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Family Feuds

*This beautiful story of generational feuding was related by a family friend and, but for the names, is true!  May your “bad relationship” eventually, quietly move forward.*


Grandfather was a young man when he shook the dust from his shoes – literally rattled his feet–  as he left his hometown.  The longstanding family  feud with the Sosebees made life in their little village unbearable.

“I’m not gonna raise a family in the middle of this mess,” he declared, and never went back.

He raised his two boys in a mill town, where every day, the sons passed each other going to and from their shifts on the heavy mill equipment.



They’d nod.  Exchange words.  Head home.

One night, there was a dance at the Mill.  Both brothers brought their pregnant wives, and both danced long into the night.  A few Big Band ballads before midnight, one of the wives – no one remembers whose – broke the strap on her Sunday-best heels.

“Can’t even get your wife a decent pair of shoes?” scoffed the brother -no one remembers which one-, swinging past with his wife in his arms.

Furious and embarrassed, the husband of the broken shoe-d wife didn’t speak to his brother again.

They’d pass each other going to and from their shifts keeping the heavy mill equipment running.

But they didn’t say a word.

Their wives gave birth and the cousins grew up playing together, but their fathers never acknowledged each other.

Forty years went by.

Jim’s cancer advanced.  He lay on his deathbed.

John’s son stood in front of his father’s overstuffed chair and held out his hand.

“C’mon, Dad.  We’re going to see Uncle Jim.”

The old man grasped his son’s palm and struggled upright.  Together they went to the home of the dying man.  There were no apologies.  No reconstruction of the event.  Just a quiet moving forward.  Just two brothers, talking.

When the fortieth anniversary of no-communication between John’s son and daughter passed, the daughter quietly made a resolution.

“I’m sick of rehashing this litany of insults,” she thought.  “And everyone is sick of hearing it.  I’m not going to seek out a reconciliation, but if an opportunity arises, I’ll take it.”

Their mother turned 100 that year, and in the midst of the grand celebration, the ice ran out.

“I’ll go to the store,” said the brother to the crowd in the kitchen.  And then, off-handedly, “Anyone want to come?”

“I’ll come,” said his sister.  In the shocked silence that followed, the two siblings ambled to the car, leaving behind a concerned family who wondered if fists would fly at the supermarket.

Instead, brother and sister spoke about their children.  Their grandchildren.  Current events.  The weather.  There was no rehashing of the original argument, no circling back to mend the long-broken fence.  Just a moving on.  Just two siblings, talking.

The sister’s youngest son, a powerful man with a diesel engine, knew best how to raise children and manage a marriage, as he had neither.  His pointed teasing and jokes, in which there was only a little joke, wore at his older brother’s usually easy-going temperament.

On the day they buried their grandmother, they nosed through stiff traffic in the king-sized cab: brothers, mother, wife, child.  The brash brother suddenly turned to his elder.

“Bro – I tease you a lot, but I want you know I love you.”

Just like that.  For the whole family to hear.

And this time, it didn’t take forty years.

The Elective

“…Tanya, thirteen and fourteen.  Mellie, eighteen and twenty-two.  Farah, you’re direct report on Upper side, Hee-yoon, Lead on Lower.”  The on-coming nurses shifted, the room abuzz with an undertone of conversation as the young women – mostly under thirty – began to gather their belongings.

“And there’s an Elective tonight.  Irina, you’re facilitator.”  In the sudden silence, twenty-six pairs of eyes turned from the Charge Nurse to seek out the grim-faced, heavy-set nurse who sat planted in a chair near the far wall.  Irina’s facial expression didn’t change, but her nostrils expanded slightly, a sign the Charge took as assent.

“Fine.  I’m at 67701.  Call me.”  Charge indicated the phone hanging from the neckline of her maroon scrubs.  She turned and opened the door of the conference room and waited while the swirl of nursing staff passed through and out onto the floor for night-shift.

Irina sat for a moment, waiting for the rush to pass, and then took out her phone, the grim line of her mouth growing, for a moment, more severe as she joined her eyebrows in concentration.  She texted silently, her thumbs moving with practiced speed.  Then, rising with effort from the too-small chairs, she tucked the phone into her pocket, and hobbled toward the door, stiff with sitting.  Her phone dinged and she tugged it out, read the message and tapped absently at the table beside her where Hee-yoon was still trapping her unruly hair.  Hee-yoon glanced up, nodded a greeting, lifted her duffle bag to her lap and began rummaging through the contents.  Irina passed on.

The Lower Side of Chester Memorial Hospital’s Labor, Delivery, and Recovery ward handled inductions and Caesarean-section prep.  The labor rooms were modest, containing a delivery bed, a small couch and a warmer for the newborn.  The Law was posted conspicuously on the door, laminated for easy cleaning by the janitorial staff.  Closer inspection revealed several paragraphs of verbiage concluding in a paragraph of italicized print.

“The Equal Rights Constitutional Amendment provides the right for termination of pregnancy at any stage of the pre-, peri-, and postnatal periods, up to and including one year after birth. Any effort to counsel to the contrary shall be considered a breech of law subject to the full penalty thereof.”

