Monday, November 30, 2009

Still alive. Still well. Still crazy busy. I miss writing. I miss reading about what you're up to. I'll be back soon with silly stories to tell.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Alive and well with stories to tell, but no time to tell them.

Not looking good on the other driver's insurance but no final word yet. The good news is that the most it could cost me is $500, which is not exactly good but not terrible, either. I continue to worry about the other driver. (sigh)

More soon.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let's start with the important stuff: I'm okay and so is the other guy. 

Paula came a cropper yesterday. (Isn't that a great phrase? I remember it from Black Fury, one of my favorite childhood books.) 

I was making a left-hand turn in a construction zone and suddenly realized I'd gotten too close to a traffic cone. I slowed down and the guy behind me didn't. The front end of his van ended up halfway through Paula's back end. She had to be towed away. I'm not at all sure I'll get her back--she may go to the Great Sunrise in the Sky (where all convertibles go if they've been good). 

That doesn't matter nearly as much as where the other driver will go, and I'm afraid that's not going to be a pretty story.

His first words to me were, "Please don't call the police. Please, I beg you. Don't call the police." He spoke rapid Spanish into his phone, waited, then said, "I will pay for your car. I will pay everything for your car. I will pay you more than it costs. Please don't call the police."

Actually, I couldn't call anyone because I'd left my phone at home. A woman passing by stopped and let me use her phone to call my sister and the friend I was supposed to be having lunch with. Deb and Kathy and Liz rode in like the cavalry. Honestly, I was a bit shell shocked and my head hurt--I got whipped around a little bit from the impact. It was good to have a posse.

A woman arrived to translate for the other driver.  Liz called the police and my insurance company and a tow truck. I explained to the woman that I had to call the police--it's the law.  My insurance might not cover the damage if I didn't. 

Turns out the car does not belong to the driver. It's not clear whether he has insurance. He produced several different copies of several different policies, none of which appeared to apply to the car he was driving. I'll be very surprised if I don't end up needing my uninsured motorist coverage.

Even so, I'm more worried about this man than about Paula or how the insurance works out. This could be an expensive problem for me, but it could be life-changing for him. I hope I'm wrong, but there's some reason he was so scared of calling the police, and it can't be good.

In my world, car insurance is a given, keeping my license and tags current is nothing more than a minor inconvenience, and the police exist to help us.  

Not everyone is that lucky.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Mom and Dad and Deb and I went to see The Blind Side last night. I'm glad my folks enjoyed it so much--it could well be the last time they go to a movie theater.

Deb dropped us off at the door. We waded through the crowd waiting to see the new Twilight--I literally had to break a path through the Twilight line to get my folks into the right theatre. By the time we got into the room, Dad was a little dazed. And we still had the stairs.

We'd planned to get there plenty early so it wouldn't matter so much, but we still held up traffic as Dad rested after every three or four stairs. Dad likes to sit on the aisle in case he needs to go out and cough (or pee--he's got prostate troubles along with everything else). That means everyone who came after us has to squeeze past his long legs.

Dad ended up outraged that the theatre has no aisle on the opposite side, that the seats no longer flip up so you can step in and let people pass, that they play the commercials so loud it rattles your molars. By the time the previews started, he was ready to go home. So was I.

(Dad's always been such a patient person. It's painful to see him slowly become crotchety and demanding, an old man who doesn't quite follow what's going on much of the time.)

But the movie redeemed the situation. Like Leigh Anne and Sean Touhy, my sister and her husband became legal guardians for a black young man in high school. (His mother died and he had no other family. Brendan was his closest friend, and one thing led to another.) The situations were similar--the struggles in school, disapproving neighbors and friends, very different frames of reference. (No pot of NFL gold and the end of the rainbow for Deb's family, though.)

Anyway, we were predisposed to like the movie, and we did. When it was over, Dad popped up, relieved to get to go to the restroom. Mom and Deb and I remained seated, watching the photos of the actual Tuohy family at the end. Dad was exasperated that we didn't immediately surge out of the theater with him. I didn't understand why he didn't go by himself, until I realized he wasn't sure he could find the restroom alone. 

You don't see it coming. Your parents aging, I mean. One day Dad was a slightly grayer, more stooped version of himself, and the next, I'm leading him to the restroom. No wonder he's testy.

Friday, November 20, 2009


The Righteous Brothers got it wrong: time does not go slowly. 

