As for most baby boomers, my electronified life started with a small screen black and white television, aka TV, Hi-Fi Stereo radio and record player and small, tabletop radio at home.

When I was home, I could listen to radio while playing with my dolls on the floor nearby as my mother or father tuned in to their music choice–easy listening or big bands on the Hi-Fi radio or records. By the time I was ten years old, I could put a record on for myself.

One of my favorite things to do with music was to read and learn the lyrics while listening to an LP—a vinyl record. The Broadway production of “The Sound of Music” and the Mitch Miller and The Gang Christmas albums were the first to provide this happy pastime, with lyrics included.

I could settle down to watch a TV show. There were few shows for kids, so when one was on it received undivided attention. It wasn’t long before I complained aloud about commercial interruptions on TV.

Little did I know that TV was invented in order to advertise to the masses and the shows are the fillers!

It never occurred to me that these devices could be portable.

There weren’t many radio stations that played the Top 40 Hits: 1010 WINS, 77 WABC, 57 WMCA. I set my plug-in bedroom radio to WABC and left it there. They played The Beatles frequently enough to keep my attention.

My older sister had a transistor radio, but due to its extreme personal value, the request to borrow it was denied.

I was finally able to afford my first, last and only transistor radio way back in my early teens, around 1967. The small, portable device used batteries—and used them up fast!—but that little radio got all the stations I wanted, AM only, and could go anywhere. It went to the beach mostly, because we weren’t allowed to bring them into school. I doubt it ever occurred to kids to bring a radio to school, to class.

Mobile music was such a thrill! The radio was white and aqua plastic with silvery trim and came with a small, white ear plug which was promptly lost. It crackled with static and had to be manually fine-tuned for drifting stations sometimes, but music to go was worth that little bother. It cost around $7.50, which was a lot of money for a kid getting 50 cents to $1 per week allowance. I didn’t have the radio very long; maybe two years. Batteries were expensive and sand got into it. After I came to believe my dad, mom and sister that the radio was probably dead, I took it apart to see the insides. At some point after that, it was lost—or thrown away by my mother.

The next big electronic awareness was the telephone. It amazed me that my mother could talk to her sister from Connecticut to New York or North Carolina and the voices were clear, as if they were from a house on the street.

My aunt called my mother one day, person-to-person, meaning she asked the operator to stay on the line to make sure she got my mother before the fee meter was running. For a station-to-station connection, the fee started adding up as soon as the phone was answered by anyone on the other end. I happened to be in the house when the phone rang, probably running in from playing outside to use the bathroom, and I answered it. I knew to ask, “Who’s calling?” and when the operator said, “I have a person-to-person call for Marion from Irene. Do you accept the charges?” I answered, “Yes.” I knew it was important because my aunt was calling long distance in the middle of the day. I told the operator to “Hold on, I’ll get her!” and ran back outside to the house across the street where my mother was having coffee with her friend. I felt so important, a competent messenger. By the time we got back to my house, several minutes later, the handset was still on the counter but the phone was dead. They’d hung up. My mother explained about the short waiting time for such a call before the operator would have asked my aunt if she wanted to wait, and start paying for the wait time. I have no idea why that call was so important or what was said when my mother called her sister back.

Young kids seldom chatted on the phone with their friends, but teenagers spent a lot of time gabbing about everything. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to talk and laugh with friends on the phone.

During second or third grade, in the early ‘60s, I read about the invention of the “picture phone” that would be in every house in the near future. You could talk on the phone while looking at the person on a small screen. Friends and I joked about how to cover the screen if a boy called to ask for a date and you’d just gotten out of the shower and they’d see you wrapped in a towel with wet hair stuck to your face. I never did see that phone come to a house near me.

When my kids were young, the availability of a 25-foot coiled phone cord clipped to another of the same length gave me mobility in my little Cape Cod style house. I could reach every first floor room while talking on the phone: Fold and put away laundry, make the bed, mop the floors, or wash dishes with the phone tucked under my chin. The longer cord was big progress!

In the mid-90s, we bought cordless phones for the house. It was great to have freedom of movement. There was a base that hung on the wall, plugged into a socket and wired from the base to the jack, which of course was connected to the phone wires on the poles outside. Just like today, the handset tucked into a slot where the battery recharged. A later model had a built in answering machine to the base so both tasks could be handled with one contraption.

A traveling phone was so convenient. I could make the beds, sweep the kitchen, wash dishes, clean the bathroom, pull weeds or just sit outside and drink coffee while talking on the phone. I used a cheap ear plug in order to free my hands. I put the phone in my pocket, if I had one, or tucked into my cleavage and carried on with chores or cooking while gabbing.

