That Mom

Standing at the counter signing her child into the Mother’s Day out program my daughter Sharon met a flustered mom who declared, “I’m sorry my daughter looks like a mess. She slept in until 8:15. We had to hurry, so I did not get her clothes ironed before she came. Today I am That Mom.”

The child’s clean, frilly cotton shirt had a couple wrinkles, but no big deal.

Sharon silently laughed. She is That Mom all the time. If she purchases clothes from the thrift store that need ironing, she donates them back. She never irons.

Other moms post pictures of children in “mismatched” and label themselves That Mom for allowing it this time. Sharon prefers being That Mom who lets her children choose their clothes, dress themselves and save her time every day.

For Sharon the That Mom label was an insult. It said, “If you do not iron, then you do not have it all together and you have low standards for your children.”

The That Mom label just depends on perspective. After spending three years of fussing about everything, Sharon realized, “I was That Mom who had to have it all together and my child had to meet every growth point. It frustrated us. I quit. I am That Mom who does not insist that her children be in every activity, but reads books to them every day.”

“I am That Mom who is not worried about kid soccer teams. I do not let others set my standards or dictate how I parent. For me, That Mom dusts the base boards, is never frazzled, has everything tucked in, matched and a bow on top. That Mom lives a Pinterest perfect life.”

“I’m fine with being That Mom: the one with low standards; who does not iron and lets kids dress themselves. I am That Mom who lets her kids learn and do in the kitchen, even if the food looks a mess.”

Sharon remembers her years of perfect parenting. “There was always a schedule of what people said we should be doing. I was over stressed until I realized my child would not fit the square hole, and we would have to find the shape of hole that fit.”

“Different moms have different standards. It is okay to be the mom who has it all together or the one who does not.”

“That other mom’s words said I fell below her standard. They also conveyed to her child, ‘you are not enough today because I did not have time to iron.’ She sets a standard her daughter may not be able to meet in the future.”

During a course on family finances, a friend exclaimed, “I have been lied to my whole life. I don’t have to own and do certain things. I don’t have to keep up. My kids don’t have to be in every sport.” The insight gave her financial freedom.

“If I had been newer as a parent, when I heard the mom at MDO,” Sharon said, “I could have been heart broken and wondered, ‘What is wrong with me?’ Today I know nothing is wrong with me. If you like to iron, go for it, but that does not make you a better mom. Just like I’m not a better mom for allowing my kids to make giant messes.”

These days Sharon prefers to ask “Is this going to matter in 30 years? Will my kid need counseling because I did not iron his shirt? Will my actions point him to Christ, or help him be a light in a dark world? That’s what is important, not the freshly ironed shirt.”

