Except Pee Standing Up

I used to tell my little girls, “Girls can do anything boys can do except pee standing up.” (I’m sure they both tried to pee standing up.) My daughters were born in late 1977 and early 1980. I felt responsible for raising them to be fearless and strong.

I  was born in 1952. I was not raised to be fearless and strong.

Nancy Pelosi was born in 1940, 12 years before me. She graduated from Trinity College, a women’s college in DC. She became a member of Congress from San Francisco and the first female Speaker of the House. Who told her she could do all that?

Hillary Clinton graduated from Wellesley, a women’s college, went to Yale law school before I graduated from high school and then become a congressional legal council and a Senator from NY. She may be the next President of the United States. Who told her she could do all that?

Anna Quindlen, one of my favorite writers, graduated from high school the same year I did. She went to Barnard College, a women’s college affiliated with Columbia University. She became a reporter for the New York Times, then later a novelist and a columnist for Newsweek. Who told her she could do all that?

My younger daughter played more with stuffed animals than dolls. Before she went to kindergarten, she told us she’d work at the Natural Science Center in our town when she grew up. They had a small zoo then.

She started at a women’s college, transferred to Greensboro College and graduated with a minor in biology. While she was in college she worked part-time at the Natural Science Center and had a month-long summer internship  at one of the NC Aquariums at the coast.

She moved to full-time at the Natural Science Center after graduation. By  that time, the zoo had grown and become accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Now she takes her own children there to meet Ruby, the parrot she trained, and to see the Aquarium she helped design.

We (the retired man I live with and I) told her she could do all that.

My older daughter became interested in our political system early on. In high school she watched CNN and C-Span (really) and became involved with Young Democrats at the state level. She decided she needed to go to college in DC, investigated schools and learned about Trinity College, a small Catholic women’s college.

She pursued scholarship money that made her enrollment possible at Trinity, the same college Nancy Pelosi attended. She became active in College Democrats at the national level, completed a White House internship and another with the New Democrat Network. She has worked as a political fundraiser since her graduation. She was invited to Ms. Pelosi’s special Mass (worship service) at Trinity on the morning of her installation as Speaker of the House and has a picture of the two of them on that historic day. Now there’s a picture on her Facebook page of her daughter “working” at her campaign office.

We (the retired man I live with and I) told her she could do all that.

My daughters pursued their dreams and built interesting, exciting careers with confidence and competence. I didn’t know I could dream big, but I made sure they did. And now we can all send that message to their daughters, Adaline and Maggie. Except for the part about peeing standing up, I think.







Elf on Vacation

Maggie popped into the kitchen from the garage wearing her Frozen (a link) pajamas made like thermal long underwear and sleep-fuzzed hair. The picture of Elsa that covered her chest was faded and the elastic at her ankles was loose. Favorites do wear out.

Maggie brought her parents to go to church with us on Easter Sunday. Her mother took her to go to the bathroom and change clothes. She looked like an angel when she came back. She wore a long white dress made of soft cotton with pastel smocking around the neck and little puff sleeves. White tights, white patent leather mary janes with rhinestones on the strap and brushed hair with a big white bow completed the look.

I was stunned. I looked at her mother and asked, “Did she want to wear that?” Her mother gave me a look and said, “We had a long talk before we left.”

You see, even before Miss Maggie turned 4 in January, she had strong feelings about what she wanted to wear. (She goes to a Montessori preschool and they talk about “strong feelings”–what you and I might call pissed-off-ness or stubbornness.) Her school encourages parents to let kids pick their own clothes, which can result in some interesting combinations.

I’m looking at a printed picture of Maggie posing as “Elf on Vacation,” as one of her teachers labeled her look. Imagine this on a slender 3-year-old whose hair was slow to grow and looks like very blond mullet (a link): a pair of red tights with white horizontal stripes from the thigh to the ankle that end in a thicker green stripe edged with red-and-white-polka-dot ruffles. On top she wears a short sleeved t-shirt tie-died in bright primary colors. She hold an orange tote bag in one hand and added a pair of too-small pink sunglasses to complete the outfit. She posed with her left hand propped on a wall and her left foot nonchalantly crossed over in front of the right one. She looks COOL.