Out in the yard yesterday, I ran into the little girl who lives next door with her grandparents. You truly never saw a more beautiful child. While she was petting Cassie and telling me about riding the school bus, I realized that when I first moved here, I watched her Dad carry her around in an infant seat. Now she goes to school. Where did the time go?

I drove my friend D to the eye clinic for cataract surgery yesterday. Later in the day, she had to have her cat companion euthanized, and I stayed with her during that. I clearly remember when this now-20-year-old cat was a tiny kitten, terrorizing D's household. This made me stop and realize that D and I have been friends for 28 or 29 years. How is that possible?

Mom turned 76 yesterday. If I were estimating, I'd probably say her 50th birthday, for which we had a great adventure, happened five or six years ago.  Now I'm beyond my 50th birthday.

I wore the motorcycle boots with a sweater dress yesterday. Today, I'm thinking red-and-black cowboy boots and a black-and-white houndstooth bucket hat. People may think I'm a crazy old lady, but not for long. It all passes in a flash. Might as well make my flash colorful.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

News of the Weird

Want to hear something ridiculous?

If you Google the word "Jerri," the first result is my little blog. 691,000 results, and this is the first?


I swear, I learn the strangest things when I check out my site meter. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Gifts

29 Gifts delivered a delightful gift yesterday. 

Yesterday, Panera Bread collected food for the Salvation Army Food Bank, which is having a very hard time right now. My gift for the day was a bag of food for their collection. As I was delivering it, Katie called. 

"Mom, I just have to tell you about my gift for the day," she trilled. ("Gift for the day"? She's doing gifts?)

In late summer, Katie had a registration crisis. A class she needed in order to graduate was full. She had done everything she could to get into the class, and done it all on time, but still had a problem. As is her way, she planned ahead and weeks before the deadline, started checking in periodically, trying to work it out. A woman in the Administration building took up her cause and, after many, many emails and phone calls, worked out a way for Katie to get into the class. At the time, Katie thanked her on the phone and by email.

Yesterday, Katie found the woman's office and thanked her in person. It's registration time again, so there was a long line. As Katie waited, she worried that the whole thing was dumb and that the woman wouldn't remember her or care, but she stuck it out.

When it was finally her turn, Katie stepped up and explained. "I'm Kathryn B. You helped me get into XXX this semester. Before I graduate in December,  I wanted to meet you and thank you and tell you what a difference you made for me."

The woman burst into tears. She talked about how hard it is to work with students and how rarely they appreciate her efforts. She told Katie how much it meant to have someone say thank you. She said, "This says something about your character. Kathryn B., I predict you have great things in your future. Can I hug you?"

As Katie told me all this, she positively glowed. "Mom, it really made her feel good. Seeing that was So. Much Fun!"

Tears rolled down my face. You want to talk about fun? Hearing my daughter tell that story was fun-on-a-stick, a true gift from the Universe.

Your local food bank might be having a hard time, too. Please check it out and share if you can.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Than Just the Motions

I wore motorcycle boots to Barb's party on Sunday. With black tights, a knee-length black pencil skirt, a long, gray swing-jacket, and the peacock blue scarf. My hairstylist niece punked out my hair for me and I wore big silver hoop earrings. I may have looked a bit eccentric, but I felt like my true self. I am still 55 and still more than a few pounds overweight, but I have started dressing like I feel. 

If not now, when? 

When we get to the last few reps of a difficult exercise, the sprite/woman who teaches my Saturday Lift class yells, "Say you can."

That little phrase has turned me loose. Whether it's one more rep, wearing boots with a short skirt to honor a woman who LOVED boots, or finishing a magazine story about an impossibly arrogant CEO, when I hear myself think, "I can't..." I consciously stop and listen for Linda's voice: "Say you can." 

A few weeks ago Deb commented, "We have earned the right at our age to stop using torture to change ourselves."  I listened to her wisdom and stopped going to the aerobics classes that feel like torture. Instead, I go to classes that challenge me without  leaving me flat on my face on the floor.

I've learned that I can move my legs up and down, or I can push off  the pool floor with intention and power. I can walk around a lake as usual, or I can throw my legs a little beyond my normal range of motion and feel each stride in a new way. I can move the barbell up and down, or I can squeeze my shoulder blades at the top of each dead lift and discover muscles I'd forgotten.