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Red Neck Christmas and more

Some events hubby begs to attend such as the Finney’s Christmas Wonderland in Crossett and the Red Neck Parade in Monroe, La. He found both while surfing the Internet. I agreed to go if we could check off items on our ‘to do list’ while near each.
Tuesday, a few friends accompanied us to Finney’s and exclaimed many times, “Oh look over here …” as we traveled down the lane of brightly lit displays. In 2015 the Finneys won the ABC light show contest. The 20 minute drive begins with lights announcing, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Nativity scenes, wooden cut-outs spell the names of Christ from Isaiah, enlarged Bible passages cover Christ’s birth, and angels high in the trees reiterate the theme. In between we looked fast to see the winter wonderland light show with elves, a train, snowmen, merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, decorated trees, a tunnel of lights, reindeer, huge snow globes and projected light shows. Definitely worth the drive.
Saturday, we checked off the last item on the ‘to do’ list and lined up along the four lane highway to watch the Bawcomville Red Neck Parade. We stood beside young parents and lots of little girls with pig tails wearing summer clothes. The sun shone bright as police cars cleared the street. Most of the parade watchers carried a flimsy shopping bag, sturdy orange bucket from Halloween or a stiff paper Christmas bag to carry parade throws.
Being in competition with pre-schoolers on either side of us, only a few parade folks tossed things our way. One took pity, “this is for Grandpa.” and tossed him a bundle that proved to be a black, slightly used polo t-shirt, in his size. Guys on the mud spattered four-wheelers and jeeps flung us paper wrapped candies. A girl sitting high up in the truck cab tossed us a plastic ball. A package of Ramen Noodles came out of a four-wheeler jacked up a couple extra feet. The man tossing toilet paper, unwrapped each package, loosened the end and then hefted it our way. His vehicle trailed streams of snagged TP. Someone sitting on a plaid covered couch tossed us an individual serving box of Frosted Mini-wheats. When the lady on the plain wooden float motioned, I walked over and she handed me canned fruit. Not something I wanted flying through the air at me. With few decorations, no costumed riders or fancy floats, recycled beads, past freshness dates on some sweet rolls, this event met expectations for its title “Red Neck Parade”. Horses announced the end of the parade and the surge of a couple miles of cars caught behind the parade.
We gathered up our haul and prepared to go home. “Next week is that live display of the ‘Streets of Bethlehem’ at the mall,” my ever eager travel companion said. I googled the event. Wrong. It started in a couple hours.
We went to lunch and then to the mall where first we heard the singing of a group of Baptists before we saw them dressed in robes, sandals and head cloths. The merchants of the re-enactment of the first Christmas town eagerly told us, “a baby was born in the stable of the inn.” We wandered the streets where a carpenter made holes using a primitive wood drill, the money changers guarded their coins and sellers offered live donkeys, goats and birds .
And then our energy and enthusiasm faltered. We had seen and checked it all off our lists. It was time to drive home, flop into grandpas’ lounge chairs and take a nap. So we did.
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Yes, kids can help in the kitchen

Toddlers want to help. Often they can only use plastic toys as my Pennsylvania toddler did. She filled her arms with leaves to place in her plastic wheelbarrow to carry to her dad’s leaf pile.

Last week, Katie, 2, begged, “Can I help?” Her mom handed her a cutting board, a paring knife, and a sliced apple, then took her picture for Facebook.

“We start them out early,” I commented.

“She was VERY eager to try this out. She did a great job! She cut up a whole apple into bite-sized pieces. No blood. No cuts, Just one proud little girl!” her mom responded.

Katie began helping last year. I snapped a picture of her carefully emptying a can of green beans into a glass dish before going to play. My daughter blames me for her cavalier attitude.

Guilty as charged. Years ago the father of seven and I were talking in the kitchen while I cut up food. His toddler joined us and wanted to help. I gave her a knife and food. She chopped confidently. Her momma came to the kitchen, saw her daughter, did a double take and gasped. The child blithely kept slicing food as Daddy watched.

I blame it on the caption under a picture caption of an Alaskan native child using a knife explaining that the culture believes reincarnation means children are born knowing how to handle a knife.

So of course, Katie chopped up an apple.

Actually, for centuries children have done more, much more. My brothers and cousins learned to drive a tractor long before the law allowed them to drive a car. The day they passed their written test, they drove home. I read books or fixed meals during hay season and skipped tractor driving. My dad did not realize it until I passed my written test and he motioned me to take the wheel, “Let’s go home.”

I looked at the clutch, the brake, the accelerator and the manual transmission. I looked at him. “What do I do first?”

He drove home. I learned to drive a manual transmission on steep farm hills before I drove back to town. I still would rather read than drive.

I missed early driving lessons, but I began sewing at 4. Mom gave me a large threaded needled, a handkerchief and said, “sew around the edge.”

I bent over my work and made looping stitches the along the edge until I ran out of thread. So, of course, I frequently offer a threaded needle, fabric and buttons to children, grandchildren and church kids. I know they will be okay, and their stitching skills will improve with practice.

I have only shocked a few adults with my blatant assumption – as my daughter did when she posted her picture of Katie earnestly bending over the knife. So young! Sharon shrugged it off, “She wanted to try when she saw her big sisters and brother (12, 9, 7) helping.”

Sharon will expect her to help prepare other meals. Just as I did when her friends visited. I did not realize they did not even know how to make Ramen noodles. They did after they met me.

I insisted all my children help when we lived too far away to join family for Thanksgiving. I assigned a dish to each child, “You make pumpkin pie. You have nut bread. You fix a salad. And, you stuff the bird.” My son is now boss of the bird.

From toddler to adult, every new skill gained increases their self-confidence and it begins when we find a way to let them help.

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Truman library and museum

At the end of the movie ‘Truman’, my husband and I agreed, “We must visit his library.” Recently we visited Independence, MO. the hometown of former President Harry Truman. We learned he claimed he read all the books in the library. As an adult he read five newspapers daily and read history and biographies prolifically. He spoke like the farm child he was – earthy and to the point. His reading and experiences directed his controversial decisions.

He saw the results of the severe disciplinary decisions against Germany after World War I. As president he laid the groundwork for lasting peace with the Marshal Plan to restore Europe and Japan. After WWII, returning African-American veterans were attacked. One veteran suffered a severe beating that blinded him. Truman took the one step he could to reduce racial tension: he integrated the military. As president at the end of WWII, Truman received reports about the Jewish holocaust. The day Israel declared itself a sovereign nation, he recognized it, even if it meant trouble with oil-rich Arabic nations. As a WWI veteran, Truman understood the military served under the president. As president, he pulled General MacArthur out of Korea when the general flaunted his commands as the nation’s commander-in-chief.

Due to his controversial decisions the democratic party split during the 1948 election. Lacking the full party’s support did not deter Truman. He campaigned extensively. Election night he listened to newscasts predicting he would lose. At 4 a.m. the Secret Service woke him to say he had won the electoral college. His popularity did not improve during the next four years. He left office with the lowest ranking in popularity of any president then and for decades afterwards.

His tenacity in the face of constant rejection began decades before when he courted Bess Wallace who rejected his initial marriage proposal. He called on her every week for nine years. Before he entered WWI as a 33 year-old, she finally agreed to marry him when he returned.

The brigade in France did not expect their new Captain Truman to last two weeks. Instead, he won their respect and lifelong friendship. No one died in battle under his leadership.

Truman considered himself an ordinary citizen who happened to become president. The guide at his home said, “His grandson did not know Harry had been president. He came home from first grade to ask his mother if it was true that his grandfather was president. She said, ‘Yes, he was. That just shows that anyone’s grandfather can become president.’”

After leaving the White House, Truman refused to demean the office and profit from his former position. He supervised the building of his library. He went to the finished library every day to work in his office and often told guests, “I’m the man.”

As we drove around Independence, we followed large signs marking the streets of Harry’s daily walk. We enjoyed a sundae in the Clinton Soda Shop where Harry had his first job as a soda jerk and bought Harry’s favorite orange flavored Polly’s Pop – a locally manufactured soda.

Bess and Harry never owned a home. They lived with her family and inherited a house from Bess’s mother who never approved of Truman. Our guide said, “At every dinner she sat at one end of the table and Truman at the other end. Perhaps they learned diplomacy.” His wife felt uncomfortable in the public eye and returned often to Independence and her mother.

We came, we saw and we returned eager to read more about the man who knew the reality of the sentence he popularized, “the buck stops here.”

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Tidy Willie

In every corner of the world ordinary folks quietly help where they can. At The Food Pantry at Southside Baptist Church one of those folks is Willie Lee Williams, 61, a man with a penchant for neatness. Clutter propels Willie into action. He must straighten any disarray.

“I am always straightening up things. I go to people’s houses, and sometimes they wonder what I be doing. I don’t tell them. I just start. I pick up the paper on the floor. I get the broom and start sweeping. I’m not meddling. That’s just who I am. I ain’t living dirty.” This is not something new. At 18, Willie joined the Texas Job Corps and spent three years cleaning houses. He knows it need to be done and says, “I don’t wait on nobody to do for me.”

