Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Ladies Who Lunch

“Send me your digits, ladies! I lost all my contacts!” the one dressed in pink yelled out.  The entire fast food restaurant now knew that she had dropped her phone in the toilet and had to get a new one.  We knew that she wasn’t that sad about the whole thing because her new phone was covered in crystals and that made her feel rich and fancy.  All of her friends pulled out their phones.  If I was their mother I would have told them to quiet down.   The five of them had not stopped talking since they entered the restaurant.

They could have been 17 years old.

The one in the flowered shirt pulled a lipstick out of her Coach handbag.  She lamented the fact that Macy’s no longer carried her favorite shade.  She bought the last 4 they had of LancĂ´me Amber Spice.  It matched the blazer she liked to wear back when she had to go court.  That blazer intimidated the prosecution she said, laughing.  One friend sighed loudly and said she couldn’t remember the last time she wore a blazer.  She knew it was before her kids were born and that was years ago.  Another friend laughed and said, “Yeah, my kids sucked the life right out of me.  But God bless them, they are so wonderful.”  They all nodded in agreement. 

They could have been 34 years old.

“Who wanted salsa?” said the one wearing the neon orange Nike Free shoes. She began distributing the little plastic cups of hot sauce to the entire table.  She didn’t take any for herself.  The other ladies reminded her that she grew up in Texas and probably drank hot sauce from her baby bottle.  They hounded her, “What's the matter?  Why didn’t you take any hot sauce?”  She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small bottle of pills. ”My doctor says I have reflux.  I have to take these pills for awhile and knock off the hot sauce and a few other things.  I hate it.  It makes me feel so old.” Between the five of them the restaurant learned there were two acid reflux cases, one diabetic case, two high blood pressure cases and one friend who still needed a little help from her happy pills.

They could have been 56 years old.

As the ladies munched on Mexican food, the one with the monogrammed LL Bean canvas totebag threw her hands in the air. “Oh!  I almost forgot!  I brought pictures of Frank and me on our cruise. Who would like to see them?”  She reached in the bag and pulled them out.  One friend wiped her hands on a napkin and looked through the pictures.  She shook her head and lamented, “That’s what I miss the most about not having my John with me anymore.  We enjoyed our trips so much.” The LL Bean lady nodded her head, “Yes, it’s so sad.  I’ve been to two funerals in the last month alone.”  And for the first time since they entered the restaurant the ladies were silent.
They could have been 73 years old.

The restaurant watched as the one with the cane got up to leave. The ladies asked her how her new hip was feeling.  “It’s doing pretty good. I can do almost everything for myself now.  My doctor is mad at me though because I can’t seem to keep any weight on.   Do you know how many years I wished I was skinny?  Now I finally get there and they tell me it’s a problem!”  The ladies laughed.  One patted her belly and told the restaurant she had NEVER had that problem.  Another said the only time she lost weight was when she was in the hospital for her gall bladder surgery. That hospital food was so bad she filed three official complaints-one for bad breakfasts, one for bad lunches and one for bad dinners.  All the ladies laughed and accused her of officially being a cantankerous old woman now.

They could have been 85 years old.

The ladies huddled outside the restaurant.  Their arms were around each other as they said their goodbyes.  As I walked to my car I heard the one in pink declare to the group, “With Rachel and Donna gone we may no longer be the Sensational Seven but we can still be the Fantastic Five.  So until next month’s lunch ladies! I love you all.”

The one in pink grabbed the arm of the one in the flowered shirt and they began their walk to the bus stop.  The one with the LL Bean canvas bag helped the one with the cane onto the shuttle bus that had just arrived from Farrington Court Senior Living Center. They sat together in the 2nd seat back on the right hand side.  And the one in the neon orange Nike Free shoes climbed into a 1987 Chevy Caprice and drove herself home.

Check This Out!

One of my favorite books lately is Eat & Run by Scott JurekJurek is a vegan ultramarathon runner.  He is considered by many to be the greatest ultramarathoner ever. In Eat & Run, Jurek comes across as a genuinely nice person.  While many of his stories center on running and his vegan diet, much of his inspiration can be applied to every single day of your life.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Zack Spoke Louder

The macho dads standing next to me yelled out “Shake it off!  Be a man!  You’re ok!”

