For the Love of Chika

If you’re from Michigan, you know who Mitch Albom is. The same way you know Bob Seger, Vernors and how to pronounce Mackinac. Think Mitch, and a progression of thoughts come without trying. Freep. Sports. Columns. Morrie.

Inevitably, Tuesdays with Morrie.

After that it’s hard to know how much more explanation, if any, is needed. Recognition snowballs exponentially and he is The Writer So-and-So Loves. The Guy Whose Books Got Made Into the Movies. The One Who Writes What Everyone Reads.

And now, that list is forever topped:  Chika’s Dad.

Chika’s story wiJennifer Hambrick, Special to the Free Pressll take more than a few minutes to read. It will be time well spent, I promise. This story may will make you cry. But it is also filled with hope, life, love and joy. It will expand your definition of Family to include those who find their way into your life and your heart as a result of the most unlikely things. Like earthquakes and hospitals and princess dresses.

“And that,” Chika’s Dad says, “is how a family was born.”

A softer place to land

forget-me-notI don’t know Amy Young but I feel like I know her heart. I recognized it years ago when I read An open letter to pastors {A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day}.

It is one of the most inclusive, grace-filled places to land on Mother’s Day.

The subsequent letters, comments and resources provide a patchwork of support that covers, comforts and protects against the jagged edges that are still exposed for some on this second Sunday in May.

Ms. Young says, “I believe we can honor mothers without alienating others.” One of the  ways she suggests doing that is to

“Acknowledge the Wide Spectrum of Mothering.”

To those who gave birth this year to their first child – we celebrate with you.

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you.

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you.

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away— we mourn with you.

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you.

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you.

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you.

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you.

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience.

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst.

To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day.

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be.

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths.

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be – we grieve with you.

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you.

To those who placed children up for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart.

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising – we anticipate with you.

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo *


Every spring this tree near my mom’s house flashes its dazzling duality for all to see. I suspect the white was grafted onto the pink at some point and since I’m no genus genius, I arbitrarily call most pink flowering trees cherry blossom and most white flowering trees apple blossom. Maybe that makes this a chapple tree?

The way this tree is positioned in relation to my mom’s house means that when I drive up to her house, I see a white tree and when I drive away from her house I see a pink tree. It’s only when I stop (and block traffic like I did this day) that I can see “both” trees at once.

As stunning as this tree is every spring, it almost disappears later in the season. If the past is any indicator, a few weeks from now I’ll drive toward my mom’s house and maybe glance at the green tree. I’ll drive alongside it and possibly notice the green tree, and when I leave my mom’s house, my eyes might glance over and see the green tree. That’s what it’s reduced to. Just another green tree. All its showy WOW time was used just to come back to life from the dormant brown sticks it’d been for the last six months. It doesn’t really grab (or hold) my attention until it comes alive in April, belting out its beauty like Ethel Merman, in petals.

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Theory of Multiplication

When Harry Potter entered Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault in search of a horcrux, he found the vault under a “gemino curse” that multiplied everything he and others touched.

I purposely walked back into an old vault recently. No gold, but a lot of memories that seemed to multiply just as quickly.

My “vault” was a doctor’s office to which I was referred eight years ago. This doctor specializes in autoimmune issues, among other things. Being that I have an autoimmune disease, I was tested then for things like inflammation levels, clotting functions and various antibodies.

Indulge me in sharing a few basics on autoimmune. The immune system is designed to protect against antigens, or harmful substances, like bacteria, viruses, parasites, cancer cells. When a healthy immune system detects these foreign substances, it produces antibodies to destroy them.

When you have an autoimmune disorder, your immune system doesn’t distinguish between healthy and unhealthy cells. Consequently, the immune system can attack and destroy healthy cells, tissues and/or organs by mistake, as if they are invaders. Among the “invaders” a compromised immune system may attempt to destroy is fetal tissue.

Thus, my initial visit to this doctor. It was the last time I was pregnant, and the longest I had carried any of the babies. I was around 9 weeks when I saw this doctor.

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Good Grief

ohgoodgriefIt was always cute when Charlie Brown said it. Albeit in an exasperated sort of way. Maybe Lucy had just snatched the football away again. Perhaps Snoopy had taken on his Joe Cool alter ego. But whenever Charlie Brown was fed up, disgruntled or had it up to here (which, for him, is the curly cue of hair on his forehead) he would sigh and offer his all-purpose phrase.

The phrase itself seems harmless, carrying little more hostility than my go-to, “For crying out loud!”

Yet both are what’s known as minced oaths, a euphemism to avoid swearing. Specifically, to avoid breaking the third commandment. Because that’s what these phrases are. A veiled way to sanitize an expression that “takes the Lord’s name in vain.”

My “For crying out loud” is a sterilized version of “For Christ’s sake,” just as the innocuous “Gosh!” is an indirect way of saying “God” while Charlie Brown is actually saying, “Good God!”

Minced oaths aside, “good grief” seems almost as oxymoronic as “pretty ugly.” Yet the process of grieving is vital when reacting to and moving through pain and disappointment. When those disappointments include life-and-death pain, it becomes life-and-death necessary to grieve.

To deny the process of grieving serves not only to delay it but to prolong it. It’s like any open wound. Depending on the severity, grief can be deferred but it won’t be ignored and in some cases, it will get worse. Getting an infection in a cut on your finger hurts. Left untreated, all kinds of consequences can happen, from pain and infection to disability and amputation.

An “infection” of grief is usually infinitely more painful. Grief that is unrecognized and/or unresolved creates a systemic emotional toxin that can and eventually will affect every single aspect of life. Accepting the fact that grief is as necessary as breathing is the only way to begin the process of lasting healing.


That is the good in grief. It’s just that the good is mixed in – one tiny shard at a time – with all the other facets of grief. If grief is the haystack, good is the needle. It can be found, but first you must sort through all the tiny, individual pieces of grief. Pick them up one at a time, examine them, set them aside and then move on to the next.

Hint: the needle is always, always, always at the end. Gosh darnit.


Welcome to Five Minute Friday. A group of writers, five minutes, one writing prompt, zero editing. Just write. Join us! Today’s prompt:


[Way long. Lightly edited. Please forgive.]

 It’s probably my mindset but the word “crave” takes me straight to pregnancy. As in the stories we hear (or maybe experience) of 3 a.m. cravings for jalapeño poppers or salt and vinegar chips.

The only things I craved while pregnant were things I knew I wasn’t supposed to have, mostly coffee and diet Coke. Especially when my exhaustion seemed to know no bounds, I craved them even more just for their magical energizing powers. But of course the tradeoff was nothing compared to how much I wanted a healthy pregnancy.

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Posted in FMF

Electing to heal my heart

This week.


I cannot remember a crazier roller coaster ride in a very long time. Such hopeful highs and such crushing lows. Perhaps the election results thrilled you, left you in despair, or had little impact at all. For me – it has been a week. A year. An 18 months.

Watching the results that night, I could feel the tension building, sense the creaking car chugging up the completely exposed rails. It’s often the rhythmic click-click-click, as the ascent continues, that is the scariest. I may not have been on this exact ride before (who has? who could’ve ever imagined it?) but my gut has a growing sense of what’s coming. The free-fall that is about to happen. The floor that is about to drop out from under me. That’s when I start having the irrational yet still calm thoughts of, “I’d like to get out now, please.”

“Hello? Yes, please cancel my ride, I’ve changed my mind.”

Only no one is there, and the apex has been reached so there’s nowhere to go but down. Crashing down. And crash, I did.

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