Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Our trek to Africa yielded a multitude of animal encounters.  Our first experience was a trip to Lilayi Elephant Nursery where we saw the baby elephants fed.  They receive a giant baby bottle filled with a special formula every 3 hours.  It takes them about 90 seconds to consume it!  This orphanage—all the babies are rescues after their mothers had been killed by poachers— is one of the projects of the Game Rangers International, established with the intent to preserve wildlife and resources. 

The adventure we had at Victoria Falls probably warrants its own blog.  But I must include here the ginormous giraffe who nearly trampled us in its effort to reach a particularly appealing tree whose leaves apparently were irresistible.  I had no grasp of how large giraffes are.  The zebras were most fascinating to me.  They were everywhere at Avani where we were staying, grazing on the grounds, unperturbed by our presence, quite indifferent. 

My zebra fascination led me to explore further information when I returned.  Found throughout different regions of Africa, the three living species of zebra are the plains zebra, the mountain zebra, and the Grévy’s zebra. All three belong to the genus Equus, which also includes horses and donkeys.

The Grévy zebra, found only in Ethiopia and Kenya, is named for Jules Grévy, a 19th century French president who received one from Abyssinia as a gift. It is the largest of the three, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds. Plains zebras are a bit smaller, weighing up to 850 pounds. They have a range that extends from South Sudan and southern Ethiopia to northern portions of South Africa. The smallest species, the mountain zebra, weighs as much as 800 pounds and is found in South Africa, Namibia, and Angola.

The width and pattern of zebra stripes vary widely by species. The Grevy’s zebra has narrow vertical stripes covering its entire body, including its ears and mane. The striping pattern of the plains zebra varies by location; they have either black striping and a primarily white body color, or lighter, dark brown stripes overall. Mountain zebras have a white or off-white body color with black or deep brown body stripes that are spaced close together. They do not have stripes on their bellies, and those on their head and body are narrower than the ones on their rump. Even within each species, no two zebras have the same stripes; they are as unique as fingerprints.

Stay tuned for next blog for more on our African adventure!

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Zebras have been bred with horses and donkeys which results in zedonks, zorses and zonies….

*Zebra information obtained from Treehugger site. 


              We were not sure we were going to have the opportunity to be grandparents.  One after another of our friends heralded the birth of a grandchild, declaring the experience incomparable.  We became doubtful of ever belonging to the club of grandparents.  Not wanting to be intrusive, we avoided questioning Matt and Jenna about their “intentions.”  About the time I became reconciled to the notion of not becoming a grandparent, lo and behold, they announced they were pregnant!  Sebastian was born and we were bestowed the coveted titles of Nana and Papa!

              All that our friends had said was true.  Nothing compared to this blessing.  Over the next several years, Sebastian’s parents debated having another child.   If they chose to, this would be another “geriatric pregnancy,” a description not at all appreciated by Jenna!  And, indeed, when they did conceive again, it proved to be a most difficult and stressful period.  Some circumstances delayed their departure for their overseas assignment.  To keep the assignment, Matt had to go overseas for six week stretches.  Nana and Papa gladly stepped in to fill the gap.  But Sebastian was too young to comprehend what was happening.  He only knew his beloved Daddy was gone. And Mama’s schedule meant she left early and returned late. 

              As if that were not enough complications, Jenna had two deaths of loved ones in her father’s family that occurred over the course of her pregnancy.  She was eight months along when she attended the funeral of her stepbrother.  Sebastian became ill while she was gone.  She returned with the flu herself and had to be isolated from Sebastian and us to minimize exposure.  She coughed so much that she actually cracked ribs. 

              When she seemed stable, I had flew home, intending to return 10 days later for the expected birth.   But I was barely home before Terry  called to report that Jenna was put on bedrest, that her amniotic fluid was low.  I caught the next plane to return but by that time she had been hospitalized. She went into labor that lasted several excruciating days and included an episode where her blood pressure dropped so low she truly thought she was not going to survive.

              Matt arrived from overseas and was whisked from the airport to the hospital in time for the birth.  Gabriel arrived safely and has turned out to be a sunny little soul who adds immeasurably to the family.