Which is exactly what happened at The Food Pantry. He came, he saw, he straightened up things without being asked. He returned every time to help ‘Miss Linda’ keep the front room in order, “and the coffee pot drained,” one of the workers said with a smile. “And, I help keep the kids in line when they come,” Willie added. Miss Linda welcomed his help and gave him a worker’s badge to wear each Tuesday and Thursday during the food and clothing distributions.

“I clean at my church, too. I go early. About 9:30 before the people get there. I make sure the bathroom and everything is in order. I do all that before church. Then I go to church and listen to my preacher. Some take advantage. That is wrong. I just try to back off from them. I like people and I like to see people treat them right. I try to get along with people,” he said.

“My mother sure was nice. I kind of am like her. I hate to see somebody get hurt.” He paused, “I sure do miss my folks. We lived in Louisiana. There were four brothers older than me. They are all dead. I am the oldest boy living. I got a baby brother and sisters living. I been doing pretty good, the only thing that bothers me is my feet,” he announced.

In the past, Willie worked on factory lines at the GP paper factory and the chicken processing plant, did landscaping and as an employee at McDonald’s. His resume also includes a time of boxing professionally. That began after, “People talked to me about boxing, The next thing I know, I am going out to box at three or four schools. A man comes and wants to see me box. I boxed and won that fight and they take me to the rings. I was ’bout 25. I was called ‘Buck.’ I used to box in Little Rock in matches where people look at you. I won one. I knocked the person out. I never did get knocked out. I got a [boxing] trophy with a globe on top – about that tall,” he holds his hand a couple feet above the floor.

I had to quit boxing because of my feet.” He indicates the side of his foot inside a well worn sneaker with loose laces. “At night when I go to bed, I have pain. I don’t take no medications, no aspirin or nothing. Those feet are bad. It takes me 15 minutes to walk from home to here (The Food Pantry).” A place where he serves faithfully every week, using his bad feet and good attitude to do his part to help maintain order in his corner of the world.

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The dark and stormy night

It was a dark and stormy night with river levels rising rapidly. That night, 20 years ago, Enelda Cary and her husband went to Houston to meet her nephew flying into Houston from Panama. They expected to begin the drive home in the late afternoon. That was not to be due to a delay. “We got there in time, but the immigration took two hours. By the time they cleared him and we could leave, it was dark,” Enelda said.

“When we left the airport, we headed straight to Shreveport,” Enelda recalled. That plan fell apart at the Trinity River. A driver had landed in the river.

“She could not see that it was flooded,” Enelda said. It was that dark.

“We decided it was time to stop. We saw a post office. It was after hours so it was closed but the lobby was open and the parking lot filled with cars pulled over to wait out the storm.”

Enelda and her husband climbed out of the car and joined others inside the post office lobby to stretch and get out of the weather. “My nephew had not slept in two days. He decided to sleep in the passenger seat while we went in.”

Going inside offered little relief. “There were so many people there that we could hardly get in. Still we stood there for 45 minutes to an hour until somebody said. ‘I know how to get across the river. Follow me.’”

Nearly everyone followed him out of the lobby into the rain to their cars and down the road. “When we got close to the river there was a police blockade. We could not go on. The policeman sent us another way to higher ground where there were restaurants. We parked in the parking lot of a pizza place near the Mexican restaurant. The Mexican restaurant was open.”

“The staff were nice. They said, ‘We will serve as long as we have food.’ We had a good supper,” she recalled. The restaurant owners took food out of the freezer until they ran out of food. Still everyone stayed inside because the rain kept falling and the river kept rising. The manager said the women and children could sleep on the tables as long as there was room.”

The Carys chose to go back to their car to sleep and wait for the river levels to subside. Their nephew greeted them and said the wind had blown so hard that the car had been shaking.