I love her spirit and how she knows what she wants. I tell her mother that her independence and spunk will be good things eventually. Right now their mornings can be a bit intense, with strong feelings on both sides. I admire her mother for letting her go to school as she wants, even if she is wearing a sleeveless dress and the temperature won’t be above 40. She adds a sweater to her school bag and off they go.

What would you wear if you knew no one would criticize or laugh at you?

Does your outside match your inside?

We play many roles and wear many masks. A friend gave me an excerpt titled “Please Hear What I’m Not Saying” from a book called Healing the Child Within by Charles Whitfield, PhD. ( a link) Here’s some of it:

Don’t be fooled by  me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear. For I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them is me. Pretending is an art that’s second nature to me, but don’t be fooled…

I give you the impression that I’m secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name and coolness is my game, that the water’s calm and I’m in command, and that I need no one. But don’t believe me…

Beneath my mask lie confusion and fear and aloneness…

I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear being exposed….

I’m afraid you’ll think less of me, that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me…

I don’t like to hide…I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me…

Each time you’re kind and gentle and encouraging, each time you try to understand because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings, very small wings, very feeble wings, but wings!

Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well. For I am every man you meet and I am every woman you meet.

I’m sad that no one encouraged me to be more like Maggie as Elf on Vacation. I don’t want to wear wear red tights with white horizontal stripes around my thighs (no!!), but I’d like to be more outrageous than a black t-shirt and jeans sometimes.

I take off my mask more willingly when I remember that I am a Child of God. That means I’m okay. I’m good enough. God loves us because of our quirks, not in spite of them. We are made in God’s image. What amazing quirks God must have!

Published in: on April 17, 2016 at 1:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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So, I Was Thinking…

Of dirty, musky-smelling potatoes

and greasy, hot, salty french fries.

Of magical carrots pulled out of the dirt

and carrot-colored Cheetos.

Of oat-bread french toast with real butter churned a few miles away at Homeland Creamery

and Yo’ Drops from Plum Organics (click here).

Of bits of scrambled eggs from chickens raised by Milton and Bill

and pediatrician-sanctioned Goldfish crackers for an almost one-year-old still reluctant to eat solid food.

Of a trip to a Farmer’s Market

and a neighborhood a few miles away labeled a “food desert.”

Of Wheat Belly (click here)

and my 91-year-old Aunt Nadine from Iowa who has always eaten “meat and potatoes” meals and makes her own yogurt and can out-walk me.

Of the joy in watching a 3-year-old playing and running in the backyard with a new dog

and the impotent stupor induced by Brian Williams describing whatever new disaster or threat NBC has pictures of.

Of sturdy yellow daffodils poking up while I wear my red wool coat

and the shriveling blooms on the magnolia tree outside my office window because it’s not supposed to be below freezing in NC at the beginning of April.

Of the total unpredictability of weather

and our need to know what to expect about something.

Of triple-pane energy-efficient windows

and the smell of fresh spring air bringing tree pollen to my sinuses through the open window.

Of the fun of shopping with Kristin (with no kids) for Atticus’s 1-year-birthday-party outfit

and the helplessness of not knowing how my spinning head of vertigo ended up lying on the floor of Gymboree at Friendly Shopping Center.

Of how each moment of each day is precious

and how much that is worthy of wonder we choose not to notice.

I Love Lucy!

God spelled backwards.  My daughters say (and believe) that “dog” is God spelled backwards.  I sure hope God isn’t as timid and exhausted as the the dog asleep on the couch in my den.  She’s lying on the grey wool  sweater that I wore when we brought her home from the animal shelter.

We put our 13-year-old dog to sleep a few months ago.  She had a sweet disposition and smelled like chocolate. Sydney was a golden retriever mix who shed a lot.  We still miss her.

