Compassion is as compassion does.

Back in 2005 the hub loaded his table saw, planer and a bunch of other heavy woodworking equipment into a small u-haul.  We were headed to Vero Beach, Florida with a group from the church we attended to help repair a church that had been damaged by a hurricane.  Since the hub had major carpentry skills – and major equipment – he was in charge of that aspect of the trip.

I was in charge of activities for the church’s children.

While we were there we hosted nightly cookouts at a park near the Vero Beach church and invited its members to come, relax, eat and share their hurricane stories.

Because I thought sharing their stories might help.

Turns out it did.  Turns out listening to their stories, hearing what they had been through was the best, most restorative thing we did all week.

It helps to know someone cares.

It was hallowed ground in a Lansing courtroom when Larry Nassar faced his victims.  God bless Judge Aquilina for patiently giving each one of them the opportunity to tell their stories.  God bless her for giving us the opportunity to listen compassionately.

It helps to be heard.

The White House recently invited community members and victims from Parkland, Florida as well as victims from the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings to a listening session.

God bless our President for giving them a chance to speak and for giving us a chance to hear their hearts.

There are those who hate our President no matter what, who would refuse to give him a nod of credit for an act of compassion, who would refuse him the opportunity to speak and the opportunity to be heard with compassionate ears.

In their minds he is morally “less than” they and therefore he isn’t worthy of their compassion.  They just want to see him destroyed.

Actions speak louder than words.

If we want our country to heal, and it’s looking like the collective “we” don’t, we’ll have to put down our self-righteous hate and pick up an olive branch.  Or at least a hearing aid.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.




Hoard Your Pills

I’ve learned over the years that there are two types of physical therapists – those who gently stretch you back into shape over the course of many sessions and those who break adhesions in a brutal few.

The first time I needed PT – for a frozen shoulder – I was cranked on by the latter.

“Take a pain pill before you come next time,” he instructed.

“I’m afraid I’ll get addicted to them,” I replied.

“You won’t,” he said, completely sure of himself, “you don’t have an addictive personality.”

Maybe he’d seen enough people on them to know.

So I proactively took one before I came to the next few appointments.

And then one morning I arrived to do my exercises – brutal cranking on my shoulder no longer necessary – and was surprised to find that everything everyone said was REALLY funny.

I did my exercises alone for awhile, smiling and chuckling, when the PT came over and said, “You don’t need the pain pills anymore.”

So I stopped taking them.

I had quite a few left.

“You can get about $20/pill on the street,” he said.

“I can’t,” I said, “I don’t have a criminal personality.”

I’ve been prescribed narcotic painkillers several times in my life and each time I took one or two and had a bunch left over.

When they were prescribed last year, I refused them altogether, told the urgent care doc I’d call for the script if the pain became unbearable.

Now I wish I had taken it, filled it and hoarded the pills.

‘Cuz things have changed.

I fell taking Dixie for a walk last Saturday evening and knocked the wind out of myself.  I returned home barely able to breathe or talk.

Don’t ask me what happened ‘cuz I don’t know.  One minute I was walking, the next minute I was face down on the asphalt.

Dixie & Leo.jpg

Dixie and our friend Leo on a recent walk, but not the fateful walk.

“Sounds like you bruised your ribs,” said the hub as I described the pain, “I did that once playing racquetball.”

Sunday morning I woke up and couldn’t move. Literally. At all.

“Can someone help me?” I cried out in a raspy voice.

The hub was downstairs in the family room.

My daughter came rushing in.

“I can’t move. Put your hands behind my back and try to pull me forward into a sitting position.”

Horrendous pain.

“Okay now put your arms around me and try to lift me to my feet.

Horrendously horrendous pain.

The hub drove me to urgent care to make sure I hadn’t broken anything.

I braced myself for every excruciating bump in the road, every right turn and left turn, every acceleration.

The physician assistant questioned me: “On a scale of one to ten, where ten is the worst pain you can imagine, where would you rank your pain.”

