“Anger is a habit.” Years ago, I heard this as I was listening to the radio, hearing someone interviewed about anger.  Anger management classes were trending at that time and  sometimes as a therapist I referred people to them.  But all of a sudden this was about ME and MY anger.  I recognized immediately that I had developed a pattern.  We had taken a teenage boy and his younger sister into our home as foster children.  His sister had a habit any time things were going well, to inject something into the mix that was destructive.  And I would get angry.  This was, of course, the exact response she wanted.  It provided emotional distance if she was starting to feel too close, too cozy in the family.  Foster children often have that tendency.  After that program, I made an effort to be less reactive.  At least sometimes I was successful in that.  Not nearly often enough, I think. 

“While anger can bring about change, it can ultimately only lead to more conflict,” writes Brother Phap Dung, a monk at Plum Village in France.  He points out this can be true in our personal lives as well as in the fate of a nation.  His suggestion is to first find one’s center, when faced with a situation that invites anger or aggression. 

“Nonaction is sometimes very powerful.  Sometimes we underestimate someone sitting very calm, very solid and not reacting and they can touch a place of peace, a place of love, a place of nondiscrimination.  That is not inaction,” Brother Phap writes.

One time in particular, I was quite irritated with my daughter.  There was some task I had asked her repeatedly to do and she had never taken care of it.  I recall so clearly my hand on the doorknob, ready to storm upstairs and read her the riot act.  But I stopped.  I thought what the outcome would be.  She would be upset.  I would be upset.  If she did the task at all it would be with resentment.  So I didn’t storm upstairs.  I sat down and wrote something to the effect of what it was I wanted her to do, how I felt because she had not done it and my appreciation for her taking the time to complete it.  I carried the note up to her, handed it to her wordlessly and left.  In a little while the task was completed.  She was not angry.  I was no longer irritated.  I still marvel at the simplicity of that interaction.

When I consider the anger in our country, indeed in our world, I imagine what it might be like if everyone paused with their hand on the doorknob and took stock before they took action.

 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:  A breathing practice: (in breath) Peace in Oneself; (out breath) Peace in the World.  Repeat frequently. 😊

P.S.  This is the blog I intended to write last week when I came across the story about Shirley the elephant and elected to write that instead.  Next week will be on fear, as I think anger and fear are the biggest obstacles in any movement towards a more peaceful coexistence.   

Shirley’s Story

As I was about to sit down to the computer to write this week’s blog, I happened onto a story that just seemed too good not to share.  It rivals even the blog from a few weeks ago about the giraffes.

Shirley the elephant died last week at age 72.  Hohenwald Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN. had been her home for the past 21 years.  Born in Sumatra and captured for a circus, she had lived through incredible trauma in her long elephant life.  Shirley suffered terrible treatment in the circus.  At one point, she survived a political uprising when she was captured by the forces of Fidel Castro. (Would love to know more about that story!) A car accident that killed two other elephants spared her.  When a circus ship she was on caught fire and nearly sank, she was badly burned and lost part of an ear. 

After a broken leg in 1974, she was sold to the Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Garden.  Sadly there, she was kept without any other elephants for 22 years.  But her arrival in the Hohenwald Elephant Sanctuary in 1999 brought about a marvelous serendipity:  she was reunited with an elephant named Jenny who had  been in the same circus as Shirley.  The two were joyous in their reunion and were inseparable until Jenny’s death in 2006. 

My husband Terry and I stopped at the sanctuary some years back, thinking we might view the elephants.  However, no viewing of the elephants is allowed there.  They now have the addition of an educational center. They also have an “Ele Cam” by which videos of the elephants can be viewed.  There are other sanctuaries set up to meet ethical standards which do allow interaction with the elephants.   

 Due to poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict (as human populations increase and elephants are forced into greater proximity to human settlements), and mistreatment in captivity, elephants are predicted to become extinct unless efforts are made to avert that outcome. We could make the choice to exert those efforts. But will we?

 As Shirley’s story illustrates: “Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.Alfred Armand Montapert

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter (to include animals!) Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: Various foundations are addressing the problems elephants face. To learn more, perhaps to donate, visit


Years ago I was working for an agency whose financial secretary had been fired after the discovery of her theft of funds.  We were without a director at the time and as senior staff I was tasked with covering a lot of bases, to include making the daily deposits.  There was a teller at the bank whose face just radiated peace.  In the midst of this chaotic situation into which I had been thrust, I looked forward to making the bank deposit to bask in that calm presence she exuded.