But talk about expensive batteries; at $20 per battery, it’s a good thing cordless phone batteries last several years before they just won’t take a charge anymore. The only downside to the portable phones is that they can get lost easily in the house—stuck in the couch cushions, thrown into a toy box, left outside on the porch, hidden under the clean towels waiting to be folded. If the battery is dead, which happens eventually even if you don’t make any calls for a time, hope of finding it diminishes considerably.

Using the FIND signal from the charger base or calling the house number from a cell phone to follow the ringing doesn’t work if the battery is dead. You just have to wait and find it…eventually. My grandchildren used to take the cordless phones to another room, pretending to talk on them to their mothers or an imaginary somebody, but they’d toss them into a bucket of toys or scoot it under the bed. Sometimes the phones were lost for days.

A phone call to Europe used to require a human operator and several minutes to go through at an exorbitant cost for just a few minutes. I worked at two different companies in the ‘70s, each with offices in Europe and South America. Only executives could make an international call and the switchboard operator, who connected with the telephone company’s international operator, had to keep records of who called where. Something important needed immediate attention back in the ‘70s if an overseas call was warranted. There were no radio signals or wireless transmission from satellite to earth. There were miles of cable laid across the ocean. There are still submarine cables across the oceans today, but their quality is greatly improved with fiber optics.

Then we were able to direct dial long distance even though it was still quite expensive. But it was a breakthrough in telephone communications to dial a couple of extra numbers and speak to someone far away.

Along the same underwater lines, typewritten messages were sent via a Telex machine. It was set up like a typewriter keyboard. You could type quick messages while connected live to the receiver’s machine. Usually, messages were longer, so the words were punched into a waxy tape and read by a reader attached to the Telex machine, which read them quickly and typed them out from the sender to receiver at the same time. Many Monday mornings I arrived at work to see 20 or 30 feet of paper waiting for me to tear off, cut out individual messages and give them to recipients.

One job required the sending of encrypted messages, “cryptels,” in order to keep top secret product information from the eyes of competitors. The company also dealt with some government contracts for our military.

Most of the time, the messages were so technical, I couldn’t have explained what they were about, but others familiar with the science of it all could get enough information to have a lot of secrets about new inventions the company was exploring.

I left the world of office work, confident in the knowledge that I had Telex skills to fall back on when I returned to work after raising my children. Little did I know…

My daughter bought her father and me an early cell phone. Since my husband commuted about 30 miles to work, she thought it would be convenient to have a lifeline to me if he got stuck in traffic or if the car broke down. The phone was big, like the size of a cordless phone that recharges, but thicker. For $25, you could buy minutes but if you traveled anywhere, the minutes were used faster the farther out of a certain range you went. I traveled once 300 miles from home and agreed to call my friend at the destination on the phone when I was 30 minutes from her house. That one minute call cost me almost all of the minutes I had purchased because I was so far away from home base. What a system! We didn’t get much use out of the bulky precursors to today’s cell phones.

The cell phone is impressive. So much power of communication is such a small device. Direct dial to almost anywhere, whether you’re in the mountains or at the beach; in the car or in your backyard; on vacation to almost anywhere in the world or just speaking to a neighbor.

The size and quality of cell phones has come a long way. A cell phone can do so many tasks aside from just talking. It takes pictures or video, plays and stores music and videos,  accesses the Internet…the list goes on and on. Every couple of years, today’s model becomes obsolete and improvements and additions to its services keep the cell phone business booming.

I had also learned about computers back in the 70’s at my job as a customer service clerk for a food broker.

Was I impressed over what computers could do and how fast and efficient they were! It was fabulous. Orders were placed and tracked; reports on sales generated and products were tracked without needing a dozen phone calls. The computer was revered, too—it had its own air conditioned office even when the employees melted in summer heat.

Today, of course, computers practically rule the world with the secrets they keep, facts and figures near at hand, reports and dictionaries and medical advice, magazines,  newspapers, entire books; email, instant photos and messages and Facebook. The Telex Operator job I thought I’d return to was practically obsolete by the mid-‘90s when I was ready to return to work. Email had taken over much more efficiently.

Not the newest gadget but my most recent electronic acquisition is the MP3 player. I know, I know, I’m a little behind on owning electronics.

I liked to listen to books on CD which I borrowed from the library so that my hands were free to crochet. I found myself getting restless while holding a book or crocheting alone, without watching TV at the same time. When TV lost its appeal with so few shows worth watching, I didn’t want to crochet as much without its company. Restless again.

