Closed gates

            “Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways there is no difference.”—Bob Dylan

              “Sometimes the door closes for us so we might turn and see an open gate to a wider field of opportunity.”—Brendon Burchard


As I made my way back across campus, the early evening sun was angling low on the horizon. The dark clouds, that had earlier seemed full of the promise of a downpour, had passed on, allowing a golden light, the color of a light beer, to flow over the mountainside as if pouring from a tap. It is my favorite type of sunlight, and normally, this type of sundown glow over rolling ancient mountains would fill my being with abundant joy. And yet . . .


Walking down the steep incline, I saw it there—the black, wrought iron double gate–complete with a spear point top situated perfectly in the center—was now closed. Only moments earlier, it had been opened. First-year students, some giggling, some talking, and others quietly observant, had streamed through this gate following the ornately robed staff and faculty that led from the opposite side of the gate. The entire procession made its way up the rise and into the inner courtyard of Old Main, a grand piece of Gothic Revival architecture dating back to 1858. It was a deeply symbolical gesture.

Bethany College on a sunny, winter day.

Staring at the old black gates, my heart began to beat rapidly, my throat filled with the now familiar lump that had been making frequent appearances over the past few days, and my head felt pained from the emotions I was withholding behind my own figurative gate. Less than 60 minutes ago, I stood there. Less than 60 minutes ago, she walked past me. Less than 60 minutes ago, I still had a child at home. Less than 60 minutes ago, the Matriculation Convocation of Bethany College began with the sounds of a mournful, lone bagpipe tune. Time, time, time.



Historically, the word wrought comes from the past tense form of the verb, to work. As English evolved and changed over the years, the word, worked, became the past tense form of, to work. Thus, the word, wrought iron, in a literal sense, means worked iron.

The wrought iron gates only open twice per year. Once for Matriculation & again for graduation.

Before the development of modern steel making, wrought iron was the most common form of malleable iron. In addition to its manipulability, it was also valued for it toughness. Therefore, wrought iron could be fashioned into original and striking pieces that were, and still are, ornamental, functional, and lasting. This combination made it quite coveted, historically, for thousands of years. In fact, at one time, blacksmiths, often apprenticed in the art of crafting wrought iron, were highly sought after and often considered on par with doctors within their communities. Therefore, I found it quite fitting that the first-year students walked through wrought-iron gates.

The wrought iron gates are opened for Matriculation.

To begin, there is the obvious visual. Symbolically, students walked through the gates parting ways with childhood. They were taking leave from the familiarity of family, friends, school, community, and so forth, while crossing into a universe full of unknowns–fresh starts, new friends, new routines, more autonomy, less dependence, and a world of possibilities, one that requires more intrinsic drive.



Secondly, it was signal to parents as well. The gates to the former stage of parenthood were forever closed. No longer were parents charged with the day-to-day care of their child. No longer were parents involved in their routine goings and comings. Instead, parents must trust that those 18 years of influence have fully prepared the now pseudo-adult child with the skills needed to choose wisely, the drive to continue to learn and grow, as well as the inter- and intra-personal dexterity to positively connect with others and within.


Lastly, the faculty and staff leading from the opposite side of the gate was no accident. These unknown humans are now charged with the job of community blacksmith to these highly pliable, but hopefully resilient, students. College, with its rigorous coursework, varied requirements, and countless opportunities, will undoubtedly being to form and fashion much of the students’ cast, but not all of it. Life experiences, encounters, and personal choices will also imprint and imbue the early shape of their life.



And so I stood there . . . alone . . .looking at the closed wrought-iron gate with its widely spaced black bars. No child was going home with me. The great unknown looming before me. In many ways, it felt as if I had just experienced the pain of childbirth—a pain that is necessary in order to help God deliver a new life, a new bundle of joy into the world. Only, this time, the infant was not the one crying, and would not be going home with the parents.

At the gates of Bethany College after the gates closed & after I left my daughter to begin her first year.

As parents, God entrusted my husband and me with the guardianship of our beautiful daughter, Madelyn. Now, Divine Providence has closed these gates; however, the new gates He now places before us, with widely spaced bars, allow for new seasons of parenting to enter and flow. Furthermore, these gates allow air to pass through—just as His presence flows to all. Our kid is God’s kid, and for that matter, so are John and I. We are not alone, and neither is she.




