Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The lesser of two evils is never an easy choice. Evil is never a good option. There are no good options for my dad as the dreaded day approaches. I worry and I pray and I remember.

My dad is a stoic man; strong, reliable… a rock, really. As a child, I saw him most often in his blue police uniform, stripes and pins, badged and official. He wore his weapon and his duty proudly. He never seemed tired or deterred to me. These flashes of my crime fighting dad were of his coming home or leaving, often sleeping when the world was busy and alert when the world slept. For thirty-five years he worked the streets of a crime ridden city.

When he was at home, he usually busied himself with some job or another. He was an efficient man and made good use of his time. He had a workshop in the basement of our house where he cut and hammered out leather holsters and belts; a very successful sideline business that he so wanted me to learn and to take over. When it came time to sew the leather together to make a holster, he would summons the nearest available family member to sit across from him to hold his project steady while he methodically pushed the wooden-handled needle through and back, over and over creating machine-like perfection; every piece a custom work of art. These would have been good times for chatting, but he was a man of few words. I often wondered if he was thinking inside and why his thoughts were not like mine; always bursting to be let out.

My dad was a problem solver and a do-it-your-self-er. He insisted that we too, grew up capable of doing things ourselves. We needed to pay for our own cars and had to know what everything was under the hood. As the only daughter of his four children, he didn’t cut me any slack in this area. In fact, I remember how he insisted that I learn to change my own oil. I’m not talking about ‘checking and filling’ the oil, but actually draining and changing it. As I lay beneath my 1970 silver Vega with black oil drip, drip, dripping on my cheek and gravel grinding into my elbows, I managed to convince him there were actually honest mechanics in the world and I would risk being taken advantage of in trade for never being dripped on again.

My dad patrolled the streets of the city that I called home while living in college, always nearby with help and a lecture when I ran out of gas, got a flat tire or in some other way needed rescuing. I thought my dad was invincible until 1983. Just before my final exams, I received the call that my dad was in the hospital. Chest pains. He was 50 years old.

I remember so clearly the feeling of panic when they said my brother should come home from his military service. I also remember the strong crooked smile on my dad’s face, attempting to upstage his fear when the doctors came in the room. My dad lay in a blue and white checked hospital gown; funny how the young and old, powerful and powerless all look vulnerable in them. Machines monitered and spoke messages to the doctor in a language we did not understand.

“Got any plans tonight?” the doctor asked, compassion on his young face.

“No, I don’t think so,” my dad answered, trying to appear casual.

“Good, in that case, were going to do a little surgery.” I watched my sure-footed father, smile never wavering, nod and answer questions with a shaky, frightened voice. I think I saw his eyes look misty, but perhaps it was the water in my own.

“By pass... open heart...” the words were a blurry noise, but I was fixated on the crystal clear look of fear in my dad’s eyes and I was terrified. My mom, the other pillar of strength in my world seemed shaken, disoriented. My brothers and I took over making phone calls and doing the busy things that keep the seams glued tightly together. As if nothing bad could happen if we tied all the ends tight.

The waiting was awful. Sitting and pacing, reading and praying. Scratchy striped couch fabric and blue pleather chairs became our new living room and the hours ticked by. Triple bypass surgery and then post-op intensive care. It was in the intensive care unit that I saw my hero with tubes and wires coming from everywhere, arms strapped to the bed to keep him from pulling out the tube that was down his throat. Machines blinked and beeped and dripped. He seemed to be choking. I squeezed hard at the tears stinging in my eyes and pushed back at the lump squeezing up in my own throat. I imagined what it would be like to be choking on that tube and not be able to tell anyone or move to pull it out. I tried hard not to picture what that would feel like and yet I ran the thought through over and over in my head, building my own panic. I wondered desperately if they knew he was choking as they read the machines and poked around with charts.

The waiting was endless.

My dad recovered.

He was too strong to let a heart attack stop him. Chest wired back together, he attempted to appear good as new. But he was not good as new. Life would be lived differently now: desk job and medication, no more smoking. Life took on a new normal, but returned to a regular rhythm.

My parents divorced some ten years later and my dad retired to Florida. He had always wanted to live in Florida with its year round good weather and Tiki bars. He adjusted to this new life fairly quickly. He remarried and found happiness.

While golfing and enjoying his new life, his heart continued to decline in small, unnoticeable attacks. He had a stroke several years ago. He started to slow down.

