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It can’t be that fattening, right? And after all, it has fruit in it. At least that was my thinking when I bought the cherry pie a couple of weeks ago. Usually, I just scoot right by the pies when grocery shopping, but on this particular afternoon, my progress through the crowded aisle had come to a dead stop right in front of the dessert choices. The apple pie crumb pie looked good but not quite inviting enough to tempt me. That’s when I saw the cherry one. After hesitating about ten seconds, I tossed it into the buggy.
I maneuvered the cart though the rest of the aisles as I picked up yogurt, milk, bagels, apples, grapes, bananas, and a yellow onion. No cookies, chips, or ice cream landed amongst the healthy choices. But then, there was that cherry pie. The picture on the box looked so tasty. And well, it conjured up a memory of a Sunday afternoon decades ago.
Dinner was over, and the rest of the family had skedaddled to do whatever whatever they chose. I, however, was stuck with kitchen duty that day. As I removed the plates and leftover food from the table, I noticed two pieces of pie, tempting and tasty, left in the pie plate. I wanted one—or at least a sliver of one and asked my mother if I could have a piece of a piece.
I’ll never forget her reply. In fact, it’s become somewhat legendary among the females of my family.
“Of course, you can a second piece, but you need to know that’s how people get fat.”
She didn’t say “gain weight” or “get chubby.” She said “get fat.”
At that time, I was on the skinny side of the curve. Seriously, maybe the 35th percentile for weight. Not only was I not in any danger of becoming “fat” (hate that word), but also there was no talk anywhere about the dangers of kids’ diets and exercise. Those topics were just not part of the social conversation. We played outside A LOT, and very few people had sedentary lifestyles—at least not the people I knew.
But when my mother warned me about the perils of a second slice of pie, though a small one, I cringed. Even as a child, probably ten or twelve years old, I recognized the truth when I heard it. Choices count.
“No Ma’am, “ I told her. “I think I’ll pass for now.”
Now whenever I think of having a second piece of fried chicken, a extra dollop of ice cream, or a loaded baked potato instead of broccoli, I remember a Sunday afternoon exchange between my mother and me.
Big deal, you might be thinking. Who cares about cherry pie? What I knew then was something that has been reinforced over and over and over throughout the years. Choices count. As Sartre said, “We are our choices.” Do your homework or go to class unprepared? Pay your bills on time or get a bad credit rating? Clean your house or allow it to get so cluttered that you feel unsettled? Walk around the block (or do some type of exercise) or do your laps on the couch? Finish college or drop out?
It’s your choice.
I succumbed to temptation and bought that cherry pie a couple of weeks ago. I also bought some small cups of ice cream to plop on the top of our warm slices. Right before beginning this post, I got the pie out of the freezer to read the directions and learned that there are 340 calories and 17 grams in one eighth of a pie. Seriously.
When I told my husband the bad news, he asked, “What about the sugar?” I could hardly believe my eyes: 17 grams of sugar in one eighth of a pie. And this is without the cup of ice cream!
We decided to wait for another day to enjoy that tart, red, juicy fruit cooked in the flaky crust. I also decided to go for a short walk around the block, do a little work on my fall classes, and sweep the kitchen. Choices count.
Like many of you, I’ve been thinking about my mother more the last few days She’s in my heart and on my mind every day of my life, but lately I’m even more aware of her influence—the things she taught me and my siblings, the way she lived her life, her beautiful singing voice, the love she showed to all within her sphere, the adoration and downright awe she felt towards her grandchildren, her ability to turn a house into a home, her love of the twittering little birds, and the list goes on and on and on.
Not to say she tolerated any misbehavior or slackness on our part. “You better straighten up and fly right, “ was something I often heard directed towards me—and my brother, Mike, too. Ann and David were either less mischievous than we were or they were masters at appearing that way. It never occurred to me that Mama’s expression was weird; I knew exactly what she was talking about.
Here’s another phrase my mother tossed my way whenever I didn’t want to do something she thought would be good for me, something that involved getting out of my comfort zone. “Don’t be so backwards,” she’d say. While I didn’t mind the flying right phrase, I detested the backwards one, maybe because I knew she was right.
