The Lauren Salad: A salad that will make your taste buds dance

            “The colors of a fresh garden salad are so extraordinary, no painter’s pallet can duplicate nature’s artistry.”—Dr. Sun Wolf,


            “The salad is the main dish.”—Joel Fuhrman, M.D.




            It was the colors that first attracted my attention–vibrant hues of varying shades.  From claret to crimson; deep purple to indigo; and, sunshine orange to all shades of earthy greens, this artist’s palate-like bowl seemed to have it all.  As if I were a playful, curious kitten, drawn to a piece of dangling string, my body made a beeline towards the vivid dish of food art.  


            “Lauren, what is that bowl of deliciousness?” 


            Lauren, a seventh grader who makes regular appearances in my lunchtime study hall, attempted to smile while chewing as she held up the universal sign for, “Wait one moment.”  Allowing her to silently chew, I appraised the contents of her reusable lunch bowl. From what I could tell, I saw blueberries, strawberries, and other assorted brightly hued morsels on a bed of what appeared to be lettuce.




            It wasn’t unusual for Lauren and me to discuss food.  The previous year, Lauren had been part of my 3rdperiod, 6thgrade class, which falls during “snack time,” a time set aside for hungry middle school students to eat a quick snack at the beginning of class.  Lauren, who has a passion for good food, and dances nearly every evening of the week, typically took advantage of this time to fuel herself with mostly nutritious and yummy food choices to sustain her physical efforts.  Thus, she and I occasionally had sidebar conversations regarding her latest, or my latest, food/beverage obsessions.  


          These brief conversations would sometimes resume during lunchtime study hall as Lauren was a regular attendee in order to best manage her time due to her after school dance schedule.  Through these conversations, Lauren and I discovered we shared an affinity for Larabars, herbal and green teas, reusable water bottles, as well as assorted types of salads and fruits.   What’s more, Lauren possesses an infectious personality, and she is able to easily flow between relaxed, silly conversations with peers to a more formal style of dialogue with adults.




          “It’s a salad my mom and I create, but I made this one,” Lauren finally answered while still gnawing at the remains in her mouth.


            Once she finished chewing, she continued to describe the ingredients in her salad, explaining that the ingredients might occasionally change, depending upon what her mom is able to pick up at the grocery store. 


            “Well, most of the time I make it myself,” she confessed with a wry smile, eyes twinkling with truth,  “but sometimes, Mom makes it for me.”




            Listening carefully to the ingredients, I wandered back to my desk to eat my lunch, as I did what the students around me were doing, complete my own schoolwork as I ate.  Gazing at the contents of my lunchbox, I saw a baggie of carrot and celery sticks alongside cucumber slices. Additionally, there was ½ No Cow protein bar and ½ Larabar plant-based protein bar.  Sure, I had cleaned and cut the vegetables myself; and to be certain, I sure did love my protein bars with coffee, but my lunch wasn’t near as colorful and fresh looking as Lauren’s salad. I began to fill with pangs of food envy!




            “Lauren, tell me those ingredients again, please? I am going to write them down, and add them to my Kroger click list. 


            As she told spoke, I carefully recorded each ingredient on a sticky-note.  My mind began to fill with possibilities that would be tasty additions to her salad.


            “Do you add any sort of dressing?”


            She affirmed my hunch; no dressing for her, but my mind was already thinking about how good a balsamic glaze would be, like the one I had eaten earlier in the month at Fuel in The Market in downtown Huntington, WV.  I further began thinking about how good walnuts, or crushed cashews, would be—like my favorite salad at Black Sheep, another Huntington restaurant. Then, it hit me. Granola!




            Last summer, before the start of school, John and I traveled to the Alderson/Lewisburg area of WV.  One evening, we dined at a Lewisburg eatery known for fresh, local, farm-to-table, organic ingredients called Stardust Café. It was at this local eatery that I tried a salad called, “Trust Me.”  It was described on their menu as their signature salad, and it was topped with granola. Our waitress convinced me that granola on salad was indeed a tasty topping. And, it was! Why not make Lauren’s salad topped with one of my latest food obsessions, Julian’s Bakery ProGranola, Vanilla Cluster? Hmm . . .



