Monday, April 25, 2016

Turn the Page

          Back in the early 70’s, I worked as a library clerk for three years under the “work study” program while I earned my BA in education. I loved that old library with its cathedral windows and rows and rows of dark tables and chairs.  The open reading area had every kind of reference book available, but my favorites were the unabridged dictionaries that lay open on individual stands in four different locations around that huge room.  Three of the dictionaries were about three feet by two and when closed had to be about one foot deep, but there was one that was even more massive.  It sat in the place of honor close to the check out desk where everyone could see it.  It even had its own spotlight.  
One had to use both hands to turn pages and not damage this amazing book, so I joked with my fellow library clerks it must be what the book of life looked like that St. Peter kept at the pearly gates of Heaven.  (This was the early 70’s, so God hadn’t invented “the cloud” yet.) In it we each have one page, and when we show up upon our death, St. Peter thumbs through and tallies our debits and credits, then doles out our fate.
The waiting part must seem like limbo.
It does not matter if we existed on Earth for a few seconds or one hundred years, each one of us has a page, a score sheet summary of our life.
As I bump along and good and bad happens, I wonder what gets tallied on my page. Are there more red line items than black?  Does how the influence we had on others count (or subtract) in our favor? 
What will be the sum total of my life on Earth? Will it earn me a place among the angels?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


          I was three, playing in the dirt of the flower bed in the front yard of the duplex we rented. My grandmother came to the front screen door to check on me. 
          “Don’t get dirty.”  She said.  “They are on their way.”
          A few minutes later a large yellow cab pulled up to the curb and my father jumped out loaded with bags.  He set them down on the grass and helped my mother out of the back seat.  She held a bundle close to her chest.
          My grandmother met them and the three cooed and smiled at the blanket-clad squirmy bundle. I asked to see the baby but I was ignored, forgotten.
          Grandma and Dad picked up the bags and escorted my mother up the steps and into the house.  I followed them into my parents’ bedroom as they lay the baby in the middle of the big bed.
          As one, they left the room and headed into the kitchen to enjoy the merienda my grandmother had prepared for the homecoming.  I stayed behind to look at my new sister, the belle of the ball, the usurper of my title as “daughter of the family.”
          I was three so the mattress reached my nose and all I could see was a blanketed bundle squirm.  I walked around three sides of the bed but none offered me a better view.
          Suddenly a tiny, skinny leg covered in a big pink booty escaped its confines. This “sister” of mine was little, but word on the street lent me to believe she was quite a cutie.  I needed a better look.
          I meant no harm.  I just wanted to meet my new baby sister, so I took hold of her foot and dragged her towards me.  Wham!  Someone slapped at my hand.  Swat!  I nearly jumped out of my shoes with the spank to my rear.  “She’s trying to kill the baby!” I got jerked away from the bed and three adults lunged for the baby, ready to give her CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation. All three of them ordered me to leave the room.  Now!  At once! Baby killer!
          It’s been almost sixty years.  I could not love my sister more.  But the story of my murderous ways still lives on in our family oral tradition.

          According to our mother, in a fit of jealously I obviously planned my sister’s demise from the very start. All I wanted was to meet her.  

Monday, April 4, 2016


          I just spent a week with one of the smartest, funniest, most interesting women on earth – my mother-in-law.
          She and I have a lot in common.  We were both teachers.  We both raised two sons and one daughter.  We like and do a lot of the same things.  Most importantly, we both love the same man: her son; my husband.
          I remember the exact moment I fell in love with HoneyBunch and it has a lot to do with her.
I had just told HB that he wanted more from our relationship than I did, and I couldn’t let it go any further.  This would be our last date, but we would part as friends. In conversation, he started talking about his mother and her fights with both breast and stomach cancer.  He admired her for her strength. She recovered from both but never regained her weight.  At eighty-eight, she still weighs less than 100 lbs and wears a size one. 
Though they do not live in the same state, they make it a point to see each other twice or more a year. HB’s family is big on exercise, and the two of them love to go on long walks together.  If she tired, he would scoop her up in his arms and carry her home. She would protest and giggle but loved the attention.
          I remember looking at him and realizing this was a very loving and kind man and I would be a fool to let him go out of my life.
          She loves when I tell her this story, not because it was the genesis of my love for her son, but because it is proof of how much her grown son still loves her.
          I should be jealous of that but I am not. She is his mother and I am his wife. She raised him to be the amazing man that he is and I get to reap the benefits.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Mama Is On a Diet – Again!