The library offers electronic books! No kidding! You download a book digitally from the library’s electronic catalog to your computer, then transfer it to your MP3 player. Insert comfortable ear phones, aka ear buds with gel-covered inserts, into your ears and listen to a book. It’s read to you by a professional reader who adds (or detracts sometimes) from the book by offering acting talents, with accents and different enhancements for the characters in the books. It’s fabulous! Joggers and walkers and teenagers have known about this portable feature for years for downloaded music or radio, but it works great for books too. Hands free listening is great for doing any crafty work, but it’s also nice for listening while tackling mundane yet necessary chores or walking the same route again and again. The MP3 player is about one-tenth the size of my old transistor radio.

What’s next for our “electronified” world? I have no idea. But it will probably be some improvement–and exciting.


The last time there was a big flood the story featured an ark, an extended family, a bunch of animals and lots of water over many days.

Lately, I feel like I’m in the midst of a personal flood of almost biblical proportion.  I don’t have an ark, but I do have the extended family, friends and a few animals and the imminence of living long distance from all of them to consider.

I have to decide what stuff will come and what will be thrown away or sold or given to adult children. I feel ready and hesitant at the same time, which means not a whole lot is getting done. I often feel just blah, like on a rainy day when you could get lots of chores done inside but instead find yourself reading a book for a while and falling asleep. 

I’ve been having a flood of thoughts and emotions that cause my moods and competing or processing thoughts to make me feel like I’m in an ark, bobbing up and down in a long storm, feeling seasick. 

My husband and I are making plans to move over a thousand miles from our children and grandchildren. We’re taking our time due to financial constraints and other necessary plans that need to be acted upon as they can. People do it all the time. No big deal, right?

There is some encouragement in knowing that; others not only lived through it but continued or began to flourish. But it’s our first time and the process is a heart squeezer for me.  There is so much unfinished business where I live now. Now we plan to leave it all and start over somewhere.

Thoughts whiz through my brain like ribbons of car lights photographed on a highway.  I’ll be gone before the garden is finished to my dream specs, yet I’ll need to leave all of the beautiful shrubs, flowers and trees here for someone else to enjoy. The driveway and front walk will not be the way I wanted to make them; the bedroom floors won’t be refinished, nor will the kitchen or basement or sun room décor and function ideas. 

All of these spaces have had thought given to them over the 18-plus years we’ve lived in this house. It was just in the wrong state. On the one hand, I was excited to be moving into such a spacious and beautiful house. It was my dream house and I couldn’t wait to get going, making it home. On the other hand, I was going through the grief and adjustments of leaving everyone I knew and loved (besides my husband and daughters, of course) 300 miles away in my state of birth. 

I had no idea how long it would take to get through the emotional detachment of leaving so much—family, friends, church, activities, familiar and beloved surroundings. I know I will go through it again with this, our final move, and I’m not looking forward to it. My husband, daughters and I are in different life phases—which is natural—and three grandchildren are added to the mix of people I’ll miss this time.

At the same time, I am able to look forward to a new phase of life with happy expectation sometimes. Our children and their children live with us, for legitimate and iffy reasons. It feels right to break up what I currently picture as a root bound houseplant. The plant is still alive, but it can’t thrive when all three plants are in the same pot. Elder daughter and her two children and Second Daughter and her child need to get transplanted into their own pots. Then, just like the houseplant, they will be able to grow and thrive, expand and mature—and flower. 

When we moved here, I was stuck on being resentful that we had to move for a job change and none of us wanted it. Sure, the money was way better and the house and yard fabulous and opportunities for cultural activities were nearby. All that is hard to see when you were content with what you had—and its location, location, location. To add insult to injury, the job lasted only 16 months and it’s been a struggle hanging on ever since. So I doubt myself: Is this the right time to do this? What about the housing market? Where will the girls live affordably with their kids? How can I move without the cats? When will I see my family again? Waves washing over the ship.

As in most events I find irritating, the big thing that bothers me is the notion of choice.  People often say, “You may not be able to choose what happens to you but you can choose how you feel about it or how your respond to it or what your attitude will be.”  Easier said than done.

First I need to stop, sometimes more than just a few times, and allow feelings to surface. If I get to acceptance, the whole process is easier. However, I usually hover at “Whyyyy?” then wander into discovering my feelings and sit with them for awhile, also more than a few times.

When I can sense acceptance taking hold, seeming to grow in me like a vine, expanding from head to toes and out to my fingertips, I can relax a little and quietly assess the situation. 

During all of this emotional storming, irritation, like a tiny pebble in a shoe, persists. It prompts me: “Of course you should feel bad about this. Of course it’s another thing that pulled the rug out from under you. Of course it will be difficult to make such a big change. Of course the timing is wrong and circumstances to make it necessary if not wanted developed in total secret from you.” 