            In that moment, I giddily declared to Lauren, “I am writing about this salad, and sharing it with others.  It will be forever known as, “The Lauren Salad!” Lauren, being Lauren, merely giggled as her focus returned once more to eating and working.




            Thank-you, Lauren, for sharing your delicious recipe with me.  It is a joy to have you as a student as well as to share your vibrant, flavor-filled, nutritional bowlful of goodness. Keep on making those inspiring, healthy lunches. Additional gratitude goes to, Pam, Lauren’s mom, for allowing me to photograph her daughter and publish her recipe creation!


            From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals!





The Lauren Salad


3, or so, cups favorite salad greens (Lauren enjoys iceberg lettuce, but I enjoy all variety of greens.)

¼ cup shredded carrots

¼ cup sliced celery

1-2 tablespoons dried cranberries (I prefer the less sugar variation.)

½ cup grapes (I left these off my salad, but Lauren says she enjoys adding grapes.)

¼ to ½ cup blueberries

5-8 sliced strawberries, depending upon size and taste preference

2-3 teaspoons of favorite balsamic glaze (I never see Lauren eat dressing on her salad, but I love the way this brings the flavors all together! I especially enjoy a strawberry-fig balsamic glaze.)

Optional toppings: walnuts, slivered almonds, chopped cashews, pistachios pieces, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, etc, and my personal favorite, granola!)

Hint:   While I rarely ever eat meat, you could certainly add your favorite meat protein, or for that matter, plant based protein, to this salad.  Ideas include, but are not limited to: hard boiled eggs; grilled meats; bean or bean-based patty; cheese, especially, chevre or Parmesan. With quality salad ingredients, the choices seem endless!  



In a large bowl, layer all vegetable and fruit ingredients in the order in which they are listed.

If using balsamic glaze, drizzle over salad ingredients.

Sprinkle with favorite optional toppings. (I personally like 1-2 tablespoons chopped black walnuts and 3-4 tablespoons of granola.)

Serve immediately; or, if packing ahead for lunch:  Keep balsamic glaze in a separate container, and the toppings in another container.  When ready to eat, add glaze followed by toppings.

Makes one large, healthy salad.


Hey, Lauren, Keep on making those inspiring, healthy lunches!



Shining Light on the Golden Present

          “There is nourishment like bread that feeds one part of your life and nourishment like light for another.  There are many rules about restraint with the former, but only one rule for the latter–Never be satisfied.  Eat and drink the soul substance, as a wick does with the oil it soaks in. Give light to the company.”—Rumi


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          My heart was breaking into a thousand pieces.  From the center of my soul, I felt the shards of accusations, regret, and all those unsaid words exploding from within my body and moving in an outward trajectory piercing my flesh—my mistakes visible for all to see.  The car of the past, in which I was the driver, was rushing, speeding, racing, and breaking all speed limits–accelerating too quickly to control. The vehicle of the present was dead ahead. The impact was coming. It could not be avoided. I attempted to bear down on the brakes, but the collision was inescapable.  Bracing, knowing it was coming, the impact, the pain, the unavoidable blood, carnage, and most likely, death, was seconds away . . . 


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          Gasping for air, as if fighting to stay afloat after being capsized into a tumultuous, tempestuous sea, I sat bolt upright in my bed feeling my heart race, sweat dripping down my neck, back, chest, and arms, wondering if I was really alive.  Gradually respiration resumed a more regular rhythm, allowing my heart to pound with less voracity. The cloak of darkness that is 2:00 am enveloped me with little solace. Emotional rubble from the impact once more pierced my heart as if stepping barefoot onto a tile floor covered with the remains of a fractured light bulb.  It was as if the metaphorical bulb of what seemed like a well-intended, great idea had suddenly shattered, leaving only a black hole from which there was no escape.


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          Days later, the waves of emotion, with little to no warning, would heave, pitch, and swell with its nauseating and dizzying effects.  Was there no Benadryl for emotional sickness? Was there no salve for the raw and blistered soul?


