A Mile In My Shoes

About a month ago, I joined a running group called A Mile In My Shoes.  We meet at a men's shelter twice a week and run with homeless men.  I went with my friend and running partner and our motivation was to, in some way, help these men. As we were being introduced to the homeless men and the volunteers we each began mentally categorizing each.

By the end of the first run, I found myself energized and touched. The first thing I discovered was that I had categorized most of the people incorrectly. One young man that I will call John, is a college student studying criminal justice. He takes 16-17 credits/semester and is on the dean's list. When my friend and I arrived at that first run, John introduced himself and chatted with us. He explained that we shouldn't worry about where we were running because, "I have your back". Another homeless man that I will call Jerry was a division I athlete, had a job with Fox sports for many years, has a daughter about to enter college, and is now homeless.

I have learned about the dignity of a hug. I have learned about the importance of saying someone's name. I have learned how simple and honest it is to say, "I was worried about you" and what it means to the recipient.

Now I go to run with these men because of what it gives me. I want the best for each of them. They touch my heart every day.  I have also learned that to be hugged, to have someone know my name, and to run with friends is enough for today. Everything else is a luxury.

Posted on January 4, 2015 .

The magic of food and nurturing

Much has been written about the emotion of eating. We know that what we eat is tied into many emotional 'buttons' from our growing up years. We are reminded that 'food isn't love' but while food ISN'T love, is it bad that it represents warm, loving feelings from our past?

My mother was a wonderful cook who believed in cream, butter, and the best of ingredients. We lived on a farm, so the best of ingredients were most often out our back door. I knew that good food meant work. Fast food was a nonsensical phrase. Of course, food made quickly would taste terrible. Good food required time and effort.

I learned from simple observation that loving someone meant you gave them your time.  Time and effort was and is the best way to show someone you love them. Cooking is the perfect expression of that. If I take the time and effort to find the best ingredients and prepare you food that tastes really good, I want you to feel loved and cared about. How can that be bad?

When I was in the midst of chemotherapy, nothing tasted good. I had lost my sense of taste and eating became a job. I had to force myself to eat so that I had the strength to get through the grueling treatments. Losing my sense of taste was beyond any type of experience I had ever had. Eating to eat was difficult and felt cold and empty.

My dear friend Gail was an adult student in my psychology class at that time. She makes the most divinely decadent chocolate cookies on the planet. They are truly beyond description. Our friendship was fairly new at the time, and she introduced me to her cookies by showing up in my office with a container of 5-6 huge cookies, still warm. Because our friendship was new, I felt obligated to eat one. When I did that, I discovered something else quite magical. Not only did the taste 'get through' the veil of the chemo drugs, but I felt good--warm, happy, and cared for. Her cookies made me feel loved. How can that be wrong?

I miss my mother in odd ways. I miss her singing. I miss her listening ear. I miss the dresses she used to sew for me. However, most of all, I miss her cooking. I miss coming from a long day of school to find freshly baked treats, still warm, waiting for me. I miss holiday dinners where everything on the table tasted like love. How can that be wrong?

Posted on October 13, 2014 .

The men in my life

I am blessed with two sons and an incredible husband.  I know everyone uses the word 'blessed' when talking about their children, but they truly bless my life. I am a child psychologist and a lifelong educator married for 36 years to another lifelong educator. When we began our discussions about having children, we knew how much we loved children, but we were also surrounded by children all day long. It wasn't as if we needed children to fulfill our desire to be around kids.

That discussion continued for years until my husband said, "Let's have a child for one reason, fun." It seemed to make great sense, so, after 5 1/2 years of marriage our first son was born. He was born with a smile on his face, and has been a joy every day of his life.

He filled us with so much joy and contentment the thought of another child seemed superfluous. Why would we need another? Again, my husband began a campaign to have a second child.  On Christmas Eve, our oldest son pointed to an empty chair at the dinner table and said, "I need a brother in THAT chair next Christmas!" When I explained that if we did have another child, it might not be a brother, he quickly said, "Nope, I need a brother." Ten months later our second son was born, and our family was complete.

Our youngest son is funny, combative, fierce, and fabulous. He never allowed anyone to ignore him nor to forget him. From the very beginning of his life, he was not like his brother. We never mixed them up nor thought one was anything like the other, and yet, when he made his appearance, he and his brother became best buddies. Two very different souls who 'see' into each other with a love and acceptance that touches me deeply.

My life was forever changed when I met my husband, and then again 30 years ago and yet one more time 26 years ago today. I can't imagine how different I would be if I hadn't had these three men in my life to shape me with their love and guide me by insisting on being EXACTLY who they are. I am forever changed and forever blessed.

Posted on September 30, 2014 .