Then maybe, instead of ranting at God, I actually pray. I begin to understand that the visual of the potted plant being root bound and needing to be separated into individual pots (families) is from him. I know this because a sense of calm comes over me and I’m able to think more clearly about what I feel about what is instead of what I imagine I might feel about what might be or could be. 

I wish I could see life as an adventure. For me, it’s more like a challenge.  A genuine and clear definition of choice eludes me. It’s foggy in stormy circumstances, tools gone overboard, people and pets dying, and the oftentimes debilitating “What do you want?” –which is never asked. 

I am now making some sense of the notion that change isn’t necessarily bad just because I didn’t choose it. It mostly depends on who does the leading that makes the difference.

Noah wasn’t asked what he thought of the ark plan. He asked how to build the ark and then went with the flow.

Hello. My name is Ellen. Do you want to play house with me over there? What’s your name? Oh, good. There are dolls and a stove and sink. We can have tea and cookies and I’ll show you my baby and you can show me yours. We can change their clothes and feed them a bottle and give them a bath.

Hello, again. We can sit together at lunch today, okay? Sure, let me see what you brought and maybe we can share. I have money for milk. Yeah, I can lend you a nickel. My mom won’t mind. She’ll say it’s what we do for a friend.

Hello. Oh! That would be great. I’ll have to ask my mother. She says yes, I can take the bus home with you from school and she’ll pick me up later. Is that okay? Yes, I can bring Barbie or my baby doll; which one? Yeah, your sister is a pest sometimes, but she’s cute. Your brother, his hair; it’s all over the place.

Hello? You did? Wow what size is it? A 34A? Cool. Does it have a bow in the middle? Yeah, that’s where I got mine too. He said that to you at school, in the HALL, in front of all his friends? What a jerk. Lipstick? Your mother said you can wear lipstick AND mascara to the dance? That’s nice. Can I borrow them to see what they look like on me? OH! I have such a crush on him. Don’t tell him!

Yo. When do we get out of here? Don’t these teachers know that the sun is shining, the grass is green, the beach sand is warm already? How long can we look out the window and not just fly out of it and get outta here? Yeah, your mom, my mom, So-and-So’s mom too. I guess they’re all crazy in their old age. Your hair looks so good today! What? Yeah, they broke up. He wasn’t right for her anyway. No, it wasn’t real love.

HEY, how are you? This is great. Can you do lunch? Well, I’ve got two kids now, but we could meet on Saturday, say 12:30 at Friendly’s? Yeah, the same one, on the Post Road.

Hi! Yes we had lunch and laughed so much we had tears and needed extra napkins to blow our noses. Who’s married, who’s got kids, who’s even divorced already, we caught up on all that. Her parents are alive but she mentioned a few kids whose parents have DIED already. Well, yeah, mine died already, but that’s not normal! No, she’s moving soon but we’ll write letters now that we’re back in touch. Gotta go.

HEY, is that really YOU?  How long has it been? I know, it just goes so fast. Yeah, they’re all grown now, how about you? Did you marry? No, oh well. That’s cool too. Sounds like quite the career. You look happy. Oh, she’s been married three times, he’s had four wives. You remember correctly; we dated a while but something told me he was not going to be the one. Glad I listened to myself for once, huh? Yeah, I heard about them going to rehab at the same time for three months. Glad they don’t have kids. We’re doing okay. Job security is a little shaky for us too. Do I remember? Yeah, like it was just yesterday and here it is 35 years gone, used up, finished, complete.

Everyone at once at the big high school reunion: Isn’t this great? You look fabulous! They posted our yearbook pictures over there; guess we’re old now and need a refresher. LOL. Is he coming? Is she coming? Great! Oh, yeah, I heard, he’s been sick a while and she has MS and she’s a widow for almost ten years already. You don’t have email? HOW do you function, keep up with everyone? You surely don’t write letters still, do you? LOL. Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your sister. She was only a couple of years older than you, right? Yeah, we gave her a hard time, didn’t we, always in her hair. Yeah, so many with cancer, still fighting or defeated already.

Saw it on Facebook, Annette died.

“Now it’s time to say goodbye / To all our companyyyyy.

M I C–see you real soon /K E Y–Why? Because we like you!

M O U S E e e e e.”

Yes, I still remember the tune AND the lyrics. Funny how the mind works.

A bunch of people we grew up watching, classmates we grew up with, their parents, siblings—they’re dying. Seems like their show just started, that I just had dinner at their house recently, that the sister/brother wasn’t even that old yet. I know, if I’m this old, they must be not far behind, but it just…do you have a tissue?

Sometimes it just seems like the goodbye lasts longer than the hello, the friendship, the contact, the laughs and silliness, the notes and whispered secrets and two-hour phone calls and thousands of miles apart for decades. The photos of spouses, kids and pets exchanged, hearing about this one from that one, catching up on details.

