My Homemade Mother's Day Gift

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Inner Storm

Incoming waves stretched toward the shoreline widely overlapping those receding back into the sea.  It seemed more violent than usual but considering my present state of mind, I pondered the likelihood that it just might be transference of the contention within me.  Dark clouds etched in at the horizon and defined the exact point where the water met the sky, and radiated a beryl tinge in both directions.  The melting sun was conceding to its fate of being inexorably drawn into the dark and ominously impending squall.  A cool wind began to blow in from the same direction and I pulled the corners of the blanket I was sitting on up around my shoulders.

“Nothin’ more beautiful er disturbin’ than a storm comin’ over tha seas.”

 I jumped at the sound of another voice.  I had been sitting here for hours without seeing another creature with the exception of an occasional sea bird or crab.  He chuckled at my startled appearance and took a deep draw on his cigarette and smoke curled about his gray bearded weathered face as a cold gust blew against us. 

“Ya been starin out there a long time, are ya findin’ any answers?”

Astonished at his presence, I glanced past him and scanned my surroundings.  I had walked for two long hours to find an isolated place on the beach assuring my solitude.  Careful scrutiny of the terrain ensured there was nothing or no one for as far as the eye could see, no cottages, no tourists, nothing at all but beach, birds and myself.  Again he chuckled to himself and I found it difficult to hide my annoyance.  He took a final drag on the cigarette and removed it from his mouth, and with a doting glance, tossed it into the sand and buried it with his toe. 

“Damn things ‘ill kill ya.  Not in the habit are ya?”
Hesitating to answer, I finally replied to his query.  “No”.  Emotions at his presence were a mix of irritation at the disturbance and relief from my own melancholy.  “Where on earth did you come from?”  This time his chuckle turned into an outright laugh and I felt my face begin to burn. 

“So, ya thought ya were all alone here, did ya?  I been watchin’ ya for a long time but storms come up pretty quick ‘round here and I didn’t think ya would be able to get back tonight in this storm so I come out to check on ya.  Gather yer stuff up there and come with me.”

I glared at him offended by the unbelievable gall, defiantly shook my head and turned my back on him and returning my attentions back out into the sea.  A little rain would not melt me.  “I’m afraid I would not be good company,” I said without turning around.  No reply came back.  Refusing to be drug into an argument, I stared out at the waves.  Even as they agitated the seabed and slammed against the shoreline, they brought on me a sense of calm.  I hated being rude but I needed this time alone and wet or dry, I intended on staying put.  Finally, hearing a clatter in the distance, I again turned to watch him leave, hoping to discover where he came from. 

“HEY!”  I jumped to my feet and ran after him.  “Put down that bag!”  I shouted.  Now it was he who didn’t look back and continued his pace as he proceeded on his trek to an undisclosed destination.  He was tall and thin and his stride was long and quick and unimpeded by his age.  I had to run quite a distance before I could catch up with him.  “You crazy old coot!”  I gasped between gulps of air, “Give me back my bag!” 

He stopped dead in his tracks and stared straight ahead.  When he turned my direction, something in his face seemed to reflect the menacing skies.  He rubbed his hand over his beard and pressed his crusty lips into a thin straight line of determination.  Narrowing his eyes at the darkening horizon, he tightened his grip on my duffel bag, turned on his heel and continued his journey. 

With the slightest tilt of his head in my direction, he said “When yer a safe distance from the tow that’s sure to come, I’ll give ya back yer bag. Ya kin sit out on the porch in tha rain if ya like, ya don’t hafta come inside.  I can’t jes leave ya here to be sucked up by the sea.”

I stood there in shocked amazement.  This antiquated benevolent fool had taken it upon himself to force an unsolicited guardianship upon my person and had confiscated my belongings, like I was a willful child intent on self-destruction.  I resisted the urge to stamp my feet but given no viable alternative, I hurriedly pursued my benefactor. 

