Wednesday, July 30, 2008


My friend Madeline, who, among many other things, is an NP (Nurse Practitioner) married to an M.D., came out to "spell me" at the bedside. I am guessing that this old Southern expression refers to "sitting a spell" beside the bed of a loved one challenged with a health crisis. Madeline, however, did a lot more than sit when she and her daughter Greer came out to LA. The following is her account of their visit.

Kim has been away from her desk this past week helping husband Brooks and daughter Grace pack up the car for their epic "sea to shining sea" road trip. College is right around the corner for the baby girl and her possessions from this point forward travel with her. Thus the voyage.
As friends of the Athens branch of this family, my daughter, Greer, and I were in L.A. this past long weekend, regrettably in Kim's absence, to visit with Katherine en famille. It progressed into so much more. Thus my most humble request to Kim of that I have the privilege of writing in her journal.
One of my favorite things about of one of my favorite things is the titles that Kim gives her blogs. Therefore instead of the traditional storyline and to maximize my use of the headline format, I would like to speak in chaptered vignettes.

Inner Sanctum Guest Membership
As those of us who remember the marriage of Katherine Arnold, the Flower of Athens, to Jay Wolf, clearly a catch but NOT A NATIVE, a seat at First Presbyterian Church that day to witness the nuptials exchange vows was the hottest ticket in town. That would be my first and last glimpse of the bride's betrothed until last Wednesday. From then to my departure four days later, Jay would convert me from talking to texting on the phone, introduce me to some of what is clearly an extraordinary collection of family and friends, and give me ample reason to forgive him for whisking our rose off so many years earlier.

My First UCLA Medical Center Sleepover EVER
Jay adores Katherine. Every day more so than the day before. That is as evident as the sun's rise. Less clear, but as true, is that Jay runs a "tight castle". Katherine is never alone. The obviously capable UCLA Rehab staff knows about Mrs. Wolf's" Companion Program" and they are most accommodating. I had the good fortune to cover the night shift Thursday and Friday. What an absolute luxury for the likes of me. As a nurse I draw great pleasure from my station at the bedside of strangers but private duty service for a friend is a rare opportunity.

The Wink of an Eye and The Blow of a Kiss
I don't know Grace nearly as well as I do her "big sisters", Katherine and Amie. My last children were more in chronological alignment with them. But I'd have to say that between first and second born, though they both share gorgeous looks, fiery spirits, and hearts of gold, Katherine has a stage presence that is unique in the world. I remember how absolutely smitten we all were during Mrs. Wolf's high school years when she added to her considerable dramatic repertoire, comedy. With the wink of an eye or the blow of a kiss she ruled her audience. That was still the case this weekend.

Mother and Son Race Each Other to Take First Steps On Earth
If Kim and Brooks thought teaching Katherine to walk the first time was challenging, they now know that that was a practice round. Jay's wife may have three months MAX before their Sweet Baby James will be scooting around on his own. But let me tell you with the utmost confidence that I am putting my money down on MAMA to win that race. Let the world know that Katherine Arnold Wolf has no intention of being sidelined in this competition. I watched her walk the length of her parallel bars and the distance of her home corridor with the resolve of a woman with a husband to adore, children to raise, worlds to conquer, and God to worship.

Crooked Smile Power
My husband of thirty plus years has a sixth nerve palsy. That means that in the middle of a smile the right side of his face does not light up in perfect symmetry with the left side. One of our sons has inherited this trait, a fact I find strangely endearing. Anyway, when Phil and I were courting and I was in that coquettish phase of romancing, he asked me out for a cup of coffee. I suggested he read my lips, NO, at which point he asked me if it was because of his crooked smile. Little did he know that that would be the official start of the rest of my life. How to tell Katherine that her crooked smile (though likely fleeting) did the same magic.