But there’s love in all of it that makes up life and love lasts forever. We’ll be all right.

Goodbye. For now.

The brain is a wonderful, mysterious, fine-tuned, all natural computer. Sometimes it works best when least expected. 

Take crossword puzzles. 

When was the last time you thought of, let alone spoke, the surname Heyerdahl? He’s been dead for 13 years and I’ve never read any of his work, though I did see a movie once maybe 35 years ago based on one of his books–Kon Tiki. If the puzzle clue is “author ____ Heyerdahl (4 letters)” how fast do you think: THOR—and know you are correct? 

How about this one:

“Player whose number 42 is retired throughout baseball”?*

I didn’t know about the number part, I mean who used to have the player number 42 on his uniform. A real diehard, stats oriented fan might know this trivia, but not I. I don’t follow any sport as a fan but I am aware of the names of players and sometimes even which sport they play. 

After a couple of letters, I did immediately know that Jackie Robinson is the answer. Why would I have brain space dedicated to this information and how did it come to my mind decoded so fast?

Robinson is, of course, famous as the first black major league baseball player and his name was spoken often during a televised baseball game my father watched when I was growing up. I guess he’s mentioned during Black History Month or at baseball events at times. That’s it as to my exposure to the man. Yet I have at least one brain function dedicated to remembering his name and certain characteristics that come with it. 

The answer to “Former governor of Connecticut Grasso”* is relatively easy for me because I was born and raised in that state. Ella is famous, too, though you may not know it, for starting the “right on red” program–permission to move on in a car after a full stop at most red lights. She thought it would save cars from idling so long at stop lights, thus also saving gasoline. All of this comes to mind with her name. 

When was the last time I saw the name or went into a place with a “classic drugstore name”?** More than 40 years ago, I’m pretty sure, yet there it is in an instant, ready to be put into the little boxes—REXALL. 

How many brain cells are dedicated to each tiny memory like this one? The answer comes to mind immediately upon reading the question, along with the correct spelling, pronunciation and match up of first and last name, and is ready to be spoken at the same moment. 

Now, some answer may take a little more time to come forward. Either they are buried deep in some obscure brain vault or the hint just doesn’t seem clear at first. Some crossword hints are deliberately disguised such as “chilly powder”* for SNOW. Oftentimes I know the answer to a clue like this is being obscured as part of the entertainment quality of the puzzle. But it does seem to take a little unraveling inside my head as I move to another clue before I think, “Ah ha!” and the answer is there. 

I’ve heard that doing word or number puzzles helps to keep the brain fresh, like exercise for muscles that may sit too often. Number puzzles hurt my brain. I can feel it squeezing and wringing in search of an answer that is likely not available. But words, they are at a different place in the brain and the door swings open with nary a squeak. 

After becoming a daily crossword unpuzzler over the last few weeks, I can feel how solving a daily puzzle can be helpful to brain health. I am also amazed at the patience and talent of the puzzle makers. 

I look forward to the brief personal challenge each day, no competition except with myself, and the small satisfaction of watching the squares fill in with correct answers. No test at the end of the chapter, no exam coming up to boggle my mind with flooding facts. Just a little challenge to keep the synapses flashing and brain cells engaged. 

It astonishes me that my brain can produce an answer to a question even faster than a computer. I know, computers only give out what they’re given, but still—my brain knows stuff and can reveal it quickly. 

Just don’t ask me what I had for lunch yesterday or for a full book report on a novel I just finished reading a week ago. 

*From Nook crossword

**From http://games.washingtonpost.com/games/daily-crossword/daily-crossword.aspx 4/7/13

Good Friday Reflection

What were You thinking, feeling, Lord? Hanging on a cross, pierced with nails so painfully placed, so eagerly pounded into Your human body after being whipped to a mass of bloodiness. 

Near the end of Your human life, You ask, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned me?” The pains, the thirst, the wickedness of people, the evil that is crucifixion; was love failing or fulfilling? Was sin winning a divine place or losing hope and life? Did You know these things but You had TO DO something to show it?  The pain of all sin was upon You and Your last question was about being abandoned. That was the worst part for You. 

The sin. The sins! All of them, from before Your birth to the end of time, were put upon You, the only One who could bear the burden of them, take them away from past transgressors and pay for them in advance for future transgressors. You did this knowing that not all people would eventually turn to You, not all people would accept Your gift—a gift!—even though the cost, to you, was so high. 

Is that how all of us will feel for a moment at death, as if God has left us, even though, as believers, we are on our way to be with him for eternity? 

