Monday, March 31, 2014

New Shoes

My mother remembers the exact moment she decided to have a small family.  She's told the story frequently.  One day in second grade she came home to search for cardboard in the trash can.  She retrieved a piece, then traced the bottom of her shoe and cut out the form to place inside of it.  There were two holes along the bottom of her shoe now.  Her socks were black in those places.  She decided at that moment that she would have one, maybe two children.  She would not have seventeen, as her parents had.  Her children would have new shoes.

Life with sixteen siblings is unimaginable to me.  My mother kept her promise.  There are two of us who call her mother.  Sixteen siblings is also sixteen good-byes, especially when you are one of the middle children in the family.  

Goodbye #1:  Youngest brother Robert was the epitome of life and joy.  Always good-natured.  Always joking.  Always smiling.  Then he served in Vietnam and returned a changed man.  Still smiling, but usually after a few six-packs.  He died at 34 from cirrhosis of the liver.

Goodbye #2:  Youngest sister Jenny was the "black sheep" of the family.  Definitely marched to her own drummer.  Faded in and out of the family, and lived life according to her own rules.  Passed away far from her children - heart disease.

And today she's preparing for…

Goodbye #3:  Oldest sister Rita.  Had nine children of her own.  Worked the farm along with her husband until his recent passing just two years ago.  Never complains.  Makes breakfast from scratch each and every morning.  Spending time with her children in the hospital as she struggles with pneumonia.  My mother's mentor.

My mother remembers the exact moment she decided to have a small family.  My mother remembers the joyous moments with her siblings.  Each one of them.  I doubt she would trade one of those stories for any new pair of shoes.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Runny Eggs

He calls me over to the table and I sit.  We slept in and took some time to lounge this morning, so I am definitely hungry.  He's made eggs.  For both of us.  Previously, his breakfast foods have been limited:  French toast, pancakes, waffles, cereal.  Notice a theme?  Yes, none of the list are savory and none of them include eggs.  He's not an egg man.

He's prepared them the way I like - over easy.  One and a half over easy eggs cheerily smile up at me accompanied by slices of his homemade sourdough bread, toasted.  With a breakfast this lovingly prepared, it has to be a great day.  We linger over our meal.  I'm savoring every bite and he is persisting through it, trying to train his taste buds, forcing his mind to expand to include something different.

He consistently surprises me and affirms my respect and love.  What habit have I settled into that needs to be expanded?  What line of thinking have I let sink in so deeply, that I have not allowed myself room to grow?  I'd like to notice…and make room for a bit of change.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Spring is coming.  I can feel it in the air.  The days are a bit longer.  When I drive to work in the morning, I'm driving in light instead of total darkness.  It's becoming the time to take walks after dinner, sit outside on the weekends with a cup of tea and linger with my book, time to enjoy the sunset through the window as my husband and I enjoy dinner together.  It's the time of possibility…

- to renew relationships with friends

- to truly linger in that professional read that's been sitting at the bottom of my pile

- to reflect on how far we have come since the beginning of the year

- to savor the journey and the process

Seasonal changes seem to be part of my internal clock as a human being.  Moving from the darker days to lighter and longer ones renews my energy, my vision, and my hope in possibility.  Take a whiff of the air outside today.  Smile.  Anything is possible!

Three Things

I read Burkins and Yaris blog this morning.  That post referenced the video above, Matthew McConaughey's acceptance speech for his Academy Award this year.  I took a few minutes to view the video.  He references that he needs three things in his life:  something to look up to, something to look forward to, and something to chase.

I wondered…what are the three things I "need" in my life daily.  Do I have something to look up to, something to look forward to, and something to chase?  What are they?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

To Listen

She arrived at 7:36 tonight.   Usually I sit warming my hands on my tea for close to twenty minutes before she shows up.  But since the one morning she stood me up completely, she's mostly been on time.  After paying for her meal, she sits across from me.

The conversation begins as usual…how much homework she has, what her shifts at work have been like, the life of a college student.  I listen.  Ask a few questions.  We began meeting in December and this is what I do - listen.  I am sometimes surprised that she continues to meet with me.  