Three years ago the doctors said surgery was necessary.
Three years ago the doctors said he would likely not survive surgery.
Three years ago they decided he could go another three years on medication.
Three years is up.

He can no longer golf. He can no longer walk to the mail box. His heart operates at only twenty percent. Last week his only brother died. He made the three hour trip to his brother’s house the day he died. He made the three hour trip back for his doctor’s appointment. He told us he was having a procedure this Friday to look for blockages. He did not tell us about the surgery that would follow; doesn’t want to worry us. He needed two blood transfusions to ready himself for his procedure.

Three hour trip for the funeral.
Three hour trip back.

Three more days until his procedure.
Three more days and we can’t tell him that we know.

I wish I could rewind.
I wish I could stop time.
I wish for three more years.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Year in and year out, my father would complain about the doldrums of winter. The cold wasn’t really the issue. He is a man of insurmountable will power. I seldom remember him wearing gloves or a coat. The exterior temperature was merely mind over matter; you can only feel cold if you let yourself. The snow in the driveway, however, was something he could not will away; just another chore in the too long to do list. Having made a permanent migration to the sunny haven of Florida, he now speaks of leaving behind not just the chore of shoveling, but the dirt. He hated the sand encrusted embankments that followed every snow.

For fifteen years now, we have shared a light-hearted joust over the weather. Dad calls to gloat after every big snow storm or when we reach sub zero in the north. He used to send newspaper clippings of his never-changing forecast, boasting of running his air-conditioner on his 85 degree winter days. My repose is always the same; “You don’t know what you’re missing, Dad!” When a freshly fallen snow dresses earth in a delicate white robe and silence downs out life’s usual noise, it is one of God’s greatest magic tricks. I remember one winter where the storm cycle was every three or four days, each time a new blanket nearly a foot deep, eliciting many phone calls from the Deep South. I clung tightly to my child-like thrill of being snowed in, not allowing a point to be scored by the heat.

This year, however, winter feels different. I have a real and tangible lust for spring to arrive. Snow has thus far been left out of the forecast and as winters go, it has been most mild. Perhaps the trouble is it is simply not cold enough. When the weather man speaks of snow, it is in showers, resulting in less than a dusting, quickly sipped off by the sun like cinnamon on the top of cappuccino. My allergy to sameness finds me congested in the dead brown earth.

I look to my gardens like a child to the Christmas tree, anticipation building to open what lies beneath. The mild weather reveals little green points of hope, teasing me as I know I must endure more than 70 dreary days until they burst to life. Endless days of gray and rain and even the sun seems to have vacated to somewhere less dormant. Dispositions reflect the dismal weather and depression seems as contagious as the flu. So what is the point of living in the North?

I suppose, like every difficult trying chapter our lives write, we are strengthened by the trials. Never being deprived of anything, we are left incapable of appreciating, really being grateful for the abundance. It is being hungry that makes us delight in eating, being tired that makes sleep so refreshing; being lonely that makes friendship so precious. No one can appreciate a flower or the smell of fresh cut grass quite like we in the north, and that is the point of living here.

I am, in many ways, like a tulip bulb, needing my period of dormancy. I feel my roots stir beneath the surface just a little on the warmer days, other wise, lying in wait, storing my energy for that moment when all comes back to life. The thrill of seeing it come back, just as promised, is a feeling unmatched by any other. Sometimes, the wait seems longer, almost unbearable, but sorry Dad, I am a tulip at heart and will remain forever seasonal.

Friday, January 05, 2007


G’night Mom.”

“Good night Trev,” I answer without really looking up.

“Mom… will you tuck me in?”

I stop putting away the last of the day and raise my eyes; his big blue eyes meet mine, morphing before me from little boy to young man. A handful of months from teenager, he has been the typical distant being, pushing away for independence. His cherub face, round and sweet, is now positioned eye to eye with me. It was the same face really; one that lights up like Christmas when he smiles. He stands smirking, ready to brush the idea off if necessary.

“Of course I will,” I answer, being casual about grabbing any little bit of mothering allowed on the brink of adolescence. Trevor lopes up the stairs and hops into his bed pulling the red and blue quilt up under his chin. Stepping through the maze of clothing and debris, I suppress the urge to comment on the surrounding disaster of his room, not wanting to spoil the moment with too much mothering.