Romeo and Juliet
Weekends are for families. That's true in and out of hospitals. So it's only natural and fair that the Recreation Therapist ON DUTY Saturday would suggest that, hours shy of Katherine's first hundred days post-op, she deserved, well, a weekend pass. In the interest of surprise, Greer, my daughter, Ray, the UCLA chauffeur extraordinaire, and I took off with Kat toward the Wolf's future home, an apartment the family has secured only blocks from the medical center. With a brand new coiffure, her favorite pair of shades, and some Pacific Ocean Breeze off her port, Katherine and her entourage arrived at Jay's door around noon. Though we had a wonderful welcoming committee when we knocked, Jay was not one of the greeters. It turned out that Barrister Wolf and his dear grandfather, Peeps, were at the hospital curious about the damsel's whereabouts. But all's well that ends well. As it turned out this glitch gave us just enough time to escort Mrs. Wolf to her brand new balcony where she was able to stand and wave to her Romeo in true Juliet fashion. At the sight of all this flurry, Mary Ruth Wolf, Jay's Mother, was struck by this new reality and said to her daughter in law, "Katherine, you are the best guest we have ever had here!" And that's saying something because I know for a fact that some remarkable souls have walked through the doors of that sacred home.

Greer's reflections on their time here may be found at:, "A Baby Boy With 15 Mothers."

Our deepest gratitude goes out to Madeline, Greer, and all the other "spellers" who have sacrificed their time and energy to help us "make it through the night..."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Waking Up

There are problems involved in waking up.

Some of us live in a dream. Some of us sleepwalk through life, afraid of what we'll experience if the meds wear off. Some of us exist in a nightmare that doesn't seem to end.

But there is a call for all of us to wake up.

"Wake up, o sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you." (Eph. 5:1)

Katherine is in the process of waking up now. For the past two weeks, it’s been as if the anesthesia is finally wearing off...Narnia is thawing. She really had us fooled before. She seemed so alert and ‘with it’ at times in the ICU that we thought she was more aware of what had happened than she actually was. We explained that she had been through brain surgery, that her life had been in grave danger, but that God was answering our prayers for her healing. She would nod and give us a thumbs up, or point up to heaven and then make a fist, which meant “I am strong in the Lord.” We learned to communicate fairly well through hand signals, and thought we were all on the same page.

And then it turned into Groundhog Day, where we had to live through everything all over again. And again...and again...the effects of short-term memory loss. That has given us the gift of repetitive loss. For instance, things which we thought had been understood, processed, and accepted are felt as fresh wounds. As our efforts at communication have become increasingly successful, our knowledge of this has deepened.

One morning I walked into the room and heard a croaky but insistent “Mom!” while I was still washing my hands. When I came around the curtain, Katherine was frantically beckoning me to her side. “My eye,” she mouthed/croaked, “My eye!” I looked at the eye in question through the fake glasses patched on one side. “Yes, it looks so much better,” I told her. It took me a few seconds to untangle her next comment: “I had no idea!” “What?” I asked. “That it turns in!!!”she said while pointing to her nose.

She had just seen herself in a mirror for the first time...that she remembered.

Another day, she was lying on her side, holding onto the rail in an attempt to alleviate the pain in her hip. With sad eyes, she looked up at me and said, “Wus.” “What??” I kept asking her to repeat. I eventually deciphered, “Worst. This is the worst thing there is. THE worst thing that could happen.” Believing it is important to let her grieve, I agreed. “Yeah, this is about as bad as it gets.” She nodded. “But we still have you,” I added in a moment or two. “And James still has his mommy. Would you rather be here like this or be in heaven now?” (Trust me, I wouldn’t be asking that kind of question if I didn’t already know how this particular person would answer.) Her response was to give me the chunky baby thighs sign, accompanied by a lop-sided grin.

On a third occasion, when she was having a particularly bad day, she communicated words even more heartbreaking. By this point, her speech had begun improving to the point where we were understanding about 75% . That day she felt that something had been misunderstood and miscommunicated by a staff member, and for some reason it was absolutely vital that we get it. She was talking to me and her nurse Phil. “I just want you to believe me! Inside, inside (she pounded her chest for emphasis) I’m normal! I’m normal inside!” Of course, she didn’t sound “normal” as she said this. Right now she sounds kind of like a fifth-grader’s imitation of a “retarded” person coming through a robot's voicebox. (A temporary condition, I hope and pray.) Phil and I were both grabbing for the tissue box. “I just want to go home! I just want to hold my baby!” She rocked her empty arms. Phil and I mostly just listened as she got it all out. She wiped her eyes, pulled herself together, and held my hand. In a barely audible tone, she mouthed, “It’s a nightmare, Mom. A nightmare that doesn’t end.”