Maddie’s Last Saturday before Bethany College & Blueberry-Pumpkin Muffins

“You’re off to great places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”—Dr. Seuss

Located on a mountain in Bethany, WV– adventure awaits Maddie at Bethany College.

I was folding laundry this past Saturday evening inhaling the aroma of fragrant, fresh fabric as its warmth wafted through my fingers. Gazing out the back laundry room window, my eyes fixated upon the sadly abandoned swing-set in our back yard. Suddenly, my mind’s eye transported me back in time to the scent of sweaty-headed summers.

The view from my laundry room window as I folded laundry on the Saturday before Maddie left for college.

My hand lightly grazed the window in a desire to touch that time when kids climbed all over that swing-set, and their calls echoed throughout the valley that is our backyard. Shaking my head out of its reverie, I returned to my task at hand. As I folded both Madelyn’s, my daughter, and my clothes, I realized this would be her last Saturday home for quite possibly months; and how similar, yet different, it was to other Saturdays of her youth.

This picture was taken the day Maddie’s swing set was being built. Her face is flushed from playing in the summer heat. 

Our day had started semi-early–as early for Maddie is not as early as when she was younger. Instead of taking the Proctorville Bridge to the YMCA soccer field along WV 2, as we have done every Saturday in August since she was the age of four, we instead took the same bridge, but headed up WV 60 to Merritt Creek Starbucks for a light breakfast before beginning the last lit bit of college shopping for her.

As a child and teen, upon arriving at the soccer field, Madelyn would have quickly exited the car to catch up with friends and teammates. Saturday, as I drove, she alternated between talking with me and texting her friends. Like so many other Saturday mornings, by noon, she was already asking if I minded if a friend came over to spend the night. Thus, we finished her shopping while she simultaneously texted and called her friend to finalize their sleepover plans.

Once home, instead of bursting through the back door and immediately linking up her friend to play with the neighborhood children on the swing-set, Maddie and her friend hung out in the jungle gym of Madelyn’s bedroom. They called other girls on speaker-phone, engaging them in conversation while Maddie’s friend tried on clothes, jewelry, and make-up that Maddie was purging as she packed for college.

Leah Moss, one of my Maddie’s friends in our neighborhood, playing in & around back yard.

It reminded me of the not-so-long-ago dress-up box that Maddie possessed for indoor play. The box was filled with only-worn-once-costumes from Halloween and ballet recitals as well as pieces of jewelry, hats, make-up, nail polish and other accessories. How many times over the years had and that box provided a source of great entertainment for Maddie, her friends, and her cousin. Now, it was as if that box had reappeared as Maddie’s friend modeled the Halloween costumes, dance dresses, as well as pieces of jewelry and makeup from Maddie’s years in high school. This time, however, instead of returning those items to a special play box, her friend will take these items to use for her own special high school “play” days.

Laundry folded and put away, I began the process of making pumpkin-blueberry muffins—a favorite of Maddie’s. Like a magnet, the swing-set beckoned my eyes to glance out the back kitchen windows as I worked. How many times have I baked those spicy, sweet muffins for Maddie and her friends over the years while watching them play in the backyard on that seemingly magical swing-set? My goodness, it was only yesterday, wasn’t it?

I glanced over to the backdoor as if imploring it to open with the rush of the sounds of a barking dog and the squeal of Maddie’s voice as she, and a long ago sleepover friend, scrambled into the house declaring they’re, “sweating-up”, and can they please watch a movie while they wait for dinner. Soon enough, the family room would be filled the sounds of some musical as Maddie and her friend sang and danced about the room. My husband, John, and I knew so many of those songs by heart; we would often join in the singing and dancing as Maddie and her friend laughed at us.

Though that backdoor never opened, Maddie and her friend walked through the kitchen, taking a break from Maddie’s packing; and, as if reading my mind, asked if John and I minded if they watched a movie. Soon enough, the sound of a musical pervaded the family-kitchen-dining room area, just like years ago. Sure enough, it did not take long for John and I to begin singing and dancing along with the girls as they giggled at the sight and sound of us.

