Mothering: a two part profession



So I think I finally figured out this mothering thing.  I figured it out when I overheard something my son Teddy (I can still call him Teddy even if he is professionally now “Ted.”) on the phone to a friend.

 You see, there are actually two parts to this mothering thing.  The first one I am really good at—the holding in.  The second part—the letting go, not so much. 

 Now at the beginning, when he was a baby and then a toddler and then a little boy it was completely different.  My job then was to keep him healthy and safe, and happy.  That meant feeding him when he was hungry and holding him when he cried.  It meant getting really really angry when he tried to cross the street without looking. It meant sleeping at the hospital when he was two and had a severe stomach flu.  It meant obsessing over where he would go to school and who would be his friends.  It meant checking his homework. It also meant watching him play baseball and gasping when he got hit by a pitch or he fell down.

 Granted, I did get a little carried away.  But my job was to keep him healthy and safe and happy. So what if I checked the computer several times a day to see what grades were posted by his high school teachers? So what if I “happened” to drive through the Pomona College campus frequently when he was a student there?— So what if  when he didn’t return a text last year my friend and I put out an All Points Bulletin on Facebook?    So what if I complained to anyone who would listen and almost yelled at the coach who didn’t start him at third base for the last home game of his college baseball career?  

 That was my job as a mother.  And I was really good at that.  In fact, a friend and I were so pleased at how good we were we had a name for our jobs.  We were not “soccer moms.”  We were “stalker moms.”

 Unfortunately, that is only part of the job.

 The other part began gradually, so gradually I barely noticed it.  It might have been when long answers to my question “What did you do at school today,” became shorter:  “Stuff.” It might have been when I finally realized that if he and his dad got “intense” about his baseball they were both better off when I didn’t try to jump in the middle and fix it.  Maybe it was when he wrote his college essays without my help and selected his college quite on his own.

 All that time I should have known that my job was changing.  After all, he knew it. I should have known because there was the incredible moment when he told me.   He was about ten, I think. We were driving home from somewhere I can remember exactly where we were—on Towne Avenue just north of Foothill. I was talking about his weekend, how he and his dad had all sorts of great stuff to do together, including a special event at Angels stadium.  Pretending to be light hearted (but really being a little envy hearted) I asked him my big question:  “So you are getting an awful lot of dad time.  What about me?  Don’t I get some mom time?”  He looked at me with a bit of a puzzle on his face.   “But mom,’ he said, “We’re friends.”

 That was the beginning of my ending and the beginning of his beginning.   Because that’s  the part of this mothering thing which seemed almost harder than keeping him healthy and  safe and  happy.  That’s  the part of this mothering thing when I send him into the world instead of protecting him from the world.  It is the part when I ask him for advice, instead of giving him advice. 

 And though it has been going on for a while, I didn’t figure it all out until the other night.  In fact I didn’t realize I actually had been doing the hard part of the job all along.  Because when he was talking on the phone to his friend I heard him say  ‘I’ll call you back later.  I’m at my Mom’s house.”

 So there it is.  All grown up.  A life of his own.  A home of his own. 

 But guess what—he will always have a mom of his own too.  

 For some loves, mother love and God’s love, are simply .everlasting! 









Whenever I move to a new place there are certain things that must happen to feel settled.  I like a library card.  I like to find a good grocery store (or as they say in Southern California “market.”)  And I need to have a primary care physician (or as I used to say in the olden days “family doctor.”)   

When we arrived in Pomona the first two were easy.  I got the card because one of our librarians had a card waiting for me.  I found a grocery store which had occasional free samples which made me very happy.  And the physician we were assigned was a wonderful woman who would take care of all three of us:  me, my husband Paul and even 3 year old Teddy..  Everybody liked her, and Paul had no problem seeing a woman—although he did wonder who would be doing his prostate exam.  One look from me, and he stopped wondering.

But she moved after a few years and went back east to be near family.  Our next doctor we liked too, but he was getting ready to retire and indeed, after a few more years he did retire.

So we ended up being among the first patients of a brand new doctor.

We all liked him immediately.  He was funny, and nice and liked us back.  He was a Clippers fan which was unusual because the Clippers then were so awful that seats were cheap and we Binghams had been able to buy a mini package for 10 games (admittedly in the very very top row).

Over the years that doctor of ours saw us through any number of illnesses and accidents.  And although we usually had a long sit in the waiting room (even with an appointment) it didn’t matter.  He spent so much time with us that we understood that he did the same for everyone and so he was, often, running late.