The termination of the products of conception was an elective procedure, but nonetheless, the Law required insurance companies to cover the full costs associated, including medical waste fees.

Hee-Yoon dropped her bag under the desk of the Lower Side Nurse’s station and turned to update the white board with her name and phone number as Lower’s Head Nurse.  Two other nurses chatted easily near the file cabinets. Scanning the schedule while tucking a stray strand behind her ear, she noted one planned induction and the Elective.  Room Seven.  The monitor showed two other rooms in use, both of whom were near delivery, if the regular rise and fall of the contraction tracing was any indication.

Across the hall, a bustle of activity in Room Four.  Hee-Yoon noted the arrival of Dr. Goff and after a few minutes of muffled voices, the clear, high-pitched cry of a newborn.  Instinctively, she glanced at the clock.  Seven twenty-seven.  She imagined the nurse typing furiously in an effort to record the time of birth and attend to the needs of mom and baby. Laughter hung in the air and momentarily lightened the nurse’s heavy heart.  Then she straightened and refocused on the screen in front of her.

With a few crisp keystrokes, she brought up the record of Room Seven and scrolled through pages of labs until she came to physician’s notes.  Normal pregnancy.  The hint of a social situation.  No partner.  Presented this morning with labor symptoms at forty weeks, two days.  Full term.  First mention of Elective at 11:15 AM.  Why?  Hee-Yoon tucked her hair behind her ear.


She reflexively looked up, searching for the source of the interruption.

“Ma’am?”  The other two nurses now turned to look at the smiling diminutive woman in a blue volunteer jacket.  “I’m one of the labor-companion volunteers,” she said in a low, calm tone. “Would you like assign me to a particular patient?”

Hee-Yoon paused, her mind transitioning from the Elective to the face in front of her.  She took in the volunteer badge, the uniform, the sweet smile of what must be a retired school teacher. The woman laid her hands on the desk and tapped her fingers gently, waiting for the Lead -Nurse to reply.  The conversation around the desk resumed.

“Go to Room Seven,” said Hee-Yoon, quietly.


With a smiling nod, the woman turned, padded down the hall and knocked on the farthest door.

“I’m Chari, a labor companion,” she called softly. “May I come in?”

To a muffled reply, she pushed open the door and stepped around the privacy curtain at the same time receiving a pump of sanitizer from the dispenser on the wall. She rubbed her hands thoroughly as she took in the scene before her.

From the tangle of tubes and wires on the bed she distinguished a young woman of medium-build, bulging with the promise of late pregnancy.  She lay stiff and still, her eyes drooping and face expressionless.  Chari moved toward her.

“May I touch you?” she asked quietly

The mother-to-be shrugged and turned her head toward the couch.

“Do you need to?” demanded a woman with pursed lips from her perch on the couch.

Chari took the mother’s hand and stroked it gently, careful to avoid jiggling the IV taped there.  She smiled at the tired face in the bed, and then glanced at the speaker.  “Every woman in labor deserves some compassion,” she replied simply.

“Like you people know what the hell compassion looks like,” smirked the sitter.

“Are you with Mom?” asked Chari, raising her eyebrows.

“Yes,” came the terse reply.

“She’s my Escort,” whispered the laboring woman, staring at the prancing dancers on the muted television.

“Escort?” Chari asked calmly stroking the patient’s hand.  She sent some peaceful energy into the room, looking to diffuse some of the bristly behavior.

“I’m the source of real compassion here,” snapped the woman on the couch.  She tilted her chin toward Chari, daring her to ask.  Chari didn’t.

“I’m the real compassion,” the woman continued, “because I’m helping a woman get the healthcare she has a right to.”

Chari laid down the hand and fussed with the blankets.  “You couldn’t get healthcare?” she asked the woman in the bed.

“I-“ started the patient.

“She couldn’t get the healthcare she needed,” interposed the Escort.  “When she wanted to end this pregnancy, she couldn’t do it because it was too expensive.”

“I-“ started the patient.

“So I am here to make sure that she gets what she wants.  And if I see anyone trying to change her plan, I’ll have the video,” here she pointed to her cell phone, perched on a tripod on top of the patient’s bedside table, “and a lawyer on speed dial.”  She sat back with a flourish.

“You have a birth plan?” Chari inquired.

“No.  Jus-“

“Her plan is clearly stated in her patient records.  Are you an authorized healthcare provider?  You have no business asking unless you are part of her team.  That’s a HIPAA violation, and I have video proof and a lawyer on speed dial!”

“So, you are planning to terminate the baby at birth?” Chari asked quietly, picking up the hand again?

“VIOLATION!” screamed the Escort.  “Violation!  I caught it on video!  You called it a baby!  You’re trying to influence her decision!  She has a right to her own healthcare decisions without influence from outside sources!” Her triumphant crow crumpled in her throat as she fumbled the phone off the tripod and thumped the screen with an angry forefinger.

“I-“ the patient started.

“Damn.  Well, it’s going now, so I’ll catch you if you try to do it again!  What is your name?”  She leaned forward to read Chari’s badge.