Then, just before the time winds down, she mentions it again.  "You know, I've never had a good friend.  In high school, friends came for a couple of weeks and then moved on to someone new.  I've always wanted someone to talk to, I guess.  Someone who would just let me say whatever I need to say.  I can't talk to my sister.  And definitely, not my mother.  They would try to tell me what to do, and that's not what I need.  I just need someone to listen."

And I realize it's her way of thanking me.  Her effort at giving me a compliment.  So I take my mug in my hands one more time, bring it to my mouth, and listen as her words pour out.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake is sitting between us.  I notice that we're each leaned forward towards the other, and my body language mimics hers.  We've snuck in one hour onto our calendars to catch up, eat something sweet, and laugh together.  It's been easy like this since I've known her.

"You know you're too old for Forever 21 when you've gone into the dressing room for the third time and come out empty handed," she begins.  "I don't know why I keep going in there.  I mean, the clothes look fabulous on the mannequin.  And I tell myself, ten dollars for a blouse?  Now that's affordable!  So, I grab a few items, wait in the line for almost fifteen minutes, then head into a dressing room.  And then it dawns on me.  I'm in the middle of sticking this dress over my head, you know, the one without a zipper?  And I remember, I've done this before.  You know, you get that dress just past the shoulders, and you realize you're stuck!  There's no one to help you in there.  Those low lights are shining down on you and you start to sweat.  You're too embarrassed to ask the salesgirl for help, so you spend fifteen minutes just wriggling out of the cheap thing, praying that you don't end up ripping it and have to buy it."  

We laugh uncontrollably.  I nod with familiarity at her story.

"Yeah, I'm too old to go in there anymore.  It's just not worth it!" she finishes.

We dive back into our Strawberry Shortcake, giggling as we move into another story, cautious to keep our eyes away from our watches and phones.  And I think, now that's a great idea for a slice of life story!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


How's it going?
Can I help with that?
Where does this go?
Are we done with that conversation?
How did it turn out?

Let's meet to finish that up.
Let me know how I can help you.
Take care of yourself.
I understand.
You made me really think.

Thanks for taking time with that.
I appreciate your effort
I see how hard you work.
You really helped me process that.
Thank you!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Purple Pens

I am a pen lover.  I have to confess.  Walking into stationary stores to gaze at the displays of brightly colored pens lining the walls is one of my favorite past times.  Trying out different sized pens with various grips - triangle shaped, sticky rubber barrels or miniature sized writing instruments are so tempting.  There are the varied new colors as well:  aqua, gold, various purple hues.  Each yells out to me from its neatly-shapen container, "Come buy me!  You know you'd love to write with me!"

Invariably, I give in.  I sit in my office, fresh sheet of paper on the table and remove the lid.  I slide the ink across the page in an angled line and admire how the fresh sheen of it slowly transforms to a matted shade of color as it dries into the paper.  My words literally take form, shape and color as my hand creates the letters on the page.

Is this creation at its finest?  Making something out of nothing. Something my own.  And it all began with a purple pen in an aisle of a stationary store.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

NOT Playing it Safe

He volunteered to make lunch for our guests. "Works for me," I told him.  "What are you thinking you"ll make?"  He decided on fish and chips.

Interesting part of that decision is that he's never eaten fish and chips. Not once.  In fact, he hadn't made fish any part of his diet until three weeks ago.  Now. we try to eat salmon at least once a week.  And now he's decided to make fish and chips?  

And he did.  He printed out a recipe from America's Test Kitchen, went shopping last night, and made them today.  They weren't perfect, could have been cooked a bit longer, but the flavor was pretty good. Our guests had seconds.  That has to be evidence that they were pretty good.

What amazes me is his willingness to try anything in this new hobby of his - like cooking something from scratch that he's never eaten before.  And, being willing to do it for some friends of ours who are coming over for lunch.  How does confidence like that develop?  And how can I pass it on, to students AND to teachers?