              All this is to say:  we fly out Wednesday to visit these little tykes and their parents and Hope’s Café will be suspended until our return in June.  I took a hiatus when we moved to Montana but managed to get back to regular blogging when we got to town.  So I will look forward to being back online in mid-June, doubtless full of stories of SebnGabe!

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: “Your children are your rainbows and your grandchildren are your pot of gold.”—Unknown

 “Grandchildren: my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye.” – Unknown

“I wouldn’t change my grandchildren for the world.  But I wish I could change the world for my grandchildren.”—Unknown

Goals Versus Intentions

A church member, whom I encountered yesterday as he was out mowing his lawn and I was out walking, told me that his mother lived to 101 and that was his goal for himself.   He is 89,  maintains the home he and his wife shared before her death, gardens and generally stays active and involved in church, in the community, and with his family.

This gave me pause to think about several things.  I have an aunt who lived to 100, another who lived to 97.  It seems plausible that I might live into my nineties, perhaps to 100.  I don’t think of living to an old age as a goal for myself though.  However, I do think of staying as healthy as I can for as long as I can as a worthy intention.  So then I wondered what is really the difference between his goal and my intention.

My curiosity led me to read about the two. Goals can be described as destinations or specific external achievements in the future. Intentions are lived each day, and are about your values, about your relationship with yourself and others. The habitsforwellbeing website describes the difference as “goals are what you want to DO….intentions are about who you want to BE.”

 Goals have the potential to set one up in a win/lose mind set.  If I don’t lose 10 pounds in the next 30 days and I lose nary an ounce, have I failed?  If I set a goal to walk seven days a week and I walk four, have I failed? 

I would tend to describe this as friend versus foe.  Goals have the risk of making yourself a foe.  Intentions have the advantage of going about your life in a way that is more supportive to yourself, to how you live your life. 

From The Empowerment Dynamic website (Did you know that is what T.E.D. talks stand for??) :Focusing on intentions does not mean you give up your goals or desire to achieve.   Here are three differences between goals and intentions:

  1. Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.
  2. Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of achieving the goal or destination.
  3. Goals are external achievements. Intentions are about your relationship with yourself and others.

By setting your intention first, and combining it with goals, you will become a Creator who enjoys both the journey, as much as the destination.

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: “The journey towards your dreams begins with intention. Download Free Intention Setting Worksheet to Set Goals at>pin
P.S. This represents my 100th post in, begun 2 years ago this week!  It was not a goal to keep it going so much as it was an intention to pay more attention to my life, to what is happening around me and to how I am experiencing those things.  But I do take some pleasure in the fact that I have reached 100 posts. 😊

Hearts of Compassion

I met my husband Terry the year following his return from his second tour in Vietnam.  He had transferred from the graduate psychology program to the graduate school of social work where I was studying.  Our second year in school, he and I were in field placement together in the legal clinic program of the law school.  At the time I would have said I got to know him during that year.  I now recognize I got to know the part of himself he thought was presentable. 

My memories of Terry during that time are twofold and are opposite in nature.  I would often see him in the center of a crowd, keeping the group in stitches.  He could be very funny.  But a third person, Janet, shared our small office in the legal clinic. This young woman had gone through a pilot program where they allowed college grads to do an intense summer of study and then join the second year of social work training.  Quite rigid in her thinking, she tended to see single solutions, and sometimes quite extreme ideas to tackle problems.  I often felt like “The Peacemaker,” trying to maintain some  equilibrium in the space we shared.

In one particular episode, she had an elderly client assigned to her who was about to be evicted from her apartment because she had 27 cats she was unwilling to give up.  Our classmate’s recommendation was to euthanize the cats.  Terry was livid.  Understandably, he was concerned that Janet was not a good candidate for social work for a lot of reasons, to include a profound lack of empathy. But it seemed to me at the time that his reaction was over the top.   It is only in retrospect that I grasp what the killing of anything triggered for him emotionally. 

Fifteen years after graduation, Terry and I went on to marry, in the wake of our individual divorces.  But it was fourteen years after that, as our country went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq, that I gained some understanding of the depth of angst he carried after his experiences in Vietnam.  His PTSD symptoms began to erupt at that time, with a sleep disturbance that has never entirely resolved. 

