I’m not here to make you feel better about your vote.  You own that.  Your candidate showed you who he was – a racist, xenophobic, sexist, narcissistic sexual predator.  And you said – “you’re hired.”

I’m not her to reassure you that you really aren’t a racist.  I no longer know who you are.  I only know that the consequences of your vote have emboldened racists and placed the people I love in fear.

I’m not here to assuage your hurt feelings.  My feelings never crossed your mind when you pressed that lever.

I’m not here to take away your “pain” when you have shown no interest in understanding ours.

I’m not here to “get over it.”  I can’t get over your choice of  xenophobia over inclusiveness, racism over unity, sexism over empowerment, your own individual pocketbook over the needs of the marginalized communities that your candidate, now President elect, attacked.  I can’t “get over” the fact that he unleashed a cruelness the likes that we have not seen since Governor Wallace.  Nor can I “get over”, let alone “unify”, behind a man who bragged about grabbing women by the “pussy.”  I just can’t.  It is not about just another election.  It is about the fact that the vision that you chose to support terrifies me.  You chose hate over love.  Exclusion over inclusion.  Marginalization over empowerment.  Bullying over kindness.

I am here to resist.  Resist that hate won.  It didn’t.  Most Americans rejected his message.   I am here to support the people who live in fear of your candidate’s vision for American society and the racist elements of this society that he has emboldened and unleashed.

I too am American.  I will not roll over.  I will not leave.  I will not normalize this President elect who based his candidacy on hate and fear.   I will not submit.


Every year the reminders come… it’s her birthday… send flowers.  Every year they go unheeded… not because I don’t want to but because I can’t.  I don’t have an earthly address for her anymore… and I don’t think FTD has figured out a way to deliver flowers to heaven.

But, if I could Mom, I would send you something pink and full of life.  Like you.  I would search high and low until I found the perfect card that captures how much  you mean to me.   I would call  you from my cell phone, in traffic, as I always seemed to do and you always called me out on. I would savor in the sound of your voice… a voice I no longer hear and breathe in the warmth of your embrace.

And I would tell you … you were right. Hard to believe huh?  I didn’t appreciate you enough while you were on this earth.   I thought that there was always more time until there wasn’t.  I believed that we had more moments instead of wisely spending the immediate moments with you.

But know this.. my heart was always with you.  It still is.  Where else could it be?  Through illness, bad relationships, uncertainty, you were always there for me.  You had my back and I had yours.  No matter how crazy we made each other, you were the one constant in my life.  My rock.  You showed me a quiet strength tempered with amazing love.  That strength lives on in me.  The love?  I keep it close to my heart.

Happy birthday Mom.



He was perfect in his imperfections … and he had only one question.  Are you enjoying life?  Because he sure was.   I met him when I was setting up to teach a class that Thursday afternoon by the pool.  He was swimming that day with other individuals who were developmentally challenged.  With  eyes that sparkled and a contagious smile, he introduced himself to me and asked the question that lit up my day.  Are you enjoying life? If the answer wasn’t enthusiastic enough for him, well, he would tell you.  For him, life was just one big adventure.. a never-ending party.   And he wanted EVERYONE to enjoy the party.

The lifeguard told me about his other side with a smile.  He was also their “informant.”  But he wasn’t a snitch.  He was a broadcaster of only good news about the people he knew.  He shined a light on their “awesomeness” and, in so doing, lifted us all up.

And so it was with me.   My day was infinitely better by this chance encounter with an individual who reminded me how much I have to be grateful for.   He showed me our limitations don’t define us.  We define ourselves.  He called upon me to release the shackles of  inadequacy, fear, and regret.    He exhorted me to seek out and eagerly broadcast the good in people.  He inspired me to ditch mere existence for a life fully lived and to love without abandon.

But mostly.. he reminded me that that beauty is imperfect and that we all are perfect in our imperfections.

I lost an old friend today.  It wasn’t totally unexpected.   Pancreatic cancer is predictably lethal, cruel, and devastating. Inevitably, the body succumbs to the immense pain and the organs shut down.  That’s what happened to my mother.  That is what I suspect happened to my old friend.  The disease laid ruin to her body.  However, there is one thing it could never do.  Destroy her soul.  And oh what a soul she has.