I’ve been thinking of that “nudge” from my mother today while preparing for a lesson that I’m teaching tomorrow. It’s on the scriptures and just how powerful they are in helping us live better lives. When I say “better,” I mean dozens of things like getting through grief, showing love, not being offended, having courage, being kind, turning the other cheek, and realizing the power of choice in overall happiness or miserly.
This morning, I reread something I wrote about Queen Esther in Eve’s Sisters a few years ago.. Esther showed such courage in her young life, and her boldness saved the Jewish people. I like to think of her posture, chin up and back straight, as she said, “If I perish, I perish.”
We might not have the power to save our people on such a grand scale, but we all have people we can help. We can all fast and pray and get more in tune with the Spirit. We can all fight the good fight and be assured that no matter how scary things appear, life can “turn on a dime.” In less than a week, Esther went from being a pampered recluse who hadn’t been summoned by her husband in thirty days to becoming Queen Esther with a capital Q.
I hope that somehow my mother knows I took heed to the things she taught by word and deed. For the most part, I stand straight and fly right. And I’m a lot bolder now, more willing to shed the backwardness and step out of my comfort zone. I love listening to little birds too. And I’m in awe of my children and grandchildren.
Because of a project I’ve been working on, I’ve become reacquainted with some of the women of the Bible. Although I knew about them and their families and histories, rereading their stories has given me additional insight into their courage and faith. The two women I’m referring to are Jochebed and Hannah.
In case your memory of Jochebed is a little sketchy, my version of her story is that she gave birth to Moses at a time when Pharaoh had ordered that all Hebrew baby boys be murdered. The midwives refused to do this, and they lied to Pharaoh, saying that the Hebrew women were vigorous and strong and that they gave birth before a mid-wife had time to arrive.
Jochebed kept Moses close by for three months, but when he began to grow and become more active, she knew that she couldn’t keep him quiet forever. Trusting that God would preserve him, Jochebed put her sweet baby in a basket covered with tar and placed him in the Nile River. She knew that Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe there and trusted that the princess would rescue Moses.
When the princess spotted the baby, she felt compassion on him, and although she wanted to raise him as her own (my take on it), she knew that such a small baby would need a nursemaid. Out comes Miriam, Moses’ sister, from behind the bulrushes and tells Pharaoh’s daughter that she knows someone who will nurse and nurture the baby until he can be weaned. The princess agrees to this arrangement.
The day of separation for Moses and Jochebed comes at last, and he is raised in Pharaoh’s palace with many advantages, including an education that prepares him for his vital leadership role as an Israelite leader.
What would have happened if Jochebed had said NO to letting him go?
Hannah is the other mother on my mind. She had wanted a child for years, and yet she remained childless. Although her husband Elkanah never complained about her childless state, she was grieved by it, especially when she saw the children who had been born to Elkanah and his first wife.
When Hannah and Elkanah traveled to Shiloh, she went to the temple to pray for a child. Eli the Priest, after inquiring about what he perceived to be her drunken state, learned of Hannah’s fervent desire for a child and of her promise to give him to the Lord “all the days of his life.”
Eli told Hannah to go in peace and promised that God would grant her petition. She trusted in that assurance completely, and after Samuel was weaned, Hannah kept her word. It must have been difficult to turn her precious little son over to Eli, but Hannah felt that Samuel was indeed a gift from God and wanted to turn he over to Him.
The day of separation for Hannah and Samuel came at last, and she went back to the tabernacle and presented the child to Eli to be raised there. I don’t know how often she saw her son after that day. Some speculate that she visited him regularly. I don’t know. I do know that (to me) it gives deeper meaning to the oft-cited phrase, “Let go and let God.”
What would have happened if Hannah had said NO to turning Samuel over to Eli?
Moses grew up to be one of the most influential men in all history, a man whom the Lord knew “face to face.” He led the Israelites out of Egypt and later gave us, through God, the Ten Commandments. Samuel was a remarkable man whom God used as a great prophet and judge of Israel.