Up until the Vietnam War Memorial was built, Terry kept a running  mental videotape of the men under his leadership who died, where they died, what were the circumstances.  In my work as a therapist, I ended up with some men in counseling after tours in Iraq.  One in particular shared how troubled he was that he found himself looking at people and imagining what they would look like dead.   We never know all that people carry within.  Sometimes we don’t even recognize all we carry within ourselves.  How important, how necessary, it is for us to offer compassion to those we encounter, as well as to ourselves. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: As Atticus Finch said in To Kill A Mockingbird: “First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Death Comes Calling

This week our friend Bruce contacted us to say his dear wife of thirty plus years had died suddenly the day before.  He didn’t give many details and when I offered our phone numbers to call us, he said he was just too broken right now. 

              The next night I got a call from a former member of the church I came from to accept the Montana pastorate.  He was calling from the hospital with seven blockages in his heart and awaiting surgery the next morning.  In such moments, it can seem like death is stalking you.

              The next day I got a text from a hospice chaplain that one of our church members who has long been in nursing home care was “imminent,” death expected within hours.  When I went to the nursing home, the woman had died not long before I arrived. 

              Somehow these events combined have weighed on me.  I came across the phrase in a poem “the obesity of grief.”  How descriptive of the heaviness, the immensity of loss. 

              Whenever I think of death or the inherent grief,  I think of the poet John O’Donohue, who spoke so eloquently and wisely about those experiences.  I share with you “For Death,” which he penned:

For Death

By John O’Donohue

“From the moment you were born,
your death has walked beside you.
Though it seldom shows its face,
you still feel its empty touch
when fear invades your life,
or what you love is lost
or inner damage is incurred…

Yet when destiny draws you
into these spaces of poverty,
and your heart stays generous
until some door opens into the light,
you are quietly befriending your death;
so that you will have no need to fear
when your time comes to turn and leave,

that the silent presence of your death
would call your life to attention,
wake you up to how scarce your time is
and to the urgency to become free
and equal to the call of your destiny.

That you would gather yourself
and decide carefully
how you now can live
the life you would love
to look back on
from your deathbed.”

May we indeed be called to attention, gather ourselves and decide carefully how we can live in this present moment.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  I once attended a workshop where we were instructed to imagine ourselves at 80. (Amazing how that doesn’t feel so very far away now. At the time I was 36).  We were to consider receiving some message, some wisdom, from our 80 year-old selves.  I remember the message I understood, both startling and comforting, was “Thank you for doing the things you needed to do so that I can look back on my life now with a sense of satisfaction and gratitude.”  I did and I can.


We had a lovely spring day…..and then winter returned with a vengeance.  Snow fell all night and most of the day. Easter plans began to fall apart.  A dinner engagement I had really looked forward to got postponed.  How, when things can look so promising, can they dissolve in a matter of hours?

I wonder if things falling apart, disappointments, even catastrophes, serve to remind us there is much we do not control.  And I ponder whether that illusion of control contributes to a lack of empathy in our society.   If I am master of my fate, captain of my ship, why are you floundering?  Just take the wheel! Make something of yourself! 

There is an ad for an insurance company that puts my teeth on edge every time I see it.  The woman, her long blond tresses in bouncy curls, her makeup perfectly applied, her build slender and her clothes stylish, who is advertising her father’s company for whom she works, says: “You can be anything you want to be.”   She probably really believes that because she has had advantages that she almost certainly assumes are available to everyone. 

I have a heart murmur that wasn’t discovered until I was in junior high.  Because other kids could run and play seemingly endlessly, I spent years thinking I was “defective.”  I would tire long before they did.  My confidence was impacted in myriad ways because I considered myself “less than” others.   And that obstacle pales in comparison to children growing up in poverty, dysfunctional homes, abuse; others who have crippling physical or mental limitations.  There are children who grow up to overcome their circumstances, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Their chances of living up to their potential, of “being anything they want to be,” are slim at best.

If you have had a “sprinter” experience lately—you were going along just fine and encountered obstacles you didn’t expect and weren’t prepared for—be reminded that the one reliable control we have is of our attitude.   “I find that it is not our circumstances but the spirit in which we meet them that constitutes our comfort,” is a quote I have often relied on.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.  OR alternatively:  God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change; courage to change the people I can; and the wisdom to know that person is ME!