With the muffins in the oven, and their all too proverbial aroma filling the air, I turned my attention to dinner. Nothing fancy–salad, pizza, and chips—a supper we have eaten on so many Saturday evenings as a family. It is the one meal we will often eat in the family room, instead of at the kitchen table, especially if we are watching a movie or enjoying a fall football game.

As I sat on the couch eating, legs folded under me, John seated beside me, with Maddie and her friend on the floor alternating between eating, singing, and painting their toenails, it felt as if nothing has changed. Tomorrow morning I would wake up early and write most of this column before the rest of the house is awake. Most likely, the girls will get up, watch another silly movie; and, before long, the house will be filled with sound—sounds that will not be present next weekend. Sounds that have been part of my life for the past 18 years. Sounds that fill our home with peals of laughter and joy. Sounds that are so much a part of my heart, my soul, my being . . .

Thursday, the day this piece of writing will be published, is the official move-in day for our daughter at Bethany College, nestled on top of a mountain just outside of Wheeling, WV. John and I will soon return to the valley of our home. The swing-set will remain unmoving outside of our back windows beckoning for a girl who is no longer home. I wonder if I bake pumpkin-blueberry muffins next Saturday, if they will still smell as sweet they did this past weekend?



Simple Pumpkin Blueberry Muffins

(Can be made gluten-free)


1 box spice cake mix (I use a gluten-free version due to my celiac disease.)

1 can pureed pumpkin

1 egg

1 small pint of blueberries (2 cups frozen)

Optional: I like to add 1-teaspoon vanilla, but it is not necessary


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line muffins tins with parchment muffin cups.

Stir together cake mix, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla (if using) until batter is just combined.

Gently fold in blueberries.

Divide evenly among muffin cups.

Optional: Sprinkle tops with a bit of sugar.

Bake 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick is comes out clean when inserted into middle of a muffin.

Cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Store either in refrigerator or freezer for quick breakfast/snack reheats.







The Love of a Dog

            “The love of a dog is a pure thing. He gives you a trust, which is total. You must not betray it.”—Michel Houellebecq

          “No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.”—Christopher Morley

Rusty, our beloved pet of 8 years. He was at least 2 years of age, or older, when he adopted us for “his family.”

He was a good boy with an old soul. Simple as that. He wasn’t the prettiest. He certainly wasn’t the most active. He wasn’t graceful, adorable, lively, cute, or any other word often used to describe dogs. Instead, he was loyal, friendly, and intelligent. Furthermore, he was smelly (had to mention that one), protective, “fluffy” (not fat), and most importantly, a faithful friend.

Our faithful friend, Rusty, with the old soul eyes.

My daughter, Madelyn, ultimately named him Rusty because that was the color of his fur the day she, along with my husband, John, discovered him. According to them, they pulled into our driveway one long ago day; and, there he was . . . sitting in our front side yard under a tree near our garage as if he were waiting for us to come home. Maddie was initially afraid, because he possessed some pit bull features, was rather large, and, well frankly, was not the most attractive dog. In fact, with his snaggle-tooth sticking out, his face cut up, ribs showing (in spite of his barrel-shaped chest), patches of fur missing, and the skin of his nose gone; he appeared, at first glance, to be rather menacing. In spite of his intimidating appearance, of which he was clearly not aware, he kept his eyes fixed upon them, and John noticed a hint of tail wag.

It was love at first sight for the Rusty and John.

John stepped out of the truck first. His tail began to swish rapidly, but Rusty remained planted on the ground. John called to him, and slowly, in the humble walk we would come to recognize as his classic-way of winning people over, he lowered his head, wiggled/twisted his butt while simultaneously wagging his tail, and cautiously moved towards John. I am fairly certain he won John’s heart in that instant.

Once he came close enough for John to pet him, it became clear that this dog was not a threat; and furthermore, had been mistreated/abused. In fact, we would later come to learn that he had a fear of men with facial hair, and we would often wonder if his previous owner had been a man. It would take us years to help him overcome his fear of men with beards and mustaches.

It took several years to help Rusty overcome his fear of men with facial hair.

