Gold Star Memorial

Gold Star Mom. It’s not a distinction you’d hope for, but for Betsy Schultz, she’s committing her life to being an amazing one, in honor of her son, Captain Joseph Schultz, killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Ever since I met Betsy, I’ve seen Memorial Day for what it is meant to be—honoring those who’ve lost their lives in service to our nation. 
It was in 2011, when she was returning from a Memorial service that she saw the unmistakable military vehicle parked in front of her home. She knew what it meant and the life-changing news they’d deliver.

Joseph was Betsy’s only child. And as a single mom, the two shared a unique bond. Whenever he’d been home from military duty, he’d help her manage her bed and breakfast, housed in an 1910-era home. 
They shared the top floor of the massive home, and would joke how one day Betsy’s grandkids would love running up and down the broad staircases. 
Now, there would never be grandkids.

At Dover Air Force Base, Betsy sat quietly for hours next to he…

Speak German?

Mark Twain once said that life is too short to learn German. He meant it as a joke, I think. 
But anyone wanting to tackle the complexities of twenty letter words and some unique guttural intonations, the German language is there for the you. 
I studied German for two years in high school. I took conversational German the first year and got the misguided impression that German was going to be a breeze.
Then came year two with Mr. Ruddell. From day one it was intense reading and writing in German. Mr. Ruddell was fun-loving and deadly serious at the same time. 

His daily assignments were not an option, and he had little patience for slackers. While he could have shouted at those slackers in German, he used English so there was no mistaking his annoyance. Upsetting him wasn’t worth it, we all learned. 
Spanish was taught in the classroom next door. Frequent laughter could be heard through the walls, and the occasional wafting scent of tacos being made for a class “project”. I wondered if I’…

Happy COVID-19 Mother’s Day

If there ever was a year to celebrate the women in our world on Mother’s Day, this year is it. Women don’t even need to officially be moms to qualify, because COVID-19 has bumped up the challenges, and women everywhere have heeded the call.

First, a salute to the women nurses who have cared for all those afflicted by this virus. Facing odds of infection, and some choosing to live away from their families while doing so has been an incredible sacrifice. Nurses and caregivers across the country are helping to keep healthcare services functioning throughout these treacherous months. 

Next, our women classroom teachers are preparing lessons, connecting with students online, over the phone, and even mailing out learning packages which helps keep their students on track—while the teachers deal with long days, busy evenings, and nighttime student grading.

Our working moms are now juggling career, childcare, and monitoring school days—all from a card table set up in a new office/bedroom locatio…

May Day

The older neighborhood girls knew exactly how to set up the May Day production line. They carefully crafted small cones out of colored construction paper.  Then they scotch-taped paper handles so that the freshly hand-picked flowers could be beautifully tucked inside.
My job, as the youngest and most gullible, was to run up to each neighbor’s front door, carefully place the taped floral arrangement on the door knob, ring the door bell, and run away before I could be seen.
My floral-creating comrades were at a safe distance watching from a discreet location. Catching my breath, we’d all wait for each door to open and see how our May Day gift would be appreciated. 

Of course, we were too far away to really hear anything, but we got to enjoy the smiles, and the glancing up and down the street to see if they could spot the kind culprits.
It was a short-lived ritual, because we grew up too fast. But I remember those May Days and I miss the kinship of kindness that they offered. With the advent…

Make Yesterday Jealous

I met Debbie in college English. We had at least a dozen books to read and twice as many papers to write, and she somehow kept a great attitude about it all. 
She’d traveled to college from her sunny home state of California, and even the Pacific Northwest rainfall couldn’t defeat her smile. Ever.
We only shared the one class, but we ended up sharing the next couple years talking about life and where the future would take us. 

She had her own car, which made life so much easier for me without one. We did our grocery shopping together, and at her insistence we’d would go to fancy dress shops—just to try on clothes we never could afford. 
At this point in history there were no selfies, because there were no cell phones. But I have her goofy smile forever tagged in my mind. 
She always liked to say that she wanted to make her yesterday jealous because of the fun she was having today. 
It was on one of our fancy dress-shopping trips that she told me about her dad. 

She’d been a high school seni…

Day One

I’ll never forget the pediatrician’s look when she came to my bedside after the birth of our son. It was the morning after a midnight emergency delivery in our small rural hospital. 
She said she’d done all she could. She held her hands out to demonstrate that he’d been lifeless. I looked into the doctor’s eyes, trying to get a glimmer of hope. 
Yet, our baby boy had lived through the night—breathing on his own.
She said it would be one day at a time. She was careful with her words—giving a dose of reality along with the hope that with time we could see improvement.
I tried not to replay the doctor’s words in my mind. Specialists came every other week to look at the subtle progress he might be making. They showed me techniques to encourage body movement and develop eye contact. Whenever his head was turned to the side—which was most of the time, I was instructed to gently place my hands on his head, and move him so he could look me in the eyes as I talked to him. I spent hours this way. O…

Off The Grid

We’d already driven almost two rural-road hours, when Mom slowed the truck and began looking for some sort of marker. 
She stopped and then turned into a lane barely wide enough for the truck. Tall trees formed an impenetrable boundary on both sides.
We drove another 20 minutes, barely creeping along. I mentioned more than once that I could walk faster. Mom said nothing.
In a slight clearing, Mom pulled the truck into a grassy spot and turned off the engine. She announced, “Now we hike.” 

We each carried heavy backpacks that Mom had brought along. I confess, I did mutter about carrying what felt like rocks uphill. After an hour’s hike, I sniffed some wood smoke. Then a bit further I spotted a small cabin. On the porch were three smiling faces.
Welcomed inside, it was as if this small family had known me my whole life. They were genuinely interested in hearing about the future plans inside my 17-year-old head.
Around the wooden table we shared a meal featuring their garden veggies,…