A commanding knock interrupted her efforts, and Irina barked her entrance.

“The doctor is coming in to check her,” she announced, indicating the patient.  “Everyone out.”

“You can’t order me out,” started the Escort, “I’m her – “

“Out!” bellowed Irina.  “Vaginal exams are not performed for an audience!”

Chari laid the hand down, smiled at the vacant-eyed face still fixed on the dancers and left the room, dispensing foam into her hands on the way.  The Escort stumbled her way out momentarily.

“Would you like a cup of water?” asked Chari.

“From you people? Hah! You’d probably try to poison me! You’re a bunch of killers, hauling unwanted brats out of women like chunks of meat!”  Chari drifted away, leaving the Escort standing in the hallway, muttering and forcefully thumbing her phone.


Chari took refuge in the Soiled Linen room.  Lining the walls stood wheeled bins big as beds filled with blue bags of sheets, towels and gowns used during the day’s earlier births. Someone would come and take them to the laundry in a few hours.  Another bin held red bags of biowaste: articles contaminated with human waste products. In one corner, a sink, disinfectant spray, and a shelf where boxes of used birth tools waited to be collected for sterilization.  A mop and bucket.  A box of white Patient Belonging bags that should have been stored in Clean Supply.

She took a deep breath, consciously bringing up peace from the well within her soul.  She waited while the peace spread through her body.  Several more cleansing breaths and she opened her eyes again.  Digging her phone from her pocket, she thumbed through the texts and selecting one, read it twice.

When she returned to the room, Irina was capped and masked, laying out the instrument table in her sterile gloves.  The Escort hovered nearby.

“Listen, lady,” snapped Irina as Chari rubbed sanitizer into her hands, “if you don’t back up, your breath is gonna contaminate all these tools and I’minna have ta start over.”

“I’m just making sure you have what you need for this…event,” snipped the Escort.

Irina held up a large pair of scissors from the jumble of hemostats and gauze.  “You lookin’ for these?  Wanna be the one to stab the spinal cord?  Well, I gottem right here.”

The Escort looked to see if the patient in the bed heard and was opening her mouth to complain when she caught sight of Chari at the bedside.  “Oh.  You’re back.  Why are you touching her again?”

“My job is to give comfort during labor,” answered Chari, patiently.  “Every woman deserves comfort in labor.”

“Not if she doesn’t want it,” replied the Escort.  “That’s MY job.  To see that she gets what she wants and ONLY what she wants.”

Irina spread a blue sterile sheet over the table of instruments and pushed it close to the bed.  “The doctor says you’re ten centimeters,” she said to the patient, not unkindly.  “It’s time to push.  Even though you have an epidural, you can probably feel the urge.  Do you?”

“Sometimes,” started the patient.  Her Escort interrupted.

“Is the doctor going to be here soon?  I don’t want you starting anything until he’s here.”

“She,” answered Irina, tersely.  She crooked a finger at Chari, who was wiping the patient’s face with a warm washcloth, “Help me with the screen.”  From a long closet on the wall, Irina and Chari wrestled with a screen on wheels shaped to fit across the delivery bed, blocking the patient’s view of anything happening below her chest.

“Why –“ the patient started, her eyes growing wide.

“So you don’t have to watch it, obviously!  God!  It’s a mess!  Why didn’t you do this earlier?”  She gestured around the room.  “All this could have been avoided!” The Escort’s eyes rolled in their sockets.  Chari almost felt sorry for this woman, who had clearly seen too much in her line of work.

Sweat stood out in large drops on the patient’s forehead, and Chari wiped them away.  She leaned in close behind the screen to adjust the blood pressure cuff and whispered, “You don’t have to do this, you know.”

The patient closed her eyes tightly and started to cry, her enlarged abdomen shaking the screen with each sob.

The Escort turned away in disgust.

Rubbing her hands with sanitizing foam, the doctor yanked back the curtain, glanced from the table to the screen and walked to the head of the bed.

“I’m Doctor Harman.  You’re having an elective post-birth termination tonight?”

“You broke the Law! You can’t use the word ‘birth,’” interrupted the Escort. “The word creates unnecessary emotional traum – “

“Enough,” cut in the doctor, “I will do my job according to the standard operating procedures of this hospital, and those standards include asking every question I deem medically necessary in plain language.  I assume you’re the escort.  Understand this law, Ma’am, if you interfere with the provider/patient relationship, I’ll have you escorted out by Security.  Is that clear?”

“You can’t talk to me like that!” the Escort protested.  She inhaled to continue her tirade when Dr. Harman stalked to a speaker on the wall and pressed a button.  A moment later, a man responded.

“Security, may I help you?”

“Yes, this is Dr. Harman.  LDR, Room…” She looked to Irina for confirmation.

“Seven,” Irina and Chari replied in unison.

“Seven,” the doctor continued.  “I have a patient escort that I am concerned may interrupt my patient/provider relationship.  Would you please send an officer to the floor in case we need one?”

Over the Escort’s muttered curses, the security officer agreed.  The doctor tapped the speaker with her finger and turned back to the patient.