 The boy is now a teenager, but many years ago he was a small 9 year old soccer player lying flat on his back, motionless, in the middle of a muddy field.  It wasn’t immediate, but he did eventually rise and with help walked to the side of the field.   I looked into the boy’s eyes.  I’m not sure he looked back.  I asked him a question.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t give the right answer.  The macho dads spoke to him, “Get some water and get back out there, buddy!  We need you!”

But Zack Lystedt spoke louder.  He is the reason the boy and I left that game and went to the hospital. He is the reason I knew those macho dads were very, very wrong. 

It was the kind of news that causes you to draw in your breath quickly. Your hand involuntarily moves to cover your open mouth.  Somehow you mutter, “I can’t even imagine.”

It was the kind of horrible situation where the only good news was the fact that he was still alive.

7 days on life support.  9 months without speaking.   13 months until his left arm moved.  2 years with a feeding tube.  4 years until he could move his leg on purpose.

 It was a lot for a 13 year old Zack Lystedt to overcome.

Zack received a concussion in a junior high football game and his life was never the same.  Reality for Zack and his parents, Victor and Mercedes, was a horrific nightmare that came to life.  They have been through hell.  Yet somehow, they have not only survived, they have become an inspiration.   Zack, Victor and Mercedes personify all that is good and right about this world.
 (I encourage you to learn more of Zack’s story from this 2012 ESPN story.

Over the years Zack has spoken louder than one would have thought possible.  He has the ear of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  He’s been profiled by Dan Rather. Nearly every major media outlet in America has done a story on him.  Google his name and you could spend all afternoon sifting through the results.  For years now, Zack and his parents have continued to proactively do what is necessary to make sure no one else will live through the nightmare they did.  They are the reason that today, in 47 states, the Zackery Lystedt Law and concussion education are integral parts of all youth sports.      (You can learn more about the Zackery Lystedt Law in this March 2013 video from

When Zack Lystedt’s name was announced a hush came over the gym.  It was the kind of moment that causes you to draw in your breath quickly. My hand involuntarily moved to cover my open mouth.  As Zack’s father watched him cautiously walk to the podium, I thought to myself, “I can’t even imagine.”  I could feel my eyes start to tear up.  I know I wasn’t alone in my uneasy silence.

 It was the senior awards ceremony for the graduating class of 2013.  Zack was there to present the “Zackery Lystedt Scholarship Award” to a student who had overcome significant life challenges.   Zack’s dad Victor helped announce the award. 

When Edwin was called to the stage his peers erupted in boisterous cheering.  It was clear he was well liked.   Edwin was a big, strong and very talented wrestler who had overcome significant challenges in his life.  It was true he wanted to go to college.  And it was true he needed help paying for it. When Zack announced that Edwin was the winner of the Zackery Lystedt Scholarship Edwin cried.   When Zack’s dad announced that this scholarship would take care of the first two years of his college education, Edwin bent over in utter disbelief, obviously moved.  It was clear that Zack Lystedt had just changed Edwin’s life.

Zack Lystedt has spoken louder than his tragedy.  Zack told me to get my kid off that soccer field.  Zack convinced politicians in 47 states to agree on something.  Zack told Edwin he has a future. 

I’d be surprised if there was a dry eye or a hardened heart in the gym that evening.  It was the kind of impactful moment you remember for a long time.  It was the kind of poignant moment that touches people deep on the inside.  It began so many years earlier with a tragedy you can’t even imagine. It began with the kind of life changing event you are convinced you don’t have the strength to survive. It began with the kind of situation that could consume you forever. 

 But Zack spoke louder than all of that.

For at that moment, in that gym, there was only good.

Check This Out!

The teenage boy and the husband have gifted themselves with a new mouse. It is the R. A. T.  5 gaming mouse. According to the box it has 5600 dpi and is a 'truly groundbreaking mouse'.  (Please don’t tell me how much they paid for it.  I would prefer stay uninformed.)  They claim that it is awesome and if you like PC gaming and being awesome, they highly recommend this mouse.  I am convinced, however,  that it will soon transform itself into the sidekick of Optimus Prime.

Friday, October 11, 2013

You've Got Mail

They come from a world where imaginatively abridged grammar, shift key created symbols and underground slang are the vehicles used to profess the melodramatic declarations of youth.    Yet, recently, their little used Facebook pages have become littered with dorm addresses from their new college homes.  This texting generation now begs for someone to send them a real letter-one with real words and sentences and expressions of meaningful sentiment inside.  They pull up Twitter and tweet to the world that they know they are loved because in their dorm mailbox today was a letter from their mother.