 I regret I did not ever go back to let that teller know what the bit of peace she offered had meant to me and to thank her for it.  She certainly embodied the words of Wayne Dyer: “Peace can become a lens through which you see the world.  Be it. Live it. Radiate it out.  Peace is an inside job.”

“Every day brings a choice:  to practice stress or to practice peace,” wrote Joan Borysenko.  Thinking in terms of this as choice, as what we choose to practice, puts a different spin on this.  We have choice?  More likely we feel we are trapped in stressful circumstances not of our own making.  Yet Borysenko offers two key concepts: the matter of choice involved and the fact that this choice to be peaceful takes daily practice. 

This serves as a reminder that we impact our own quality of life by that daily choice.  My experience with the bank teller also emphasizes that what I carry into the world affects other people.   While we may tend to think of peace and peacefulness as difficult, even impossible, in this world full of hardship and hostilities,  it isn’t always so complicated.  Once when I smiled at a homeless man, he responded by straightening up, giving me a broad smile in return— a simple exchange.   Peace begins with a smile, Mother Teresa said.  Let us choose to practice peace. 

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:  Gabriela Green offers a recipe for Sweet Calm Tea.  Combine 1 t. chamomile, ½ t. rose and 1 t. linden.  Put all the ingredients in a strainer (or tea ball, etc) and make sure to mix well.  Bring water to a boil and pour over the tea, let steep for 3-5 min. Add honey if you like.  If you like the mix of herbs, you can make a bigger batch and store it in an airtight container.  Use as needed to reduce anxiety and induce calm.

The Most Important Valentine

On a Valentine’s Day many years ago, I remember our grade school party.  My valentine box was covered in aluminum foil, a large red construction paper heart and a white doily on the top where a slit had allowed my classmates to deposit their cards to me.    I was so pleased with my beautiful box and with the valentines inside that I would later read at home.  Soon the Homeroom Mother was doling out beautiful heart shaped cookies and punch.

               Valentine’s Day may bring to mind similar images or others associated with candy, flowers, romantic dinners. However, its celebration originated from the dreadful executions of two men in the third century. During his reign, Emperor Claudius II ordered the deaths of the men, both named Valentine, in different years but both on February 14. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of Valentine’s Day.   

              One of the men who was killed was Valentine of Rome.  His offense?  He had given succor to persecuted Christians.   There is some suggestion that Saint Valentine also performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry due to an edict attributed to Claudius II.   Allegedly the emperor believed that married men did not make good soldiers.   

              According to Wikipedia, Saint Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring, “customarily worn on the hands of Christian bishops with an image of Cupid engraved in it, a recognizable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire; Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask him to perform marriage for them. Probably due to the association with Saint Valentine, amethyst has become the birthstone of February, which is thought to attract love.  It is legend that Saint Valentine, to remind people of their vows, gave hearts cut from parchment to soldiers and persecuted Christians.  Perhaps this is the origin of the heart symbol we use today for Valentine’s Day.”

            For many people this is a less than festive day, however. What if you have no “special someone”?  Or your “special someone” is no longer with you for whatever reason?  All of us can appreciate the reminder to be aware of others who find little to celebrate in this holiday . But we can also acknowledge how consequential it is to be grounded within ourselves such that those times when we feel lonely or isolated or unloved, we are sustained.  As an anonymous author once wrote, “Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave nor lose.”  May you feel love and connection to all those that matter to you.  But above all, I urge you to nurture and celebrate the most important valentine: You. 

 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:  “For you cannot live in someone else. You cannot find yourself in someone else. You cannot be given a life by someone else. Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave nor lose. To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.” ~~ Author Unknown ~~

A Memoir of Grace

The first week in February is bittersweet for me. February 4 was my father’s birthday. February 5 is the anniversary of my mother’s death. I considered sharing a memoir I wrote for an online writing course through Earlham School of Religion but it is too lengthy for this format to share in its entirety. However, I share a portion of it in the following paragraphs.

“The breath of this soft summer night wafts across the porch, gently stirs the leaves in the woods just beyond. My father and I sit rocking, a comfortable silence between us. As though he has been pondering something, my father says in a thoughtful tone, ‘I guess I should wait awhile.’

“Puzzled, I ask, ‘Wait for what, Daddy?’

“To move in with you….”

“My mother has been dead four months. My father has come from Oklahoma to visit my husband and me at our home in Tennessee. I am startled and pleased. I had thought he was content in assisted living, only a mile from the church he helped start 45 years before.