Needless to say, by the time I got home, Maddie was no longer afraid of the dog, and had already settled on his name. My daughter, along with Rusty, greeted me as soon as I stepped out of my car. Maddie was already chattering, in the rapid-fire pattern of high-powered weapon, begging to keep the dog. “Look how sweet he is, Mom?” “Do you see how thin he is?” “Can you see how he’s been hurt?”

Of course, somebody had to play the role of pragmatist. “We already have one dog and two cats.” “Pets are expensive.” “Where are we going to get more money to care of another animal?” “He smells.” “He’s shedding.” “No, I do not want to pet him.” “No, you absolutely cannot feed him, because he will never go away if you start to feed him.” “No, you cannot bring him into the house.” “Fine, you can play with him outside, but he’s absolutely not coming in. Hopefully, by morning, he’ll be gone.”

Fast forward eight years later, and I am alone in my classroom. The student I was tutoring left ten or so minutes ago. The weight of all John’s texts, sent to my phone while I was tutoring, hit me as I begin to I cry. I cry, not only for the loss of Rusty’s life, but also because I will truly miss him. He was a good boy—an ol’ soul—who won my anti-dog heart over.

While I recognize that Rusty was a mature adult dog when he came to “own” our family, eight years spent as part of our family seems so short. That said, in those eight years with us, he lived a life full of love and free from abuse.

Maddie was 10 when Rusty came to adopt us.

Maddie was ten when he first arrived. She was in elementary school. During her younger years, Maddie would widely swing open the back door and give a cock-a-doodle-do shout to the neighbor kids as she headed out to play. Rusty would suddenly realize she was heading outside, begin to bark like a mad-dog, heeding her call-of-the-wild, and take off running after her.

Nothing like sharing a good book with a friend!

John and I would laugh watching Rusty chase after Maddie with his undersized legs flying, but he was short winded. Within seconds, Rusty would slow to a trot, and collapse in a huffing heap looking in her direction.   Then, as if it was planned, he would roll around in the grass for a minute, spin round in a circle five or six time, then flop down—back legs splayed, front paws extended, head regally lifted towards the sun, and still panting from the exertion. We referred to this as Rusty’s, I’m-just-gonna-sit-here-in-the-sun-and-work-on-highlighting-my-fur-look while you play with your buddies.

Anytime John would leave, Rusty would run—okay, quickly walk–to the bay window in our family room, directly in front of where John parks his truck, place his front paws on the window, and cry for John’s return. The few times John was gone for an extended period, Rusty would periodically walk to that window, look out of it, and whimper for John.

When Rusty heard me opening the refrigerator, he would come galloping into the kitchen, usually sliding on the tile, and stand beside me in the hopes of broccoli, baby carrots, and/or apple slices. Heaven help, if I wasn’t getting out any of those food items. He would stand there and look at me, with his imploring, old soul eyes, pleading for produce. In fact, one of my former coworkers who dog-sat him, loved to tell the story about how she gave him a piece of bologna one time, and he wouldn’t eat it. “Of course he won’t eat bologna, because Stephanie only feeds him healthy food. He probably thought I was trying to poison him!”


In spite of his disdain for bologna, Rusty did love those packaged dog-treats and was your friend for life if you fed him one. However, one day we learned, after an exceptionally high electric bill, that the electric company would not come into our yard to read our meter because of our “vicious” dog’s bark. This brought our entire family to tears of laughter, because if they had only offered Rusty a dog treat, they could have not only read our meter correctly, but also could have stolen anything from our house!

Rusty tolerated our cats, played with them, and raided their litter box for “treats.” He drooled watching us eat, and his dog hair coated us. He roamed from room to room while we slept, seemingly checking on each of us, while guarding the house. Rusty listened with ear-twitching intensity when we talked to him, wagged his tail of approval at our appearance, and did the best head-down-wiggle-walk when he was really trying to win someone over. He was the, “best boy ever.” If there is a canine heaven, I know he’s there . . .working on his highlights, noshing on broccoli and pizza crusts, and looking deeply into our eyes from afar conveying his eternal dog love through the twinkling of the stars and the warmth of sun’s caresses. Rest in peace, good boy, rest in peace. You will be missed.

