Class of ’82

From Kindergarten through 12th grade I attended Phil-Mont Christian Academy, a small Philadelphia suburban school whose mission states: …to provide an excellent academic education from a consistent Christian world-and-life view for the children in Christian families. There were 44 students in my graduating class. Over half of us, had been together since Kindergarten. Where Mrs. Smith warmly greeted us on that very first day and became our beloved surrogate mother every weekday between the hours of 8 am and 3 pm. Thirteen formative years is a long time to spend with the same daily faces. Faces that, to this day I adore. And faces that I recently got to spend time with.

One of my K-12 classmates, James spearheaded a text thread to connect us. James, whose easy smile, generous soul and flirtatious ways are still firmly intact even though his enviable full head of unruly tousled curls is not, suggested a party. He also suggested that it be at Tim’s house. Tim is also in the K-12 club. Tim married Amy, a girl who was not in our grade. But when your school feels like family, there is no class distinction. Tim and Amy raised their family on a bucolic property that lends itself to outdoor barbecues and late night bon fires. And so it was, that I had one of the best and memorable times I have had in what is now known as Life in The Time of COVID. Our gathering did not exceed social and government mandated acceptances. But for most of us, it was all we could do to not wrap each other up in our collective arms. My first grateful tear of the night was shed when Tim, before piling our plates with potluck, bestowed the blessing. In his heartfelt prayer he offered thanks to God for granting us selfless parents who were willing to make countless sacrifices (most of which we will never know) in order to provide what they deemed the best Christian education money could buy.

As my husband Chris and I arrived at the party, Jenny’s was the first face to greet us. Jenny is a fun-loving gifted athlete. But it’s her tender heart that led her to a career as a teacher for kids with special needs. Jenny’s time at Phil-Mont was sporadic, yet long enough for us to create a lifetime bond over having played softball together. Even though she viewed the sport as a serious pursuit, and I was more interested in where the victory celebrations would take place afterwards. Then there was Julie. Julie and I became fast friends that first year at school even though she was quiet and shy and had an upbringing surrounded by saddles and sailboats. My upbringing was connected to Northeast Philadelphia rowhomes and warring neighbors. Some of whom shot each other. But none of that mattered to our not yet fully developed, socioeconomically unaware 5-yr. old brains. So, the friendship stuck. Bill was at the party. Bill was our classmate who pulled a Mr. Kotter and was welcomed back as a teacher and coach at our beloved alma mater.

During dinner Chris and I sat with Dustin. A smidge socially awkward then. A smidge socially awkward now. In the most endearing of ways. Dustin is a scientist and works at one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. In the vaccine department. Be kind to the people society deems to label. They are the ones changing it. We also sat with Bonnie. Bonnie didn’t join our tribe until high school. My husband asked her if she regretted transferring to Phil-Mont. No. In fact, she was the one who requested it. She got to the point where she no longer felt the need to accept the bullying of her former classmates at her former school and hoped there was another option. There was. Bonnie, kissed the bullies goodbye.

Throughout the night I answered the same 3 anticipated questions: 1. Can you still talk backwards? Yes. 2. Is your mom still obsessed with Elvis? Yes. 3. Are you still bitter about being cut from the cheerleading squad? YES!!! But the most questions went to Steve. Steve’s mom went back to school later in life to earn a degree in Education. Her first-year teaching was our first time in 5th grade. It was my favorite year. Steve’s dad was a hard-working truck driver. Steve became a doctor. His practice is in a prison. In Philly. Which I found intriguing. Most of the questions Steve answered that night were lobbed by me and my morbid curiosity. But the best question he answered was do you share your faith with your patients? Steve said that he strives every day to instill in his patients that they have value. That it doesn’t matter what they did (or didn’t do) to create their current life circumstance. Because no matter what, God created them. In His image. God loves them. God values them. They have worth. That’s good doctorin’. And good teacherin’.

My second grateful tear was when Steve shared a long-ago memory involving my mother. My mom is not in the best of health and is living out her remaining time with us in a nursing home. When I see her now, I forget there was a time when she was often the prettiest and most popular girl in the room. This was not lost on Steve as he reminded me of the night our 2nd grade class performed the O. Henry short story, The Ransom of Red Chief. Steve played Red Chief. And not to brag, but I was cast as Red Chief’s unnamed little sister, so there’s that. He went on to say how, after the play, my mom made such a fuss over him and his brilliant performance that for days, he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. That same smile was still hard to wipe off as he recounted the memory. The next time I see my mom, I’m going to tell her what Steve said.