“Look,” I gasped as we loped along, “I am sorry I lost my temper,” I pleaded in my most patronizing tone.  “I am certain you have my best interest at heart but I am not a child and I don’t appreciate your condescending attitude.  I am a grown woman and perfectly capable of handling myself in an emergency situation.  Please return my belongings and I will be on my way.  If I was trespassing I apologize.  I didn’t realize that this was private property and I didn’t think anyone resided in this part of the beach.”
As I breathlessly pleaded my case to his backside, he ambled up what looked to be a very long and steep sand dune.  The top was covered in sea oats that now swayed in the gusts of wind coming off the ocean.  The sun could no longer be seen above the clouds and lightening began to streak across the ever-darkening sky.  There was a chill in the wind that cut to the bone and I would have liked my jacket out of my duffel bag but considering the circumstances, my pride would not allow me to make a request of further care.  A couple of sea gulls cried out as they flew by struggling against the wind.  

Large drops of water began to fall out of the glowering skies, making great splotchy discolorations in the sand.  Then suddenly, the rain came down in torrents.  As we crested the peak of the sand levee, the old man turned and grinned.
“Turn ya around there and see where ya was sittin.  Ya would be swimmin’ by now then wouldn’t ya? Nobody owns the beach mah lassy.  It belongs to the sea and she lays her claim on it, as she will.  As long as ya know that, then ya can get on with her just fine.” 

I stood gaping, in awe of the speed in which the water had taken over the entirety of the beach.  “Well, it appears I am not as self-reliant as I supposed myself to be,” I relented. 

“When she tells ya to go home, she’s no lady about it”, he chuckled softly.  “Looks like she is a bit angry at your tarrying about.  But she rarely crosses my levee as we have an understanding .she and I, so you just c’mon back and stay a while until she gets it outa her system and then ya can have a walk back tomorrow.”

He turned and went down the hill as deftly as he ascended.  I followed slipping and sliding and hoping not to tumble into him.  As we cleared the sea oats, I saw a cabin sitting in isolation from anyone or anything.

Out on the porch was an old large dog tied to one of the posts.  He seemed resigned to his confinement and barely raised his head as we approached.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he found this poor dog playing mindlessly along the beach and took him under the same circumstance as he taken had me.  

He glanced back at me like he had heard my thoughts.  “I can’t let him loose in the storm.  He likes ta go fishin’ and will be swallowed in the waves today.  He won’t listen to me either,” he grinned.  He scratched the old dog on his head and patted his side.  The dog thumped his tail a couple of times against the porch. 

“Will he be alright out in this?”  I asked.

“Aye” he said, “He doesn’t like it inside much.  Doesn’t want to miss anythin’ and nothin’ goes on in here.”   The icy wind whipped around between the sand dune and the house, cutting through my blouse.  I shivered and the old man opened the door. 

“Come in, Lassie.  It is dry and warm inside and I can fix ya a bit of tea and a give ya a biscuit.  It’ll take the chill right out o’ ya.”  At my hesitation, he began that incessant chuckle of his.  “Is it this old man yer afeared of?  Ya need not worry about yer safety, ma’am.  I am not gonna hurt ya.”   For the first time, he broke into a smile and his blue eyes actually twinkled with warmth and good humor.  He continued to stand and hold the door until I felt obligated to relieve him of his post and walked in.  “Make yerself ta home, Lassie.  Morning will be here before ya know it.”   He walked over to a small black stove and started loading it with wood.  I have some clean shirts and britches in the closet, ya can change outa yer wet clothes over there behind the blanket.

The walls inside were bare knotted pine and the floor was peg board.  All that decorated the walls were utility necessities, to be accessed easily.  It wasn’t pretty but it was clean and organized and smelled of a mix of tobacco and fresh cut wood.  The furniture was rustic and homemade.  Still shivering, I looked over past the chest of drawers to an old wardrobe made of rough sawn cedar and opened the doors.  Looking through the neatly folded stack of clothing, I was struck by the strong smell of cedar wood that emanated from inside the cabinet.

“Hold it right there, Lassie,” he said flatly.

I was so engrossed in my surroundings; I had not heard him cross the room and jumped at the nearness of his voice.  Then a small metallic click caused me to look back and there he stood with a large buck knife pointed in my direction.  My throat tightened and I froze in place, having no where to run.  He seemed to look past me and I wondered if he did he ever look right at the person before the knife entered their flesh.  He reached up and grabbed a roll of rope above my head.  Panic pulsed through me as I imagined what would occur if he were to tie me up.  He stopped what he was doing and looked intently at me as if he were measuring me and carefully cut a piece of rope with his knife as I watched in alarm.  At the sound of his voice, I jolted.

