Saturday, July 16, 2016


I remember learning a unique verb tense in my high school Spanish class - Ojala. It is used to mean "May God grant that..."

As in: "Ojala que mi madre tenia un viaje seguro en Alemania" - "May God grant that my mother has a safe trip to Germany."


I've long forgotten most of the Spanish I learned all those years ago.

But I remember "Ojala que."

In those moments when other might pray, I find myself using the phrase in a unique form of meditative Spanglish.

"Ojala que mi pais can make a rational and safe decision in the 2016 Presidential election."

"Ojala que la gente de Turkey remain safe and under Democratic rule."

"Ojala que mi esposo is no longer so sick."

Feel better BMG. 


Friday, July 1, 2016

The Cherry Pitter

I live in a tiny house. A tiny house with a tiny amount of storage space.

This tiny amount of storage space, combined with my natural propensity for simple living, are the reasons why I tend to shy away from single use kitchen gadgets. Things like egg slicers (knives work just great), grapefruit spoons, and spaghetti servers. Yeah, nope. Don't need 'em. Don't want 'em.

But, I *do* have a cherry pitter.

This is a tool that expels the pit of a cherry into a small chute, and then with a poof, pops it into a waiting vessel (like a hand or a bowl). The sound of the pit being forced out of the fruit sounds like a gnome-sized nail gun to me. And the part of device that presses into the cherry to push out the pit looks like a gnome sized pick-axe.

The result of the pitter's work is tiny piece of stone fruit with a gaping flesh wound that looks as if a bullet has passed through it. While it is no longer gorgeous, but it is also free of the tiny pit you need to awkwardly and ungracefully dispose of every time you consume one cherry.  

I've owned mine for three years. And I've used it maybe four times. It takes up precious real estate in my limited drawer space. By all rights, it is not the sort of thing I would ever own.

But I'll never get rid of it.

Because every time I use it, I'm reminded of my father-in-law.

In the short time I knew him, he introduced me to the magic of the cherry pitter.

It was a weekend day, long before BMG and I were actually married, and I was visiting with him and my mother-in-law. As I chatted with them, my father-in-law was discreetly flexing his hand and causing a small popping sound.

"What are you doing?" I remember asking.

And he explained the cherry pitter, even letting me take the reins of the device and giving it a squeeze.

I may have scoffed at the need for a cherry pitter, perhaps extolling the diverse virtues of the knife or asking "How hard is it to eat around the pit?"

I remember my father-in-law laughing and telling me the cherries were much more delicious when they were pitted. And that was that.

A couple of years later, after he passed from this earth, BMG and I were planning our wedding. I insisted on putting a cherry pitter on our registry. BMG raised his eyebrows at me (he knows me well), but I insisted. And that was that.


I much prefer to infuse everyday objects with meaning and memories, rather than holding onto other types of mementos. Doing so gives me regular opportunities to reflect on the person or event that I associate with the object. The size of my home makes it harder for me to display or interact with other types of memory devices, like photos stored on Facebook or in print albums or souvenirs from trips,

And I don't need them. I don't need a photo of my father-in-law to remember what made him such a special person. I don't need to hang onto every gift he ever gave me to make I don't forget him. Nope. All I need is to pit a few cherries and boom, I'm reminded of how much I hold him in my heart.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I Killed My Cat (Was it Just a Dream?)

I dreamed last night that the fur ball I was trying to remove from the hindquarters of my faux Himalayan cat was in fact a hernia. And as I gently tugged on the mat of long white hair, I started pulling her innards out. She screeched and ran away, leaving a trail of kitty blood in her wake. Panicked, I searched for her in all of her favorite hiding spots. Instead of finding a trembling cat, I instead found pools of flesh and blood, evidence that she was leaking from the inside out. 

In my dream, I remember weeping.  

And I never found my cat. 

Care to interpret? 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Cookie Monster: An unrequited love story

I love cookies. Chocolate chip cookies to be exact. In fact, I love them so much, they made my Facebook list of 10 foods I would want with me if I were stranded on a desert island, (The others are turkey, eggs, olive oil, rice, spinach, lemons, coconut, cheddar cheese, and coffee,)

But chocolate chip cookies don't love me back.

