New Christmas China Sets The Table For Better Times Ahead

New Christmas China Sets The Table For Better Times Ahead

Sometimes you just can’t fake happy.

You’ve suffered a loss that’s just too big.

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A friend reminded me of that this week.

Got me thinking back to a time a few years back when my best lady friends were gathered around a dining room table celebrating my birthday.

As often happens, we each went around sharing updates on our lives.

“Taking a trip to France this summer,” Tricia beamed.

“New job is going great,” Kim shared.

Yeah, we’re a pretty upbeat bunch.

Admittedly, all the “up” can be a bit much.

Which leads me to Gracie and her turn.

“I’m bitter!” she announced bringing our positivity to an abrupt halt.

In truth, I think she scowled, “I’m #%(#$ bitter!” But I’ll clean the story up for purposes of sharing in this family newspaper.

“Henry got the Christmas China.”

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“Henry,” we knew was Gracie’s soon-to-be ex-husband. The cheating spouse who managed to break her heart and finances.

Talk about talent.

“The house, the 401K, the boat,” I was willing to let all of it go,” she shared. “But the Christmas China? The #(#*%* Christmas China? I loved those dishes!”

I had to go look up, “Spode Christmas China” to appreciate the beauty of the white plates with Christmas trees on the front. Apparently, this is a big thing to a lot of folks come holiday time. Certainly, was to Gracie.

Fast forward a few months, my friend, Dana, who was also at that party, but knows Gracie only casually through me, got a call from her mother who was working her way around an antique store in a small Tennessee town.

“Dana,” she said in her Southern drawl, “They have the most beautiful set of Spode Christmas China for a really great price. I thought you might like a set.”

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Dana’s heart lit up like a Christmas tree.

“Whatever you do, buy that China right away!” Dana told her mother.

It was April by the time that China made its way from Tennessee to Dana to Gracie.

First thing she did was set out the plates on the wobbly table in her small apartment.

“These are the most beautiful dishes I’ve ever seen,” Gracie squealed. “The pattern is even prettier than the dishes I lost and this set has more pieces!”

Don’t you know those dishes sat out on Gracie’s table for that entire year.

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“Because I can,” she exhaled.

I believe they were the first ray of sunshine in one of the darkest chapters of Gracie’s life. When she had to rebuild her life, her heart, her finances, her home.

I shared the story of the Christmas China the other day with a friend who is suffering a new loss.

She can’t fake happy right now.

But she loved Gracie’s story.

Gracie, who is now married to an awesome guy.

We raised a toast to friends who give us a moment to be bitter.

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Who call in small miracles to help us fill in our empty spaces.

To hope.

And of course, to Christmas China.

Find more uplifting stories on my website,

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

So, I Broke Up With The ‘What If?’s’

So, I Broke Up With The ‘What If?’s’

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We had a crisis in our house this week.

As are most crises with teenagers—

This one was astronomical.



It involved,

Get ready.

It’s big.

Our daughter losing her cell phone.

Yes, I know.

International relief funds have been started over tragedies smaller than this.

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“I think I left it behind at school,” she explained in a panic while using someone else’s phone. “I couldn’t go back and check or I’d miss the bus home.”

You can imagine how this crisis set the table for dinner conversation.

“Surely someone stole it,” she and my husband believed.

“Maybe a good person picked it up and is holding it for you for tomorrow,” I offered.

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Multiple eye rolls were my only payment for offering the possibility of well,


As my daughter’s stress level continued to rise, I detected teachable moment.

The question is “What do you do with The Wait?

Dear Reader, what do you do with your Wait?

That time between now and seeing how something turns out.

Before you get the medical tests back?

Before you find out if you got the job?

Before you know if he will call for a second date?

“I’m going to believe in the good person theory,” I told my daughter.

“But, how do you know?” she doubted my optimism.

“I don’t,” I admitted. “But I also don’t know that your phone was stolen. Once you’ve done everything you can, the only thing you can control is how much time you spend looping the bad possibilities over and over again in your head.”

