The laws of mother

At first the commercial was just there.  I heard it,  sort of watched it, but I didn’t pay too much attention.  I noticed that though it was for a local car dealer, the ad looked professional.  It was obvious that it was supposed to be funny, although without a laugh track it was hard to know how it played for the general public.  The husband and wife out to buy a  car looked smug, knowing that they had solved two problems in one:  one more car, and one less mother- in- law.

Because the ad was for an event the dealer called the “Trade in your mother in law” sale.   They claimed they would take in anything as a trade in, even your mother- in- law.  Very funny.  The only unanswered question was, I guess, whose mother it was the couple was going to get trade in.

Eventually though, having seen the commercial several times, I began to get a little nervous, a little annoyed.  After all, I am a mother in law—or a step mother in law at least.  And I have always thought my relationship with my daughter- in -law Darlene was terrific. I love her.  She is smart, and kind, thoughtful and makes Jason very happy.  I worried briefly that I might be invited for a ride some afternoon but then relaxed.  Both Jason and Darlene have new cars.

Just as I was noticing my annoyance at the trade in your mother- in- law sale another commercial struck me.  This one advertises some kind of in vehicle communication system.   As the husband approaches home his wife talks to him from inside and announces that her mother is visiting.    That’s all it takes.  He turns around before pulling into the drive way as his wife is asking him where he thinks he’s going. 

Now I have been around long enough to know all about mother -in- law jokes.  I have been around long enough to know that there is an assumption that mother- in- laws are not anything anyone wants to have around much. 

But what I realized, as I watched those ads, is that the jokes really aren’t that funny.  In fact, they are down right mean.  Because, you see, if someone is a mother- in- law, it means that they are also a mother.  That woman who gets all the bad press has raised a child and loved a child and protected a child.  Whatever unfolds when her child marries the love of their  life, nothing changes how much that mother keeps that child in the center of her life.   

After all, as Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians  “Love never ends.”   Or, as the Lord said in Isaiah “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”

The laws of mother are bigger than the jokes about mother- in- laws!



All's fair

I was at the gym yesterday morning, on the elliptical, as I am most mornings.  And because there were no reruns of crime shows to amuse me while I worked away I watched the local news as I do most Saturdays.  I once again  marveled that those poor newscasters have to be up and alert and charming and perky so early on a weekend morning.

And once we had gotten through the mayor of San Diego and a car chase or two they were about to begin to talk about the March on Washington in 1963.  In the top right hand corner of the screen they had a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  They had put a subtitle below the photo, as they usually do.  But I had to look twice, thought maybe sweat was clouding my vision.  Instead of something like “Dr. King,” or “50th anniversary of March” it said “How to find the best fares.”  How to find the best fares?  I chuckled and realized that getting up early on a weekend morning was a bit much for someone in the editing or producing department.

And then I thought that maybe that wasn’t such a big mistake after all. Maybe there should still be seeking the best fares on the long road to freedom, and equality.  Maybe we should still be seeking  jobs and  opportunity for all of our brothers and sisters here, and in our nation and even around the world. 

So I got to remembering and thinking about that August  day  in 1963 and how powerful it was even for a young teenager like me.  I understood back then  that something monumental was happening, something that I hoped would  change our nation and maybe, I optimistically thought, even the world.

Although my parents were very conservative, they  saw the civil rights movement not as a political problem but a moral imperatives.    I knew from my earliest days that everybody was equal , in God’s eyes, and in ours.  In fact when I was in 4th grade at the end of a long summer my bored best friend Tudy and I had a “speech supper.”  We cooked hot dogs, and made our parents sit in the basement while we gave speeches.  Tudy talked about parents not understanding children (some things never change), and mine began “Do you think segregation is right?  Well it isn’t.”   

It wasn’t and it isn’t . I still get chills, my eyes still water when I realize that the individual decisions of 250,000 persons to come together as one people did indeed change our nation and  our history.  It took the voice of a great man named Martin Luther King Jr., the feet of a quarter of a million people, and the heart of a nation to open our eyes so that we wouldn’t see color any more.  

