I was scared to death of death. I suppose everyone is scared of death in some way, but I avoided thinking about it at all costs. When my significant other decided she wanted to get a dog, I loved the idea — except I knew that one day I would have to see it die, and so I resisted as long as I could. We ended up with two dogs, and when the first one died, I happened to be 3,000 miles away, which was a great relief to me. Continue reading “A Smiling Journey in Darkness”
“I am one. Not half of something.” I spoke those words from a stage in Duluth, Minnesota, where people had braved the frigid temperatures to attend my presentation and book signing. As a single thirty-something, I have finally learned that I do not need to be part of a couple in order to feel complete. Sure, someday, I would like to be married and have a family, but my life will not start then. I am living happily ever after right now. Continue reading “Becoming whole”
I imagined many things when my children were little but I never envisaged a day when they would take part in a hair-shaving ceremony — for me. Continue reading “A Family Affair”
Each summer in the late 1960s, my two sisters and I would ride the Greyhound bus from Arizona to Arkansas to stay with our father. Continue reading “Sweet-Pea Summers”
“How was school today?” I asked my youngest daughter as she walked in the door.
The sad look on her face and in her eyes gave me the answer before she spoke these words: “Why doesn’t anyone want to be my friend?” Continue reading “Alone”
Larry and Jo Ann were an ordinary couple. They lived in an ordinary house on an ordinary street. Like any other ordinary couple, they struggled to make ends meet and to do the right things for their children. Continue reading “A story for Valentine’s day”
Since the time we were young children, my sister and I have never gotten along. She was born two years, three months, and thirteen days after me. I’ve always been the good daughter, and she has always been the one in trouble. Continue reading “Sisterly Love”
In 1998, John Wood was a rising executive at Microsoft when he took a vacation that changed his life. What started as a trekking holiday in Nepal became a spiritual journey and then a mission: to change the world one book and one child at a time by setting up libraries in the developing world. Continue reading “Room to Read”
It was December of my sixth grade year, and Mom wanted Quinn and me to run in the “Reindeer Run” — a one-mile “fun run” for kids. Quinn was an athletic, gorgeous, golden-haired nine-year-old; I was her stumpy, awkward-footed older sister. While I was twenty months older, Quinn had always been skinnier, just as strong, and nearly as tall. It was a no-brainer who should be running in front. Continue reading “A Mental Cancer”
When the news came, my parents were heartbroken and distraught. My dad and stepmom had been trying to have a baby for quite some time and had just learned that the chances were slim to none. That’s when they decided to participate in foster care. The idea of giving back to a family and allowing ours to grow at the same time was exactly what we were looking for. After many months of classes and tests, a two-year-old boy named Chase entered our lives. Continue reading “Chase’s journey”
“Why didn’t your parents want you? How does that make you feel?” “Is your real family dead?” “Will you have to go back someday?” Continue reading “Where I Belong”
I wasn’t born a brilliant student. My learning disability, auditory processing disorder, made it nearly impossible to become an outstanding student. Still, throughout my testing, teachers found that I had a special gift — the gift of writing. While I scored poorly in most school subjects, I had nearly perfect written papers and exemplary spelling and grammar skills. Continue reading “A Student of Life”
I ended up pregnant at the end of ninth grade. I knew I faced many difficulties — how I would tell my parents, if I should keep the baby, and if so, how the father, Ronnie, and I were going to take care of the baby. Continue reading “A mother at fifteen”
“I am one. Not half of something.” I spoke those words from a stage in Duluth, Minnesota, where people had braved the frigid temperatures to attend my presentation and book signing. As a single thirty-something, I have finally learned that I do not need to be part of a couple in order to feel complete. Sure, someday, I would like to be married and have a family, but my life will not start then. I am living happily ever after right now. Continue reading “Becoming Whole”