When our baseball playing son Teddy came home from practice with a huge bump from on his finger his senior year in high school, our doctor saw us not just that day but literally that hour.  He sent us immediately to a specialist.  He kept his office open late so he could connect us with the residents who could get Teddy admitted that night.  MRSA infections are very serious and if not taken care of immediately his infection could have ended our shortstop’s playing career.  Then, seeing the panic in our faces,  dear doctor  gave us his cell phone number with permission to call any time day or night.

And so it continued until things got really tough.

I still can’t find the words to express how wonderful our doctor was when Paul was diagnosed with leukemia.   The two had developed an incredible bond and the doctor would visit outside of his professional time.  They would would talk and laugh and pray. Paul was hospitalized for over 60 days so they saw a lot of each other.

When I stopped by one night on my way to emcee a charity auction I could tell that there had been some calming taking place.  Paul was not thrilled that I was choosing going to the auction instead of spending the evening with him.  But after the doctor led us in prayer all was well.  As I was leaving he  turned to me and said “I look forward to the day when you and Paul and I are having a wonderful conversation in heaven in the presence of our Lord.”  I smiled gratefully and went on.

But an hour later as I sat down at my table for dinner I started to laugh.  I laughed and I laughed and I laughed.  My table mates, knowing how ill Paul was, weren’t sure what could possibly make me laugh.  I looked at them and said, “My doctor just said he was looking forward to seeing me in heaven. Should I be worried?”.

His care and attention continued for all three of us. When Paul was in remission we made plans to visit his church til my schedule changed and made it impossible.  The devotional book he recommended for Paul is still on my bedside table.  He was the only one I dared share tears with.   Although I had avoided doctor visits and weigh-ins for years I finally made an appointment just because I knew he was someone watching out for me.

I haven’t missed a yearly physical since.  And the appointments are long and filled with laughter and memory and very good and forthright medical advice.  We don’t always agree on what I should be doing or not doing, but this year I am giving his recommendation a try.  I'll take that medicine for a few months and see what it does and then we'll talk. I actually look forward to my doctor visits now, so much so that he and I even appeared in a skit together at our hospital. I have to say, we were Oscar quality performers.

Today, though, may have been the greatest day of all.  I went in for a routine inoculation and we talked about the state of the world.  We talked about our churches and the joys and struggles of being faithful in these days. I admitted I still loved being a minister as tough as it often is.  Then I shared some things I was doing and saying and writing.  He looked me straight in the eye and in that look he saw my dream and captured my dream told me to go for my dream. 

And I will. 

So thank you my dear dear doctor.  I won’t write your name.  I want to protect your privacy, of course.  But I also hope that everyone can have  the same kind of care that I have.

Because, isn’t it  just what the doctor ordered? 

No, I think more likely

It is just what God ordered.

Praise be to God!






As young as you feel (Not as old as you look)

The signs of getting old are pretty hard to ignore.  Or so it seems to be.  And they extend far beyond graying hair and wrinkled faces, a slower shuffle across the floor and constantly having to choose between “Huh?” once more time or smiling politely having absolutely no idea what was being said or what I might have agreed to.

There are some signs of aging I just didn’t expect.  I rub against something and suddenly there is a cut that is bleeding—adding a whole new meaning to “thin skinned.”  My lab reports show I need a little more Vitamins D and B12 and I assume it is because I am not eating right or not getting enough sun. Except when I look it up on the internet both deficiencies are common in “the aging population.”  Forgetfulness is almost a cliché  and I can’t quite convince myself that it is because I have an overcrowded brain rather than because my aged synapses aren’t synapsing like they once did.

Sadly enough I am not the only one who notices that the years are catching up to me.  I talked on the phone to a college friend who works for a major, national recruiting firm for educational and non- profit organizations. We were talking about what we were doing and when we would stop doing what we were doing.  I had a sudden inspiration and asked her Wouldn’t it be fun, once we retire, to start a whole new career?  I figured, after all, she would have the pulse on some great possibilities.  But there was a moment of silence, then what sounded like a snort, and then the kind of uncontrollable giggling I hadn’t heard out of her since we were, well, in college. ‘”Beth,” she said.  “I tell search committees all the time that age doesn’t matter.  But they just look at me like I have lost my mind. Guess what. Age matters.” 

I am sure there is some wisdom in that, the assumption being that once we reach our “golden years” (Who decided they were ‘golden?’) we had pretty much spent ourselves.  Even reminding the committees that both presidential candidates were eligible for Medicare didn’t help, she explained.

