Friday, December 30, 2011


I'm a pretty brave gal.

I sleep without a nightlight, set mouse traps all by myself, and tear the warning tags off of new pillows.
There are only a few things in life that really scare me: serial killers, overdrafts, roller coasters, and....(oh, I hate to even say it)- diets.

But it is that time of year to face my fears. The word "diet" is buzzing around like bumble bees on steroids... and it's difficult to avoid. WalMart taunts us with 100 calorie snacks, the local gym offers miracle bodies (for a price), and Jennifer Hudson makes it all seem as easy as pie.

Pie? mmmmmmmm

Time to get serious.

I know I need professional help. If some crazy diet therapist could get inside my head, maybe they'd figure out why I can't face reality.
But I've eventually got to admit- I'm overweight.
I have a jelly belly.
I have un-loved love handles.
My jowls look like earrings-
and I can set a cup of coffee on my "booty".

I think I fear diets the most, because once you announce you are starting one, you  have an instant audience.

People who never took a second glance at me while I piled Little Debbie snack cakes in my grocery cart - or even said hello when they passed me in my jogging pants and "man shirt" on my way into the bank- are now sitting attentively on the sidelines just waiting for me to fail.

There's this giant spotlight as big as meteor- and I'm right smack dab in the middle.
All eyes are on my thighs.

By why do I fail in the first place?
Because I love chocolate.
And cheese.
And pizza.
And salami.
And cookies.
And a whole other assortment of yumminess that has no business in a real diet.

And because- as my Freshman math teacher can attest to - I can't count!
Does anyone really expect me to keep track of points and calories and portions- if I can't figure out why x=y (or whatever that law of algebra is)? Really?

Don't get me wrong- I love veggies! But I love them with cheddar cheese sauce, cream dip and ranch dressing.

This is gonna be harder than I thought...

Yet, dear readers, I've made a resolution to start my diet. To face my fears. To make important and healthy new decisions for the new year.

And all you skinny, anorexic, six-pack toting "watchers" and just cheer me on to the finish line!


(But truthfully- I'd rather get ambushed by the Walking Dead and feasted upon for three days- than start another diet...)

Onward! That's the only direction to go now...

Thursday, December 29, 2011


My dog rattles his collar - an orange and green band on his furry little neck that jingles with a flat silver bone
and a rabies tag shaped like Illinois.

I glance at the clock. A red, digital glow beaming with three numbers.
1:11 am.


I roll back the layer of blankets and slide out of bed-
my dog following closely like a four-legged shadow.
We walk together to the back door and I undo the chain lock to let him out.

There's a moon. Fuzzy and filtered in the cloudy winter sky-
but there's just enough glow to see my dog peeing in the flower bed-
A bed of dead geraniums and sleeping hostas
and solar lights that haven't come on in days.

Just a few months ago this spot was thick with green-
tossed with colored petals of petunias-
and flickering with the magic of fireflies...

I step out onto the deck-
the handrail still pierced with crooked staples that once held
thin crepe paper streamers on Halloween night.

I can almost smell the bonfire.

I wrap my arms tightly around myself- ignore my slipper-less feet-
breathe deeply the scent of damp winter grass,
distant rain,
and the neighbor's horses- stabled against the cold.

My dog takes his time.
Does a lengthy ritual of hiking his leg over every possible object.
I beg him to hurry- Come on-Let's go in- It's freezing out here.

He's ready to come in.
I lock the door behind us.
We walk back to the dark bedroom like a odd pair of zombies.
The clock informs me it's 1:18.

I hog the blankets-
pull them tightly around my neck and trap them under my feet.
I exaggerate a teeth-chattering chill-
then roll toward my husband to steal his warmth.

He is still asleep,
but he unconsciously puts his arm around me-
then continues snoring with a happy hum of dreams.

I love you, I say, kissing his forehead.
But he doesn't hear me.

It's 1:25 am.

And I just made a memory.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Map of Life

I look back with fondness on days when life was all planned out. We didn't need a goal, or a map, or a list of resolutions.

Because we were young.

And our parents led the way through whatever obstacles or darkness or unknown territory awaited us.

After all, they had the Map of Life.


I remember being in the back seat of my Dad's red and white Pontiac- the vinyl seats smooth and cold- the windows all rolled down- the sun setting over a summer day...
I was riding in the floorboard- my little-girl body folded into one half... my sister Linda in the other- separated by the "hump"-(where the drive shaft was in cars back then)... our blond heads touching as though we were Siamese twins conjoined at the brain.

The feel of nighttime whistled in the open of crickets -and tires on asphalt- and dogs barking behind picket fences. There was the perfume of corn fields and wild honeysuckle... that soon blended with big-city smells and Dad's Camel cigarettes.

And from my vantage point, the stars would go spinning by like a thousand tiny snowflakes on a black flannel sea.

There was something warm and safe about being there...of Dad and Mom piling us all into the car for a trip to Grandma's...over an hour away- across blankets of soybeans and dairy farms- until we finally crossed the old iron bridge that spanned the Mississippi.

We knew exactly where we were going- and how we were going to get there.

We never questioned Dad's driving ability, never feared losing our way- and never hurried the ride.

It was all taken care of- all we had to do was relax and enjoy the journey.


But then I grew up.
I realized that there is no Map of Life.

At least not one you can pull out and unfold and see just where you're going.

The Map of Life is one you have to make yourself...draw in all those little roads that take you through memories and milestones...plot those places you dream of going someday...avoid the pitfalls and dead ends the best that you can.

And no matter how precise- how well-meaning our map is- there will always be the obstacles we didn't see, lessons we failed to learn, paths we didn't take and places we never knew.

Suddenly, time catches up- and the map grows smaller.
It gets wrinkled and worn...and the folds grow soft with the repeated caress of aging hands.

Places fade, faces dim, journeys are forgotten in a fog of years.

But who says we can't draw a new map? Crisp and clean and brilliant with new roads?

I am ready.

I want to draw my Map of Life without fear...
I want to take the scenic routes instead of the shortcuts...
I want to draw secret paths that wind around the joy of ordinary days...
I want to smell the cornfields and honeysuckle...
I want to rest when I'm tired, sing when I'm happy, and run! Run till my lungs and legs and logic get the best of me.
I want to soak up life, breathe in spirit, enjoy this priceless journey without time limits.

I want to watch the stars go spinning by like a thousand tiny snowflakes on a black flannel sea...
To know where I'm going and how I'm going to get there...

My journey begins.