“I took 4 Advil before I came, so I’d put it at a 9 now, but before the Advil it was a twelve.” Because it was worse than I ever imagined pain could be.

While we waited for a radiologist to read the x-rays, I sighed to the hub, “They’re probably not going to want to prescribe anything due to the opioid crackdown.”  But even as I said it, I expected they would. Given the amount of pain I was in.

The hub got up and read a poster on the exam room wall.  It was all about their new controlled-substance prescribing policy and how they would check a registry to see how often they had been prescribed for a patient.

The nurse came in and gave me a shot of toradol.

The PA came back in: “I’m going to send you home with 2 prescriptions, one for Motrin 800 and one for Tylenol 650. You can alternate taking them.”

My face surely said, “Really? Motrin 800? When I just told you that 4 Advil only brought the pain down to a 9?”

I think she heard my face because she said, annoyingly cheerfully, “Just imagine how much pain the people who break their ribs are in.”

“You’re an idiot,” I thought, but not loud enough for her to hear me.

When she left the room I turned to the hub, “I’ve broken bones and I’ve bruised bones and I know from experience that bruised bones hurt more.”

“AND they take longer to heal.”

I should have told her what my PT said about me not having an addictive personality.

I should have told her to check my record and see that I refused Norco last time I was there.

I should have told her about all the unused Vicodin and oxycontin and hydrocodone I’ve turned in at various community toxic waste disposal events over the years.

I wished I hadn’t turned them in.

But instead of saying anything I just mustered a smile and left with the two lame scripts.

The Tylenol 650 is worthless – didn’t even come close to touching the pain.

“Tylenol never does,” my daughter said.

After four days of taking Motrin 800 around the clock my feet and ankles swelled.

They haven’t swelled since I was pregnant 28 years ago.

I called the urgent care clinic, “My feet and ankles are swollen and they never swell, should I quit taking the Motrin?”

“I don’t think so,” the voice on the other end said.

“Are you a medical person?”

“I’m a medical assistant.”

“Well I googled it and learned that some medications – NSAIDS among them – can cause swelling.”

She didn’t know that.

“You guys prescribe drugs without knowing the possible side effects?”

This is why I hate the medical profession the way some people hate lawyers.

So I quit taking the Motrin and I’m toughing it out with tart cherry juice.

Because I remember Dr. Oz saying something about it a long time ago.

And I’m wondering why the pendulum has to always swing to the extremes.

Why not start addressing the opioid epidemic by actually checking the database and refusing opioids to those who have been flagged?

Why not prescribe 2 or 3 days worth of a narcotic to a newly injured patient just to get her through the worst of it and then switch her to Motrin?

I suppose I should have insisted on stronger pain meds but insisting would have likely put a red flag in my file.

“Oh yeah, she was here looking for drugs,” I can imagine her saying to a head-shaking staff when I left.

It’s been a painful, miserable week.

When my mom fractured her spine last Spring, her doc prescribed 100 hydrocodone.

“Why did he prescribe me 100?,” she asked when I came to spend the night, “I don’t need 100!”

“I don’t know, kickbacks?,” I thought then.

“To share,” is what I’m thinking now.










Guns & Young Brains

I’m proud of President Trump for taking steps to address the growing epidemic of teen and young adult violence in our country. I’m proud of him for gathering a variety of law enforcement, mental health and education experts to give input.

Hertz, National and Enterprise might have something to say about it, too.

When I talk to kids, I tell them that the human brain is not fully developed until around age 25. The last portion to develop is the frontal cortex, which is associated with planning, reasoning, problem solving and thinking-before-acting.

That’s why they need the guidance of their parents, teachers, pastors, etc.

The frontal cortex also affects the amygdala, which regulates emotions.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a teen’s “actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. Research has also shown that exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years can change or delay these developments.

Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:

  • act on impulse
  • misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
  • get into accidents of all kinds
  • get involved in fights
  • engage in dangerous or risky behavior

Adolescents are less likely to:

  • think before they act
  • pause to consider the consequences of their actions
  • change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

These brain differences don’t mean that young people can’t make good decisions or tell the difference between right and wrong. It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. However, an awareness of these differences can help parents, teachers, advocates, and policy makers understand, anticipate, and manage the behavior of adolescents.”

Adolescence, according to research in brain development, does not end until 25.

Most car rental agencies have been requiring a minimum age of 25 even before research and MRI studies showed that renting to a pre-twenty-five year old is risky.  They knew based on experience.

Perhaps the problem is not solely mental illness, perhaps the problem is mental illness and/or an immature brain.

Perhaps we should set a minimum age of 25 to purchase a gun.

As a general rule.

If a 23 year old woman has left an abusive relationship and is in fear of her life, she can seek an exception from the courts.

If an 18 year old wants to go hunting with his dad, his dad can purchase the gun in his name, and be held responsible as he would if he were co-signing a loan.

Given the research, can you think of a single good reason to put a semi-automatic weapon into the hands of an impulsive, not-yet-fully-developed, more-emotional-than-logical brain? Can you think of a good reason to put any gun into those hands?

I can think of at least 17 good reasons why we shouldn’t.

As I said in my last post, I am not for guns and I’m not against guns but I am for a bit of gun control.

Given the research.

Time cover.jpg

Click here for the text of an interesting May 10, 2004 Time Magazine article on Giedd’s research.

Giedd, J. N. (1999). “Development of the human corpus callosum during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology
& Biological Psychiatry 23: 571-588.

Giedd, J. N. (2004). “Structural magnetic resonance imaging of the adolescent brain.”

Adolescent Brain Development: Vulnerabilities and Opportunities: 77 – 85. Giedd, J. N., J. Blumenthal, et al. (1999). “Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Nature Neuroscience 2(10): 861-863.


life, Michigan

It was the worst school massacre in history.

Classes began as usual at 8:30 a.m. at the Bath Consolidated School.

At 8:45 a.m. an explosion tore through half the school.

First-grade teacher Bernice Sterling described the explosion as being like an earthquake: “It seemed as though the floor went up several feet”, she said. “… the air seemed to be full of children and flying desks and books. Children were tossed high in the air; some were catapulted out of the building.”

The north wing of the school collapsed. Parts of the walls crumbled, and the edge of the roof fell to the ground.

A rescue worker recounted: There was a pile of children of about five or six under the roof and some of them had arms sticking out, some had legs, and some just their heads sticking out. They were unrecognizable because they were covered with dust, plaster, and blood. There were not enough of us to move the roof.

It was the worst school massacre in history.

The Bath School massacre was a series of violent attacks perpetrated by Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927, in Bath Township, Michigan, which killed 38 elementary schoolchildren and six adults and injured at least 58 others. Kehoe killed his wife and firebombed his farm, then detonated an explosion in the Bath Consolidated School before committing suicide by detonating a final device in his truck.

The 55-year-old school board treasurer was angered by increased taxes and his defeat in the Spring 1926 election for township clerk. He was thought to have planned his “murderous revenge” after that public defeat.

An eyewitness described the aftermath of the explosion: Mother after mother came running into the school yard, and demanded information about her child and, on seeing the lifeless form lying on the lawn, sobbed and swooned…In no time more than 100 men were at work tearing away the debris of the school, and nearly as many women were frantically pawing over the timber and broken bricks for traces of their children.

Another witness painted a portrait of personal despair: A mother, Mrs. Eugene Hart, sat on the bank a short distance from the school with a dead little daughter on each side of her. She was holding her little boy, Percy, who died a short time after they got him to the hospital. As she sat there in despair, waiting for help for her son, Kehoe blew his truck up, severely wounding Perry, her oldest child. How does a mother survive that?

Bath_School_Disaster_Victims 2.jpg

As you can see, several parents lost multiple children that May day.

