Tag Archives: Stories

Train Travel

By Kate

I begun and ended my recent journey on trains.


Last week my family landed in the kind and frozen city of Minneapolis. Five strangers immediately offered friendly unsolicited advice and directed us to the light rail station, where my tall husband bent his knees a bit and purchased tickets.


We watched a train speed in and out of the station at lightning speed, and moved quickly to catch the next arrival.


That light rail sure is quick.


That train led to the next portion of our journey, which involved an exploration of the Mall of America, followed by a gorgeous winter wedding. After the wedding I headed home with the kids for a week of wood fires, wild siblings, sauerkraut making, and barn building on the snowy ridge. It was great to be home and I have many words and images to share with you from that time.

But now I am home again, in the city, and I am thinking about the train trip home. I made that trip wearing my late Grandmother’s absolutely fabulous coat, which features a huge fox fur collar.


Now, my grandmother not only made the best beer brats in the world (see this post for the recipe) she was also an incredibly stylish woman. I had never seen this coat before she died, but I fell in love with it the moment I set eyes on it.


This coat was made for train travel. In fact, I felt as though I was time traveling as well. There were only two tiny problems. The first was the fact that the fur blocked my peripheral vision, making it easy for me to knock my very small child over with my baggage now and then.


Thankfully my little traveling companion is pretty tough. The second problem is that there is something about that fox fur coat that just screams city to me. I can think of 1000 reasons to wear that here in Pittsburgh. In Middle Ridge? Sigh. Not so much. I’m afraid that coat might be a sign that l’m meant to be a city girl, at least for a while. So I’m glad the last train carried me smoothly home.

I love traveling and I love trains. I love both of my homes- the farm on this snowy ridge top and the brick house halfway up a steep ridge in the city of bridges.

By a Hairsbreadth

by Kate

Last Friday, Francisco nearly lost a toe. That morning, I was hosting playgroup for the very first time. After a flurry of slightly wild eyed dusting and mopping and stacking and scrubbing on my part, the house was swept clean and more or less orderly. There was Bach playing, coffee brewing, cream and sugar in cut glass and a freshly baked coffeecake and molasses cookies on the counter. Only one mother, Jen, had arrived. I am pretty sure she was sent straight from heaven. Jen is a nurse, and a really great one. This meant that when I pulled off Francisco’s pajamas to change his diaper and discovered a blue purple, swollen, horribly blistered toe with two strands of my hair that had been wrapped around it all night, touched it, felt the skin on the back come off in my hand leaving the back of the toe entirely raw, and gasped in utter horror, she could speak to me calmly, tell me it was going to be all right, and to call the clinic while she removed the hair. She quietly and competently removed all of the hair from the two toes affected by the hair tourniquet and described the situation on the phone to the nurse and then to my husband, who happened to call as I was heading out the door. There were three mothers there at one point, and none of us had a car. Thank God, I live a five minute walk from a world class children’s hospital.

I put the baby in the sling and headed up the hill. The playgroup moms watched Olympia. We were seen almost immediately. They called in a plastic surgeon with a jewelers loupe who said the hair was gone and they were all “cautiously optimistic” about the toe. They sent me home telling me to bathe it in soapy water and wrap it loosely in gauze and wait for the body to heal.

It is healing beautifully, thank God.

I have never been so grateful to live in this neighborhood, in this city.

Every night I pray that God will keep my family healthy, happy, holy, and whole. Holding my ten toed baby, I am so glad that He did.

Freedom isn’t Free

By Mary

Up until March I had never given much thought to Veterans Day. It’s not that I don’t think about the grotesque consequences that war creates. In the past though, I have thought about the consequential tragedy of war only in terms of death. However, one early spring evening I gained a whole new perspective of the damages war causes when visiting the Veteran’s Hospital.

After what I jokingly dubbed “a tussle with a bus” because it sounds way better than saying an attempted suicide on a busy street, a friend of mine was admitted to the closest Veterans hospital psychward.

At the time my friend was just 25. Most of the residents on his wing in the hospital were much older. Their seemingly vacant eyes scarred me, and the sight of so many tired bodies made me initially want to run out of the hospital. One Vietnam vet offered to buy me a coffee. I sat with him while he told me about his boyhood in Iowa, and how he first went to Korea and then on to Vietnam. Lastly he told me about how he returned to his hometown. As he put it ” the town had to get rid of me, or I was going to get rid of it.” He explained that he has PSTD and gets extremely angry.

After drinking the coffee, my friend, my cousin Cale and I went to a smokeshack to visit. The smokeshacks at the hospital are heavily used tent-like structures filled with stale second-hand smoke and packed with the bodies of vets congregating. I was given a cigarette by my friend but it and the environment were starting to make me sick so I placed it in an ashtray by my feet. An old vet with a walker shuffled over and picked the hand rolled top up. He moved to a corner of the shack with the cigarette in his mouth never glancing our way again. My friend told so many stories about the vets there. Those men all experienced such pain. One story that I remember in particular was the one in which he explained how his roommate had lost his hand because he had chopped it off as a preventive from being sent back to Vietnam.

On the ride home that night I had a lot of thinking to do. That cold March night I realized that war doesn’t just cause death. It creates death within the living too. In mass today I heard an excellent quote on freedom by Monsignor Hirsch.

“Freedom isn’t free, there is always a price”.

Thank you to all the Vets for paying a price for our freedom. As I discovered at the Veterans Hospital, sometimes the cost of freedom is very high. For that, we as a nation should be very, very grateful.