Monday, January 30, 2012


We thought we were prepared. My Grandmother was a victim of Alzheimer’s for five long years. She’d been moved from assisted living to the nursing home after it was decided she needed additional care. Now the time had come for us to say our final goodbyes. The family visited the night before she passed; sitting around telling stories to the empty shell of a woman we loved.

We hated the disease, hated that it had taken everything away from her. The laugh, the importance of family, the strange dance she did when you left her house, and the wonderful food she prepared.

Her own home had been sold years earlier to pay for the needed move to the assisted living facility. The precious keepsakes she’d collected over the years found homes with various members of the family. Antiques were divided up and what was left over went to auction. She had enough to live the rest of her days with the best possible care.

On the day she died, my mother was tending to the necessary tasks associated with the death of a loved one. I offered to go to the nursing home and collect Gram’s belongings, hoping to ease her burden.

As I entered the building, several of the aides came up to talk to me about my Grandmother. They’d known her since she first came to the facility and couldn’t help but share stories about her wonderful spirit. One laughed, mentioning that on Wednesday mornings Grams was the first in line for her weekly hair appointment and perm. She was always a strong woman with strong opinions, but even that was something the nurses would smile at and gently shake their heads.

I walked into her empty room. The bedclothes had been washed and placed in a large black trash bag. Her clothes and toiletries were carefully tucked into her battered light blue suitcase. I looked around the room. This was all that was left.

A lifetime put into a trash bag and a suitcase.

Tears stung my eyes as I lifted the containers to leave. An aide stepped in to see if she could help. I held up the luggage and said, “No, I’ve got it. This is all that’s left.”

“And her spirit.”

“Her spirit?” I asked.

“These are just things,” she said, pointing to the bags. “Her spirit, your memories. Those are the important things that will be with you for a lifetime.”

The bags felt lighter as I left. The woman was right, these were just things. What my Grandmother had left us was worth more than anything one could buy, worth more than earthly goods.

When I got home I walked in and my family asked, “Is that all there is?”

And I answered, “No, not at all.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Believe…

This is a story about something that happened awhile back. But it’s stuck with me and since this blog is about my thoughts I decided it was time to revisit the past.

I was standing in line at the grocery behind a young woman that had one small child in the cart and another by the hand trying to pay for her groceries. She had milk, bread, a package of cheese slices, a small bag with three apples and a small bag of bologna. She was holding her wallet with one hand trying to maneuver the money out while keeping the two kids in check. (Been there done that…well 25 years ago, but as with most memories, not so long.)

The total came to $14.36.

The woman produced a five and six ones.

“Sorry,” she glanced at the cashier. “I need to put something back.”

She paused looking at her purchases.

“Put back the Bologna.”

“$11.36,” the cashier said.

The woman scrounged around in her purse, looking for change.

“Here,” I handed the woman a five. “Get the bologna.”

“No, that’s okay.”

“No really. Take it. I’ve had a bad day and helping you might just be the thing I need to turn it around.”

And this is where the story really starts.

“Thank you.” She paid for the groceries and turned to me. “Are you from the church or something?”

“No.” I didn’t understand the question.

“I go to …” she said and named a mega church in our area.

“Actually I don’t belong to any church. Let’s just say the church and I had a falling out a few years ago and I choose to believe what I want without the confines of four walls.”

“Oh,” she stammered, “well thank you anyway.”

Thank you anyway. Those words stick with me to this day. As if I wasn’t to be thanked as a person trying to do the right thing. If she’d been through my morning, maybe she would have understood why I choose to help someone when I could.

My day started with a call that the 16-year-old cancer patient I was working with had taken a turn for the worst. I’ll call her Jenny.

Jenny was given up by her parents at the age of twelve when she was diagnosed with cancer. The parents didn’t have insurance and the state would see to the medical expenses. By sixteen she was living in a group home. I’d tried to help her as much as I could, but she was a typical teenager and was sporadic at showing up for appointments.

A week before the day at the grocery, Jenny and her 17-year-old boyfriend, decided to get married. It wouldn’t be a legal marriage, just one preformed by the hospital clergy, for a young woman dying from cancer. She asked if I would be a witness. Again a witness to the marriage was not necessary, but who among us would argue? So I went over. She was hooked up to so many tubes and wires we stood in the doorway. She wore a white knitted cap over her smooth head. Tough nurses that had seen horrendous things in the pediatric cancer ward were crying in the hallway.

A week later, Jenny died.

I had left work, crying, as I usually did when we lost a child, but needed to stop at the grocery on my way home from work. There I ran into a young woman that had judged my help.

If I was nice, I must be religious. I must attend church.

Honestly, it just felt good to be able to help someone when my day had been spent feeling so inadequate, so helpless.

I sat in the parking lot trying to make sense of my feelings after the episode in the grocery. I came away with an even stronger belief that you should do the right thing even though you may be judged.

Good people, do good things, period.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Walk the Walk

Yesterday was a gorgeous Florida winter day. The sun was shining and skies were that blue that only happens when the temperature drops and the air is so clear it’s almost shimmery.