 A letter from home.

They tweet to the world about the purple ink that letter was written in.  They tweet to the world about the picture of their dog that was included.  The tweet about the lighthouse stamp that was on the envelope.  It reminds them of the best family vacation they ever had.  They attach an Instagram picture of that trip to prove it really was the best trip ever.  They post a 6 second Vine video of them holding the letter near their heart.  They say that it makes them so happy and so sad, all at the same time, that letter from home.

The teenager has become a college girl.  Despite being 19, calling her the teenager no longer seems appropriate.  Because she is 19, calling her a woman doesn’t seem appropriate just yet either.  And the suggestion to call her the “co-ed” is just something a mother cannot stomach given the #2-#5 rated R definitions of the word in the Urban Dictionary.

 And so, for now, she will be the college girl.

Like her peers, the college girl would like a letter in her dorm mailbox.   I’ve quickly learned, however, that it’s not just letters these college kids want.

 They want care packages.  

They want food.

And boy, do they get it. Perhaps it’s not only midnight pizza and certain beverages that deserve indictment in the case of the Freshman 15.  Guilty as well is the Grandma who couldn’t decide between brownies and chocolate chip cookies and Rice Krispie treats-so she sent them all.   Her close accomplice is the mother who fills a box with 37 packs of M&M’s… and Skittles…and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups…and a family size pack of licorice.  Because, food is love and it makes people less lonely.

 My college girl would not receive pounds of food in the mail like her peers.  She’s running track for her college and is trying to eat well and stay in shape.   I didn’t think she’d be interested in boxes and bags of sugar and fat.  Besides, I’m cheap.   Food is heavy.  It would cost a fortune to mail.

So instead, I bought a pumpkin.

I would send this pumpkin to the college girl. This tiny pumpkin that fit in my hand only cost me a dollar.  I knew the college girl would be so surprised to get a pumpkin in the mail!  She would be the only one in her dorm with such a creative mother. I was sure she would be so happy to not only get a package in the mail but she would be grateful when she realized the wonderful comfort of having a seasonal dorm room decoration.  I knew my plan was a brilliant one.  

Mailing a pumpkin, however, is not as easy as one might have thought it would be.   Visions of postal violence resulting in splattered pumpkin guts kept popping into my brain.  I knew I’d have to protect that cheap little pumpkin.   I covered my tiny orange friend in bubble wrap.  I filled a box halfway with Styrofoam peanuts and gently placed the protected guy inside.  I topped him with more peanuts, included a cheery greeting and sealed the box.

“That will be eleven dollars and 17 cents,” said the post office lady.

“What…um………… much?”  I stammered.

“$11.17.  Unless you want it there tomorrow, then it would be $15.64”

“How come it’s so much? “ I managed to spit out.

“Well that’s a pretty big box you’ve got here.   I see it’s going to a college address.  There’s food inside, isn’t there.  That’s pretty much the only thing college kids want, isn’t it?”

“Wow.  I had no idea it would cost so much.”

“Yeah, especially for a box as big as this one.  It can get pricey fast.  Hey, next time you could try writing a letter.  It’s cheap and kids just love seeing an envelope in their mail box at school.   It makes them feel loved.”

Said the wise post office lady.

Check This Out!
If I were to send cookies to the college girl, this is the super easy recipe I would probably use. The now vegan little brother of the college girl loves these cookies. If I didn't tell you they were vegan you would never know.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
from the book
Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (I've been told any milk will do-soy, cow etc)
1 TBL tapioca flour (makes the cookies chewy-I found it easily in my regular grocery store)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cups chocolate chips (most dark chocolate chips are vegan)
Combine sugars, oil, milk and tapioca flour in mixing bowl.  Mix well by hand for about 2 minutes until the mixture resembles smooth caramel.  Mix in the vanilla.
Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking soda and the salt.   Mix until well incorporated.  Mix in the rest of the flour.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
For 3 inch cookies roll the dough into ping pong size balls and flatten a bit.  They will spread a bit.  (For 2 inch cookies-walnut size balls, then flatten )(For some reason my dough has never been particularly stiff.  I've just glopped a soup spoon full of dough onto the cookie sheet and called it good.)
Place the cookies onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes (6-7 for smaller cookies)  until they start to brown around the edges.  Cool 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks.