A Double Portion of Her Spirit

January 23, 2013

Marti and Morris, Rob and Me at Jill and Pete's WeddingAs each of us looks back over our life, there are people who rise up in our minds as having extraordinary influence on us, whether they know it or not.  For me, one of those women is my Aunt Marti. She died this month, yet as I’ve written before, the way she lived spoke volumes about her character.   At funeral services honoring her life, the minister beautifully referenced the Old Testament story of Elijah and Elisha, and confirmed that the greatest gift we could ask the Lord for in relation to Marti is for a Double Portion of her Spirit.  She. Was. Incredible.

I delivered the eulogy for Marti on behalf of the Siegrist family…quite a task to represent the memories of 12 siblings and their families.  I tried to honor her as best I could with the following…

Siegrist Family Tribute to Marti Rill

It is my honor and privilege to pay tribute to my Aunt Marti  — my mother Joanne’s sister — on behalf of the Siegrist family.   When you come from such a large clan, there are hundreds of memories that bubble up, especially of someone as beloved as Marti.  We can’t do them all justice here, but there are themes that emerge from our memories of Marti…

The first is of Marti, the Intellectual

  • Perhaps known earliest as a bookworm — even as a young girl, Marti was the attentive scholar, the  daughter with glasses.   She was the  math geek early on, studious well beyond her siblings, with a desire for learning that lasted her whole life.
  • From the moment she first  wanted to  teach, Marti did what it took to pursue a degree.  And sure enough, she ended up teaching Math at Carlisle High School for 36 years,  where her impact was felt every day by overachieving and lazy      highschoolers alike.
  • My brother Tim remembers how proud Marti was when he pursued a High School teaching career in Math.  Marti mentored him, connected him with others, and gave him invaluable  career advice.
  • Of course, it is only fitting that it was in graduate school at Shippensburg University, among all the  Computer Science elite, where Marti met the love of her life and her soulmate, Morris.
  • Together, they not only geeked out, but they pursued a sort of renaissance life that fed that love of learning she’s always had — she continued to teach for quite some time, and they even farmed together.   Who can forget all those chicken houses?! (And she never complained!)
  • And when it came to art and culture, architecture, and design, Marti and Morris always had an interesting project on which they were working or had a trip story to share.  Together, they truly lived life to the fullest.
  • Morris, this Siegrist family is so grateful to you for taking such loving care of Marti.  It is a powerful example to all of us.

Next, we remember Marti the Determined Trailblazer

  • In thinking broadly about Marti’s life, we can’t ignore the trends she set and the way she, as a single woman in the 70s,unabashadly followed her dreams.
  • Early on for Marti, career options were narrow and the road to college was not easy; however, it was SHE who broke the mold in the family, showing tremendous guts and determination just to get to college.
  • She is the reason that Mary was both brave and able enough to do likewise.  And Larry said it was Marti’s example and encouragement that gave him the confidence to attend college.
  • Marti was a modern single woman.  She wasn’t afraid to travel far from Pennsylvania. When she decided to study in Honolulu, Hawaii for a year on her own,  brothers Clair and Larry, and nephew Jeff  happily visited her.   While Marti hit the books, the boys thoroughly enjoyed  Hawaiian afternoons, hangin’ with the Sumo Wrestler on Waikiki Beach.
  • And when she returned East with pounds of  macadamia nuts and Hawaiian coffee, Marti was hands down the coolest person in the whole family.
  • Today, her adventurous spirit   — even her early missionary work —  is embodied in so many of the next generation “Siegrist kids” —  Jolene… Michael… Hannah… Heidi… Melanie.. who have been unafraid to travel the world, living lives for Jesus.
  • As we think about Marti’s single life,  a few things always make us smile.. Her funky attic apartment with the swinging chair and Billy Joel playing on the radio.
  • And that sassy little white Toyota Celica… One of our most vivid memories of that car is of when Marti forgot to apply the emergency break on Les and Joanne’s VERY steep driveway.    As she joyfully walked into the house, everyone saw that behind her, the car was picking up  steam, rolling backwards down the driveway!   We all panicked.   And Joanne, in her take charge sort of fashion yelled “Les, get it!”   Miraculously, there was ultimately NO hard done to any human — or Toyota — in that crazy escapade.
  • These are little memories, little snippets, but we treasure them as we think of her.
  • Even as she was on the vanguard in so many ways, Marti was never a rebel.   She just had a distinct determination and independence — fueled by passion and talents.  Marti’s abiding faith covered everything she did.
  • And even when she assumed the role of a wife and mother, marrying another strong willed individual, Marti showed us how to gracefully balance many heavy loads, even how to choose her battles wisely.  She ALWAYS chose wisely.

