Monday, June 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mama

Happy Birthday, Mama!
You were here just a moment ago, gone far too soon, but the life you lived, despite the heartache, the hardship and the illness was a life of wonder.

Living with that loss now for 27 years, I know that grief is a process that does not end. Always the emptiness is there, the lack. Always, the one I’d want to share this moment with is missing. Knowing that your life was cut far too short is the driving force behind who I am and how I live. Nearly all that I am is because of you, the life you lived so creatively or losing you so young.

I know that we tend to memorialize those who have died. I recognize in myself that there is no desire to dredge up the negative: I could write of the depression you suffered without a diagnosis, the pain that defined your days or the way your stubborn nature resulted in your death. But none of that is useful. Instead I write of all the ways you embraced life and inspire me to do the same.

Those who knew you well would describe you as a spontaneous spirit, someone whose stubborn, self reliance bordered on rebellion at times. Your spontaneity resulted in spur of the moment weekend road trips as often as you could afford gas in the tank. To this day, I can't see a bag of old-fashioned lemon drop hard candy without thinking of those road trips and remembering that bright orange 1979 Mazda 626 you drove so fast and with such flair.

You didn't teach me how to cook, but I became a baker because of you. If you were known for one thing, it would have been your cinnamon rolls. And when I see my children carrying on that love of baking, I know it is you living on in them.

You loved to take pictures. I don't know if you would have called yourself a photographer. Neither do I, but every picture I ever took with your old Pentax I inherited or any newer camera I have owned, channels your creativity.


They said you had a green thumb. Why did I not inherit that trait from you, Mom? I keep trying. 

And what about your musical talent? You had a voice that underwent an amazing transformation: changing as a result of your illness from soprano to tenor. You adapted and you shared your gift so generously, singing in church, in community groups and in quartets. And the piano. You were amazing on the piano. I don't have the gift of music: but I have a storehouse of memories that can be laid open at the sound of a piano chord or an old church hymn. 

Here's another thing we share: coffee. It's silly, I know, to make much of the small details. You loved coffee. Of course you did, you were a smart woman. I hold on to that minor piece of the puzzle because I have so few to complete the picture of you. But, I have this. This memory of you bringing me a cup of coffee. It was pale with cream, just how you liked it.  Though my preference is black, today I had a cup with cream in your memory.

I have so many memories of you outdoors. I don't think it is something we spoke of: you just gravitated towards nature. You gave that gift to me. You'll be proud to know that is has been passed on to your grandkids.

You were something of a dare-devil, afraid of almost nothing and though you died before people spoke much of things like bucket-lists, I'm pretty sure yours included driving a race car. 

Every dive, every flight, every climb I make is inspired by you, Mom. For if you didn't teach me this in living, you most certainly did in dying: life is short, there is no guarantee of tomorrow. Live deep. 

For all you have given me, you are remembered in love or your birthday. Cheers, Mama!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Get thin, Get rich, Get likes.

Happy New Year. 2017.
Everywhere you go this month, online, in stores, on radio and TV, the ads will be there, preying on your vulnerability. I don’t know why we choose the beginning of a new year to attempt to overhaul our lives. Except, maybe the passing of a calendar year, with dreams yet to be fulfilled, reminds us of how quickly time passes, how little time we have left to “finally make it”, “get thin”, “get rich”, get Instafamous.

I love New Year’s Resolutions. I am a firm believer in them. I make them every year and often in the middle of the year too. I don’t just make one. I am your typical American (50% will make resolutions) who over-resolves, making not just one resolution, but a whole dang list. I resolve big and little things: Love better, Be on Time, Run a marathon, Stay in touch with friends. I do it the Right Way too. I get specific. I make my goals measureable. I plan out baby-steps to move me toward achieving them. So, I am not here to tell you that you shouldn’t make resolutions. By all means, make them, my dear. Resolve right now to achieve it all in 2017. But, please, don’t spend your money with charlatans.
By all means, make resolutions my dear.
Weight loss is invariably one of the top five New Year’s Resolutions. Is it on your list this year? If so, you will likely be hearing all the solutions available to you right now and feeling a bit overwhelmed, a bit, adrift perhaps, in the sea of weight loss claims. The weight loss industry is one of the fastest growing and as part of the overall wellness industry is expected to continue to trend upward in 2017. “Wellness” products: foods, beverages, vitamins, supplements and gimmicky weight loss gadgets available to the average consumer today can be found online, in grocery and health food stores, through gyms and even from your neighbor, as direct marketing continues to grow. It’s not surprising to me as a healthcare professional to hear my patients repeat ridiculous health related claims that are used to sell products. They’ll often ask my opinion about a particular product. And I try to give them good advice.

Apple Cider Vinegar is one of my all-time favorites. “Why?” I always ask. Why would you drink it straight when it makes such a lovely salad dressing? I promise you that drinking straight vinegar will not help you lose the fifty pounds you need to lose. Changing your diet to one of real, whole foods and moving your body on a regular basis: those things will take off the weight. But it is depressingly slow and we want insta-results.

Your neighbor, your colleague, your niece, even your friend from high school: they aren’t necessarily out to take your money with their direct marketing weight loss products. I am sure that many of them truly believe in the products they want to sell you. But be wary. Don’t spend any money you aren’t willing to gamble. And please, if your weight has become a medical issue then don’t play around with it. Get medical help.