I saw it in high school when we met.  Her enormous smile lifted me out of more than my fair share of moments of teenage angst.  She was the person I laughed with, cried with, and “goofed off” with.  She encouraged me, called me out when I needed it, and convinced me that I needed to go to Hawaii with her on the senior class trip. Trust me, I needed convincing.  I was more interested in going to Greece than hanging out with members of our senior class. In typical fashion, Sheryl persisted until I saw the error of my thinking!    She made that trip memorable  – the smiles, the laughter, the dancing, and the  infamous trip to Benihana’s.  Her sister was our built in chaperone which gave us more freedom to stay out and cause for the other students on the trip to complain to the other chaperones about our lack of interaction with the people that we never hung around with in high school in the first place!  Needless to say, we both found that particularly amusing.

I wish I could say that we kept in better touch after high school.  I wish I had more moments to share.  Unfortunately,  life intervened and, without the benefit of social media, we lost touch after my graduation from college in 1984.  However, we found each other again in 2008 (ah the wonders of Facebook).  She was the same Sheryl I always knew… loving, caring, funny, and authentic.  We talked about getting together, either in Wisconsin or in Connecticut where I live.  We caught up when I was in Wisconsin in November 2012 but little did we know then how little time we would have.

However, even in that fleeting moment, I saw the one  constant. Her soul.  It is this same soul which refused to allow pancreatic cancer to ravage her optimism, love, and kindness.  Her soul which continued to see the beauty in each and every day even while the disease ravaged her body.  Her soul which continued to reach out to the family and friends who touched her life.

In an odd way, I was reminded of that today as I drove to work.  The news of her passing had brought up a lot of things for me.. reminders of her.. memories of my mother’s passing from pancreatic cancer… a heartbreaking sadness for the family left behind and the difficult path of grief ahead.  In the midst of that, I was compelled to play a song.. something I really wasn’t up to doing but did anyway.  Ironically, the song that came on my phone was a very bad remix of Come Baby Come… and then I heard it… a disparaging comment about my music choice which was, well, so “Sherylesqe.”  I smiled.. and, in the words of the song, said “you gotta give me loving, you got to give me some.”  Then, I felt it… in a very warm heated car I was instantly cold… all over.   Thanks for the love Sheryl… some may think I’m crazy but I know in my heart it was you.

We have forgotten who we are… that is the voice I heard as I struggled to grapple with all the suffering, despair, and carnage that littered  the news this summer.  That was my aha moment.  My moment of clarity.  We have lost our connection to the Divine and, in losing that connection, we have lost our humanity.   We have given fear a front row seat in our life and drowned out the murmurings of love that emanate from our soul.    We have forgotten that we are first and foremost spiritual beings, intrinsically connected to each other,  having a human experience.  We have wallowed in fear and fueled the voices of hatred.

What else could explain it?  Instead of loving fearlessly, we live fearfully.  We rationalize the bombardment of innocent civilians and the killing of people who believe differently than us as if they are not a part of us.

But they are… and your soul knows it.  The soul does not rationalize…that is a product of a mind whose thoughts have gone precariously off track.  The soul  illuminates. It is our window to a better understanding of who who are and why we are here.   It leads us to one inexplicable conclusion. . .  that we all are intrinsically connected.   The soul reminds us that what we do to others, we do to ourselves.   The soul calls us to love fearlessly .  Let us heed the call of our soul.

It used to signify the coming of summer – the long awaited awakening from the hibernation that a cold winter brings.  It was a  harbinger of the end of school and the beginning of sweet blessed vacation.  As a child, I could hardly wait for the opening of the lake cottage where we would spend our weekends along with a never ending trail of visiting family members and friends.  It was a season of barbecues, water skiing, swimming, and fun.   That’s what Memorial Day meant then.

Those days are now gone – the memories overshadowed by newer darker memories of my last moments with my mother.  Six years ago, I stood vigil by my Mother’s side in a dreary hospital room waiting for her to die.  There would be no barbeques… no family gatherings, no fireworks.  It was just me and her . .. saying goodbye.

I knew it was coming.  Her diagnosis of late stage pancreatic cancer ensured that it would be sooner than later,  But it didn’t make it any easier.  It was never easy to watch her suffer but it was even harder to let her go. For awhile, she put on a good front.  She did not want us to think that she had given up even though in her soul she knew her time had come.  She did that for us and so I had to do something for her. I gave her permission to leave.

It was early in the morning the day after Memorial Day in 2008.  She had been mostly unconscious since placed on the morphine drip earlier in that weekend.  I was sleeping in her room because I did not want her to die alone.  I wanted to bear witness to her passing. I wanted her to feel my love when she left this earth.   I awoke to her struggling for her every breath.  I held her hand.  My voice broke as I told her she could go.   She left her physical body moments later  but she  never really left.