          When Ebola came to the United States, we panicked.  Now the Zika virus has us running indoors in fear of mosquitoes, yet we are blasé about our worst epidemic.
          According to our total BMI, the US is the 9th fattest country on Earth at 74.1%. That’s a lot of overweight people considering we outnumber the other eight fattest nations since they are mostly small islands in the eastern Pacific Ocean. We also outweigh the total number of underfed and starving people in the world. Since three out of every four Americans weigh in over their optimal weight, the CDC has declared obesity an epidemic in the United States.  
And I am one of those three.
This epidemic leads to premature death in this country, but instead of fighting this epidemic and changing our ways, we force the world to accept us as we are. Wheelchairs, caskets and graves, and gurneys are now larger to accommodate heavier clients.  Ambulances come equipped with winches to lift and lower patients, and grocery stores have had to double and triple the number of electric carts they keep for customer use.      
I have always hated being a statistic, yet here I am.
What makes us fat?
          Genetics is to blame, but even great metabolism does not ensure good nutrition.  
We eat our weight in fats and simple carbs every year. An overload of fats and simple carbohydrates leads to a higher daily caloric intake than we need for nutrition and energy, and any one calorie over what the body needs becomes body fat.
A sedentary lifestyle uses fewer calories, and the fewer calories we burn, the more fat we store.
So . . . yes, I am on a weight loss diet again. My genetics demand it. I am eating less simple carbohydrates and more complex carbs – whole grains and vegetables and fruits.  I am eating less fats and watching my caloric intake.  I am moving more, trying for 10,000 steps a day.  I eat a child’s portion of food when I dine out since that is closer to the caloric intake I should be eating.
And instead of purchasing and investing in gimmicks, I am teaching myself to do it with real foods and not with packaged meals or drinks.   
Yes, it’s a struggle.  If I didn’t try, I would be in a lot worse health than I am today. Abundance and convenience has made us a fat country, but as I learn the latest nutritional science, I also realize the onus is on us to learn how to control our appetite. Yes, we can eat out, just not every day.  Yes, we can have a doughnut, just not the whole dozen.

So Mama is on a diet again.  Her quality of life depends on it. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Happy Easter

Years ago I belonged to a parish church that was among the first in our community to enact a “passion play.” It covered Jesus’ life from his arrest on Thursday night, his death on Friday, and his Resurrection on Sunday morning. The props and special effects were engineering feats, the makeup and costumes amazing, but it was the SRO attendance at the one enactment on Good Friday that proved our church had attempted something special.

The first year I played in the “the angry mob.”  I really wanted a speaking role, but the deacons and their wives had already taken all of those. I just had to do the best I could with what I had been assigned.

The deacon playing Jesus led the way up and down the church aisles carrying a cross. Roman soldiers accompanied him.  Behind them walked John and the two Marys.  The Angry Mob (about a dozen of us) brought up the rear, jeering and calling for Jesus’s death.  

I knew I had nailed my performance when a furious preschooler lunged at me from one of the pews. (He was so angry that his mama had to physically hold him back from kicking me in the shins.) Our debut was a success. 

The next two years I tried out for Mary, Jesus’s Mother, but was assigned the role of Mary Magdalene (No, it was not typecasting!). I steered a bawling Holy Mother up and down the church aisles while she stumbled and wailed overcome with her grief. 

I remember exactly when I blew my chance at ever playing Mary. At the audition I told the head deacon/director and the church pastor/producer (both men) that the Mother of God would hold her head high, not out of pride but because like her son, she too embodied courage. If she were to cry, it would be for the immensity of the sins of mankind. She knew restitution for them required her precious son’s life. She would save her tears for the end, when she held his dead body in her arms.

Courage is not pompous or selfish.  It does not come with special effects, costumes, and overacting.  It comes from deep inside, a rare trait.

I’m sure that church play touched many, both actor and audience, but very few reacted with courage. Most just watched and cried, horrified by it all. 

This is dedicated to the one Child who dared to take on the angry mob.