Help for Nikki~

Now that we are in the last days of 2018, I’m hearing lots of talk about New Year’s Resolutions.  Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of them.  I mean, why do so many people make resolutions when they aren’t going  to keep them?  And, anyway, how can someone find a worthy, honest need that can be helped by any size of a donation?

If you relate to this,  have I got good news for you!  If you go ahead and make a New Year’s Resolution to help someone who really needs it, I will give you a suggestion of who, where, and how:

Nikki is a 30 year-old mother who lives with Nathan, the son of a close friend of mine.  They both work hard, yet they are barely getting by.  Nikki was working two jobs until one day a couple of weeks ago, when she woke up feeling sick. She went to the ER where she started having seizures.  They thought she’d had a minor stroke. And then she did suffer a stroke.  Not  a minor one, though.  A major stroke!

Surgeons were able to remove a blood clot that was lodged next to her brain stem. Thankfully, Nikki not only survived, but she has been given a good prognosis.  But the road back to health is long and hard… and expensive!  Nikki is re-learning to walk, talk, and do other day-to-day actions that most of us take for granted. She faces months of therapy and rehab before she can even consider going back to work.

My good friend, Nikki’s mother-in-law and grandmother to Nikki’s son,  set up a small gofundme campaign to  help ease the pressure weighing on Nikki as she gets well–and on Nate, too.  (It’s cold outside!  That means high heating bills.)  And their little son.  (Although Nate works hard, losing so much income at Christmas has been terribly difficult.)

I would like to ask you to please consider making a New Year’s resolution to help someone in need, then to keep it by helping Nikki in any way you are able.  Give a little or a lot.  Either way, it will mean a lot.

Here is the link:

Thank you in advance from Nikki and Nate, all their families, and from me, too.

A happy and blessed New Year!


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Here’s to Being Grandma!

I’m not sure how I would have made it through childhood without my grandma.  She loved me, comforted me, encouraged me, and taught me.  She told me the stories of our family.  She loved God, and she told me why: “Four of my babies went to heaven before they could say ‘Mama.’  I want to see them again.”

I believed everything Grandma said.  Hey, with as much experience as she had, how could she be wrong?

Grandma was a true hillbilly.  She said “we’uns” and “you’uns.”  When she woke us up in the morning, she would say, “Land sakes!  Is you young’uns still a’wallerin in the bedsted?”

I loved my grandma so much.  And now, all of a sudden, I am a grandma!  And I want to be as important in my little granddaughters’ lives as my grandma was in mine.

I want to:

  • Give them unconditional love and acceptance, so they will know I truly believe in them.
  • Model the hope and promise of the future so they can grow up looking excitedly toward what’s still to come.
  • Tell them stories of our family so they will know they belong to something much greater than themselves–a family with a history.
  • Make sure they always know they can depend on me for encouragement and a helping hand when they need it.
  • Help build in each of them a strong foundation of value and purpose and faith.
  • Collect my gathered wisdom, mix it with the wisdom of their other grandparents, and together make our little ones’ lives richer.  They will need it. We certainly did!

“Grandparents and grandchildren have much to tell  each other. One has recently come from the spirit world and the other is on their way.”

~Native American teaching~


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Candle or the Mirror?

This week, as I unpacked and cleaned and straightened, I came across a box packed with picture I want to keep close – pictures of my children as little ones, of my own school days, pictures of Christmases and birthdays and vacations. There was also a sweet little painting my niece Melanie made, framed, and gave me quite a few years ago.  It is a mama mouse caring for her baby mouse.  Very cute.  It has had a premier spot on my office cabinet shelf since the day I got it.

I took the picture out of the  box and was in the process of setting it on a shelf above my computer when a piece of paper fell out.  It was folded up small and sealed with a tiny sticker.  I opened it up and read:  “My dearest Kay Kay,  What would I be without you?…”  Melanie expressed her feelings for me, what I had meant to her, and how I had helped and encouraged her.  So much love in so tiny a note!