It's got to be about more than going through the motions. Weight lifting, dressing, eating, living, loving.... In everything, the juice—the improvement—the joy—lies in the difference between simply doing it and embracing it.

Some people (my mother, my sister, and maybe even my daughter) would say I'm too old to wear tights and boots. They could be right, but I'll never be younger than I am right now. I have been granted the privilege of growing older, and I'm going to make the most of it.

Because I can.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Such Sweet Sorrow

The party in celebration of Barbara's life was held last night. The restaurant did a beautiful job--the room was just the right size for the crowd, the food was good, the drinks plentiful.

After an hour or so of general mingling, Barb's husband Duane welcomed everyone and invited people to come to the microphone and talk about what she meant to them. For nearly three hours, one person after another talked about the difference Barb made in her life, how Barb helped him get his book published, how Barb kept her from going crazy over a man. 

Barb's brother John read a poem he wrote for her. Her sister Janet told stories that made everyone roar with laughter. I'd heard Barb tell all the stories Janet recounted, and hearing them in a different voice brought me the closest to tears that I was all night.

Generally, though, it was not a night for crying. It was a night for laughing, for remembering our outrageous, glorious, talented, opinionated, beautiful and beloved friend, sister, teacher, wife. It was a night to be inspired by her courage and her grace. 

We gathered to say fare well, but not good bye. None of us will ever forget Barbara Robinette Moss.

Photo: Barb beside a burro in Sante Fe, NM...showing off MY brand-new boots. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Mom and Dad celebrated their 58th anniversary on Friday. 

Several months ago, Dad went with Mom to the Bernina store, the place where she bought her sewing machines and now buys many accessories. While there, she saw a sewing table and fell in love. It was so expensive, she didn't even consider buying it.

The next day, Dad sneaked back to the store and bought the table. Since that time, he's been surreptitiously  cleaning out his shop area to make room for his desk, which is now in our sewing/craft area. Moving it will make space for Mom's new table.  My nephew, Brendan, and I have carted off a lot of stuff for him. 

As part of this effort, Dad finally repaired some of Evan's old riding toys he's had in his shop for four or five years, and we hauled those to my house. He can only go up and down the stairs once a day and can only work a few minutes at a time, so it's been a major project for him, a true labor of love.

On Friday, Brendan and I were slated to pick up the table and deliver it to the house while Mom and Dad were out to dinner. This involved half a dozen phone calls back and forth, mostly to reassure Dad that we remembered, would be careful, knew what time they would be gone, and would leave the table somewhere she could not fail to find it.

When they got home from dinner, it took Mom several minutes to notice the table. Dad hovered near it and talked to her until she looked straight at him, and thus, at it. I don't know how she could not have known something was up. He was all but quivering with excitement all day. 

Fifty-eight years. For 58 years, they have loved and irritated, delighted and disappointed, surprised and been surprised by one another. They drive each other crazy and they can't live without one another.

Saturday morning, Dad got ready to leave for the deer woods, an annual weekend with his brother and some long-time friends. He puttered and pottered, making no real progress toward departure. Finally, Mom walked up and put her hands on each side of Dad's face. 

"What's wrong, Honey?" she asked and leaned back to look into his eyes.

"I don't want to go. I don't want to be so far away from you," he answered as he bent down to embrace her. She wrapped both arms around his waist.

"Don't worry," she said. "I'll be right here when you get back. I haven't left you yet. It's probably too late now."

After one last hug, Mom turned away, refusing to watch him leave. Dad shuffled out the door, gasping for air.  Each wiped away tears they thought the other did not see.

For just a moment, the magic and the tragedy of such deep love grappled in the sunny room, Jacob and the angel wrestling among the dust motes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gift Update

So...the 29 Gifts. It's fun and interesting and very revealing, but not in a way I could have predicted.

In the first week, every day I gave away several things. Not as part of the plan, simply because giving opportunities arose. Each time I realized how many things I'd given away in one day, I thought, "Gee. I wish XXX happened on a different day. It could have been my gift for a day."

After a week of this, I realized how frequently I give things away. I say this not to pat myself on the back but out of a new realization that I've never stopped trying to be good enough, never outgrown trying to earn love with gifts.

By the end of the first week, I changed my tactics with 29 Gifts. Now, every day I give a gift to someone else. I also give one to myself.

Giving to myself is harder. 