Looking at him grinning, this boy/man, I realize that Trevor has always been grown up to me. From the time he was a toddler, he was self assured, confident in his direction and always ready to take on a challenge. He taught himself to read, tie his shoe and use the computer. I drift back to memories of corn silk white blonde hair and saucer sky blue eyes that could switch from intense to sparkling in a snap.

I remember the serious eyes waking me one morning when I felt them inches from my face. “Mom,” he whispered, “Are you awake?” I opened one eye to meet his, his face barely the height of my bed.

“I guess I am,” I mumbled.

“Are you eighteen?” he asked; chin low and big eyes looking up through the bowl cut bangs.

“Yes.” I answered. “Just eighteen,” I lied.

“Good, this man wants to talk to you.” he pushed the phone to my ear. My three and a half year old, take charge guy had called the 800 number on the television commercial to order himself ‘Little Bear.’ “He said you have to be eighteen,” he explained head bent and nodding.

Trevor saw no need to depend on anyone and handled obstacles easily. Several months prior, while waiting to see his older brother off to kindergarten, Trevor heard my neighbor and I discuss the speed of the construction trucks passing by our house and both vowed to make a police report. Shortly after, while doing the breakfast dishes, my little man appeared, phone in hand, “Mom, the police want to talk to you. I told them about the trucks.” He held the phone forward, brows pulled together, proud of himself for calling 911.

In spite of being ever-ready to be a grown up, Trevor has always been kind and thoughtful of others, particularly me. His older brother was turning six and was beginning to let me know that I was not to kiss him in public and that he wasn’t a little kid anymore. I had read a book called Raising Sons and knew that this was a natural progression; a necessary step for boys in the process of becoming men. The author described an imaginary bridge that must be crossed and in order to be ready for that, a boy needs to come out from beneath his mother's wing; separating himself from her in order to make the slow journey across the bridge . I was prepared for this separation, but did not anticipate it happening so soon. My oldest was wiggling out with exuberence. One day I blurted out loud in exasperation, “Oh my goodness he’s crossing the bridge!”

“What bridge Mom?” Trevor asked, climbing up onto the bottom of my bed.

“The man bridge, honey,” I said, feeling his sweet concern.

“Am I gonna cross the man bridge, too?” he asked, trying to mask eager delight.

“No!” I answered dramatically, “I won’t let you go. Not for a long time!”

Trevor lifted his eyes with serious eyebrows, and then sparkled into a smile.

“I know! You can come with me!”

“Oh no pal, it’s not allowed,” I said, worrying that I was creating male identity problems. “When it’s time for you to cross, you will be ready and so will I. I’ll wave to you from here,” I smiled, waving.

“Mom,” Trevor said in a big deep voice, sounding like Froggy on The Little Rascals.

“Oh no! You crossed the bridge!”

“Just kidding,” Trevor giggled and rolled on the bed delighted.

“Mom,” Froggy voice.

“Oh no!” I moaned, hand to my cheek.

“Just kidding!” he teased. Melting softly, Trevor touched my arm, “When I cross the bridge Mom, I’ll come back over to visit you, OK?”

“Thanks Trev,” I kissed the top of his head. A smile spread across his lips and off he ran.

I sit now on the edge of the bed, looking at the same little boy, well on his way across and close to the threshold of manhood. True to his word, I know that I am tucking in a little visit from the far side of the bridge.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I’m not really a fan of New Year’s Eve. Very few of them, other than my husband’s marriage proposal, were monumentally memorable. For some reason, I have always felt like an outsider looking in.

As a child, I remember some house parties that my parents had; loud and crowded in the days when everyone, except my mother, smoked. The smell of cigarettes and the sound of laughter were irresistible lures to sneak peeks of the goings on from our banished bedroom prisons.

Throughout high school, babysitting offered a different outsider view. Grown-up couples, adorned in their slickest eveningwear left with hurried instruction, taking the excitement out into the night with them. Alone with sleeping children, it was me and the TV, observing celebrations around the globe, culminating of course with Time Square, Dick Clark and ball-dropping kisses between happy beautiful people.

By the time I was in college, I had taken waitress work to help pay my way and New Year’s Eve was, of course, big bucks. This view was almost like being actually “in” the celebration; certainly closer than smoky cracks in the bedroom door or the 2 dimensional view of the television; 3 D live people in their finery, laughing and toasting at my fingertips. Adorned with apron, a tray and a pocket full of money, it served as a decent passage of old year to new. But still, the feeling of being just over the threshold of insider lingered.

