Words Affect Your Communication — How Big Is Your ‘But’?

Stella leaned forward, hands clasped, eyes filled with pain as she unfolded another layer of their troubled lives. James sat quietly as he listened, having chosen to be with us on retreat for the sake of their failing marriage. “We have stopped being kind to each other. Our words are harsh, our tone hard. When we yield a point or say ‘I’m sorry’ it’s taken away by ‘I’m sorry, but you make me so damn angry’ or ‘but you know I don’t like when you…’ or ‘I’m sorry. But was it really that big of deal? …


They pinched my skin, the tender underside of my arm, and asked if I had leprosy, their dark skin a sharp contrast to my own. Deep in the heart of east Africa we had been invited to open schools and clinics. Our family was the first white family this people had ever seen. They looked at my blue eyes and wondered if I was of the devil. We were an infinitesimal minority amongst a quarter of a million souls on that plateau.

Though born in America, my formative years were spent in Ethiopia. My husband says I’m more African than…


Keeping it Real

I am an orphan in fact now, not by design, though I was that as well. My mother died Friday evening. Hazel Elaine Smith (Ewing), 90 years old, who said a year ago she hoped she’d fall asleep and never wake up and was ticked as the dickens when the sun rose on a new day. Then she fainted and slipped away. I hadn’t seen her in over 30 years.

Mom: beautiful, vivacious, outgoing, idealistic, smart, brave, adventuresome, softhearted, who loved my father obsessively. Therein lies the story.

In childhood, Mom lived with her family in the mountains, where they…


Lessons learned following a catastophic eye injury.

What will this day be like? I wonder.
What will my future be? I wonder.
It should be so exciting,
To be out in the world, to be free.
My heart should be wildly rejoicing.
Oh, what’s the matter with me?

It has been a year to the day since my accident turned our life upside down. I find it fitting, in a full circle sort of way, that on this day we move into our new home. New beginnings, quite different from those of a year ago.

That day when my eye was smatterized by a cat-o-nine-tails, and I…


It all began one lovely October day on Kauai, 2011. Seated on rattan chaises my husband and I absorbed tropical beauty sipping a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. The sea sparkled, the profusion of color and scent tantalized senses. John picked up his book, but three stories below tanned swimsuit clad young people caught my attention as they carried oversized surf boards into the pool. This was no ordinary pool. Lagoon styled, it widened and narrowed as it meandered long and luxurious past waterfalls, lush foliage, and opened into large pond sized pools, before curving further through the property. Three men and…


Love and Loss

I am six today. The old farm house is filled with the scent of cinnamon and maple syrup. French toast is my birthday request. I dress with care, and clumsily tie a ribbon in my ponytail. A shiver of anticipation tickles my tummy on my way to the stairs. I wish there was a sliver of light. I don’t want to run my hand along the splinter-filled guard rail to navigate the narrow, impossibly steep stairwell on my way to breakfast. The kitchen is a sea of bodies, ten including my own, settling in around the table. Mama nods and…


Leaning into fear.

The paddock smelled of dung and leather. Excitement quivered through me as I adjusted the riding helmet. I was to take my first formal jumping lesson, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, English style. Mengustu’s ears twitched, perhaps remembering the Emperor’s barns, from which I’d purchased him. The nicker of horses, halters jangling cheerily and clanging of pails made the music of morning at the stables. I loved it.

I stood just inside the barn door, the thirteen-year-old girl without a saddle, in pants that were too short for my growing self, and a sleeveless cotton top. Properly dressed girls, jodhpurs pluming…


When Life Throws You a Curve-ball

A perfect storm is an event in which a rare combination of circumstances drastically aggravates the event.

It was Friday afternoon. Preoccupied and off balance by difficult news about my injured eye, I sought equilibrium in small things. John brought a photo I had ordered in from the mailbox, and left to do a short errand run. No problem. I took a frame from the wall, mounted the new photo, and carefully rehung it. I stepped back to see if it was level, and had my first, and hopefully last, sight related accident. Because…


When Despair Finds Footing in Hope

What cruel twist of fate would offer up sight following a catastrophic wounding of my eye, and then take it away? Seven weeks after saving my eye and regaining vision, a shadow began at the upper left corner and ate away at the light, inexorably slipping down and across vision like a total eclipse of the sun.

This can’t be happening, I thought. I’m merely tired, and need to rest. Seven weeks ago I was sightless, but now — or before the eclipse began — I was actually seeing across our beloved river to the mountains beyond, if a bit…


“Why?” The Wrong Question

It was 4:30 pm on a Friday afternoon. TGIF. My grandboys and I were in high spirits. 25 water balloons were filled, tucked gently into bags and loaded into the trunk for launching from one end of a soccer field to the other. Seatbelts fastened, chattering excitedly, we drove under sullen gray clouds filled with the promise of rain. I tucked sunglasses into my purse. I wouldn’t need them this afternoon. How I wish the sun had been shining that day. Perhaps those glasses would have averted what was to come. …

Laura Landgraf

Author, activist, speaker, champion for change and empowerment, hope awakener, retreat leader, author of The Fifth Sister.

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