I feel her presence everywhere.   I am reminded of her in every day seemingly meaningless events… trips to Christmas Tree shops,  Christmas cookies, the smell of roses.   She is the voice inside my head guiding me.  She is the spark that inspires me.  She is the visitor in my dreams who reminds me that the love we share never dies.  She is my Memorial Day.

Recently, I was confronted with a post expressing anger with any comparison of the LGBT civil rights movement to that of African Americans.  The post expressed that their struggle should be “kept in its place.”  For me, those words stirred memories.  Memories of a time when African Americans were also told that they should know their “place.”

Now, I don’t profess what it knows like to be black or gay.  I am neither.  I am white woman, born in the sixties, who merely witnessed some of the struggles during that time.  I am the former wife of an African American man born to a mother who was subjected to the Jim Crow laws as she grew up in the South.  I can never know what it is like to be her and I never presumed to know her struggle.  I just knew I loved her son because of who he was, not because of what color he still is.  He was my first love.  The initial distrust was replaced with respect and then love.  She was a no nonsense straight shooter shaped by her own experiences as I was mine.  The relationship with her son may have ended for reasons unrelated to color, but my admiration for her never did.

That relationship, however, gave me an inside view into a world I never knew.  The prejudice… the daily injustices.  A world colored by distrust.  I remember once I was out with friends when a man approached me and began talking disparagingly about the interracial couple at the next table.  His thesis was that only ugly white women date black men.  After exploring this with him for a bit, I asked him whether he thought I was ugly.  When he said no, I calmly blew his thesis apart by telling him my boyfriend was black.  Needless to say, I never saw a man move so quick.

But even though I was allowed into this world, I never was truly a part of it.  I could always walk away.  My ex could not escape his skin color any more than I could escape mine.  His struggle was uniquely his own.

Maybe that is why I found the comparison of struggles so troubling.  I don’t know what it is like to be subjected to suspicion because of the color of my skin anymore than I know what it is like to be subjected to hate because of sexual orientation.  But here is what I do know.  I know that everyone has their own intensely personal unseen struggles.  Struggles that remain hidden because of feelings that no one could possibly love them if they know. I know that, even if someone allowed me to be a witness to these internal  struggles, I can never truly understand.  I know that skin color and sexual orientation are not a choice.  I could not choose to be anything other than the white heterosexual woman I am.   I don’t presume to think that it a choice for others when it is not for me.

I also  know that  that judging which struggle is more valid is pointless.  It creates divisions and ill feelings.  It tears us apart instead of bringing us together, in the spirit of understanding and love.  I know that when we judge, we are the farthest from the Divine.   That is a location I wish to avoid.



I still have the doll.   Drowsy is her name. She isn’t in the best of condition. Her hip juts out in one direction.  The string that I used to pull to hear her voice no longer works.  It only makes a strange indiscernible sound.  What hair she has stands straight up.  Her body bears scars of being mended after my brother ripped her apart. But her face hasn’t aged although mine has.  I still have her, forty four years later, because she was the last gift I received from my grandmother for Christmas in 1969.

She died forty-four years ago today from internal bleeding after being admitted to the hospital for breaking her hip.  It was the eve of Christmas Eve.  My last memory of her was waving to her as she entered surgery and knowing then that I would never see her again.  She was a strong German matriarch with a soft side that she rarely showed. As a young child, I remember at times being afraid of her – especially after I spilled coffee on my grandfather’s lap on his seventieth birthday.  She was a constant in our lives until she was no more.  I can only hope that my grandfather, who died the year prior, was waiting for her on the other side.

Hers was the only doll I ever kept.  I kept it as a way of remembering her.  I kept is as a way of holding onto the times I shared with my grandparents.  I was only six when she passed.  When I lost her, I lost my last living grandparent and my mother became an orphan.   The doll brought me back to a different time.  A time when I had grandparents who doted on and looked out for me .  They were a safe haven from my parents’ tortured marriage.  That safe haven was now gone and I was left to navigate my parent’s troubled relationship on my own.

As an adult, I sometimes wonder what she would think of this adult version of her granddaughter.  I know she wasn’t concerned about how I would turn out.  At least, that is what she told my mother. She believed my intelligence would carry me through this world.   Maybe this is because she saw me doing multiplication at a very young age.  Maybe it is because I picked  up things quickly.  Or maybe it was just a hunch.   But still… I wonder.  I know she would not have approved of all my life choices.  But I also know that, regardless, she would have been there. Just like my mother was.  Just like they still are… just from a different location.