Saturday, March 22, 2014


I took a picture of him napping today.  My dog.  I have a faithful companion in Pal.  He watches as I prune the creeping fig.  Races with the water hose as I fill the birdbath and comes running at my call.  As a student, I hated when the teacher would choose a book with a dog as one of the central characters.  I already knew it was going to be a tear-jerker.  Life is like that.  For right now, I'll keep taking pictures of his crazy antics.

Friday, March 21, 2014


One person can't be good at everything.  I think I know that, but I've been struck by the reality of it as of late.  We're in the midst of redecorating our living room.  I am the designated redecorator.  More accurately, I am the shopper-and-returner.

I find myself perusing websites the likes of Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn.  I have rarely enjoyed entering into those stores.  Now, I spend hours searching for sideboards and hutches.

Over the past three days, I have visited Home Goods three times.  Once each day.  I purchased three lamps.  I will be returning the third one tomorrow.

It's humbling.  It's interesting.  What am I learning about myself?  I don't often choose to struggle in areas I know will be difficult for me.  I repeatedly hear myself telling friends that "I'm awful" at this new vocation.  Perhaps I need a change in mindset.  Can I call myself an "apprentice interior visionist"?  Let me know if you think of a better title.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Moving On

I thought I'd never get it away from him.  Monkey-man.  Originally, Monkey-man was a Valentine's day gift from my husband over twenty-seven years ago.  He rode in my first car on the stick shift.  He accompanied me to my college dorm.  He made his way to our honeymoon in Cancun.  And he made it into the heart of our terrier.  Into his heart, and into his mouth.

Monkey-man provided Pal with many hours of pleasure - as a playmate for tug-of-war, as a chew toy for solitary afternoons, as a "come and catch me" tease.  Pal even took Monkey-man to bed with him.  

I couldn't look at Monkey-man lately without grimacing a bit.  He was well loved and well worn.  So, I replaced him.  I found a fox at the pet store and brought him home to Pal.  I thought I'd have to bribe Pal to accept the new toy.  I assumed he would protect his old friend and hesitatingly move on to the newer toy.  I was completely wrong.  Pal opened his heart and mouth to Fox, never glancing back to say good-bye to his old friend.

Maybe some changes should be like that.  Maybe sometimes, you need to just accept with thanks, and move on.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sun Drenched Scones

I told myself yesterday that I wouldn't bake today.  I'm too tired.  Too much to do.  "I'll enjoy the time a lot better if I don't put any pressure on myself to bake," I reasoned.  But I did.

It all began with a simple text from Mary.  "Will you please bring your homemade devonshire cream?  I love it!"  Well, there's just no sense making devonshire cream from scratch if you're just going to turn around and put them on Panera scones!

After returning from the market this morning at 8:00 a.m. (while on my vacation, nonetheless), I soon had made a fine mess in the kitchen.  Food processor down.  Oven on.  Mixing spoons and measuring cups strewn.  I mechanically read through the recipe and put the ingredients together.

Then, it happened.

In what seemed a frozen moment in time, I saw my scones, drenched in sunlight sitting on the oven, just waiting for a smile and a little love.  "This is it," I realized.  "This is my morning, and I can either infuse some love into these bits of dough, or miss it completely."

And so, with an air-blown smooch I sent my cranberry triangles into the oven.  And they smiled right back.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Good Slap

She has my full respect.  Since the first day we worked together I felt as if I had struck gold by landing her as my colleague.  Today, she set me straight.

You see, I'm technically on break. But, as many teachers can testify, I had to go into the office.  Really, I had to.  I spent each day last week leading workshops at the district office or at sites with teachers.  Meanwhile, my desk has been piling high with tasks.  My inbox has expanded exponentially.  The first three days after we return from break I have three more full days of workshops.  Rather than carry the cloud of concern with me all week, I resolved to head into the office and prepare for my workshops.

This morning my attitude was miles away from good.  Perhaps it was somewhere in the "I can't believe this" universe.  As I sat in my cubicle, I repeatedly tried to focus.  My eyes landed everywhere other than the screen.  Every fiber in my being wanted to cruise the internet instead of focusing on the task at hand.