For one thing, the gifts aren't tangible. Instead, I give myself the gift of working out even when time is pressed by the needs of others. I give myself the gift of choosing iced tea when Coca Cola is singing its sweet siren song. I give myself the gift of cooking healthy food instead of grabbing something quick.

I love the idea of giving a gift every day. After nearly two weeks of the plan, I especially love the idea of giving with intention. Intention lets me distinguish between giving from my heart and giving in an effort to earn love or acceptance or friendship. 

Recognizing that difference is one of the biggest gifts I've ever gotten.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Katie did well on Monday. We won't know whether the procedure resolved the issue until they repeat the biopsy, three months from now, but we're hopeful.

As we walked into the clinic, Katie asked, "You're coming in with me, right?" 

"Only if you want me to," I answered.

"I want you to come in, but you can't be there when they take me in for the actual thing."

Katie had not asked about the procedure or the prognosis. On Sunday, her answer to every one of her prospective mother-in-law's questions about it was, "I don't really know." She was scared and trying to put off facing the problem as long as possible.

When the doctor came into the room, Katie said, "My mom has some questions."

And that, my friends, was why I drove 1000 miles to be there. My darling daughter needed a spokesperson, an advocate. Despite her enormous courage and maturity, she needed to hand off the research and responsibility to me. Without asking, she trusted that I had read what needed to be read and knew what needed to be asked. She trusted me.

As Katie said to the nurse who helped prep her for the procedure, "Sometimes, you just need your mom."

Do I even need to mention how deeply, truly happy those words made me?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Into the Fire

Katie's future in-laws hosted an engagement party for Katie and Craig on Sunday afternoon. Katie's father and his family were there, of course. The last guests to arrive, they entered as a group, avoiding the area where I was standing. Within five minutes or so, Bill had no choice but to acknowledge my presence. 

His disdainful nod and curt, "Jerri," set me off. I simply would not allow the behavior of her parents to make Katie or other guests uncomfortable. I took a deep breath, watched for my opportunity, and walked straight into the fire.

Bill's oldest stepson was standing on the edge of the deck with his new wife. I sailed up with a big smile on my face and offered my congratulations. Then I introduced myself to the wife and asked how they liked being newlyweds. We chatted for five or six minutes, and then I found a polite transition to another conversation.

Later I saw an opening and admired the youngest stepdaughter's new baby. I even asked if I could hold her. After a fraction of a second of awkwardness, I was holding the baby, cooing and cuddling. 

I talked to the youngest stepson and asked about his college baseball career. 

By the end of the evening, only the parents remained and everyone was sitting around the same patio table chatting. We managed quite well. In telling a story, Bill's wife mentioned something about our old lake house, something she knows only because she was there, having an affair with my husband, and I managed not to choke or laugh. At times, I felt like I was sitting in the rafters, watching a shadow version of myself smile and chat with people who have been positively vile to me for more than a decade. 

It was not easy, but it could be worse. I could be one of them.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Love Letter to Minneapolis

I love you, Minneapolis. You are beautiful, from your shining lakes to your clean, safe streets and your river walks. You have WildeRoast Cafe and the Bibelot and Muffaleta. And can we talk about your grocery stores? Byerly's and Lunds and Kawolski's, with their produce displayed like art and all the organic choices I could possibly want. 

You open yourself to me. I understand the naming conventions of your streets and know where your highways run. Sure, some of your highways are under construction, but no place is perfect. And you mark your detours well.

I try not to pine for you. To everything there is a season, and our seasons together included both joy and pain. My new home also has beauty, it also has wonderful people and places. And are special. You are home to my daughter and some of my dearest friends, and I will always love you.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Home Again

Accompanied by Jennifer Weiner's Certain Girls on my iPod, I drove to Minneapolis yesterday. The 7-hour drive was a breeze and the book ended as I drove onto Katie's street. Excellent beginning to the trip.

Today Katie and I are going to do Day O'Beauty, a favorite from her teenage years. We'll have manicures and pedicures and lunch at a favorite restaurant. I'll probably get my eyebrows waxed. Katie, who has almost no misplaced hair anywhere, will not. (If I didn't love her so much, I'd hate her for that.) We'll go to Sephora. We will shop. And talk. And laugh.

Saturday, we're visiting a possible venue for the wedding reception. Sunday, Craig's family is throwing them an engagement party. Monday, Katie's having what we hope will be a minor gynecological procedure. I will stay as long as she needs me after.

