A Thread to Knit and Mend Hearts











To Lea on her birth day, celebrated twenty five years ago with much drama and joy — we cherish each day with you in our lives…




May the wind always be in her hair
May the sky always be wide with hope above her
And may all the hills be an exhilaration
the trials but a trail,
all the stones but stairs to God.

May she be bread and feed many with her life and her laughter
May she be thread and mend brokenness and knit hearts…
~Ann Voskamp from “A Prayer for a Daughter”









Your rolling and stretching had grown quieter that stormy winter night
twenty five years ago, but no labor came as it should.
A week overdue post-Christmas,
you clung to amnion and womb, not yet ready.
Then the wind blew more wicked
and snow flew sideways, landing in piling drifts,
the roads becoming impassable, nearly impossible to traverse.

So your dad and I tried,
worried about being stranded on the farm far from town.
Our little car got stuck in a snowpile in the deep darkness,
our tires spinning, whining against the snow.
A nearby neighbor’s bulldozer dug us out to freedom.
You floated silent and still, knowing your time was not yet.

Creeping slowly through the dark night blizzard,
we arrived to the warm glow of the hospital.
You slept.
I, not at all.

Morning sun glistened off sculptured snow outside our window,
and your heart had ominously slowed in the night.
We both were jostled, turned, oxygenated, but nothing changed.
You beat even more slowly, letting loose your tenuous grip on life.

The nurses’ eyes told me we had trouble.
The doctor, grim faced, announced
delivery must happen quickly,
taking you now, hoping we were not too late.
I was rolled, numbed, stunned,
clasping your father’s hand, closing my eyes,
not wanting to see the bustle around me,
trying not to hear the shouted orders,
the tension in the voices,
the quiet at the moment of opening
when it was unknown what would be found.

And then you cried. A hearty healthy husky cry, a welcomed song.
Perturbed and disturbed from the warmth of womb,
to the cold shock of a bright lit operating room,
your first vocal solo brought applause
from the surrounding audience who admired your pink skin,
your shock of damp red hair, your blue eyes squeezed tight,
then blinking open, wondering and wondrous,
emerging saved from the storm within and without.

You were brought wrapped for me to see and touch
before you were whisked away to be checked over thoroughly,
your father trailing behind the parade to the nursery.
I closed my eyes, swirling in a brain blizzard of what-ifs.

If no snow storm had come,
you would have fallen asleep forever within my womb,
no longer nurtured by my aging placenta,
cut off from what you needed to stay alive.
There would have been only our soft weeping,
knowing what could have been if we had only known,
if God provided a sign to go for help.

Saved by a storm and dug out from a drift:
I celebrate each time I hear your voice singing,
knowing you are a thread born to knit and mend hearts.


*my annual “happy birthday” to our daughter Lea, now a 4th grade school teacher*






January 5, 1993


I embarrass our daughter annually on January 5 with her birthday story because it was so dramatic (for us!) and though she was the main character in the drama, it is all myth to her. Lea is 21 today! Inconceivable! Yet it is so and we celebrate the Author of the drama that ensured she would have many birthdays to come. Happiest of birthdays to you, Lea!


I couldn’t sleep that snowy stormy night even though I was not in earnest labor, and safely tucked into a hospital bed on the Labor and Delivery unit, my husband sleeping soundly in the other bed in the room.  It had been plenty harrowing just getting to the hospital in a northeaster, getting stuck in a snow drift, and being dug out by a bulldozer.   I knew our long-awaited third baby, over a week overdue, would be born the next day, blizzard or no blizzard, and then as soon as I could stand up and walk,  we would head right back to the farm to our sons, where our neighbors were staying with them.  At least that’s what I had planned.

It didn’t work out that way.  Not even close.

This baby wasn’t going to enter the world without a little more drama.  Instead of stoically agreeing along with me…

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Delivered from a Drift

This is what we were about to go through together twenty years ago tonight… it feels as if it were just yesterday but here in our kitchen is an almost twenty year old redhead home from college and that means it wasn’t just yesterday. How could it be two decades ago that Lea was almost born in a snowdrift?