It was Julie who spoke of all those who couldn’t make it that night. Like our friend Ron. Ron was Class President and the wunderkind of the school. Think Doogie Howser but with red hair and freckles. Ron responded to the texts by saying that he regrettably would not be able to join in the festivities. He would be in Maine celebrating his 22nd Wedding Anniversary. The past 6 of which, have been recognized by the State. When I read the responses to Ron, I don’t think I was ever prouder of my longtime friends as every text overflowed with Congratulations Ron! Wish you and Alan could be here!

My husband was hoping my friend and fellow classmate Kathy and her husband Scott would be in attendance as, over the years, Chris and Scott have developed a not-having attended Phil-Mont fraternal kinship. Kathy was (and still is) a beautiful blonde with an Osmond-esque smile and a chill California vibe. Kathy was also my rival for the affections of Jeff, the school heartthrob. Kathy won. Deservedly so. I did however manage to get a great big bear hug from John, my on-again off-again high school boyfriend, whom I should have treated better.

My friend Joe made it a point to sit and catch-up. Joe is married to Joyce, a fellow Phil-Mont grad and a gifted singer/musician/worship leader. Her brother Rob is the same and met with success in the world of Christian music. Joyce never bragged about having a famous brother. Just like Joe never bragged that his brother’s godfather is Bill Cosby. Joe doesn’t defend Mr. Cosby. But he does pray for him.

Margaret, Marisa and Shirley were there. The 3 Musketeers in school. The 3 Musketeers that night. Only Shirley’s still-to-this-day quick, loud and infectious laugh lets you know, this isn’t a clique. In fact, it never was. Because when you hear Shirley’s laugh it’s a siren call. To let you know, you’re invited. You’re included. You’re one of us. Pull up a chair. Have a laugh. Have a drink. Because we are the people who tolerated you at your worst. Celebrated you at your best. We loved you then. We love you now. To this I say, Thank-you Phil-Mont for providing an excellent academic education from a consistent Christian world-and-life view for the class of 1982.

Learn From the Best

My mother’s mother was a bitter divorcee before that particular phrase was coined. For years I thought the name of the grandfather I never knew, was Bastard. Her name, was Mary Margaret Reagan, which is about as Irish-Catholic as you can get. She went by Mae. My brothers and I called her Mae-Maze. As she aged and began to shrink from her already slight 5’ frame we took to calling her Little Mae-Maze. She spent over 25 years operating a machine at The Philadelphia Naval Yard. I never knew much about her job save for the fact that she resented it and counted the minutes until her retirement. Every weekday she walked the few short city-blocks from her second-floor apartment, in which she never cooked and rarely cleaned. I didn’t enjoy time spent there. It smelled. Like her. Cheap whiskey, unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes and peppermint Chicklets.

She had a sister she loved. And a sister she hated, which I never understood. Because the sister she hated was deaf and blind and I always thought deserved extra love. She once gave the sister she loved $5,000 so that she and her husband could buy a bayside vacation home dangerously close to the aptly named beaches of Wildwood, New Jersey. I don’t know if it was out of indebtedness to my grandmother, but my mom’s aunt and uncle provided countless beach weekends for my brothers and me. When they first purchased the shore house, Mae-Maze was bestowed her own bedroom. But somewhere along the line she made the mistake of addressing her brother-in-law’s rough treatment of her beloved sister and was swiftly banned from joining any further New Jersey festivities. For the bulk of my teenage years, most Saturday summer nights were spent with my great-aunt and uncle’s network of hard-drinking friends. All of whom took their fair turn of hosting the weekly card tournament that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. My brothers and I, along with the other free-loading beach-weekend seeking great-nieces, nephews and grandchildren were tasked with serving the Entenmann’s raspberry-danish while making sure their high-ball glasses never emptied.  After spending the days exhausting ourselves perfecting our body-surfing skills in the Atlantic Ocean and the nights making personally sure the shot glasses were properly drained of their spirits by licking the bottoms, we kids would pass out. And in the morning, wake up in our pre-assigned pull-out sofa beds, having no recollection of how we got there.

Despite the years of a diet consisting of alcohol, cigarettes and chewing gum, Mae-Maze lived into her eighties. The last decade of her life, she refused to leave her dank apartment. Her course gray hair, as well as her brown-tinged fingernails continued to grow. As did the stack of yellowed newspapers in her bathtub and kitchen sink. She was found unconscious after her downstairs neighbor/landlord heard a thud. Machines kept her alive for the next 2 days. My mom thanked this neighbor profusely. She also proffered money for him to clear out the apartment as the task proved too monumental for us non-agoraphobic, non-hoarders to handle.

