Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

“You gotta get out!” my tenant’s friend said over the phone. “The whole mountain’s on fire!”
Gene wandered outside, smelled smoke but saw no evidence of flames. He meandered inside, decided to put his shoes on, and then slipped out again to take another look. “Holy crap!”
He searched frantically for LittleBoy, his favorite ferrel cat. LittleBoy was lost.
Gene jumped in his car and raced down the long winding driveway. Across the way, the neighbor’s house was already engulfed in flames; the street was a hallway on fire.
“I drove through a hailstorm of embers,” Gene told me later. At a parking lot at the end of the road, he pulled over with a huddle of people standing in shock. 
“Dude, your car’s on fire!” one of them yelled. Someone grabbed a fire extinguisher. 
In the midst of the chaos, a stranger pointed at Gene’s shoes. “Your socks don’t match.” Just then another guy ran to the group, barefoot and shirtless. He couldn’t make it to his car and escaped on foot.
Now that the fire is over, people, mostly like Gene, wander into the laundromat I own with my  husband. The lucky ones are washing clothes, blankets, curtains, and linens that all smell like smoke. The ones who aren’t so lucky need information, a hot cup of coffee and everything else.
Pat Hoffman and his wife, Barbie, decided to make our laundromat a soft place for these people to land.
Back when I was diagnosed with cancer 3 years ago, my husband reached out to Pat for help. “I can’t manage this business anymore and take care of Nancy too,” Gary said. For twenty years, our businesses have shared a wall. Pat owns Sonoma Taekwandoo, and we’ve watched each other and our community of customers grow up. 
Like all small business owners I know, he’s busy. We hated to ask for help, but we were panicking, wondering how in the hell we would make ends meet as self employed people in a nation that hasn’t figured out that part of the health care system.
In a couple of days, with the ease of seasoned dealmakers and trusted friends, we agreed to a plan that works for everyone. Pat stepped in and still runs our laundromat as if it were his own.
When the fires torched our beloved mountains and vineyards, all of us could see that our community was suffering. People like Gene, like my sister Jane and her husband Dave, like so many of our friends and neighbors – had no place to go. 
Information was spotty and often inaccurate. People needed a place to connect.
Pat and his wife, Barbie, moved a row of video games out of the laundromat and into their own storage space, and they put up a bulletin board where neighbors and organizations could post vital information. Then they bought donuts, lots of donuts, but they made coffee too and bought cases of water.
“We’ll wash their blankets, give them coffee, and do whatever we can to help,” Barbie said. La Luz de Sonoma, a local organization, delivered lunches to the laundromat so people could eat. 
“This is what it means to be part of a community,” Pat says. 
Without completing a single form, without assessing liabilities or conducting a cost benefit analysis study, help showed up. It fed the hungry, it clothed the naked, it comforted the afflicted. There was no army of government employees or trailers full of computers and copy machines. It was just Pat, a laundromat and donuts.
No one got a tax increase. No one had to show ID or proof of income. But people came together anyway and offered help. Those who needed it were grateful; those who served were blessed.
That’s the power of small business. Small entities doing great things. And it happens everyday in communities all across the nation. It’s just that most of the time, nobody notices.

Nancy Brier

Nancy Brier is regrowing her hair with her balding husband in Palm Desert, California where they recently relocated. They have an 12-year-old daughter whose hair is perfect. For more of Nancy’s work, please visit

As Long as It Beats, a Grieving Heart Lives with the Pain of Loss

In: Grief, Loss
Woman walking through brown field with hand outstreatched

Life churns forward in a somewhat continued and steady momentum that I find I must consistently adjust my pace to keep up with. There isn’t tolerance in life for the way grief seems to ache for pause. In the silence of this space, my body feels crushed under the weight. I sit alone with my thoughts often. I’ve made peace with the solitude that surges in the aftermath of death. Maybe not peace. Perhaps it’s surrender. After all, which one of us doesn’t fall prey to the helplessness of mortality? I can no longer count on one hand those I’ve...

Keep Reading

6 Things You Can Do Now to Help Kids Remember Their Grandparents

In: Grief, Living, Loss, Motherhood
Grandfather dances with granddaughter in kitchen

A month ago, my mom unexpectedly passed away. She was a vibrant 62-year-old grandma to my 4-year-old son who regularly exercised and ate healthy. Sure, she had some health scares—breast cancer and two previous brain aneurysms that had been operated on successfully—but we never expected her to never come home after her second surgery on a brain aneurysm. It has been devastating, to say the least, and as I comb through pictures and videos, I have gathered some tips for other parents of young kids to do right now in case the unexpected happens, and you’re left scrambling to never...