Hundreds of people worked in the wreckage of the north wing all day and into the night in an effort to find and rescue any children pinned underneath.

During the search, rescuers found an additional 500 pounds of dynamite and an alarm clock timed to go off at 8:45 a.m. in the south wing. He had intended to blow up the whole school.  Investigators speculated that the initial explosion may have caused a short circuit in the second set of bombs, preventing them from detonating.


What set off the man who set off the bombs?

The Wikipedia article, from which I took this information, listed the motives as revenge for defeat in a local election and personal and financial stress.

Lots of people lose elections and lots of people undergo personal and financial stress without killing anyone.

But Kehoe did.

He methodically planned his revenge – which is not even the right word because revenge is “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.”

Kehoe didn’t suffer injury or wrong at the hands of the 38 children and 6 adults he killed or at the hands of the 58 he wounded.

The children didn’t have a vote in his lost election.

But he killed them anyway.

Misguided revenge may have been the motive, but it wasn’t the reason.

He was mad because things weren’t going his way – property taxes, elections.

Investigators found a wooden sign wired to the farm’s fence with Kehoe’s last message stenciled on it: “Criminals are made, not born.”

Back when I was a social worker, I attended a foster care event.  The keynote speaker was a man named Glenn Hester, who had written a book entitled, Child of Rage. I read the book and learned that Mr. Hester had grown up in the foster care system.  A childhood full of abuse gave him ample reason for rage, rage which landed him in correctional institutions and  psychiatric hospitals. His rage was about to explode in a massacre when God intervened. At the time I heard Glenn speak he was working in a Christian program helping urban teenagers and educating foster care workers like me about what it’s like to be a kid in the system.

Glenn was a criminal who was made, but Kehoe was a criminal who was born.

He killed a neighbor’s dog for wandering onto his property barking. He beat his horse to death because it wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do.  It was suspected that he caused the gas stove explosion that killed his stepmother.

Killer’s gonna’ kill.

I’m not for guns and I’m not against guns and perhaps that’s how we’re all going to have to be if we want to stop this epidemic of school violence.

I’m not against guns because the worst school massacre in history was carried out without them.

I’m not against guns because guns don’t kill people, a murderous belief that one has been wronged, whether or not it’s true, kills people.

I’m not against guns because the right to bear arms protects us from would-be fascist dictators.

I’m not against guns because those who are hell bent on destroying life are going to destroy life – guns or no guns, legally obtained or illegally obtained.

I’m not for guns when they are automatic weapons in the hands of a 19 year old.

No civilian 19 year old should ever be sold an automatic weapon, but gun control would not have saved the 38 children and 6 adults in Michigan in 1927.

Banning the sale of automatic weapons to civilians might have saved the 14 children and 3 adults who were killed in Florida in 2018.

Murder as old as Cain and Abel.

Cain felt wronged because God accepted his brother’s sacrifice but not his.

No matter that his brother gave God his best and Cain gave God whatever.

Cain pouted and plotted because he thought God liked Abel better.

But He didn’t.

God found Cain pouting and plotting and intervened.

“Don’t do this thing you’re plotting,” God warned, “do the right thing, let go of your anger.”

But Cain went and killed his brother anyway.

I wonder whether God urged Andrew Kehoe to do the right thing.  I wonder whether he pointed out to Andrew that he hadn’t actually been wronged, that it was wrong of him to kill the dog, beat the horse, murder his stepmother.  I wonder whether He tried more than once. A year is a long time to maintain rage.

I wonder whether God urged Nikolas Cruz to put down his anger, to do what is right, to think straight.

Perhaps He did, but like Cain, he didn’t.

I saw a post on Facebook this morning saying that the solution is to let God back into the schools.

Yes, let’s let Him in – not so we can shove Him down anyone’s throat or make anyone feel bad about having differing beliefs – let’s let Him in to be available; to give rest to those who are weary, downtrodden, angry and hopeless.

What else might help?

