Friday, January 28, 2011

The Menu

Now that Rachel’s vegan-bound,

We’re looking for some common ground.

In browsing through our family tree,

Here is what pops out at me.

Veggies are a vegan “yes,”

Which sounds OK, nevertheless

They can’t be touching Rachel’s fork

If they are cooked with ham or pork.

My son-in-law enjoys the sweets

Hard to live without his treats.

Not so fond of tofu dishes;

Tasty food is what he wishes.

My son’s disgust with greens is true,

Lettuce trauma through and through.

Black-eyed peas at New Year’s fling?

Nope - brings his lunch from Burger King!

The veggies he can do without,

The meat is what he’s all about.

Sarah’s got her diet plans,

I’m not sure what she eats or bans.

Her regimen's not so off-beat,

Except she doesn’t like thick meat.

Ed and I are different, too.

We have some things that we eschew.

Avoiding carbs is our big goal,

Omit the pasta from our bowl.

Each of us is on a plan

Of which the other’s not a fan.

What will thus our menu be

The next meal for our family?

This is so hard! This is so new!

What will we cook? What will we do?

On second thought, there’s never been

A time, to my bemused chagrin,

When our illustrious varied brood

Ate every dish and every food.

We’ve always had our little quirks,

And compromised to learn what works.

I can’t predict at this point whether

Our next big meal we eat together

Will appease our every taste,

Or look to some like toxic waste.

But then, who cares? To each his own!

We eat together, not alone.

We may have more from which to choose,

Finding out whose dish is whose.

But what’s the thing we ne’er debate?

Love is served with every plate!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A vegan? In our family?

I never majored in sociology (almost did, but chose music). However, I am always interested in reading about what's going on in our culture. I can't help but notice that more and more people are shying away from marriage, even to the point of having children in an unwed/nonlegal relationship, and the divorce rate is still about 50%. Now some folks will immediately delve into the morality of all this, but that's not what I'm interested in. I'm intrigued about why marriage is so difficult. I will have been married for 37 years this August, so I have a little experience on my side here.

Two people have a mutual attraction, and decide to commit the rest of their lives to each other. When you think about it, that's one of the most major decisions you can make, except for becoming a parent. Why is this hard? Because both partners grow. They change. They become in some cases totally different people. The hope and expectation is, of course, they will both grow together in the same direction. The hard part is when they don't.

For instance, I got married at age 19. I am now 56. I can honestly say I am 80% a totally different person than when I got married. My beliefs have changed, new wisdom has (I hope!) influenced me, I have a different level of patience and priorities, I have adopted several hobbies/interests that I did not previously have, I have developed new fears and anxieties, and habits, and I eat differently. My taste in clothes, living environment, and a host of other things has changed. I certainly do look different.

Meanwhile, my husband Ed has changed also. He was 27 when we married; now he is 64. He used to drink excessively until he got sober in 1984. He used to smoke cigarettes when we met; now he smokes pipes and is trying to cut down on that. He too has changed his way of eating, the kind of clothes he prefers, and how he chooses to spend his time. And, yes, he does look different too!

I am not the woman he married, and he is not the man I married. Things never stay the same. How can a 19-year-old girl know enough to commit the entire rest of her life to one person?

This is why they say marriage is hard work. The work comes, I think, not just because two people living together are bound to get on each other's nerves, but because the two people grow. They grow as a couple, true, but they grow as individuals. Some couples grow apart; others grow closer. Some partners are excited to watch the changes in their chosen mate; others are apprehensive or even aghast to watch their life partner morph into a stranger. The key is to give your loved one the freedom to grow and change and the hard part is honoring your commitment to be there for a lifetime.

No wonder 50% of marriages end in divorce. This is a hard pill to swallow. And I can totally understand the fact that so many marriages don't work out, because sometimes people do grow apart, so far apart that they have nothing in common anymore. I am not here to preach morality - just to try to understand reality. Lord knows I would never be able to hold my marriage history up for moral inspection and I'm not about to do that to anyone else!