She shrugged her doubting shoulders.

Within the hour of dropping her off at the school bus the next day, I felt my cell phone buzzing in the pocket of my worn sweatpants.

I couldn’t help but smile at the caller ID.

My daughter’s name was flashing on the screen.

“I got my phone back!” she screamed. “You were right! One of the security guards locked it up for the night. That’s why no one answered when I tried to call it or use the tracking app!”

Score one for the good guys.

I can only hope Daughter took note.

Sure, I know the news won’t always be good at the end of an anticipated wait.

And I’ve certainly tortured myself enough times with dreadful “What If’s.”

You, too?

These days, the ‘What If’s’ and I are broken up.

I’m not some evolved spiritual being.

More like a little worn down, broken in.

The journalist in me likes to do an inventory of the facts I actually know.

It’s usually not much.

There’s usually more “What If’s” trying to bang around my head than actual facts.

So what if good guys won’t always win?

There’s plenty of time to deal with muck once I know an actual outcome.

Meanwhile, it sure is nicer to hang out with hope in my head.

That is how I wait.

How about you?

Better to leave me a comment here.

Y’know, just in case I lose my phone.

Find more uplifting stories on my website,

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

I Took My Mother For A Dose of Poison

I Took My Mother For A Dose of Poison

My tiny spitfire of a mother, who by all accounts, is one-of-kind.
My tiny spitfire of a mother, who by all accounts, is one-of-kind.

I took my mother for a large dose of poison last week.

Sound crazy?

It gets crazier.

I actually did it two days in a row.

That double dose of poison is a gift. I’m so thankful to have access to pump it throughout her body.

What kind of daughter does such a thing?

The kind that’s hoping to save her mother’s life.

I shared last week, Dear Reader, how my mother has been diagnosed with lymphoma.

The poison I’m talking about are the drugs that make up her chemotherapy.

The things it might do to her body certainly gave me pause.

“As we start administering the drugs,” the nurse explained, you might get violent shakes, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate.”

She brought home her point by gowning up and double-gloving as she spoke.

The same poison that threatened to throw my mother’s body into spasms is also the best bet to slam the lymphoma into remission.

And so I took my mother for poison.

Tiny tough mom saying, "Bring it on!"
Tiny tough mom saying, “Bring it on!”

It’s possible you’ve done some done something like this, too, Dear Reader.

You suspend logic when something is too big, weird, scary and counter-intuitive to wrap your head around it.

Take your tiny baby to the pediatrician and watch her scream as the doctor plunges shots into her perfectly plump, squishy thighs.

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Drop your dog off at the vet for surgery to get him neutered. (I’ve yet to meet a man who doesn’t cringe at that idea.)

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Leave the love of your life because you know,  ultimately, you two will be toxic together.

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How do you it?

How did I do it?

I think it comes down to one word.


Hope that you’re headed to a better place than here.

Hope that your dog will lead a healthier life once he’s healed.

Hope that your child will have a lifetime of protection from terrible diseases long after her tears have dried.

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Hope that a healthier, better relationship awaits you once your shattered heart pieces back together.

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Hope that my mother’s lymphoma responds to the chemotherapy.

“We don’t talk cure,” the doctor explained realistically this week. “We go for remission that can last 10-20 years.”

At 78, that’s a place my mother would love to get to.

Amazingly, Mom didn’t experience a single one of the side effects the doctors and nurses warned her about.

Still, I was glad to be by her side for this first go round.

She should be in the clear until her next treatment 28 days from now.

Which means, 26 days from now I’ll get back in a metal tube and fly 35,000 feet in the sky to be by her side again.

Talk about crazy!

Here’s hoping Round Two goes as smoothly.

I’d love to hear your story, how you suspended logic to get you or a loved one to a better place.

I’ll share the stories with Mom as we pass the hours dripping that beloved poison into her body.

Find more uplifting stories on my website,

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.