Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Other Man

I had a date with another man today.
His blue eyes sparkle like sapphires. His smile is sweeter than chocolate. When he hugs me, my heart melts like butter. I’m so in love. Don’t tell Rob—he might worry when he hears I’ve fallen for a younger man. Who’s three feet tall and speaks in short sentences.
My grandson came to play at my house this morning.
On a shelf just inside our front doorway is a plaque that reads, “I may not be rich and famous, but I do have priceless grandchildren.”  And sitting next to that sign are the photos to prove it. We have five grandbabies—four girls and one boy—and we are filthy rich.
We watch our daughter’s three kids fairly often. Sometimes I take the older two granddaughters on a YaYa date. It’s kind of easy to do because they live fifteen minutes away. Our two redheaded granddaughters live in the distant country of Kentucky where their parents are foreign missionaries.  Those1800 miles have put a serious cramp in our grand parenting style, and we owe them some serious babysitting time (which we can make good on now that Chief has retired.) We’re pretty experienced at entertaining little princesses.
But in all his 23 months on earth, today was the first time I’ve ever spent time alone with Will. I picked him up for our date and let him ride in the first class car seat behind me. He narrated the whole drive—I love a man who communicates—and we found every horse and airplane between his house and mine.
His mama has been telling me how different it is to have a son after spending the last six years with little girls. I should have realized—after all, I have a son, too. But it wasn’t until this morning as this little guy strutted through my house, playing with the toy firetrucks his uncle enjoyed thirty years ago that I realized how long it’s been since a little boy last stole my heart.
My own little man will be thirty-three next month. (He’ll hate that I phrased it that way.) But how is that possible? I’m still so young! Images of my son, now grown, flooded through my memory in warp speed as I laughed and watched and held my grandson this morning. I let Lee go to become the man he is today years ago, but there’s still that mother’s heart . . . It’ll sound weird, I guess, but a son wraps his mom around his little finger like he can’t do with his dad, and she is forever changed because of it. My daughter understands this now and reminds me of it often.
So Will and I had lunch together—peanut butter and jelly, of course—and read books on the sofa, and he repeated every word I said like I was the sun in his galaxy. Because this morning, I was. And God gave me a gift of memory in the laughter and hugs from my little heartthrob, Will.
Boy, is Chief ever going to be jealous when he gets home from Florida tonight. I may have to take him on a date to make up for it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Health Nut

We’re trying to eat healthy.
Do you have any idea how many versions of “healthy” there are? Paleo, vegan, low carb, whole foods, real foods, cultured foods, low calorie, low glycemic, traditional foods, and Starbucks. Okay, that last one is where I turn when I can’t figure out who’s right and I just give up.
It all started with a book I read about how eating coconut oil is good for you. I couldn’t figure out how ingesting a suntan oil ingredient would do anything but land you in the hospital, but holy guacamole, Batman, coconut oil is edible. And it can heal everything you ever thought was wrong with you, from tooth decay to moles. Well, I have some moles, so . . .
Just like that, I became a believer.
The next thing I knew, I’d thrown out all the Crisco in my pantry, six bottles of two-year-old salad dressings from the back of the fridge, and four bags of stale tortilla chips from a Memorial Day cookout in 2012.
And the sugar. It’s always about the sugar. Sigh. Only Starbucks still believes in sugar.
Years ago, I had a neighbor who went on pantry purges twice a year, loaded up all the poisonous groceries she’d spent a hundred bucks on at Safeway, and donated them to my family. She knew we had no scruples. And, since I had a side job as a pie baker, I was grateful for every ten pound bag of sugar she threw into the mix.
“Yeah, you can have that, too,” she’d say. “We call it ‘white death’, but I knew you’d want it.”
Well, I didn’t much want it after that.
So this spring I read a few radical books about coconut oil and raw milk and Kumbucha, took myself to a grocery store and then tried to re-stock that lonely cupboard with ‘healthy’ food. I wandered every aisle between produce and the dairy case, reading labels and going blind and, when I was finished, there were only two things crossed off my list. Still, my shopping cart was full—of paper towels and toilet paper.
But no sugar.
As much as I dislike the smell of health food stores, they are the only ones who carry all the weird things I’m feeding my husband now. Oh, sure, Fry’s has four aisles of “Natural Choices,” but that’s only enough variety for amateurs. I’m serious about this healthy/organic/alien way we’re trying to eat. And I want options! I’m not happy with two flavors of Mama Chia, I want at least five before I commit. And are those dried garbanzo beans organic? How about the honey—is it raw? And why do we have to use words like ‘raw’ anyway? I always thought raw things gave you worms.
These are the questions that keep me driving my cart in circles for hours while I wear a clothespin on my nose at Sprouts.
Still, after about six months of re-educating myself, it’s getting easier to choose between real food and the imitation stuff. But, for the most part, I’ve had to give up coupons. They don’t really cater to Kumbucha junkies like me.
One afternoon, I flipped through some coupons that came in the mail. I’d never seen a collection like these before. NASCAR had teamed up with our local grocery store and offered some “race day” meal ideas along with matching coupons. You could save fifty cents on a jar of Ragu and serve your family a Mexitalian delight—“Spaghetti Tacos.”
I kid you not.
Photo attached.