Consider this checklist of qualities that the Kelley and Thibault model of relationship commitment, as described by Psychology Today, suggests are essential to a successful long-term relationship:  

Both consistently meet and do not frustrate our needs
FAIL. Chocolate chip cookies DO meet my needs for the delicious combination of sugar and fat, particularly when I'm feeling sad, hormonal, or have low blood sugar. HOWEVER, they do not care enough about me to minimize the way they frustrate my efforts to be fit, sleep well at night, and not feel like an out-of-control pig. 

Are more attractive than other potential relationships or ways of spending our time
FAIL. I love chocolate chip cookies. But, they have not done enough in our relationship to prevent me from cheating on them with potato chips, dark chocolate-covered anything, or commercially prepared peanut butter. And none of the Ashley Madison foods I have in my Rolodex are doing me any favors. In fact, if I were to cheat on chocolate chip cookies, I'd be better off cheating with a trip to the gym, a brisk walk, or a phone call to one of my sisters.

Would lead one to lose valuable resources if the relationship were to end
FAIL. Again, What am I going to lose if I were to leave my love affair with the chocolate chip cookie? I would guess about 15 pounds.

This checklist makes it clear that chocolate chip cookies are doing nothing but hurting me. For more than 45 years, I've continued to turn to them in times of joy, sorrow and anger, only to have my short term needs fulfilled with no promise of a fulfilling, long-term relationship

So, chocolate chip cookies, in the interest of my health, I am breaking up with you.

(Unless, of course, you'd be willing to hook up every now and again, maybe at parties or other special events. I mean, I'd be open to that.)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Have you ever had to make a decision where the choices were vastly different, but equally good? I had this happen twice - both times early in my adulthood. 

The first time was in 1992, right after I finished college. Educated at American University, with its legacy of global public service, I had enthusiastically applied for a position with the Peace Corps the summer before my senior year. 

As I finished my degree, there was still no word on whether I had been accepted, so I made other plans to take a job with the Center for Women's Studies at Colgate University. I had moved back to central New York to set up house when a letter arrived announcing my appointment to an aquaculture initiative in Honduras. Stunned, because I had never been told I was accepted into the Corps, I was paralyzed with thoughts of what to do next. Do I renege on my contract with Colgate, my pursuit of a graduate degree, and my desire to spend at least the next year connecting with my nearby family? Or, do abandon these plans and head to Central America to cultivate my language skills and cultural knowledge while making a contribution to sustainable agriculture and community self-sufficiency? 

I chose to stay stateside. But still occasionally wonder "what if."

The same type of situation presented itself to me five years later when I was offered the opportunity to take a paid internship with the CDC. At the time, I was finishing my graduate degree in Social Work/Public Health, along with a Fellowship in Community-Oriented Primary Care. I was on the Board of Directors of Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, and initiating a consulting relationship with the (Peter Lees org). From a career development perspective, packing up my life and moving to Atlanta made perfect sense. 

But, as someone committed to community development, I struggled with the idea of leaving my own community of family and friends. 

So, in the spirit of not wanting my work to take precedence over my life, I elected to stay in Boston. 

Twenty years later, I still occasionally wonder "What if?" Had I taken the job with the CDC, for example. I could be on the track towards a senior policy-making position or some other position of influence. But, at what cost? 

I'm aware that I give 150% of myself to my work. I've been recognized as a "high producer" by some supervisors, and called out for "making the rest of the team look bad" by others. The last time I made a career shift, from non-profit and public service, it was at the request of my now husband, who needed me to turn off work and be present with him - and myself - during those times when I was physically not on the job.

Wrap,this up.

An Even More Perfect Union

I leave work at 3:00 on Fridays, which means instead of being getting my evening news fix from my pal Robert Siegel on NPR's All Things Considered, I'm forced tlisten to PRI's The World

Today, on my 25-minute commute, I heard global perspectives on the outcomes of yesterday's Brexit vote. 