Bailey dog has been sick. Actually due to his age he has hip dysplasia and when I go, “want to go for a walk?” he goes, “Nuh-uh.” (No, in dog speak). Actually he makes it to the corner and back, but on this day I decided to take a long walk. For years, my sister, my sister-in-law, my friends, the lady at the grocery checkout, Dr. Oz and every TV health Guru has been singing the praises of a good walk.

So I put on my shoes, my grey flannel sweats and my Ohio State long sleeve tee (for all my Gator neighbors) and headed out. As I made the turn I noticed I was behind a woman, who I assumed was from the neighborhood, walking about seven houses ahead of me. Now you all know I am a writer and am always looking to chat up someone so I can get a story.

I walked faster.

“Hi,” I said.

The woman jumped.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” I smiled. I held open my hands as if to say, see I’m not some creeper. I’m just another nomad out enjoying the day. "Since we’re going the same way do you mind if we walk together?”

“Uh, sure.”

Maybe not so sure.

“I’m Wendy.”


“So do you live here?”

“No, I’m just visiting my daughter and her family.”

I was watching Naomi talk while occasionally keeping my eye on the road.

“That’s nice.”

“You would think so.”

Ahh…the story.

Naomi went on to explain that her daughter and son-in-law worked long hours. Her daughter insisted on still taking the children to daycare as she didn’t want to upset their usual schedule. So Naomi was “plopped” as she said, “in Florida with nothing to do and home alone for long hours on end.”

“My husband died in May and the kids got together and decided I needed to come to Florida for the winter.”

“You didn’t want to come?”

“I did at first. I’m from Massachusetts and the idea of getting out of the cold was especially attractive. But once I got here I felt like a burden.”

I walked silently letting her talk. I felt that maybe I was supposed to be here for this woman to voice her frustrations.

“My daughter has a housekeeper and daycare, she even has her laundry picked up and delivered. There’s nothing for me to do.”

I had planned on walking a couple times around the block, but was now on my fifth go round. I was torn between getting on with my day and being a sounding board.

“I keep thinking, I’m only 57. Is this what life is going to be from now on?”

I was shocked. I assumed she was older. This woman having this crisis was only 2 years older than me.

“I always say, life is what you make it.” Ah, Wendy being philosophical.

“That’s how I use to be,” she paused. “But now it’s just so hard.”

We walked and talked some more. I told her about my daughter who recently moved out and about my mother's upcoming visit. I found we had a lot in common.

On the eighth time around our neighborhood we stopped at the end of my drive and I told her I needed to go in. I also told her I worked at home during the day and if she wanted to stop by, it was fun having someone to walk with.

“Thanks,” Naomi said. “I may take you up on that. I was only going to walk around twice but it seemed like you needed someone to talk to.”

I smiled and waved. We had just walked six more miles than we were planning, just because we thought the other person might need someone to talk to.

And that’s my story.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Anytime you start a sentence with, “When I was younger,” you know you’re old.

My moment came the other day when I was talking to my best friend about Christmas Shopping. She told me she had done all her shopping online this year. I get it, she owns her own business and for the first time in a couple years she is starting to get really busy, so work comes first.

But I worry that one day stores will become a thing of the past. An article I read the day after our discussion said that online sales were up 16.4 percent or over 32 billion dollars.

Where will the millions of retail employees go if online shopping becomes the norm? Will we become a society that sits in our homes ordering movies, having food delivered, paying bills and shopping online over the computer? Wait! That’s pretty much how my kids already do it.

But… and here it comes… when I was young we made a day of Christmas shopping. We would go downtown to the Lazarus store and spend the whole day looking for a particular gift for each person on our list. We would have lunch at their restaurant counter and top the meal off with the delicious Lazarus fresh baked chocolate chip cookie. Walking around downtown Columbus, the snow swirling around as we headed to the car, our arms overloaded with the beautiful Christmas bags, is a memory deeply etched in my mind. To this day, even if I’m not shopping for the kids,(some years I give cash when the wants are bigger than my pocketbook)(Whoa… pocketbook, I am old) I’ll pop into the mall to purchase small gifts for stockings and gifts for friends. It's a way to get my holiday fix. The decorations, the music, seeing the people walk by with bags hanging from each arm, content in the knowledge that they found just the right gift.

Not a gift that will have to be mailed back and forth if the size is off. Not one that you have to count on the USPS to deliver on time. Not one that if it is missing a part you have to call and then wait the 7 to 10 business days to receive.

Seriously though, I get it. The convenience and the simplicity of it all. Online shopping is obviously on the rise. I just hope that someday in the near future we are not all forced to shop this way, it just takes away some of the magic of Christmas.


1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 1/2 c. oats
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
12 oz. chocolate chips
4 oz. melted Hershey bar
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans

Mix butter, sugar and brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat flour and oats until powder in a blender. Add to above mixture a little at a time. Add salt, baking powder and baking soda. Make sure all ingredients are mixed. Then add chocolate chips, Hershey bar and pecans. Drop golf ball size spoonfuls 2" apart on greased cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake 7 to 8 minutes. Remove cookie sheet and cool. Cookies will appear to be undone.