I can’t help but wonder what their lives would have been like if their mothers had continued to keep them close or to meddle in their lives. Sociologists and psychologists study a social phenomenon called helicopter parents who hover over their children, even adult ones, ready to swoop down and take over regardless of age or of the child’s abilities, desires, or predilections.
Sometimes it’s hard to know when to step back and when to become involved. And sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between involvement and interference. I have no answers to this dilemma. I just know that we might never have heard of Moses or Samuel if their mothers hadn’t turned them over.
What do you think? How can mothers know when to when to let go? How do they stay on the involvement side without crossing over into interference?
Sunday was an awesome day from dawn to dusk and then some. I never need a reminder of how special my mother was, and yet since it was Mother’s Day, the day was filled with memories of her words, actions, looks, advice, laughter, personality…and well, you get the picture. I had to give a talk in church, and the topic was how a mother can influence her children to live the teachings of the gospel. While the talk including some Biblical women whose lives demonstrated faith, love, courage, kindness, and hard work. I just had to let everyone know that my mother had all those sterling qualities in one 115 pound package.
Here’s the quote: “Like Rachel, she was beautiful, and like Leah, she was hardworking, dependable, and faithful. Like Hannah, she was grateful for all of her blessings, and like Mary and Martha, she kept a good balance between her spiritual and her work-a-day life. And then, like Dorcas, my mother was mourned by her friends after her death.”
By the way, I lifted that right out of my new book, Eve’s Sisters. I’d like to think that my mother would have been pleased to hear such sincere praise, but then again, she might have been embarrassed at the extra attention.
Later in the day, I headed to the coast and stopped in Conway for a visit with my daughter Elizabeth. She’s the only one of my three children I got to lay eyes on (in person) that day. I had some face time on my iPhone with the other two AND with my seven grandchildren. (The fact that I had to use my iPhone instead of my computer was the first indication that I was going to have connectivity issues.)
Elizabeth treated me to a delicious Mexican dinner and presented me with some lovely treasures, including a bag with the peace symbol on the front. Then we communicated with Paul and Amanda and their two precious children using my phone and their iPad. Olivia spent much of our time “together” spinning around in circles. Then she proceeded to be Mama’s little helper by feeding her baby brother a little bit of milk. Amanda describes Ethan as a “chill baby,” and he certainly demonstrated that trait last night! Although he couldn’t have been getting much nourishment, he patiently endured his sister’s efforts without a whimper.
Ah then, we repeated the same communication via phones and iPads with my daughter Carrie and her five children in Rincon,GA. It was thrilling to see Braden looking so tall and acting so grown up. He’ll be 9 in two weeks. The girls told me all about their muffin and doughnut sale of the day before. Brooke raised $52 from the customers, and then Emma gave her $7 of her hard earned money for her old bike so now they both have wheels. Colton told me that his favorite muffins tasted blue, and Seth just stared at the screen looking like an angel baby.
Time to bring this to a close. I’m sitting in an internet café because I can’t get connection with my tiny MiFi or the hotspot feature on my iPhone. Doesn’t that seem a little weird? Why am I paying so much money every month for a service that I can’t use??? It’d be easy to get angry, and yet I find myself remembering a song that Brooke sang to me Sunday evening, the same one that I heard the Primary children sing earlier that day. I didn’t memorize it, but it goes soemthing like, “I love to look for rainbows whenever there is rain.” I have lots of rainbows in my life and am focusing on them. Thanks for the reminder, Miss Brookie!
A lunch conversation brought to mind a few more thoughts about fathers and their importance in the life of a child. As we talked about the roles mothers and fathers, it occurred to me for the umpteenth time that they are indeed different. Mother Nature coded us differently from the “get-go’ and that 23rd pair of chromosomes continues to affect our thinking and behavior throughout our lives.
While there are exceptions to this, women are the nurturers. Men are the fix-it people, the ones who see a problem and want to solve it right away. Women want to make things all better, and men want to tackle the issues head on. This way of thinking even affects the way parents handle issues with their children.
Parents look ahead to the future and feel uncertainty, anxiety, and perhaps even downright fear when they consider their children stepping into it. The world is fraught with danger and peril, and each parent wants to prepare the child for it. Their ways of preparing youngsters for the world of tomorrow is different, however. Mothers are more likely to see the possible dangers and warn the child to be cautious and careful. Fathers, on the other hand, are more likely to tell the child to step up to the plate and be strong.
The different parental approaches remind me of the difference between justice and mercy. Both are good; both have their value. And yet too much of one without the other is potentially harmful for the development of a well-rounded and responsible individual. When our children were small and would wail, “That’s not fair,” I was inclined to commiserate with them and agree that while it isn’t always fair, that was just the way it was. “Sorry, Sweetie,” I’d say. Their father, on the other hand, would often quip, “Who says life is fair???”
Sometimes parents can switch off and take turns between nurturer and tough guy, but a child needs both approaches. He or she needs justice AND mercy. Sometimes she needs a big dose of TLC and sometime she needs a reality check. When my daughter Carrie was a college student, she was having a little too much fun, and her grades were slipping. I gave her some encouraging pep talks and reminded her of the importance of education. Truthfully, I don’t think it fazed her at all. Her father told her that if her grades didn’t improve, the gravy train was over. That got her attention, and she immediately began to turn things around.
Maybe some single parents are able to be both the nurturer and the task master, the one who tries to make things “all better” and the one who encourages the child to “man up” (even with female children). But me? I needed both mercy and justice when raising children, and I think most households do.
It’s been a busy, eventful, fun, exhausting couple of weeks. It’s funny how life goes along in a somewhat predictable way, and then BOOM, a whirlwind comes along and turns everything upside down. Knowing that not everyone in the world is interested in the goings-on in my family and yet wanting to share with those who care, I’m going to hit some high points.
First, there’s Jenny, a.k.a. Mrs. Kacey Carbery. She and Kacey tied the knot on the 15th of July after a busy few days of events. Actually, for Jenny, it had been a busy few months, but for the rest of us, many of the parties and celebrations occurred in July. They’re a much-loved couple, and their friends and family went all out to prove it. Because of their marriage, I met some truly interesting and delightful people, and I hope our paths cross again. In fact, we’ve been invited to spend a couple of days in Victoria, Canada next year on our way to Alaska.
Then one day last week, I started cleaning out my office. It’s too daunting a task to tackle in one day so I’ll be traveling to Sumter again soon to take the rest of the pictures off the walls and the books off the shelves. A friend asked me if it was hard, and I had to admit, “Not really.” My attitude is that I’ve had an office for a long, long time, and now it’s time to move on to whatever’s next. Luckily for me, we have a little room above the garage where I can read and write. It even has a skylight so that I can watch the changing sky.
Then my grandson Seth was born. What a precious baby! My former husband and Elizabeth and I spent last Wednesday in the hospital with Rich and Carrie, Seth’s parents, as we waited for his arrival. After the doctors determined that a C-section wouldn’t be necessary after all, we then had to bide our time until Mother Nature took her course. We walked, talked, snacked, dozed, read, and waited. And then we waited some more.
Finally, the moment arrived when it looked like the birth was imminent, and the doctor shooed us out of the room. A moment later, the door cracked open a little as Rich peeped out and asked if I’d like to come inside. I was so excited!!! I’d never witnessed a birth before and had been saying that all day in the hopes that the parents would take the hint. Having that experience was awesome and unforgettable.
As the nurses were cleaning the sweet newborn and putting silver nitrate in his eyes, I stood beside him and talked to him in my most soothing voice. Then the funniest and most marvelous thing happened. He opened first one eye and then the other and looked straight at me. I LOVE thinking that I’m the first person he saw and that perhaps the sound of my voice comforted him somewhat during his first scary moments of earth life. Soon Elizabeth and Frankie rejoined us in the room, and everyone got a turn holding the precious little fellow.
Elizabeth and I then went to Rincon, GA where my daughter Carrie lives and began caring for her other four children. They range in age from 2 to 8, and they kept their grandmother and their aunt busy and “engaged,” a word I’ve heard a lot over the last few days. I could go on and on and on about our special time together, but I’ll save that for another day. I just have to mention, however, that I love how Emma used a wet washcloth to subdue her blond curls so that she could make a good first impression on her new brother. She also took a pink purse to the hospital like a big girl.