Our daughter coaxed us into “just looking” at dogs at the pound.  She quickly found the website on the iPad. I had criteria–small enough to snuggle with, okay with little kids, not hyper (we are in our 60’s), NOT a puppy, and, of course, a connection that left no doubt she was my dog.  Based on online pictures and descriptions we decided to check out Munchkin, Smurf, Jake, and Brownie.

We–my daughter, her almost-3-year-old daughter and her 10-m0nth-old son, one front-facing car seat and one rear-facing car seat, the retired man I live with, and I–piled into the white Camry and left on our quest.  We included my daughter in Raleigh using our phones to talk and text and making many promises to send pictures of the dogs.  We were all excited.

The Guilford County Animal Shelter vibrated to the rhythm of barking dogs.  The kids were unfazed.  The place smelled good and was spotless–hurray for the staff and volunteers!  We walked up and down the rows of cages looking for Munchkin.  We found her in the second room, put her on a leash and paraded out to the fenced-in play yard.

Adaline tempted her with a tennis ball, but Munchkin ignored her, even when the ball hit her in the face.  Point 1 in her favor–she tolerated a rambunctious kid.  The dog explored the big pen we were in, came over to where I was sitting, plastered her body to my leg, and laid her head on my thigh to be petted.  Point 2–we connected.  She didn’t care about anyone else.

My daughter went back in to get the 3-legged dog we saw in the cage next to Munchkin.  I took her into the next play yard to check her out.  I’m a little disabled, she is disabled.  We had to try.  And we could really feel like heroes if we adopted her.  But…no connection.  She didn’t care that I was there.  Plus she drooled a bit.  Feeling like an executioner, I shook my head from side to side.  I don’t remember her name.

Munchkin, by this time, was on my daughter’s lap in the other yard.  I felt a pang of jealousy.  “Mom, do want to just get this one and not try any more?’  I nodded my head yes.  We never got to Smurf or Jake or Brownie.

We completed the paperwork and paid the fee and left her to be spayed.  The retired man I live with and I went back the next day.  The staff person brought her out from the back and stopped in front of us.  Munchkin pooped on the floor.  I wanted to cheer for her feisty little self!  Or at least laugh.  She clearly was ready to leave the shelter.

She and I rode home in the backseat.  She rested her head on my leg.  When we went in the house, she jumped up on the couch, I sat down beside her, and she curled her body around my side like a nursing baby does.

Oh–we changed her name to Lucy.  And she still likes me best.

Published in: on February 14, 2013 at 5:48 pm  Comments (10)  
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Litter and Bubbles and Comfortable Shoes

He littered.  The guy in a red pickup truck flat-out littered.  I decided it was a man—I couldn’t quite tell.  He threw a bright yellow box with a red  logo on it (Bojangles, maybe) right out his window.  The box landed on the highway right in front of me.  I crushed it.  That thing had probably surrounded a sausage biscuit or a couple of pieces of fried chicken.  You know it smelled good.

We drove 75 miles an hour on I-40 East, past Raleigh.  I was headed to a week-long mostly silent writing retreat.  He was obviously headed to Hell.

I forget sometimes what a safe bubble of a world I live in at home in Greensboro.  I have a reddish-brown leather chair with a back that reclines and a matching ottoman.  That chair and ottoman fit my short body and sometimes-sore back better than any chair ever.  I read the paper and fall asleep in it.

My husband has changed out the 50-year-old worn brass doorknobs for new lever ones.  Some of the old ones are too hard for me to turn.  A couple of lamps are modified, too.  One turns on when you touch any metal part and one has a big screw instead of a knob to turn.  My husband has a lot to do with my bubble being safe.  I have a Tempurpedic bed and pillow that support my back and let my joints rest peacefully.  I sleep well and long on it, especially when it’s cold and we use the poufy down comforter.

My bubble includes friends who I am sure do not litter.  I doubt if most ever eat fast food from a clam shell box in the car and the few who might, including my husband, would most likely recycle the box.

I live easily and peacefully inside my bubble with my husband, a few friends and, often, two daughters with grandchildren and husbands.  They light up my soul.