Eventually they all settled down as best they could and slept for the rest of the night. “My husband slept behind the wheel. I went to sleep in the back seat. When we woke up, it was morning and almost everyone had gone,” Enelda recalled.

This time the Carys could cross the river and head to Shreveport. As they approached Minden they slowed in astonishment at the carnage they saw: roofs ripped off buildings, buildings with the top story removed, mattresses in trees and clothes strewn across the landscape. A tornado had hit during the night. That surprised the Carys. They had heard nothing about a tornado, only about flooded roads.

“If we had not been delayed by immigration we probably would have been there when the tornado came. We missed the tornado,” Enelda said still surprised 20 years later. The annoying, lengthy delay at the airport kept them at the airport. The rising river levels that dark and stormy night stopped their journey north and forced them off the road, safely away from the destructive path of the previous day’s tornado.

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Medical costs increased for a reason

Thirty-four years separate my son’s visits to the intensive care unit following severe head traumas. The difference between them underscores the reason for the rising cost of medical care.

As a pre-schooler my son landed in a plain room of an older hospital. The nurse opened the door and physically took his vital signs. He had a gastric tube, and that was it. The brain surgeon verified every day that his brain had not started to swell. I waited about a week for my son to open his eyes, make a sound or move.

By the end of the week, he was moved into the pediatric ward where he roused enough to pull out the feeding tube and pass a gag test. He sat in his high barred crib played, ate and identified objects. The doctor sent us home. During a follow-up visit, we talked about physical therapy to address the weakness on his left side. He went to a couple of sessions. The therapist showed me exercises to do at home, and that was it.

Fast forward 34 years, and my son again landed on his head. After our flight, we walked into a room filled with machines, tubes and monitors. He wore a neck brace, had a device to keep him breathing and a tube to deliver fluid to his stomach. The bed undulated to reduce bed sores. Monitors tracked his heart, lungs and brain. The surgeon had inserted a probe to detect any brain swelling. His nurse sat at a desk that looked directly at a wall of windows into his room and her other patients’. I could see her and indicate my concern if he needed her as he did during a choking spasm. I stood at his side and murmured, “breathe, breathe. Take it easy now, just breathe.” I indicated to the nurse that he needed her immediate attention. When she entered, I started to step back. She shook her head and said, “keep talking to him.” She worked on the equipment. I patted his arm and talked.

One afternoon the nurse extracted a sample of his stomach contents to assess the vigor of his digestive system. “We have to be sure that it is working before we put more in,” she explained.

One by one, items left the once crowded room: the neck brace went first, then the tube to keep his airways open and monitors for his heart and brain. Finally, he left the brain trauma ICU and went to a rehabilitation hospital where the staff tagged him as ‘at risk for falls.’ That meant he entered a room with a camping tent encapsulating his bed. The tent zipped shut to keep him safe. Before the technicians could get him settled in the bed, he stood up and promptly fell. Situated in a wheel chair with a restraining strap that clipped at the back, he reached behind and undid the clip. Fortunately, his brain soon woke up, and he could protect himself.

Good timing, too, because he began breathing heavily. He mentioned it. He called for help. He landed back in another ICU ward with blood clots in his lungs but a less intense level of monitoring.

Looking at the two head traumas, three decades apart, I quite understand why we see the increase in the cost of medical insurance. Besides staff, training and equipment, transforming an old hospital room into an ICU unit requires major reconstruction. A closed room will not do in this day of constant electronic monitoring.

Hopefully we will see a day when the two political parties put down their agendas for the good of the people and find an affordable solution to the current problems.

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The Jinx

The Jinx returned last week. Usually it catches me in restaurants. I go in, sit down, study the menu, order and the waitress tells me to try again. Either the cooks has nothing left to make that dish or it will take an extra 20 minutes to prepare it. Sometimes I receive the wrong order.