“If ya thread this through the loops on the britches, you’ll keep yer drawers up on yer.”  Trembling, I nodded and took the rope from his gnarled hands.  “Hurry and get outta them wet clothes.  Yer tea is all but ready.”

Walking around the other side of the blanket that served as a makeshift curtain and the divider between the wash room and the rest of the house, I sat heavily down on a cane chair and closed my eyes.  My body began to tremble out of control until it shook violently and my breath came out in deep heaving sobs. 

The sting of the morning’s activities had finally overcome me.  I sat in calm determination as I signed each of the papers handed to me.  I watched passively as he picked up the pen after me and placed his signature below mine.  I remained placid as the judge pronounced I was no longer married to the man I had promised to love for the rest of my life.  In the presence of my friends and associates I was demure and composed.  I had not cried in the lawyer’s office when I filed for divorce.  I had not cried from the first realization that I was no longer the only one to whom he would cleave.  I did not cry when I saw him with her in his arms, in my safe place, in my home, in my robe, in my life.  It was done and couldn’t be changed.  This very morning he gave me back my name and my life that I had given to him and I didn’t cry.  He never saw me cry one single time.  He would never see me cry. 

But now, six months of stored tears, a heart broken beyond repair and frightened beyond logic, I lost all control and all the walls that protected my heart gave way.  It was like the storm outside had taken me over, had come from within me, releasing all the fury of my soul, tearing up the shoreline and blowing down everything, flooding the whole world with unshed tears. 

When the torrents had dwindled to whimpers, unaware of my surroundings, he again startled me by appearing around the curtain with a cup of hot tea.  Still shivering and wet, I took the warm cup from his gnarled brown fingers. 

“Oh Lassie, poor lassie,” he said to soothe me.  “Tha’s a slight wisp of a girl to carry heavy burdens.” He reached up, took the curtain off the wall, and wrapped it about my wet clothes and me.  “Drink your tea and calm your nerves a bit.  The most violent storms e’er I saw were those that came from a burdened heart.  Our Lady of the sea knows the heart of all that sit upon her shoreline.  She will blow over quickly now that she has gotten it out of you.  It was good yer comin’ here, for to come to here is to find an end of the pain.  It is why sailors never come home.  She can bind it up and take it away from ya and it releases ya from sadness and pain for as long as ya can stay with her.  Come over here and sit by the stove.  It is warm now.  Drink yer tea.  I put a bit of whiskey in it ta help ya sleep.”

He helped me out of the chair and propelled me forward balancing me and the cup of tea.  There in front of the stove was an old rocker.  It was out of place in the room full of crudely home-crafted furniture.  The arms were ornately carved and the cushions were covered in worn brocade.  It creaked as I sat down and I as I leaned my head back it rocked slightly backward.  The warmth from the stove began to penetrate the blanket and I felt my head begin to throb.  Somewhere in a fog, I heard the whimpering of a dog and through swollen bleary eyes, I saw the old dog from the porch.  He stood beside me as if protecting me from further anxiety.  After a bit he moved closer to me and rested his head on my leg. 

The old man looked intently at his old dog sitting so close and chuckled.  “Well there Salty, I haven’t seen that in a while now have I?  He’s taken ta ya there, Lassie.  Ole Salty, He don’ take kindly ta strangers.” 

Everything seemed surreal and as I tried to attach the voice to a person, the old man shoved the tea in my hand and commanded me to drink.  I lifted the mug to my lips and sipped at the warm liquid.  It was strong and bitter with a pleasant glow from the whiskey and I began to feel my head swim as I swallowed the last of the contents.  Again I leaned my head against the back of the chair and felt it rock back slightly and closed my eyes.  Then, I felt no more. 

At some point in the night, I awoke to the realization that I was not in my own bed.  The only light in the room was the full moon peaking through the clouds and I used the shadowed reflection to try and make out an object that might look familiar enough to give me a indication of where I might be.  The gilded clouds wafted luxuriously over the luminous ivory orb smiling into my window as stars twinkled through exposed patches of cloudless sky. I listened for a familiar sound to quell the uneasy feeling of not knowing where I was and heard the distinct sound of waves. 