An endless nightmare...well, maybe a prolonged, drawn-out one. We know that all dreams, even bad ones, come to an end.

Personally, I hate waking up. It’s unpleasant on multiple levels. I usually wake up tired, grumpy, and aching. I cringe at leaving the soft haven of my squeaky old canopy bed for the harsh realities of morning. Many times I put the pillow back over my head and tell whichever family member is bugging me that I “just need to finish this dream to see how it ends.” But we all know that can’t be done. (Unless maybe you’re still in college.)

Waking up to the cruel reality of her broken condition is hard for Katherine. It is even harder for those of us who love her dearly. But it also indicates that healing is taking place. She is returning to life, with all of its pain and challenges, joys and delights. She has felt some tingling in her face, which is similar to when your foot or your arm’s been asleep and then the feeling starts coming back like pins and needles. It’s not pleasant when that happens, but it’s better than complete numbness.

Sometimes even pain is better than feeling nothing at all.

Katherine’s crisis has forced me to wake up as well. Something like this has the effect of instantly clearing the cobwebs, dissipating the fog. I’m guilty of sleepwalking through a lot of life, of living in fantasyland much of the time. This has jolted me back hard to the reality of the frailty and brevity of life..."la condition humaine." I carry an awareness that every day could be my last. I am not the captain of my own ship. None of us are here for very long, anyway. I’m on a trip that’s well beyond halfway over. (Unless, God forbid, He makes me stay here ‘til I’m 110 for being such a slow learner.) I remind myself that I could lose the ones I love most at any minute. I am trying to prioritize more than ever before. What REALLY matters today, at this hour, in this present moment? WHY AM I HERE?

It is time.

As Paul warned the believers in Rome:

“ This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Rom. 13:11)

...Arise, shine, for our light has come...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Jesus Wept

(Begun on Sunday, July 13)

Katherine asked me today why this happened. Taken off guard, I scrolled through my index of theologically sound explanations. I stopped at the end where a Forest Gump one appeared: S*** happens.

She was enduring the indignity of having her diaper changed at the time. (At least she doesn’t try to flip over the way James does.) Atypical tears started flowing as she lip-synced, “I can’t talk! I can’t walk! Why?? Why, Mom??? ”

By this point, my own were raining down on her freshly made-up face, which is a new Sunday tradition meant to mimic Church Best. (There are usually a lot of visitors on Sunday, and we want to put our best foot forward.) I tried to wipe them off without disturbing the recently applied blush.

I said, “I don’t know why. But I do know that God didn’t cause it to happen. He is not the author of suffering like this. God only allows those things which he can ultimately use for good in the lives of his children.” Although I do happen to choose to believe that statement, it sounded hollow and pre-fab as it came out.

A few minutes later, she said, “I’m mad.”

“Good,” I replied, “ I’m mad as hell.”

“Yes! I am, too,” she mouthed.

“But Katherine, you don’t cuss.”

“I know!” in the new Wisconsin accent, “You shouldn’t either.”

Unfortunately, some habits die hard.

One day a while back, I walked out of that ugly old hospital into another delicious California afternoon. But instead of rejoicing in it, I said (silently) to no one in particular: “THIS SUCKS.” Now even though I threw in the towel ages ago and finally gave up asking people if they knew the direct object of that verb, it still sounds rather rough to me. (I didn’t give up until I heard it used on a newscast, a weather report, and from a pulpit. Then I figured it had pretty much joined the vernacular.) Just as I was getting all geared up to feel like a bad person for losing my perspective, surprising words entered my head. “I know. Jesus wept.” Instead of condemnation, I felt embraced by a rush of hot love.

Jesus wept: a perennial favorite of kids challenged to memorize a Bible verse. It may be the shortest sentence in the Bible, but it is also one of the most profound and transformational. God cried. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies, voluntarily bearing the frailties of flesh intrinsic to the skin he was in, groaned in anguish. The NLT version (which I love) says, “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.” In verse 38, it says he was “still angry.” (John 11:33-38)

God is not unmoved by his children’s sorrows. He is torn with grief at our suffering. He is angrier when I hurt than I am when one of my babies hurts. And that’s pretty damn (I mean darn) angry.