Finally…. We remember Marti as Kind, Thankful and Full of Grace

  • Perhaps what comes to mind most when we think of Marti is her genuine kindness.
  • There is a reason everyone speaks so highly of Marti — she always selflessly showed interest in others. Genuine interest.  As a true left AND right brained person, she could move gracefully from holding all the babies to EVEN talking code and computer languages with my husband Rob.  She had it ALL covered.
  • As recently as last week, Marti held tightly to Jon and Kari’s baby Gwyneth for nearly 45 minutes, peacefully enjoying this new beautiful life. Although she didn’t say much, she whispered to them, “I wonder if Mim knows that I’m holding her      granddaughter.”
  • When Janet also became sick this year, she and Marti cared beautifully for each other.
  • Gene, also struggling with his own illness, took special encouragement from Marti’s bravery and grace.
  • As Irv and Lucy both noted,  from the beginning of her diagnosis and ever since, Marti spoke of her dependence on God AND her thankfulness to God for each day He had given her.
  • This past summer, shortly after she and Morris had much of the Siegrist family to their river house, I called to thank her.  Of course, she was preparing to host guests yet again.   Hosting, giving… even though that same week, the doctor brought the sobering news that call to Hospice might soon be a good idea.
  • She shared with me that that the whole situation seems very surreal at times.. simultaneously planning your death…and remodeling your house…one day feeling strong… the next day unable to keep anything down.
  • Yet as I heard from the entire family,  Marti always thanked God for the life he gave her. It didn’t take her long to move from asking God “why me?” to — amazingly — “Why not me?”
  • Somewhere during Marti’s illness she gave the devotional book “Jesus Calling” to each of her sisters and wrote a little note in the front. The book’s single emphasis is on listening to Jesus and trusting his words to us.
  • The book particularly lifted Mary’s faith after her mother-in-law Betty’s passing.
  • And the impact has even moved beyond the “in-laws.”  Carole has passed the book along to her family and close friends.
  • And Don, who picked up the book one day out of curiosity, found the signature verse of that day to be the very one to which Mim clung during her illness a decade ago.    The verse:  Phillippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in all things, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So, now, it’s our turn.  We — her family, all of us —  honor Marti best when we learn from her example AND apply it to our own lives.   Fully Trusting God and his faithfulness.  Embracing each day as a gift.  Walking with Jesus…Gracefully. Beautifully. Unashamed.

We love you Aunt Marti.  And we cannot wait to see you again.



May 27, 2012

My Aunt Marti  — facing down a progressive cancer in her abdomen — has nearly all the arrangements made for her memorial service.  When I called her yesterday to thank her for having all her siblings/nieces/nephews to her and Uncle Morris’s river house, she was preparing to host guests yet again. Always the hostest…even after this week’s doctor visit brought the sobering news that a Hospice call might soon be a good idea.

She shared that the whole situation seems very surreal at times.. simultaneously planning your death…remodeling your house…one day feeling strong… the next day unable to keep anything down.

The truth, of course, is that none of us knows how long we are on this earth. Yet, we more regularly live as if it’s forever, making the here-and-now plans, investing in today, never talking about eternity even if we believe in one.

Not Marti. She knows her Lord and he’s holding her hand along this journey.  She told me yesterday that although at the beginning of her illness she asked why, she now finds treasures and new wonder in each day she’s been given.  She is faith personified.

The book I’m reading now, by one of my favorite theologians ever — Carolyn Custis James — takes on the issue of God’s sovereign will and our response to it…knowing He’s there and trusting Him even when the uber plan is utterly unrecognizable. Aunt Marti is walking this path now. Gracefully. Beautifully. Unashamed.

Mom, Marti, Mia and me at Marti's River House




The Pit of Incompetence

January 24, 2012

The concept makes sense… the longer you do a job and are in a role, the more that is expected of you and unless you continue to take on new challenges and up your game, your value decreases.  In order to expand skills and consistently perform at the top of your game, there are stretch periods needed to flex new muscles and question/explore ways of accomplishing important goals.