Melanie is all grown up now, with three married children and a grandbaby.  We live far apart and haven’t seen each other in quite a while.  But that note blessed me beyond words.

How could it be that a little folded note could stay tucked inside a simple slide-in frame for years, then one day suddenly fall out?  Here is my explanation:  That note, written with love, stayed tucked away until the moment I was meant to read it.  Until a time when I needed encouragement.  A time when I needed to know there is value in my life.  And this happened to be that time.

Thank you, Melanie, for this unexpected Christmas gift of love and encouragement.  I will pass those blessings on by writing a surprise note to someone who has blessed my life.  In fact, I will make that a new Christmas tradition!

Blessed Christmas to you, sweet niece.

And a blessed Christmas to all of you!  Won’t you help me pass it on?

There are two ways of spreading light: 

to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

~Edith Wharton~ 



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To All of Us: Welcome Back!

AFTER so many months away from all of you, it seems as though we are coming home again.  I’m so glad to be back with you.

Much has happened here in my corner of the world since I bid you a temporary farewell. For one thing, Dan and I moved from our 3,000 square-fo0t house to one that’s not quite 1,250.  For another, I’m more behind on my work than ever.  Guess I’m distracted by the wonderful (make that:  magnificent!)  lighted decorations on every house in our neighborhood except two–one  of which is ours.  Even more, I’m joyfully distracted by living close to my two grandbabies.

I love to hear the strains of songs about the love and generosity and joy expressed at this time of year. (I could do without Grandma getting run over by a reindeer, though.  Just thinking about it makes me ache all over.)

I know that many of you could, and are, echoing my enjoyment of this blessed season.  And  I know something else: every one of us could do something to make our world a better place.

Beauty and music and holy miracles are where we want to focus right now.  There are already way too many criticisms and discouragements being hurled around.  Way too many tears being shed.  Far too much injustice.

But let us enjoy today.  And this week.   Let us rejoice in this blessed time.

But as we enjoy, let us remember that today is the day we can begin to improve the world.

I’m so glad we’re back together again!

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment

before starting to improve the world.”

~Anne Frank~



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Time Out

Okay, friends, followers, and you who just stopped by~

After eleven years, my blog is having difficulties, and Facebook has stopped reposting.  So I am going to take a break until I  get the blog fixed. Then I’ll come back fresh and renewed and ready for the next eleven  years!

I’ll look forward to us getting back together.  It won’t be too long.

If computers have taught us anything, it’s that almost all problems can be fixed by shutting down and taking a rest.  Sounds good to me!

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Who Are We?

I inherited a box stuffed full of information on Manzanar, the World War II Japanese internment camp.  A sweet little old lady writer had accumulated it for a book on the unthinkable that she was certain would never happen again, but she died before she could write it.  I inherited the research, but I never got the book written.  But I pulled it out today.  Because it suddenly seemed horribly relevant.

I spent Father’s Day with my sweet grandchildren and their parents.  And of course I took lots of pictures.  I always do.

But I am also staring at other pictures of little ones.  Theirs was not a happy Father’s Day. 

While my granddaughters laughed and played and danced, the other little ones pleaded through tears for “Mama” and “Papa.”  But Mama and Papa could not come to them.  Many of those little ones–especially those in the cages at the “Tender Age Shelters,” are unlikely to ever see Mama or Papa again.

How did we get to such a place? 

Interesting that it is at the same time that our country is leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights  Council.

God help us.

God forgive us.

“A rigid steel boot on the neck of the immigration debate.  It’s the sign of a party slowly losing its humanity.”

~George Orwell~

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Hidden Pain

Isn’t it amazing how one thing in life prepares us for another? In one of my early books, Helping Women in Crisis, I wrote a chapter on suicide. I didn’t know much about the topic, except that a fellow I knew in college had shocked us all by killing himself over summer break. Then one day my across-the-street neighbor came to walk around the neighborhood with me. We talked about the weather and the newspaper that never came on time and the avocado trees heavy with fruit. Then she casually asked me if I would meet her little girls at the bus stop and keep them with me until their dad got home. I said, “Sure. What’s up?” She nonchalantly said, “Well, I’m going to kill myself and I don’t want my children to find me.”