Then, she appeared.  Huge smile on her face, she greeted me with a warm "Good Morning" and asked how I was doing.  I confessed the truth.  I was confident in exposing my true feelings.

"You know," she responded "I was listening to the radio this morning.  It's unbelievable what's happening in Syria.  The woman they interviewed shared her story.  I have to make sure that my kids hear what's happening in the world around us.  We exist in such a bubble sometimes..."  Our conversation for the next ten minutes allowed us to travel outside the four walls and into others' lives filled with struggle.

Struggle.  I got it.  The struggle I was engaged in was nothing compared to the struggle of many others.  It didn't have to set the course for my day.  I'm not sure that I was smiling for the rest of my day at work, but I was able to enjoy the accomplishment at the end of the day with a renewed appreciation for a colleague who so gracefully set me straight.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fingernail Palette

Fingernail Palette

Play the Peonies
Warm and Toasty Turtleneck
Target Red
Sugar Daddy
Hi Maintenance
Ballet Slippers

What is it that's so fun about a new nail polish color?  A splash of color, a bit of funky on the tips of your toes?  Pampering yourself…getting all dolled up.  

Which one to pick for Spring?

Sunday, March 16, 2014


It's birthday time. Leah and I step into the kitchen.  She slips off her sandals and climbs onto the chair. From her additional three feet of height, she easily reaches her spoon into the bowl of chocolate mousse and smoothes it on top of the chocolate cake.  We finish off the sides with halved walnuts as we spin the plate around.  Together, we smile as we lick our chocolate covered fingers and clean our butterknives in our mouths.

After singing to grandma in both Spanish and English, we work together to pass out plates to all of the guests.  Last to eat, we each choose a sliver of ice cream cake and pull out chairs at a table.  As her mother glances at Leah and smiles approvingly, I call out a memory of another March day, could it really be twenty years ago?  Leah's mom is frosting birthday cake in the kitchen with me.  We're laughing and cleaning our spoons.

Like mother - like daughter...and I'm the blessed one to share the memory of both.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dirty Fingernails

Being outdoors is something I miss.  Any kind of outdoor activity will fit the bill for me:  riding my bike, hiking along a trail, walking my dog or running around the local college.  It seems somehow that I've allowed myself to be trapped in walls with wifi access for the past seven months.   This morning felt no different.  Spending time at a friend's shower was a pleasure, but I felt confined within walls once again.

Enter my home.  Quick change of clothing.  Exit into the yard.  I'm not even close to a gardener, but the lure of the sun was strong.  For forty minutes, at least, I found myself bent over in a shady part of the yard, pulling up weeds, turning off my brain, focusing on identifying the weed compared to the nearby plant.  I've sorted incorrectly before.

About halfway in, I heard it.  One single bird chirping out a tune as a soundtrack to my pleasant chore.  How many birds have I missed over the past seven months?  What other calls from my universe have I failed to hear?  

After completing three hours of various weed-pulling, dead-leaf gathering, watering and birdbath filling pleasures I now have my feet up on the couch.  Satisfied.  Dirt under fingernails bliss.  Perhaps it's true that there's a stress-relieving chemical found in the soil. I think I'll leave it there.  At least for tonight.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Rest.  I love it, and I hate it.  Perhaps I'm infatuated with both the word and the concept of rest.  Yet, it seems that I can never quite commit myself, even for a short time, to his allure.  

Weekends come and I fantasize of spending time with him.  We'll read a book together, take in a movie on the couch.  Or better yet, we'll stroll along the beach, arm in arm at sunset.  But what do I end up filling my weekends with?  Chores.  Productivity.  Errands.  My checklist on Sunday afternoon is filled with marks of accomplishment, yet I feel a twinkle of guilt realizing that I've left Rest behind.

The weekday evenings are open opportunities, I tell myself.  I'll make sure to engage with Rest at some point then.  Perhaps we'll sit with a cup of tea outside on the deck.  We can take a stroll around the park with the dog, sit at a bench and watch some children play.  Even sitting outside with a blanket and watching the sky change colors at twilight would ensure that I've given Rest the attention he deserves, and set my mind at ease.  But, it doesn't happen.