Sixteen years ago tonight I was a one week overdue, way too old pregnant lady, staring out the window at a 60 mile per hour northeaster, with horizontal snow.  I was pondering whether I’d be delivering my own baby at home since it was looking more and more dismal that the roads would be passable with the piling snowdrifts.  Recognizing some very minor early hints of labor, I called my obstetrician in town 10 miles away, and begged that I be allowed to come in “preventatively” to the hospital, so I wouldn’t have to sweat it out wondering if I would make it or not in time, or deliver in the middle of a snowdrift along the way.

Our faithful neighbor Sara Watson came with her daughter Kara to stay with the boys, and got quick lessons in how to run the generator if the power went out.  Dan and…

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Get My Drift

Snowdrift against barn

As a child growing up in the south Puget Sound region, I never remember wind and snow arriving together to create havoc in the same storm. Each on its own, they could be intimidating enough: the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 blew winds over 100 mph leaving many homes without power for weeks. The heaviest snow fall in Olympia was in January 1972 with 14 inches over 24 hours and three feet over several days–big heavy wet flakes heard to splat as they landed. Many roofs caved in under the burden.

So when I moved with my husband up to Whatcom County over a quarter century ago, I was ill-prepared for the devastation that a snowy northeaster can bring to a community. I had never seen a “white out” before (my family always jokes that I considered the appearance of four sequential snowflakes a “blizzard”), and I certainly had never experienced subzero wind chill temperatures. Now this was real winter–not the pretend winters I grew up with. This was honest-to-goodness prairie-blizzard midwest-sturdy-stock finger-frostbite Arctic blast winter. My Minnesota-born husband considers it no big deal. I believe this is what it must feel like when hell freezes over.

We’ve had a few humdinger northeasters over the years with over 90 mph screaming wind gusts that threaten to pull the roof right off a barn (and sometimes does). We’ve seen freezing rain/sleet storms that cover everything with an inch or more of glistening ice, breaking off telephone poles midway up from the one-two punch of weight and wind. And we have seen drifting snow–in 1996 we had ten foot drifts we needed to tunnel through or climb over in order to get to the barns to feed the animals stowed safely inside.

I was so naive to think I knew winter before coming to Whatcom County.

Today brought significant snow to my old stomping grounds in Olympia, threatening that 1972 record for snow accumulation over 24 hours. We had a mere 8 inches fall here at our farm in northern Whatcom County, which would have been just grand if the northeast wind hadn’t decided to start picking it up and moving it around today. Windchills have dropped into the negative mid-teens and there have been white out conditions on many county roads as the once peaceful snowflakes of two days ago are lifted up and blown miles before they hit a barrier and drop like a rock in growing pile-ups. Snow fences used to be put up every fall along major roads to prevent the predictable drifts from obstructing traffic flow. As there had not been a significant storm in over ten years, the farmers and county public works have not been as diligent. The roads are filling with drifts and our county’s meager number of snowplows can’t keep up. So cars and citizens get stuck, swirled, snarled and overwhelmed with white stuff.

It is now after 10 PM and the county snow plow just showed up to push aside the large snow drift covering the road on the hilltop where our farm is located. He’s been going back and forth for over an hour, just working on the snow on the road in front of our house. Hey, I’m very grateful for the 24/7 shifts these workers are pulling. We might find our mailbox again in a few weeks and so we can go to work in the morning, we’ll be digging out the new mountain of snow on our driveway entrance.

So enough already.

Give me rain. For me, webfoot that I am, that is real winter: sloshing soaking squishy spongy muddy puddles and pools everywhere. It may not be as pretty or as dramatic, or provide great stories to tell to the grandchildren someday, but being a little wet never hurt anyone.

I think you get my drift.

North Whatcom County photo by Phil Dwyer