When this concept was articulated to me last month our my leadership training session, it also hit me right between the eyes that I have two choices.  One – stay in role and actively explore new and challenging opportunities that go beyond the “expected”.. or two — take on a completely new role that pushes me into unfamiliar territory — even areas I don’t know — and work through the incompetence toward a significant period of growth.  That incompetence — known as the “pit of incompetence” is a very uncomfortable place to be — but is essential to continued growth.

Wow.  What does that look like? As the new year brings new opportunities to “reset” I have no choice but to embrace the creation of big goals.  That may look like new work opportunities.  It may look like articulating current role goals I’ve been afraid to share with others before.   As Bahram Akradi – the Founder of LifeTime Fitness notes in one of his Life Wisdom articles, “success in most endeavors comes from clear, precise and thoughtful setting of goals, combined with a real commitment to making them happen – even if it takes a while.”

Bahram notes too that 1) setting clear goals and having accountability around them, as well as 2) both in personal and professional life establishing a habit of finding and stretching ones comfort zone and inviting others around us into the process are both essential to the “culture of growth, a culture of celebrating successes.”

I couldn’t have said it better than Akradi:   “Expect Resistance, and greet it with excitement when it comes! That’s your opportunity for growth, right there.”

Leadership: Being Intentional

December 12, 2011

Fresh off of a leadership training week in Atlanta with peers from around the country, it would be quite easy to fall back into normal rhythms without truly internalizing all that I’ve just absorbed.  By sharing some of my personal learnings here, I hope to avoid that.  Therefore, my ‘download.”  For starters, the concept of being intentional — at home and at work.   I’ve had discussions around this with those I respect, but this really brought it home to me, in a few core ways….

1) When we first arrived on Tuesday, we drew names of a peer for the ritual of “the giving of gifts.”   In the time we had together, we were to work to get to know (or at least notice something about) the person whose name we drew.  At the end of the week, we gave that person a gift and shared something that stood out to us about him or her.  I received a fantastic little puzzle map of the world from my friend Kevin, based on a number of things I had mentioned in small group settings over dinner — namely that I’d been to Machu Picchu and that I loved to do things with my children.  When he gave me the puzzle he specifically noted that it was “to plan your next adventure together.”  No, this exchange is nothing earthshattering, but it taught me a lesson about listening intently and deliberately working to notice or learn a few key things about those with whom I work, live and interact.

In fact, this is hitting home now as we go through the ritual of preparing and sending our Christmas cards.  The House of Klause has a pretty big (although everything is relative) list of families/individuals to whom we send yearly greetings.   We send about 230 and it’s growing.   What struck me yesterday as I read the list was the “new additions” — those people we’d met in the last year who have impacted us in some way.    On the flip side, going through the list, there are a number of families with whom our interactions are limited to the exchange of cards. Yet, they don’t come off the list.  There is some intangible connection there to which we cling.  We are intentional about keeping and building this network.   Footnote: some cynics might argue that Facebook has changed this whole dynamic, but I believe there is irreplaceable value in the reciprocity and ritual of sending holiday greetings.  

2) The second core concept around being intentional explores the difference between amateurs and professionals.   If you’ve ever read the Gladwell book Outliers, then you know that Professionals PRACTICE.  They don’t just practice.  They log thousands of hours in getting things right.  They go right to that exercise, that music measure, that problem unresolved and work it work it work it until they get it.  Instead of playing the whole song, they intentionally wallow in the tough spots until they get them down.  Only then, do they afford themselves the luxury of playing the piece in its entirety.  It’s a simple concept but by truly working on that which we need to stretch and stepping into areas of discomfort, growth follows.   Well, I put this into immediate practice with Mia in her piano practice last night!  We wallowed in the very measure that introduced playing both hands together.   It.  Was. Hard. But we  — together — learned an incredible lesson about digging into the hard stuff and finding little successes…. and big rewards!

Next up…. “The Pit of Incompetence”…. AKA “The Pit of Success.”



Springbutt (#2): Travel

November 29, 2011

Although I have this strange secret love of airports, I really do not enjoy spending time in the air or in the car.  Yet, I travel quite a bit.  And it is exhausting.

This next month is shaping up to be a doozy.   With a work trip to Atlanta, and car trips currently planned for Pennsylvania for 1) my college girlfriends’ Christmas gathering, 2) my High School girlfriends Christmas gathering, 3) our Neff Christmas, 4) the Siegrist gathering and 5) the Good family gathering, that means numerous back and forths.   Yes, we’re used to it, but is that really the best way to relax and soak in the Season with my kids and Rob?