But the worst, I think, is when people are impressed with  what we can still manage, as old as we appear to be. I had just finished an 8 mile hike which ended at the parking lot for the Claremont Wilderness Trail.  I was feeling pretty darned good, until, that is, a nice woman stopped to talk to me.  I would guess she was in her early 40s.  She was about to do the 5 mile loop, or so she told her friend.  But she looked at me with such kind eyes and such a sweet voice (the kind reserved for toddlers and great grandmothers) and asked me encouragingly,  “Did you go all the way to the top??” I just nodded.  Anything I might have said would have been inappropriate for my age and/or my profession.

So when I turned on "Jeopardy" the other night and saw the categories I was heartened.  “Perks of Aging” was one of them.  I thought about what might be included—Medicare, AARP, senior citizen discounts at the theater, senior centers where there are hot meals and cool people to meet.  

Apparently my definition of aging is strikingly different than the producers of "Jeopardy" think.  All of the answers (which require the right question) were things like:  not having to take the LSAT, SAT or this test whose initials are GRE, or not having to go to the kind of events that happen in places like Coachella.. and on it went.  Obviously for them getting old starts happening as one screeches towards 30 instead of 60 or 70.

So I hadn’t been feeling quite so good about my age, even though I haven't slowed down and I have even found new things to do. I can lift  my paddleboard on the top of  my car and go to the lake and not fall off my paddle board.  I can hike for 8 miles and love the silence and solitude.  I don't worry so much about what other people think as long as I keep thinking about other people.  

But the signs of aging had been pretty hard to ignore.   

Until that day at Cedar Lake camp when I was walking with my fourth grade friend Madyson.   I teach the 2-6th graders for an hour each day and on this day we were following the life of Jesus.  We had begun in the meeting room remembering the story of Jesus' birth.  We had stopped at the lake to imagine John the Baptist baptizing Jesus (I know Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan but the camp is Cedar Lake not Cedar River.  You have to be flexible to teach...)   We walked towards the boats where we were going to find some disciples. As we walked I asked the kids what Jesus would need to do to make sure everybody heard the message he was bringing about God and the kingdom of God and the love of God.

They giggled and more than one said ‘Twitter.”  We all laughed.  I then started to tell Mady that I was so old that I remembered telephones that stayed in once place and had a dial.  I got out the words, “I am so old,” when she stopped me.  Literally stopped me.  

“You aren’t old,” she said.  “You’re Beth.” 

Those words have changed me.  Those words have warmed me and empowered me and comforted me and compelled me to keep being…Beth. Those words have invited me to discover who Beth is today and who Beth will be in the days to come.  Those words echo the words of the one we were following that day, the One we must follow every day.  

For it was Jesus himself who said:  ”You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

And guess what—our lights aren’t out yet. 


Thanks be to God (and to Madyson!)


Amazing Day



It started out as a very good day:  Thursday, day off.  Plumber coming to fix the tub so I could take hot baths again.  Up early enough to have a decent hike through Johnson pasture and see the sun rise through pink streaked skies.  Home in time to have a banana with my dog snuggled beside me,  my cup of coffee steaming in my hand.  Ready to read my  newspapers.     And that is when a very good day took a turn.  For the worse.

I read something that hit me where it hurt.  And it wasn’t anything about health care or taxes or immigration or even Russia.  It wasn’t that my Angels still had some questions about the opening day lineup.  There wasn’t a rehash of the losses my Badgers and Bruins had in the NCAA tournament.   And I was even okay not knowing the answer to the Jeopardy clue that the NY Times publishes every day.

Nope.  It was , of all places, in the NY Times style section.  Now I always read that with some trepidation.    After all,  most of what I see is too expensive or too young --but a girl can dream.  Today was no different.  The “double duty attire” was too revealing and too gold.    I  chuckled at featured item:  Satchels that could be attached to the front of a bicycle with a price tag of merely $2050.  Those were just amusing.  It was when I turned to page D7 that my heart nearly stopped.

You see, I have just gotten new glasses, the first in about three years.  I was partly motivated by the world looking fuzzier and my eyes getter tireder…but more honestly it was that the glasses I have been wearing don’t look like the glasses everyone else has been wearing.

I had the exam and started looking for frames.  And it didn’t take long to find a pair I liked, really liked.  In fact I liked them so much I didn’t care whether anyone else liked them or not.  I liked them so much that I decided to get a similar pair of prescription sunglasses.  After all, if I wanted to be cool and my new glasses were cool it was time to stop embarrassing my son by wearing cheap sunglasses over my real glasses. 

The glasses fit big on my face.  They are tortoiseshell acetate.  They bear a designer name.  

But that headline.  In the newspaper this morning:

Aviators Return:  An Old-School Frame is New Again

It only got worse as I began reading:

Good riddance to geek chic.