          “But what is visible?  The golden present. Think of the golden present, sow what is necessary, what is right.  Sow good thoughts, sow good deeds . . .”—Sri Swami Satchidananda




          Wait, what?  I read and reread those words clinging to them with great wonder as if I were Charlie with the winning ticket to the Wonka chocolate factory. The golden present.  The. Golden. Present.


          Riding the raft of remorse and repentance did nothing.  Nothing to change the past. Nothing to affect the outcome.  It was what it was. But the golden present, the winning ticket, was doing what was right, now. This is what could be changed.   This is what could be done, and it began in my head and my heart. 


The message written inside a piece of Dove chocolate that I recently found.



          The soul needs nourished; and, one must soak in that nourishment as a wick in an oil lamp in order to give light to others as Rumi once wrote.  This notion reminds me of what airlines advise parents: In the case of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on first in order to effectively help your children. Feed the soul and the mind with words of encouragement.  Focus more on the positive, let go of the mind’s desire to attach to the negative. Seek, read, listen to words, scripture, and other texts that offer timeless wisdom and nuggets of valued truth in order to train and guide the mind, fueling the soul.  


As seen on a post on Instagram.


          More importantly, judge less, beginning with myself.  If I am to be transparent, I have battled with self-worth throughout my life.  I have spent countless energy, especially during my younger years, saying, “If only I could be better; if only I could be good; if only I were more like this person or that person . . . then ___________ (fill in the blank) would happen.”  It was, and, even today, at times, the erroneous belief of my ego that my actions could control, influence, or otherwise affect the outcomes of others’ actions, beliefs, or behaviors.  


As posted on Instagram by heartcenteredrebalancing.


        Perhaps, it is the curse of my empathic nature.  Due to the fact, I can often sense others’ emotional energy, I sometimes have urges to fix, fight, or flee from people.  It can a bit manipulative, if I think about it–trying to alter the actions of another. Therefore, it seems to me that the proverbial broken light bulb of the past now needs replaced with a new light, one that is brighter, more golden, as it were.




          I cannot change my past thoughts, words, and actions.  However, I have been given the present, and a new light shines on this realization.  It is up to me to stop dwelling on the past and begin sowing seeds in a new way. Like an organic farmer giving up fertilizers and pesticides that often deplete the soil of nourishment, I, too, must put aside poisonous ways. I must continually till and remove the weeds of past behaviors, including judgment that inevitably will rise with regularity, threatening to overtake the seeds of positivity.  It will not be easy; and, change will not occur lineally, as I would prefer, but rather, in fits, starts, and spurts with setbacks in between. In fact, the best advice can be found in Rumi’s words—“Never be satisfied.” 

           May my life become as the wick for which Rumi spoke—properly fueled, illuminating in the golden present, in order to offer that light to others.


As posted on Instagram by spiritualist_within














Nightswimming: September is Coming Soon

            “Nightswimming deserves a quiet night . . .

            Turned around backwards so the windshield shows . . .

            Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse . . .

            Still, it’s so much clearer . . .”  lyrics from, “Nightswimming,” as performed by






           I heard the stirring sounds of oboe and strings.  Immediately my hand, momentarily, went to my heart as my mind raced towards the youthful summers of my past.  Reaching down for my phone as I drove, I waited until I reached a stoplight before snapping a picture of the song title.  Later, I would use that picture as a reminder to not only add the song to one of my Spotify playlists, but also as a potential source of inspiration for a later written piece. 





            I continued listening, and even replayed it later, a few more times, allowing random images of the past to flash through the movie screen that is my mind’s eye.  Nonsensical was the order as memories from all different ages hit me: The scent of green beans and sliced tomatoes; the summer soundtrack of cricket chatter offering background sounds to a quiet conversation with one of the neighborhood boys as we sat on his family’s wooden rail fence, seemingly late into the dark of the night, until my mom came to the front door to call me inside; the distinct metallic resonance of a water hose spraying car hubcaps on a sunny Saturday morning; hot rays of sun penetrating any exposed skin; the taste of Honeycomb cereal—a special treat courtesy of grandparents; kickball games and childhood tempers; family gatherings and church picnics; vacation bible school and late morning wake-ups; summer jobs and money to burn; roller skating and record playing; The Midnight Special and the discovery of album oriented radio (AOR); ice cream, French fries, corn on the cob, family treats of bottled pop guzzled alongside my three siblings to the sounds of music, laughter, bickering, and, yes, much to our Mom’s disapproval, burping contests . . .sweet, savory, summer.