You knew that someday a price would be put on each life. Some lives would be worth more than others in the eyes of men and women. 

Some would be killed by the women who bore them briefly because the babies would be too expensive or inconvenient to live, to keep, to love. Their fathers would be ignorant of what they’d made, oblivious to the outcome of their union. You knew. 

Some lives would be questioned as to their monetary value because something in them was broken or missing—a gene, a chemical reaction or enzyme’s function, a worn out hip or knee; or something overgrown–a chromosome, a cancer or virus that attacked without warning or invitation. The secrets You reveal about how to fix these conditions or the grace You offer to manage them with love will be ignored in the name of saving money. You knew. 

Some lives would put the health and honor of the Earth ahead of You, instead of You. They will call the dirt, rocks and minerals “mother” and concern themselves with its condition more than the condition of the people who live on it. You knew. 

Some lives will kill their own kin, their friends and neighbors trying to achieve the joy of life You offer for free by using drugs to alter their minds instead of asking and waiting for Your Holy Spirit to give peace, wisdom and purpose. You knew. 

All lives will break the Ten Commandments—one at a time, in multiples–much more than just once or twice. All lives will sin at least once, which You say is the same as breaking all rules about sin—that payment for sin is death. You knew.

All lives will need to reflect on attitudes, actions, and awareness regarding respect of others’ primary needs; acceptance of our place in the world as messengers and advocates for You, but we’re not You. You knew.

Yet You invite us to know You, to know Your love, to know our love for your or others isn’t wasted or discarded; to have Your supreme love defend us against any who want us and You destroyed. You invite us to do nothing more than believe in You in our hearts and acknowledge You before others and we can be alive again after earthly death and live with You and our believer loved ones forever and ever. 

The bread at Your Last Supper represents Your body and the wine, Your blood. This song contains an enlightening phrase: 

Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world’s sin
So I could carry You in
And give You life
I want to give You life*

This is the cup You begged God to let pass you by. You drank the cup full of sin so we wouldn’t have to; You took the poison of sin inside of You to protect us from it. Sin has an effect on us, but it’s not eternal death or separation from You, thanks to Your intervention. You protected us from the dreaded separation from God. Divine provision was made before we existed. 

This is the divinely profound wonder of God: That God would set a price so high, no one can pay it, so God came to us as Jesus, born of a human woman, entrusted to the care of a family—Man and God in One–lived among us, showed us his way, truth and life, then let Yourself be killed as the payment required to be a member of God’s all-inclusive and eternal family, eventually living with him, as ourselves but clean and free of sin, for ever and ever.

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 *From “By Your Side,” by Tenth Avenue North,  http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/t/tenth_avenue_north/

 NOTE: I entered a writing contest last year sponsored by Real Simple magazine. I didn’t win. The theme was, “If you could change one decision that you made in the past, what would it be?” Check out the winners’ stories or look into submitting your own story for this year. This is my story with minor updates added today:

From mid-1985 through winter of 1990, I took a prescription for chronic anxiety. Since it was a drug known for negative side effects is abruptly discontinued, under a doctor’s supervision, I was very slowly weaning myself off of it over several months. I was determined to live a regular life without it. I took my last quarter dose March 31. I experienced no negative side effects.

At the end of 1989 my brother-in-law, 30, then my mother, just shy of 72, both died of cancer just a few weeks apart. My husband and I had spent hectic weeks visiting the hospital on alternate days while maintaining life at home for our two girls, ages 10 and 7.

Just before the last day of school for our kids in June 1990, my sister (who has three boys) and I visited at her house—getting one last uninterrupted word in over cups of hot tea before the summer vacation began.

I ran upstairs to weigh myself on her scale. I didn’t own one and hadn’t weighed myself in about a year. I was pleased that I hadn’t gained any weight.

Ten weeks later, the kids were back in school and my sister and I enjoyed morning tea while catching up on the summer’s family activities and news.

I headed upstairs to her scale.

I stepped on, looked in shock at the number; stepped off; on again. Shocked again, I double-checked the little toothed wheel that turns the indicator to ZERO. It was set correctly. Back on the scale. Alarmed, this time.

I flew down the stairs two at a time (ah, youth!) and loudly inquired of my sister, “Is your scale right?!!!”

She said it seemed to read her weight correctly, “Why?”

“It says I have gained 44 POUNDS since I weighed myself in June!”

“What?” she asked, with disbelief. “Well, do your clothes feel tight? Maybe the scale IS dying!” She went up to weigh herself and returned, satisfied with the calculated weight.

I was flabbergasted.

I was wearing the previous year’s shorts and T-shirt and they fit. We talked about a change in metabolism, from stopping the medication. Maybe I was depressed after such a hard year of sicknesses and deaths in my family. Anything was possible but not apparent.