I was in New York the other day and rode with a friend in a taxi. When we got out, my friend said to the driver, “Thank you for the ride. You did a superb job of driving.” Continue reading “Love and the Cabbie”
One of my earliest memories is being all dressed up to have my picture taken. I remember Mother bathing me, putting lotion on my hair and curling it around her finger as she blew on it. I twisted and squirmed and she patiently told me a story as she worked on my hair. Continue reading “A lesson in ugly”
We arrived at the hospital to find Dad exhausted and weak, but his smile was as sure as ever. It was another bout of pneumonia. Continue reading “Long Distance Vitamins”
The Christmas market in the town square looked beautiful. There was a large Christmas tree and a manger with life-sized figures. Real sheep and goats roamed around the nativity scene. My mother was thrilled. My father was more interested in the booths selling food and beverages. Continue reading “Christmas Market”
My son’s first season of playing basketball was when he was ten years old. Often, when I picked him up from his father’s house, he was shooting hoops. On one such day, he came running over to my car and said, “Mom, can I pleeease get another basketball?” Continue reading “Showing up”
A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop. Continue reading “The Cookie Thief”
It happened again today. I found myself apologizing to someone for being too perky in the morning. It wasn’t even that early. I called a client at 9:00 A.M. — after watching the clock until precisely 8:59 and 59 seconds, which I figured was late enough to make a business call. I jumped into the conversation with a bit too much enthusiasm, I suppose, because my client responded with, “Whoa, you are WAY too awake for this time of morning.” Continue reading “Confessions of a morning person”
In the past six years of my life I have spent countless hours in a hospital. Going to appointments, having tests run, getting surgery, and now that I know how it feels to be there, spending my time visiting other patients and volunteering my time at the kids’ holiday parties. When you’ve spent so much time around the staff, they, like other patients, become your family. Out of all these people who have touched my life in some way, there is one who touched my heart and who I will never forget. Continue reading “Lovesick”
The bag of assorted candies was ready, and I’d been looking forward to visits from pint-sized goblins. But Halloween morning, my arthritis flared up, and by evening, I could barely move. I couldn’t possibly answer each knock on the door to distribute the goodies, so I decided to fasten the candy bag to the door and watch the parade of trick-or-treaters from my darkened living room. Continue reading “A Jelly Bean for Halloween”
The situation seemed hopeless.
From the first day he entered my junior-high classroom, Willard P. Franklin existed in his own world, shutting out his classmates and me, his teacher. My attempts at establishing a friendly relationship with him were met with complete indifference. Even a “Good morning, Willard” received only an inaudible grunt. I could see that his classmates fared no better. Willard was strictly a loner who seemed to have no desire or need to break his barrier of silence. Continue reading “A silent voice”
When I arrived in the city to present a seminar on Tough-Minded Management, a small group of people took me to dinner to brief me on the people I would talk to the next day.
The obvious leader of the group was Big Ed, a large burly man with a deep rumbling voice. At dinner he informed me that he was a troubleshooter for a huge international organization. His job was to go into certain divisions or subsidiaries to terminate the employment of the executive in charge. Continue reading “Big Ed”
A weekend job for extra pocket money might be fun – but what about working in a dangerous factory, heaving rocks for hours without resting, or digging in stinking rubbish for scraps to sell?
Millions of children have to work like this every day. Continue reading “Child Labour”
I had rarely seen an early November day as mild as that one. It was as though God had decided to grace those of us living in Michigan’s snow belt with a special gift of balmy temperatures and gentle breezes before winter’s descent. My friend Rick and I were walking the country road near my home, taking in the harvested corn and the autumn leaves still clinging to the trees. Continue reading “Heaven on Earth”
They huddled inside the storm door—two children in ragged outgrown coats.
“Any old papers, lady?” I was busy. I wanted to say no—until I looked down at their feet. Thin little sandals, sopped with sleet. Continue reading “Lady, are you rich?”
