Or Not

Never ignore a mother’s instinct.

My preteen is a sweet soul who loves life and friends in a subdued, affable way, unlike his gregarious younger brother. He’s not quick to make friends or break into a social scene. I am always fascinated with his friends. He kept telling stories of Ned early in the school year. They talk on the phone for hours, giggling and discussing memes. They sit together on the school bus. I was astounded to learn that he and Ned were clowns on the bus. Not just in the safety of their little booth, but the whole bus!

I decided to invite Ned over for a play date. His mum works long hours and he’s sometimes home alone till his parents get there. They were in the process of packing up their house and moving to  a nearby town deep in the country. His mother and I arranged, via text, for me to pick him up at his house.

He is tall and lanky, awkward really. He was wearing a hoodie, his hands thrust deep in its pockets and he lumbered unhurriedly towards the car when we pulled up. He settled in and said hi to his friend. As he buckled in, I asked my son if he was going to introduce us and I tried to catch Ned’s eyes while we were introduced. His mother, Kelly, picked him up at the end of the day. I walked him to her car and introduced myself, thanking her for letting him visit. She was tired from the stress of packing and moving, and grateful he’d had a fun time and behaved himself.

They planned for my son to visit shortly after they moved. Kelly offered to meet me at a gas station halfway as they lived up a remote hill where most cell phones lost coverage and she wasn’t sure I could trust my GPS to get him there. I was a little uneasy about that as I would have been comfortable having seen their home. She said to have him wear “dirty” clothes as they would be spending time outside.

At the last minute, my coworker couldn’t show up for work and I was stuck, unable to get my son to his play date. He’d been looking forward to it and I hated to disappoint him. I found a friend who was available to drive him to meet Kelly at the gas station.

As my son rode away from our driveway a wave of panic hit me. I’m normally not a nervous person. I must have been watching too much crime TV. Where was I sending my son? Who were these people? I couldn’t even remember her face. I would make a lousy witness in the line up. I texted Kelly and got her address, playing it cool. A few minutes after my son’s departure, I texted him and asked him for Ned’s phone number. He didn’t answer me. I called and he didn’t answer. Dread rose within me. I desperately dialed my friend. The phone rang on and on. Finally she answered.

“Why aren’t you answering your phone?” I asked my son when she handed him her phone. “You keep your phone on you and answer me when I call. Text me if you need anything.” I got Ned’s number and dutifully jotted it down on a sticky note on the fridge. I texted Kelly that my friend would be dropping him off.  I couldn’t  remember her car. I asked her what kind of car she drove. She texted, “A dirty black jeep :)” A groan rumbled in my chest. She then added, “Ned is not with me. I only have room for one. My car is full of stuff. They are here now. See you at 4.”

I should call the police now, I thought. I suppressed the feeling. What kind of stuff was her car full of? Oh no, what was her last name? What was my son wearing? My head reeled with foreboding. Would the authorities be able to ping his cell phone if the area was so remote? Had I told him I loved him?


I picked him up right on time. He lept out of her car and came bounding towards mine, covered with mud from head to toe and beaming brightly. I walked up to her and she rolled down her window. “They had a marvelous time. Thank you for letting him come over. They are already planning their next escapade.” She piped cheerfully. I studied her face carefully and as she went on and on about the stream, and the 25 foot swing, I thought, ‘I would not have picked her out in a line up.’


Pool-side at the Hilton

You know how refreshing a salad is on a hot day?

Loaded with all manner of flavors and textures and a party on the palate, that’s how refreshing! Sure, a fabulous steak beside a mountain of mashed potatoes hits the spot like nothing else when one is famished, but sometimes, I say the simpler the richer.

My friend Jo is friend like that. She is layer upon delicious layer of fresh and crispy goodness that’s just the right  blend of  sweet and savory, crunchy and complex.

I don’t get to talk to her much. We’ll shoot each other occasional texts and build each other up in the faith. I smile whenever I think of her silliness. She is easy to bare the soul to and I feel safe in the refuge of her love. One of my favorite things about her is how low-maintenance she is despite being brilliant beyond belief. You know how ‘they’ are always coming up with another vegetable that’s a superfood ‘they’ just discovered amazing benefits in? Jo is like that. I’m always discovering phenomenal things about her that she laughs off humbly. She unassumingly boosts endorphin levels even when her praises are unsung.

Early this morning, I answered my phone when I saw her darling smile on it. We both laughed hard for a while before saying halo. I don’t know why she was laughing. Nor why I was laughing. Then she said, “You won’t believe where I am: Poolside at the Hilton in Anaheim.”

“Whaaat?” I screamed for joy, incredulous.

“It gets better, ” she added, chuckling quietly like she does, “I’m eating cheesecake.”

I would have fallen over, laughing with glee, if I wasn’t sitting in the car.

“I’m a doctor’s wife now, you know,”she quipped.

That was so outlandish coming from this dear stay-at-home mum of three young children. That’s the steak and potatoes side I don’t often see. Oh yea, and cheesecake.

