I was at work the other day when I received one of those phone calls.  You know, the phone call that everyone dreads, with the voice on the other end saying something like this:  “Hello, I am calling from (insert emergency facility here), and I’ve been authorized to tell you that your (insert loved one here) has been air lifted to our facility for treatment.  If you are unable to drive yourself, you should find someone to bring you here as soon as possible.”

Hours later, my daughter, my son, and I stood together outside an ICU treatment room listening as the medical staff performed an intimate, uncomfortable procedure on my already broken husband.  Luckily, we’d  learned that his injuries were treatable, and after a week of hospital care, he’d be coming home to continue his recovery while we look after him.  Hallelujiah!  Still, we clung to each other there in the hallway–exhausted and frazzled– struggling to comprehend all that was going on around us.

At that moment my son remarked, “What an unfortunate name. . .” and my daughter and I looked to see what had caught his attention.

The shock/trauma unit employs a Dr. Kephart.  Only the letter board didn’t say DR. KEPHART;  it said DR. K  PHART

Someone–a coworker, perhaps a custodian–had removed the “e”, effectively transforming the doctor’s good name into a bit of potty-themed onomatopoeia.  Don’t ask us how we know the absent letter was intentional; we just know.  And for a few moments we brushed away a heavy cloud of anxiety by letting ourselves in on the joke: Paging Doctor Phart. . .paging Dr. K. Phart!

There is no doubt in my mind–not the tiniest bit–that dear Dr. Kephart knows his name has been tampered with by a mischievous gremlin.  I believe absolutely that Dr. Kephart is taking one for the team; that he knows a sprinkle of light-heartedness might go a long way toward comforting people like us–people with scary news to digest and anxious hours to pass.

So here’s to you, Doctor Phart!  Thanks for becoming a doctor so you could be there to help mend my husband’s wounded body.  And thanks for giving me a smile each time I make that long walk back the hallway to the ICU.



Once, I was a stone.
Simply shaped,
Dipped in earth tones—
Yet foundations were built
On the strength of my shoulders.
A lifetime of days
Has etched my surface
Left me lined and faceted—
What was stone turned to glass,
And therein lies my secret:
Handled carelessly, I’m
Likely to break—
But when caught
In the sun’s rays,
Oh, how I shine!



I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but men and women are different. It’s true. And I’m not talking about the most obvious differences: the secretion of a Stooge Appreciating Hormone, and the first thought that comes to mind upon hearing the word facial. So while one mustn’t perpetuate gender stereotypes, realists have no difficulty acknowledging the cavernous divide that exists between the genders.

1. Black and Blue
Women wear black because it’s classic, versatile, slimming, and it goes with everything. Men wear black because they think it’s navy blue. Yes, the same male eye which can detect the hint of a nipple 100 yards away and beneath three layers of winter clothing, simply cannot distinguish between black and dark blue. A woman’s eye, however, not only can recognize blue, but the subtle differences among seven seemingly identical pairs of black pumps. Women can also see discernible facial expressions on cats.

2. Massage Bliss
An hour-long deep tissue massage in a dimly lit room, with scented candles, essential oils, and soft music. . . responses to this pleasurable diversion vary almost exclusively along gender lines. An extremely scientific study consisting of my asking several massage therapists proves the fact: No matter how relaxing the massage, a woman will try to stay awake for the whole thing because she just doesn’t want to miss a single luxurious, pampering minute. Most women would rather fall asleep during. . .well, during almost anything else. Men? My sources tell me that most men fall into a deep sleep the moment the massage begins and must be awakened afterward. AND they consider the masseuse’s fee to be money well spent.

3. Pillow Fights
When a woman decorates a room, she budgets time, thought, and money toward the inclusion of pillows—coordinating throw pillows that tie together the living room’s color scheme; numerous fluffy pillows that make a bed look cozy and oh, so inviting; fun, oversized pillows for lounging on the floor during game night or movie night. To a woman, there are pillows for every room and a room for every pillow. And a guy? Except for the one pillow he sleeps with at night (which is likely to be ancient, flattened, and suspiciously stained), a man regards pillows with the same level of impatience and disdain that a teenager reserves for punctuation:  They are useless wastes of space and effort inflicted upon the world by masochists.