College Memories

            “Halloween and hills (lots of them); burritos and bagels; squirrels and shuffles; brick streets and parking meters; East, West, South, and College Green; Court Street; Athens, Ohio”—as seen on a sign hanging in a store on Court Street in Athens, Ohio

The famous Court Street of Athens, Ohio, center of uptown life.

          “Enjoy your first year. No, really. I know it will be hard, but enjoy it.”—Scott Musick, my brother, offering college advice to my daughter, Madelyn.

My brother, Scott, and my daughter, Madelyn, in Athens, Ohio, August 2017 where I attended college–just weeks before Maddie embarks upon her own college journey at Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia.

We arrived at campus early on a Saturday morning in August of 1984. I was eager to get started on a new college journey at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. I had spent the prior year attending, “The Branch,” as it used to be called, of Ohio University in Ironton, Ohio, while also working close to full time, 37-39 hours per week, at the local McDonald’s


Many 18-year olds struggle to adjust to that first year of college, and I was certainly no exception. My job required a wake-up time ranging from 3:00 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., depending upon the shift I was working. Furthermore, I was not a so-called, night owl. Therefore, going to classes in the evening, from 5:00-10:00 pm, combined with my early morning start, was not the most conducive way for me to begin my college experience. Add to those facts, that most students in class with me during that time period were 10-20 years older; and needless to say, I was all out of sorts during that first year. Thus, I was ready for a change–a chance to start over, so-to-speak.

Driving the steep bricked streets of Athens towards my East Green dorm, my heart was pounding wildly with excitement. I didn’t notice that we were one of only a few cars arriving. I had not yet learned, as a general rule, college students do not rise early on a Saturday morning—even the morning of move-in day.


Naively, and optimistically, I walked with my parents into the dorm. No one else was entering the building, but, hey, that’s called good timing, right? As it turned out, my roommate, Susan, an international student from Singapore, had arrived a week or so prior to my entrance. Like me, she was a sophomore; however, unlike me, this was her second year living on-campus in Athens.


Susan, I soon learned—along with my parents—had a boyfriend. Despite the fact I had written a letter to her stating when I would arrive, she must not have expected me so early as the door was locked when my parents and me tried to enter my dorm room. Yes, Dear Reader, you have probably figured out the rest of the scenario by now. . . . After much knocking, and eventually assistance from the Resident Director, a sheepish and sleepy Susan, as well as boyfriend, ultimately welcomed my parents and me to OU. Needless to say, the next couple of hours were awkward, but made for a memorable learning experience!


I find myself reflecting upon eye-opening college experiences, such as that story, as John, my husband, and me, prepare to take our daughter, Madelyn, to Bethany College, four hours away from our home, for her first year of university life.  What will her move-in day be like? What types of experiences will she encounter? What classes will she take? What new friends will she make? How often will we see her? What degree will she ultimately earn? In fact, these queries are quite similar to the questions I asked myself as I walked across campus on that first day at OU after Mom and Dad left my side in 1984.


Recently, I had the opportunity to return to Athens along with John and Maddie. I felt quite nostalgic as I walked the familiar, inclined brick streets of long ago. Much had, of course, changed; and yet, much had remained the same. However, as I tried to share some of my college stories and experiences with Maddie, I began to sense she wasn’t all that interested. Oh, she was polite enough, but it seemed, my stories were old and dated, like the few articles of clothing I still have from that time period. That is when it hit me.


As much as I want to prepare my dear daughter for college by sharing my stories/experiences from those long ago days, they are not relatable to her because she has neither started college, and certainly will not be attending OU, nor is it the same time period, same living circumstances, or same generation. I cannot tell Maddie how great, how hard, how inspiring, how funny, how challenging, or how anything else college will be, because she has to experience it for herself in her own way. Furthermore, she is no longer the “little girl” who hangs on to every word I tell her. (If I am truthful, she hasn’t hung on to my every word for a while now!) She has her own thoughts and ideas, thank you very much; and, no doubt, these will evolve and change, but that is for her to decipher—not me. It is a natural part of her development that I need to honor, and let it play out in its own way and time.