I do remember a black velvet, dance-all-night evening while dating my husband, followed the next year by a house party with good friends, good champagne, and a confetti strewn, one-kneed marriage proposal at midnight; I was indeed ‘inside’ the celebration. The eighteen years between then and now have seen the tamer side of the Holiday. There was the pregnant year, the new baby year, another pregnant year… and house parties that ranged from racy to reserved.

Having children led me out of the 9-5 business world and back to waitressing and therefore, New Year’s Eve droned on year after year as a lucrative, unceremonious work event. In the restaurant business, it is known as amateur night; people paying too much for too little and trying too hard to appear happy. As an adult viewing closely from the outside, it was nowhere that I wanted to be. Dining rooms were filled with people, often out because they were supposed to be, complaining of waiting too long and allowing their unhappiness to push through the make-up and jewelry. I was cynically happy not to be among them.

Last year was my first New Year’s Eve home in many years. We dined quietly on exquisite food with only a few visitors and whooped it up with our children at midnight. I’d be quite content with that celebration from year to year, but 2006 held more in store for me.

My husband’s territory as a regional manager includes the casinos; big accounts with big expectations. It was where we were expected to be on this most celebrated of evenings. It is not my cup of tea. Still, in spite of the hundreds of reasons I thought of not to go, dinner in one of the restaurants and a VIP table at their finest nightclub was the plan.

My first obstacle was deciding what to wear. The casino is a catch all from Salvation Army to Ultra tacky; from jeans to jackets and in no way measure of a dress code. The restaurant was casual, the nightclub… well, a nightclub. “You know, nightclub dress,” answered my husband.

“Actually, no I don’t know, as the last nightclub I recall was before we were married.” I pointed out to Mr. Business traveler.

“You know… sexy… night club.” I looked in the mirror and realized that ‘sexy’ was not an adjective that I could apply to my body this particular year and added a mental note to boost diet and exercise to # 1 and 2 instead of #5 and 6 on the resolution list.

Settling on a black sequin jacket and a pair of slimming black pants, I reviewed once again the instructions for the evening with my kids. My oldest chided me with mumblings of the ‘gynourmous’ house party he had pending (at my house) and I carefully put all systems in place. The youngest would judge the elders on who was the kindest sister-sitter (to whom there would be a monetary award.) The middle child was secretly told that he was actually in charge and being paid to report any indiscretions or un-authorized visitors. The eldest was once again warned the old people in the neighborhood had nothing to do but watch our house.

I suppose if you believe that we attract what we put out, I fully deserved the evening at hand. My first worry was the potential drunk drivers and the hour to and from our destination. My second worry settled in as the casino property loomed on the horizon. At least one hundred thousand people clamored into the glowing oasis for an evening of indulgence; drinking, gambling, and wild behavior; the perfect target for a terrorist attack. Yes, chemicals would surely be released into the ventilators at midnight and this potentially the end for me. I mentally added #3 to my resolution list; to stop watching realistic fiction on television

After circling the parking lot for forty minutes and following anyone possibly leaving like obvious stalkers, we squeezed into a spot on the roof top; the farthest spot from the action and the last to make it out in the event of a hurried evacuation. My paranoia heightened as we entered the building and I noted the absolute lack of security of any kind. I refused to allow myself to start looking for bulky jackets or unattended suitcases and called my children to change the pace of my insanity.

“Just calling to say we are here and that I’ll check in with you guys now and then, since it is loud and I may not hear my phone ring!” I bubbled enthusiastically.

“Mom, I think I’m going to throw up.” my little one whimpered. I instructed her brother on what to do and who to call if the dreaded feeling turned to reality and promised to call back soon.

After passing through a sea of people in the smoky, clanging, humming, flashing and endless circle of gambling, we arrived at the restaurant to meet my husband’s colleague and wife. The restaurant, a steakhouse, was the finest on the property and I was relieved to be in a more comfortable environment. I checked in one more time with my children before the four of us were ushered to our table, only to learn that the little one’s tummy had recovered and the dog had diarrhea on the rug. I made a note not to check back again until after dinner.

The food, wine and conversation were fulfilling and I had relaxed about having to spend this evening out. That is, until I made a trip to the ladies room. Somewhere during our two and a half hours at the table, the crowd had transformed. There was, of course, a line in the ladies room, but with three stalls serving two large dining rooms, this would be expected even on a typical day. I was only 5th or 6th in line and settled in to wait, taking in the sights around me. It seems the girls had all either ripped their shirts or had forgotten some portion of their attire as their tops were all open to their navels and a slight bend left or right resulted in an instant wardrobe malfunction. Perhaps that was the function? Breasts were falling out everywhere!