Then I realized that the mistake on the television screen wasn’t in content.  It was a simply a spelling error.  Instead of “Finding the best FARES it should have said, finding the best FAIRS.”  

There is still much work to be done.  Let us be about doing it, for "what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)



Time Sensitive

I was sitting in my office at home, reading a book about grieving, both for me and for my work with others.  It is a very good book, offering some helpful and new insights in the grieving process and how individuals respond to loss.  (How We Grieve: Relearning the World  by Thomas Attig). 

So I was feeling, well, what I call squishy.  I was, of course, thinking about my husband’s death 18 months ago, and the people in the congregation who have passed away, and how each of us negotiates this unknown and difficult territory differently.    I thought about my son and step sons, and what they had experienced with their dad’s death,

Then,  inevitably, I thought about my own death.  I didn’t get too deep or too dark.  I was wondering when and how and if I would be brave and accepting or if I would heed Dylan Thomas’ words “Do not go gentle into that good night.”  While it meant that we didn’t do a lot of talking about dying, Paul’s decision to fight to the end, to try everything imaginable to try to survive was a courageous model I cherish.  Since we decided when we met that we were the only two people in the world who would never die I may follow his example.  

And while I have no doubt that God will care for me after death as God has cared for me in my life, I am in no hurry.

My thinking was interrupted when the Air Conditioning Man came in to ask me a question.  After he left I decided to check the mail I had dropped on my desk.   There wasn’t much of it, and most of it was junk mail, but I was a little restless and decided to look it over. One envelope was particularly interesting.  Business size white envelope with my name on the address.  And the words “Time Sensitive.”  I decided I had better open it.  After all “Time Sensitive” could mean that I owed somebody money, or somebody was going to give me money or I only had a few days to enter a contest I would surely win.

I unfolded the paper. It was a flyer more than a letter  which began  “We have a beautiful place…and $325 in free services.”

And it was from   FOREST LAWN  (funerals.  Cremations.  Cemeteries.).

And it was time sensitive.  What did Forest Lawn know that I didn’t?   After shuddering at what might be awaiting me I read a little more closely and saw that it was for a “loved one,” and the $325 deal was only good until July 19th.   Then I  began to worry not about myself, but wondered which loved one would need a niche in the next few weeks. 

Then I relaxed.  As far as I know the boys are all healthy and happy.  I understand too that anything can happen to anyone at anytime. 

But there was a lesson in all of this.  Which has to do with living each day as a gift, seizing all the beauty and wonder of creation in every moment, and loving my beloved ones to distraction. 

For as the Bible says “For every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

I just might add though, in my personal prayer  “Not quite yet please! And let it be Your will..and not Forest Lawn’s!”


About the Size of It

So just because it was going to be in the parking lot of my gym, and because I am there at least once and sometimes twice a day, and because I am trying to get healthy and eat right and exercise enough, and because it came with the basic information as well as nutritional guidelines for an individuals age, size etc.,

I did the fat tank thing.  Well, they have another name for it but basically it involves getting in a tank of pleasantly warm water, exhaling every ounce of air out of your lungs, submerging you whole head under water, and holding your breath until the nice lady knocks three times on the side of the tank (as opposed to “knock three times on the ceiling..” from many years ago).  All to find out what the percentage of your body fat is.

So I was ready, I thought.  I dug out my tank suit, and put on my flip flops and walked up the steps to the door of the trailer.  I was greeted pleasantly, and politely not told to get on the scales until the person before me was completely outside.

But I have to say, that’s where the problems began.  Now I had weighed myself at home in the morning.  And I had weighed myself at the gym in the afternoon.  And according to the scales, or to the tank lady.


I was two pounds heavier than I knew I was.  And while I explained to her that my tank suit was unusually heavy for a Speedo, she neither believed me nor cared.  What I weighed mattered only as a step on the way to the final answer (as they say on “Who wants to be a millionaire?”).

But the worst was still to come.

She measured my height.