Next week is my Spring Break.  Break?  Rest?  Hopefully I'll find my way back to him somehow.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Street Corner Entertainer

Most days I take the same route home.  Most days it takes thirty minutes longer than I would like.  Most days I wait at the left turn signal on Rosemead and Whittier a few times through.  Most days it's pretty boring.  But not today.

Today there was a sign-twirler on the corner.  Yes.  (Is that what the official job description reads?)  He was outfitted in long, black, baggy shorts, a red athletic t shirt and open-tongued black tennis shoes with red laces.  His sign - a red arrow on one side and a black arrow on the other.  He was dressed for the job!

Move #1 - He threw the arrow at least five feet above his head, twirling all the while it soared up and down in the air.  He caught it.  Then did a 360 with the sign low behind is back, and knelt down in a posing posture as his sign pointed straight up into the air.  Camera ready!

Move #2 - He threw the spiraling arrow slightly above his head.  Next, he caught the arrow with his right foot just before it hit the ground.  With the same foot, he tossed the arrow back up above his head in the same twirling motion as when it first hit his foot.  Finally, he caught the arrow with both hands while his legs jumped apart and he strummed his sign like a guitar.  Music ready!

Move #3 - He slid the arrow along the floor several feet down the sidewalk.  Immediately after, he ran alongside it while waving his hands.  When he timed it just right, he jumped onto the moving sign and slid about a foot or so, riding his arrow along the gray cement.  Beach ready!

On the third green arrow, I maneuvered my car through the signal.  Rolling down the passenger's side window, I tapped my horn, waved at my entertainer, and smiled.  This driver is thankful he stood at the corner today.  Does it matter that I have no idea what his arrow said?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Committee Work

Committee Work

We walk in 
coffee in hand
Dive into chairs
Into conversations
Expectations high
Work load tall

Goals set
Purpose given
Teachers driven
to complete the task
Or tasks




When is the next one?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Parking Lot Conversation

She offered to walk me to my car.  One of two teachers who asked for my help, a bit of a sounding board for their thinking, another head to contribute to their planning.  We were done.  Did as much as we could for one afternoon, and strolled out to our cars together.

We've been friends since her first year teaching.  How is that already ten years ago?  The conversation begins as most of them do…

"How are you?  What's going on with you?  That work you start in the backyard ever get done?"

"No.  It's still a wreck.  You know my husband.  He lives by the 80/20 rule."

"How about you?  That dream trip you're always talking about…still in the works?"

"Yeah.  You know me.  Always planning.  Always dreaming.  One day."

Ten minutes later we've distilled the talk and conversation down to a central key idea.  Our attitude.  And we both determine to begin the next day with a positive one.  The simplicity of our communication.  The openness with which we speak.  The comfort in being understood.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Flu-ish Weekend

Last week I read a post of a woman who woke up on a Sunday morning.  She spent the morning in a leisurely manner, covered under blankets, sipping tea, and reading her favorite book.  It sounded like a glorious way to spend a Sunday morning.  I thought, "I'd like to give that a try!"

This weekend, I've spent my entire day in the same way - covered under blankets, sipping tea, sometimes reading a book, but most of all, dozing in and out of slumber.  

Why is it that when I choose to spend a few hours on the couch, it's glorious, but when I'm relegated to my bed, it can be one of the most frustrating ways to spend the hours?

I'm resting - but not rested.  Reading - but not relishing.  In a relaxed position - but restlessly counting the hours until I can get back to feeling "normal."  

I can say that I'd like to slow down life, take it easy, relax a bit.  But really, do I?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tasting Resentment

Bread.  It's been his obsession.  Learning how to create his own sourdough loaf from his own yeast starter.  I couldn't believe that he would begin this labor five days before Christmas.  Really? Really.

I've witnessed his three-times-a-day feedings since the inception of the grapes/flour/water concoction.  For fifteen days.  I overheard the questions from friends when we stayed in their home over the New Year's holiday.  Yes, he brought "the baby" with us.  I've strapped myself in the car as he raced us home, due to a later-than-desirable feeding time.