Keep Reading

I’m Not Ready for Life Without My Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Woman sad sitting by a window looking out

I’m not ready. Not ready for time to just keep trudging forward without her. Four years have gone by, and I still think about her every day. When that awful third day of October rules around every year it’s like a tidal wave comes and sweeps me up tossing me this way and that. The rest of the year I can bob up and down with the occasional waves of grief. But the week before October 3rd the waves pick up, and I can’t see over the crest of one before the next is already upon me. I find myself...

Keep Reading

Since She Left

In: Grief, Loss
Older, color photo of mother and young daughter blowing out birthday candles

It’s been 14 years since she left. It’s like a lifetime ago and yesterday at the same time. The loss of my mother was indescribable. We never had a traditional relationship. As I grew older, our roles were very much reversed, but even still, missing one’s mother (for lack of a better word) is hard . . . plain and simple. Sometimes I wonder, what is it exactly that I miss? Of course, I miss talking to her. I miss how she drove me crazy. I miss her baking. I miss hearing about her newest needlepoint. I miss when she...

Keep Reading

I Carried You for Just 17 Weeks but I’ll Hold You in My Heart Forever

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Ultrasound image of baby in second trimester

September 11 will be a date that is forever etched in my heart, not only because of its historical significance but because it’s the day I saw your lifeless little body on the ultrasound screen. I couldn’t hold back the sobs. My chest suddenly felt heavier than a ton of bricks. I’ve been here before. I’ve had losses, but none this late. I didn’t feel their movements or hear so many strong heartbeats at my checkups. Your siblings felt you move and squealed with utter excitement. I want to wake from this nightmare, but it seems it’s my new reality....

Keep Reading

To the Woman Longing to Become a Mother

In: Faith, Grief, Motherhood
Woman looking at pregnancy test with hand on her head and sad expression

To the woman who is struggling with infertility. To the woman who is staring at another pregnancy test with your flashlight or holding it up in the light, praying so hard that there will be even the faintest line. To the woman whose period showed up right on time. To the woman who is just ready to quit. I don’t know the details of your story. I don’t know what doctors have told you. I don’t know how long you have been trying. I don’t know how many tears you have shed. I don’t know if you have lost a...

Keep Reading

I Was There to Walk My Mother to Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Hand holding older woman's hand

I prayed to see my momma die. Please don’t click away yet or judge me harshly after five seconds. I prayed to see, to experience, to be in the room, to be a part of every last millisecond of my momma’s final days, final hours, and final moments here on Earth. You see, as a wife of a military man, I have always lived away from my family. I have missed many birthdays, celebrations, dinners, and important things. But my heart couldn’t miss this important moment. I live 12 hours away from the room in the house where my momma...

Keep Reading

To the Loss Mom Whose Tears Keep Her Company Tonight

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Sad woman sitting up in bed with head in hands

Three pregnancies in one year. Three first trimesters. Three moments of celebration . . . until they turned to moments of sorrow. I’m sure every woman who experiences pregnancy loss has the thought, “I never thought this would happen to me.” I truly never thought this would happen to me. I have two healthy boys—conceived easily, uncomplicated pregnancies, by-the-book deliveries. We even thought we were done having kids . . . until the pregnancy test was positive. That’s when my heart opened up to more children, and I realized I ached to carry more life. Raise more littles. Nurse more babies....

Keep Reading

Cowgirls Don’t Cry Unless the Horse They Loved Is Gone

In: Grief, Kids, Loss
Little girls Toy Story Jessie costume, color photo

The knee of my pants is wet and dirty. My yellow ring lays by the sink—it’s been my favorite ring for months. I bought it to match Bigfoot’s halter and the sunflowers by his pasture. Bigfoot is my daughter’s pony, and I loved him the most. The afternoon is so sunny. His hooves make the same calming rhythm I’ve come to love as I walk him out back. A strong wind blows through the barn. A stall labeled “Bigfoot,” adorned with a sunflower, hangs open and I feel sick. I kneel down by his side as he munches the grass....

Keep Reading

Supporting the Grievers in the Aftermath of Suicide

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Two people walking down tunnel with arms around each other

She was a devoted mother of two boys with her husband of 26 years.  With him, she owned a metallurgy company, ran a household, and in her spare time, produced tons of crafts by hand, most of which she sold. When her younger son was diagnosed with autism, she read everything she could find on the subject, volunteered, advocated for the autism community, and developed programs for autistic children. She spoke at the National Autism Conference and was co-authoring a book to help parents navigate an autism diagnosis. We marveled at her energy and enthusiasm. She was at every family...

Keep Reading