angles of the number 17 – these are harsh and unnecessary. Even cruel.

Every year I dread this date and the sadness it rekindles. It’s been 16 years. How many more? Continue reading The Folly of a Change of Fonts

Four Ways to (Politely) Pummel Harmony

mask morgueFile free photo claritaAs I continue my focus on the word “harmony” in 2013, I’ve been thinking about behaviors that look like harmony-producers but in reality are harmony-busters. They seem innocuous enough, perhaps even helpful. But over time, they can do more harm than good.

Here are a few I’ve observed (and there are many more). Maybe you can add some others: Continue reading Four Ways to (Politely) Pummel Harmony

This is not a picture of my sister and me

A week or so ago, I ambled through a lovely antique store in SW Florida. Everything was organized and displayed with genuine care, not at all jumbled and random as many such places can be. It felt like the shop owner had bestowed a kind of gentle honor on all these vestiges of other people’s lives.

Awkward poseI was drawn to a basket of old pictures and postcards. It was enchanting . . . but a little sad. These precious (at one time) family mementos were now items of little value beyond curiosity and a bit of speculation.

Postcards from the early 1900s conveyed greetings from far flung destinations like New York City, Sweden, and Holland (not the one in Michigan) to loved ones back home in small towns . . . news of stagecoaches, difficult people, and homesickness all written in careful script.

One dear lady worried in her postcard about three one dollar bills she had misplaced before she left and gave instructions for what to do with the money if it was found. Continue reading This is not a picture of my sister and me

Is Singleness A Workaround?

It’s Saturday, so I’d like to share this post for singles. A version of it appeared here in April 2011.


Photo: stock.xchng
Photo: stock.xchng

This surprised me: More than fifty per cent of U.S. residents are now single, nearly a third of all households are comprised of just one resident, and five million adults younger than thirty-five live alone*.

Singleness is hardly rare and single adults of all ages have a considerable amount of influence on American culture, from their purchasing habits to their entertainment choices.

But would singleness be considered a “workaround”? Continue reading Is Singleness A Workaround?

I Never Meant to Leave Florida

net_efekt on everystockphoto.com
net_efekt on everystockphoto.com

When I drove out that morning, I was going on vacation to visit a friend in Texas. I was in my mid-twenties and had just extricated myself from a painfully unhappy relationship. I wanted to get far away to recalibrate and regain my perspective. Out of state: perfect.

By the time I got back from my road trip a couple of weeks later, something foundational had shifted in my heart and I had embraced the idea that happiness lay elsewhere. Continue reading I Never Meant to Leave Florida

Because the Holidays Are Risky for a “Mood Sponge”

2011 Christmas Tree in a BoxWhat do I mean by a mood sponge? I doubt you’ll find the term in any psychology textbook per se, though you may recognize it for reasons of your own. It’s a description I base on personal observations and life experience.

Mood sponges are people who tend to take their emotional cues from others, whether as a defensive tactic or a learned behavior. They measure their responses and reactions by those around them and sadly, absorb way more than their share of the negative.

I think there are reasons someone becomes a mood sponge and it’s not because they are lazy or uninspired.  Maybe they’re trying to keep the peace. Or protect themselves. Or just make their lives work.

Here are some examples (names changed): Continue reading Because the Holidays Are Risky for a “Mood Sponge”

How to Use A Runaway Truck Ramp

“Nothing, not even your dream coming true, is perfect.”

Before I went into law enforcement I lived in the world of advertising and public relations for almost a decade. All these years later, I am still drawn to a compelling headline or an irresistible book title. When good content follows, I’m affirmed and happy.  (I still believe words have a power that even a badge and a gun can’t touch.)

That said, how coSmucker book coveruld I resist a title like “How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp”? I was hooked immediately.

I already knew Shawn Smucker’s writing from reading his blog and following him on Twitter. I knew he was accessible, funny, and wise, committed to his family and his faith. And here was a bonus: this book promised to introduce me to his wife, Maile, also a writer and deep thinker. I couldn’t wait to go along on his family’s cross-country journey.

Seriously, you ask, did they really take their four small children (ages 2, 3, 7 and 8 ) on a four-month long bus trip across the US and back again in a big old lumbering bus they named Willie?

Yes, and they survived with some great stories and more than a few surprising lessons. Both Shawn and Maile journaled throughout the experience so no detail was missed in the retelling. The result is a sometimes white-knuckling, often hilarious, completely relate-able story, not just of their journey, but of their transformation.

The writing is engaging:

“The road there is like a sliver of thread dropped amongst rocks, and it winds along the path of least resistance.”


“But what if my ‘today’ must die in order for such prolific life to rise? What if the destruction of this current beauty must take place so that the root of something even more glorious can push up new shoots through the darkness?”


“I wonder if maybe I didn’t fill my real life with enough gusto to make it worth staying in.”


“That’s the thing about adventures. The stuff that happens isn’t always easy. It’s not always fun. But it’s always worth telling.”

And inspiring:

“Adventures will change you. They’ll saturate you with a fresh view of life. They’ll take every foundation you ever stood on and shake them until they crack. Adventures will tear away layer after layer of you, and in the end, when it’s all over, you’ll step away from that pile of old skins and barely recognize the person you have become.”

How to Use A Runaway Truck Ramp: A great title that delivers fabulous content. (Can you tell I’m affirmed and happy?)

Click here for a sample of Shawn’s writing and then get a copy of the book here: http://shawnsmucker.com/store/

Shawn Smucker is the author of How to Use a Runaway Truck  Ramp and Building a Life Out of Words. He lives in Lancaster County, PA with his wife Maile and their four children. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook, and he blogs (almost) daily at shawnsmucker.com Maile blogs at mailesmucker.blogspot.com