I almost spit out my Kumbucha.
Spaghetti Tacos? Crunchy corn tortillas filled with Ragu drenched spaghetti noodles. A “HEARTY MEAL for race fans.”  Ta da. If I was a NASCAR enthusiast, I’d have been offended.
Or not.
So yesterday, in between spine crunching and neck cracking, I described this repulsive dinner idea to my chiropractor. A man who has dedicated his life to helping people like me become healthy. A man who knows that Vitamin B-12 is a better choice than a grande six shot espresso.
But still, a man.
“Sounds pretty good to me,” he said, as he pushed on my vertebrae and showed my backbone who’s boss.
“You’d eat a taco shell filled with saucy spaghetti strands?” I asked incredulously, straightening my shoulders and rotating my neck.
“Sure,” he answered, “it combines my two favorite foods—Mexican and Italian.”
“But there’s no meat anywhere!” I exclaimed.
“No, but if you pour a little maple syrup on top, it’d taste pretty good,” he responded.
I couldn’t believe he wasn't as repulsed as I was. I mean, he's a doctor.
“Don’t you think it’d be the same thing as eating a . . . Sandwich sandwich?” I pushed. “You know, like a slice of Rye between two pieces of Wonderbread?”  I waited for him to come to his senses and realize it was disgusting.
“Well, that does sound a little dry,” he admitted, “but again, cover it with a little maple syrup and I could get it down.” And he grinned.
Either he was kidding or he loves NASCAR. 
See, that’s the reason I never know who to believe in the debate between grain and no grain, dairy or no dairy, taste and no taste. I think that, in the end, all our food choices in life will come down to these two things: is it loaded with ‘white death’ or does it need a little maple syrup to choke it down?
I see another pantry purge coming on. I think I’m going back to my Starbucks diet.
They never confuse me like this.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Robin Williams died last week. It wasn’t an accident. Nor disease. It was his mysterious choice, and it broke America’s heart.

Arguably the best comedian we’ve ever loved, the well has gone dry, the laughter turned to tears—only questions remain. Facebook is full of his funniest moments, all of us grasping one more second of a life evaporated. Gone too soon.
We “are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”*
Everyone thinks depression got the best of Robin. I’m not an expert on the subject, though probably just like you, I’ve experienced it.  It’s miserable. What is ironic to me is how many funny people are deeply wounded human beings, harboring sadness within. Still, we love the self-deprecating humor comedians have spent a lifetime honing. We cheer on the honest and obviously flawed person who lets us laugh at his shortcomings.
Better him in the spotlight than us.
Laughter happens when we identify with a comedian's story. That’s what makes a good comic—connecting with the audience. And laughter is good for the soul. “A cheerful heart is good medicine,” a wise man said, “but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” **
So I wonder—does it ever surprise you to think that the very funny person standing in front of you uses humor to cope with his pain?
I can be funny. I love being funny. I love it when somebody gets my joke and rewards me with outright laughter. Compliments are nice, too, and a few times I’ve won Toastmaster awards for telling hilarious stories. The truth is, though, that whether my writing and speaking brings a tear or a chuckle, the source of my anecdote is often something painful.
And that’s the other irony.
There’s a richness that flows from a melancholy heart. Beauty from ashes, some say. And even when someone dares to reveal a deep hurt, there comes a point where you have to make a joke about it or you'd be crushed in the telling. Laughter lightens the atmosphere and gives us hope that we’ll smile again on the inside.
If only someone had been there last week to make Robin laugh. Or maybe to let him cry. How I wish there could be a happier ending.
It’s so hard when the curtain falls on a tragedy. 