My father’s family was polar-opposite from my mom’s. Though they shared the same hard-scrabble pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps Philadelphia roots, by the time my dad reached his later teenage years, his parents had fled the city and became as starched white-collar as my mom’s family remained true-blue. The palpable peace and calm in my paternal grandparent’s suburban split-level home stood in stark contrast to the turmoil and chaos of my mother’s dissentious relatives. The dreaded time spent in Mae-Maze’s smoke-filled, claustrophobic apartment left me longing for the anticipated hours at my contentedly married grandparent’s home. The hand-holding, grace saying formal dining room dinners shared with my dad’s relatives were a welcome reprieve from the walking-on-egg-shell meals spent with my mom’s side of the family. In which there was always somebody not talking to somebody. Until they were a few high-balls in, when everybody talked to everybody. Using language that was not to be repeated to my Sunday School teaching paternal side of the family. The fluid Catholicism of my mom’s relatives only served to lure me to the stalwart Protestantism of my dad’s.

My dad’s mother and father were Bible-believin’-gospel-preachin’-Sunday-go-to-meetin’ kind of folk. Every Wednesday morning at 10:00, my grandmother could be found teaching a women’s Bible Study in her home. A welcoming place where the sun-filtered front door revolved with a parade of ministers, missionaries and visiting Southern Gospel singers. Or just plain anyone in need of a predictably Presbyterian Sunday roast beef and mashed potatoes dinner. Accompanied by a can of translucent fruit-cocktail wriggling inside brightly colored perfectly molded Jell-O. Sunday morning service was not to be missed, nor was Sunday evening hymn-sing. Wednesday nights were reserved for prayer meetings and pot-lucks.      

          I don’t know if it was because Jesus was a Jew, but my God-fearing grandmother embraced all things Judaic. She loved the people and she loved their culture. But what she mostly loved, was their language. She took great pride in her accomplished fluency of Yiddish and her uncanny ability to slip it into everyday vernacular. I knew that she was Bubbe and that I was a shiksa. I knew that schmaltz literally meant chicken fat but could also be used to describe her overly-sensitive identical twin sisters with their matching 6’ husbands that trailed their matching miniature poodles. One swift-sided glance from Bubbe was all it took to let me know when I was being a noodge. I dutifully clutched my hands to my chest and muttered Oy Vey anytime unfortunate news was delivered. I had the distinct honor of being the only student in my glaringly gentile school able to explain to my fellow classmates what Laverne and Shirley were referring to when they sang, schlemiel, shlimazl. And I knew which family members Bubbe secretly thought of as meshuggina. But the best thing I knew, was that she was my Bubbe and I was her bubbule. We did, however, manage to hold to their nouveau middle-class values and simply referred to my insurance-selling grandfather by the very paternal forebear; Pop-pop.

          Bubbe was a gifted seamstress and would painstakingly hand-sew my Barbie-doll clothes. Pop-pop, who never missed an opportunity in which to indulge this woman with whom he was absolutely besotted, once gifted Bubbe with a mink coat. She cut a portion of it for me. I was the only girl on my block whose Barbie’s wore fur. As a young teenager, while crossing a busy street in her Kensington neighborhood, Bubbe was hit by a bus. The emergency room doctor mistakenly casted the wrong shattered hip, leaving her with an unreliable gate, necessitating the use of crutches for the rest of her life. Until time, plus illness forced her degradation to a wheelchair. But Bubbe, being Bubbe, covered her crutches in leopard print fabric. When I asked her why, she said, oh my little bubbule, if people are going to stare at you, you might as well give them something to stare at. Now that’s what I call, chutzpah. My Pop-pop saw to it than an in-ground pool was installed in their backyard, as swimming was the only form of exercise my Bubbe could do. Now that’s what I call, love.

          The night Bubbe met Jesus face-to-face, Pop-pop was having Sunday dinner at our house. The tangled corded rotary phone shrieked in the middle of the meal. My mom answered, quickly handed the receiver to my grandfather and silently mouthed that it was the hospital. Unfortunately, along with the bum hips, Bubbe also had a bum ticker. The ultimate of ironies, since she actually had the greatest heart of anyone I knew. Throughout my Bubbe’s life, she had spent way too much of her rapidly diminishing time listening to doctors from the vantage point of a hospital bed. As my Pop-pop silently hung-up the phone after his barely audible conversation in which he mostly just nodded, he leaned his not-yet-fully gray head of hair against the kitchen wall and while wiping tears from his eyes with his ever-present hankie solemnly said, Thank-you, Jesus. It was the most courageous act of faith my 14-year-old eyes had ever witnessed.