“As I was saying, my name is Doctor Harman, and my notes show that you intend to have a post-birth termination this evening.  Is that correct?

The patient nodded.

“And you understand that like any procedure, this one carries risks that include hemorrhage, tissue damage, and infection?

The patient looked toward the Escort, who avoided her eye, and back at the Doctor.  She nodded again.

“Do you have a destination in mind for the remains?”


“The remains of the products of conception.  Do you wish to have them after the procedure or do you agree to let the hospital dispose of them?”

“She doesn’t want to keep the bloody mess you’re going to make!” stormed the Escort, waving her phone.  “I’m getting a lawyer!”

“Get your lawyer in the hallway,” commanded Dr. Harman.  “I have a job to do here.”  She stuck her head out the door.  “Good.  Security is here.  Please take this woman to the waiting room.”  To the escort, “We’ll call you back when we’re finished.”

Against her protests, the Officer led the Escort away.

In Room Seven, Irina stumped around making a hundred different preparations for the procedure.  Chari stood resolutely behind the screen holding the patient’s hand, encouraging periodic pushing.  The doctor, splash shield around her face, stood at the base of the bed, newly converted to facilitate delivery.

“Crowning,” Irina stated flatly as curly black hair appeared in the birth canal.

“I’m going to give some numbing,” announced the doctor toward the screen.  Irina advanced with a vial of anesthetic, read the label aloud, and removing the lid, presented it toward the doctor.  Sterile syringe in hand, Dr. Harman inserted a needle into the vial and drew up 10 ccs which she turned and slipped under the skin of the just-visible scalp.

In a few minutes, a small boy’s body slipped silently into the world accompanied only by the sound of his mother’s labored breathing.

Chari spoke comfortingly to the patient, shielded from the lower half of herself.  “Now we just have some clean up work to do, and we’ll send you off to get some sleep on another floor. Chari stole a glance around the screen to the foot of the bed.

Stethescope in hand, Dr. Harman listened intently, moving the bell over the chest.  She met Irina’s eyes and nodded silently.  As silently, Irina suctioned the nose of the newest member of the human race and felt his slowing pulse. Picking up the giant scissors, Dr. Harman severed the umbilical cord between two clamps. With one smooth motion, Irina gathered the small body into a bundle, tightly wrapped in one of his mother’s disposable absorbent bed pads and deposited him carefully in a cardboard box Chari withdrew from the cupboard under the sink.  Irina placed it carefully in the red biowaste bag and covered it lightly with another used pad.  With her thumb, she forced three holes in the plastic and tied the top closed.

Chari glided back to the head of the bed.  “Just a few more steps,” she smiled.  “First, the placenta will come out, then the Doctor will check to see if you need a stitch or two.”  Her smile waned a bit.  “I’m sorry,” she said, squeezing the patient’s hand “but my shift is over and I have to go now.  Irina will take good care of you.”  She smiled her farewell and accepted a half-hearted nod as thanks.

With gloves on her hands, Chari took up an armful of crumpled sheets on one side and the red biowaste bag in the other.  She nodded curtly to Irina and the Doctor, who ignored her.  Through the door, down the hall, past the nurse’s station, Chari walked, looking neither left nor right until she reached the Soiled Linen room.  Once inside, the automated light flicked on and Chari rolled a waste bin in front of the window on the door.  Ducking behind it, invisible to passers-by, she tore open the red bag and removed the box.  A practiced hand assured her that breath was still in him.  Tucking the pad around him closely, she glanced at the clock on the wall.  Ten more minutes of anesthesia.  It was beginning to wear off already, she could tell by the convulsive fluttering of his eyelids.

As she reached for a “Patient Belongings” bag, someone opened the door.  Chari froze.  She turned slowly, hoping her body would shield the baby from view.

It was Hee-Yoon.

“I see you are done with your shift.  It was a short one tonight.”

Chari nodded.

“Let me help you with this clean-up.”  The Lead Nurse held open the Patient Belongings bag and waited while Chari placed the box within.  With great care, Hee-Yoon clipped the plastic handles together and poked a hole through the bag with her index finger.

“Now, before you go, I have a patient waiting by the doors to the waiting room.  Would you please push her wheelchair out to the parking lot?  Her husband is waiting to pick her up.

Chari nodded again.

“Fine.  I’ll finish in here.  You go along.”  Hee-Yoon placed the armful of sheets in the soiled linen container and pushed the biowaste bin back toward the wall.  She tapped it twice before Chari stripped off her gloves and left the room, bag in hand.

By the ward’s main entrance, a woman sat bundled in a wheelchair.  Her large red cape covered her entire frame and draped nearly to the floor.  She tapped her fingers impatiently on the arms of the chair.

“My things,” she said, gratefully.  “I almost left without them!”  She accepted the bag Chari held out and tucked it under her cape where its presence became undetectable.  The caped woman chattered loudly as Chari pushed her out the doors and across the waiting room.  Chari touched the elevator ‘down’ button and heard a muffled squeak.  The eyes of the two women met.  At the same moment, an accusing voice rose behind them.

“Hey!  You!  Labor person!”  Chari ignored the hail and smiled as if the caped woman had said something funny.

