Monday, April 15th, 2019

Do Not Try This At Home

Do Not Try This at Home

It all started when I began to think  about something my mom made in my childhood

Not her famous potato soup with homemade farmer’s rice/ shrivel

Not Southern fried chicken.

Not perfect pecan crescents, not flaky crust blueberry pie, not angel food cake, not penuche fudge, all from scratch.

Nope. It was canned corned beef hash rolled in Pillsbury crescent roll dough, cut in spirals to bake and topped with a touch of butter and canned mushroom soup.

I suggested a retro dinner.

And so we had Lipton onion soup dip and regular ol’ chips, a bought cheese ball and Ritz crackers.

Then came chicken and broccoli casserole with stuffing cubes on top, followed by a Sloppy Joe casserole made with Manwich. Frozen green peas and red (it’s a flavor) Jello with fruit cocktail in it. 

Dessert was pineapple upside down cake made with a mix.

I should have known when my grocery basket was nothing but boxes and cans.

My daughter and her beau and kids came. Three kids under the age of ten. 

The peas were the hit. I’ll say it again. The peas tasted better than all the rest. Kids dug Jello out from the fruit cocktail and at it!  The cake was too sweet and cloying and kids all hated pineapple and begged for yoghurt bars.

I tossed the leftovers and there were plenty.

I did make the corned beef spirals. They were pathetic and ended up like little logs. 

I had a fun Sunday afternoon putting the food together—nothing that resembled cooking.

Memories are fickle and palates change

Bring on the kale!!


Monday, March 18th, 2019

Back When Time Existed

I swear to you, that once upon a time, there was time.Everybody had it.Days were long and afternoons expanded as need There was time to make jello for dinner, Breakfast was leisurelyPeople cleaned their Tupperware cracks with a special gadget.There was time to make a macrame placematHouses were quiet. Phones rang once or twice a day.There was space for everything. One kind of pan, one half a closet was plenty, four mugs, four plates. one bathroomEven bookworms had only one bookshelf. Books got written, companies made money with just one good product, genius occurred with no breathlessness.TV was watched with no sense of “wasting” time because there was plenty left over.People finished all their tasks for the day in a day and slept with no “to do” list floating over their headThey slept in one of their two pairs of pajamas in blankets from a wedding shower long ago.Back when there was time, back when there was time. When enough was enough.  


Friday, March 8th, 2019

Rip Van Winkle

I have been Rip Van Winkling and I am just beginning to lift the corner of my blanket to see what goes on in the world now and in .

I know when I fell asleep. It was December 18thin 2018. I had just published a companion book to I PRAY ANYWAY: Devotions for the Ambivalent. It’s title is I Pray Anyway PLAYbook. Both books had begun to gain momentum. Then the holidays struck and I went limp determined to start a productive New Year. I viewed them as a hostile deterrent to my need to hide away with myself to figure out what creative vector I wanted to ride next. I was baby stepping into exploring where to put my energy. I scheduled a PLAYshop, set up times to talk with previous colleagues and was restless. 

January 7TH my husband had a heart attack followed three days later by  quadruple bypass surgery. Back under the covers away from the world and writing I went, into a kind of Never Never Land of profound domesticity and caretaking. In two days, we will visit the magic surgeon and emerge into a new reality getting on with life. I am not complaining. I am luxuriating. I have enjoyed this month long interlude. It has been healing (in literal and figurative ways) and sweet, sweet, sweet. 

When I was a single parent with two children age 4 and 18 months, I had no camera and no money to buy one. So when a lovely moment occurred, I would make an eyeglass by curling my fingers and looking thru them and say, “click-click”. It was my way of recording the event. It is amazing how those click-clicks took hold.  

Here are a few click-clicks from my month long interlude from emergency to emerging.

—Click-Click. David is hunched in pain and his face is gray.There is a moment when one knows that it is time to act. David has pain, then more pain and then more. I ask him to rate it, give him nitro-glycerin and an overdose of aspirin and call 911. 

I remember my heart attack when we didn’t call 911 out of pure hubris. Seven men in uniform enter the house and seem too many and too big for the room. Bags open, equipment comes out. David rides out on a gurney. I am surprised to see an Ambulance, a Firetruck and a Police car. A neighbor runs over to be with me. I know the routine and say I’ll stay and gather stuff for the hospital

—Then there is David in the hospital room, a single which he finagled with charm and the age card, In our family, hospital rooms are for partying, laughter and runs to the kitchen for graham crackers and Seven-Up which seem like manna. The room is crowded. All five adult kids are here, in and out. Friends poke in. David makes friends with all the hospital personnel, knows their lives, is doing counseling from his bed. We forget why we are together.

—A message pings on my phone.  It says “first incision” which is how they time  surgery. The kids and I camp out in a waiting room. Now it is real. We eat lunch in the cafeteris irritated by everything—where we have to sit, how bad the food is. There is a subtle power struggle among the kids about who knows more about hospitals and surgery. They are scared and not as adult as they thought. We go back to the campground and sit. And sit. No online games, no books, some knitting. We get a call from the surgery host and see one another’s eyes go scared. No. Surgery is over. 4;45 last suture. We head up to get a report. It’s a good one

—Click-click. We talk the surgery host (as we call him)  into letting all seven of us into see knocked out David. Not bad. Tongue hanging out a little. He is way unaware of us. We tell him we love him and then Megan and I wiggle our fingers in blessing. We leave. Kids head out to local barbecue place to talk about David and me. My ears burn. I head to bed.

—Click-Click. We are at Scales restaurant after a day of visiting David one at a time. My treat. Guess what? Intensive care is intense so we are euphoric as we leave. Glad to be gone. Wine glasses sparkle. Good will abounds. We are relieved about David and to know we actually love and like one another. All say we feel stronger and safer when we are together. It is a night to remember. Everyone does and will. We are family

—Click-Click. I am caring for my granddaughter for four nighs in a row. David is home. The house is subdued. I help David in and out of bed. I help Issa in and out of bed. I feed them.

I wait on them. I cook in a sunny kitchen looking out at New England weather. I make soup and soup and soup. I am content. I am having something I didn’t get to have enough of—homemaking. I remember my birth kids and our life before my former husband left. Quiet nap times. Baths. Daily routine of a household. I am caring for loved ones without distraction.

It heals my interrupted broken mother’s heart. 

—Click-Click.  January is gone. I am disoriented. Our Winter home in Mexico feels unreal, a dream. I think February school vacation and five bored kids whose friends were on exciting trips as I trudged to work leaving them unsupervised. I am thrown back into memories of trying so hard, making curtains for bedrooms in a conference room at work during lunch. I took a sewing machine to work. I relish the memories but not the inadequacies I felt. I smile and enjoy feeling adequate and unhurried with family as my sole concern.

—Click-Click The kitchen windows are dirty. We have three big cats that lounge like a harem. I want to kick them out. The furniture is rearranged for David’s walking. I am crabby. I don’t want to do all tasks on my own-compost, litter, groceries, picking up the house, guests, picking up the house, guests, David’s birthday, picking up the house. David is impatient. Fatigued and sick of limitation. We go to the doctor and the doctor and the doctor and are visited by a nurse.  We are sick of repeating and they are too. David walks, practices breathing, climbs stairs, eats, walks, practices breathing,  The interlude is ending. We are ready and miss it too. We laugh and say it’s been one of the easiest times of our marriage. 

—Click-Click. Here I sit at the computer, wondering if I remember how to write. I am a little stunned. Tomorrow I pay bills—for the January that wasn’t. Wondering if I dare doze again.


Monday, November 12th, 2018

Reflections on Elections on Veterans’ Day

What a bold, optimistic experiment our nation and government is. So idealistic. So wise about the dynamics of Power. So against autocratic rule. It was designed and created by men (what might have been if women were in the room!) who had just rebelled against their former country and they needed to create a new nation.

I thought about this  as I left the house to vote at the local school on Tuesday. It was pouring down rain, the lines were long, and the system unable to handle it with ease. I didn’t mind the difficulty. Our vote is not a casual happening. It is the moment that power is dispersed across our country. It seemed right that it took some work, discomfort and endurance to use my power. I saw people I knew who I was aware would not vote as I would. And it felt grand. Profound. We can disagree about our vote and have a nice conversation in line. That’s our premise.

While in the Peace Corps, I was in Panama City., Panama. The US had just had an election. My then, husband and I were watching the Inauguration of Nixon in a doctor’s office waiting room. The Star Spangled Banner was playing. There were five Panamanians in the room with us. All were quiet. Then a Panamanian man asked why we were not standing for our national Anthem. He went on to say that it was a miracle to see a transition of power without violence. We jumped up, hands over our hearts, glad the anthem was long enough to allow us a moment of pride rather than what the shame or indifference the Panamanians perceived. It took a foreigner to give us a kick in the pants to make us more aware.

After voting, on Tuesday, I went to the Mall to the Apple Store with my husband. I ended up with three hours on my hands while the sick computer was backed-up. I have low Mall tolerance. I wandered and poked about. I was still thinking about voting and wearing my “I voted” sticker proudly.

I didn’t see anyone else with a sticker. I began to ask people about voting. It started out casually. I ended up talking with young women clerks who looked to be in their early  mid- twenties. None had voted and none were going to. All were good at helping me in the store—nice and competent. I only asked one question; “Did you vote?”

Here are direct quotes from my tiny sample:

—No I didn’t vote. Would have had to wake up too early. After work I have to get to my kids daycare

—My husband talks just like Trump, so it doesn’t bother me

—They are all crooks so why vote?

—I don’t get paid enough to be able to vote

—My break isn’t long enough and I don’t know where to go anyway

—I never have voted. Neither do my mom and dad

—All I know is school is out and I had to pay a sitter more than I make

—This isn’t for President, right?

—I don’t know the people so I shouldn’t vote

—My boyfriend did

—Is this Oprah’s thing?

—Won’t matter to Trump

—I know I should but it takes so long

—I would, but I support Trump

I think of Veteran’s Day and lives lost to protect Democracy and I want to go back to the Mall and give the young ladies the kick in the pants awareness I got in Panama. Then I’ll give a kick to schools that don’t teach where Democracy came from and how fragile it can be and why it is worth fighting for. Next I’ll boot our election process that makes it difficult for people to vote.

Last I’ll give a kick in the shins to every politician who messes with elections, who doesn’t respect or understand a fair fight, and doesn’t understand that our democratic process is what creates our unique value in the world. It needs to be valued, protected and modernized.