Now I know I am not the tallest girl on the block.  And I know I wouldn’t do well playing basketball or volleyball because I can’t quite dunk or spike,  but I always thought of myself as a particular height--the height that has been on my driver’s licenses since somebody measured me a long time ago.

But this lady had 1 ½ inches removed from my stature!  She added two pounds and took off nearly two inches. 

Then, to add insult to injury:  I went from the fat tank  to the mall to buy some shoes and wouldn’t you know---I bought a full size larger than I was wearing just not too long ago.  I can’t even repeat the number out loud because it just sounds way too big. 

I was devastated, infuriated, humiliated…

Until I started thinking about how that could be.  Now I don’t ask how much  a person weighs.  I don’t watch to see what size my friends grab from the rummage sale shoe department.  But I have noticed that many of the elders I know are shorter than they once were.  Their skirts hang longer  Their ties go below their belts.   Some I can see eye to eye for the first time and on others I suddenly have an aerial view.

I thought about it and  I realized that God actually has a plan.  Lo and behold, God actually has a plan.  This is what I think happens:

As we get older, we need to be better balanced.  We need a little more holding us down on the ground.  So it is simply a matter of divinely inspired and evolutionary “rearrangement.”  What once made us tall, now keeps us stable.   There is a downward movement in our stature which simply protects us from the increasing likelihood of being blown over by a strong wind, or pulled down by a strong dog.   And for many of us, God is gracious enough to offer a few more pounds as “insurance.” 

So there was no need to be depressed.  Instead I was impressed by the intricacies of God’s creation. 

(Though I have to admit, I am still trying to figure out mosquitoes and fleas).

So as the hymn sings  “All creatures great and small…all things wise and wonderful the Lord God made them all.”

And all God's children said "Amen!"


The week that was

This morning I watched the Interfaith Service of healing at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, when religious leaders and civic leaders including Massachusetts Governor Patrick and President Obama spoke words of compassion and conviction.

When it was over I stopped for a few moments and just sat.   Interposed with the news about the bombing in Boston were the breaking headlines about the explosion at the factory in West, Texas. 

Too much.  Too much.  Too much.

But I was lucky. Unlike those who were in Boston on Patriot Day and whose lives were in some way shattered, unlike those in a small town in Texas who heard a noise and felt the ground roar as if it were an earthquake,

I could get up off the couch, grab my purse and go do some errands.  The reality of the disasters seeped in my mind, the tragedy tugged at my soul, the tears of those suffering hurt my heart,

But I could get up off the couch and go do my errands.

I thought I was escaping it all.

So I calmly waited for the hardware guy to make house keys for me.  I was delighted that I could get them fancy:  Anaheim angels for me, UCLA for Teddy, the SF Giants for my visiting friends.  I could put aside all the awful things happening at other ends of the country. I was grateful that our part of the world was safe.

Then I turned around and looked at the display behind me.

It was fertilizer.  And immediately I was watching that factory burn all over again.  I was hearing the chaos and imagining the fear and the injury and the horror that firefighters and citizens were experiencing. 

I realized that I will never take something  like that for granted again.  Something as simple as fertilizer has now been tagged with fear and injury and danger.

Then my mind went back to Boston.  I thought about the Boston Marathon, the race I always thought I would someday run, the race so many of my friends have run. 

I realized that the marathon will never be the same either.  The race will be weighted with the memory of both the tragedies and the heroics that were created on one day, on April 15, 2013.

And though there is a sign on my garage that says, “Yankee Fans only, Red Sox Fans go home,” I won’t see that sign the same ever again.  Instead of only growling at the Boston baseball team I will  also be seeing the crowd at Yankee Stadium pause last Monday  in silence and compassion for the people of Boston.  I will hear them sing “Sweet Caroline,” the signature song of the Red Sox.

Some suggest we try not to remember.  I suggest we never forget, only so that our hearts can ache with each other, our tears weep with each other, and our lives reach out to each other in love and compassion. 

For that is the great commandment:  That we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind, and we shall love our neighbors as ourselves.