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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

The Bandit, the Bully, and the Baby

“Are you sure you’re up for writing this week?” Mike asked.

My husband of 47 years knows that I struggle with feeling happy when those I care about are hurting. And there's always someone we know who’s hurting.

I bet that’s true in your world, too.

It’s been a year of losses, some of which I’ve tried to describe here, others that are pending, still others too private for public words. The deep empathy I feel for loved ones’ troubles often leaks from my own eyes.

But there’s an old Italian saying about counting your nights by stars, not shadows; your life with smiles, not tears.

The world is dark enough. Don’t we all need friends who remind us to laugh? To celebrate the silliness of life? To mark the moments?

Several years ago, I met Karen at a conference. It was an overcast day threatening rain, and yet this cheerful woman was walking down a hallway dressed in daffodil yellow with happy-face balloons rising from her wrists. I stopped, laughed with her, and asked to “make her picture,” as they say in the South.

Karen wasn’t promoting a cause, serving on staff, or advertising a product. “My mission is to help others mark the moments,” she told me simply. “To splash joy, one moment at a time.”

Taking a cue from Karen, what moments have you experienced in recent weeks that have brought sheer delight?

Unexpected joy?

Bursts of laughter?

Please brighten up my inbox with your comments below.

And in return I’ll tell you about the bandit of Waynesville, North Carolina, the bully of Pflugerville, Texas, and a very special baby who just turned two. If any of these moments get you to crack a grin today, you’ll make my day!

(But first, some good news I saw posted on Twitter, now "X"):


Mike and I were out of town several weeks ago when an urgent text came from our neighbor George.

“The Waynesville police are looking for a man who stole a vehicle and abandoned it somewhere on our road. He’s on foot and may be dangerous – lock your doors.”

In a neighborhood where malefactors are rare, a warning like this was unprecedented. I tried to reach an elderly guest renting our ground-floor apartment for the month of July who often sat outside on the porch for hours.

No answer.

Alarmed, I asked George to check our property and urge the guest to move inside, securing all the locks.

Writers are born with wildly vivid imaginations. My husband will tell you this is no gift. In the hours before we arrived home, I pictured the older woman trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey while the bandit ransacked our home and the cats watched, unfazed.

Until I heard the rest of the story from our friend Richard a few doors down.

While Richard was out mowing his lawn, a disheveled gentleman had wheeled into his driveway in a golf cart and promptly began doing wheelies in the flowerbeds. He had “borrowed” the cart from the golf course down the hill, claiming he couldn’t find a place to turn around to return it. Richard helped him extricate the cart and went inside to call for help.

The bandit fled and later abandoned his stolen vehicle, thus the APB. It's tricky making a speedy getaway in a golf cart, anyway.

Such is the woeful state of high crime here in the mountains.


Last week we returned from a long weekend in Austin, Texas, where our youngest son has relocated following a corporate move.

Jordan, who lives with his beloved rescue dog Lilly, chose his home carefully for its quiet neighborhood, fenced-in yard, and nearby dog park. But what he didn’t reckon on was a malevolent neighborhood bully.

On one of their first walks, the bully-next-door followed Jordan and Lilly for seven houses before attacking, bloodying Lilly’s nose. Nearly every time they went outdoors, the assailant was lying in wait in the adjacent driveway, which so freaked out Lilly that she began to refuse to leave the house. When Jordan could coax her outside, they crossed the street and gave the neighbor’s home a wide berth.

And then this happened:

First Encounter. The natives are not friendly.

"Uh-oh. Now it's in my driveway."

The bully lying in wait atop Jordan's car.

It’s like a horror movie starring a monster cat. I feel sorry for my granddog, but you've gotta laugh at the nerve of this arrogant feline bully.


Two years ago today, our sixth grandchild had cardiac surgery to correct a serious birth defect, followed by ten weeks in the NICU at Boston Children’s Hospital. As some of you know, Jane was diagnosed at 12 weeks’ gestation with Turner Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder resulting when one of the X chromosomes is missing. Of all female babies conceived with the syndrome, only 1-2% survive until delivery.

This past Saturday, Jane turned two, and she is thriving. Just look at her now!

Janie on her 2nd birthday with her beloved Baba

Soli deo gloria – Glory to God alone.

In a world filled with so much sorrow, it’s vital to laugh. To celebrate the moments of pure joy. To count the nights by stars, not shadows.

The Italians sure had that right.

What has sparked joy in your life this past week?

- Maggie Wallem Rowe


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