The girl in front of me in line had slowly sunken down to her knees and was in what looked like a head down prayer position. She spoke in drunkeneese, explaining to her breast-flashing counter part that she had only had a half of a ham sandwich and four martinis. I wondered who would try to balance 4 martinis with half a sandwich and prayed that she wouldn’t get sick right there in front of me. After all, I was enjoying being one hour away from the vomit and diarrhea scene at home.

Eventually, it was her turn for the bathroom and she made her way with no less effort than a pin ball in a machine, bouncing from sink to wall to friend and eventually landing in the stall. I was so fixated on the scene in front of me that I had not realized that guys had entered the ladies room. “Anyone want to use the men’s room, we’ll hold the door!” I looked down at my sequin jacket to reassure myself that I had not time-warped back to college.

Back at the table, we relinquished plates full of fabulous food to the waitress, unable to eat anymore. I regretted not being able to take the beautiful steaks home to my bottomless teenagers, but realized that hauling bags of meat to a fancy VIP nightclub table probably broke an etiquette rule. We paid the $500 dinner tab, making me wonder if bags of meat would really be so bad in a nightclub, and swiftly exited at 11:40 to our final destination.

Approaching the nightclub, men looking like secret service waited at the end of a long, red glowing hallway, talking quietly into headphones. Our VIP status came from my husband’s company spending an enormous amount of money to secure one of these special tables, held for celebrities and high rollers. Head nods and escorts, as if we were famous brought us to the place where one year would flip to the next. I knew immediately that I was in trouble as I did not know sign language, and only a deaf person with those skills would have communication abilities here.

The music pounded so loud and hard that my eyeballs vibrated in my head. It took a while before I could even attach a tune to the pounding. My attire, which went from overdressed in the casino to sophisticated in the restaurant, suddenly morphed to ‘over dressed’ in a different way. Clearly I had on way too many clothes to fit in. In fact, the breast flashers in the restaurant bathroom were too modesty dressed. I was instantly glad I did not search for ‘sexy’ in my own closet. It would not have held up here.

As we followed our guide, I was hoping that the VIP table would be in some magically quieter part of the club, but to my shock and dismay, the special tables were located on platforms in the four corners of the dance floor. On these platforms were low bench style couches with tiny tables all snugly nestled around, oh yes, the speakers! These were not ordinary speakers, they dwarfed my kitchen island! In fact, the speakers doubled as little dancing stages were girls randomly came up and gyrated on the six inch, strappy sandals that connected their long legs to their bodies. These were not hired dancers; merely girls out on the town having fun! I must say, the view from the couches left nothing to the imagination. While the girls shook and thrusted and caressed themselves to the music, cameras filmed them and projected their images to a giant screen just above the DJs head; drunken moments of fame.

My husband’s mouth moved and I knew that meant he was talking to me, but making sound of any kind was not possible, so I sat on the couch wondering if I could ask the DJ to turn it down just a little. Champagne was poured and my husband made a second attempt to communicate, this time pulling his head close to mine. I shrugged as if to say I can’t hear you, so he leaned in to my ear and yelled again, this time, not only could I not make out the words, but I was sure my left eardrum was perforated.

Finally, he made some dance moves and pointed to the dance floor which was packed body to body with twenty-five-year-olds. I squinted my eyes in the strobe lights and shook my head no. Through a combination of charades and lip reading, he managed to ask me if I was “old.” I looked at the bottle on the table and wondered if there was enough in there to make any of this seem normal. I opted for the “When in Rome” plan and I tossed back my little glass of champagne and hit the dance floor. The DJ played snippets of retro music between the vulgar contemporary noises. My hearing had finally been damaged enough to make out the words and to even recognize some music from back in the day.

“I wear my sun glasses at night” pulsed through the speakers as my husband made his fingers into upside down circles across his face, earnestly attempting every corny passé dance move ever known as if to intentionally add to the outrageousness. Before long, but not soon enough, it came time for the countdown. I know this only because the numbers were flashing on the screen where the dancing girls had been. I wondered if this is when the nerve gas would come through the vents and wished I was anywhere but there. Just for fun, I clicked my heels together and yelled ‘there’s no place like home!’ No one even noticed, proof positive that we were light years from reality.

