Posted in Leaning In, Life


It was a cold day
A cold day in upstate New York

Yesterday was a rush-rush day. I had too many things to do in the available hours.

Around 4:30 PM, I made a quick run into the grocery store. The wind was gusty and frigid as I dashed for the door.

In between the open doors a woman stood calling back over her shoulder, “Come ON!” The exasperation was clear in her voice. She pulled her coat tight around her, flipping up the lapels to block the wind.

As I got closer I could see who she was talking to. A little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, was in the estuarial space of warm and cold, the space where shopping carts and bottle return machines exist, between the two sets of automatic doors. She had her back to her mother, her hands over her head, fingers extended and wiggling. She crouched and wiggled her bottom a little before jumping up with excited squeals.

She was watching herself on an overhead monitor that showed all the people entering and exiting the store.

“She thinks she’s on tv,” her mother said to me, and rolled her eyes.

I laughed — delighted by the child’s delight. The girl continued her dance, crouching then jumping, waving her hands and arms, giggling and squealing all the while.

Her mother smiled back at me.

For just a moment the two of us watched together.

Then I went in, grabbed the groceries I needed, and headed for the check-out.

I was still smiling when it was my turn to pay.

I was still smiling when I got home.

Two observations I’d like to make:

  1. Delight is contagious. I’m glad the little girl shared hers with me.
  2. Leaning in and slowing down can be as simple as a momentary pause at the grocery store.



Posted in family


The following is the text of what I read at the reception for Sam and Donna, my newly-married son and his beautiful wife. Enjoy.DSC04550

Once we had a guy re-shingle our carport roof – a mostly flat roof, only slightly pitched downward from house to gutter. Bud uttered a minced expletive when he saw what the workman had done.

I thought the roof looked good with its neat black lines of overlapping shingles.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“He did it backwards,” Bud complained, but I still didn’t understand.

I’m slow to understand construction problems. I had to look at it for a long time before it sunk in. The shingles overlapped in the wrong direction. He had started at the top and worked his way down, so where they overlapped rain could work its way underneath the next shingle.

But this really isn’t about roofing or shingles or mistakes made in shingling.

It’s about Sam and Donna.

And it’s about the way our lives overlap, like shingles properly installed on a roof.

It’s about Sam’s first Christmas.

Not his first Christmas as a baby. He probably didn’t even get any good gifts that year. With him being the third child, I had figured out that babies almost one year old don’t care very much about shiny new toys. Hand-me-downs are fine as long as they come wrapped with paper that can be ripped into tiny pieces and with curly ribbon that can be waved and boinged.

Honestly, I couldn’t even find any pictures of Sam’s first Christmas. It was that non-monumental. The plight of the third child.

No, this is about the first Christmas when, as an adult, Sam didn’t come home.

“I just don’t get enough days off,” he told me, “and the holidays are such a busy time at the store.”

“What will you do?” I asked. “You can’t spend Christmas alone.”

“No worries, Mom.” He likes to say that. He knows I worry. “I’ve got several invites.”

“Who,” I asked, demanding to know, trying to make him a little accountable.

“The store manager invited me to spend Christmas with him and his family,” he said.

Perfect, I thought. Maybe the manager will like him so much he’ll start giving him better hours.

“Dan and Lindsay invited me, but I’d have to get over to the island,” he said.

Victoria Island. I had never met Dan and Lindsay, although I had heard stories about them and their child, Denali. I had chatted with Lindsay once on Facebook about the nutritional value of hemp. That could be a good choice, I thought.

“And a friend from school invited me to spend Christmas with her family,” he finished.

“Who is it?” I asked, like I might possibly know.

“You don’t know her,” he said, reading my mind.

“You should go to your boss’s house,” I told him. It seemed like a good career move.

When Christmas arrived, he didn’t go to his boss’s house. He didn’t go Dan and Lindsay’s house. He went to some stranger’s house, some girl I didn’t even know.

We skyped Christmas morning.

“Hey, Mom,” he said, “Donna’s mom wanted me to tell you that she gave me a hug today. She said that every mom would want to know that her child got a hug on Christmas.”

I laughed, and thought it was so sweet, and wondered how awkward that hug was. We’re not the most huggy family.

Donna. Sam referred to her as his friend from school. “We’re just friends,” he told me. At Christmas.

Six weeks later, around Valentine’s Day, I got this message on my cell phone – ““Hi, Mom, this is Sam. I was just calling because I have some exciting news. I have a girlfriend. Her name is Donna and she’s pretty much awesome…”

The rest, you know, is history, with more history being made here today. Sam and Donna.

Where do the shingles tie in?

It’s in the overlap.

While I was fussing because I would really rather have had Sam home for Christmas, God knew that it was important for Sam to be somewhere else that Christmas.

You see, that was Donna’s mom’s last Christmas.

Ruth Mayer’s last Christmas.

Her only chance to hug Sam on Christmas morning.

Her only chance to fuss over him and make his Christmas special.

No one knew that at the time, but it was a perfect overlap of lives, where Sam could meet her, get more than a hug, actually spend some time with her – and then, months later, be there to support Donna, to cover her protectively, like an overlapping shingle going in the right direction, so that the sorrows could be shared and run off both of them together.

Sam’s first Christmas away may have been his most important Christmas – until this coming one, Christmas 2015, when he and Donna will have their first Christmas as husband and wife, together, building a life with each other.

Sam, Donna — May your shingles always overlap in the right direction.