In fact, just as I moved into a new life phase (or two) when I graduated from high school and began college; so too will Madelyn. And, just like all the other phases in my daughter’s development, there still won’t be a parents’ handbook on how to perfectly navigate these new streets. Therefore, I am going to have to rely on faith, the experience of others, and listen to that still-inner voice guiding me—praying that it is also guiding her too.


One thing I know for sure, Maddie is a great kid. She is far better, smarter, and with-it than I ever was at the age of 18. I’d like to think John and me had a little bit to do with that, but we cannot take full credit as she’s also been blessed with numerous positive adult influences including family, teachers, pastors, and friends.


Therefore, I pray that Bethany College will offer more of those quality mentors to guide Madelyn. May she have friends that are a positive influence surrounding her. May she learn from her experiences, but also may those experiences be more positive than harsh. May she continue to learn and grow in knowledge and as a person, but may she remain as compassionate and thoughtful as she is now. May she discover her true calling and passion. And, may she rest assured on the fact that mom and dad are still here, cheering her on, and loving her more than ever as she transitions into adulthood.   Oh, and one more wish, may her move-in day be memorable for reasons far different than my first move-in day!


Madelyn’s grand adventure at Bethany begins August 24, 2017.





Maps vs. GPS

            “True navigation begins in the human heart.  It’s the most important map of all.”—Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey

            “It finally happened.  I got the GPS lady so confused, she said, ‘In one-quarter mile, make a legal stop and ask directions.’”—Robert Brault

            “Uh, oh,” I heard my husband, John say.  It’s the tone in his voice that jolted my attention out of the book in which I was reading.

            “I think I missed a turn,” his voice was filled with dread.

            I recalled looking up at a sign as John made a turn, thinking, “Hmm . . .this doesn’t feel right.”  However, I did not speak up because I figured I was wrong—just a crazy notion because we were traveling a new route.

            Then, John pointed out that all of the road signs were in now French.  Oh boy, something was certainly wrong, and I felt horribly because I had been reading rather than looking at a map of New Brunswick in order to help John navigate.

            We were traveling home from a two-week stay in New Brunswick, Canada—the only officially bi-lingual Province.  While driving in New Brunswick, all road signs were labeled both in English and French.  The fact that road signs were now solely French could mean only one thing; we had inadvertently crossed into Quebec!

We were traveling through the Appalachian Mountain area near Quebec for the return route home. Unfortunately, we made a wrong turn and ended up in nearby Quebec!

            While we had been using our car’s navigation system, it gets a bit wonky when traveling through remote areas or out of the country, and we were doing both. Therefore, we could only see the image of the road over which were traveling.  Typically, we rely on a map app on our phone when traveling.  Unfortunately, our phone company, which allows us to call Canada without any extra cost, triples and quadruples the cost of our phone use if we are in Canada trying to call/text to the U.S. or access cellular data. Thus, we turn our phones to airplane-mode when in Canada, rendering our phones unable to access apps without wifi—which our car does not have.

            Ultimately, we were able to find a safe place to turn around, stop, and look at our map.  It was at that singular moment, I knew that Divine Providence was providing me with a lesson.

Oops! We had inadvertently crossed into Quebec!

            GPS navigation systems are great, but the image we see, especially when driving, is often quite small and out of context of the bigger map picture.  Further, GPS will usually get you there; however, it doesn’t replace experience, which often informs us of faster routes, less congested roads, and so forth.  Finally, a GPS system often emphasizes details rather than the big relational pictures such as borders.  Thus, the big take away is that we receive three benefits when a GPS in conjunction with a map.

When driving out of the U.S., or in a remote area, our GPS can become a bit wonky!

            Isolation vs. Context.  When viewing our car’s navigation screen, we can only see the isolated route in which our car is traveling.  The overall context of the route, the roads from which we came, as well as the roads in which we will travel, are not visible.  However, looking over a map reveals the context of the entire route.

            This often happens in life.  For example, news blurbs, co-workers, or even loved ones, may focus upon, or share, one phrase or one point a person states in isolation, rather than reveal the entire context in which the words were spoken or written.  Likewise, well-meaning Christians sometimes use one Bible verse to support a certain belief or rule, rather than viewing that Bible verse within the context of the chapter, book, intended audience, or even time period in which it was written.

