Top Secret

I never thought about buying a wig.  I honestly didn’t think I could buy a wig.  Where does one buy one?  Will my insurance company pay for it?  These were questions that never entered my mind.  No.  My head was too filled with questions like, “How could this happen to me?”  “Why me?”  “What am I going to do?”  “How can I fix this?”  See.  No room for logical questions.

A friend had had breast cancer and bought a wig for fun, not because she lost her hair.  She needed a change and wanted to feel pretty.  She offered to take me and buy one.  I slowly began to consider.  Then a co-worker, who had cancer and did lose her hair told me our insurance company would pay for one.  She told me that she had a wig, and that’s when I understood that wigs weren’t the beastly creatures my brother and I played with from my mom’s dresser drawer, saved from her youth–1960’s frosted mountains of hair.  My co-workers looked exactly like her hair always had.

 I declined escort offers by my friends, my husband, and even my own mother.  I called the wig shop and told them I wanted to come in when no one else would be there.  This was a top secret mission.  And even if everyone figured out the ugly truth, I could live my fantasy for a moment.  No one would know.  I still had a little hair that stuck out under a variety of caps and hats I wore all the time.  I would just find one that matched my hair.

I arrived at the shop after work and darted into the shop.  Empty.  I introduced myself and watched as the attendant put the closed sign up and locked the door.  She then led me to the fitting room.  After about thirty minutes, I was satisfied with the first wig she had showed me and completed the sale.  I had walked in feeling like a Russian spy from an old movie and left feeling like a celebrity.  My attendant was sensitive and unquestioning.  I only wished the rest of the world were.

I felt silly wearing my wig to school the next day, but everyone kept asking me if I had gotten my hair done.  I tried not to giggle as I simply nodded.  The wig was comfortable, surprisingly.  I wore it everywhere.  Until I cooked it.  But that’s another post.



ImageYesterday, as we were driving, I told my husband I felt a “little bit broken” inside.  

“What’s up?” he asked.

“I don’t know.  I just feel so angry sometimes.  I’m really stressed with what I am trying to do at work, and…”

I won’t bore you with the details, but you get the picture.  He reassured me that everything was going to be great and not to worry.  Then, I dropped him and the little girls off at the church and our 15 year old and I joined other young women from our church and two other moms and hiked The Buffalo.  The Buffalo is a striking mountain peak in Virginia.  More striking is the view from the top.  

I took some time to be alone, mostly because I needed to relax after seeing how close to the edge my daughter was willing to go, but also to reflect and ponder.  Being a tad on the science geek side, I couldn’t help but admire the igneous and metamorphic rock there on top of the mountain.  There is a slight scent of sulfur in the air that makes the crunch of the black rock beneath seem other-worldly.  A large band of metamorphic rock caught my eye, and I stopped to admire the banding.  

ImageHere I was standing at the very top of a mountain, and all I could think of was this rock.  Tremendous amounts of heat and pressure are required to transform sedimentary and igneous rock into metamorphic rock.  Metamorphic rock is born deep in the belly of the earth.  And yet, time and patience and the hand of God had brought it here into the open air for me to stand upon.  And then I understood.  Heat and pressure.

Much was being asked of me.  Enough to make me feel “a little bit broken” inside.  Heat and pressure were at work upon me.  Heat and pressure have always been upon me.  Disadvantage.  Lost babies.  Lost hair.  Sickness.  Children with broken hearts.  Trials.  Temptations.  Burdens.  I wasn’t really being a little bit broken.  I was being a little bit stretched, pushed, pulled, and squished.  I was metamorphosing, or as the dictionary says, “changing completely in form or nature.”  

I looked down at the white and gray bands of minerals that had more switchbacks than the trail I had just climbed, and I smiled.  Once, these elements felt heat and pressure under the burden the earth, and now they look down at the beauty below as king of the hill.Image


I was thinking of what to blog about, since it has been a while, and I currently find myself resisting my inspiration.  You see, I just wrote an entire sentence to introduce my topic, but skirted away from it with this one.  Perhaps I should title this procrastination instead of mistakes.  Deep breath.  Confess.

Perhaps you are chuckling because you realize that you, too, avoid admitting your mistakes.  Should Alexander Pope have coined, “To err is human, to confess divine”?  Having forced rather non-divine words into the poet’s mouth, allow me to take a step toward divinity.