“I respond with something that I hope conveys surprise and pleasure and say we will talk about it some more. I walk inside the house to get my bearings. Despite this happy and unexpected turn of events, I feel uncertain. During the course of my father’s visit, my husband and I have just begun to discover that our longtime business manager has been defrauding us. My life is already in some upheaval.

“I tell my husband, ‘Daddy just told me he wants to come live with us.’ My husband, bless him, exclaims, ‘That’s great!’ And he means it. He loves my father, who reminds him of his own, who died while my husband was serving in Vietnam.

“I wander back outside and tell Daddy, ‘We would love to have you come, Daddy. When were you thinking of coming?’

“He wants reassurance that my husband is willing for this to happen. He says it will take some time. He has to sell his house, which has sat vacant since my parents’ move to assisted living prior to my mother’s death. He asks if it will be a problem to have his funeral in Oklahoma when his time comes. I am astounded to be having this conversation with my father.

“When he leaves to return to Oklahoma we agree that we will work to clean up the mess in our business while he takes care of selling his home. We will decide on an actual date later.

“The devastation in our business only deepens. We learn just in the nick of time that our building is five days from foreclosure. Our business credit card has been run up to $45,000. Every day is a revelation of some new aspect of this overwhelming situation. My husband and I take other work to pay the bills. We take out an $80,000 loan to cover the debt and keep ourselves afloat.

“Meanwhile, my father and I begin to talk on the phone every Sunday night. I am accustomed to the long phone calls I used to have with my mother. Now the calls to my father become longer and longer. Our connection deepens along with the anticipation of his move. We agree to a date: February 4, his 92nd birthday and the day before the first anniversary of my mother’s death. His house sells the week before I fly out.

“I drive a rented Ford Escape from the airport to my hometown where my brothers and I celebrate his birthday with him and then begin the task of packing his things. We make the trek to my mother’s grave and the next day my father and I head for Tennessee, bolstered with a kind of exuberance at the bold journey we are undertaking.

“I, who grew up n the shadow of my mother, am coming to know and love my father deeply. His dry wit, his interest in and appreciation for life enrich our home daily. My husband and I know we are especially blessed by his presence, a healing balm for the grief we have suffered from our losses.”

The remainder of my memoir recounts the months he lived with us. He and I arrived from Oklahoma February 7. He had a stroke the Wednesday after Easter. His last months with us were marred by his confusion and deterioration. Yet he retained his incredibly sweet spirit. He died July 9, 2009 and his funeral was conducted July 16 in his home church in Oklahoma. Rest In Peace, Daddy. May I carry on your legacy.

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 Cafe Bonus: July 16, 2009, I stand in the church my father faithfully served for decades and conclude my eulogy: “I was amazed at his forbearance as his body began to fail him badly. The smallest tasks became exhausting. After one particularly difficult episode, I said, ‘Daddy, I am so proud of you. You have just handled yourself so gracefully and so admirably through all these difficulties.’ He said, ‘Good, I wanted you to be proud of me. I want you to miss me when I go home,’ which I understood to mean heaven. I said ‘Oh, Daddy, I will miss you when you go home.’ He said, ‘I’ll be back when the wind blows.’ That reminded me of this poem:

‘Do not stand by my grave and weep/ For I’m not there. I do not sleep./ I am a thousand winds that blow./ I am the diamond’s glint on snow/ I am the sunlight on ripened grain/ I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

‘When you awaken in morning’s hush,/I am the swift uplifting rush/Of quiet birds in circled flight/I am soft stars that shine at night./ Do not stand by my grave and cry./I am not there. I did not die.’

My father’s love will be carried on in the many people whose lives he touched. I will never feel the wind blow without knowing that he is there.


Last week I finished reading West With Giraffes, an historical novel by Lynda Rutledge, which captures the drama of two young giraffes who arrived by ship in New York bound for the San Diego Zoo in 1938.  One of the giraffes arrived with a badly damaged leg, due to having encountered the 1938 New England Hurricane, one of the deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclones to strike Long Island, New York and New England, with 682 people killed, 57,000 homes destroyed and property losses estimated at $306 million. The kind man in charge of getting the animals from New York to California treated and bandaged the leg with hopes the young giraffe could survive the arduous trek across the country. 

              In 1938 people were weary from the impacts of the Dust Bowl, which you may recall consisted of severe dust storms that swept across the plains of the United States and Canada in the 1930s, causing loss of crops, homes, livelihoods and lives.  There was also the beginning of rumblings in Europe of another war.  Drawn to something more uplifting, people were quickly captivated by the giraffes and their adventures as they made their way to their new home. The fact that the giraffe with the crushed leg had been taken for dead and almost shoved overboard before she opened her eyes and roused a bit, was enough to fill people with hope. 