It was an unusually hot summer. I have no appetite in the dog days of summer. I’d eat Cheerios, banana and milk for breakfast, a PB&J or salad for lunch with an apple or

berries, and chicken/burgers/steak grilled at home with a fresh vegetable or salad and rice or potato for dinner. By August, I often ate a two-scoop ice cream cone for lunch.

Ice cream calories? I did the math: 300 calories per cone times 70 days equals 21,000, divided by 3,400 calories per pound equals a little over 6 pounds. Even allowing for larger scoops at 500 calories per cone should have been just over 10 pounds. It didn’t add up to 44 pounds over 10 weeks.

It was time to get serious about taking the pounds off!

While I regret this serious and long lapse in nutritional responsibility, I regret more listening to the advice of “experts” for several years following.

Television guests and magazine articles advised avoiding fat in the diet. Disliking the taste of margarine, I used a supposedly healthier butter/margarine blend for years. However, its hydrogenated oil content makes it a vein clogger. On a routine visit to the doctor, she drew blood for a cholesterol check. I told her that starting that day I was going back to using butter because natural seemed healthier to me.

She agreed to check my cholesterol again for comparison. Four months later, my cholesterol showed a decrease of 40 points.

Cutting down on meat consumption and increasing complex carbohydrates was another big health hint. An extra serving of “good” carbs such as whole grain bread (a little hard to find back then) fresh, plain baked potatoes—no fries–were acceptable “appetite supplements.” I was almost always hungry within an hour of any meal.

I’d had minor success with Weight Watchers, the one nutrition program I still believe to be the best of the bunch. But my willpower and enthusiasm to keep at it waned. After a dinner of a half-breast of chicken, say, with veggies and potato, white rice or noodles, I’d forego the extra chicken portion I really wanted and eat carbs for a second helping. Brown rice was available but at first taste, I didn’t like it. There were no whole grain noodles then and potatoes were potatoes. As long as it wasn’t fried some way, a small potato was approved. Many times I ate two, with butter, because I was still hungry.

Over the next couple of years, I took two medications for a few months each and gained 27 pounds on each one. The doctor said it would come off; it was better to treat my ailment and worry about the weight later. I walked with my kids and bought a bike to ride. A shoulder injury stopped the bike riding for more than two years.

My weight had increased by 98 pounds! We moved and I walked almost a mile per day. I worked as an office temp to update my resume after 16 years at home with kids. One temporary position was as a messenger for four months. This meant several short walks per day which added up to over 10 miles per day! I didn’t lose an ounce, but my clothes fit at two sizes smaller! What was this about?

My foot rolled over a round, hard, spikey seed pod from the sweet gum tree above the driveway. I fell. Hard. I had a painful case of plantar faciitis. It was more than a year before I could walk any distance. I didn’t gain weight, but I didn’t lose any, either.

The following winter, I had another four-month receptionist position—sitting all day. I managed a short walk at lunch time, but the pain would often reach from heal to knee. Two days after that job was over, I started a full-time job—mostly seated in front of a computer with occasional walks to the mail bin and ladies room. I resumed a short daily walk after work. But the foot hadn’t healed well enough and I required a brace for a year–no long walks.

Another 25 pounds packed on within four months.

Regrets are several but so far and few between, they didn’t come together as wisdom soon enough to prevent so much damage. I’d been a healthy, toned up, mother of two children who’d become a fat woman at 37 and obese by 43.

I see my previous body every day in my daughter—same height, same shape, same weight I had been. Damage to my overall health, energy, and self-esteem are  immeasurable by me. Doctors monitored my growing body by numbers and tests.

I wanted to stay home, never to leave the house again, but I did not. I decided, “This is me. For now.” I didn’t want to hide…even from the little kid, perched in the cart in the grocery store, who blurted to his mother, ‘Hey, she’s FAT!’ His embarrassed mother shushed him, looked at me apologetically, said kindly, ‘Shhh…she knows she’s fat, but we don’t SAY that to someone.’ “

Attempting to have healthier eating habits, I’ve given up many foods I used to eat frequently, including pizza, sugar in coffee, bagels, breakfast pastries, potatoes, frequent pasta meals, to name a few. Not much progress in the loss of weight, however.

Regrets today are many.

I wish I’d been more vocal, asking persistently and loudly for help for my weight problem instead of just accepting that I am overweight. I also wish that:

  • I hadn’t believed hype that directed me to eat lots of carbs to stave off hunger and  wouldn’t cause weight gain; and being hungry shortly after a meal is not normal.
  • I believed, too easily, the nutritionist who told me my ice cream habit—two scoops several times per week—wasn’t so bad; ice cream contains calcium for my aging bones, she said.
  • this is my life, not the life of a person who can read my lab numbers and walk away.