He hates it when children die of cancer, when beautiful, brilliant college girls like Eve Carson are senselessly murdered, when young soldiers like Evan Marshall are killed in Iraq. He grieves about our broken hearts, broken relationships, broken bodies. He despises the suffering inherent in sin, the unnecessary agonies we bring upon ourselves; He agonizes over our self-destructive tendencies, sympathizes with us in our weakness and failures.

I believe there will come a day in the fullness of time when He’s gonna do something about it. In the meantime, I must cling to the bedrock of belief in the goodness of His deeply compassionate nature. I steel myself to hold onto the Rock even when those violent waves keep trying to knock me off of it. Anything else is unthinkable.

And, yes, in spite of my fickleness and double-heartedness, I do believe that He would not have allowed something that angers Him as much as Katherine’s broken wings must do unless it would be used for good.

GREAT good.

(Will somebody please remind me of that the next time I start cussing and grumbling?)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another first for grandma....I figured out how to do a link!

I've made an album on Kodakgallery for family and friends called "Laughing in the Wind," documenting some celebrations we've had in the midst of the storm. The first picture is the book cover mentioned in "Learning to Float." Sometimes a picture's worth a thousand...

If you are interested, feel free to click on:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Know

Currently, Katherine’s favorite expression is “I know.” We’re not sure why this is. It could be because it doesn’t contain any hard consonants, which are killing her right now. ‘P’ comes out as an ‘M’ for instance. Mama and Papa sound exactly the same. But the “I know” just glides off her tongue like olive oil over a tomato.

We’ll be rattling on, trying to fill the room with funny, cheerful words, when that forceful “I know” beats us to the punch line. The emphasis is on the second syllable. Coming out of the mouth of that Georgia girl, it’s delivered in a vaguely Wisconsin or Minnesota accent. Although it sounds almost parrot-like at times, it also reminds you of a wise old medicine woman who’s seen it all, done it all, and could write a book about it if she could still hold a pen. The wisdom of the ages is contained within that confident, emphatic “I know.”

Perhaps it is that Katherine is trying to let us know that it’s all still in there. She may not be able to speak it yet, she may have suffered some short-term memory loss, but it’s still there. Everything that makes her Katherine. Twenty six years of loving, learning, leaping, losing, leaning on God...a young life’s cumulative experiences....have not been wiped out by this devastation.

Maybe one day she’ll tell us of the “treasures in the darkness” she’s received during her time in the cave. I am praying that God will restore her true voice and that eventually she’ll be shouting out to the mountaintops the revelatory wisdom she’s received in the crucible of suffering.

In the meantime, the reiterated “I know’s” challenge me to define what I truly know. When I was on a study abroad program in Russia during the Cold War, our group was smuggled into a (relatively) luxurious ‘writer’s colony’ close to where Pasternak wrote Dr. Zhivago. We were the guests of Yuri Nagibin, a writer who is as equally esteemed in Russia, although he has not been as widely translated in the West. It was a great honor to be in his home. After a lavish meal, we gathered for an intense discussion conducted in slaughtered Russian and awkward English. He posed a question to the group of young, spoiled Americans: “What do you know?” Think about it for a moment. There was a pregnant pause as each of us tried to figure out the right answer. “What do you really know?”

Nagibin’s questioning helped us to see the dangers inherent in our self-indulgent, affluent society of becoming a nation of dilettantes. Our culture has created an environment where it is easy to have a surface knowledge of a lot of things, but an in-depth knowledge of few. “Don’t know much about history...”as the song boasts. This discussion has haunted me for 28 years.

It challenges me now.

I search through the barrage of thoughts, feelings, inclinations, emotions, and habitual patterns for what I really know. What causes a swelling chorus of “YES!” to resonate through my entire being?

There are many things I don’t know. There are many things I think I know that I don’t. There are many feelings which I erroneously accept as facts.


I know that God is good, even when circumstances are not.
I know that He loves me beyond comprehension.
I know that he will never leave me or forsake me.
I know that He is for me, not against me.
I know that he loves my children even more than I do.

And I know that there’s a happy ending, when He will wipe away every single tear.

Yet I’ve also come to know that it is only in the crucible of suffering that Sunday school platitudes are transformed into certainties.

Jesus loves me, this I know...