We chatted for a long time and got caught up, a luxury I rarely enjoy with friends over the phone. By the end of our conversation, I was exhilarated, swimming in endorphins. Pool-side at the Hilton with my vegetal chum.



My neighbor Dee has a one year old daughter, Anna. This little girl gets full body shivers when she is excited. She inspires full body shivers in me when I see her and she bobs with glee before I swoop her into the air, both of us chortling with pleasure. These little human beings are amazing at digging up buried mirth. They bring it, bubbling up to the surface and light up the world. She is an endorphin trip.

I love to sit on Dee’s bedroom floor while she gets ready for work. She works in the beauty industry and looks the part. Anna and I attack a pile of laundry while Dee primps and tells me funny stories. She’s full of them. I’ve mastered the art and science of listening to her while I tickle Anna and bury her under the clothes. Laundry piles are a wonderful thing for little girls. We throw socks high up in the air and learn our numbers and colors. I put her skirt on my head, she puts undies on hers and we sing and dance like there’s no tomorrow. She loves my necklace and by now, it’s around her neck.

Dee painstakingly parts tiny sections of hair and smooths the length of it between her fingers. She drops her head  way down and her eyes peer way up to look in the mirror and then glides her smoking hot-iron over the hair with flare. She laughs so hard from time to time that she has to brace the hot iron against her granite counter and double over to get the whole laugh out. She waves this magic wand over her hair so rhythmically that I am entranced and all the while Anna is bopping her fingertips together and rubbing her chest, signing, “More please.” I snap back to her reality and  plump her on the pile, to her chuckling delight. She catches her breath and signs again. We do it forty more times before mum is done with the back section.

Anna is so tickled at having to get my attention, she thinks it’s part of the game. In theory I would much rather play with her than watch this sacred ritual going on in the adjacent bathroom, but it’s the most riveting thing, made all the more enchanting by the puffs of thickening smoke.  Dramatically, I shake my startled head at Anna and pop my eyes wide open when I look back at her. Her whole body shivers as she starts to run away so I can chase her and bury her in the clothes.

Well over an hour later,  Dee moves on to her face without skipping a beat in her story. She brings out the make-up suitcase, like the Priestess. I could pack a week’s worth of winter clothes in that trunk. With a magical incantation, she lifts the lid to expose an expansive assembly of brushes and powders.  There must be a hundred shades of grey alone.  With one brush she caresses her eyelashes. She shuts up for that. Must be a precarious part of the process. A chunkier brush flickers over her temple and the liturgy resumes as yet brush another dabs her nose. I swallow hard and my eyes get wider and wider. The speed and talent and skill involved here rival Edward Scissorhands.

“Why are you crying, Anna??” I wonder in a hushed tone, surprised by her irreverence.

At length, the Priestess ceases her incantations and exits the sanctum looking like Queen Nefertiti. I fall prostrate at her feet onto the laundry pile suddenly feeling naked, vile, and  inadequate. I bury my face in shame because up till now, my definition of primping has been – chapstick.




Now That’s Awesome Hair

I have loved getting dressed up as long as I can remember. I had a stylish mother and four sisters. We spent a preposterous amount of time on fashion and greatly delighted in it.

I was more outlandish in my tastes.  My sister would say to me,  “Honey, don’t wear orange. That’s for white people,” and since I adored her, I complied. I’d lived in the States for years and met several white people who publicly declared, “I could never wear orange.”

What? They must have trouble finding orange in their size. Surely.

It was then that I promptly cancelled my subscription to the Fashion Police. I would wear what I wanted to wear. As a dear friend says facetiously, “I’m a woman of color.”

The same thing happened with my hair. I grew up determined to straighten it. I burned the tar out of it with crude straightening irons. I used nasty chemicals , sniffling valiantly while my poor scalp erupted in agonizing blisters.  It was an innocent bystander at the wrong place at the wrong time. I braided my hair, cut it, weaved it, straightened it, corn-rowed it, relaxed it, curled it, you name it, I tried it. I did everything but love it as it was. I was determined to turn it into my picture of beauty.

Something hit me in the last year or so. I started enjoying my hair and figured maybe it was just the way it was supposed to be. What a thought. Why didn’t I have that thought first? I’ve spent more on my hair in forty years than the Gross Domestic Product of Italy, and still been dissatisfied with it. That’s especially ridiculous when you consider that this hair grows 1 inch every 5 years!

Ever since I  decided to accept it, it’s like having a new friend. I love this new friend. I’m getting to discover her and she is a riot. She’s terribly unpredictable and doesn’t always do what we’d agreed on on any given day. She can be somewhat unruly and outright wild. I’ll be having a conversation with my husband and realize he has no idea what I’ve been talking about for the last few minutes. I can tell because he’s staring, not at my eyes, like an engaged conversationalist, but 2 inches above them. Before I can say, “Halo, my eyes are down here,” he muses asbsently, “Did you mean to do that?”, and waves his hand over his head.