I have lost 30 pounds in the first year after I was downsized from my job of 11 years in 2009. It’s a wonderful side effect of unemployment. I’m able to walk each day and I’ve worked my way up to 2 miles when the weather is agreeable. (As of today: Extreme summer heat then ankle problems have prevented me from those walks since last June. There is hope, however, for the ankle to be fixed by using a brace for awhile. That fix is pending.)

Perhaps the most significant regret is, when I had health insurance, I didn’t take the time to go to a place for food rehab, which might get to the root of the problem and a cure, personalized to my needs.

I’ve learned I should have taken better care of me—first. I should have insisted on getting answers about my bodily functions–metabolism, chemistry, whatever had gone awry–instead of just believing the common cure: I have to eat less and exercise more


It seems we’re getting caught up in the healthcare issue by circling around the elephant in the room.

Nobody in their right mind, nobody of any compassion, doesn’t want proper healthcare available for EVERYone. THAT is not the issue. The ISSUE is how to get it, pay for it, use it, share it, administer it in a way that’s TRULY for ALL people, regardless of the silly and debilitating pre-existing condition clause that’s finally been exposed. Human beings get sick. Most of the time they live through it – with proper care.

We have the best medical personnel in the world. Foreigners, even foreign leaders, come here to find the best doctor and a cure for what ails them.

It’s the paying for it by the regular people that has caused so much trouble.

Insurance companies seem to be more concerned with their profits than with actually helping people to manage their health lives. The government, particularly this administration, seems to be more focused on controlling people and money than in advocating for them and sincerely helping them. Government, THIS government, was never meant TO DO FOR people what they could and should and want to do for themselves.

We are allowed the freedom “to pursue” happiness. That doesn’t guarantee we’ll get it. It means we all have an equal chance to try, to pursue happiness, no matter how we define it.  Ben Carson, M.D. pursued it by becoming a fabulous neurosurgeon against all the odds that poverty presented. Hugh Hefner pursued it by making the promotion of sex and the degradation of women (and men, for that matter) his livelihood and legacy. The “little people” all over the country pursue happiness as teachers, nurses, mothers/fathers, engineers, grocers, maids…the list is endless. They are unsung links in the chain of strength that forms America and more links are added daily.

I see the “pursuit of happiness,” among other aspects of our freedom, being disguised to the point where no one knows anymore if it was ever true. It’s like trying to find a contact lens dropped in the grass.

The primary job of government is to protect its people.

Government runs the military well. Our soldiers are the most excellent in the world. Our people support them and their families. We appreciate their service and can only imagine their sacrifices.

This country was built by people who worked hard, started businesses and families, succeeded and failed then got up and tried again. Sometimes it needs to be defended. Sometimes our military helps to defend other countries as well. We’re a very generous nation.

Some regulations are necessary because not all people are honest in their pursuit of happiness. Regulations are another form of the government protecting the people. Sometimes regulations are to save us all from the likes of a Bernie Madoff. People today mention that the new healthcare ruling will need some fine tuning. I cringe. All the regulations being questioned these days regarding businesses and their ability to grow, when no one’s actual LIFE is at stake, illustrates that government red tape makes a mess. Fine tuning comes slowly, if at all. Government frequently makes a mess when there wasn’t one before. I wonder about how many will be allowed to die while the fine tuning is done.

Government run healthcare—Medicare and Medicaid—are often described as a mess of red tape, overspending, and easily duped by fraudulent claims. There doesn’t seem to be any accountability that’s consistent and effective.

Worse than that, though, is the idea, the very idea, that we won’t be able to afford this Obamacare plan and that certain conditions common to human beings will be deemed as too costly. Thus will begin the subtle, if not open, rationing of health services.

The first generation to come under the ration? Baby boomers. Millions of us. The children of the Greatest Generation. The children who approve of and promote abortion on demand for the convenience of the woman—not necessarily her health; assisted suicide and rampant drug addiction and crime that come with them. What divine protection can we really claim as merited?

When I think of my dear America, the song I learned and sang in public school comes to mind comes to mind: “Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies / For amber waves of grain; / For purple mountain majesties / Above the fruited plain. / America, America God shed his grace on thee / And crowned thy good with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea.

The composer got it right. “God shed his grace on thee…” On America. What is grace? Giving something wonderful that’s not deserved—unmerited favor. Truly, this applies to America.

I am full of emotion and thoughts to see my beloved country threatened with the overthrow of freedom–the ability to pursue happiness as I see fit, the privilege to live under the grace of God–replaced with this administration/government’s idea of freedom.