That was last week. Now I’m back at home trying to finish the semester, and I’ll go back to Rincon later this week to help Carrie as her household adjusts to its newest member. Until then, end-of-the-term journals and assignments are calling my name. And then there’s the office thing. I wonder if Holly, the director of security, will make me turn in my key.
Walking can be a form of moving meditation, for me at least. I just got in from a hot morning walk, and my mind is abuzz with thoughts of other people and the trials they’re enduring today. For me, all is well. The sun is shining, birds are singing, my children and grandchildren are all healthy, and today is Braden’s 8th birthday. Except for maybe his Uncle Paul, no one can touch that kid in looks and charm.
But other people aren’t having such a delightful day today.
- When my daughter Carrie bakes Braden’s cake today, I know without a doubt that she’ll be thinking of Spencer, Braden’s older brother who never had the chance to crawl and walk and talk and go to school.
- Then there’s my aunt who’s mourning the loss of her husband of nearly 60 years. It was a good marriage, but does that make her loneliness easier or more difficult?
- I have a friend whose divorce is final today, and I know something that she doesn’t. Nothing is ever really final. There are always after-effects, many of them some painful, that will continue for years and years.
- I know a woman who’s happy that she has only two more radiation treatments for her breast cancer. The big C has awakened her to the realities of life and death and given her a new appreciation for each day.
- I have a beautiful friend whose husband is sick and frail, and her devotion to him is heartwarming.
- Another friend is recalling a graduation of eight years ago when her handsome young son walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma. Little did she know that his life would end a few months later. Rather than succumb to pain and heartache with bitterness, she uses her grief to motivate young people to make good choices in their lives.
On the plus side, there are some good things happening to the people I care about too. I have a friend who’s beginning a new decade of life today, and I hope she’s focusing on the new chapter ahead instead of looking longingly at the past. It’s Sarah Beth’s birthday too; she’s my beautiful young niece who has her entire precious life in front of her. Amanda and Olivia are safely back in Atlanta after visiting her parents in Salt Lake City.
My husband is playing golf with one of his brothers. He’ll complain about the heat when he comes home, and I’ll just smile and gently remind him that, “It’s all good.” If he doesn’t get the hint (to stop complaining), I’ll remind him of the people who don’t have a brother to play with or maybe of the people who can’t walk, much less play golf. He’ll say what he usually does, “You’re right. I have a lot to be thankful for.”And you know what? We all do. Even for those who are hurting today, the sun will shine for them again.
On Facebook, I often see invitations to “post this” if you’ve ever lost someone to cancer. I’ve lost someone to cancer, but I haven’t reposted the invitation. I’m not sure why except that maybe I have the feeling my mother wouldn’t approve. She’d question the purpose of it and remind me that, “Talk is cheap, Jaynie.” She always called me Jaynie when she was in a happy mood, and that’s the way I’m imagining her right now. I have to imagine her because she’s no longer a physical presence in my life, not since we lost her to cancer over ten years ago.
Last week when I registered for the Cooper River Bridge Run, I donated a small amount to the American Cancer Society. It wasn’t much, a pittance really, but every little bit counts, right? Still, I didn’t feel all that magnanimous about it, and I went to Scott Park for a walk. While there, I saw a young African American woman wearing a “Bridge” t-shirt from a past year, and I asked whether she was going to participate in the Bridge Run this year.
“No, I doubt it. I’m putting all of my energy into training for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure walk in Atlanta,” she replied.
“Is that sort of like the Avon walk?” I asked.
“Sort of. You walk a total of 60 miles over a three day period,” she said with a smile.
“60 miles??? In three days?? What’s the entry fee?”
Without hesitation, she informed me that it was $2,300.
“Wow,” I said, standing there staring at her in awe. I then went on to tell her that my daughter Carrie and I went with about 45 people from the Grand Strand to Alaska in 1996 to participate in a marathon, my first. Every participant had to raise $3,500 (if I recall correctly), and after the plane tickets and hotel accommodations were taken care of, the rest went to leukemia research. We were part of the Team-in-Training program, and it was an awesome experience. Everyone wore a hospital bracelet with the name of a patient, someone they were running/jogging/walking for, as a reminder of the purpose of the event.