selective focus photography person holding lighted sparkler at nighttime
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            By August, although though I would have never admitted it aloud, I was a bit bored and semi-ready for the routine and social aspect school brought with it.  It was always a new start, as ripe and juicy with possibilities as a July watermelon. Usually it began with several sleepless nights filled with anxious wonderings regarding teachers, classmates, classes, workload, and of course, the never-ending, but unspoken worry of my youth, “Will I fit in this year?”  


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            Updated clothes, newly sized trendy shoes (or at least as updated and on-trend as we could afford), unblemished notebooks, sharpened pencils classically scented of wood and lead; plus a new tube of bubblegum Bonnie Bell Lip smacker for pockets, and a pink bottle full of Love’s Baby Soft Cologne—these were the shiny, sparkly implements waiting to be used on that first day.  Inevitably the bus stop would be chaotic and competitive, the bus ride smelly and hot, schools halls redolent with scents of newly applied floor wax and cooked cabbage or other such malodorous vegetable. Then, there was always that first step into the classroom, the moment of truth, the feeling of dread, or hope. Who was your teacher; and, more importantly (at least at the time), who was in your class?


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            Crossing the threshold, summer’s enchantment crumbled like chips in the bottom of a foil bag, and the new reality began to itch slightly as if bitten by one mosquito only to later mercilessly feel the irritation of numerous bites waking you in the middle of the night.  This was what happened, or so it seemed, between day one and day six of school. First days made it all seem manageable, fun, and even lighthearted, followed by homework, tests, and requirements that started building in crescendo-like fashion until finally reaching the climax at the end of a grading period, only to begin once more with the next.


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           And yet, in between, in between the raindrops of assignments, and storms of essays and exams, there were those moments, those times, when you just knew, just felt you were either going to rock this world or be crushed by the world; and this unknowing, somehow felt exhilarating, tantalizing, and even breathtaking. The world was filled with an endless array of possibilities, potential, and even dangerous, but tempting, pitfalls. It all seemed right there, alive, and at your fingertips for the taking.  Drunk on youth, heady as it was.





            Looking back through the rear windshield of time, I sometimes grow nostalgic for that spine tingling longing that is uniquely part of youth.  Oh, it’s not that I am dissatisfied with my life. Quite the contrary. It is merely that I truly did not know what I had when I was young; but then again, none of us truly do until we are years removed it.  


            If only I had known to slow down, savor the moment.  If only I had known to really sip from the cup that is youth and relish every drop of its intoxicating effects.  Ah, but such is life. . .





             Perhaps that is why my husband and I still teach, still go out on dates, still workout, and still hold hands.  Perhaps that is why we are drawn to conversations with young people, allowing us to bask in their energy and vivaciousness. No, we are not trying to be young again, nor are we trying to relive our youth.  Rather, it seems to me, as if we are appreciating the NOW, the now of the moments we are living, and the now of the relative health we possess.  You see, we have caught glimpses of the other side, the next step of progression as it were, and now own the life-wisdom to know—to know and to appreciate bursts of energy found in exercise; to linger a bit longer over date conversations; to savor the comfort, and tingle, that comes from holding hands, embracing, and even kissing.  We value the vibrancy and vigor of youth and allow it to fill us with inspiration, laughter, and hope—endless, boundless hope. After all, hope, it is said, springs eternal.  


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           Goodbye, summer, my dear friend.  Even though, I know by calendar-time, you will linger a tad longer. I must leave your dreams, your reverie, your romance, and return to a new reality. A land filled with the sights of unblemished whiteboards and post-it notes of reminders; the feeling of a busy, new schedule and a rushed routine; the scent of floor wax and dirty gym clothes stuffed in a locker; the taste of rapidly thrown down lunches and vanilla or mocha coffees; and, the sound of blaring early morning alarms and the banter of middle school students.  A new school year, a new start, as ripe, sweet, and prickly as the blackberry brambles of mid-July, begins this week. 