“Cheeky! Sherry!  Whatever your name is! Are you done?  The lawyer has a few things to discuss with the doctor.  Take me in there!” Turning slowly, Chari watched the Escort advance, shaking her phone at them.  With perfect timing, the elevator chimed its arrival and Chari whisked the wheelchair inside.  The caped woman moaned loudly.

“Be careful!  I’m fragile!  You can’t just throw me around in this thing!” She moaned again, louder this time.

“I’m sorry,” said Chari to the Escort, pressing the ‘L’ button, “I have to take this patient to her car.  I suggest you call the nurse’s station.” The doors closed as the caped woman raised another wail that sounded remarkably similar to a newborn baby’s cry.

In the lower lobby, Chari walked the chair sedately to the door, her patient chattering animatedly.  Scanning the parking lot, she saw him. There in the first row, next to a minivan with a running engine, a clean-shaven man stood tapping his fingers on the hood.  When he saw Chari and the wheelchair, he opened the sliding door and hurried to help the woman into the back seat.  She bent double, clutching at her abdomen in what appeared to be aching pain, but made the transfer from wheelchair to van with surprising agility.  Before he slid the door closed and darted to the driver seat, Chari caught a glimpse of the woman fitting a stethoscope to her ears.

The Cheerful Pizza Guy


New baby in a new family at our church.

I think I’ve met them once, but even if I don’t know them, I do know the chaos of the first few weeks post-birth, so I signed up to send them a meal right away.

“Meal” should be in quotes.  Really, I signed up to send them easy comfort food: pizza, breadsticks, cookies.  Nothing healthy, nothing to increase milk supply, just plain old hot, cheesy pizza that makes you say, with a sigh, “Ahhh.  Dinner is ready and I didn’t have to make it!”

So I get out my computer and am about to type in the name of a national pizza chain when I suddenly, inexplicably, type in a local chain instead.  No reason.  It just sort of comes out that way.  It surprises me a little, but since I only have ten minutes to order before I need to get the kids out the door for errands before dark, which is early this time of year… does it matter?

It did.

I find the store in the same town, order the food. Pay.  Slam the lid of the computer and start hollering for kids to get in the car.

Fight traffic.  Find a parking spot.  Try to get the items on my list, but no one knows where they are in the store.  The second employee makes up an aisle number where we should look and disappears.  Urgh.  Phone rings.

I don’t recognize the number.  Uncharacteristically, I answer anyway.  Does it matter?

It does.

“Hi, it’s Josh, the pizza delivery guy.  What’s the apartment number?”

Wait. What?  “Umm, I don’t think there is one.”

“Well, the address you put in is an apartment building.”

“Are you sure?”

He answered cheerfully in spite of the intelligence of my question.  “Yup. I’m in front of it.”

“Jeepers.  I don’t know…”  The kids are starting to drift down the aisle and I beckon them impatiently.  “Let me check.  Can I call you back in just a minute?”

“Sure,” he says, like he has free time to wait for me.

I look for the email.  No apartment number in the address.  I text the Meals Coordinator.  No answer.  I send an email to the family.  No answer.  I can feel my face getting red.  I look up to catch the irritated eye-roll of a passing shopper.  ‘People on their phones when they should be watching their kids,’ he seemed to glare at me.

I press the number of the pizza guy, who answers, ever cheerfully.

“Sorry.  I can’t find it.  Can you knock on a door and ask?”

“Nope.  That’s not something I can do.”

I sigh.  “Well, there’s nothing else I can do.  I’m sorry to send you out there for nothing.”  Inside, I’m sick that the cost of the meal is going to waste.

“That’s okay,” he responds, “Thanks!”

I hang up irritated and recall the drifting children with a snap at the hands proffering items that are not on our list accompanied by wheedling whines.

Someone cuts in front of me on the way to the checkout, and I consciously bite my tongue.  You know, I spit to myself, this always seems to happen when you’re trying to do something good.  Why can’t a simple meal delivery just work out smoothly? And now all that money has gone to waste. That’s what irritates me the most.

On the way to the car, I explain the situation to the kids.  “I’m really frustrated,” I tell them when I finish.  They can tell.

We’ve just finished packing the car when the text notification dings.  The Meals Coordinator.  She doesn’t know the apartment number.  “Oh well,” I think.  “Onward.”

Scrolling through email as my son drives us out of the parking lot.  Message from the family!  With the apartment number!  They are sorry they didn’t send it.  Sorry for causing the mix up.  I feel a little guilty for getting so easily irritated.  I press the pizza guy’s number.

“Hi!  I’m the lady without the apartment number. I have it!  Can you go back?”

“Oh, my boss already refunded it.  You’ll have to order again.”

I thank him, and hang up, surprised that they would refund the undelivered meal.  Wow!  Maybe I could have handled that whole money thing a little more gracefully.  A quick search on my phone reveals the store and their number.  I call.  The manager is kind.  I use The Card and order right from the phone.  I have the address memorized.

“Do you want to add in a tip?” the manager inquires.  I think about the cheerful guy fielding my frantic questions and frenzied requests, knowing he has to make another trip out there.  I add on a chunky tip.  ‘He really deserves it,’ I think.