“It was so hard to raise all that money,” I whined. “We had yard sales, wrote letters, washed cars, begged people…you name it, we did it.”
“But you did it, right? You did it. You raised the money and went to Anchorage, right?”
“Right. And that’s what you need to remember. You can do it!”
Smiling still, she said, “And so can you.”
I asked her a few more questions, and when we parted company, I had pretty much made up my mind to register for the 3-Day in Atlanta in October. I even said, “Hey, maybe I’ll see you on Peachtree Street,” as we parted.
And I’m going to do it, Folks. If my left knee holds out, if I can find the time to train, if I can stay motivated, and if I can raise the money, I’ll be there.
Speaking of money, I’m not a math person like my sister is, but I can do a few basic computations, and I know that if 46 friends contribute $50, I’ll have it. If 92 friends contribute $25, I’ll have it. Carrie and Rich have already committed a pledge to the cause. Why? Because Carrie loved her Granny, and she wants to do her part to fight the Big C that took her grandmother’s life.
I’m probably going to register in the morning. I’ll let you know when I do, and then I’ll start asking for contributions. Giving money involves more than posting on FB, and as my mother would often say, “Talk is cheap.” You know, I can just see her smiling about now.
It’s been a beautiful weekend. Friday was especially delightful. It was sunny and a little cool but nice, very nice. Still, for some reason I couldn’t shake a mild case of the doldrums. I even ate lunch with a good friend, the kind you can jump from topic to topic with, and neither of you get confused or lost. Still, the feeling lingered.
My sister and her husband Allen came over to bring a table, and when I saw her walking away, there it was again, that twinge of something. I visited the Red Door Thrift Boutique and then headed to the eye doctor’s office for some contacts. When I walked out into the sunshine and felt the moderate temperature and the gentle breeze, I thought of how weird and wonderful it was to be experiencing this kind of weather in February.
Driving out of the parking lot, I had a quick impression of my parents and of how they had lived in Camden all of their adult lives. They had both visited this very office and driven the city streets day after day, year after year. Had they too enjoyed looking at the parks on either side of Laurens Street as they left Dr. Moore’s office?
Then it hit me, the reason for my melancholy. 15 years ago on an identical February day I made the trip from Conway to Camden to see my mother who was coming home from a four-day stay in the hospital that day. She’d been receiving her first round of chemotherapy for the cancer that would take her life nearly five years later. I recall feeling nervous, anxious about how I’d find her. Would she be too weak to walk? Would she still have her beautiful silver hair?
I arrived at the same time her sisters drove up with Mama in the car. She seemed fine, just tired. As I recall, I took her bags in, and her sisters left. There we were, the original family, just Jayne and her parents. The difference was that this time they were both in need of care from me and not vice versa. It was weird, and I was jumpy.
I took lunch orders, thinking it’d be nice to have burgers and fries and ice cream, but Mama opted for saltines. Daddy agreed to a kid’s burger from Mickey Dee’s. Sitting at the kitchen table where we’d gathered literally hundreds of times, I felt awkward and on the verge of tears. My father managed to eat half of his burger, and my mother forced down a couple of saltines. Then she went to bed, and he went to the den to read. I tidied up and then went outside to clear my head and get a breath of fresh air. The house seemed stifling. It wasn’t. My frame of mind just made it seem that way.
Some visitors came by later, and I went for a walk with one of them. As we walked, both of us remarked on the gorgeous weather. As we sauntered up the block with my parents’ little Dachshund skipping along in front of us, it was almost (but not quite) possible to forget my parents’ state of health. Despite the sun dappled sidewalks, the upbeat conversation, and the antics of Eva, the dog, my heart was heavy.
I didn’t know what was ahead at that time, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I sensed that it was the beginning of the end, the end of their lives and the end of my life as someone’s child. The juxtapostion between my frame of mind and the gorgeous February afternoon was a stark contrast.
It’s no wonder Friday with its perfect weather conjured up the blues. The wonder is that I didn’t connect the dots earlier.