I’m caught trying to be the good daughter, the good niece (who makes it to every reunion), the good employee, and, oh yeah, the good wife and mother who’s not completely crazed and crabby because of all the packing and unpacking she’s doing.

With aging aunties and uncles, there is a level of importance to these functions that is often unspoken.  Yet I also know it takes a toll on the time that my little clan has together, just us.

Frankly, I don’t yet know what will come off the plate…..or will I again try to do it all?!



Cyber MomDay

November 28, 2011

How convenient!  Cyber Monday.  As if a stampeding herds of human cattle on Black Friday weren’t enough!   We now have another great marketing invention (born in the reality of an emerging habit and cultivated in the petri dish of “what makes American shoppers tick.”   There were no fewer than 10 emails in my Hotmail account when I woke up this morning, all of them offering a wicked deal today.   Even the hotels points programs aren’t missing a beat, offering me a special rate on my next stay…if I book NOW.

Materialism aside (my mother-in-law informed all her children over Thanksgiving that we are very materialistic; note to self), the reality is that we all have shopping lists, people for whom we need to buy (including the mother-in-law), and a budget with which to do it.  So, whether or not you’ve waited til today to check out your favorite online shopping destinations, first go make your list, then at least give online retailers a shot.  My favorites for working moms who undoubtedly are managing “THE LIST” for the household……

  • AMAZON!  Rob and I signed up for Amazon’s Prime program this year.  Yes, it costs $80 but with Christmas, the last minute needs, and our  — ehem — struggle with instant gratification, it is more than paying for itself for us.  We have quite literally bought everything from a massive table saw (that had to be delivered in an 18-wheeler) to… well, duh… books.   Amazon is also great for LEGOS, as we have several Lego obsessed children in the Klause/Joss clan.
  • Ten Thousand Villages!   I’ve talked about Ten Thousand Villages numerous times on this blog.  After joining the Board of Directors last year, I tested out the online store for Christmas 2010.  Not only were the small jewelry items I purchased perfectly wrapped and protected, but the home decor items came beautifully packaged with small tag descriptors that told a story about where each item originated and the artisans who helped to create it.
  •  Victoria’s Secret — Even if you’re not gearing up for the big Fashion Show this week, and in spite of the fact that telling all your Facebook friends what color bra you wear is so 2009, Victoria’s Secret continues to be where I like to get my girly on.  Lately, my obsession has been pajamas.  I have at least 4 sets of PJs from Victoria’s Secret– nothing X rated (much to Rob’s dismay), although one set is leopard print.   My SIL over at BigRedKitchen might be the recipient of some new jammies this year.  This usually stylish, hot mama revealed to me that she has been wearing the same moumou/t-shirt to bed for 10 years.
  • Lilly’sKids — yes, you read that right.   Christmas sweaters and kitschy decor aside, the Kids section of Lillian Vernon really has some adorable, personalized items, especially for girls.   I’ve bought personalized gifts like sleeping bags, roller suitcases, flip flops, beach towels, water bottles and pencils.  And it is actually PROOF that I took the time and ordered in advance to get my niece’s name on everything!   And let’s face it… PotteryBarn took this good idea and perfected it even more… Lilly’s kids is just a heck of a lot cheaper.

Clearly, there are no earthshattering sites here.  This Mama could use some new ideas but these have served me well over the last 5 years!  My goal this year is to actually uncover some new online gems to help me complete the list… (more on that Excel sheet later!)

Happy (Cyber) Monday!




Ann Taylor City?

November 26, 2011

I remember the Ann Taylor store at Union Station.  And I remember the gorgeous black and white suit with nautical buttons and a flirty skirt.  My first big girl suit purchase in a big city.  It was the Spring of 1992.  I was a college student spending a semester in Washington, D.C.  And I needed a suit, because I was going to meet Barbara Bush.

It’s 20 years later and that Ann Taylor store is still there, at the same spot.   Now, when I’m in Union Station rushing for the Acela, I cannot peer up at the second floor shop without remembering that purchase.   Of course, Ann Taylor is far more ubiquitous these days….way beyond Washington, D.C.

Monica Hesse’s Washington Post Style section focus on Ann Taylor as the stalwalt of fashion — the “old faithful” of working women shopping in DC.  — really nailed the reality of reliable, affordable, fashionable (but not too fashionable) working woman dressing.