“I’ve got to go see this,” I tell myself, heading for a mirror. Sure enough, she is a sight to behold. What on earth? This is NOT how I left the house an hour ago. “Oh, that’s right, the humidity has risen by a per cent!” I glare at her. I was not in on this decision. She has no regard that we are a unit and have a reputation to uphold.  She will not be restrained, this headstrong character. Irked, I pull out my comb for the  tenth time and slap it onto the counter. I throw my hands up in despair trying to figure out  how to corral this wildness. I lean in for a closer look. She winks at me and, against my will, I crack a smile. I realize she has a beautiful mind of her own. And a plan. It’s certainly not the one I had in mind, but it’ll do.

“It’ll do quite well, on second thoughts.” I pat her proudly and stick my comb back in my purse.



This is a tribute to my friend Rochelle. You are precious to me. As though that wasn’t enough, thank you for sharing a birthday on one of my sibling’s birthday. It was a treat to eat this peanut butter goodness with you.

Some Things are Best Left Unwritten

Fall is a hard season for me.

I love warm weather so Fall means Summer is over. I plan for and eagerly anticipate it for more than 7 months. Once it arrives, I relish its every minute and strive to shake the deep foreboding that constantly reminds me it’s slipping away.

Fortunately Fall is fabulously stunning with its opulent foliage colors; Canada Geese deafeningly landing in and taking off from nearby ponds; and heavenly smells of delicious flavors. So raw, so lavish.

I thoroughly enjoy composing ideas into writing. For me writing is frequently like an out of body experience. When a grand thought hits me, I feel transported, borne on mighty unseen wings.  It’s much like baking: trolling for ideas, choosing the hallowed one, assembling ingredients, putting them together, sitting on my hands while amazing smells waft through the air, pulling it out of the oven at just the right time, and bedecking it. That is glory!

This past Summer, I determined to write about another reason I dread Fall. 2 of my 3 deceased immediate family members passed away in the Fall. 2 of the 3 have October birthdays. Sadly, I’m yet to write a proper tribute to any of them. Their tributes have been percolating in my brain for years. They just won’t submit and order themselves in a sensible way. Not only do I feel thus indebted to my loved ones, but I feel I am failing them and myself. I get angry at myself when another birthday or anniversary rolls around – “It’s been well over 7 months,” I chide myself.  It’s unreasonable but it feels akin to not taking care of their remains. Unfinished business – year after year. I ask ridiculous un-answerable questions like, “What’s wrong with you? Isn’t this important?”

Every once in a while, I pull something out of the oven and it’s a flop. A disappointing and frustrating flop. That’s what those tributes have been. It breaks my heart and literally makes me cry. I want to slam my laptop shut and throw it across the room as I realize that I can write about cows and peanuts and gardening in ways that make me feel like I’m soaring over mountaintops, yet I can’t write about mum, Michael, or Irene. It compounds my grief.

Is it a mere cop out to think that some things are best left unwritten…?


Gardening with my Pearls

It happens every time. No sooner do I step out of my van when I get home, than I spy a naughty weed trying not to get noticed. Jingling the car keys in my hand, I promptly walk up to it and, with a stern look, pluck the unruly plant vermin by the roots. Just a few feet beyond is a beautiful ground cover that tells me it would like to be split.  My tools are always handy so I drop the car keys into the tool bag and grab my little shovel. I marvel at  the beautiful Irish Moss as I separate its roots. This is not unlike my hero, Dr. Carson separating twins with conjoined brains. It takes pure genius.

A perfect replanting spot beckons me across the yard and I head for it. En route, I catch sight of another patch of weeds. I glare at them wondering how they got there and swiftly dispatch them. I wonder if my husband plants them when I’m not looking.

I notice that the echinacea I put in last week threw off the  appearance of the stone walkway I put in last month. That irritates me because those pavers weigh the same as a pregnant Angus, and the design is telling me that a paver, not the echinacea, needs to move. At this point I have to set  my purse down because it would be ridiculous to be carrying a cow and a purse, all while wearing high heels. I make a mental note to note where I set it down.

I have a new habit of looking under my nails when people ask how I am doing. If there is a fresh compact scoop of dirt under each manicured nail, I know I’m having a most fabulous day. It is then that I normally notice I am still wearing my nice new jewelry, never mind the high heels. I am my mother’s child. She lived by the motto: love and fear God, love and serve people, and dress to kill. I love that.

Time plays tricks on me when I am gardening. I go out to pull a couple of weeds with hours to spare before I have to clock-in to work, and no sooner do I pull the couple weeds and transplant a plant or 2, my co-worker is impatiently acquainting me with the fact that she was supposed to leave ten minutes ago. You would think, by the disdainful look on her face, that I do this every time.

The next morning I am late for an appointment  because I can’t figure out what that man did with my purse this time. Thank God for my spare key. One of these days I will get busted driving without my driver’s license. Later that evening I find the purse and I am glad I didn’t accuse him to his face.

Next time you find yourself all dressed up with nowhere to go, walk to your garden and pick a weed or 2. Or come to mine and pick 5 or 6. It fertilizes the soul and deepens your roots,  causes one to grow, to bloom, to fruit. To live. To believe. To wait. To die. And for such a hallowed, lofty affair, one must be clad in the most lavish attire and pearls.

… I still can’t figure out what he did with my keys.