This time The Jinx met me at the hotel as it has at least once before. That time The Jinx appeared at the end of a long day of driving over cold, snowy roads. We pulled into a hotel. I shivered in the quickly cooling car while my husband registered. Key in hand, we slumped our way to our room, ready to crawl in bed to get warm.

We would have done just that if the room had had any heat. It didn’t. The electrical connection to the heating unit was gone. We couldn’t even call and talk with management because the wire to the phone had also been removed. Hubby trudged back to the office to complain while I waited and shivered.

The clerk apologized. He sent us to a wonderful, warm and welcoming room. Lovely, except from the moment we stepped in I began coughing and could not stop. My husband stood there holding the suitcases and watching in astonishment for the coughing fit to stop. It didn’t. That night I discovered a previously unrecognized sensitivity to cigarette smoke. (Not an allergy. In my family we do not allow anyone to be sick or have an allergy.) I blame the cough on reeking smell of cigarettes.

My coughing bothered my husband but the smell did not. However, being the gentleman that he was, he took us back to the office. He heard another apology and received a third set of keys this time to a clean, non-smoking room with a working heater and phone.

So last week when The Jinx returned to a hotel room, I recognized it immediately. Hubby, as always, verified our reservation at the front office. The clerk gave him a key card and instructions, “your room will be around the corner and up the stairs.”

He grabbed the suitcases while I collected smaller bags and walked up one flight of stairs to the room. I reached the room first. I slid the electronic key card into the slot and turned the handle. The door opened to reveal a lovely young woman sleeping in my bed. Well, not exactly sleeping. The astonished Goldilocks stared at me, gasped and swung her scantily clad self under the blankets of the mussed up bed as I yanked the door shut.

“There is somebody in this room,” I told my husband. He stopped and dropped the suitcases. “so I guess we need to go down and fix it?” I asked meaning him.

“No, you go.” he gasped. “Those steps have done me in.”

“Okay.” I swiftly found my way down to the office and explained the situation. The clerk apologized profusely, double checked the computer, shook her head and said, “I wonder who is in that room?”

I accepted the apology, smiled, shrugged and took our new set of key cards upstairs. I pointed my husband down a few doors to our new room. This time we entered a room designed for the hard of hearing. Press the doorbell and inside a special light flashed to alert the occupant. The walk-in shower came with a full contingent of handrails to stabilize weary old folks. We accepted the assistance. At our age, with The Jinx popping up unexpectedly, we need all the help we can get.

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Living with Miss Vivian


The lively discussion at the table halted when my son said, “That was when I lived with Vivian.” The nine-year-old’s eyes popped, “You lived with ..?”

He laughed and explained. “She was 89. I was driving Miss Daisy.”

“Driving Miss Daisy? Was her name Daisy?”

“No, that is the name of a movie where a man is hired to drive an older woman.”

She had never seen the movie. He tried again, “I was her escort. I paid $10 a week to live there. In exchange for the low rent, I drove her out to eat once a week, and she paid for my meal. I drove her to the hair dressers so she could keep her auburn locks.”

Miss Vivian and her second husband rented out apartments to students attending Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. After he died she cut back until she had two bedrooms upstairs that she opened to students for $10 a week with the understanding they would do a little house work and drive her.

Miss Vivian was born in 1910. Her father was one of the earliest to build refrigeration units in his area. He prospered and owned one of the first cars in their town. Sometimes she sang a song to my son from that era, ‘Take off your skin and dance around in your bones. She studied nursing at Northwestern in Chicago and worked there before she married. Usually nurses could not be married.’

My son reflected, “Miss Vivian was very proud of her ability to draw blood. She watched others and learned the techniques. She helped doctors deliver babies including home deliveries.”

“This was the era in Chicago of gangsters like Al Capone. One day Miss Vivian said that some men from a gang came to the hospital to let them know they needed a baby delivered. One of the gangsters’ girlfriends was about to have a baby. So Miss Vivian and the doctor climbed into their vehicle and raced after the gangsters as it drove through the maze of streets and alleys to the house.”