An hour later, I get a message from the family.  Pizza was good!  I am relieved and glad I have done my job – new baby’s family is fed! Mission accomplished.  I glance at my phone.  Missed call from the pizza delivery guy – I recognize his number by now.

I call him back. He wants to say thanks for the tip.  I thank him and tell him why the meal was so important.  New baby.  Tired parents.  Post-partum craziness.

“Oh, I understand that,” he says emphatically. “We just had a baby, too, and those first few days were so hard!”  I congratulate him, thank him again, and hang up.

But a thought is tumbling in my head.

New baby.  Pizza delivery guy: minimum wage plus tips.  Not making a ton of money, for sure.  Diapers, wipes, Mom recovering. I bet things are tough.  But he’s so cheerful!

New scheme emerges – baby gifts for the pizza guy!

A daycare-sized box of wipes and another of diapers, and we are headed to the pizza store.  I don’t know anything more than the guy’s first name and the store whose pizzas he delivers.

I text his number and warn him we’re coming.

My kids help me tote in the treasure and plunk it heavily on the bench.  The manager asks if he can help me.

“Uh, do you have a delivery driver named Josh?”

Yes, they do. He’s out on a delivery now.

“Does he have a new baby?” I wonder, hoping I have it right.

Yes, although the manager looks at me a little suspiciously.

“These are for him,” I say, sliding a card on top of the stack, hoping the manager will deliver them to the delivery guy.

Fifteen minutes later, the text notification is chiming again.

It’s Josh.

“Just received your thoughtful gift!  You have no idea what that means to me and my fiancé with the month we have had. I’ve been in the hospital for 2 weeks having multiple surgeries and was off work for a month due to the hospital. Then someone decides to back into me last Friday while I was working and totaled my vehicle.  You have definitely made my week and my fiance’s!  Thank you so much!”

My face is getting hot again as a litany of lessons learned marches through my mind.

Little decisions matter.

Cheerfulness makes a difference.

Skip the irritation, something bigger is happening.

Be kind. You never know what’s going on in a person’s life.

Oxygen Tank


The thing about teaching CPR – there’s so much equipment to lug around!  Mannequins, face shields, AEDs, and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.  It’s a full-body workout by the time I close up shop for the day.  This class was for healthcare personnel, so I got to leave everything in the classroom but this backpack.

Wanna know why it’s so heavy?  Oxygen cylinder.  Gives you appreciation for people who have to tote around oxygen everywhere they go.  Now you appreciate that little cart.

So anyway, here I am going down the steps to the subway.  Typical rush hour crowd, smell of urine, flaking tiles, intermittent lights.  I get on the uptown train and stand for the first three stops until the old lady with her dog clears out of the seats by the back door.  I drop myself into the window seat and carefully lower the backpack to the floor.

Next stop, this guy sits down, crosses a Ked sneaker over his corduroy knee and ignores me.  Cause that’s what we do here.  We are passing Madison when the train starts to shiver and then jerks to a stop.  Bump-bump-bump, you know?  Not unusual, but then an alarm starts ringing, and everyone looks up. You can see the concern on their faces, you know?  Everyone hoping it’s just a little thing that’s gonna clear up in a minute and we can get on home to dinner, right?

It’s not.

The alarm keeps ringing and ringing, and then the lights go out.  We’re sitting in a box in the dark three stories underground in a little black tunnel with wires running down the walls.  It’s hot.  Everyone lights up their phones and start calling, “What’s happening?  What’s happening?”

Then the car starts to rock, and we think, earthquake?  Here?  This is like, the unseismic capital of the world.  Then the noise comes.  It’s a noise, but it more like a wave of violent sound that shakes the train and spills us on the floor like a bunch of beans in a box.

In the dark, the screams are scary.  People frantically lever the doors, force them open, and when they do, the gas comes in.

You can’t smell it, but you sure can taste it.  Bitter.  Nauseating.  Dries the throat instantly, rips at your lungs just for taking a breath.  I hear retching.

It must be instinct, like looking down at the scene of a cardiac arrest and finding you’re already doing chest compressions on the guy.  I look down, and I’m cranking the regulator on my oxygen bottle and digging in the pack for a tube.

The screaming is over.  Now it’s coughing and gagging, but that is dying out.  So are the passengers.  I’m holding my breath, attaching the tube to the bottle. Now I’m hooking the tube to the mask.  I don’t take time to fill the reservoir bag, I just suck in a breath of O2.  Then another.  The guy in the next seat is kicking me.  Not me, I realize as my brain clears.  He’s seizing.  His brain is hypoxic.  He’s dying.

I have to close my eyes because they sting.  The smell is coming in through my eyes, into my throat, so I squeeze them shut and ignore the pain.  I dig in my pack for another mask.  And another tube.  I’m about to hook them onto the other port on my tank.  I’m about to feel around frantically for the guy on the floor where he’s fallen.

And then I think about my chances if there’s two of us sucking on the same tank.

Punny Jokes from my Kids


Original jokes from my kids that gave us a good laugh:


Q: What do you call it when a bunch of military officers agree on something?