Yes, we could be witnessing the demise of hipster eyewear.  You know the kind.  They’re black, brown or sometimes tortoise shell.  They’re chunky, oversize and made of acetate.  They’re part of an L train look that in the last five years has been worn by everyone from Hollywood’s A-list to the local CVS pharmacist.

But now, you need to move on….  (New York Times, March 30, 2017 p.D7)

OMG!!!!  Here I am, once again, just a few years behind.  Here I am, as always, just a few years behind.   I shouldn’t be surprised.  It was only when it was named the Oxford new word of the year that I heard  “selfie” and had to Google it to find out what it meant.  I still don’t know how to pronounce quinoa and only recently tried kale. 

But nothing can be done about it now.  And the amazing thing is, despite it all, I still like my new glasses.  I like that I can see.  I like them dark against my face.  I like that they hide the eyebrows I don’t have and the blemishes I do have. 

Is there a lesson in all of this?  Perhaps…From the book of Proverbs:  Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.  From the Gospel of Matthew:. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, or about what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?

Or maybe the lesson is that that one article about one thing can’t spoil a beautiful sunrise, a helpful and friendly plumber,a dog who snuggles and coffee that steams.

In the words of e.e. cummings :  ‘Thank you Lord for this most amazing day…”





For the Fourth 

I love the fourth of July.  I love the stars and the stripes and the fireworks.  I love singing “America the Beautiful.”  I love the images of the Statue of Liberty and the  words of Emma Lazarus that she speaks

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door

I love the fourth of July and I have since I was a little kid.  Back then we had sparklers we would flail around and snakes that would burn in funny black coils.  And there were fireworks, always fireworks, whether we were in tiny Eagle River where Grandpa and Grandma lived where the display seemed barely to reach the sky, or at home on the highest hill where we could watch the sky burst into color from the east side and the west side and all around the town.

There were parades too, and we would crepe paper our bikes in red white and blue and clothespin baseball cards to the spokes to make as much noise as a small two wheeler could.   Hot dogs and hamburgers and sno cones and ice cream…..the Fourth of July was a great day and it always ended with a sense of joy that we lived in a country as wonderful as this one.

As I grew older my appreciation deepened.  The holiday became more than fireworks and fun-filled festivals.  The more I learned about the world the more amazing the story of our own country became.    Visiting the east coast I found the bridge in Concord where the shot heard round the world was fired and it is still one of my favorite places anywhere.  I have walked the freedom trail numerous times and every time I am awed by what men and women sacrificed to insure that our rights were preserved and that we would be a government by the people and for the people.  And even though I can’t stand the Red Sox I love all of the history that Boston cradles.

From the protests of the 60’s to the patriotism after 9/ll we are united in our conviction that freedom and democracy are to be always cherished and celebrated.  So I always look forward to the 4th of July.  In recent years that has meant wandering around Memorial Park in Claremont.  I visit booths of every political and social perspective.  I buy snacks supporting young people and old people and organizations determined to make a difference.  I listen to speakers who make me clap and make me groan and remind me that without such divergent perspectives our country would never deepen or grow or be able to face the future and all its uncertainties.

But this year a little shadow has fallen upon my excitement.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it bothers me a lot.

I saw it on television.  Usually I mute the commercials but for some reason I didn’t mute this one.  I should have.  Really.  This one was  for Carl’s Jr.’s.  The ad begins with the question…”what can be more American than a cheeseburger?" And for a hopeful moment I imagined that they were going to take their commercial time to honor our nation.


Instead the ad answers the question “what can be more American than a cheeseburger?”  And we see a woman barely clad in a star striped bikini as we are told “This cheeseburger loaded with a hot dog and potato chips, in the hands of all American model Samantha Hoots “ in a hot tub, in a pick up truck driven by an American bull rider, on an aircraft carrier, under the gaze of Lady Liberty as she admires the most American thick burger with a split hot dog and kettle cooked potato chips on a fresh baked bun.”

And as I look at the ad I see her—not the all American model, but rather the model for all Americans, our lady of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty.     There she is, her torch held high welcoming so many souls into our country.  There she is, and I also realize that my beloved “America the Beautiful” is playing in the background.

Trust me, even Carl’s Jr. cannot tarnish our Lady of the Harbor.  Even Carl’s Jr. cannot mute the meaning of “American the Beautiful.”

But shame on them for trying.

My only prayer is that The Lady of Liberty’s  torch will forever light the words of the hymn:

“America, America, God shed his grace on thee.  And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”

And I think that this year, in my picnic at the park,  I’ll go with a chicken burger. 

I’m just saying…..