“When they walked in, everyone in the front room had a Tommy gun pointing at Miss Vivian and the doctor. The doctor said, ‘Put them down. We will do our business.’ And they did. Miss Vivian spread newspapers on the table and bed and told the men to get some water boiling. They delivered the baby, cleaned up and returned to the hospital. Later they returned for a routine check-up on the new mother and baby, but no one answered their knock. The house was completely shuttered. The curtains drawn. The door locked. No one was there.”

Miss Vivian continued to work as a nurse after she married until the day her husband gathered up all of her uniforms and burned them in the burning barrel. She never had any children. He was a sheriff and high up in the Democratic party in Chicago. She threw parties for him and the Democrats. He died of a heart attack after some 30 years of marriage. She then worked as a care taker for a married woman. By the time the ailing wife died, Miss Vivian had become part of the family and married the widower.

I lived with Miss Vivian three years. A couple other students lived with her after me. The last time I saw her, she was in a nursing home.” So, no one lives with Miss Vivian anymore, drives her around or listens to her stories of ‘back in the day’ but we all enjoy recalling our stories and memories of her.

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She chose shame and received pride


The inexplicable pain of loss came early to “Ann” (let’s call her). It came the day her mother left her family for another man. Ann and her brother went to live with their dad’s mother. Grandma raised her grandchildren as she had her eight children. They spent a lot of time in church. “They learned the fear of the Lord. They learned do not commit murder,” said Ann’s aunt.

Ann graduated from high school and joined her brother who lived near the university in the downstairs apartment of the home of their mother and step-father. Annie began college. Then she met a womanizer who seduced her, impregnated her and left her.

Young, single and still wanting to become a nurse, Ann fit all the usual reasons for taking advantage of legalized abortion including family pressure from her step-father. He did not want to shame his family with an unwed pregnancy. He pressed Ann’s mother to take her daughter in for an abortion.

Caught in the whirlwind of emotions, Ann talked with her brother about planned abortion.

Infuriated he responded, “You are not going to do that. Have you forgotten everything that Grandma taught us? What did you learn from church? You should not commit murder. If you do not want to have it. I will take care of it. You’re supposed to be a nurse. A nurse saves lives and takes care of children.”

Ann did remember Grandma’s early training. She resisted their step-father’s pressure. She kept her baby boy “Tom.” Ann’s extended family helped all they could. Her aunt took care of Tom one summer while Ann worked on finishing her degree. Finally, she received her diploma and license to be a nurse. Eventually, she married a faithful man and had more children. Like her grandmother, she insisted on church and the best from all her children.

Tom was an easy going child. He grew-up surrounded by love from his mother, his uncle and his extended family. He loved learning and exceeded in all of his studies. As he grew, so did Ann’s pride in her handsome, intelligent son who became the role model for the three younger children. He kept them on the straight and narrow just as his uncle had once done for his mother.

Tom brought great joy to Ann. She especially exploded with joy and pride the day the high school principal announced Tom as the valedictorian of his class. Everyone in his family wanted to celebrate his accomplishments. Family members flew across the country to attend his graduation. Even his grandmother who had urged terminating his pregnancy came. She cried all through the ceremony as she recalled wanting to terminate the life of this promising young man who brought so much pride to the family. (Tom’s step-grandfather did not go to the graduation and his birth father never knew him.)

“We all came to celebrate his accomplishments. We were so proud of him,” his aunt said.

His accomplishments included a full scholarship to a college in Boston where he received a degree in engineering. While still in college, Tom received and accepted a position in a large factory in Louisiana. He still works there. When he married, his family again came to celebrate. “It was a big, outside wedding in an exclusive place with a band playing music,” his aunt recalled.

Tom now has children of his own. All are doing well in school. Looking back, his aunt concluded that choosing life, even if it meant shame, has since brought Ann much pride from a son who has blessed her life in many ways.

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