I had no idea how to react. I called a counselor friend of mine and asked for help, then I called my neighbor’s husband at work. And then I did what any author worth her salt would do: I wrote an op ed piece about trying to understand suicide.

Based on that book chapter, I was invited to the annual student fair at the local Catholic High School. It featured carnival-type games, a food court, and a slate of one-hour presentations from which the students could choose: fun date ideas, unique science projects, how to make friends with your parents, a dunk-the-principal tank, and so forth. Then there was the topic requested of me: Teen Suicide. I couldn’t imagine any student choosing that!

I decided to divide whatever kids did come into a couple of groups of two or three, then have each group draw a challenging situation from the bowl. The groups would have 5 minutes to prepare, then they would act out the situation adding a suggested way to deal with it. My concern was having enough kids to make it work.

I needn’t have worried. So many kids crowded into the room that all the seats were quickly filled. Others sat on the floor, pressed up against the walls. When there was no more wall space, they stood. When there was no more standing room, kids gathered outside the windows and struggled to look in. I opened the windows so they could at least hear.

One by one. the groups did their skits, and we discussed ideas and ways to help. The last skit was about a bullied boy. The plump, awkward fellow who played the victim endured several minutes before he crumpled into a sobbing heap. “This isn’t pretend,” he said. “This is my life!” The kids rushed to his side and told him how much he added to the school. Some apologized for having laughed at him. One girl tearfully said she was sorry for being rude when he asked her to go to the dance with him. She said, “Ask me again. Please?”

What I learned that day was that there is a huge amount we don’t know and understand about each other. It’s hard to share the unattractiveness in our hearts. It’s hard to talk about things that hurt when we are certain others won’t understand. Nor even care.

One girl told the tear-streaked boy, “We didn’t care because we didn’t understand.” Her friend corrected, “We didn’t understand because we didn’t know.” A boy in the back of the room said, “Maybe we didn’t know because we didn’t want to.”

Maybe so.

I hadn’t understood my neighbor’s pain. I would have said I didn’t understand because I didn’t know. Could it be that I didn’t know because I didn’t want to?

People who die by suicide don’t want to die. They want to end their pain. But suicide doesn’t end the pain. It just gives it to another.”


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War and No Peace

Nuclear war.  The words that fill our hearts with dread and send chills down our backs are being spoken far too nonchalantly these days.  By people who should know better but refuse to step down, and by those who understand far too little but refuse to admit it.

I wrote about this several years ago when Lawrence Johnston died.  He was one of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project in White Sands, New Mexico, and helped develop the atomic bomb in 1945.  The bomb that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima and led to the  Japanese surrender. The one that hastened the end of the war in the Pacific, but opened the door to the Atomic Age of catastrophic warfare.

According to his obituary, Dr. Johnston was one of the last survivors of the 49 scientists who had gathered near a squash court at the University of Chicago’s abandoned Stagg Field and witnessed history when Chicago Pile 1, the world’s first nuclear reactor, went critical.

I didn’t know Dr. Johnston. I’d never even heard his name.  But I did know Dr. Roger Voskuyl who had also worked on the Manhattan Project. He was president of Westmont College when I attended there.  When I was first dreaming of one day becoming an honest-to-goodness writer. For my first serious article, I interviewed Dr. Voskuyl about his part in the project.

Not long ago, I read about the pilot of the Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped that first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The young lieutenant colonel, Paul Tibbets, watched in shock as a horrible boiling mushroom cloud enshrouded the city of Hiroshima. Afterward he wrote these words in his journal: My God, what have we done?

That was what I wanted to know when I interviewed Dr. Voskuyl. The question I posed to him was this:  “If you had known then what that bomb would lead to, would you still have been a part of it?”