I sat up and felt around on the small table next to my bed and found a full cup of tepid tea.  It was a welcomed discovery.  I put the cup to my lips and greedily gulped its contents, grimacing afterwards at the strong bitter unsavory bite of tea neither hot nor cold and the memory of the day returned afresh. 

Salty appeared as if aware of the disturbance of the night’s peace and placed his head on my knees and I realized I was wearing different clothes.  Mindlessly I stroked his head and visually sought my shoes in the dimly illuminated room.   Salty sat down and leaned into me.  I moved my foot back and struck something under my chair.  My clothes were folded neatly in a stack with my shoes on top under the chair.  Upon the discovery, Salty stood up as if hopeful of a pending change of scene. 

As I changed from the clothes I was wearing I kept pushing away the awkward visions of being dressed by a stranger like a sleeping child into their pajamas.  I was an educated, competent woman reduced to puerility over the course of the day.  Exasperated at my behavior, my gaze was drawn up to see the moon, swept free of clouds, smiling benevolently down at me and beckoning me to come out and play.  Salty nudged me toward the door.  I was anxious to comply and to see the moon glittering off the frothy ebony waves. 

Stealthily, I tiptoed through the dark house feeling my way to the door.  Salty moved quickly past me and awaited my arrival to free him from the enclosed prison barring him from a moonlight swim.  His tail banged noisily on the door.  I hushed him quietly and he became more animated.  I lunged to open the door so as to quell the loud thumping of Salty’s tail.  Salty bolted past and bounded to the crest of the Sand dune and then doubled back before I was off the porch.
The air still smelled of rain but the stars sparkled radiantly unimpeded by the opalescent luster of the moon.  I closed my eyes and deeply breathed in the sweet damp air.  Salty was bounding up the dune again.  On the porch, I saw my blanket draped over the railing and reached up and pulled it down to carry with me as the night, or early morning air had a slight chill.  I had no real conception of what time it might be. 

I stepped off the porch as Salty returned for the third time and began to make my way up the side of the large sandy dune that protected the little cottage.  I felt a little light headed but remarkably unburdened.  As I made my way up the steep dune I reflected back on the ease in which my benefactor moved over the hill.  His pace never changed from flat to steep, from sand to porch, he walked steady and unimpeded by the terrain.  His face showed signs of having weathered the storms of life with grit and determination not to be taken under by them. 

As I made it to the top, I was awestruck by the magnificence of witnessing where the power of heaven met with the power of the sea and the realization that something or someone greater than either ruled them both and realized that I was going to heal and not merely survive.  Lost in a panoramic backdrop and a sea of contemplation, I started when felt Salty brush against my leg and to find I was not standing alone.  We stood without talking drinking in the resonance of the sea and wind and the starlight and moonlight until they began to fade into the morning light. 

He touched my shoulder and held out my bag with my remaining contents I had left behind.  “Thank-you,” I whispered. 

He smiled.  “I nou’t but saved tha from losin yer life, lassie.  Go home and build yerself the life you want.”  His blue eyes twinkled in the first light of morning and he smiled warmly and nodded.  I took my bag and headed down the sea side of the dune intent on doing just that.



"Yes, Hello," a shrill disembodied voice blasted through the ear piece.  "Can I speak to Mr. Fuller?"


"Mr. Fuller, this is Keegler."

"Oh, Hello Ms. Keegler, what can I do for you?"  Steve pulled the phone six inches away from his ear.

"I need you to come over and look at my air conditioner.  I'm afraid it's going to start a fire."

"Is it smoking?"


"Ummm, well Ms. Keegler, what makes you think the Air Conditioner is going to start a fire?  Do you smell something burning?  Is it blowing out cold air?"

"No Sir.  Its not doin nothin'.  I ain't turned it on yet this year."

"Ms. Keegler, its over 90° outside this morning.  It's been in the 100's all week!"

"Yes sir."

  "Okay, Ms. Keegler.  I've got to bring the family with me and they have a couple of friends over.  We've got a few things to do so I can't stay long but I'll see you in a couple of hours."

Steve had a special relationship with many of the widows in the Houston area church where we attended but Ms. Keegler was in a special category. He'd been on several "work crews assisting her in an effort to realign the condition of her property within the parameters of the city code.

