In Praise of an Awful Time

Sarah Ford Lappas

Sarah Ford Lappas Mar 17·4 min read

Some days my life is reduced to a pile of tiny clothing, and all of it is inside-out. It will take me hours, I am certain, to pull all of these sleeves back through themselves, to flip a thousand tiny neck holes back through a thousand tiny waist holes. On these days, my older child transforms into the human embodiment of my own inner monologue. He perches beside me, holding the pieces of whatever menial task I’ve assigned to him — a toothbrush with a pea-sized squeeze of paste or the mismatched socks I heroically procured from the depths of our dryer. “I CAN’T do it, Mama. I CAAAAN’T,” he whines loudly, mere centimeters from my left ear. He flails around wildly, poking me with the toothbrush and smearing paste on my eyebrow. On these days, my toddler calls for me from the kitchen, pointing at our robot vacuum and demanding an explanation. “Bo-BAA!?!?” he yells in horror and disgust, “BO-BAA?!?!” He stands and stares at me in judgement. How did we get to this point? he seems to be asking. What, if anything, MAMA, did YOU do to stop it? I shrug my shoulders in shame, hoping he one day listens to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and finds it explanatory if not exculpatory.

On these days I lift all 70 pounds of my children at once and drag them to the garage. They cry as I push boots on their feet, scream as I strap them into car seats. The older one just wants to stay home and play LEGOs, mom.The younger has not been given a satisfactory explanation for the aberration sucking cheerios from our floors.

Never mind these pesky children. They are coming with me because I am leaving. They will slow me down, undoubtedly, but they will not stop me. I am determined. I am committed. We are going out in search of an awful time.

You read that right. Not an awesome time, an awful time. If I were searching for an awesome time on days like this I would never leave the house. It is 39 degrees and pouring rain, but we are going to the beach. Or, the gale-force winds are transforming my sons from children in rain suits to waving roadside car dealership balloons, but we are following this goddam trail all the way down to the goddam lake. When it starts to hail, we will take cover under that cypress tree over there. When we reach the lake, we will turn around and hike back up immediately because I did not pack snacks. Alternatively, we will find some downtown pier, all but abandoned in the pandemic, and pick up every piece of trash we see. In this scenario, my older child’s chorus of I CAN’Ts reach a fevered pitch rivaling the aria of any 21st century avant-garde opera. My toddler wails in accompaniment. This continues until, all of a sudden, it doesn’t. My older son sees a plastic bag, blowing in the wind, and chases after it. “No way, plastic,” he shouts as he lunges toward it, “you’re not going into the Puget Sound! You’re not going to hurt an animal!” My toddler runs after him, laughing hysterically. He watches his brother jump up and grab the floating bag mid-air and squeals with delight. He is certain, at that point, that his brother is indeed the superhero he imagines himself to be, and that anything at any moment could begin to float that way, dancing in the wind. He sees a rainbow in the oil-streaked puddle on the street. “Bay-BOW!” he yells, smiling at me, “BAY-BOW!!!”

And when we finally reach the car, shivering and soaked, we laugh and all say “Phew!” in unison. We blast music and belt along with it the whole way home. When we reach the driveway we stop, together, to gaze upon our little home and smile the smiles of people who always knew they could do anything. I pull up the garage door easily with just one hand. It feels as light as the plastic bag we chased and glides easily on its tracks, welcoming us like the mouth of some ancient fire-lit cave. We each take off our own boots, knowing that our supremely competent hands were made for any challenge, and our Herculean legs propel us up the stairs in seconds. We choose our own snacks from the cupboard and the fridge and spread them out onto the kitchen table. We feed ourselves and one another as the sun finally breaks through the clouds outside our kitchen window. And after we eat we make ourselves a nest out of the pile of laundry on the bed and lay on it together, all three of us — exhausted, grateful, home.

Sarah Ford Lappas

Wordsworth, This Holiday

There’s a lovely line in William Wordsworth’s poem “The Prelude”:

“What we have loved, Others will love, and we will teach them how.”

There are still things worthy of our love. Honor, decency, courage, beauty, and truth. Tenderness, human empathy, and a sense of duty. A good society. And a commitment to human dignity. We need to teach others—in our individual relationships, in our classrooms and communities, in our book clubs and Bible studies, and in innumerable other settings—why those things are worthy of their attention, their loyalty, their love. One person doing it won’t make much of a difference; a lot of people doing it will create a culture.

Maybe we understand better than we did five years ago why these things are essential to our lives, and why when we neglect them or elect leaders who ridicule and subvert them, life becomes nasty, brutish, and generally unpleasant.

Just after noon on January 20, a new and necessary chapter will begin in the American story. Joe Biden will certainly play a role in shaping how that story turns out—but so will you and I. Ours is a good and estimable republic, if we can keep it.

PETER WEHNER is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues, and he is the author of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.

George Washington’s letter to the Jewish residents of R.I.

President George Washington and the letter he wrote, after a visit to Newport, R.I., where he was enthusiastically received by, among others, members of the local Jewish community. It was dated Aug. 18, 1790. (Hat tip to the Jewish Women’s Theater in Los Angeles, Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, NPR and all others who have referenced this letter in recent days.).


Gentlemen: While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and a happy people.

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

“Cack-Handed” — Not One-Off Britishisms


Reader Evan Geller sent in this quote from Florida writer Diane Roberts in the Washington Post: DeSantis, a fervent Trump partisan and sports fan who’s shown signs of harboring presidential ambitions, has seen his popularity shrivel of late, possibly because of his cackhanded approach to the pandemic in Florida: opening up too soon, refusing to […]

via “Cack-Handed” — Not One-Off Britishisms

Late? Never!