What you see on this post is a picture of my “Chicken Taffy”.  Disgusting, isn’t it?  I posted this picture on my Face Book and asked my friends what they thought it was.  The conversation that followed included: gross, do I want to know, and yes disgusting.  

Here is the pitiful tale of the origin of the “Chicken Taffy”.  We were having an old fashioned hot dog roast as a church social.  I thought I would remain loyal to the theme and make old fashioned vinegar taffy.  That idea is gross enough.  Why had my attention from old-fashioned-cookies or old-fashioned-pie been drawn to something I’ve never eaten nor prepared,  I know not.  Nevertheless, I mixed the sugar, vinegar, lemon flavoring (I thought it would go nicely with the chicken), and water.  I boiled and stirred.  Boiled and stirred.  Boiled and stirred.  The cookies would have been done by now. Then I poured the mixture onto two cookie sheets and swirled in the yellow and tad of red food coloring (this is where the chicken part comes in).  I started to pull the slightly cooled taffy with my youngest girls.  The result was the darker reddish orange taffy.  I soon realized I had no idea what I was doing and called for my husband.

He had pulled taffy, but the fact that he had not pulled it in all our 13 years of marriage never stood out as a red flag that there was probably a reason.  Soon he had me tugging as he stretched the sticky mess across the length of the kitchen.  He would hand me the folded ends and pull again and again.  It became harder and harder (both in texture and difficulty).  Finally, we ended up with the lighter pieces.  I put them in a foil lined pan and as I looked upon the results and quickly became repulsed. 

It all looked liked cooked and uncooked chicken breast cut up into nuggets.  We tried a piece and almost lost a filling.  We joked about putting on a label that said “Chicken Taffy” but in the end didn’t have the heart to put it out.  It is still in my freezer, if you want a piece.

And so, there you have it.  What not to do with vinegar and sugar.  I’m sure there are many success stories of vinegar taffy.  You may have fond memories of making it with your grandmother in her country kitchen as fireflies danced outside the window.  I seriously doubt my grandchildren ever will, but perhaps one day I’ll convince my husband to give it another go. 

One of my talents is I’m fairly good at learning from my mistakes.  Someone (not Alexander Pope) said that if you learn from your mistakes, they aren’t mistakes but lessons.  Or something to that effect.  So the lesson I learned is, don’t attempt old-fashioned vinegar taffy unless you are in your grandmother’s kitchen with fireflies outside the window.  No?  Ok.  Don’t use yellow and red food coloring in the exact quantities I did or your taffy will look like chicken.  Just don’t ask me how much I used.  That’s a lesson you will have to tempt on your own.  Not because I’m being philosophical or anything.  I just didn’t measure.Image


The summer school team I’m working with thought it would be a grand idea for me to teach Night by Elie Wiesel.  I had not read it, so I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  When I received the book, I realized it was not only a Holocaust book, but it was going to be a Holocaust book that was going to hurt.  I assigned the class to read the first two chapters as I casually flipped through the pages thinking of what was “doable” over the weekend.  Come Sunday night, I had yet to read the first word.  Resistance.

There is something you need to understand about me.  I hurt.  I hurt deeply at others’ suffering.  I wept so bitterly as a child the first time I saw a black man in a movie being whipped that I spent the rest of my life avoiding slavery images.  My heart races when I flip through magazines in doctors’ offices and suddenly see battered war victims.  My emotions for the domestic violence victims I assisted at an advocacy agency in college were so powerful my supervisor had to shelter me with office tasks and assign the direct advocacy to others.  My avoidance issues don’t stem from lack of caring.  They stem from caring too much.  Of course as I write those words I realize how ridiculous they sound.  No one can care too much.  

So here I was, the teacher not doing her homework.  I sighed and read the Forward. My head throbbed with the reality that I had to read this book.  I didn’t want to read this book.  I was the teacher.  I would assign them something else.  Anne of Green Gables.  My kind of book.  Resistance.