I am grateful for all the examples in my life, good and bad. Because sometimes it’s just as important to learn what not to do. But choose wisely whose example you follow. Because the example you follow is eventually the example you become.





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Don’t Judge a Pooch by His Leather

You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. 2 Corinthians 10:7


The summer I was pregnant with our second born baby-girl, my husband, Chris, and I along with our 2 ½ year-old first born baby-girl, Mallory, snuck away for a long weekend. To Virginia. In August. What possessed us to drive over 5 hours during the hottest month of the year to an even hotter climate while 8 months pregnant and with a Toddler in tow I cannot begin to fathom. The first day of this ill-timed excursion was spent traversing the heat-seeking colonial brick walkways of Williamsburg. The next day, we logged in time avoiding the countless rides a woman-with-child should be nowhere near as well as those rides for whom a Toddler is not yet tall enough at Busch Gardens. Then, topped it all off with a day standing back-to-belly, skin-to-Lycra with complete strangers hoping for hydration at Water Country, USA. And so it was here, under the stifling sun-stroke inducing sky with the scent of Coppertone Water Babies wafting through the stagnant air that I had the briefest of encounters with a total stranger that shifted a paradigm of mine for almost 30 years now.


It was midday, literally too hot for the human body to digest macerated food that our growing family of three spotted that loveliest of oases found only in overpriced theme parks. The Snow Cone Kiosk! From the vantage point of her stroller, Mallory was the first to unearth this techno-colored crushed ice faux-fruit-flavored miracle of refreshment in a paper conical. While Mal and I found and fought for a coveted shaded spot under a purposefully placed fabricated tree, my husband staked his claim in the snaking line, Oklahoma Sooner style. After an interminable wait, he came back with 2 blue-raspberry snow cones, one for me, and one for Mallory. Preferring a thirst-quenching Coke for himself meant staking another claim in another line. Mal and I settled in with our shaved ice delight that began to mean as much to me as the ice-chips I was afforded while in labor with Mallory.


While waiting for Chris’ return, we greedily inhaled our vibrant blue confection. As I pushed my tongue against the roof of my mouth warding off a brain freeze, I couldn’t help but notice a guy out of the corner of my eye. He was striding with great intent towards my baby and me. It took me only a millisecond to size him up. His head was shaved. His muscles on high alert in steroid stance. Among the countless vats of ink covering both his arms as well as his legs, I was able to discern only one tattoo buried on his right bicep. It read Pooch, which I took to be his biker name. Had he had a neck, I’m sure that would have been as multi-colored as the rest of him. His sweat was pouring through his shirtless chest, homespun jorts, and a black leather vest emboldened with multiple patches, none of which I knew the meaning. I half expected to see Ron Pearlman as Clarence ‘Clay’ Morrow trailing behind him in a rouge episode of Sons of Anarchy. The closer he got, the more panicked I became. At this point it proved impossible to get my husband’s attention as the soda stand was nowhere near our previously perceived paradise of protection. I looked behind me in the hopes of seeing a similar someone to prove his jaunt was intended for kin of his own tribe. Witnessing only crowds that looked just like me, I went into full mama-bear mode and positioned myself between this oncoming body-building machine and my baby, oblivious in her stroller. He finally reached us, my heart pounding. He stood about a foot away. Dropped to not one, but two knees. Looked at Mallory. Looked back up at me. Then, in the sweetest, slowest southern drawl one could muster, his eyes melting along with his skin, in a sing-song melody slightly above a whisper said to me, Whyyyyyyyyyy     her     eeeeeeeeyes     are      just     as      blueeeeeeee     as      those      snooooooooooow     cooooones. He then stood up, extended his right hand for me to shake, and introduced himself. As Pooch.

This inclusive, convicting, unintentionally condemning moment was all it took to rattle me to my judgmental core. I shook the outstretched hand of the man who, only moments before had me shivering in the sun and shaking in my flip-flops, and thanked him for going out of his way in order to pay my daughter this heartfelt compliment. I wished I could have told him what he had done. How he unwittingly shattered my perception and changed me. For the better and for good. But I didn’t want him to judge me. As I had of him.

*** This picture of Mallory was taken moments before Pooch challenged my way of thinking. I only wish the clarity of the photo showed off how blue her eyes truly are. As you can see, she is holding her snow cone. ***

C & R bar louie

Who Are You to Not Forgive?