A: A general consensus!

(By L, who is nine)


“The Maine School of Masonry?  Is that a brick and mortar school?”

(By J, who is 14)

Part of my flight to the North Woods involved a “short hop” from Boston to Maine.  Short hop translates to “small plane” in air travel parlance and traveling in one is very different from a trip in a massive transoceanic aircraft.

For one thing, when I checked in, they asked for my weight and assigned me a seat accordingly, for balance.  Secondly, the gate involved a set of stairs down to the tarmac and an escort to the side of the plane.  After tugging on the door, he waved me to clamber up and duck through a low door into the passenger compartment.

Once I resigned myself to the pilot holding her window open to stay cool, it was fun to see the towering planes around us as our flight took its place in line for take off.  She was still holding it open as we lifted into the sky.

Cruising altitude in these little nine-seaters, where I sat knee-to-knee with the other slightly pop-eyed passengers, is only about two thousand feet.  On a nice day – what a view!

The pilot turned the propellers toward our destination, and the plane surged forward.  Freakily, it also moved side-to-side as well as up-and-down.  No straight, smooth shot, this flight was subject to wind and air temperature changes that made for a bumpy, indirect ride.  Forget technology.  Judging by the way she peered over the dashboard, I think our pilot made her way north by following the silvery river north from the sea.

An hour after take-off, the co-pilot pointed out an airfield on the horizon.  A few moments later, we bumped to earth and pulled up in front of the tiniest terminal I’ve ever seen –  an eight-seat waiting room and a few bored TSA agents.  Off I went to the next phase of my journey.

It’s the movement of the little plane that makes me think of homeschooling.  If you’re coming from a traditional school setting, you’re used to a multi-engine juggernaut that launches and thunders straight toward the destination.  Homeschool?  Well, our goal is out there, but we’re following the river of our children’s changing academic needs.

That’s homeschooling.

You think, if I buy these books and this curriculum, follow these rules and do this paperwork, my child will fly right through school.  And they probably will.  Just be prepared for an indirect route. More progress one week than another.  More attention to academics one season than another.  More satisfaction with the process sometimes than others.  Up and down.  Side to side.  It’s okay.  Don’t worry.  Don’t buy more supplemental workbooks.  Don’t lay awake at night.  Propellers toward the destination, eyes on the landmarks, you’ll get them there.

Breathtaking Love


Neither of these two women consider themselves Christian.

In fact, after growing up in a Christian home, they have eschewed the title, the practice, the faith.

But their practice of virtue is breathtaking.

One is married to a man whose father has never been kind to her.  In fact, the ugliness and inappropriate nature of his advances toward her, his lifestyle, and behavior have done anything but enrich her life.

Last week, he overdosed.

It was the smell that alerted his neighbors.  When the police and the coroners arrived on scene, he had been dead many days.  Things broke open when they moved the body.  The apartment was a mess.  A big, liquid, ghastly-smelling mess.

Her husband, stunned, went home.  With family arriving the next day to remove his belongings from the apartment, this woman called cleaning service after cleaning service.  The prices to clean up such a scene were in the multiple thousands of dollars, well beyond their means.

“My husband’s grandma has a bad heart,” she told me on the phone as she gathered supplies at the hardware store.  “I really don’t want her to walk in there tomorrow and see all that.”  So, in the middle of the night, she went alone to the apartment and cleaned up what I hope is the very worst chaos she will ever see.  Then, she went home to comfort her husband.

Relatives arrived and stayed in her house.  For a week, she fed them, handled the cremation, the burial, the memorial service.  She even filled lockets with ashes, sifting through the urn’s contents with a care that had never been extended to her by the dust’s owner.  All of this she did with kind words and not a trace of bitterness.

Her sister, learning the weight the woman carried, drove through three states in the middle of the night to stand by her side.  While the husband’s family gathered, the sisters took care of one another, anticipating needs, extending support, creating a safe, comfortable environment for the grieving family.  Then, without fanfare, the sister drove home again.

Of all the virtues, Faith, Hope, and Love reign.  But the greatest of these is a love undeserved.  A love extended to one who has no human right to expect it.  A love that creates order in a place that would turn most people’s stomachs, comforts those who grieve for one who gave no kindness.  A love that covers great distance and stands like a rock to support another.

That love is breathtaking.

In the Swirl


I’m reeling under several simultaneous blows – the overdose death of an acquaintance,  a struggling child, news of another mass shooting.  Underlying it all, the knowledge that the tempo of violence is increasing.

Where is God when the world is a spinning mess like this? What is a powerless person to do in the face of overwhelming evil?

I was lamenting the state of affairs to God this morning, and he brought back to me a scene in which I saw the simple answer.

It was early October, and the warm southern sunshine belied the date.  With children in tow, my husband and I approached the Fun House at Fox Farm, a popular local fall attraction famous for hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkins.

I climbed three stairs and entered the dark building at the open side where two narrow boards with railings formed the walkway.  Inside the building was a cylindrical tube like an enormous paper towel core.  Painted dark blue with sparkling stars, the tube encircled the path, rotating around me in a whirl of lights and distorted peripheral vision.