But as I read those powerful words of introduction, I knew I could only resist for so long.  I had to read this book.  This book was going to change my soul forever.  So I’ve resolved to end the Resistance.  But as I have yet to read Chapter 1, which is due…again…tomorrow, I suppose I will have to tackle procrastination next.Image



I noticed our tree house was looking a little deserted.  I suppose the newness had worn off sometime last fall.  I climbed up with an old sheet and draped it over a few branches.  Soon, two little girls were aloft.  I brought them a bag full of My Little Pet Shop toys, a bottle of water, and two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and new magic was breathed into those old limbs.  As my husband and I worked below on the greenhouse, a flood of memories drifted down with giggles and happy chatter.  

I remembered carrying an old blanket from my grandma’s up the hillside to the cliff across the stream from her house.  A couple of rocks secured the pink wall and the hours of imagination that followed.  During that afternoon of castles and knights, princesses and dragons, pirates and treasures, and perhaps even a trip to a distant planet, I slipped down the hillside for a bathroom break, and as I looked back up to the bright pink cloth against a backdrop of brown rocks and green leaves, I was tempted to think it ridiculous and out of place.  That’s what society would tell me.  I thought of the “food and furnishings” and all the worlds behind the “misplaced” pink blanket, and shook my head.  I quickly attended to the business at hand and headed back to my pink wonderland that was perfectly where it belonged.

I looked back up to the tree house.  My ten year old had climbed to a higher platform expanding the horizon of their game and the world of their toys.  For a few short moments there was no bickering, or arguing.  There were just castles and dragons, treasures, and perhaps even a distant planet or two.  I looked above to the old tan sheet.  There was just one thing amiss.  I just wished that old sheet were pink against that background of brown and green.

fat free celebrations

It has been that time of year when every activity for every child demands an end of year banquet and awards night.  Tables of grilled hot dogs,  hamburgers, and chicken have made a fat free lifestyle interesting.  The secret is eat before you go.  If it is a carry-in or pot-luck (depending on where you are from) bring something you know you can eat.  Saturday, I volunteered to bring fruit skewers and fat free fruit dip to a wedding.  At least I knew there would be something there I could eat.

fruit dip 2

I could credit this recipe to several people.  I’m not sure who the original amazing person was who figured this out, but I love him or her.  So, to all those who shared this recipe, I’m passing on your amazing fat free summer treat.


1 jar of marshmallow fluff

1 package of fat free cream cheese


Mix the two ingredients together with an electric beater (mine broke about 10 minutes before I was to leave for the wedding and a mixing spoon worked just fine.  I think my Grandpa called that elbow grease.)

Go ahead.  You know you want to dip your finger in and taste.  Yum!


ImageI had planned a lovely evening of planting trees, watching the video my students made about the environment, and eating blue and green tie-dyed cupcakes.  Hey, they were supposed to be little earths. What can I say?

Sadly, our dear friend, Bogart (Bo) our blind Palomino Appaloosa horse, had other plans.   He decided to celebrate Earth Day by leaving it.  So this evening, we bid farewell to one of the most amazing horses whose only trophies and awards are the hearts of all those he won over.

ImageI’m going to be painfully honest here.  I’ve been accused by some of my animal loving family as being…deep breath…an animal hater.  That is not true.  Animals are like music to me.  I have to find the right melody at the right moment, and then it touches me so profoundly and deeply that I’m willing to write an entire novel based on that thirty seconds of emotion.

My love of animals is very much the same.  When the right animal walks into my life at the right moment, my love is so deep that I’m willing to stop mowing the lawn, pick up the tennis ball and toss it again and again and again to my Bowser, or stand in the wind and freezing rain to feed carrots to my Bo.

My love for this horse was different, though.  It wasn’t my love for Bo that motivated me to carry heavy bags of grain home from Tractor Supply when no one was with me to help or to break the ice in the water trough in winter.  It was much more profound than a gratifying love that always comes as the result of service.  When I looked into the sweet face of that guy I saw his love for my children and their love for him.  I loved Bo because of my motherhood and for no other reason than that.  I didn’t really understand that until I was talking to my mom on the phone and listened to what Bo meant to her because of the joy he gave her grandkids.  I heard a new chord and soft underlying tone to my love for that “horse who thought he was a dog”, as my husband says that I had never realized was there.And to date, Bo, and our dog Lilly are the only two animals who can dance in my heart to the rhythm and melody of my motherhood and my absolute love for my children.Image