              I thought the book would be a “light read” but I found it riveting, apparently much like the folks in 1938, cheering the giraffes on.  But I got curious about the home to which they were going and about zoos generally.  There is evidence of zoos perhaps as early as 2500 B.C. in Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Zoos originally were menageries, private collections kept by the wealthy as a demonstration of their power.   But a movement began around the mid1830s to introduce animals to the wider public.   

            The San Diego zoo was begun in 1916 with some animals that had been left behind with a few caretakers after the 1915 Panama-California Exposition of exotic species. To that collection was first added a brown bear which had been a mascot on a Navy ship.  As the bear had gotten older it had become “unruly” and the Navy offered it to the nascent zoo.  At that point the zoo didn’t own any trucks for transporting animals yet. So when the Navy personnel dropped off ‘Caesar’ at the port, Dr. Thompson, one of the zoo founders, picked the bear up in his roadster and she rode along in the front seat of the car.

            Located 30 miles north of downtown San Diego, the park now is housed on 1800 acres, half of which are set aside as protected native species habitat.  It is one of the biggest zoos in the world and is known for its conservation habits.  Indeed, over the years the zoo movement has grown to be more sensitive to issues of animals in captivity. Modern zoos see themselves as valuable centers of education, scientific research and conservation.

            Some zoo history is quite gruesome, so the expanded notion of their mission is welcome.    The opening quote in West With Giraffes offers a powerful and compelling reason to take this topic seriously: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”—Anatole France, Nobel Laureate, 1921.

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:  Kate with one week old camel at the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain.

Patriotism and the People’s House

As we collectively staggered through 2020, dealing with a pandemic; as the spread of the virus across the globe left thousands dead; as businesses closed, people lost jobs and lines at food pantries grew; as the relentless search to discover vaccines to counteract Covid 19 was frantically carried out; we looked to 2021 for some relief, some hope, some change. 

            How startling then, only six days into the new year, to see our capitol under siege by people who considered themselves “patriots” acting to “take back the country.” 

            “All ‘isms’ run out in the end, and good riddance to most of them, patriotism for example,” wrote Frederick Buechner, an American writer, novelist, poet, autobiographer, essayist, preacher, and theologian, “The only patriots worth their salt,” he continued, “are the ones who love their country enough to see that in a nuclear age it is not going to survive unless the world survives. True patriots are no longer champions of Democracy, Communism, or anything like that but champions of the Human Race.”

            Buechner suggests that patriotism can become an idol, used to justify one’s life.  His assertion that religious people are prone to idols seemed to be on display as the insurrectionists prayed around House Speaker Pelosi’s dais, folks whose statements only minutes earlier had indicated an intention to harm her.  

            So what do we count hopeful in this year with such a dismal beginning?  Consider that a lone policeman led the angry mob away from the path that would have brought them to where the legislators they sought were being sequestered; that, despite having just experienced grave danger, legislators regrouped immediately to do the work of The People’s House; that, despite years of political division, there was bipartisan agreement to certify a duly elected president.  

            We are a country rooted in hope, founded by people who faced an uncertain and daunting future, but laid groundwork for future generations. Hope lies in the recognition of the resilience that has brought us time and again through tumultuous times.

         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: “If there is hope in the future, there is literally power in the present.”—Zig Ziglar


Christmas Day a cardinal “joined us” as we ate brunch, by which I mean he could be spied out in the woods outside our dining room window.  (I count that as joining).   My mother had a great fondness for cardinals and both my parents loved to watch birds.  Beyond the sliding glass doors of their dining room, they maintained a bird bath and bird feeder.  My father could make bird calls.  Sadly, all of these things I failed to appreciate at the time. 

            Since Christmas I have explored the topic of cardinals.  On one site I found the comment that “The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird.”  Further it was stated, “Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards.  In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.” The female Northern Cardinal is one of only a few female songbirds that sing, sometimes while sitting on the nest.  This perhaps gives the male the information of what food to bring. 

            A few years ago a friend of mine had an experience with a cardinal that seemed totally inexplicable: the bird kept attacking her window every day. I learned in my reading that this is not unusual.  Males and females will both do this, attacking windows or car mirrors or shiny bumpers.  This happens most often in the spring or early summer when they are defending their territory from intruders and mistakenly identify their reflection as another bird to defend against.  Most often these attacks subside as the aggressive hormones subside but there have been instances of this going on for months.  In my friend’s case, when the bird persisted, she eventually named him “Red Fred” and began to value his presence.