*James 4:14

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Seeing Red

It caused quite a stir around here.

And I wasn’t even at home when it happened. I just read about it on Facebook. That’s what’s so great about social media—even from the top of a mountain in northern Idaho I know what’s going down in the desert.

It was a flyer. An invitation. A titillating tri-fold mailed en masse to both churched and unchurched families in our town—one per family, please. Bright red letters punctuated the slightly suggestive photo on the front page. (They always use red for messages like these. Kind of makes me wonder what’s up with Christmas colors.)
The out-of-focus photo on the right revealed two red high-heel clad feet caressing another in a high-top Converse tennis shoe—horizontally—while the eighty-point crimson font slid in from the left margin like it just ran a . . . red light.
SEX DRIVE, it proclaimed. Maybe it should have arrived in an envelope or shrouded by a magazine blinder with a warning to parents. Remember—this appeared courtesy of the postal service to thousands of families whose latch key kids bring in the mail every afternoon. And a few of their parents saw . . . red.
Is your sex life what you hoped it would be?” the inside flap asked. “Does something inside tell you it could be better?”
Well, those are kind of personal questions. I’m not sure I know you well enough to discuss what goes on behind our closed doors. Who’s asking, anyway?
Scanning my very own tri-fold, demurely buried between the water bill and my bank statement in the pile of mail on our table, I opened the fancy flyer and stared into four cherubic faces at the top of page two. The children’s program info had lead billing over an ad for junior high and high school classes which promised to help teenagers “make great choices.” And a full page offer to meet some good looking guy pictured holding a red rose adorned page three. There’s that color again. “All first time guests on August 3 will be entered to win a chance to meet Sean Lowe,” the enticement read.
So . . . who paid for this mass mail out?
A church. Finally, at the bottom of the page, a church website took credit for the invitation. A church which, one parent pointed out, holds services for the time being in a nearby elementary school. That really creeped out one of my neighbors.
Boy, did my husband and I ever have a lot to talk about. We looked at this mailing from as many sides as possible, guessing at the misdirected intent behind its flashy form:
1.      Everyone has a sex drive. So people might have their curiosity piqued by the cover question. Yes—people of all ages with keys to the family mailbox.
2.      God created sex (the flyer confirms that). So if people need to learn about sex, they should attend church. Okay, well, that’s better than learning about it from the backseat of a car. But is that why people attend church? Sounds like a misleading way to lure visitors through the door. 

3.      Sex is no longer a three letter word. (Are there any three letter words?) It’s the plot and ploy for nearly every tv show, commercial, movie, music video and lyric that saturates our airwaves and overwhelms our living rooms. So why not discuss it in the noble framework where it was designed?  Because most parents still believe it’s their personal responsibility to explain this gift to their children—appropriately and privately.
Maybe this flyer should have been handed out to adult church members. At the very least they could have saved some postage. Maybe members could be trusted to invite a friend to attend the series—you know, personally, where a personal subject like this would be discussed. And maybe the people in charge of creating this flyer should not have assumed that unchurched adults are an easy target if the word “sex” is the lure.
Frankly, that’s where I think they missed the mark. Well, that and the Sean Lowe lottery. I’m still seeing red over that one.