            Of course, there are many beautiful, singular phrases, quotes, and Bible verses from which there is much to be gained—I often use these to support and inspire my own writing, thinking, and speaking.  However, it worth remembering and taking time to view, or listen, to the full context in which both written and spoken words are derive, just as it would have benefitted John if I had been looking at the full map while he used the navigation screen.


            Inexperience vs. Experience.  When using a GPS or a map, you are choosing to rely another’s judgment or knowledge regarding which route, turn, or direction to travel.  This is especially true if when traveling to a new location.  It is often interesting to note that once the lay-of-the land in a new area is learned, we begin to realize better or faster roads/turns in which to take in order to arrive at a given destination.  This can only happen, however, with driving experience.

            Likewise, in life, when starting a new job, task, class, and so forth, we often choose to rely on the knowledge of others to inform our decision-making.  This mentoring is, of course, useful and quite valid; however, it is important to allow experiences, combined with the knowledge of others, to teach and affect the way in which we ultimately perform, make choices, and live our lives.   Further, it is often even more important to consider the internal, Divine voice offering valuable guidance.  Just as I should have listened to the inner voice that told me we were probably making a wrong turn, so too, should we listen to God’s guidance.


            Big Picture vs. Details.  Finally, the GPS navigation system does not reveal the broad picture of the full traveling route—only that route in which you need to be traveling at that moment.  Whereas, a map usually has the ability to reveal the entire route including borders, times zones, bodies of water, and so forth.  A map, however, does not possess the smaller details of exit numbers, upon what side of the road those exits will occur, etc. Certainly, though, if I had had that map open when we were traveling, in addition to the GPS image of the route number, I could have looked at the big picture.  I might have observed that even though we were indeed on the correct route, the signs for upcoming towns were the opposite direction of where we needed to drive.

            Similarly, in order to navigate life, sometimes we have to have a clear image of the grand scheme of our life’s direction.  Of course, it can be argued the importance of “one step at a time, one day at a time”– our life needs an ultimate direction/purpose/goal in which to direct those smaller, day-by-day turns.

The lesson of the GPS vs. paper map is this:  In order to navigate life, we need to not view all events in isolation, but within context of our life. (In the grand scheme of a two long days of driving, adding one extra hour due to our mistake was not that big of a deal.) Secondly, while a new adventure is always exciting, there is nothing like life-experience to inform our future choices.  (If we ever travel that same route, do you think we will make that same wrong turn again?)   Lastly, there is great benefit in taking life one day at a time; however, it is important to keep the big picture, the goal of our life, in mind. (Once we realized we were headed in the wrong direction, we turned around, and got back on our target route.)    The Divine Director will guide our life journey, but we must choose rely on this ultimate guidance.

Ultimately, we must look to the Divine Director for guidance along our life journey.

A New Health Center for Southeastern Ohio School Employees

Scioto Health Plan and CareHere LLC hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 1 to celebrate the opening of Scioto Advantage health and wellness center located on Rhodes Ave in New Boston, Ohio.

“This process has been a year and a half adventure that began with this gorgeous building and an idea,” stated Sandy Mers, South Central Ohio Educational Service Center Superintendent, preceding the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Sandy Mers, South Central Ohio Educational Service Center Superintendent, speaks preceding the official ribbon cutting for Scioto Advantage, a health and wellness center that will provide no-cost, primary and preventative service to the employees and their dependents in school districts across three southeastern Ohio counties .


Mers went on to offer a special word of gratitude to Steve Hamilton, New Boston’s village administrator, for initially helping the SCOESC find the owner of the building, as well as thanks for Mayor Junior Williams and the New Boston Council for their support of the project.

The unique center will provide primary and preventative health care services to school employees and their dependents covered by the Scioto Health Plan, which includes ten Southeastern Ohio school districts as well as the SCOESC. Types of services offered will include, but are not limited to, routine blood work, annual health screenings, immunizations, allergy treatment, minor illness visits—such as colds, flu, upper respiratory infections and so on, wound care, minor stitches, well-woman exams, well-child check-ups, chronic disease management, health coaching services as well as bus driver, sports, and other school-related physicals. Additionally, there will be an in-house generic prescription dispensary; and, all of this will be provided at no cost to the patients.