Wouldn’t we all like to have a personal stylist?   To appear in the pages of Capitol File?  That’s likely not the reality for working moms across the region and Hesse recognizes that.

Instead, we do our best.  We strive to fall somewhere in between Carrie Bradshaw and Clair Huxtable.  We stretch our dollars with a little bit of fancy, a little bit of practical, a little bit of haute, and a lot of reliable.    We mix in a little Nordstrom (online for me!), White House Black Market, Neiman (if we’re lucky) and yes, Ann.



Springbutt (#1)

November 25, 2011

“But I’ll get the $200 necklace for $30 if I host a party……”  And that is how it goes.

The (my) definition of Springbutt: “She (could be he) who jumps up to say “I will” when a volunteer opportunity is offered up.” 

This is the story of my life.  I am a slowly recovering Springbutt, that term of endearment that my husband uses to describe me. Are you?  I have actually gotten better recently at saying “no” but am not completely cured. There are several reasons for this, as I see it:

1) The “I can do it all” syndrome, which, by the way, is a LIE.   No one expects me to do it all, so why do I expect that of myself?

2) The commitment — like the jewelry party — is actually something I want to do and so I make a decision in the moment without examining all the consequences.

3) I have a genuine desire to be helpful.  Plain and simple. In the case of the jewelry party, combined with #1 and #2 I thought it would help out my neighbor Laura if I signed up for a simple show.

In some sense, it is the combination of #1 and #3 that is dangerous.  When I volunteer for something, I may not only be ill-qualified for said activity, but am preventing someone else from stepping up.

A few episodes at work over the past year brought to light my desire to say yes to too many people and projects. My leadership coach has been great, giving me several books to read about ‘saying no.’   Here is one:








In the meantime, I’m still planning a simple jewelry party in the coming week.  Should have I signed up for this?  Probably not.  Perhaps acknowledging that is a step towards thinking twice next time I’m over-taxed.   Am I looking forward to it?  Yes!

My journey continues……


The (jewelry) party will go on...


November 23, 2011

According to Wikipedia, Gratitude, thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation is a feeling, emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.

If there was only one thing that bubbled up for me as a “lesson” from Peru, it’s that we are overwhelmingly blessed here in America, so much so that we often don’t see it.  In conversations with my best girlfriends, we so easily descend into the tougher parts of life — kids that aren’t sleeping, busyness that barely lets us breathe, the responsibilities of household tasks, and the list goes on.

And life can be tough.  My challenge — and the challenge for all of us, I think, is to move beyond basic thankfulness for the “things” and the people in our lives and instead approach gratitude as a lifestyle, a discipline.  In the middle of a pretty crappy day, it’s not an easy practice.

Once again, Henri Nouwen, gives inspiration, saying:

“Gratitude.. goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the trust that all of life is a pure gift.  In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now i realize that grattitude can also be lived as a discipline.  The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowlege that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”


Grassroots Artisans in Peru..a Powerful View from Their World

November 8, 2011

When I joined the Board of Directors of Ten Thousand Villages, I expected to tap into my Mennonite heritage.  I even knew it would be an opportunity to give back, using my skill set, for the cause of fair trade.  What I didn’t expect was how much I would be educated on the difficult and messy work of finding sustainable, talented grassroots artisans and bringing their stories and products to North American markets.

Fresh off our Board trip to Lima, Peru, my heart is both proud and heavy because of the work we do.  In all of our meetings – from the coiled wool weavers in Lima to the silversmith jeweler who works with his son in a back alley of Cusco — these artisans told us that Ten Thousand Villages accounts for the bulk of their business.   They are able to send their children to University and hire more workers in a land of 40% unemployment because we have found them, spend time training them, and pay up front. 

Most of these shops are small, largely undiscovered, and have relative degrees of sophistication — a combination which makes it difficult to break into North American markets.  Most big retailers frankly won’t take the time or invest in the logistics of bringing these small shops their business.










Working with ethical, fair-trade minded groups like the Ten Thousand Villages network means access to North American markets ..and a chance to obtain many of the values and goals that truly know no borders… family advancement.. university….a good job…a fair wage…pride in one’s work.    Turns out that people like Juan Carlos in Cusco, Peru are just like us.  


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    • Tonya is a Community Content Producer forWUSA9.com, DC's CBS affiliate.