One of the things I loved most about being a PW (Pastor’s wife) was the privilege of being on the ground floor as young couples start their new life together as husband and wife. After 23 years of full-time ministry, my husband, Chris, and I took a much-needed step back from professional church-life. To reset our family. Our marriage. Our life. To heal. To move on from multiple past mistakes. Forgiveness was needed, on all sides. About 2 years after we left, a friend called asking Chris if he would do his family the honor of officiating at the wedding of his stepdaughter. A lovely girl who had been involved in the church’s youth group way back when Chris was the youth pastor. We talked it over and to my surprise, Chris called back and said he’d be honored. Since leaving the church, Chris had been extremely reluctant to perform any pastoral duties as we were contentedly walking the trails of the fresh path God had set before us. When I asked Chris why he said yes to this particular request after denying so many others over the past 2 years he didn’t have a clear response other than to say, I don’t really know. I think I was just supposed to say yes.

Chris and I met with the couple multiple times. Throughout our conversations we couldn’t help but notice how often the groom-to-be referenced one of his groomsmen, Brian. He credited this man with helping him to grow in knowledge and understanding of his faith. He said he wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for Brian and the relationship they share. He called him mentor. He called him friend. We were eager to meet him. The night before their big day, we gathered at the wedding venue for the rehearsal. After Chris walked the wedding party through their steps, we congregated at the groom’s favorite restaurant to celebrate the upcoming nuptials. We were fortunate enough to sit with Brian during dinner. We started making small talk, but quickly realized Brian is not a small-talk kind of guy. He had an unexpected urgency about him not typically seen in someone his age. We told him how we had been looking forward to meeting him. In return, he told us his story.

He said he is a counselor and lives where he works. An in-treatment facility for men battling substance abuse. He openly spoke of his own war with alcohol but was quick to add, I am not a recovering alcoholic; I am a recovered alcoholic. He quoted his favorite Bible verse by which he abides, “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.” I am in Christ, I am a new creature, were his succinct and powerful words.

He shared with us the living hell he put his mother through during his youngest of adult years. He said, through tears, that his mother never once gave up on him and never once stopped praying for him. Even after kicking him out of the house in a painful act of tough love. But before moving into this voluntary facility, Brian was forced to live in an involuntary one. He had made the horrific mistake of getting behind the wheel of a car while drunk. The result was a death for which there was no one else to blame. After being released from his court-ordered debt to society he floundered, working odd jobs while trying to figure out his next step. He was haunted by his mother’s never ceasing prayed for call on his life. Eventually, Brian willingly succumbed to God’s plan. He now lived as though there weren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all the Lord set before him.

After listening to his story, I asked Brian how he was able to forgive himself. He echoed to us the question God whispered to him in his prison cell. If I have fully forgiven you, who are you to not fully forgive yourself? Chris and I didn’t talk much on the way home. The silence washed the words over our souls. The next night, we drove home from the wedding reception with happy hearts and tired feet. Early the next morning we awoke to a frantic text from the stepfather of the Bride, asking Chris to please call. He told us that after the reception was over, the bridal party took a shuttle back to the hotel. Not wanting the festivities to end, someone suggested they walk to the bar across the street. After shutting the place down, Brian, while walking alongside the Bride and Groom, was struck and killed by a passing vehicle. Neither had a drop of alcohol.

I’ve never been one to attempt to decipher the mind of God, but I’m fairly certain I know why Chris felt like he was just supposed to say yes. While we only knew Brian for the briefest of moments, his impact is boundless. Every time I think of him, which is often, my heartbreak makes its peace with joy. Knowing that he is now the newest and best of creatures.

Over the years Chris and I have learned a lot about forgiveness within the context of marriage, but I think the best thing we learned is this; forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give your spouse. Forgiving yourself is the greatest gift you can give your marriage. Forgive your spouse. Forgive yourself. Be a new creature.




Adult Children of Elvis Fanatics

Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. I know this, not because I have a great memory, because I don’t. Not because I’m good with dates, because I’m not. I know this because it was four days before my 13th birthday. As if turning 13 wasn’t traumatic enough.

My mother first heard of the news of Elvis’ death via a phone call. After she silently hung-up the phone, she looked at me with glazed over eyes and stated simply, Elvis died. She then proceeded to go into her bedroom and shut the door. She did not emerge for 3 days. After the 3rd day, my dad (who was an unusually patient man, especially when it came to my mother) opened the bedroom door, stuck his head in and said, Hon, it’s not like you knew the man. This one statement was enough to rally my mother for the next 24 hours in order to celebrate my birthday. Once the festivities ended she promptly returned to her room.