4. Pairing Up
It’s just this simple:  Women marry potential; men marry a dream.  A woman chooses her mate based on the man she believes he will one day become, while a man falls in love with a woman he believes to be perfect and expects that she will never change.  Before you throw your coffee cup at this blog page and label me an unromantic bitch, just know that there’s plenty of science to back this one up, and it has to do with both genders’ desire to perpetuate the species.  They just see the pathway from different perspectives.  There is a bit of bad news, however.  The woman who marries a man she expects to mold into someone else will be every bit as disappointed as the man who expects his wife of many years to look, act, and think exactly as she did as a new bride.

5.  Tab A and Slot B
Every part of a woman’s body has a job to do and requires a lifetime of upkeep and maintenance.  Every part of a man’s body is just one more thing for him to play with.  Generations of sly women have suspected the Almighty is really female simply because She favored them with reproductive organs that are safely tucked up inside the body, and not just hanging out there all vulnerable and exposed to the elements like her male companion’s.  That is until she realizes that her tucked-up parts are prone to suspicious lumps, discharges, and malfunctions that necessitate frequent submission to humiliating, invasive medical procedures, while a man romps through life with his best friend never more than an arm’s length away and ever ready with an impressive repertoire of party tricks.  Pop quiz:  What are the female equivalents of tea bagging, playing bag tag, or pissing your name in the snow?  Can’t think of any?  Now you get it!

I’m not suggesting there’s anything about either gender that needs to be fixed; in truth, don’t we find our differences among life’s great puzzles and pleasures?

~You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.

DOUG FLOYD, quoted in 1,600 Quotes & Pieces of Wisdom That Just Might Help You Out…


in the bleak greyness of morning, i absently stir my coffee,
  then, curious, search the reflection in my spoon for something familiar.
    but the face looking back is someone i’ve never met.
      the eyes are still brown, yet with no trace of laughter, of fire, of mischief.
        these eyes are darker, duller, downcast, waiting for the next blow.

undressing for the shower, my flesh sloughs and falls away like snake-skin
  revealing a creature too raw, too vulnerable for the world to receive.
    my essence escapes in wet footprints left behind on the marble—
      evaporating, disappearing, slipping the bounds of this place,
        perhaps to find sanctuary in a more welcoming home.

eighteen months since i’ve been myself
  unguarded, unconcerned
    eighteen months since i was flayed and laid open
      defenseless, incredulous
        eighteen months since i’ve lived

in the fullness of afternoon i contemplate my existence;
  ruminating, waiting for the reward of some clarity.
    patience is a virtue i’ve only begun to appreciate:
      conceived in controversy, born of necessity, quietly insisting
        that i still my mind, slow my heart, and listen—just listen.

as usual, i make do with uncertainty and confusion;
  no rock-solid foundation on which to make my stand,
    no sweeping manifesto revealed by thunderclaps and parting clouds—

      only me.

in the stillness of night i imagine that, buried deep inside me,
  protected by the moist warmth of my resting body,
    is a tiny seed struggling, struggling mightily to germinate.
      within its hard coat hides the genetic code of my future self;
        the me i have yet to become, the me i was meant to be

fifty-one years since my eyes saw the sun;
  thirty years since true love called me home;
    twenty-four years since this body first produced a miracle;
      eighteen months since the storms came and laid my landscape low;
        one tiny seed that will find light in the devastation and become an orchard.



If you’re like me, you woke up on December 26th thinking, “Finally!  National Candy Cane Day!”*  Or you might have noted its secondary reason for significance:  The day after Christmas happens to be Jared Leto’s birthday.

The Birthday Boy

Depending upon the number of candles you’ll blow out this year, you might recognize Jared Leto as a founder of the alt rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, or all pudgy for the role of John Lennon’s murderer Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27, or drugged out and sexed up in Requiem for a Dream, or as Jordan Catalano, the object of Claire Dane’s angsty teenaged desire in the short-lived but much-loved 90’s TV drama My So Called Life.   Point is, dude’s got legs and December 26th was his 40th birthday.  You read that right:  Jared Leto is 40.