I immediately lost my balance and fell against the rail, trying to find which direction was upright as the horizon rotated from my right to my left at dizzying speed.

Only a moment passed before I realized it was the visual effect of the spinning around me that made me lose my balance.  The path under my feet was unchanging, the rail supporting and protecting me from a fall.

The second time I crashed into the rail, I closed my eyes, effectively shutting out the whirling horizon.  Without any sight to be distorted, I stood, and feeling for the handrails, blindly shuffled my way along the board path and out into the sunshine.

When my husband stumbled his way out, we had a good laugh and moved on, but I was disconcerted by the simplicity of the trick which completely disabled my brain and balance.  Maybe that’s why I remembered the incident.

And why it came back this morning.

The world and its evil are spinning and swirling with such speed and intensity my brain and heart have trouble adapting.  Evil seems to come from every direction, and we as a Body are off balance. We stumble, lamenting, making no progress toward the sunshine outside.

God is our railing. He keeps us from falling.  He guides us out of the spinning swirl if we will simply close our eyes, grab on to him, and step out blindly, trusting he has laid a path beneath our feet.

Maybe that’s what it means when the Bible says, “We walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7)

Simplicity, confidence, peace, patient endurance – words which explain how a Christian lives in these upheaved times. We have a God who will guide us through.

Grab on!

Have you had this experience?

You’re driving somewhere you’ve never been, but you feel secure because you have a GPS.  That little blue line on the face of your phone, the moving road map that tells you exactly where you are and how to get to your destination, gives you confidence in foreign lands.

Then, suddenly, you deviate.

(Sometimes I do this just because I feel rebellious.  That lady in the GPS is sure bossy!)

Maybe I need gas, or I looked in the mirror to talk with a child in the back and miss my turn – whatever happened, the lady belts out my error – albeit politely – with “proceed to route” or “recalculating.”

And then, the screen flashes, and by some computorial genius, the blue line reappears, rearranged to accommodate my unexpected location.

(Sometimes, I keep that rearranger in my GPS pretty busy.)

On a brilliant summer Saturday morning this year, I drove through the breathtaking mature-corn lined backroads of southern Pennsylvania.  I turned a little prematurely, and immediately, the lady in the GPS informed me of the error.  The screen blinked once, and a new blue line snaked out onto the map.  The new route used a few different roads, but the destination remained the same.

God nudged me.

And I saw how this GPS was a terrific analogy for how He interacts with our free will.

“This is the way to heaven,” He tells us at Baptism.  “We’ll go together.”

Sometimes, just because I feel rebellious, I deviate from the way.  Maybe I make a selfish decision that isn’t for the good of my family.  Maybe I choose to follow the way of the world – for years.

Or decades.

Jesus goes with me, quietly urging me to return to the route, recalculating the path that will lead me to heaven from whatever wrong turn I’ve taken.

Sometimes, with the way we exercise our free wills, he has to rearrange a lot.

But with Christ, there is always an alternate route.  It may be a little longer, maybe over roads that aren’t so smooth, but He’ll walk us over them, all the way home.

That gives me such peace, when I look at my adult children.

They’ve moved beyond the range of my control into the realm where I only have influence.  Even so, I let their decisions create a whirlwind of anxiety in my heart.  Are they abandoning Christ?  Did they even think that problem through?  Is there an end to the variety of ways they can stray from the path He put them on at their Baptisms?


Of course.

God’s got it.

He’s with them right now, recalculating the route.

Cake and Gifts


Hello, Dear One,

You were thinking about the talents I give each person, and I would like to explain something so you can understand a little better.

Imagine a layer cake. I know what kind you like best, so pretend it’s a yellow cake with raspberry jam between the layers covered thickly with chocolate frosting.  Chocolate frosting made with plenty of butter and lots of powdered sugar.

From the outside, it looks like a chocolate cake.

If you wipe away some of the frosting, you might discover the yellow cake underneath, but if you take the time to slice a wedge out of the cake, you discover the veins of raspberry jam, and they are delicious!

The talents I give are like that.

Some people skate along on the surface, enjoying and maybe even using their talent for, say, singing well.

If they develop self-discipline, deepening the effortless ability I gave them through daily practice, they find under the talent a real skill – maybe it’s a performance skill – a result of their hard work developing their ability.

Sometimes, I allow my children to experience hard times.  Sometimes prolonged hard times.  Sometimes I walk with them through truly horrific circumstances.  These are the knives with which I remove a wedge of the cake, IF they allow me.

Those people find a treasure when they let me refine them deeply.  When they accept circumstances with faith that I know what I’m doing, they discover a well of richness I hid in them.  Maybe it’s a gift of humor, or an ability to organize, or an ease of manner with the mentally ill.  Maybe it’s an ability to understand pain, or to comfort the dying.

These gifts are the raspberry jam, existing only in the small space between layers, deep in the heart of the cake.  Most people don’t even know they’re there.

They are gifts I want you to discover.

Ask me how, Dear One.  You know how much I enjoy our talks.

Love and my blessing,


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