vinegar pie

my mom was not a very good cook. she was a lot of things…smart, pretty, educated, and opinionated. but cooking was not her strong point. 

i’m pretty sure she got the ‘not a great cook’ gene from my grandma. i remember Sundays visiting with the kids, taking with us a box of fried chicken from Knott’s…in self defense to her dreaded meatloaf. its  makings were a mystery, but i wager there were far more cracker crumbs than meat in that loaf, and what meat there was, was eighty percent fat. meatloaf aside, no one loved you like Grandma. she made wonderful noodles that i’ve still never replicated. the less than aptly named ‘never fail noodles’.

i have a recipe from my Grandma’s tin, handwritten and a bit faded. it’s for Vinegar Pie. she won a pie baking contest one year (bad year for fruit??) with this pie. my mind conjures up visions of sour faced judges, fresh from the pickle competition…

we’ve all heard the saying ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. well, vinegar pie is my lemonade.

we all have vinegar in our lives. it’s useful for some things, usually in small quantities. it offsets too much sweetness, and lends its own tangy flavor. on its own, it is sour and disagreeable. blended with the right balance of ingredients, it turns into something good. like vinegar pie. 

thank you, Grandma Woolverton. your chicken noodles are still the best i’ve ever tasted, though it’s been nearly 30 years. and Mom…you taught me well. maybe not cooking, but i learned how to comment, editorialize, and advocate…from you. 💞


advocate mom

i’ve seen many moms like her, a few dads too…though this seems most often a women’s land

she is standing outside a meeting room, rifling through the mix of papers in the bag she carries with her, everywhere. inside is a confusion of old name tags, pens, and half eaten energy bars that seem to multiply overnight

after quickly checking her phone for messages about kids at school, or work, or a disaster call from the nurse at home, she draws a breath, smoothes her shirt, and runs her fingers through her hair. she’s often a bit rumpled from the early morning drives, and lack of sleep…and is usually seen with a cup of coffee nearby

this mom is a warrior. an advocate for her family and others like them. she cannot stop, or something may be missed…or may fall apart. she won’t let that happen, not on her watch

she is relentless. she is vigilant. she is tireless…yet, at the end of the day, she feels an exhaustion only known by others like her, and by runners in marathons

there is no pay, and little recognition. the rewards are often intangible. she is doing more for all of us, every one, and for those yet to come…because she must.

change requires all we have to give. it requires giving up your shyness and taking up a pen, or speaking into a microphone. change requires learning about things you haven’t known before, and then teaching others. she may never see the change she fights so hard for, but she knows she gave her all… a damn good try…and will leave something for others to build upon tomorrow


the box

slowly, reluctantly, i close the lid on the small, scarred, cedar box

it had been mine as a young girl, but somewhere along the way it became yours.. i suppose it’s mine again, these details are difficult to fathom, even on the best of days

i gently, almost reverently, open the box again, and take in its contents…

your worn wallet, holding the license that expired nearly a decade ago, a tiny copy of your diploma (a sign of how young you were when you carried it)

there is a picture of a girl you loved, and some paper money of a sort no longer printed, and a two dollar bill from Grandpa

in the box are a few notes, and pins that never were put on your school jacket, keys for cars no one owns and for motorcycles in pieces scattered like leaves

a letter from a college, an old empty shotgun shell, and a couple of arrowheads you found near the creekside

pay stubs from two jobs, and business cards from people you met…i wonder if you ever cross their minds

a couple of old collectible coins in holders that you saved like treasures through the years

there’s a plastic bag, inside are some locks of hair they shaved before your first brain surgery…they always hand this to the mom, i don’t know why

i found myself clinging to everything that was you, and so twelve years later, i still have that bag

i used to look through the box as though i might find you there

or maybe the secret to unlock your prison and set you free…but it’s not in there

i let the weight of the lid fall, and silently slip the box into its place on the shelf, until i next feel the need to visit

i’ve started a new box now, just as you have started over

it’s very different, just as you, we, are all changed…but life is about change, isn’t it?



we see you

night after night, without fail

after a long day’s work, you are here in his room

you, who can barely boil water, learned to mix medications, and to prepare his tube feedings

you patiently remove shoes and socks from uncooperative feet, ready the hospital bed, and gently lift your youngest son from his wheelchair

you speak…talking to him about your day, his…about the farm, and music for the long night, as you undress your boy. it’s no easy task…were  he to stand, he’d be taller than you, now

gently, with a father’s strength, you stretch stiff muscles and straighten resistant joints…all the while speaking and comforting. this is your evening ritual

you manage the feeding tube with one hand, once unfamiliar, and now just another part of your day. you tell him what you are doing every step… medications, a meal…water. water. simple, yet sustaining. the most basic of needs

pillows are fluffed and strategically placed, the quilt drawn up and tucked in

you kiss your lingeringson, and he relaxes into sleep. he will open his eyes at 4am, when he hears your bootsteps approach on the wood floor

he waits for your good bye at 5 am, and listens as you quietly close the back door and begin your day again

this is not what you planned or envisioned, it just…is

you are a father, caring for his son with love and with grace, dedication and determination

you are amazing




spring is a conundrum…

of new life, of beauty bursting from the grey winter deadwood…and memories of loss, pain, and a life that now would never be

not the same, anyway

not the one expected

that life is now the grieved for…

the possibilities and promise that lay crumpled, and destroyed…left behind somewhere in the wreckage as they pulled you, lingering son, free

my eyes wander to the flowerbeds under my bedroom windows, to the roses you planted there

they’ve had to fend for themselves these past twelve years

and they thrive…like you and me they continue on, a bit crooked, uneven…

what didn’t live has fallen away, leaving scars and bare spots…so much like our lives

but here and there, seemingly at random, vibrant life bursts forth

there is beauty, and wonder…

there are miracles



cheerfully, gratefully, they post reports of His hand at work, saving them from harm

‘angels on their bumper’, or ‘God was watching over’, they write 

i glance at lingering son…

i know parents who have lost…and some nearly so…losing the one they knew, a stranger taking his place

was God not watching? did the angels not care that day?

perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between

could it be the importance is not the event itself, but how we respond? 

could it be that God is watching, loving, all of us…no matter the outcome, in our perception?

so we love without limit, serve with no end, grieve what was, and hope in what is to come

because He is watching, loving, helping us through…lighting our way and sustaining our trust



i watch her from a distance, the old woman with her son

she was once taller, i think…time has drawn her closer to the earth, bringing her near to his side

she slowly, stiffly, maneuvers his wheelchair to have a better view of the pond

he doesn’t move, doesn’t speak…yet she, looking into his eyes, speaks and nods in a language only they seem to understand

i smile

i understand this woman…i am this woman

she sits…and relaxes a bit in the early spring chill. they both look out over the still waters, saying nothing

silence is our life

sometimes embraced, often overwhelmed and pushed away with music and children’s voices….one sided conversation is exhausting…we eventually return to the silence

she looks tired, worn…i wonder how long she has been caring for him, if she is alone…i think of my own unfinished plans

in this life, the smallest of kindnesses loom large. ..i gather myself and slowly walk toward them

i greet him first, smiling as she begins to explain, assure her i understand…she senses our sisterhood, and returns my smile

this business of caregiving, of growing old, of making impossible plans for inevitable outcomes…is unbearably hard