My So Called Life, Requiem for a Dream, Chapter 27, 30 Seconds to Mars

My brain took several paths to comprehending this information:

1)  What the crapping crap?  This is what 40 is supposed to look like?  How come I didn’t get to look so good when I was 40?  And where do I send my tersely-worded letter of complaint?

2)  Jared Leto’s being 40 makes him totally doable.  True, the age difference is greater than the seven years my dear husband is older than me, but  less than the 16 years Demi Moore had on Ashton Kutcher.

And finally, 3)  Holy sh*t!  Jared Leto is middle-aged!

It’s true, you know, by the arithmetic.  If the average life expectancy for an American male is 77.9 years, then Jared actually reached his statistical middle age last year.  I passed that benchmark ten years ago, though it just didn’t seem right to think of myself as a middle-aged woman until well afterward.  Still, as any of my math teachers would claim, numbers don’t lie.   That doesn’t stop numbers from bending the truth, however.

Age-related numbers are tricky.  Not only do they denote, but they connote.  It’s a big deal when a kid moves from a single digit to double digits, and every adolescent will tell you there’s a world of difference between 12 and 13.  We know well the rights and privileges which accompany the 16th18th, and 21st birthdays;  just as well-known are the restrictions, caveats, and addendums attached to certain ages. 

“Do I still have to sit at the kids’ table?”  
“Act your age!”   
“Aren’t you a little old to be wearing that?” 

Don’t we all, on occasion, find it difficult to reconcile our chronological age with our perceived one?  The numbers themselves seem finite –we grasp each for exactly 365 days–but how we feel fluctuates dramatically during that time.  For some people, just one aspect of their personality seems to dance to the beat of its own drummer:  clothing choices, musical tastes, political leanings, or recreational activities might seem out-of-sync with others of their peer group.  But those restrictions are artificial, anyway;  who decided it was appropriate to continue reading the newest books, watching the newest movies, and following the changes in our favorite sports teams through the years, but inappropriate to continue listening to the newest music or maintaining an interest in popular culture?

On his 40th birthday, I looked closely at Jared Leto’s photographs for any signs of laugh lines.  You see, I’ve become very aware of those tiny creases radiating from the outer corners of my own eyes.  Perhaps it’s because these brown eyes are the only physical characteristic I actually like,** and therefore about them I still maintain a bit of vanity.  Perhaps it’s because, as the “baby” of my family I’ve always perceived myself as relatively young, and such obvious hallmarks of age chip away at my illusion.

I do know I’d like to find the person who nicknamed the little wrinkles laugh lines and kiss her square on the mouth.  Doesn’t laugh lines sound so much gentler than crow’s feet?  And the term is totally accurate!  An expansive, scientific study consisting of me staring into my bathroom mirror revealed that the creases are really only present when I smile or laugh.  And I am both a smiler and a laugher.  So in their own way, my laugh lines prove to the world that I have approached life with a sense of humor, that I have laughed through good times and bad, that I have a ready smile

Of course, that knowledge didn’t stop me from pissing away $32 on a 1/2 ounce jar of eye cream that was supposed to magically make my laugh lines disappear, and instead only made me feel like big rube standing before a snake oil salesman.  As P.T. Barnum might have said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

I might not be embracing my laugh lines, but I am learning to live with them.  After all, what choice do I have?  Besides, I earned them.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome the fine Jared Leto into the ranks of the middle-aged–mathematically speaking, that is.  By the time Jared sees laugh lines staring back in his bathroom mirror, my own eyes will be so bad I won’t be able to find the bathroom.


*Not making it up.
**Those who know me will say I’m also fond of my feet, which I love to dress up in cute little shoes.


Come the stroke of twelve
There will be no boozy celebration,
No sweeping proclamation
Of  life reformed and renewed.

When the big moment comes,
I won’t lift my glass to the ceiling
And vow to be frugal,
Give up meat, visit the gym.

I resolve
     to hibernate
           to insulate
                 to isolate.

I’ll bulletproof my heart,
Bubblewrap my soul,
Spin a Kevlar cocoon
And hide safely inside

While a graceless world

My promise is
To shake off the paper mache,
No longer a pinata,
Poked and beaten until I burst

And vultures peck

As the crystal ball drops,
Confetti flies and lovers kiss,
I’ll raise walls and slam doors,
Build a fortress for myself

And become
            closed off

Three hundred sixty-five days
To rinse away the salt,
Powder over the bruises,
And prepare to rise again.