I was dangling my legs in the pool when Linda swam up and blocked me. Something about Linda always made me a little uncomfortable. I wanted her to like me, mostly because none of my classmates lived close enough to hang out after school. Linda lived only two houses down from mine. But this warm spring afternoon, her words made me shiver. Continue reading “I Can’t Believe I Did That”
There is a quilt on every bed in my grandmother’s battered farmhouse. Most of the patchwork blankets are generations old. Their bindings sport holes of wear. Newer quilts flaunt their fresh, rich colors in Grandma’s room. My first attempt at quilting hangs on her wall. The colors are bright, but the shapes are ever-so-slightly askew. Nevertheless, every uneven stitch holds meaning. Each crooked patch tells a story. Continue reading “A Quilted Life”
Several years ago, a physician from southern France contacted me. His granddaughter had taken ill with a disease that baffled the physicians there. He called after reading several of my articles on disorders of the autonomic nervous system. Continue reading “It should once again see light”
“Mommy, I got something for you!” Cody ran through the door after school. His face wore the biggest smile ever. He waved something above his head. “It’s a pen. But not just any pen. It’s a lucky pen!” Continue reading “Lucky Pen”
Sharifa and I were classmates in 1998 at the university for Afghan refugees in Peshawar, and at the time we both lived in a crowded neighbourhood populated mainly by Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan. She was the oldest of six daughters who had been born with only one-year gaps between them all. Continue reading “Sharifa’s Story”
Until I was eight I thought Sunday was called Sunday because you had to spend it in the sun. I thought that because I spent every single Sunday outside in the garden with Nana.
The zucchini plants quickly became my favorite. It was the way the tiny little delicate tendrils reached out and wrapped around the lattice, like tiny fingers holding on as tightly as they could. Continue reading “I Will Remember”
From the age of eight, I had yearned for a father. When I was seventeen, my mother married again and I expected this man, Steve, to be a poor father like his predecessors. But I was wrong.
The walls I had built to protect my heart did not come down easily, and this time, my new “father” did not attempt to tear them down. Instead, little by little, he weakened them with patient and loving kindness. Continue reading “A Real Dad”
The ball pinged off the aluminum bat and headed toward the hole between shortstop and third base, the sort of one-hop screamer that the high-school junior shortstop, my son Chris, had backhanded a thousand times.
Only this time, the ball hit a pebble and caromed weirdly toward his head. With a sickening crunch, the ball caught him flush in his left eye, and he went down in a heap. Bad hop, and a bad break. Continue reading “Bad Hop”
Everybody can be great . . . because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape recorder. Continue reading “A Simple Gesture”
I’m a teacher. But there are days, like today, when I wonder why. It’s been a tough day. The results of an English quiz taken by my fifth-graders were dismal. Despite my best efforts, the world of pronouns remains a mystery to them. How I wish there is a way to make the study of our language as exciting as a computer game, so the glazed looks would not appear in their eyes at the mention of the word “grammar.” Continue reading “Promises To Keep”
This was my first birthday away from home, and I missed my mom, my sister, and most certainly the special cake my mother always made for my birthday. Since getting to college that year, I would watch jealously as the other freshmen received packages from their parents on their birthdays – and even on ordinary days. Instead of feeling thrilled about my coming eighteenth birthday, I felt empty. I wished my mom would send me something, too, but I knew that she couldn’t afford presents or the postage. She had done her best with my sister and me – raising us by herself. The simple truth was, there just was never enough money. Continue reading “To Be Really Rich”
Words of advice to high school seniors preparing to embark on the infamous college journey: Have no fear. Worst case scenario, you end up sitting on the stoop of a grand, New England building, drunk off cheap beer, crying about a boy while listening to Joni Mitchell on your iPod. Continue reading “Have No Fear”
From an early age, I was told not to make the same mistakes as my mother. She hadn’t had an easy life since getting pregnant with me at seventeen, and she always blamed me for her failures. Unable to care for me, my grandparents took me in at six weeks of age and raised me as their daughter. I excelled in school and took pleasure in being on the track team, part of Camp Fire and attending ballet classes. I had a great relationship with my grandparents. Then, in eighth grade, I discovered that staying out late with my friends was more fun than going home. Continue reading “A Change for the Better”