Appointments can be scheduled online or over the phone. These appointments will not be double-booked to allow little to no wait time for the patient. All records will be digitally maintained in accordance with HIPPA; thus, patients can be assured their records are private and secure.

CareHere LLC, a company based in Tennessee, will manage Scioto Advantage. Anthony Dallas, MD, chief medical officer for CareHere, stated that he was, “excited to be here, and excited about the partnership with such a great team.” He further added that he felt, “honored to be part of a group of people that want to give to their employees, and make differences in their lives long-term.”

Anthony Dallas, MD, Chief Medical Officer for CareHere, speaks at ribbon cutting ceremony for Scioto Advantage.


Staff members to Scioto Advantage will include: Stacy Carter, RN; Melody Craycraft, NP; Lisa Turoczy, Director of Clinical Services; and Melanie Sharp, Senior Director of Operations.

Scioto Advantage staff includes (bottom row, L to R): Lisa Turoczy, Director of Clinical Services; Stacy Carter, RN; Melodee Craycraft, NP; and, Melanie Sharp, Senior Director of Operations.

According to Mers, “Scioto Health Plan is our self-funded insurance consortium.” She went on to explain that the SHP controls the decisions and, “do our best to take care of our employees and their families.”

Mers added that the SHP is a part of a larger consortium, Optimal Health Initiatives, a not-for-profit health plan. This plan offers medical and dental coverage for the benefit of school districts across three southeastern Ohio counties, including Bloom-Vernon, Clay, Green, Manchester, Minford, New Boston, Northwest, Oak Hill, Scioto County Career Technical Center, Sciotoville, SCOESC, Valley, Washington-Nile, and Wheelersburg schools.

Mers gives special credit to Elaine Shafley, Executive Director of OHI, for initiating the idea and, “helping to make this happen.” In addition to Shafley, Mers credits both Andy Riehl, ESC treasurer, and the SCOESC board for partnering and supporting the project throughout its full development. Moreover, Mers had high praise for Kirk Donges of TSHD architects and Rob Seaman, project manager, who was “so detailed oriented.”

Other speakers at the ribbon cutting ceremony included former Clay Superintendent and former Chairman of Scioto Advantage , Tony Mantell; Anthony Dallas, MD of CareHere; and, New Boston Village Administrator, Steve Hamilton.

“What we have here is something so very special, that you don’t see in very many places,” stated an enthusiastic Mantell. “When you think about all of our people—great employees who work for their school districts. The fact that they can come here at no out-of-pocket expense to them—what a great benefit!”

Steve Hamilton, New Boston Village Administrator, counts down for the official ribbon cutting for Scioto Advantage. Cutting ribbon, L to R, Sandy Mers, SCOESC Superintendent; Rob Seaman, Scioto Advantage Project Manager; Anthony Dallas, MD, Chief Medical Officer, CareHere; Elaine Shafley, Executive Director of Optimal Health Initiatives; and Chris Murphy, Business Development Manager, CareHere.

“Our employees deserve this,” added Mers following the ribbon cutting ceremony. “Appointments are already scheduled.”

The official ribbon cutting ensues for Scioto Advantage. Cutting ribbon, L to R, Sandy Mers, SCOESC Superintendent; Rob Seaman, Scioto Advantage Project Manager; Anthony Dallas, MD, Chief Medical Officer, CareHere; Elaine Shafley, Executive Director of Optimal Health Initiatives; and Chris Murphy, Business Development Manager, CareHere.

Currently, the Scioto Advantage hours are 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, but will be adapted, according to Mers, based on patient need.

The ribbon is officially cut for Scioto Advantage. Cutting ribbon, L to R, Sandy Mers, SCOESC Superintendent; Rob Seaman, Scioto Advantage Project Manager; Anthony Dallas, MD, Chief Medical Officer, CareHere; Elaine Shafley, Executive Director of Optimal Health Initiatives; and Chris Murphy, Business Development Manager, CareHere.