It would help if people spoke up when they saw somewhat unusual behavior – like carrying things into a school at night – and blatant behavior like describing oneself on Facebook as a school shooter.

It would certainly help if “see something, say something” was followed up by the FBI with “do something.”

It would help if both staunch and stubborn gun camps would admit that the other side has some good points.

It would help if we would admit that it’s less about guns and more about the enraged hearts, souls and twisted minds of those who murderously wield them.

The Lord bless you and keep you, dear families and loved ones of Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup and Peter Wang. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. Deep and abiding peace.


Just Be Your Sweet Self

I watched a documentary on Netflix today.  I’ve watched a lot of Netflix on my computer these past 11 days, camped out on my living room floor with my beagle while she recovers from abdominal surgery.  Three more days.

But that’s another post.

The documentary is entitled The Mask You Live In.

If you have Netflix, watch it.

Or stream it from The Representation Project website here.

“That was well done,” I said to my daughter, who joined our little camp out to watch the film with me, “It makes me want to do something.”

“We need to have another retreat,” I continued, “for women, because seeing those young women happily participating in their own dehumanization makes me sad.”

My daughter shared snippets from recent conversations she’s had with young women who are in families that actively teach that it is all about the men.  A woman’s only role is to make men happy.

“In this day and age,” I shook my head.

“If I had had a son, I wouldn’t have raised him the way the men in the film were raised.”

“I know you wouldn’t have,” she replied.

“I feel sad that I’m too old to really have much of an influence,” I said, “but you’re young, you can do things both personally and professionally. If you have a son you can rear him to be a fully human being.  As a therapist you can help young men become fully human through counseling and you can help the moms of boys to rear them well.

“Young men won’t generally go to counseling unless they are mandated to go,” she said, as she folded up her comforter and headed upstairs.

Where my daughter works, counseling is mandatory and some of the men she counsels are really opening up to her as they become re-humanized. It’s a beautiful thought. And a sad thought. A tears-just-below-the-surface thought because she is starting a new job in a week – one where counseling is not mandatory.

I’d love it if you would watch the film and tell me what you think.  Tell me how you were raised. Tell me what we can do.  Help me plan a retreat.



Halloween: yay or nay?

We wanted to do something fun, since it was her birthday, so the two of us headed to Northville to have lunch and look around.

We had plans to go out for a big celebratory dinner, so we decided on a light lunch at Lucy and the Wolf.


The fish tacos were just the thing.

And then I spotted the mini donuts with bourbon smoked sugar and maple syrup. You know me and donuts.

“But they’re not chocolate,” my daughter pled.

So we headed across the street and down the block to share a carafe of French Press coffee and a Nutella crepe.


If you look closely, you can see a skeleton seated on the Bistro’s patio. The town is loaded with skeletons.  Just about every establishment is adorned with one or two.


This one, with rollers in her hair, is my favorite.


Though the spaghetti tester outside the Italian Ristorante is pretty cool, too.

The skeletons reminded my daughter of an article which, she said, was not a parody. She pulled out her phone and read me excerpts as we walked.

“We think because we are not performing any demonic rituals or human sacrifices,” she read, “that we are on safe ground, but did you know that as soon as you dress up, whether you color yourself or put on a costume, the enemy owns you? Because by doing so, you have turned over your legal rights, and you have dedicated yourself and your kids to celebrating the devil’s holiday. You have just made a pact with the enemy, and you are already sacrificing your children spiritually by dressing them up and changing their identity.”

Celebrating Halloween might be akin to neglecting to tear down Ashera poles, I thought to myself, but…

“That’s kind of extreme,” I said.

“When you were three, I dressed you up as an adorable little lamb with a little red heart, carved of wood, pinned to your chest.  We went to a few houses in grandma’s neighborhood. You, a Light in the darkness, me holding your little Lamb of God hand. No ownership was transferred that night.”

Which brings me to this creative little video:

So what do you say, Halloween yay or nay?


P.S. Click the quote to read the full article.