Be still and KNOW

...beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Learning to Float

Sometimes there is a little ball of fear hiding deep down inside my chest. Those wily “what-ifs” come sneaking around like jackals sniffing a foul feast. I have to will myself to turn away, stop my ears up, and run in the opposite direction. “Resist and FLEE.”

Projections into the future are forbidden territory. There are times when the only thing you can do is the right thing. Living in the day at a time...just floating. That is how it must be now. Attempting to live any other way produces unbearable stress. There is a peace that comes from the freedom of fewer choices. Too many choices have always done me in. The grocery store is a nightmare; Walmart is the 6th circle of Hell. But now simplicity is not a choice, it is the only possible condition of existence. A rhythmic pattern must be established within the chaos of uncertainties.

And so I try to establish my little rituals of comfort and familiarity, attempting to redefine ‘home.’ But I am reminded that “the Son of Man had no place to lay his head.”

Just days after the AVM rupture, Sherry, one of Katherine’s agents, send me a copy of the print from one of her modeling jobs. The shoot was for a book cover. A confident-looking blonde with cool shades is at the wheel of a shiny convertible, hair blowing in the wind, a big black lab hanging over her shoulder. The slight grin on her face indicates that she is a woman who knows exactly where she’s going as she cruises out into a world of beautiful blue skies. The name of the book is Learning to Float (a woman, a dog, and just enough men.) Boy did we get a laugh out of that one...Katherine is not a dog person, and has always thought one man was plenty. Although it might seem a little strange to have received something funny like that at the time I did, I thought it was perfect on many levels. Katherine will be that confident, smiling woman again one day. She is on a journey. Blue skies will return. And we will all learn to float.

A year and a half ago, I had a unique experience which I am only now beginning to understand. It was a time of intense pain. I was praying with my former pastor’s wife, when we both began having the same visualization. It had started with me. In my mind, I saw an old ship floundering in a storm, being ripped apart as it crashed on the rocks. The words “Abandon the ship” came to me. That scared me. I didn’t want to jump into the dark, cold waters. These words were impressed upon my spirit: “Jump in. I will not let you go under. Just float. I am the living water. Immerse yourself in me.” By this time, Sandy said “Kim, I feel as if I’m floating in an ocean.” We began describing what we were sensing in prayer to each other, entering into the experience together. We both felt ourselves relinquishing control as we ceased our struggling in the sea. We just floated there in the gentle waves of God’s presence. At the same moment, we sensed the sun coming out, warm and bright, sparkling on the dancing water. Words floated down to us: “Do not be afraid. Storms and floods may come. Don’t fight and flail. Let go. Float with your face turned up towards the Sun of righteousness. There is healing in my wings. Waters that seem as if they will drown you are for your healing. Come into the healing waters.” Waves of love flowed over us and kept us safely buoyed on the surface. We were being held. We rested.

Then we both seemed to be moving. We were lovingly carried along by a strong but gentle current. A vague questioning entered my mind. These words came to my friend and me: “The waves are carrying you to far-away places, places you’ve never been before. But don’t be afraid. It is at my direction.”

God, help me really learn to float.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Another Non-Blog

I just have one thing to say to whoever prayed about the internet situation:

WOW!!!!! That was quick.

Will the guilty party or parties please be BLESSED!

More later....

love, kim

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


We’ve been moving into an apartment this week, with all that entails. (More thoughts on that later.) Among other ‘welcome-to-the-real-world’ adjustments, we have no internet access. So, if anyone out there’s still interested in reading random ramblings from this trip we’re on, please pray that I will find an easy way to handle that challenge. For a noise addict like me, no TV’s gonna be one too...lots of quiet time for reflection. But I do have a lovely fountain splashing outside my window.

During this time of transition, I’ve thought a lot about the inherent fragility of things. ..especially life. This was scribbled during one of those musings:


earthen pot
or porcelain bowl
holding sinew
thought and soul
lightly balance
on rough shelf
(quiver with
essential self)
until the rumbling
of the earth
dislodges from
precarious berth
and shaken to
extreme-most edge
the vessel
tumbles off the ledge

broken, shattered
contents scattered
all that mattered
spilled and splattered

onto the filthy floor

rough hands with glue
cannot undo
the damage done
the maker is the one

who must restore

(I promise not to inflict much more of this type of thing on you....there’s just been no time to write.)

Thank you for your faithfulness.