To say my mother is an Elvis fan would be like saying the movie Titanic made a few dollars at the box office. My mom currently lives in a lovely two-bedroom home. Actually, it’s a one-bedroom home and a one Elvis-shrine room home. Over the years she has collected everything Elvis; from t-shirts to calendars to movies, puzzles, busts and life-size cardboard cut-outs. Posters, prints and paintings- some black velvet, some not. Every song he’s ever recorded and thanks to her cunning ability to sneak tape-recorders into live concerts, some he has not. In my mother’s will it stipulates that I am to inherit her vast Elvis collection to the exclusion of my brothers because as my mom says, they’re boys, they don’t understand. Little does she know that my husband has already spent countless hours scouring e-bay to see what we might stand to gain after the sale of said items.

My mom does however, own one little slice of Elvis heaven. At the last concert Elvis performed at the Spectrum in Philadelphia before he died, she caught one of his scarves. Apparently at his concerts, Elvis had a guy who stood next to him handing out white autographed scarves – a job that ranks right up there with Vanna White turning letters on Wheel of Fortune. Just how does one get a gig like that? Do you go to your high-school guidance counselor  and ask What do I need to get on my SAT’s in order to be accepted into a good college so that upon graduation I can get a job handing scarves to Elvis? But I digress.

Elvis would take these doled out scarves and rub it around his face and neck a little thereby not only offering up his signature but his make-up and scent as well. I’ve always heard was a generous guy. These sweaty and stained scarves would then be thrown into the audience. My mom claims she wrestled a guy to the ground for hers, which we all believe because on the handy smuggled-in tape recorder you can hear the ensuing fisticuffs. I won’t repeat the ensuing words.

When my mom came home with hard fought scarf in hand, I don’t think I ever saw her stand more tall or proud., much like a cave man returning to his village with fresh buffalo kill to save the people from starvation. Yay, we’ll survive another winter, the clan shouts with joy. Yay, we have more Elvis chatchki, my father mutters with apathy.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard in my house growing up, Hey, where’s mom? She’s in the bedroom sniffing the Elvis scarf again, then I too could buy Cadillac’s for strangers.

Most moms take great pride and pleasure in teaching their children all they need to know to get by in life. Well, don’t ask me to do long division, conjugate a verb or follow directions on Mapquest. But if you want to know the name of Elvis’ twin brother, his mother’s name or the proper pronunciation of Graceland, then I’m your go-to-gal. (Jesse Garon, Gladys, GRACE-len, in case you were wondering.) Mom, you have taught me well.

2-Hour Block


A few short weeks into traversing what had turned out to be the most challenging trial of my life thus far, one of my most treasured friends, Joanie (although friend is not a strong enough appellation, she’s…my person. Meredith Grey/Christina Yang style) made the mistake of placing a morning phone call to me. It was 9:00 a.m. I was still in bed. Curled in a fetal position. Crying. I’m not sure I would have answered, had it been anyone else. But since it was my Joanie, I took the call. She then made another mistake by asking me how I was doing. Between sobs, in a barely audible voice I said, not good. I squelched my tears long enough to let her know that I can’t do this. I can’t get through this day. I can’t get through this week. This month. This year. This. Is too hard. She then asked if I could get through the next 2 hours, could I make it until 11:00 a.m.? Somehow, she heard my head nod a tentative, I’ll try.

Two hours later, at 11:00 a.m., Joanie called again. She repeated her mistake of asking me how I was doing. At that point I had stopped crying and, in a whisper, said, still not great. She asked if I could make it another 2 hours, could I make it to 1:00 p.m.? This time I quietly spoke the words, I think so. Two hours after that, Joanie called me again. She asked me the same question, can I make it another 2 hours, can I make it until 3:00 p.m.? This time I was able to answer with an audible, yes. At 5:00 p.m., my phone rang again. This time, I was confident when I told her that I would be fine for the next 2 hours and that, yes, I could make it until 7:00 p.m. Joanie called me 3 more times that day, until I was back in my bed, unfurled from my fetal position. Without tears in my eyes. When she called me at 11:00 p.m. she explained that, for now, my life was being lived in 2-hour blocks. And that it was o.k. It’s o.k. that I was in a season of life, where all I could do was manage to survive, 2 hours at a time. Because the answer to the question, can you make it through the next 2 hours? Is always, yes. She then shared with me the sage words her father once said to her while she was a young teenager and in the midst of navigating a particularly rough life-circumstance. He said, Joanie, this will never be o.k., but it will be better. In that moment, it was hard for me to believe her father’s words. But as it turned out, her dad’s words were true when he spoke them to her. They were true when she spoke them to me. And they are true now, as I speak them to you.