The music continued to pound, no Old Langsyne in the house, and dancing and kissing blended into one big throbbing blur. I fought my way to the bathroom, warding off a couple of charade like pick up lines, proving that it was far too dark and drunk in there. I would have lectured the young men that I was old enough to be their mother, but they wouldn’t have heard me.

Back at the VIP couch, I looked at my cell phone and noticed that the kids had called several times. I knew there was no way to call them back, but decided this was as good a time as any to learn how to send a text message. It’s a tricky process to get a whole message typed in there, particularly in a dark and vibrating room, and after I had mine completed, I pressed the wrong button and deleted it. I had endured one hour of madness and finally realized that there was not enough champagne in the building to turn this around. I handed my husband his jacket and headed for the door.

Outside in the casino, I welcomed the smoky air and noticed that I could no longer hear the humming and clanging. I dialed home, but could not hear if anyone answered so I left what may have been a message. In the car, I realized that there were a million crickets chirping loudly in my head. I carefully watched for evidence of drunk drivers and pointed out to my husband every time the speedometer register over 65, although in the blissful state of deafness, I’m sure he did not hear me.

When I awoke in the morning, the crickets were still chirping in my head. “Happy New Year,” my husband said rolling in my direction, “Can you hear me now?”

“Crystal clear,” I answered, “and yes, Sir Dancealot, apparently I am old.”

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Our children are all gifted with different abilities, different drive and different motivation. Our job is to help them discover their potential and the opportunities afforded them. In this country, the opportunities are abundant. We want to give our children everything they need to be happy and successful.

Living in a town of affluence has offered numerous teachable moments to me. It seems that every day, another massive home is erected, another hummer in the driveway. My children have, on many occasions, inquired as to why their friends have this or that and they don’t; seeing life as ‘not fair.’ My answer is always the same; it depends on which shoulder you look over. Look over this one, and it appears as though you have been short changed, but glance over the other one and see the child who is hungry, friendless or afflicted with and illness, and suddenly you feel rich.

This morning, I watched as 152 girls who had endured unspeakable childhoods were handed an opportunity; one that our children have as a right. A television interview aired displaying the opening of the Oprah Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. 152 girls ages 11 and 12 crossed the threshold to a new life, a chance, a dream. The faces of these children were remarkable to me. Their lives had consisted of rapes, beatings, losses, hunger and poverty. Many had lost their parents. Many had seen the ugliest side of humanity. And yet, instead of feeling defeated and hopeless, they excelled. These girls had been chosen as leaders; survivors of the unspeakable.

Before the Academy and in spite of their circumstances, they diligently committed to themselves and to their future by excelling in their schools. Some were beaten daily by peers for their accomplishments. Some started and ended each day hungry and slept each night on the floor. Instead of allowing their lights to be extinguished, they somehow burned brighter. Each of them embodied a spirit so strong and rooted in faith; it shone through the dimmest of circumstances. It is remarkably similar to the light that emerged from the lowest of birthplaces; a smelly dirty stable that brought forth hope and truth.

They stood and spoke at the opening ceremony about commitment, hard work and gratitude. They smiled and laughed and showed no signs of the difficult lives and sadness they had known.

When asked what their favorite song was, they unanimously agreed on a song called “Hold On.” It is a song about how to hold onto Jesus when the times are tough. My daughter and I sat glued to the television as the school bus in front of our house came and went. We talked about her “choice” of breakfast and of which pair of shoes to wear and how these girls were lucky if they had any food or shoes at all.

On the drive to school, we talked about the little girl whose home was shown in the interview. It was clear that she was immeasurably grateful to have food and a bed and a chance to learn. She was given the opportunity to take everything God gave her and put it to work and was eager and committed to be the best person she could be. I said that I was sure that because she was given a chance, she was going to make something of her life.

“Wow,” Cadence said staring out the window, “kids here have that chance every day and they don’t even take it.”

Perhaps the difference is that we don’t have to search for opportunities; they are so prevalent and so large that we don’t even see them. In the darkest of places, living means burning as brightly as you can to stay alive and the light of survival is strong.

“I’m going to take all of my chances Mom and be the best I can be!” Cadence said as she closed the van door with a wink and a thumbs up.

Thank you, Oprah, for your compassionate work.

Thank you girls for your light, shining all the way to my daughter.