Evan Geller, MD FACS

The final book in The Claddagh Trilogy now available for purchase

[Anthem, AZ: 23 June 2020] The long-awaited final installment of the award winning series The Claddagh Trilogy by author Evan Geller is now available for purchase on Amazon. The book is entitled The Wise Silence of God.

Tagline: They say the Devil’s greatest trick was to make us believe He didn’t exist. God’s greatest trick was making us believe He did.

The Wise Silence of God takes up the story of Grace Sheehan immediately following her rescue by the fallen priest, Julius Zimmerman, at the conclusion of the second book in the series, The Problem with God. While continuing the saga of Grace’s struggle against the prospect of excision, the book addresses the issues raised in the earlier books in the series; specifically, man’s relation to god, fate, science, and the implications of an afterlife. The book, like those that preceded it, relies upon historical events and scientific concepts, as well as utilizing classic Irish mythology as its basis. This book was specifically inspired by the tragedy surrounding the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland, where the discovery of the bodies of nearly 800 babies in an unmarked septic tank led to a national inquiry: Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation

Now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats.

Amazon link:

Proceeds from the sale of this book support The Southern Poverty Law Center

Staring Down Dragons

Every crisis chooses its heroes. The heroes do not volunteer for the role. Brave souls do not rush to the front line to save us. The heroes, ordinary folk until now, are plucked from their previous lives without warning, whether they are willing or not, whether they are ready or not. In this crisis, there are many heroes (see Heroes in Masks with Mops). Everyone who shows up for their shift—whether they be nurse, houseman, security guard, food service worker, physician, or one of the countless other individuals needed to care for the tsunami of sick COVID-19 patients overwhelming our hospitals–is truly performing an act of courage each and every day. The heroes for the history books, though, the heroes who will be remembered by their colleagues long after this plague passes, are the anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, respiratory therapists, and ENT surgeons who find themselves staring down this monster every day–some many, many times on a really bad day. These are the special people whom we will always remember with an admiring nod and a tear of appreciation.nurse-anesthetist-vs-anesthesiologist.jpg.5c6db5df59cf2f07619cd04bbc39f0c1

The AIDS epidemic was the last plague that truly threatened US medical workers. While Ebola and H1N1 challenged us, neither of these crises presented a general threat to the health of our practitioners in this country. AIDS, however, during the terrible years of the late Eighties and early Nineties, killed our practitioners as well as our patients. We forget now, because of brilliant scientists like David Ho and countless others, who have given us effective treatments for HIV. But for several years, AIDS actually was the leading cause of death of people under age 40 in this country, the only time any disease displaced trauma from the top of the list. AIDS killed EVERYBODY it infected. And if the medical professional caring for the critically ill AIDS patient suffered a significant exposure, there was a definite possibility that they would die–horribly, because everyone with AIDS in those days died, horribly. Whole wards were filled with young people dying, horribly. Many AIDS patients developed severe intra-abdominal crises that required urgent surgical intervention. Surgery on these patients was fraught with the possibility of killing the surgeon, because these patients generally had extremely high viral loads at the time of their surgical crisis. This was the first time in memory when we had a national discussion about whether a doctor or nurse was morally obligated to care for an ill patient.

Doctors and nurses were dying. General surgeons, resident surgeons in training, orthopedic surgeons, surgical techs, and scrub nurses were at risk from needle sticks, blood splatters, intra-operative incidents of all kinds; significant or seemingly mundane, but now mortal injuries. Some surgeons refused to operate on HIV positive patients, hiding behind the argument that the patients were all dying anyway. This left the rest of us scrubbing on more and more of these dangerous procedures as others subtly deferred consults. Scrub techs and nurses willing to operate in dangerous conditions were increasingly called upon to fill in for those who declined. NY state entertained a law requiring surgeons who seroconverted to notify all patients of their status in the never-proven concern that a patient might contract the disease from the practitioner. So we stopped getting tested after every needle-stick, we even stopped donating blood, because we were not only risking our health, but also our ability to practice. It was a double-edged sword, with both edges pointed toward the practitioner. We stopped telling our spouses and colleagues about every torn glove or needle stick during an AIDS patient operation, because we stopped thinking about it as soon as we left the OR. But we kept operating on HIV patients, trying blunt-tip needles, extra-thick latex gloves, even chain-mail gloves—none of which helped in the least. Be careful, assume every patient is positive, universal precautions, we were told—all of it went right out the window with the next trauma patient in shock.

This plague has picked a different hero. Now, the riskiest moment for the health care practitioner is the intubation of a deteriorating COVID infected patient. In every hospital, anesthesiologists, anesthetists, and respiratory therapists, as well as many emergency medicine physicians and ENT surgeons, are placing their heads in the maw of the dragon as they insert an endotracheal tube needed to save a patient’s life. There is not a more dangerous maneuver in our current practice. Even worse than the surgeon operating on the AIDS patient, our modern knights staring down this dragon are not protected with chain-mail gloves, cannot even see the enemy, because it attacks—not in a spray of blood or with the pain of an errant needle—but in an invisible miasma. The risk of each individual intervention may be less, but the anxiety so much greater, as no one knows as they pull off their mask if, on this occasion, the dragon’s breath got past their shield. There is no choice but to take a deep breath, say a little prayer, and go on to the next patient.

When our anesthesiologists, anesthetists, ER docs, and respiratory therapists applied for training, none of them took a moment to ask themselves if they were brave enough to do this work. The job interview didn’t include a question about courage. No one signed up for this. They just do the work we need them to do to save our lives. When this is finally over, we will not forget that.