The next time I saw Joanie, she handed me a present and told me to open it. Inside was a small wooden block her son had lovingly hand-carved. On it she had written 2 hour. Get it? It was my very own 2 hour block! Joanie said this was my visual reminder of the season I was in and that it wouldn’t last forever. Because, as she would tell me again, this will never be o.k., but it will be better. As soon as I got home I put that special block on my kitchen window sill where I knew I would see it. Every day. For a long time, it served to remind me that I was living in a 2-hour block season of life. But now, when I see this treasured talisman, it serves to remind me that God not only brought me through that season, He delivered me. He delivered me into a new life that is exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond anything I could think or imagine. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Because, while I hate how I got here, I love that I am here. My excruciating, temporary trial has reaped boundless, continual rewards. Every slip of my foot has brought me to where God has me now. And that, makes everything, well with my soul. When I said, my foot is slipping, your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. (Psalm 94:18)

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lin-manuel miranda

Brilliance is Brilliance is Brilliance is Brilliance

Not to jump on the Lin-Manuel Miranda celebratory bandwagon, but bandwagons are bandwagons for a reason, so I’m-a-jumpin.’ I first became aware of the prolific, impassioned and accomplished Mr. Miranda from his much-too-short arc on the medical drama, House, in which he played Juan ‘Alvie’ Alvarez, the incessantly free-rapping institutionalized roommate of the ever annoyed by free-rapping institutionalized Dr. Gregory House, the titular character played by the inimitable Hugh Laurie.  At the time, I was unaware of Miranda’s 2008 Broadway musical, In the Heights, for which he won his first Tony Award. I was however, keenly aware of his role on a very different short-lived and widely panned medical drama, Do No Harm. If you’ve never heard of this blink-and-you-missed it 2013 mid-season canceled-before-you-knew-it-existed show, consider yourself among the majority. In it, Miranda plays chemist, Dr. Ruben Marcado, which is ironic since in real life he is married to the beautiful Vanessa Nadal, an MIT graduate with a degree in chemical engineering.

While most people don’t even know Do No Harm existed, I for one, shall never forget. Mainly because it is thanks to this debacle of a production that I got to spend an entire afternoon in the presence of the pre-Hamilton hysteria, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Since 2006 I have worked as an extra on over 30 movies and television shows, but it wasn’t until Do No Harm that I was offered my first recurring role, which I’m hoping had nothing to do with its swift cancellation. It might have been a soured show, but it was a pretty sweet gig. The weekly demands placed on me typically consisted of purposefully walking through hospital hallways in comfortable scrubs while clutching important medical files. As fate and high-rising production costs would have it, most of the props on Do No Harm were recycled and repurposed from the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, the fictional medical center in which the intolerant diagnostician Dr. House resided. I even discovered a few discarded House scripts on set, some of which I may or may not have indefinitely borrowed.

But my most memorable day was spent in the presence of the genius that is Lin-Manuel Miranda. The scene takes place in a coffee-shop where Dr. Marcado is busy drowning his sorrows in a strong cup-a-joe, while I hover next to him pretending to partake in witty banter with the barista. For a few memorable hours, I basked in the closeness of Mr. Miranda’s presence. I observed the hyper-kinesthetic nature of Lin-Manuel’s brilliant mind, that never stops working and rarely shuts off. I listened to his hilarious off-the cuff remarks and stood witness to his kindness, graciousness and generosity to the actors, the crew, and me.

While I am certain this genuinely humble and sweet-spirited man has zero recollection of my existence, I will always remember and be grateful for the time spent in the presence of the one who not only brought Alexander Hamilton, and all that he entails, to the forefront of the contemporary American mind, but more importantly to the man who so selflessly exhorted a shocked and heartbroken nation to embrace love on a night, that by all rights, was his. He deftly shifts the tide from himself onto us, and serves to remind, through his Tony Award winning acceptance speech that love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love. And to that I say, brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance. Thank-you, Lin-Manuel Miranda for an unforgettable heart felt sonnet for our country and a memorable heart held day for me.

wizard of oz

There’s No Place Like Home, Especially if it’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