Rain and Fire

When I was much younger rain was an inconvenience.  The day of ninth grade graduation, all dressed up and wearing high heels, my girlfriends and I got soaked as we ran to the local burger place after we got out from school.  I resented being drenched!  My hair was a mess.  My new dress soggy. 

In high school, our youth group planned a trip to an amusement park, which was cancelled two weekends in a row.  The third weekend we finally just went despite the rain.  I’d like to say I took these weather events in stride.  But in my youth, rain seemed like the enemy.

Years later, my friend Mary would say: “It’s only weather.”  I remember being startled.  Indeed, it was merely nature taking its course.  Over time, I grew fond of rain.  I grew even more so after my father came to live with us.  He loved rain.  He often asked me at night as he was settled into bed, “Is it rain I hear?”  I finally put a sound machine in his room and put it on the rain mode for him.

I recognize since we moved to Montana, that I miss rain.  Average rainfall in Tennessee is 51.6 inches; in Montana it is 15.2.   Last week there was a dark sky and a clap of thunder and I felt a sense of anticipation, but it was mostly for naught.  I think in part I am concerned about wildfires this summer. 

In 2007, I received a call from Terry while I was in Maryland at a summer “residency” for a distance learning program I was in.  Tennessee was in a drought at that time and there was a wildfire on the other side of the mountain from where we lived.  It was headed over the mountain and he had been told by officials to be prepared to evacuate.  Terry wanted to know what I thought I was important to take if it came to that.  Thankfully, it didn’t. The memory also has stayed with me from last summer, seeing fires blazing below, as we flew in for my candidate weekend with the church.

“It’s only weather,” is a good admonition when we are simply complaining because it doesn’t suit us at the moment.  When Mother Nature turns violent, destructive and deadly, we best remember to pay heed. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: Sadly, there are many fewer things I can recycle here in Montana.  But one thing I am doing to reduce my use of plastic is to use “Earth Breeze” laundry sheets.  What is one thing you might do to “pay heed” to climate change and its effects?


During this season of Lent, the Lutheran pastor and I have alternated offering services on Wednesday nights.  One week we have soup supper at our church and she leads.  The following week we have supper at her church and I lead.  Each week has had a different theme paired with a scripture.  This week my passage was from Philippians 4:8-9: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

But the topic this scripture was linked to was justice and peace in the midst of violence.  I pondered how in the world I would relate those two things, especially after weeks now of watching as Ukraine suffers unimaginable destruction, unfathomable loss.  But then I began to think of the videos I had seen of various Ukrainian musicians playing their instruments in the midst of bombed out buildings, their surroundings littered with the carnage of war.  I recalled an image of a group gathered in a shelter in prayer.  There was one video of refugees dancing when they reached a country that welcomed them with food and toys for the children.  The most touching one was of a Ukrainian child, who had reached another country, drawing flowers on the sidewalk with chalk.  She said “This is how I calm myself.” She was eight. 

I spoke that night of how “thinking on these things,” the lovely things, the admirable acts, enables us to respond to the ugliness, the greed, the hate and all that grows out of it in this world, with a spirit that seeks to uplift.  Mr. Rogers said to “look for the helpers.”  When we do, we are often inspired to “join the helpers… the helpers.”  May it be so.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:

Olha Rukavishnikova. Violinist. Fighter.

1 day ago

Friends! Thanks to everyone for the kind words and support! From the first day of the vile attack of Russian Nazis on my country, I have been in the ranks of the Territorial Defense of Ukraine. Ordinary Ukrainians are fighting in our unit, not professional ones – managers, drivers, musicians, teachers. Although it’s not easy for us, since there is a lot missing in the squad, we believe that good will always triumph over evil, and we put all our strength into it! Glory to Ukraine!

Surprising Journeys

In my first job out of grad school, I had a colleague Mark.  Mark was married to June and I became friends with them both.  At a point where I had a roommate moving out, they suggested that their friend Phyllis needed a roommate while she finished her final semester of law school.  Phyllis and I met and agreed to share my apartment for the duration of her schooling. 