What started me thinking about individuals in a marriage changing this week is that our daughter has progressed from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan. She is married to a meat-eater and she is the family cook. Her poor husband - he didn't marry a vegan! But he's married to one now! He's probably frantically going through their marriage vows, trying to find out where he promised to "love and cherish in tofu and tempeh."

I didn't marry a preacher (but he became one), I didn't marry a pipe smoker (but he became one), and I certainly didn't marry a man with gray hair and beard whose body shows as much signs of aging as my own. I married a cigarette-smoking drunk. I was fortunate that he changed. I hope as well he thinks that most of the changes I have gone through have been for the better.

It's not just our spouses who are changing. Our kids change and grow before our very eyes. As they do, each one becomes an individual, unique, and whatever that is, we deal with it because that is the commitment we have made. We may not have made it knowing that autism or cerebral palsy or drug addiction or leukemia or even vegan versus omnivore would become part of the bargain, but we made the commitment all the same.

Change is not always good, not always bad, but it will happen as assuredly as there will be over 20 inches of snow on our ground by tonight. Today I am praying that we are all equipped to cope with changes - in ourselves and our loved ones both - and that sometimes means being more observer than reactant, with both sides willing to compromise and see another point of view - because it is almost always the case that both sides have something worth teaching, and staying open-minded is imperative.

Happy veganism, Rachel, and good luck, Chris! You are only reaffirming the adage that life is always an adventure and you never know what's around the corner!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


My sister in her job receives queries from authors who are writing articles for magazines or books, and if one looks particularly applicable, she passes it on to me. This week, an author is looking for women to write about a woman who had an impact on their lives. As I tried to put my specific story in writing about my late best friend, I thought of all the women and men who have impacted my life. People who think of themselves "self-made" might be wise to consider the probability, no, the certainty, that that particular feat is impossible. We are obligated to acknowledge the help of known and unknown people who have made it possible to live our present lives and be the person each one of us has become.

Even millionaires and billionaires could not have been financially successful in business were it not for the person who had enough confidence to give them their first job, the banks willing to loan them money for an idea, the employees willing to work for many times low wages, the customers who bought their products, the companies who advertised for them and developed slogans and images, the lawyers who dealt with copyrights and trademarks, etc. Yes, maybe they worked long and hard to achieve their success, but that wasn't enough without help. (And if you earned your beginning wealth through inheritance, I don't need to say anything more about having help, now do I?) To say anything different would be arrogance.

From the very first teacher who taught you to read to the mentors who guided you through your career - everywhere in your past, you find those to whom you owe gratitude. Parents, siblings, and other relatives who taught you ethics and patience and faith and commitment - friends who encouraged and supported you and helped you along the way - all these were ingredients to the final product of you.

One of the author's suggestions was to write about someone who has "changed" your life. That can be hard to quantify, sometimes, but I prefer to use the word "enriched." Enrich has gotten a bad rap in recent years because of enriched bread - yes, the old Wonder Bread was one of the originals - taking the whole grain out and then putting back vitamins and calling it "enriched" which does the word no justice. The definition of enrich is to "improve or enhance the quality or value of...add to the cultural, intellectual, or spiritual wealth of..." Ah, now that is a different story!

There is not enough paper or web space to talk about all those who have enriched my life. Starting with my wonderful family - my parents, sister, husband, children, grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins and nieces and now grandchildren - then moving on to teachers who taught me to read and write, teachers who taught me to think in an expansive and creative way, teachers who introduced me to the beauty of French, teachers (not necessarily at school) who taught me skills such as sewing and quilting and cross-stitch, authors who got me interested in Abraham Lincoln, my spiritual guides, the woman who taught me how to play piano, the man who taught me how to play the organ, the woman who hired me for a transcription position basically on faith, the wonderful people who married my children - these are all people who enriched my life. Even people in short-lived situations have to be added to the list - such as the kind young man who brought back my PC computer when it crashed a few years ago, the woman at church who let me borrow her Celtic harp which resulted in my falling in love with the instrument, the folks with the Instant Text software who allowed me to participate in the beta program and taught me so much - they too enriched my life.