Steve mumbled as we packed up the kids and hopped in our old '73 Gold Duster and headed across town.  Ms. Keegler was an elderly woman of somewhat questionable mental stability.  She was a sweet lady but always seemed a bit on the odd side to me.  Steve was always good to help a lady in dire need and he was worried about Ms. Keegler sweltering in the excessive heat when he thought he could easily fix the problem.   

The twins were vaguely familiar with Ms. Keegler's oddities but Brandon and Jason, their friends, had little direct contact with her.  We invited Ms. Keegler over several times for dinner but none of us except Steve had actually been to her house.  "Why do we have to go to Keegler's house?" they whined.   

"Well," I said, " You can't stay home alone.  Besides she is looking forward to you coming over."

We had several errands to run before arriving at Ms. Keegler's house. After a sweltering trip in our un-air-conditioned Duster, we pulled up in front of a yellow and white house in dreadful disrepair.  It wasn't so much the peeling paint on the house as it was the condition of the grounds surrounding the house.  On the front lawn, there grew a variety of trailing vines.  Squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, cantaloupe and watermelon plants sent uncultivated shoots in every direction, making mowing an impossible task as clumps of grass, some as tall as three feet, shot up at odd intervals. Right in the center of the front lawn sat a rotting turkey carcass.  Several sheets of cardboard along with assorted piles of rotting leftovers decorated the bizarre landscape.  

A colorful red and yellow plastic windmill merrily spun in the midst of the chaos. 

We hesitantly exited the car and stared in bewilderment at the extraordinary sight.  Ms. Keegler appeared in the doorway in obvious disarray.  Prior to this meeting, I had only seen Ms. Keegler in Church attire with neatly coiffed hair and off the rack dresses.  What we saw standing in the doorway bore not even the slightest resemblance to the reasonably appareled woman we saw each Sabbath.   

This woman had no teeth in her mouth.  Her hair had obviously not been combed since the previous Sabbath… but the most distinguishing factor of the extraordinary spectacle poised in the doorway was the garment in which she was attired.  She had fashioned herself a dress made entirely out of dish towels and safety pins and peeking from underneath the makeshift garb was her well worn and partially exposed birthday suit. 

I glanced over at the four children who stood stone still with their mouths agape.  I reminded them they should say hello to Ms. Keegler.  They all dutifully but reluctantly said hello as they marched past her into the open doorway of her outlandish abode.  The environment did not improve inside.

The inside of her house was like an op art rendition of Alice in Wonderland on the cutting edge of insanity.  In the center left corner of her living room sat her water heater with bare pipes running out of it directly through the middle of the wall to the kitchen.  The room wa entirely absent of any sort of furniture.  Her  bare concrete floor was layered with several thicknesses of the same cardboard that littered her lawn.  The air was sultry and pungent of mildew and rotting food.  Danny was holding his nose.

"Ms. Keegler," I queried, "has your air-conditioning not been working?  It's really a hot one today."

"Oh I don't run my air-conditioner.  It's dangerous.  A young man came out to fix it and said it was fine but I know better.  I'm afraid it'll burn the house down if I turn it on."  She looked down at the four kids who were still trying to ascertain some sense of their unusual surroundings.  "You kids want some juice?"

Danny immediately answered through his pinched nostrils.  "Sure would!"

"Okay then," she replied enthusiastically.   "I'll just be a moment." 

She disappeared into the next room and I walked over and pulled Danny's hand from off his nose.  "IT STINKS IN HERE!"

"SHHH!"  I hissed.

Jenny nodded to affirm the validity of his protest and Brandon and Jason exchanged looks of dismay. 

"I don't care.  It's no reason for you to be rude.  Not another word out of you or else."

"Kiddies," Ms. Keegler called from the kitchen, do you like strawberries? They all bounded into the kitchen hoping to be rewarded with a bowl of red ripe berries but instead she held out a pitcher of thick liquid of indescribable color.  Her appearance,  with her lack of teeth, her unkempt hair and bizarre attire, was reminiscent of a character from Beetlejuice.  They all stopped frozen in their tracks as she poured the chilling elixir into four paper cups.   "I made it myself just for you."  She flashed them a toothless grin and shoved the repulsive refreshments into their little hands.  "It's strawberry, green onion and carrot juice.  I added the pulp back in so it's a little stringy. You just have to keep swallowing to get all the fiber down."