I have commitments.  They fit in my bubble, too.  I spend time at a day center for people who are HIV positive called Higher Ground.  Sometimes I help my church bring in lunch, sometimes I lead a writing group, and other days I just hang out.  I feel safe there.  I can be myself.  I know their secret and they trust me enough to tell me their stories.  I learn from them every time I go.

A while back I wrote a blog post titled “You Can Tell By the Shoes.”  A friend and I traveled in her minivan to Atlanta for the Spiritual Directors International Conference.  There were to be 500 of us at a huge hotel and conference center.  We waited in a slow line to check in.

“Hey look, Marjorie,” I said.  “Look at people’s shoes—you can tell who is one of us.”  I wore clunky Teva sandals and so did she.  At least we didn’t wear socks with them.  Other (younger) women wore pointy-toed, stylish shoes, even with tight jeans and t-shirts, that clicked on the polished, bare floor.  Our shoes maybe squeeched a bit and our pants were not tight.

Now I’m at a Women’s Writing Retreat for a week at a big house close to the beach with 7 other women.  We line up our shoes by the front door.  Sandy or dirty shoes we wear outside, then we switch to clean shoes or slippers or just socks.  I didn’t pack my super-thick European hand-knit cotton slipper-socks so I just wear regular black socks.

Here’s what I see by the door at 4:30pm on a cloudy, chilly Sunday afternoon:

4 pairs of broken-in sneakers, for serious walkers, maybe.

2 pairs of black clogs, one SAS and one Merrell.

1 pair of tall black Ugg boots.  I’ve never tried one on.  I almost did just now but I decided that would be nervy and rude.

1 pair of slip-on Reikers.

I pair of flip-flops.  She must have been outside.

1 pair of brown Finn Comfort loafers.

And, yes, I did look inside to see the brands.

I am with my people, again.  No clickety soles.

Published in: on January 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm  Comments (8)  
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Know Your Colors?

Do you remember back in the 80’s when we all tried to figure out what colors “brightened” us and which ones made us look washed out with dark circles under our eyes?  A book called Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson started this new quest for personal perfection.

A woman in our neighborhood had her colors analyzed professionally.  From then on, all her clothes were from the appropriate color season.  (I still wonder how she could afford to do that and what she did with her old stuff.)  Most of us just sort of guessed at our color season and then hoped we had a few things in the right colors.

My clothes tend to look the same year after year.  Jeans, t-shirts, black pants, dressier shirts.  My size might change, but not my basic shape or style.  I do like to look at what’s new each season, the colors and styles, but they rarely work for my body or my age or my tastes.  Jeggings?  I think not.

My colors shifted some when I stopped dying my hair.  Some of my gray hairs sparkle like silver and some hairs are still kind of dark.  When it was a warm brown, I couldn’t wear gray.  Now I have tops in several shades of gray.  Why?  My skin color didn’t change.

Several years ago I found the perfect black pants–for me, anyway.  Jjill Sympatico Stretch in petite.  The waist fit.  And the hips, too.  The length was fine.  They needed no alterations.  I bought 3 black and 2 dark gray pairs.  I celebrated.

Then I lost enough weight to drop a size in pants.  I wore those Jjill pants until they were baggy enough to look ridiculous.  No problem, right?  I’ll just get some more in a smaller size.  I looked everywhere on the Jjill website.  They are gone.  Discontinued.  Not available.  Why??

Now I have no nice black pants.  A sixty-year-old woman can only get so far in jeans, even a size smaller.  I have hope.  I found some before and I’ll find some again.

By that time I’ll probably be the old size and will be able to wear the ones that are too big now.  Which I will save, along with the jeans that I used to wear.  What?  You don’t have more than one size clothes in your house?

My husband always asks at these times why I can’t just go into any store and pick something out in my size like he can.  How do I answer him without my voice getting louder and louder as I rant about the stupid, inconsistent sizing in women’s clothing?  And why can’t I?

I got a new Lands End catalog.  I like them and L.L.Bean.  Trendy I’m not. The fall colors  look good.  The one color I know consistently “brightens” me is dark green, forest green, pine green.  Lands End online has a v-neck, 3/4 sleeve tee-shirt in pine green.  I ordered two.  And a silk/cotton blouse in the same color.