I've wondered…really?  Is this the highest priority of the day?  I can think of a million other things that I would prefer you use this time for:  weeding the yard, putting up baseboards, cleaning out the storage shed, picking out a light fixture.  He continues to bake.

I've watched as others are able to enjoy his bread, free of the taste of resentment.  Spreading the butter on the warm slice they comment on its texture, the nutty taste and the thorough goodness they're enjoying.

Bread.  Such a simple pleasure.  Really.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chunky Monkey

What is it about a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream?  Beyond the creamy banana and gorgeous chunks of chocolate, there's something indescribably delicious about a carton of your favorite flavor.  When is the "just right" time for ice cream?

1.  After a really tough day at work.
2.  After a fabulous day at the job.
3.  When you need to console yourself through an argument with your spouse.
4.  As a celebration treat with your spouse.
5.  On a scorchingly hot summer evening.
6.  On a warm piece of pie on a frigid night.
7.  To get a burst of energy to accomplish that huge item on the list of things to do.
8.  As a reward for finishing one more "honey-do."
9.  To try something completely new.
10.  To remember what it's like to be a kid.

Looking over my list - it looks like I can give myself just about any excuse to spoon into my favorite frozen treat!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Darn Dog!

I decided that I'd do it differently.  Having dog hair on every piece of furniture, including the bed, had been the trend for twenty years.  But with this new dog, I was bound to do things differently.  And we did.  He can only sleep in his bed.  He's not allowed on the couch.  Even jumping up onto our knees to get a pet is frowned upon.

Then why did I do it?

Being the only one to sleep in the bed is no fun.  And it was SO cold last night.  So…I did it.  I called him up onto the bed.

"Come on up, Pal."  

No response.

"Up here."  I patted my husband's side of the bed.

He gazed at me disbelievingly.  He didn't move.  

"Don't you want to come on up?  It's really comfy," I tempted.

Nope.  Not even a paw on the blankets.

Oh, well.  I guess I'll just have to show him that it's OK.

I leaned over, picked him up gently, and placed him on the bed right between two pillows.

His eyes followed me as I walked back to my side of the bed.

Thank goodness, I thought.

I pulled up the covers to cozy up to him.  I rolled over, and he jumped off.  Back into his own bed.

Darn dog!

"Maybe you're going to get into trouble with the boss, but not me!" he seemed to be saying.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Capturing a Moment

On the morning of August 21st I was driven by my two best friends away from my home towards my future.  The only action required on my behalf was cooperation as I was escorted to a room where my friends skillfully coiffed my hair, applied a generous amount of makeup to my face and placed me inside  a white wedding dress.

In what seemed like a breath of time later the wedding coordinator stepped into the ladies' chamber.  "OK. It's all about you now.  We're ready."

I stepped out into the living room of the large estate where the guests sat, their backs to me.  There were rows lined up of white chairs on a carpet of green grass.  Quite a few guests had pulled their seats out of the sun and into the shade of the large oak trees.  Everyone was up front.  And waiting.  On the left back side stood my childhood friend of fifteen years singing and playing her guitar.  The man I loved stood by the minister, smiling and relaxed.  

Me?  I was standing at the door, holding up my father, rehearsing the one line he needed to deliver.  "Her mother and I."

The wedding coordinator took three long strides towards me.  "Off you go."

"No.  It's a long song.  I chose it on purpose.  They can wait."

I wasn't sure how she interpreted my words, but I didn't care in the least bit.  This was the only time I planned on performing this ritual in my life, and I wanted the moment to last.  I gazed from left to right to take a panoramic picture of the day; the weather, the scents, the sounds and visual images needed to be imprinted on my brain.

The oak leaves are swaying in the breeze.  There's not a heavy wind, but just enough to cool down the summer heat.  Thank you God for the breeze!  A bit of natural air conditioning.  I smell jasmine.  Just like at mom's house.  Hmmm...I'm probably never going to live there again.  This's perfect!  Love her voice - and how does she sing with such clarity?  Has she always produced such beautiful music or did I just wake up to realize it?  And dad, the way he holds my hand...or am I holding his?  