Little Jason looked up at me with tears in his eyes and sweat running down his bright red face.  Brandon gagged.  Seeing Danny was about to take this opportunity to make some sort of proclamation, I reached down and grabbed him by the mouth and pointed outside toward Steve.

"Wonder if Steve needs to ask you any questions Ms. Keegler?" 

"Oh yes," she replied, I bet he'd love some of this fresh juice."

"He would indeed."  I smiled.  "Take him a big glass." I let go of Danny to help her with the door and while she made her way outside with Steve's refreshment, I began gathering the Wasdin boys paper cups and poured them quickly down the sink.  Danny was about to brave a taste.  "NO!  Give me that and let's go outside."

As we all headed out the back door we were met with much the same scenery as we had seen in the front.  Ms. Keegler was pointing out the various plants growing up right out of the yard without plan or order. Suddenly she spied a weed. Brandon and I stood behind her and as she bent over, her makeshift dress was drawn apart in the back exposing her unclad bottom to both Brandon and me. 

As we both stared at the undraped display in astonishment, Danny and Jenny started to giggle.  And without standing back up, she glanced back over her shoulder, pulled the butcher knife she was using to dig weeds out of the ground, and put it to her throat.  Brandon's eyes bulged and he swallowed hard as she scraped the blade of the knife up toward her chin and flung the sweaty condensation out into the untidy backyard. 

"STEVE!"  I said much too loudly. 

Completely unaware of the spectacle we had just witnessed but relieved for the distraction, he poured the contents of his juice glass behind the air-conditioner as Ms. Keegler looked over in my direction.  "What is it?"

"The Wasdin's are expecting their sons and we need to be leaving."

"Oh just a minute," Ms. Keegler said as she hurried into the house.  Quick as a flash she was back outside with little gifts for the kiddies.  She handed Jenny, Brandon and Jason all naked dolls and gave Danny a car with three wheels.  Danny made a face.

"Tell Ms. Keegler Thank you."  I warned.  Jason raised his head from the unclad doll in dismayed astonishment but before he could articulate the evident intent of his expression, his older brother Brandon spoke.

"Thank you, Ms. Keegler."  Brandon sounded sincere.  "I really had a fun day."

Danny snapped his head around at the comment and opened his mouth but Jenny sensing the objective of his impending remark quickly blurted, "Thanks for the juice and the presents."

Ms. Keegler smiled adoringly at the children.  "Oh I always wanted children of my own.  You're all so welcome.  Please come again soon."

I ushered the four kids into the car before any further comments could be made but before we could back out of the driveway, Danny blurted out, "Did you guys see her butt?" 

"Ewwwwww.  Nasty.  Dad, we saw her butt." Jenny stated aghast. 

 Brandon nodded.  "Yeah!  My mom will never believe this.  Hey thanks for getting rid of that juice.  I thought I was going to have to drink that stuff." 

Jason didn't comment.  He just sat there staring at his naked doll.  I wondered if the visit to Ms. Keegler's house hadn't warped his young impressionable mind. 

The following Sabbath in Church, as Ms. Keegler bent over to pick up some fallen object, Jenny, Danny, Brandon and Jason all had a little chuckle.  She had certainly made a lasting impression..

As Feather's in the Wind

Once upon a time there was a quaint village of angry people whose lives were in relentless turmoil. There was so much bickering and fighting and pandemonium betwixt the citizens of the parish their infamous behavior was heralded throughout the neighboring countryside. One could not so much stroll down the street without a person busting out of a shop or home and pointing an accusatory finger toward the passerby. One could never reach their destination without encountering a dreadful disagreement with a fellow resident. Invariably, the indictments would be met with counter allegations and a fight would almost always ensue.

A young priest journeying to a nearby monastery made his way through the discontented village in route to his destination. Aghast, he glanced from one side of the cobblestone street to the other witnessing every imaginable conflict as he made his way through the town. Fatigued from his long journey, and disheartened from the utter chaos he had observed, he decided to stay at a local inn for the night. The innkeeper and his wife laid aside their differences just long enough to check him in and take his money. In his small room he took out from his knapsack a bit of bread and cheese for his evening meal. A young boy knocked on his door to bring him a towel and water for his basin. The priest opened his purse and took out a coin, but before handing it to the child, he inquired of the nature of all the tension throughout the entire community. The boy explained that an old widow woman who lived all alone went visiting from one house to the next carrying tales of scandal and gossip and any news that might be of interest to her neighbors. Because she was full of interesting stories, everyone welcomed her into their home.