The other day I was zipping along I-80 when I realized my gum had lost all its flavor, and I was essentially chewing a piece of rubbery nothingness.   It was crucial that I get the rubbery nothingness out of my mouth RIGHT THEN, so I put the window down and prepared to spit the gum out.  Then I remembered that I can’t spit, and I’m not kidding.  God planted some land mines in my character to keep me humble, and for the rest of the drive home I chewed on rubbery nothingness and made a mental list of stuff I can’t do

No problem.

1.  Spit Fail  That’s right; I cannot spit.  There’s an oft-told family story about the time I tried to spit a mouthful of bronchial nastiness out my car window, only to have the product of my effort dribble down my chin and onto the inside of the car door.  The result was a carload of passengers who didn’t know whether to laugh or gag as I tried to mop up the mess with my sleeve.  When I meet my Maker, I just know the movie of my life will conclude with a blooper reel featuring my greatest spit fails. The Good Lord has a wicked sense of humor.

Way better at tennis than me.

2.  Tennis Fail   True story:  In college, I took tennis for a PE credit.  I’d tried without success to learn tennis in high school, but I was still determined to master the game.  One day, all of us were required to prove our proficiency at serving, so we lined up and, one by one, attempted to dazzle Coach Gunderman with a single, graceful, serve deep into the opponent’s court.   When my turn came, I tossed the ball into the air and took a swing.  I missed the ball completely, lost my grip on the racket—which went clattering across the pavement—then stood looking helpless while the ball came down and hit me on the head.  Coach Gunderman fell to the ground in a pants-wetting fit of laughter, and then passed me out of sheer pity.  Ironically, I can play badminton.  I think it’s the speed of tennis that throws me, whereas in badminton the shuttlecock floats slowly and gracefully, allowing my brain, eyes, and hands to huddle up and form a game plan before being required to respond. 

I am Hermione.

3. Tongue Fail  You know that thing some people can do where they roll their tongue into a little tube?  Yeah, I can’t do that.  My son can do that, and he can also twist his tongue into a cool clover shape.  But my son is a freak, so let’s get back to me.  It’s not that I haven’t tried— oh, how I’ve tried.  According to my family, it’s quite amusing when I stick my tongue out and ask, cluelessly, “Am I doing it? Am I doing it?”  Only the threat of being cut from my will prevents them from filming the whole debacle and uploading it to youTube.  I do get a little credit for having an especially ugly tongue, but that’s another story.

Knows my awful secret.

4. Video Game Fail   Speaking of ways my failures bring  joy to the whole family, you should witness my attempts to play video games.  Zelda, Guitar Hero, Wii. . .give me an electronic controller, and my hands—the same hands which can type easily, craft some pretty respectable artwork, and play several musical instruments—become worthless slabs of meat dangling at the ends of noodly, unwieldy, limblike appendages.  “Hey,” say my relatives after a delectable Thanksgiving dinner prepared lovingly by my own two above-mentioned hands, “let’s go to the living room and play some video games!”  Which is code for “Let’s give Lisa the handset, then sit back with our desserts and laugh until our drinks shoot out our noses!”  

Only you understand me, little giraffe.

5.  Choreography Fail   There’s a dancer inside me, I know there is.  But she’s being held captive by a troll with four left feet and no sense of rhythm whatsoever.  I used to dance, back in high school, before dancing became foreplay committed by grinding suggestively against a partner of either gender.  To the collective relief of humankind, I refuse to participate in this kind of modern dance.   You’re welcome.  What I’m talking about here is actually choreographed dancing—you know, the kind that begins with five, six, seven, eight, and ends up with coordinated, agile people executing a series of planned and well-timed movements.  The only exceptions to my inability to learn choreographed dances are the hokie pokie, the chicken dance, and the polka, which all Pennsylvanians instinctively know from birth so as to enjoy a lifetime of fire hall wedding receptions.

Believe me when I tell you there are many, many, other things I cannot do.  But my fragile self-esteem can only take so much ridicule, you know?  Maybe next time I’ll write about stuff I can do—that shouldn’t take too long!