I really liked Phyllis and for a time, even after she graduated, moved back to her Colorado roots and married her longtime boyfriend Tom, we kept touch.   Mark and June had moved away and it seems like the last contact I’d had with Phyllis, she told me Mark and June had divorced.  Over time I lost contact with these friends I had so enjoyed.

In this day and age of social media and multiple ways to track down lost connections, I had an impulse last week to do a search for Phyllis on FB.  What popped up was her familiar face and a promotion for her book, Quantum Lite Simplified: How to Calm the Chaos .  If anything, I might have expected she was serving as a judge somewhere.  The book and its intriguing title were a surprise

Of course, I had to get the book, a very credible and readable effort, which flows so naturally it seems effortless.  Phyllis begins “with a brief history and explanation of how I got into quantum.  Parts 1-3 give you an understanding of energy, systems and chaos theory from a quantum perspective.”  The last half, parts 3-5, “offers a way to ‘be’ in chaos without ‘being in chaos’.”

Her book reveals much of her own evolution from lawyer to author.  I thought of other friends whose lives developed in such different directions from their starting point.  My friend Mary, for example, was a psychologist, later a Physicians Assistant, and now a creator of beautiful quilts and a teacher of quilt-making.  My life is testament as well, as I now pastor after years as a therapist.  And I really don’t think I’m finished.  I have wondered if there is another book lurking somewhere in my brain and heart.  It is now five years since Dream In Progress was published.  It was so much work but so much pleasure. 

My father was a newspaper printer from the time he apprenticed at 17 to the time he retired at 70.  He told me that, coming up in the depression, he was encouraged that whenever he got a job, he should always hang onto it.  And he did.  He shared with me once when I was a teen,  that he had in mind a story that he really thought about writing.  Years later I reminded him of that and told him if he would tell it to me, I would write it.  He said, with some resignation, that he didn’t remember it. 

Thankfully, there is more freedom now to pursue multiple avenues over the course of a lifetime.  May we have the courage of those like Phyllis, and avoid the regrets like those of my dear father, who surely had a worthy tale to tell.

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “Life is about accepting the challenges along the way, choosing to keep moving forward, and savoring the journey.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Geology is Boss

One of our guides on our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park told us that the geothermal features can shift and move over time.  She said that when they became problematic to a road,  the original response was to pave over them.  Eventually, they began to re-route the road or change planned construction, instead of attempting to “tame” the hot spring or geyser.  As she put it, “Geology is boss.”

I wonder how long it took them to come to that conclusion.  How often do we attempt to “solve” problems by administering the same “solutions” without the desired outcome?  As Albert Schweitzer is often quoted as saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Mindless repetition whether paving over Mother Nature’s marvelous works to “maintain” the road or repeating the same behavior in our own lives that has proven itself unworkable, is like the hamster running on a wheel, expending lots of energy but getting nowhere. 

This topic is especially relevant to me and to all those in churches and other organizations that thrived in the 50s and 60s.  One problem lies in that these attempted solutions were formerly standard operating procedure which worked well in previous years.  So we turn to what we know, what has felt comfortable and are puzzled when it doesn’t work.   

 How does one stay vital in a culture that over time has shifted so dramatically?   “Work smarter, not harder” comes to mind.  Pay attention to what excites you, gets your blood pumping, a vision of your desired goal.  Then figure out the steps to reach it and evaluate as you go.

I was once part of a visioning process in a church that was seeking to revitalize itself, to develop new ways to relate in a meaningful way to the community.  We did a visualization exercise with the goal to imagine our church in the future.  One person said he saw the church dark and shuttered.  I was aghast.  I had seen in my image a group of children playing in the yard adjacent to fellowship hall being called in to supper where they joined their families, which seemed a bit farfetched in a church with no children.  Six or eight months later, however, we began to work with what was then called Interfaith Hospitality Network, where churches rotate opening their spaces to homeless families a week at a time.   The first night we served the network I was awestruck as I watched the children come in from playing outside to join their parents for the evening meal, just as I had envisioned it.

 There may always be naysayers to a vision and perhaps they have valid points to consider.  But it serves any organization to have enthusiastic people and leaders who can help focus that energy to pursue and carry out a vision. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Do One Thing Different by Bill O’Hanlon, describes a process of change making one small alteration at a time, another suggestion.  One change builds on another.