Early the next morning as the priest prepared to begin his journey, he spied the old woman already hobbling from one house to the next. Weary from her morning's travel, she plopped down on a large stone to take a short rest before her next stop. The priest saw it as an opportune time to make her acquaintance.

Good woman," he said, "I perceive that you are able to retain a jovial relationship with all the townsfolk. And yet, they seem quite cross with almost everyone else they encounter. How is it that you are able to remain at peace with all these tormented souls?"

The old woman smiled pleasantly at the priest and stiffly put out her gnarled hand for an introduction. "I don't believe I have had the pleasure, good sir. My late husband was a very prominent man and we knew everyone for miles about. Since his passing I continue to visit my fellow townsfolk and deliver news of neighboring towns, alluring accounts of recent occasions and charming tales of good fortune, tragic woes and winds of affection that I pick up here and there. I provide and carry useful information. Everyone here expectantly awaits my arrival with great anticipation. I weave wonderful tapestries of fascination and imagination. People so enjoy interesting tales... hearing them… telling them… Where, sir, might I inquire, is it you are from and to where, good sir, are you going?" she asked as her eyes danced in anticipation of his response. "Might we look forward to your extended stay in our humble little hamlet?"

Though it was yet quite early, the pandemonium had already begun to stir up the small municipality. Two bellowing men crossed from opposite sides of the street ranting and raving at each other and were about to come to blows. "My good woman," the priest retorted as he watched the two whose quarrel had now degenerated to striking each other, "can you not see what your tidbits bring to this borough? You're carrying of tales hither thither and yon have brought much heartache and antagonism to the good people of this township. Observe the fruit of your labors!"

The old woman watched as the two men, brothers, thrashed about on the cobblestones, fighting like schoolboys, and, the gentle breeze carried the echo of angry voices that wafted as a quiet whisper of discontent throughout the village. A window flew open and a woman spat on a man as he passed in front of her house. The elderly woman looked around the town and a large tear rolled down her old weathered cheek. "I meant no harm, sir," she whispered.

The priest opened his knapsack and withdrew a pillow from within its contents and handed it to her. "Your intentions mean little in the face of all that you have done old woman. As penance, I want you to take this pillow, open it up and distribute the feathers hither, thither and yon as you have spread your tales, and when you are free from the contents, come back here and tell me what you have done."

Reluctantly, the tired old woman struggled to her feet and began to distribute the feathers one feather at a time as she moved in pained steps down the explosively animated avenue. The priest waited on the large stone for her return. It was afternoon before the fatigued old woman reappeared with the limp pillow casing. Slowly she reached out her arm stiffly to return it to the priest. "I have scattered the feathers as you required, good sir. I have learned my lesson."

The priest made no move to receive the empty pillow casing. "There is but one more part of your reparation yet to do, old woman. Now, I want you to go back and gather all the feathers that you have painstakingly thrown about the town and put them back in the casing.  Do not return until you have gathered back each and every one of them."

The old woman's face contorted into a twisted grimace upon hearing the demand. Astounded, she stood motionless and began to shake her head. "Good sir," she gasped, "there is no way that I can gather up all of those feathers back into this pillow casing again. Surely by this time they have been carried about on the winds and blown into the distant countryside hither, thither and yon. It cannot be done!"

"Indeed it cannot be done madam. Nor can the words you have carried from place to place be eaten back in your mouth. For by this time, they have been carried into the distant countryside as well. But unlike feathers, your words bring pain and heartache to all who suffer under the weight of their cruelty. Remember this lesson now when you go home and consider the value of speaking your words cautiously."

Learning the Style of Healthy Living

I'm putting my next diet session together on and an add pops up for the new healthy choices at McDonald's.  The Wildberry Smoothie catches my eye.  Curious, I check out the calorie count, ingredients.  Can McDonald's make anything that's actually healthy?