            “These things, they go away

            Replaced by everyday . . . 

            September’s coming soon . . .” lyrics from, “Nightswimming,” as performed by


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On Mistakes, Lessons Learned, and the Power of Kind Words

             “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” ― Mother Teresa


            “Many times what we perceive as an error or failure is actually a gift.  And eventually we find that lessons learned from that discouraging experience prove to be of great worth.”—Richelle E. Goodrich


            I reread the client’s text in disbelief. How could I have made this mistake? I looked at my Google calendar.  Nothing there. I looked at the business app. Yep. It was there, but I had not checked there. On a hunch, I glanced once more at my calendar, but ahead one week.  Insert face to palm as I felt a knot begin to form and constrict my insides.




            I once learned that there are three default modes for humans when reacting to a so-called “threats:” fight, flight, or freeze; and, I have years of experience with freezing—absolute glacial freeze. Inside my body, it feels as if the great glaciers of the ice age are tying, twisting, turning and tearing their way through my gut; while on the outside, starting at my extremities, and moving across my outer skin, I physically become cold to the touch.


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            How could this have happened?  I am 53 years old. In addition to 31 years as a teacher in various schools, I also worked at a number of other locations from an early age.  For years, as a teenager, and into my 20th year, I worked as a part-time opener for the local McDonalds, which meant, depending upon which job I was assigned, I had to be at work between 3:30-5:30 am.  Never. Never did I miss a shift. Never have I not shown up for work. Ever. Until age 53.


photo of car parked near mcdonald s
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            What happened?  I had accidentally plugged the date into my Google Calendar for the following Friday.  I could feel my face growing red; my heart pounding in my chest. I could feel that icy sensation crystallizing like shards of glass on a window pane across my epidermis as my innards became more bound up like wet, sweaty socks balled up and stuffed inside a sports shoe for later retrieval.  Was it too late for me to be retrieved and cleaned, or was I stained for life?


macbook pro turned on displaying schedule on table
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            My current employers and clients don’t know me—at least, not my work history and work ethic.  They don’t really know my passion and drive regarding the ridiculously high bar for which I set for myself.  Honestly, what do they know about me other than my visible outward work behavior, which, up until this point, had been taintless?  Now, this mark, this failure, this complete and total mess-up by me—was now part of my work legacy.




            That’s when the tears hit.  My heart shattered. I made my way to my bathroom, turned on the sink water, then slumped to the floor in a heap and cried.  Tears of regret. Tears of remorse. Tears of, “if only I had.” Salty, briny, bitter tears.  

            This began all over again when I received the typewritten censure.  Here was a young lady, still in her twenties, having to reprimand me. ME!  It was more than I could I take. Great sobs of failure racked my body. I had let the team down.  I was a disappointment. Moving forward I would be asked to . . . , I felt the weight of my error


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Photo by Kat Jayne on


            The clients, though, were nothing but nice when I communicated with them.  Words like, “Everybody makes mistakes;” or, “It’s no big deal;” and, “I still love you and the business,” only made me feel worse.  Not because I thought they weren’t sincere, I think they were, but it still only pointed out more, at least in my mind, that I was a complete and total failure, a letdown.   

            Hours later, as I studied my home Armstrong email inbox, which had contributed to the problem—I did not receive my typical reminder email regarding substitute teaching.  Earlier in the week, for some inexplicable reason, my emails began appearing in a jumbled, random order; and, it now appears that I am not receiving all of them either. I continued examining the inbox, hovering over one tab, and then another, in an attempt to find a way to correct the issue, when an email popped up—of course, in the middle of the inbox, rather than the top, from an unknown name with the subject saying, “Your columns in the Herald Dispatch.”  Hmm . . .


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            As I moved, like a distracted squirrel to grab this little nut of possibility, another email popped up—also, not at the top, but toward the bottom of the inbox—with the subject, “On wearing purple,” the name of my most recent column.  Now, I really felt like a squirrel in Ritter Park during the autumn months when acorns are abundantly available. Which should I grab—click open—first?  