"All right.  I'm ready now."  At least, I thought I was.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Just .5 Miles

Summer in New York.  Some say that Fall is the best season in the Big Apple.  I wouldn't know.  But I do know the heat of July in the city.

Our plane from LA landed in New York on a pleasantly mild Saturday.  There were four of us - and I was elected tour guide, being the only one of the group who had visited before.  After a whirlwind Sunday sightseeing, eating, visiting national monuments and gazing at skyscrapers, we decided to grab some basic supplies for the week at a local market and call it a day.

Armed with my digital device, I whipped out my phone to locate the market closest to our rooms.  I excitedly let the group know that there was a market just .5 miles from our residence.  We maneuvered through the subways where we succeeded in finding the store.  I felt a bit odd.  Things didn't seem familiar.  This just didn't quite look like the neighborhood that I remembered.  Not to worry, we'd be just fine.  Perhaps I hadn't paid that close attention to what the neighborhood looked like.  I'd keep my concerns to myself.  No need to worry the group.

Each friend exited the store loaded with food.  Large grocery bags of fruit, crackers, yogurt and cheese were held in each arm.  One of them had purchased a 2.5 gallon container of water.  Someone suggested we call a cab.  "Oh no! It's just .5 miles to our place," I reminded them.  I pulled out my device again and charted a route.  Interesting.  The route had changed.  What had been .5 miles now expanded to 2.5.  "Hey guys, this may be more a bit of a walk than I first thought.  I'm not sure what happened, but the phone says we have to walk 2.5 miles now.  But I think we can do it."  After a short exchange, the ladies agreed.  We moved in the direction the phone was leading us.

Past stores.  Past restaurants.  Past people.  Past the time we believed we'd be out shopping.  I pulled out the phone again.  "Oh, we are just on the other side of Central Park.  If we follow this road here," I gestured pointing, "we should be there in no time."  

My followers gazed up at me somewhat more hesitantly now.  "OK," they responded.  What choice did they have?  

Thirty minutes later the .5 mile walk came to a screeching halt.  There was a fork in the road.  

"I really have to go to the bathroom," Paola declared.  

"I'm hungry," Ana responded.

"And I'm not really sure I can carry this water one more step!" Fonda exclaimed.

Each of the four of us collapsed onto a bench, surveying each one's face tentatively, then exploding into laughter.  "Really, 2.5 miles?!  I think we've walked at least 5 miles!" 

"And me in my Chinese chanclas!"

Two conversations with police officers, one subway ride and 45 minutes later we arrived in our rooms, loaded down with water, yogurt, cheese and crackers to feed a small battalion.  The first of many walks  sprinkled with storytelling, laughter, and even complaining.  My nickname on that trip became "Just .5 miles."  It brings a smile to my face each time they mention it.  Friendships are forged in a variety of places.  The heat of NYC bonded four women for life.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Shamrock Shake

It felt as if we returned back to our dating life, sitting in our car in the McDonald's parking lot.  I'm grinning ear to ear, holding my Shamrock shake.  He's turning on the tunes on the radio, making sure I'm comfortable and that the seat warmer is operational.  I offer to remove the "foreign object" of a cherry from his chocolate shake.  He quickly agrees and opens up the bag of fries.  Oversalted, but warm, we enjoy our fast food indulgence as the rain decorates the windshield with polka dot patterns.

It seems that we spent many evenings this way at the beginning of our relationship.  We were pleased just to be  together, privacy of our car, eating whatever was fast and available.  And here we are twenty years later, drinking shakes and munching on fries, salt-strewn hands brushing up against each other in the bag.  Less words are needed now, but more deeply understood.

I'm thankful that the simple times continue to hold so much meaning for us both.  We're healthy.  We still enjoy each others' company.  Even with shakes and fries for dinner, I live a rich life.