I know I sound wildly skeptical.  But even with my picture above, are those foods as healthy as they look?  Our wheat is genetically altered... to have more gluten.  Our fruits and vegetables are grown in poor soil, inundated with chemical fertilizers and radiated for bugs and durability.  Our chickens are fed a diet of GMO grains tainted with cannibalistic fillers.  Milk contains formaldehyde, and the whole process of pasteurization and homogenization, antibiotics and Monsanto's rBGH, no longer required to be listed even in ORGANIC products. So, yeah, I'm a little skeptical... maybe wildly so.  However, my diligence to maintaining a reasonably organic diet did save me from things like High Blood Pressure, and High Cholesterol even with my serious weight issues.  I ate too much, exercised too little and ate way too rich, but my diet was still filled with things that you could pronounce, low in designer sugars and things I couldn't pronounce.  I always skimmed the fats off beef and didn't eat any pork or seafood, i.e. shellfish, or Crustaceans-adhering to a biblical based diet. Despite my gastronomical shortcomings, I avoided a lot of the more common bullets of obesity.

Okay so my 12 oz Berry Yogurt Smoothie is 161 Calories, 5 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein, 0 fats and 23 grams of sugar, from the fruit because I use berry stevia to sweeten it with instead of sugar or juice concentrates--although, a little frozen concentrated Orange Juice makes for a great smoothie.

McDonald's 12 oz Wild Berry Smoothie is 200 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, .5 grams fat, 44 grams sugar.

Now I use a plain Greek nonfat yogurt, which is high in protein, and instead of ice and wild berry fruit base, I add frozen fruit and and the end result is that I have just as much flavor, less calories and more protein, less sugar & more fiber.  Its real fruit instead of "fruit base" more yogurt, less water.

I remember a very wise saying from my earlier days, eat foods that will spoil, and eat them before they do.

It's still a much better choice than their milk shake... and I'm not against McDonald's.  It just concerns  me that the public seems so pathetically unaware of what constitutes nutrition and are inundated with high calorie, low nutrition alternatives.  If the sign says healthy, well, isn't there truth in advertising laws?  I guess the question is, what constitutes health?

We are what we eat.

I Stumbled on a website that was a real eye-opener to me.  It talked about calorie condensed foods.  I'd never really considered that before.  It showed several examples of comparisons of fruits and vegetables to commonly consumed foods, like apples to a fast food meal.

It was disturbing.  I see the kids where I work eat this meal every day.
He went on to show he ate about 4 lbs of food a day and that:

  • 4 pounds of raw veggies will provide 400 calories
  • 4 pounds of raw fruits will provide 1000 calories
  • 4 pounds of cooked whole grains/legumes provides 1600 calories
  • 4 pounds of nuts/seeds provides about 10,000 calories
  • 4 pounds of Lucky Charms, Pop Tarts, Cheese provides about 10,000 calories

  • When I first started trying to change my eating habits, it took me a couple of hours to consume an apple.

    As I ate it, I swear, it kept getting bigger.  But determined to make some changes, I forced myself to eat 2 pieces of raw fruits every day.  It was punishing. But 2 years later, I can really pound it down pretty quick and wish it was a little bigger.

    I had a bad weekend and suddenly my weight was up by about 10 lbs.  I almost fell off the scale.  I was panicked and backed out of the bathroom like it was a murder scene I'd stumbled upon.  I'm  not kidding.  It was traumatic.  What was I going to do?  It was like a little voice in my head that said, you're gonna get fat as soon as you stop this diet, just like very other time... all you're doing is delaying the inevitable.  But, I went back to my website, changed my targets to a higher protein, lower carb ration and in less than a week I was back to the last end of session weight.  It was beautiful.  I can maintain what I've lost.

    I've figured it all out.  Stepping on that scale and seeing it back where it was supposed to be was a real moment for me.

    So I was going to start again this weekend but I'm sick as a dog... my gut is all messed up.  Everything I eat makes me sick.  The upside is, I'm losing weight anyway... but I feel pretty rough.  Actually I haven't been sick in a while.  I really think its the lack of sugar.  I've been using Stevia instead and pretty well redefined my idea of dessert.  Its a work in  progress.  14 lbs from now, I'll have lost half of me... and I'll go from obese to just simply overweight.  20 something more lbs after that, I'll be within the high end weight range of normal weight for my height and age.

    I'm coming along.  I'm not there yet.   But I'm starting to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel.