Author Archives: MaryAnn McKibben Dana

The Peace of Baked Things… A Poem, Plus Bonus Muffin Recipe


What do you do when you’re discouraged about the state of the world?

I bake muffins. And jot poems.

With apologies to Wendell Berry’s poem The Peace of Wild Things:

The Peace of Baked Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I can’t sleep at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I creep down to the kitchen, socks on cold wood.
A clatter of bowls, hiss of spray on pans,
and a pillow of flour.
Leavening a perfect mound, whiter than white.
Follow directions and all will be well.

Now the liquid: thick buttermilk;
melted butter, a risen sun grinning wickedly from its bowl;
and an egg–the cracked one, from when my son fumbled the carton.
I whisk, wincing at the memory of his frustrated tears.

Then a pause over the two bowls.
Master over this one thing, I can suspend time indefinitely,
stop the culinary combustion for as long as I wish.

But such sovereignty is foolish.
The mess is meant to be mixed,
folded, scooped, baked,
and warmed–
for the teen who wakes herself before dawn,
the long-haired girl with the cat-ear headband,
the boy who broke the eggs.


Brown Sugar Butter Pecan Muffins (or loaf)

adapted from Real Easy Recipes

2-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans


  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices; blend in brown sugar.
    Combine egg, buttermilk, and butter; add to flour mixture, stirring to blend well. Stir in chopped nuts.
  2. Scoop batter into 12 greased muffin tins (or a greased and floured 9-by-5-inch loaf pan). Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (45 to 50 minutes for loaf) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


Psst… my 2015-2016 workbook/playbook is still available for a couple more days.
Find out more.
Get the workbook now.

Photo Credit: “baking” by Ballookey Klugeypop, Flickr, creative commons license.

Monday Runday: Out with the Old, In with the New

Last week I shared some of my running and fitness goals from last year (none of which I achieved) and my hopes for 2016 (we’ll see in 12 months).

This weekend I had two experiences that perfectly encapsulated both the missed goals and my upcoming hopes.

New Year’s Eve was the Fairfax Four Miler, a night race around downtown Fairfax. Love the sweatshirt!


For the race I decided to wear my SportKilt: clergy tartan. Because why not:


I knew it was going to be a fun night before I even got out of the car. They’d given out glow sticks at packet pickup, but mine didn’t have a connector to make it into a necklace. Fortunately I rummaged through the detritus in my car and found an old drinking straw:



MacGyver Runner! Let’s do this!

As for the race itself, I wasn’t particularly fast. I wasn’t fast on an absolute scale, and I wasn’t fast for me. But I felt great about this race. Before I got injured, I ran faster. But now post injury, I’m running smarter.

Since I’ve been back to running I’ve been working hard on run cadence. Many coaches and running experts encourage a faster cadence (close to 180 strides per minute) as a way to avoid overstriding, heel striking, and other form issues that can lead to injury. My cadence pre-injury wasn’t great–in fact I’m guessing it contributed to my stress fracture–so I’ve been intentional about increasing it by about 10 strides per minute.

Here’s a bit of a screen shot from my Garmin at Thursday night’s race. See all that green? That means I was in an ideal cadence for much of the race–and I wasn’t thinking about it. Yay!



I have no idea what the red is.


I wrote last week that my goal is to run races without checking my Garmin, instead running by feel. This was my first experience doing that and I really liked it. My goal was to run easy, which I did, but I was excited to see I maintained a consistent pace throughout. I often go out too fast and flame out midway through.

Part of the reason I took the race easy is because I wanted to have fresh legs for a mile time trial on my birthday. So Saturday morning (in 27 degree temperatures) I met a bunch of other intrepid ladies at a track in Springfield. We shared birthday treats, laughs, fleet miles, and some bleachers afterwards.


This was my first time running a mile time trial with other people around, and with all the excitement and energy I went out way too fast. Like, more than a minute per mile faster than I should. I paid for that in lap three, which is always the one where I want to cry and die.

I finished my mile about 12 seconds slower than a year ago, 26 slower than six months ago. That’s better than I feared, though worse than I secretly hoped. But it’s a snapshot in time–and it was fun to do it on my birthday.

Most importantly, my leg didn’t hurt, at the race or during the mile.

Most MOST importantly, I experienced both the race and the mile surrounded by the most supportive, courageous, badass runner girls you can imagine.

I wish you the best in your own fitness goals–whatever they are.

The List of Lists: The Best End-of-Year Lists for 2015

e2bea3ef389032a3b8df0afe7f7999c8I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s (and my birthday). So much end-of-the-year reflection! So many lists! (Not to mention Gate of the Year, my new workbook/playbook for you to do your own yearly review and dream about 2016. It went out this morning to my email subscribers. You can still get it here.)

Here are some of my favorite lists of 2015. I’ll be away from the blog until next week sometime, but here’s plenty of goodness to tide you over until then.

The List of Lists: The Best of the Best of 2015

A Colossal Year: The Top Articles of 2015

Colossal has wonderful stories about the arts. Here we have a solar system timelapse, moon lanterns, an overturned iceberg, and more.


Brain Picking’s 15 Best Books from 2015

I read only 20 books in 2015 (assuming I finish the one I’m currently working on). I’m setting the intent to read at least 26 this year–one every two weeks–and this list provides some great suggestions.


The Year in Pictures: New York Times

Take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly with this collection. What’s your assessment of 2015?


28 Pictures That Prove 2015 Wasn’t a Completely Terrible Year

Yes, Buzzfeed made the list of lists. There are some heartening images here. I for one needed them.


The Top Six Good-News Stories of 2015

Courtesy of the Gates Foundation. America is free of rubella, Africa had a year without polio, and Neil deGrasse Tyson rocks. (Duh.)


National Geographic: Travel Photos of the Year

I haven’t been able to find the results of their general photo contest–maybe they haven’t been announced yet–but here are their most popular travel photos of the year. Click and daydream.

UPDATE: Here are the winners of the overall contest. Hot off the presses!


The Most Popular Running Stories of 2015

A personal favorite. You don’t have to be a runner to appreciate these stories–there are some lovely, inspiring pieces here. A 570-pound man ran twenty 5K races this year (as well as a 10K and half a Tough Mudder). If that doesn’t get you off the couch, nothing will.


And closer to home, here were the ten most read posts here at the Blue Room. Enjoy… and see you in 2016.

Two Christians Talk Faith on Network TeeVee… with No Sky Fairy in Sight: on Stephen Colbert and Joe Biden

On Caitlyn Jenner and Pastoring a Transgender Person

Three Reasons why “Because It’s 2015″ Is So Brilliant: thank you Justin Trudeau.

Love All: A Sermon for Advent: this sermon is five years old but it’s consistently one of the top posts each year. Maybe it’s linked from somewhere? I don’t think it’s one of my best but I’m glad it speaks to people.

Question: Why must we still talk about race? Answer: Twelve.

Failure to Adult: this was also one of Christian Century’s top posts.

A Racist Atticus and a Mess of a Book? Bring it On: true confession time, Go Set a Watchman is NOT one of the 20 books I read this year. But here’s why I still hope to.

No, God Doesn’t Have a Plan. But That’s OK

The Parable of the Pizzas: MaryAnn at her most sardonic.

A Christian without a Church


Monday Runday: On Setting Goals and Breaking Hearts


It’s the end of the year… time to take stock of 2015 and dream about what 2016 has in store. (Hey! If you want help with that process yourself, sign up to receive Gate of the Year, a workbook/playbook to guide you along the way. Sign up here. Learn more here. Coming in the next couple of days! Oh, and it’s not specific to running.)

My running goals for 2015 were to run 1000 miles, complete the Marine Corps Marathon, and participate in 12 races.

I didn’t achieve any of those goals.

In August I got injured and was sidelined from running for three months. It broke my heart, to be honest. And it wasn’t a gradual thing, in which I ignored the signs until it was too late. I was fine and dandy and kicking butt on my goals, until I quickly wasn’t.

It hurt.

But perspective is everything. Even with three months off, I ran 10 races, I PR’ed in the 10K, and I captained and drove for a Ragnar team that overcame injuries, illnesses and horrific weather to prevail on the 200 mile course.

I also grew to love pool running and swimming, and I got on the bike again for the first time in many years.

And I ran 750 miles. That’s far short of my goal. But it’s 150 miles more than I’ve ever run in a year.

So ultimately, I’m happy and proud.

Goals are a double-edged sword. If you make them too ambitious, they can actually sabotage your running through injury or burnout. But goals that are too squishy won’t spur you toward improvement, assuming that’s important to you (and it isn’t for everyone). Many people I know sign up for races because it gives them instant accountability. And of course races are fun. They’re really the victory lap after weeks and months of training.

Here are my goals for this year. I hesitate to even call them goals—they’re more like activities and intentions—but I hope they’ll keep me pointed toward true north on this running/fitness journey I’m on.

To remain injury free, as much as that’s within my control. Even though I got injured this year, I truly believe I listened well to my body, and will continue to do that in 2016. As I told myself when I was forced to take three months off, “I’d rather be running at age 90 than run during the next 90 days.”

To run three times per week and cross train 2-3 times, including strength. I used to run four to five times a week, but I’m nervous about returning to that schedule. Cross training is a healthy alternative, and it’s fun—and strength training is super important as we age. (Sigh.)

To do a race a month, though not always running for time. Two of those races will be triathlons, and I’m excited to be one of the people receiving free coaching through Tri-Equal to help me be successful in that event! I’ll be working with coach Julie Dunkle throughout the summer and I’m psyched.

When I do race, to do so without my Garmin. I want to run by feel instead of looking at a pace on a watch. My best 5K time came when my GPS flaked out and I had no idea what pace I was running. Instead I ran based on how I felt.

To run Marine Corps Marathon. This is gonna be a grudge match for me since I had to miss it. A marathon PR would be nice but that’s not a goal at this point.

To keep my easy runs truly easy. I’m a big fan of 80/20 running, in which 80% of your workout should be at an easy conversational pace. This keeps you in good shape so you can attack the other 20% at high intensity. Most recreational runners are at about a 50/50 ratio and there are various physiological reasons why that’s not as healthy or effective.

Do you have fitness goals? What are they?


Image is a mid-run selfie with the statue of Bob Simon, founder of Reston which I now call home.

It All Started with Christmas Music

I created my first blog for 12 years ago today. It’s long since abandoned–The Blue Room is blog #3 for me–but I still remember the first post: a taxonomy of Christmas music to blow off steam during the height of Clergy Superbowl stress. I think about three people read it, all with the last name McKibben.

So much has changed in me… and in the Internet. Blogs aren’t what they used to be, although I’m grateful people stop by here to read what I have to say.

In honor of that silly first post about Christmas music, I share this graphic that came across Facebook last week, created (I think) by John Shouse and shared by my friend Cathy Boyd. Brilliant!

a taxonomy of christmas music

a taxonomy of christmas music

Merry Christmas!

And Happy New Year!
…It’ll be even happier if you sign up to receive Gate of the Year, a free workbook/playbook to help you do a review of 2015 and set intentions and visions for 2016. Learn more here. Sign up here.