She arrived at the house before I did.  I pulled into the driveway and watched her tentatively open the driver's side door, step out into the street and shield her eyes from the sun.  We had decided that we'd meet today to look at the website together.  The one that would open or shut the door to her hopes of being a nurse, her wishes for the past thirty-five years.  Her score on that one exam.

She'd stopped speaking with hope a couple of weeks ago.  I'd noticed that she rarely spoke of working in the ER or applying to St. Jude. The chic hairdo I'd known her for had been replaced by a low ponytail, quickly pulled back from her face.  The conversations she'd had with her husband about picking up a waitressing job had been more frequent, as well as their arguments.  At the same time, our conversations on the phone had grown lengthier.  

As we met in front of the door I embraced her as she started to cry.  "What if I didn't pass again?  I don't know that I can study for this crazy test again.  Maybe it's just not in me.  Could it really have been that the past six years of schooling were for nothing?"

I haven't grown skill in a variety of areas in life, but I have developed the craft of listening.  She sat in the kitchen and continued to talk as I put together a small lunch.  We retold the events of our morning and tried to pause the inevitable.

As we finally moved towards the computer we held hands.  1.  Type in browser url.  2.  Fill in template with name and ID number.  3.  Wait without breathing.  AND… Licensed Registered Nurse!  More tears, more hugging, lots of laughter.

We finished the afternoon together with a prayer of thanks and a few rounds of Just Dance 4.  The seemingly tribal combination was an appropriate mix of words and gestures to express the joy we'd shared.  As I walked her outside we paused again in the driveway and I couldn't help but notice a new beam of confidence in her eye, smile on her face…the way she squeezed my hand when she said goodbye.  "I'm hopeful," she whispered, "I'm going to keep on believing in miracles!"

Saturday, March 1, 2014


It was 5:00, the evening before Thanksgiving and I had a million things on my to do list:  bake pies, clean the living room, finish cards, wash the linens.  And of course, my husband was still caught at work and not home to help me get started.  The phone rang and I was relieved he was calling.  Hopefully, he was telling me he was almost home.

"I have a surprise for you," my husband said mysteriously.

"Unless it's diamonds, chocolate, or a genie to do all of my chores, take it back," I responded.

It was none of the above.  It was nothing I had the least bit of interest in.  It was a dog.

I couldn't believe he would bring a hyper, running in circles, twenty-pound non-stop, fur-coated muscle machine terrier into our home.  I refused to name him.

"Let's call him Pal," I suggested.  "That way, when we take him to the pound on Monday, I won't feel so badly.

My heart went out to our seventeen year old American Eskimo as she shockingly endured this "other" puppy.  Jumping into bed with her, pulling on her tail, beating her to every dinner bowl and harassing her right in the middle of nap time.

That was six years ago.  Pal's still her and his name stuck around, too.  Perhaps it's not always necessary to look for new friends.  Sometimes they just come to us.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Slice of Life - Waking to Tears

I know it was dark.  At first, I thought I was alone.  Then, a muffled stream of tears and sighs.  Tony sat next to me.  We were wrapped in the same blanket and while I was confused and getting my bearings, she was upset.  I had just woken up.

Later, I was told many times over that my parents had left me alone.  With a bear.  After attempting to frighten a brown bear out of their campground kitchen, the resentful mammal had torn a long slice out of their canvas "door" and very loudly let it be known that he wasn't going anywhere until he had consumed his full of food.  Both my mother and father learned quickly that a concrete wall is a formidable foe when it comes to escaping.  They whispered to the camper on the other side of that wall who quickly gathered up a nice-sized group of curious onlookers who paraded over with pots, pans, sticks and other musical instruments that would undoubtedly persuade the bear to abandon his post.  To no avail.

My parents were encouraged to escape while they could.  And in the midst of the confusion, chaos, and surging dread, they did.  Without me.  I have always had a talent for sleeping soundly.  In the top bunk of that small cabin I soundly dozed through the excitement surrounding me.  And before Jim, the heroic neighbor-camper could come to my rescue, poor Tony was sure that I had been eaten alive by the bear.

Her tears served as my wake up call.  In more ways than one.