How one life was saved

Yawning Newborn

Near the end of her unplanned pregnancy, a young woman said, “I could never have an abortion–I knew someone would want him!” How right she was. Her baby is now almost six feet tall. He is a handsome and brilliant high school student. And he is my son! His birthmother chose life, she chose love, and she chose our family.

We were lucky to have had one child, a miracle of infertility treatment, and it seemed greedy to hope for another, but our only child kept praying for a brother or sister, and for several years, my feeling grew that someone was missing.

The social worker who certified us for adoption told us we would never be chosen. There were 67 certified families for every baby available. Besides, we were older than average—not what most young mothers choose for their babies. Later, I wondered what he meant by 67—was that for the agency, the state, the nation? I searched for statistics and learned that states did not track the number of families certified and waiting for adoption. I don’t know what the actual ratio is, but if my circle of friendship is typical, then considering adoption is extremely common—about 15% of married couples are infertile—and actually certifying to adopt is fairly common, while adoption is rare.

Our hope was to adopt a sibling group out of foster care. Several times, we thought that was happening. But despite new laws designed to place children in permanent families more quickly, each case was delayed. One fresh-from-college social worker proposed giving an unwed biological father three more months to get sober so she could give him custody of his own toddler and the mother’s older child as well, even though the mother’s rights were already severed for both children, and the couple was still seeing each other off and on. Meanwhile, during this sobriety experiment, we would be required to take our maybe-yes-maybe-not children to visit these parents, who would know who and where we were. We finally said, “Call us when they are freed for adoption.”

Despite a public crisis, with more children in foster care than ever before, families trying to adopt these children are common, and for many complex reasons, finalized adoptions are rare.

So it was quite the surprise to be chosen by a birth mother, meet her, and welcome our newborn two weeks later. Every birth is a miracle. Every child is a gift. Every life has value and purpose. And someone will want him or her.

There’s a march on Washington today. There are conferences and speeches. But I get to celebrate pro-life day by hugging my kid.

An unplanned pregnancy is traumatic. Our culture doesn’t stigmatize it anymore, but it will it ever be easy to be pregnant and alone?

Bless the courageous mothers who choose life! On behalf of one life and one family, thank you for choosing life. Thank you for choosing us.


Photo copyright Vivid pixels istockPhoto #382919

Resharpen as needed

Among the cartoons responding to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, several illustrated that a pencil cut in half can be resharpened or even become two pencils. Devastation can sharpen us, even multiply us, especially if we keep applying the power of the pen. 

Work like a kid

Little Girl Rolling Snowman Phase 1 copyright Jen D iStockPhoto #000001319904
Snowman Phase 1 by Jen D

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been. –  Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time.

Remember how hard you worked to build a snowman or a tree fort? Only you didn’t know it was work? May your holidays renew the magic.


Gwyn Nichols,

Photo “Little Girl Rolling Snowman Phase 1” © Jen D iStockPhoto #1319904

Reading is for Babies

Father reading to baby The American Pediatrics Association says, “Immunize your children against illiteracy.”

NPR’s Audie Cornish interviewed Professor Susan Neuman about new evidence showing that the younger you read to your children, the better. Reading benefits babies, from earliest vocabulary development though later achievements.

Were you one of those lucky children who was read to?

I have preschool memories of my dad reading me Dr. Seuss and, I kid you not, The Wall Street Journal, and my mom reading me a chapter of Johanna Spyri’s Heidi before every nap.

Reading to my own children was even more enjoyable. My first toddler was barely forming two-word sentences when he announced from his car seat, “No, Pat! No, Pat!” He was pointing to a cactus, alluding to Dr. Seuss: “No, Pat, no! Don’t sit on that!” My younger son, by 3 or 4 spoke fluent King James, holding a book, pretending to read, making up stories and admonitions with archaic verb tenses and expressions, never confusing it with our colloquial English.

Reading is not only for babies. Don’t let children outgrow it! Jim Trelease (The Read-Aloud Handbook) suggests that teens wash dishes while parents read aloud. Talk about a Win-Win. The Phantom Tollbooth made a favorite dish-time hit.

Reading obviously benefits brain development, language acquisition, and academic achievements, but what I love most about reading/being read to, in classrooms and families, is the social development, between the literature and the readers, and the readers amongst themselves.

  • Empathy: reading another’s mind, walking in others’ shoes, experiencing other ages, places, cultures, and times.
  • Common vocabulary, allusions, characters, and private jokes, instantly conveying a concept or strengthening a relationship.
  • It’s hard to read and argue at the same time. (Certain people can pull it off—it helps to be attached to the literal, as in high-functioning autism—but imagine where such a person would be without literature and those ensuing discussions.)

What is your favorite reading benefit? Your favorite memory of communal reading?



Text © Gwyn Nichols 2014. All rights reserved.

Photo © Liza McCorkle. iStockPhoto.

Love is simple, unless you have a hero complex

Invincible poster ASU premier 2013

Invincible, the musical:

Love is simple, unless you have a hero complex

Composer Drew Nichols is an amazingly creative and artistically prolific person.  (Full disclosure: I brought him into this world and raised him—and he’s one of my best teachers!)

If you’re in Arizona May 31 – June 1, catch the premiere of his first musical. It’s hilarious and touching, and that’s just the inspiring collaboration of the talented cast and crew. Wait until you see the show.

ASU’s Evelyn Smith Music Theatre

May 31, 2013, 7:30 pm

June 1st, 2013, 2 pm

June 1st, 2013 7:30 pm


More info is also available here:

ASU Arts Students Take on Invincibility




Write Your Book This Year: Give Me Ten

Are you waiting for your retreat, vacation, sabbatical, or retirement to write your book? Uninterrupted time sounds luxurious, and then it can be overwhelming. Whenever I reserve a day for my own project, I celebrate, then usually flounder and remember Julia Cameron’s metaphor, comparing uninterrupted time to a bolt of antique silk. It can be hard to cut into.

As I thought of that recently, I remembered a PBS show, Sewing with Nancy, featuring “10-20-30 Minutes to Sew.” Nancy showed viewers how to create even a fully tailored jacket in tiny pockets of time. She recommended identifying each step, prepping materials the way a chef preps ingredients, and systematically advancing a project day by day.

Sewing with Nancy 30 Years screenshotAnd get this: Nancy is still on the air. It’s the longest running sewing show ever. Teaching her audience to fit hobbies into busy schedules must be one key to her success, and this approach probably renews her own creative stamina.

For her McCall’s patterns, Nancy says, “I don’t have hours to spend sewing every day. Just a few minutes here or there can quickly add up to a finished project!” Go, Nancy!

Few people would wait for a sabbatical to piece a quilt. You don’t need one to write a book either. So drop everything and give me 10, only 10.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2013. All rights reserved.

Screenshot of Sewing with Nancy from Wisconsin Public Television

Write Your Book This Year: Got Fear?

Fear of writing, or fear of publishing, can be a healthy thing. It means you care. Daring to tell the truth, wanting to say it well, overcoming your fear of failure and your fear of success–those are wonderful ways to grow. Make a list of your fears. Which ones can you do something about? Which ones melt once you look at them?

Write anyway.

Related Book:

Steven Pressfield, Do the Work


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2013. All rights reserved.