During the drive, I stared out the front window of my station wagon thinking not about the predictable traffic and roadways between me and my home, but instead thinking about the 17 million Britons who decided yesterday to leave the EU. 

The reasons for this too complicated for me to understand and certainly too complicated for me to explain. If you don't understand the Brexit vote, I invite you to read coverage in the New York Times and The Economist for two among the thousands of media perspectives on this historic decision by the people, for the people of the United Kingdom. 

One of the rationales given for the "leave" decision was the EU's demand that member nations comply with an open borders policy, making it possible for residents and workers to easily migrate between countries to live and work. And for older, less educated Britons who, like their American counterparts are suffering professional and economically, immigration became the easy scapegoat. One commentator on The World said a "leave the EU" campaign slogan was "Make Great Britain Great Again." 

This is a familiar refrain here in the U.S.

Which got me to thinking. 

What if we simply swapped voters? 

Think about it. The "Leave the EU" voters are kindred spirits of Donald Trump's base of support, while the "Remain in the EU" voters might be compared to Hillary Clinton supporters in their rational appreciation for the benefits that come with a nation state's investment in the collective whole. 

What if we invited the "Leave the EU" people to come live in America, hassle-free, and gave the Hillary supporters the same hassle-free option to move to the UK? 

Don't think about it. Just react. If you are a Hillary supporter, would you take the free pass to Europe? I know I would. 

Post your vote in the comments section. As with Brexit, we'll figure out the details later. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fat Girl

Just this week, I told my husband and mother-in-law that, in spite of having recently lost 30 pounds, I still feel exactly the same. While I lost the weight primarily for health reasons, not emotional ones, I'm aware that I have struggled with being a "fat girl" my entire life.

With that revelation still spinning around in my heart, I found myself drawn to click on an NPR article posted to Facebook, offering reviews of two works of fiction that "tear down" stereotypes about fat girls.

The Facebook rabbit hole being what it is, this article next led me to a PBS Newshour link about a poet, Rachel Wiley, who penned this:

For Fat Girls Who Considered Starvation When Bulimia Wasn’t Enough
Mom says that my teeth are perfect
Perfect brother has just gotten braces on his top four front teeth
A tiny railroad bridge connecting nothing
And mom says that my teeth are perfect.
At last my quiet mouth, the overlook, the swallowed feelings have all paid off
and cultured something perfect and mine.
My mouth is a music box
stuffed with pearls.
Perfect brother is tall
And lean eats whatever he wants
One time a whole box of oatmeal cream pies.
but it is more clear each day that my baby fat is no longer baby fat
but just fat
It is more clear each day that I will not be a ballerina
I had wanted to be a ballerina.
My mouth is a music box
A small girl spins gracefully at the back of my throat
On point
I am sure if I can just reach far enough back I could still have her grace
I reach for her every night after dinner while the bathtub fills.
Until one day the health teacher shows us a photo
of a mouth crammed full of broken, yellowed dishes
says that a side effect of Bulimia
is ruined teeth
but Mom said that my teeth were perfect
And my perfect is a ransom I cannot bring myself to pay for the spinning girl
So I swallow her
and then nothing more for 4 whole days
My mouth is a music box, plays a low gear grinding that puts me to sleep.
When I do not wake up any closer to the spinning girl encircled in pink tulle
but rather still a ravenous hollow encircled in overgrowth
I sneak down to the pantry and devour an entire box of oatmeal cream pies in the dark
before going upstairs to brush my perfect teeth 1 at a time.

What happened next? Well, I cried

I cried for the little girl in me who wanted to be a ballerina but was instead told, "You'd be so pretty if you could just lose some weight." I cried for the young adult in me who thought she was a genius when she discovered bulimia, without knowing the word for it. I cried for the adult in me who knows that this eating disorder is like an addiction in that it will be with me always, in spite of having beat the behaviors long long ago. 

And now my stomach hurt. I'm sure it's because of the #whole30 decaf mocha I just gulped. It couldn't be feelings.