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            Then, my sense of order kicked, strengthened only by years of a teacher schedule—first period, is followed by second period and so forth—I clicked open the one that entered chronologically first!

            Wait, what?  I could not believe what I was reading.  Without revealing the content of the emails, let me just say, I found myself once more teary-eyed—this time from the sheer sweetness of the thoughtfulness of a stranger’s words.  They did know of my epic-failure that occurred earlier that morning. Neither did they know of the so-called stain upon my reputation—they only knew the heartfelt words that pour out of me week-in and week-out.


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            Writing this piece, after a mere two days of reflection, I recognize, first, that a lesson in humility is NEVER a bad thing. Additionally, heading into a new school year, this was also an extremely VALID lesson for me to have experienced what it means to make a real mistake, so that I can better empathize with, and teach, my incoming 6th , 7th, and 8th graders.  Human beings err, fall short, and make mistakes.  No one is perfect—not even at age 53.


            Thus, I have learned three lessons, so far, from this experience. (Though I suspect there will be more.)  First, be humble—in word, deed, AND thought. Who was I to pretend to be Stephanie Supersomebody who would NEVER _______ (fill in the blank)?  How haughty of me! Secondly, humbly admit a mistake, not only to others, but also to yourself; learn from it (double check dates when inputting to Google calendar, and check your business app daily—rather than relying on memory) in order not to repeat it again; then move on, offering yourself forgiveness.  Lastly, and I think, perhaps most importantly, while actions do matter, so do words. All spoken, written, and thought words influence us–often imperceptibly.  Therefore, not only is it important to take the time to speak, or write, positively to others, but also offer yourself, in thought, kind words—even in the midst of so-called failure.   After all, in the words of Henry Ford, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learning nothing.”


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Purple landslide and the Undertow that is Life

            “ Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above?”— from the song, “Landslide,” written by Stevie Nicks


            “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple . . .”— from the poem, “Warning,” written by Jenny Joseph




         “It’s been a good life,” he said as he leaned in kissed me.  


            Inquisitively, I gazed at John, my husband, now of 30 years.


            “What are you thinking?  What prompted that comment?”


            “Just thinkin’,” was all he said.


Maddie’s very first meaningful painting–painted in May of 2003. It’s called, “The Beach.” If you look, you’ll see the, “happy beach sky with sun; Daddy, Mommy, and Maddie on the beach.”


        “Well I’ve been afraid of changing . . .”

             Had he been reading my mind from earlier in the day, or were we both wrestling with an underbelly of life’s newest current.  Hours prior, I had been completing routine chores around our home. My mind wanted to drift with the undertow of thoughts awash in my head, but instead, Stevie Nicks’ song, “Landslide,” became a sort of cerebral soundtrack on repeat, with an odd intermittent interruption of the famous first line of the poem, “Warning.”  I began to wonder if this random monopoly of my mental loop was worth further mental investigation. Of course, as a yoga teacher, I recognize that, like leaves on a tree, thoughts come and go, and aren’t necessarily reflective of reality. However, I have also learned that there are times when seemingly arbitrary thoughts are whisperings of my soul’s search for a greater understanding of a deep seeded emotion trying to surface like a bubble rising to the top of a carbonated beverage.  



            “Cause I’ve built my life around you . . .”

             I recalled a last minute, hastily planned, vacation with John, and Madelyn, our daughter.  It was the first of August, and we decided to travel to the four-wheel drive beach of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We stayed in a tiny house near the edge of the Virginia border. There was no ocean view from the vacation rental, but the cabin was cozy, inexpensive, and perfect for the three of us.  We would load up our 4-wheel drive vehicle with our beach gear: three boogie boards, towels, sunscreen, and chairs, and drive to and from the beach—usually twice per day.  




      “But time makes you bolder . . .”

                         This trip was made special by the fact that John, Maddie, and I spent most of the days boogie boarding together on the rough OBX tide.  Of course, the fact that the temperatures hovered near 100 degrees daily encouraged us to get in, and remain in, the ocean. Once our vehicle was parked on the beach, and beach chairs placed in front of the open hatch, we’d awkwardly push, pull, work our way past the low breaking waves, boogie boards in hand.  Together, we’d catch a good wave, and ride it to shore, laughing hysterically, at the person whose board had been flipped–usually me! Then, without really gazing at the shoreline, we’d push, pull, work our way back out to those bigger waves. Eventually though, one of us would notice that one of OBX’s famous undertows had sent us on a northward drift from our starting point. We’d stand calf deep in the water, just feeling the edge of tide’s pull, and marvel at the great distance we had drifted, and yet we had not realized it until that very moment.   