I have to add to the list people whom I have never met: The anonymous donor who paid my fee for a church youth group trip to NYC and DC when I was a teenager, the doctor who took care of my pregnant mom and then delivered me surgically 56 years ago, the physicians who invented the vaccines that kept me healthy and well all my life, the inventors who made strides with photography that allow me to watch home movies of my dad holding me decades ago, the scientists who harnessed electricity and invented computers and programmed software to allow me to video conference with my son so I can see my little grandbaby Joshua - all these strangers have enriched my life by their contributions in their chosen fields.

No, no one can be arrogant enough to claim he/she is self-made. You can be the most talented musician in the world, but someone nurtured you in music. You can be the greatest thinker that ever lived, but those before you wrote and published books and essays that fired up your mind. You may have talent, God-given abilities, knowledge, strength, courage, and a whole slew of attributes that have guided you through life - but it hasn't happened on your own and it hasn't happened in a vacuum. It has been interaction all the way.

Of course, with me as with everyone, it is a work in progress. People are continually enriching my life. There are those who have enriched my existence for years and are still involved, and there are those who will remain strangers, but they are adding to my life all the same, from the man who held the door for me, to the cashier who flashed a genuine friendly smile, to the mighty fine folks who let me publish my little musings free on this blog site - there's a lot of enriching going on. As well, I hope that I have been and continue to be an enricher as well as enrichee. I can't ask for more than to be in awe that so many have positively affected my life, while at the same time trying to remember that I too can be part of the process that makes the world a better place. It ain't Wonder Bread - but it is certainly Wonder.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Blue Skies Smiling at Me

I didn't take this picture, but it reminds me of an experience I had last week. While I was driving home under gathering storm clouds, I noticed a peek of blue in an otherwise gray blanketed sky. I remember thinking how strange that looked - and unexpected. The more I considered it, the more I became aware that it is never a case of gray cloudy sky versus bright blue sky - that at the same exact moment we are seeing the gray cloudy sky, the blue sky is there all the time! I always pictured the weather changing forms in a linear-time fashion - one minute clouds, then the sun comes out and you have blue sky - except that's not reality. The sun doesn't stop shining just because I am seeing gray rain clouds up above; it is just hidden, as the blue sky in this picture peeked out from its hiding place - just as the moon is hidden by the brightness of the sun, even while it still exists simultaneously in the atmosphere.

This whole epiphany reminded me of Dorothy's shoes in The Wizard of Oz. She was amazed to hear that all along in her adventures, she had the power to return home - and didn't take advantage of it because she didn't realize it. Simultaneously existed the troubled journey and the power to heal the fear and trauma. Simultaneously the blue sunny sky and the dark gray clouds. It's not either/or - it's both.

We tend to think of Time as linear - past, present, future in what we consider chronological order. But apparently many physicists believe that many timelines are happening simultaneously on different levels, in different dimensions, and our way of thinking limits us when we try to understand this. Ed used to preach that Time for God is nonexistent, that it is always Now. You are simultaneously to God a newborn, a 4-year-old, whatever age you are now and whatever age you will become, and all the ages in between. When we focus on one aspect (especially a negative such as a cloudy dreary sky), we fail to see that simultaneously happening is the blue sky behind it, temporarily hidden.

The purpose of great affirmations is to convince ourselves that we do indeed have the power within us, at all moments, whether we see it or now. When we look up and see only gray clouds, we can't picture the blue sky behind it - but it's there. All we can focus on is looking forward to the day when it's a sunny, beautiful day again, and not entertain the thought that it's already a bright sunny day here and now, this very moment, if we allow ourselves to see it.

And that's where we need the Second Sight - the Internal Sight - the Eyes of the Heart, to give us the ability to focus on things beyond our immediate troubles or situation. The light is not at the end of the proverbial tunnel - that is the linear way of thinking - but it is in the tunnel itself, temporarily invisible to us. My goal this year is to be able to see beyond what is evident, to be constantly aware that whatever I need is already here, not far off and unobtainable, and certainly not something relegated to some vague future date. The realization of power within, available for the taking, is what drives people to great things, to empty their spirits to the world in compassion and love and incredible sacrifice, to attain lofty goals and to do the "impossible." One of the saddest remarks I ever made was, "Wow! I didn't know I had it in me!" - when I had those Ruby Slippers on all the time....