Her skin was the color of rich, hot chocolate and her brown eyes twinkled with intelligence and humor. Her name was Michelle and she spent her days in a purple wheelchair because she had been born with Cerebral Palsy. She rolled into my classroom — and my heart—when she was just three years old. Her courage was an inspiration to me and her spirit touched my heart. Continue reading “Flying a Kite”
I had been a blood donor for years, but never had I been an apheresis donor of platelets. I had lots of excuses for not doing so, including, “It takes too long,” and “It looks uncomfortable.” Continue reading “But for God’s grace”
Someone called it my “midlife crisis.” Personally, I think it was just a string of rotten luck, including horrendous income changes, my son’s poor health winging its way into its sixteenth straight month, medical bills that could choke a buffalo, bewilderment following cross words with two of my grown children, the empty-nest syndrome looming just months away when my youngest would be leaving for college eighteen hundred miles away, daily lower back pain due to lack of exercise, arguments with a woman in Texas over a book we were coauthoring and the fact that I’d only seen the sun for about twenty-six hours all winter. Continue reading “Big Problems, Little Miracles”
I awoke to the sound of my clock. It was 7:00 A.M. My bed felt like it was made of bricks, but my body wouldn’t move. I knew I had to get to school. Continue reading “Before and After”
My teacher, Miss Wallace, stood beside the bench in the science lab. She held a beaker in one hand as she explained the procedures of a chemistry experiment to a small group of students. I leaned against the bench and focused my attention on her hand as it moved towards another beaker filled with an acidic liquid. Continue reading “Ginger Beer”
The telephone rang. It was my sister. She said, “Just thought I’d let you know I used your crayon story again.” My sister is the media specialist in an elementary school. Every now and then, she will tell my story to the students who visit her library. Continue reading “Crayon Crisis”
When I was little, I used to think my dad raked the maple leaves into a big pile so that we kids could dive into it and play. In those days, I thought the wheelbarrow that accompanied him to the back garden was meant for the rides he gave us back to the house. His flower garden at the side of the house was his special place of refuge—and it was there that his soul brushed mine to forever bond. Continue reading “Daddy’s Garden”
When I was six or seven years old, I would go up to my parents and say, “Mommy! Daddy! I want to be just like that person when I’m all grown up!” My parents would just look down at me and smile. My mom would always say, “Do what you think will make you happy.” I always tried to stay true to that, but as I got older, I decided that I wanted to be something else. When you find something that you truly want to be, but people around you think that you are not capable of doing it, it hurts. Continue reading “Stay True To Yourself and Your Dreams”
Against my better judgment, I visited the cat room at the shelter. Given free rein, I would have filled my pockets with kittens. Our cat Abby had recently died. I saw how much my husband John missed her. Continue reading “Better than Medicine”
Grunt, creek, creek… grunt, creek, creek…
My legs swung back and forth. I was using all of my strength to get that swing into the heavens. It seemed impossible.
“Mom, can you give me another push?” I whimpered.
“Are you kidding me?! You can do it. Just focus and keep pumping your legs.” Continue reading “Thank you for not pushing”
For some reason, I was not very good in school. English and Math were my worst two subjects. There was just something wrong with me, inside my head. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not figure out why I didn’t understand what all the other kids found so easy to learn. I do not think there was ever a day that I went to school that I was not afraid. Continue reading “A D-Minus”
I was a freshman in college when I met the Whites. They were completely different from my own family, yet I felt at home with them instantly. Jane White and I became friends at school, and her family welcomed me, an outsider, like a long lost cousin. Continue reading “Blameless”
I wish I could take back my first kiss. I wish that it hadn’t been out of spite and jealous revenge. I wish that I hadn’t been stupid and drank that night. I wish for a lot of things, but most of all, I wish that I had dealt with everything differently, so I wouldn’t be stuck with this memory. Continue reading “Regretting my first kiss”
I had just turned twelve when I realized I wasn’t young enough to be a carefree kid anymore but also not old enough to be a “cool” teenager. I was also unlucky enough to be a twelve-year-old with thick glasses and orthodontic braces. In spite of the “four eyes” and “metal mouth” name-calling I had to endure, my mother insisted these temporary impediments would all be worth it someday. She reminded me of Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Ugly Duckling, to make her point. Continue reading “Beauty Is as Beauty Does”