I remember a time when the end of Thanksgiving signaled the beginning of one of our favorite times of the year – cookie baking season!  My mother was infamous for her Christmas cookies and my brother and I were more than willing to help.  Sometimes that meant cutting out the cookies.. other times it meant making sure the reject cookies were properly disposed of.  They taste just as good.  But regardless, this season brought a whole slew of new smells to our kitchen… the old standards, gingerbread, sugar, chocolate chip…. and the new.  This was our family tradition…. and one that was passed down through the women in our family.

These cookies were meant to be shared… and shared we did!  Our family and friends were guaranteed a tin of homemade cookies during the holiday season. All we asked was to return the tin to ensure  a batch of cookies the next year.  This never seemed to be a problem as our family and friends happily complied to ensure a stream of  Christmas cookies.

I don’t know how many batches of cookies we made… but it sure seemed like a lot.  We stored them in our cool basement to keep them fresh and, to keep them out of our prying hands.  It didn’t always work… we would sneak downstairs and score some gingerbread cookies anyways.  But enough cookies remained so our family and friends could enjoy them.

As an adult, I carried on the tradition for awhile.  I still remember a Christmas when it was the battle of the cookies between my mom and me.  We both had brought cookies to a family friend’s house.  I reached for one of my mother’s standards, peanut butter, only to discover that she had forgotten the peanut butter.  When I told her, she immediately grabbed one and insisted that she tasted it. Everyone else disagreed and my mom endured a little bit of ribbing that Christmas.

That tradition ended when I became Muslim much to the complete disappointment of my then husband who had enjoyed cookies from Christmas past.  I was made to feel that  I should avoid anything which appeared to celebrate Christmas.  Terms like “haram” and “imitation of kuffar” were bantered about.  I couldn’t understand how an innocent cookie or two, ok a whole lot more than two, could lead me away from  my new found faith but I complied anyway.  I knew I would still be getting cookies from my mom anyway.   But I could never bring myself to avoid giving gifts to my family, as was suggested, because this season was so heavily filled with family traditions which were important to them.  It would have been hurtful to do otherwise.

This year, after much reflection, I am reclaiming a family tradition.  The truth is I’ve missed it.  I’ve missed the smells, the companionship of making cookies with family or friends, and the joy that comes from giving them away.  So tomorrow I will bake.  I will bake with friends who are coming together to make an unprecedented amount of cookies. (And sample some as well).  It isn’t that I have changed faiths, I haven’t.  I still don’t believe that Jesus is God in the flesh.  But we Muslims do believe in the virgin birth.  We do believe in the underlying message of love, compassion, and peace on earth.  We do believe in sadaqah which encompasses any act of giving out of love, compassion or friendship.  This is something I can get behind – embracing a family tradition of sadaqah…. and sneaking some good cookies. . . .  I have to sample them right?

This time of year always brings back so many memories… beginning with my grandmother, the original keeper of the holiday traditions and recipes.    She was never one to take shortcuts preferring to make everything from scratch including her infamous Apple Raisin stuffing, a secret family recipe passed among generations of women.  This time of year was always the opening event of a season of cooking, baking, and, inevitably, overeating!  No one ever went away hungry – not on her watch.

I was only five when she passed, on the eve of Christmas Eve, but I remember the  morning after vividly.  I woke up to  find my Mother, sitting alone at the kitchen table.  I knew things would never be the same.  You see, my mother had lost both of  her parents in a little over a year.  She had lost her world.

I never understood the depth of that grief until I lost her five years ago.  Losing one parent is life-altering.  Losing two  parents in such a short period of time is unthinkable. But she carried on.  She carried on because she had two young children who needed her.  She carried on because she didn’t have any other option.  She carried on alone – an only child with no real support from the man she married, my father.   She carried on because that is who she was.   In the height of the holiday season, after losing her mother,  her mother’s secret family recipe became her own.

And so it was that I became her little helper.  I still remember peeling and chopping apples for the stuffing on Thanksgiving Eve.  I remember the smells of turkey, freshly baked desserts, and, of course, the infamous stuffing.  I remember the “snibbits”  of turkey that we would claim for ourselves before the turkey even hit the table.  I remember being relegated to the children’s table, even as a young adult, and wondering if I ever would get to sit at the “adult” table.  But mostly, I remember being a part of something larger- the love and craziness that is family.

Now that my mother has been passed, I am the keeper of this recipe – the last in a long line of women who made this on Thanksgivings past.  So tomorrow, I will make this recipe because no Thanksgiving is the same without it.  I will read my mother’s handwriting, long since faded, and know that the love she had for me did not die with her.  It remains with me.  It comforts me.  But mostly, I will be reminded of her “recipe” for living – an unyielding faith in the Divine, quiet service towards others,  her often times surprising sense of humor, and a love that is boundless.