However you pray, I'd appreciate it if you'd bring Katie to God's attention over the next few days. Please hold her in the Light of radiant love and claim for her God's presence and protection.

I've been using these words, sent to me by the fabulous Michelle O'Neil:

The light of God surrounds Katie
The love of God enfolds Katie
The power of God protects Katie
and the presence of God watches over Katie.
Wherever she is, God is, and all is well.

And also with you.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

29 Gifts

Cami Walker got me into this. She came on the Today show with her glowing smile and her great big eyes. She talked about her book 29 Gifts and how giving changed her life.

My 29 days started last Sunday, but I haven't wanted to mention it here--it seems self serving to talk about your giving. But sharing the idea helps it grow, and so here you have it.

Cami Walker has MS and she was struggling. A healer suggested she give a gift a day for 29 days. She ignored the advice for a while but eventually decided to give it a whirl. It changed her life. Among many other things, she has written a best selling book and inspired a movement. She inspired me.

The gift can be practically anything--Cami's gift one day was a Kleenex. The trick is, the gift must be from the heart and it must be given with intention.

Years ago, Sarah Ban Breathnach and Simple Abundance saved my sanity. Sarah introduced me to the Gratitude Journal during a time when I desperately needed to be looking for the light rather than wallowing in the darkness.

Then, I spent each day watching for things I could write in my journal that night. Some days I had to look pretty hard, but it kept my focus on what was good in my life. Every day. Five things. Gratitude.

29 Gifts leads me through each day looking for opportunities to give something real. Not always monetarily valuable, but real. From my heart. I save up ideas from one day to the next. I look around for the need. My focus turns to what I have to give.

Turns out that the greatest gift is attention. Oh, the vehicle may be soup and rolls, but the real gift was recognizing my friends' grief at the death of their dog. Forgiving a small debt surely relieved the recipient, but the real gift was saying, "I see how hard you're trying." Five pounds of meatballs is more than several dinners--it's a message that I know your favorites and I'm willing to invest the time to make something you love.

Try it. Check out Cami's book and her story. Give what you've got and you will have more. I promise.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Underwear and After All

One of the local schools recently recognized how many children are hungry at school and sent out a note telling families about our free Monday night meals. We expected an onslaught this week, so we really kicked it into high gear. Our goal was to make 900 plates worth of food.

Every guest at our dinner is offered clean clothes. Volunteers collect requests, gather the needed clothing, and put it in a bag for the guest to take home. This week some generous soul had donated hundreds of pairs of women's cotton underwear, so before we got started with the meatloaf and mashed potatoes, we rolled panties into neat bundles, taped the bundles and wrote the sizes on the tape. We were a panty-rolling machine, I tell you.

Fingers flying, I thought about a life where you have to send your children to school hungry, a life where clean panties are a luxury. I've been needing a little perspective. Those panties provided it.

When I got home, my inbox was overflowing. Among the dozens of problems and requests was a note from an editor on my team, thanking me for my help. My job often feels like trying to dig through the center of the earth using a teaspoon. One note of appreciation, and I feel recharged and ready to go.

A couple from our bike riding group has to put down one of their dogs today. I'm off now to make some soup and rolls to leave at their front door when they get home. It's not much, but it's what I can do.

Small things make a big difference: a good meal and clean panties; a note of thanks; a bit of comfort in a sad time.

I've been trying to transform my body and my self over night. Maybe that's not necessary after all. Maybe the effort is the answer.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Falling on My Face

Fell on my face a lot this weekend.

Friday night it was metaphorical; Saturday morning it was literal.

The dance was capital-S Strange, a mix of incredibly fit people my age and much younger people. The only other woman there without a date is a size-2 Spin instructor who looked great in her midriff-baring genie costume and long blonde wig despite being over 50. Every single guy in the room spent the evening trying to get next to her. Honestly, watching the spectacle helped me recognize the challenges a woman like that faces.

On Saturday morning, I set up for what I thought was Lift class, including two risers beneath my step and my usual set of weights. The class turned out to be something called Strength and Endurance Training that could be used as a form of torture. About half way through the hour, the sweat dripping in my eyes blinded me for a moment. I misjudged the step, twisted my ankle, and fell. Total face plant in front of God and 43 aerobics bunnies. The instructor came running to make sure I hadn't broken anything. I got up and finished the class.

Meh. I never wanted to go back to that class anyway.

Falling on My