            Beliefs about cardinals have generated folklore: “Cardinals appear when angels are near,” for example.  I learned that in Native American lore, the number 12 is considered lucky.  It is believed the person who sees a cardinal will have good luck coming at noon or at midnight or within 12 days.

            We may have “good luck” but our creatures, birds and otherwise, are more and more vulnerable as wetlands and forestlands are destroyed, and vast changes in weather patterns wreak havoc.  May we value what we have and contribute what efforts we can to preserve these gifts of nature.

 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:  Safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and white milo are among Northern Cardinals’ favorite seed choices.  In addition to large seeds, they like crushed peanuts, cracked corn and berries.  Small chunks of suet are recommended in the winter.

A Bridge to History

We live on a farm that was Cherokee land.  The remains of a burial ground lie as silent testimony to an earlier time.  On the farm next to us sits the house of Chief James Brown.  The owner of that property has tried unsuccessfully to get it listed as an historical site. When we hike on our land, I feel a connection to the Cherokee, to the sacredness of where my feet tread.   That connection feels most powerful when we walk by the creek that meanders along the property line 

A large log has fallen across that creek at the site where there was once a bridge.  My husband tells me that at one time  the school teacher for the local children lived across the creek and in 1917  the community built a bridge to enable him to easily walk to the school.  There are so many associations here to the past, both to that of my husband, who grew up on this farm, and to the many people who preceded his family.

At one time much of the land in this area belonged to one relative or another of my husband’s family.  Once I was buying a mattress and the salesman noted our address.  He said that he lived in “Georgetown Landing,” a subdivision on our road.  I replied that had once been my husband’s grandfather’s farm.  I was startled by his immediate apology!  He said his company had transferred him and he had had to make a decision quickly about housing.  I was touched by his concern that the subdivision might represent a loss to me.  However, I am aware of more than one dispute between parents and adult children on this road over land being sold for subdivisions.

In a sense, I myself grew up on a “farm,” though it was a new subdivision when my family moved there when I was eight.  It never occurred to me that it had been a farm, though our backyard adjoined a large farm.  I remember my mother would give me sugar cubes and apples to feed the horse that would come to the fence looking for a treat.  Years later I drove to that former neighborhood. The farm that I had grown up next to had become filled with homes.

So we cross bridges from one era to another.   Always there are those who have gone before us, to whom we owe so much.  As the old proverb goes, “We drink from wells we did not dig and are warmed by fires that we did not build.”

 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 Cafe Bonus:

See the source image


Inward/outward, an online site that is an outreach of Church of the Savior in Washington D.C., offered a post in December 2018 that has remained with me ever since.  The author wrote: “To keep my equilibrium, I have to remember the way I have come, and who brought me here, to help keep me grounded.”  She then outlined a “roadmap” for herself for the coming year. 

              If the year 2020 has left you rather “dizzy,” after the roller coaster ride it has been, perhaps the New Year offers the opportunity to consider what will help you “keep [your] equilibrium,” in the coming weeks and months as 2021 unfolds. 

              The book Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage describes shedding normal routines, breaking “with normal predictability in a very specific way: not to fill life with other activity, but to empty life of former activities.”  If nothing else, 2020 forced that break for me.  Sheltering in place separated me from most of the people in my life, from social activities, from most of the responsibilities I normally carried out.  Initially, I frequently was signing up for all kinds of things being offered online.  But I recognized that was becoming burdensome.  The empty space that had been created was valuable.  I didn’t want to fill it up.    

              Since our return from caring for our grandsons, I am back to regular walks.    I savor them now.  I always enjoyed it. But I think I didn’t realize how much that was integral for me. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, the author of Without Oars, took time out to do a pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago in Spain.  “Walking is usually the most inefficient way to get from one destination to another,” he wrote. “But it frees one, even in subconscious ways, from the obligation to get everything done fast.  It also opens an entirely different view of the physical world.”

              I am reminded of a similar experience my brother described.  He was crazy about cars.  One of my earliest memories is of an old car he had acquired that was parked out in front of our house.  Sometime in his adult years he joined a car club that took trips in their Model Ts and Model As.  He loved the difference in driving very slowly, what one felt and noticed at a slower, more relaxed pace. 

              May we, as the opportunities arise to resume our usual activities, be vigilant to maintain some inner space, that more sedate pace that can help us to maintain our equilibrium, which contributes to our own wellbeing as well as to what we have to offer into the world around us.

              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:  Just a reminder:  Walking can help burn calories; strengthen your heart; help lower blood sugar; ease joint pain; boost immune function; boost energy; improve your mood and extend your life.  😊