I’ve learned not to wait when I see something I like.  And to buy multiples.

Published in: on August 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Got Sparkle?

After I stopped coloring my hair, I discovered Pantene Silver shampoo.  My hair sparkled in the sunlight.  I loved my grey hair.

Then Pantene discontinued the Silver line.  I searched the internet.  There wasn’t any, not even on ebay.  For months I used regular old Redken shampoo.  My hair was soft and manageable, but it didn’t sparkle.

I went to Sally Beauty Supply and bought a different brand of Silver shampoo.  It smelled weird and my hair didn’t sparkle.

I have easy hair.  For years, store brand stuff worked fine.  Now I wanted sparkle.  The woman who cuts my hair told me about Aveda shampoo for grey hair.  I bought a bottle of purple Aveda shampoo from her for $25.00.  It’s a big bottle, but maybe not $25 big.

The next morning I started the water for my shower and let it get hot.  I stepped into the shower and pulled the door shut.  My whole body relaxed as the hot water surrounded me.  I opened my eyes and reached for my new shampoo.

A stink bug* clung to the side wall  of the tub beside the shampoo bottle.  How did it keep from sliding off?

I wanted to use my new shampoo.  The stink bug gave me the creeps.  It was not cute.  I’ve never smelled a stink bug–an awful smell, I hear–because I’ve never squished a stink bug.  I knew a stink bug couldn’t hurt me, but still…

I was annoyed.  My hot shower was supposed to be a private moment of relaxed solitude.  I washed my hair with my expensive shampoo.  When I closed my eyes, I begged the stink bug not to jump on me.

I threw a cup of water on the stink bug and watched him ride the water to the drain.  He didn’t fit through the drain cover holes so I figured he’d drown.  Or survive and climb out and come looking for me.

My new shampoo does make my hair sparkle in the sunlight.  I like it.

*Click here for a picture and to learn more about stink bugs.

Published in: on April 27, 2012 at 7:34 am  Comments (6)  
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Strong, Perfect and Capable of Anything

One of my favorite pictures of my daughter, Kristin, was taken at her kindergarten Field Day.  She was the anchor on a relay and the picture shows her running full-out with people cheering in the background.  Nothing could slow her down and she was  joyfully and un-self-consciously in her body.  That Kristin went into hiding sometime between 8 and 14.

My friend Lisa (at Cheap Therapy Blog) has been writing about The Naked Face Project.  One of the women involved, Molly Barker, is the founder of Girls on the Run for girls 8-14.  She targets the age when girls begin to think they must fit into what she calls “The Girl Box”.

Molly Barker says “…there once was a 5th grader (or maybe it’s 3rd grade now??) in all of us who, at one point, KNEW that she was strong, perfect and capable of anything.”  Girls on the Run is about “making sure we don’t lose this pure essence of our girls”.

“How can I stop the slow hiss of that joy, bliss, and essence escaping from the balloon of her soul??”

I have 2 daughters who are good athletes.  They both were competitive swimmers from age 6-16.  At some point, they both decided they couldn’t run well.  Where did the joyful girl-child go?  Into the “Girl Box”, I guess.

Now they each have a daughter.  We all agree that girls can wear any color, not just pink. (Pink is the dominant color in anything for girls these days.)

I love watching 2-year-old Adaline run and climb and get sweaty and dirty in the backyard.  (We do bathe her and send her home clean.)  And Maggie, at 7 weeks, sailed through heart surgery.  I call her Baby Badass.

Will these little girls be pushed into the Girl Box?  Time will tell.

(PS:  Kristin is expecting a boy any day now.  Another side will be heard from!)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

–Marianne Williamson

Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable,                                                                                                                                                 illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest anyway.

What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa

[Reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, and attributed to her. However,  an article in the New York Times has since reported (March 8, 2002) that the original version of this poem was written by Kent M. Keith.]

Published in: on March 4, 2012 at 6:31 pm  Comments (10)  
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