When I interviewed that dignified, white-haired man, he took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped at the tears that filled his eyes.

“I did know,” he said.  “We all knew. But what choice did we have?”

I never wrote the article.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

~Song lyrics by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson~


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Hats off to the Students of Stoneman Douglas High

Hooray for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida! Everyone’s heard about the 19-year-old former student who walked into the school with a legally purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and killed 17 people–mostly students.  I cannot begin to imagine what those survivors experienced.  Yet they did their best to push the horror of  the shooting aside, and they stepped with determination right into the middle of the sticky gun control discussion.

The kids  went to see the Florida lawmakers to insist that something be done to prevent such massacres in the future.  “Yes, yes,” everyone was quick to say. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”  Really?  Well, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean much.  The kids ignored the rhetoric and demanded action.  Real, concrete solutions.

So mere days after the murder of their friends, Stoneman Douglas High School students harnessed their pain and led the charge in the gun control debate.  Their intensity and heartfelt determination forced Florida to change laws that had seemed immovably sealed in cement.  They also went to Washington D.C. where they were welcomed with the same “thoughts and prayers” line, but didn’t get the answers and agreements they sought.

They also help town hall meetings. In February, one young man made headlines when, during a CNN Town Hall,  he called out U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s donations from the National Rifle Association.

Two dozen students wearing matching “March For Our Lives: Road to Change” T-shirts announced the tour at a news conference at Parkland Amphitheater, where the students just months ago held a vigil for the 17 killed in the rampage.

Yes, it is a change from their original platform of gun reform.  Or maybe not.  Perhaps what is really needed to achieve real gun reform is to get  disinterested citizens energized about voting.

“Real change is brought about by getting out there and making sure we’re holding our politicians accountable by voting, getting those out of office that don’t represent us the way they said they would,” said Cameron Kasky, who just graduated. “And getting those into office that are going to be morally just and represent the people.”

If this reminds you of the Freedom Summer, the volunteer campaign in the summer of 1964 to try to register as many African-American voters as possible in Mississippi, you’re right. That was organized by civil rights groups, including the most active one — the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.  Their goal was to expand black voting through registration, participation, and education in the South.

The Parkland students’ tour will include stops at rallies, round tables, churches and schools, said Emma Gonzales–another leader. The tour will have 75 stops, including caucus states like Iowa and South Carolina.

“We support policy over people. We do not endorse any candidates,” student leader Chris Grady said. As for the one policy or message the teens most want to promote: “Vote,” he said.  “Vote!”

I say, “Amen, teens! Lead on!”

“This is just the beginning. 

We’re ready to get to work.”



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Do Facts Matter Anymore?

“We Americans are being flooded with lots of crazy stuff that way too many people believe.  I mean, stuff that can actually be proven wrong.  I guess, it’s not that surprising in times of such awful partisanship as we are currently enduring.  Maybe, but it’s still terribly depressing.  Partisanship is one thing, but now it seems that even  basic political “facts” are quickly subjected to partisan interpretation.

But here is the really terrifying thing:  Our democratic system is based on the consent of voters who are fully informed. Yet we are having an epidemic of willful ignorance in our corner of the world.  And  it’s deeply troubling.  Still, I don’t suppose it’s that surprising.  I mean, as politics become more and more divisive, our political views are more and more tied up in our personal identities.  Which means that way too often we see our political allegiances as a defining part of ourselves– race, or religion, or financial status.  

So what happened to the promise that the internet would keep us all well informed about even the most confusing issues?  Didn’t work out that way, though did it?  Instead, it’s made it possible for  us all to hide out in groups that believe the same as we do, reinforcing our beliefs, making them seem more valid than ever.  And whatever they belief, we can find back up “proof on line.”


“Opinion to back up our original belief.”

We truly have entered a post-truth era.”

God, help us!

“I’ve known people over the years who have said, ”If my beliefs are at odds with the facts, so much the worst for the facts.’  

I’ve never been one of these


~Bart Ehrman~


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