          Images from Maddie’s current bedroom–a mix of childhood favorites, stuffed with memorabilia from elementary, middle, and high school as well as her now former school, Bethany College. 


            I paused mid-stride in my house hallway. Oh my heavens that was it! I was standing calf-deep in the waves of my life, my boogie board has just been flipped, and only now do I realize that the undertow that is also life, and its constant ebb and flow of changes, has been carrying me along with waves–waves of joy, waves of love, waves of wonder, waves of struggle, waves of sorrow, waves of regret, waves of  . . .well, time. And, now, as I catch a glimpse of the shoreline, I see that I have drifted into a new phase of life.


           One night, Maddie jokingly prayed for a snow day, then she placed a spoon under her pillow for added security; the next day her prayers came true. She and I had played in snow all day, and when we came inside, I made her purple snow cream.  Later, we painted our toes in front of the fire that John built.  


        “Even children get older . . .”

             I mentally tick-off the inventory of recent changes.  Maddie is now changing universities, transferring to Marshall, and she is switching from a Biochemistry/Chemistry major with a minor in Art to a Visual Arts major with a minor in chemistry.  She is moving out of our family home and into a rental. Even now, as she prepares for the move, her bedroom is often empty for long spans of time as she stretches her newly found wings of adulthood.  



            Meanwhile, our house is in the flux of a gradual remodel as John and I prepare for the next phase of our life.  This phase will ultimately mean we, too, will leave this house, our home, for another. How much longer will we be here?  One, two, three more years? There is no definitive answer.



            “And, I’m gettin’ older, too . . .”

             Furthermore, John and find ourselves in new roles as more and more of our family members have passed, moved away, and/or changed in ways we could have never predicted when we first married.  Divorce, death, disease, and departures, of one sort or the other, seem to occur with more frequency than we care to admit. We are no longer defined by our daughter’s schedule, but by new roles, for which we feel, at times, ill prepared.  Just as when we first arrived home from the hospital as proud new parents, but without a parenting manual, neither is there a manual for, well, AARP living, for which we are now official members—though not retired.


          Even though he wasn’t a human member of the family, saying good-bye to our Rusty-boy truly broke our hearts. 


            “Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?”

             When I was younger, I knew, with a fair amount of predictability, that junior high would be followed by high school, which would be followed by college, which would be followed by a career.  Later, I felt confident, that in all likelihood, a Masters degree would be followed by more educational hours, that marriage would be followed by at least one child, which would, of course, be followed by parenting. Then, as I parented alongside John, we were keenly aware that one developmental stage would follow another, and so on and so forth; but, not this–not this sea of unknowing, this sea of no control (As if I ever had control?).  


My mom had these images framed for me years ago from Maddie’s Kindergarten graduation. Her artwork was the cover of the program.


            “Can I handle the seasons of my life?”

             John’s parents are now gone.  My parents are older. Maddie is leaving home.  We will, one day, leave this home too—both literally and metaphorically.  How long will our careers continue? Where will we live? What paths will Maddie take?  How long before the next change? What does the future hold? How much longer will the newspaper continue to publish my words? Will I ever write a book, or will I continue to express myself creatively through other written means, such as my website? Does this writing help anyone other than me, or is it a selfish pursuit? How much longer will I have my loved ones and friends? For heaven’s sake, when shall I wear purple?  And, in the end, will my life have mattered? Will I have mattered to my parents, my siblings, my husband, my in-laws, my daughter, my friends, my colleagues, my students, to anyone at all?

             I hope so.

            “Ah, take my love . . . And, if you see my reflection in the snow covered hill 

Well, the landslide will bring it down.”


2012-04-04 16.04.51 



2012-06-15 12.49.30            

2012-06-16 11.14.45