As my husband and I sat logging in a few more hours of mindless political punditry, I found myself distracted by the fact that Ted Cruz’ nose looks freakishly like that of the Tin Man, which of course, got me to thinking that this year’s race to the White House is a metaphorical Wizard of Oz.  Barring the physical resemblance Cruz has to the Tin Man, it is not a stretch to think of him standing alone in a field hoping someone will pass by, notice him and oil him. Then there’s Trump who, like the Scarecrow, is missing a brain. Perhaps Megyn Kelly could pose the same question that Dorothy asked, “How do you talk if you don’t have a brain?” To which I’m sure The Donald would echo the Scarecrow’s response, “Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don’t they?” I also can’t help but compare Bernie Sanders to the Cowardly Lion since his constant floppy-wrist, finger wagging is evocative of the Lion raising his fists and snarling, “Put ‘em up, put ‘em up!” And of course we have Marco Rubio, nipping at our heels like Toto hoping we don’t forget him. After all, 2020 isn’t that far away! And last but not least, there’s Almira Gulch, I mean Hillary, traversing the countryside screeching, “Just try and stay out of my way. Just try.” Or maybe she is more like Elphaba, whose well-intentioned good deeds have simply been misconstrued her whole life. But this Almira/Elphaba mystery may never be solved, unless of course a spunky teenage girl accidentally throws a bucket of water on her (which I am not, repeat, NOT suggesting.) Guess we’ll just have to wait until November to find out who will stand behind the curtain. In the meantime, maybe the country will collectively wake-up and realize that this has all been a concussive induced nightmare. Until then, not only is there no place like home, there is also no place like America.





Discover the Real John C. McGinley

It is with great sentimentality that I watch the current Halls Triple Action Cough Drops commercial featuring acclaimed actor John C. McGinley. Thanks in part to my friendship with a location scout, I had the distinct privilege of spending an afternoon with Mr. McGinley during the filming of the 2012 movie, The Discoverers. A few scenes happened to be shooting in the town where I live. My friend Amy was scouting locations and she thought my home church would be perfect for base-camp. I managed to convince the Sr. Pastor, who just so happened to be my husband, that this was a good idea. During the day’s shoot, in lieu of dressing rooms, each actor was given an office in which to hang-out. Since John was the principal actor of the day he was awarded the corner office, aka, my husband’s. I was an admirer of John’s work, most notably that of the acerbic Dr. Perry Cox on the hit medical comedy Scrubs. He played his character to such perfection that I assumed he must be just like him in real life. After a brief introduction, I ushered John to his ‘dressing room.’ As he settled in, I busied myself in the outer office. Within seconds I was summoned back with the shout of Hey church lady, what’s the password for the computer? As I told him the password he invited me to sit for a chat as there is notoriously long amounts of idle time on movie sets. We made fast and easy conversation. He complimented me on the pictures of my family that were strewn about the office. As he shared pictures of his family, I cooed over his sweet baby-girl, Billie and couldn’t help but comment on Nicole, his striking yoga-instructor wife by asking, how did you get someone so hot to marry you? In his signature deadpan style, he replied, I have a lot of money. But it wasn’t until he showed me a picture of his beautiful son Max that we were both quiet for the first time since meeting each other. It was evident that this lively, adored and fun-loving boy carries the label of Down Syndrome. I then asked John if he would like to see my favorite room in the building. As we walked into The Rainbow Room I explained that this room was used every Sunday morning for our children with special needs. It is staffed with loving care-givers, overflows with toys and tricks of the trade and oozes comfort and acceptance. He silently walked to the center of the room and did a slow 360. He looked at me while fighting back tears and in a barely audible whisper said, This. Is. Good. And as I fought back tears of my own, I realized I was right all along, John McGinley is just like Perry Cox. Because like his famed character, underneath his real-life razor sharp wit I discovered a heart of pure gold.



Rest in Peace Ziggy Stardust

Like most everyone who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia my summers were spent vacationing down at the Jersey Shore. All except for the summer I turned 10, because that was the summer my parents surprised my brothers and me with a trip to Disney World. Since my dad had an irrational fear of flying we were relegated to taking Amtrak. After hearing the disappointment in our voices over the fact that we wouldn’t be taking a plane to Florida, my parents managed to convince us that taking the 24-hour train would be a magical adventure, which it was. Until the air-conditioning in our filled-to-capacity car decided to stop working…at midnight…in August. Clearly, this was no way to begin a magical trip to the Magic Kingdom. By 2:00 a.m. we were so sweat-drenched that my dad made the suggestion we hightail it to the air-conditioned dining car to see if a kind-hearted waiter would take pity on us and serve our little family of 5 some ice-cream. Turns out the kind-hearted server already had his hands full. Apparently David Bowie shared the same fear of flying as my dad and often hopped a train for his gigs, replete with entourage. This happened to be at the height of his Ziggy Stardust persona days. There he sat, in our little dining car in full Ziggy regalia surrounded by his musicians and roadies, enjoying the air-conditioning and eating, you guessed it, ice-cream. They graciously shared the dining car with us as well as the ice-cream. While the world will remember David Bowie as an amazing, iconic musician/actor/artist, I will remember him as the really cool guy in the funny outfit who I ate ice-cream with in the middle-of-the-night while on my way to the Magic Kingdom. Rest in Peace David Bowie and thank-you for a truly magical memory.