Thursday, February 25, 2016



The sound of bacon cooking sizzling and splatting in a pool of grease makes me want to run for cover.  

It’s not a vegan thing, or even a religious thing.  It goes way back. Bacon is a food that used to comfort me. That piece of crisp bacon on top of white bread slathered in mayonnaise: It did the trick. Kind of like back in the Great Depression when a raw piece of bacon served as a cheap pacifier for babies. 

It’s the ultimate comfort food. There’s a “Wake up and Smell the Bacon” app: an alarm clock that releases the smell of bacon to wake your early morning senses.  And, recently, a toddler in Tennessee became a YouTube sensation with his enthusiastic expressions of delight after tasting his first piece of bacon.

That used to be me - until I wrote bacon off my personal diet at age 15. It was right after my first Weight Watcher’s Meeting.

Thank fortune, my husband, Hank, a reformed bacon-eater due to high cholesterol, has also now given it up. But, once a year at holiday time, I endure the bacon. It starts early on Christmas morning when Hank hauls out our biggest frying pan.

    But, I’m prepared.       

For my now adult children, the sound of Santa and ho-ho-ho isn’t what they remember about Christmas morning.  It’s the sound of aluminum foil cutting across the serrated edges of a Reynolds Wrap box.  “I know it’s Christmas morning,” my son, Joseph, told me this year, “because of the sound of the tin foil.”

It’s a process I began on Christmas years ago after the wallpaper became dotted with bacon grease after the traditional holiday breakfast and no cleaner would remove the brown spots. The following year, I pulled out the masking tape and tin foil to protect the walls beside the stove. It looked like a child’s makeshift spaceship.

I didn’t care. I needed protection against the enemy.

I’ve gotten good at it. “Nice job,” my son-in-law, Doug, said breezing through. “This year the edges all line up.”

After breakfast, I open the kitchen windows and doors, desperate to rid the house of bacon’s lingering scent. But, I’ve only survived the first onslaught.

The second yearly bacon-fueled hurdle is to be found at Hank’s mother’s home two hours away where we go after Christmas.

I prepare, packing washable, not that likeable (in case the smell doesn’t come out) clothes to wear the morning of our one-night stay.

Like clockwork, Hank’s mother holds up a package of wrapped bacon as I enter the kitchen in the morning. It’s her annual warning: “Heather, I’m going to start the bacon.”

It’s the necessary ingredient for her legendary “crispy eggs” she loves to make for Hank and her grandchildren.  I can’t take that away from her (or them), so I high tail it to the farthest region of the attached family room.

“Heath,” my sister, April, asked when I’d told her Joseph’s comment about the tin foil on Christmas, “why this aversion to bacon?”

“It was the last fattening food I ever ate with abandon.”

“But, Heath, that was over forty years ago.”

“I know,” I replied, “but there’s nothing like something to remind me of what I don’t want to be."

“What don’t you want to be?”

“That unhappy 15-year-old fat girl.”

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mom Never Gives Up - Part One

“Mom, you need to use your walker,” I say to my 88-year-old mother.  She thinks it makes her look old.

“Hardly sexy, me using a walker.”

“Please: You’ve got Parkinson’s! You could fall.”

None of my warnings stop her from sneaking around without it. I remind her daily, beg her.  We even got a red-metallic rolling walker.

“I use it. I use it,” she protested, last weekend when I caught her getting up from her chair without it. “See!” she said, resting a single manicured finger on one handle.

Last Monday night, her assisted living facility called me. Instead of the usual message informing me that my mother had tried to leave the facility with one man or another, the message was more to the point.

“Your mother has taken a fall – she seems fine, but there’s a tiny little cut on the back of her head. We’re sending her over to St. John’s in an ambulance.”

“I’ll be right there.”  It was her second fall in two weeks.

The first time she fell, I’d gotten a call on a Friday at work. “We’ve assessed her,” her caregiver told me. “We just want to have her checked out in the ER to make sure.” 

After being seen on the first fall, the ER nurse asked me to step out of the room.  I turned to my mother sitting in a hospital wheelchair reapplying lipstick.

Out in the hall, the nurse lowered her voice:  “Does your mother always answer questions this inappropriately? With her fall and all. Could she have hit her head, causing her to act out of the ordinary?”

“Oh, you mean when she told the doctor he was a stud and his arm muscles turned her on?”

The nurse nodded.

“And when she said how she loved being here with all these men lifting her on to the table when she got the X-Ray on her arm.”

“Well, yes,” she replied.  “It’s just that…” the nurse stammered, searching. ”It’s just unusual, a woman her age - you know, being so….”

“Fixated on men?”

“Yes,” she laughed.

“Trust me. This is normal.” I said. “It’s been all about a man all her life. She hasn’t changed.”

“This isn’t new?”

“Hardly,” I laughed. “My mom kissed little Kenneth Carrier in Kindergarten and it hasn’t stopped.”

“At five?” she asked, trying to remain clinical.

Married three times - twice divorced, once widowed and now in assisted living, my mother is still boy crazy.

When she stops flirting and looking at men as some sort of prize win, I’ll know she is winding down.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Room to Spare

I held the note in my hand and looked hard at the message.  

It wasn't the misspelling of my daughter's name, it was the addition of my son-in-law, Doug.

For the last two years there's been an extra name in the family e-mail line-up. An extra set of initials next to Allan, Hilary and Joseph’s on my dented gold bangle, a new stocking on the mantle (now on their mantle) at Christmastime. 

I relish in the accomplishments and understand the challenges my son-in-law experiences as I do with my own children's accomplishments and challenges.

Once Doug came into the fold, he’s family. Period.

And I hear it only gets better. My friends who have grandchildren are delighting in the newfound happiness of having these little ones around. “Just you wait,” says my friend, Kim.

When my friend, Wendy, holds her baby granddaughters, I see pure joy in her expression. 
It’s not all perfect, our growing families. Nothing ever is.  

But, as the lines in our faces deepen, our skin begins to sag, and the eyesight starts to go, we are rewarded with an expanding heart.

It opens up, and you are amazed that your heart has capacity for someone new. 

But, it does…with room to spare for more.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Soul Mates

I’d given up having a hobby to share with my husband, Hank.  We had one once. Roller Skating. It was all the rage when we got married back in 1979. The skates were our wedding gift to each other. But, our shared hobby barely lasted through our first child three years later. A few dashes about with baby Allan in the stroller and our orange fluorescent wheels were relegated to the garage to gather dust.

Raising three children took up our weekend days. But, it was just an excuse. We didn’t make the time. Occasionally, I’d spot a couple walking together hand-in-hand around the neighborhood. That couple on the public golf course nearby – the one’s sitting side-by-side in the golf cart, their matching clubs tinkling in golf bags strapped on the back as they whizzed by.

Would Hank and I ever share a hobby again?

Years later, when our children flew the nest and we were free from their activities and sports events, we went our separate ways on weekend days. I went to yoga, to run errands, shopping, etc.  Hank went to surf.  Our weekend’s were all about “See ‘ya at six!”

Then, I mentioned to Hank that SoulCycle had introduced an App.

He perked up. “An App?”

My daughter had taken me to this popular indoor cycling spot two years ago in New York. At home in LA, I began going regularly, reporting back to Hank incidences riding next to a celebrity, how fit I felt, how fun it was to break out of my suburban Pasadena comfort zone to West Hollywood. Soon, a studio in Pasadena opened. Then, the Hollywood studio opened, three minutes from my daughter’s new home and only 16 (to be exact) from our house.

But, the App was the hook that lured Hank…a tech guy; he couldn’t resist the modern way to sign up for a workout.

“Maybe I’ll try it,” he said. “Just once.”

“Really? I mean you and me together? Like on a weekend?  During the day?  You and me on a bike side-by-side?”

“Well, I guess,” he replied. Hank was reticent. He didn’t want to commit. “If the surf’s good, I’ll pass.”

I warned him: “You sure? It’s not like surfing where you are out there in nature.”

Our first class together was in Hollywood with Heather, an instructor who is challenging, but fun. I was nervous, though. What had I gotten him into? I pulled her aside and told her to be easy on him.  She nodded and laughed. “No worries.”

Once he got settled on the bike, the young woman whom we’d just met in the waiting area leaned over Hank’s bike. Her ample cleavage peeked out of an orange neon sports bra: “Good luck on your first ride, Hank!”

Then, whispered to me in her native Australian accent: “Isn’t it great to be better at something than your husband?”

“Not for long,” I laughed.

I kept looking over at Hank during class. I was worried. He was heated, red-faced, and sat down often, but he’d kept peddling. He survived the one-hour  “Survivor” class. I reached out and touched his sweaty arm.

He gave me a forced grin.

As we were leaving the studio, a television actress told him he “did great” and the Australian beauty called out: “Good job, Hank!”

What’s to hate?

Unlike my son-in-law, who likened the SoulCycle experience to “worse than being in airplane turbulence,” Hank was sold.

 “Heath, are you going to sign us up for Soul this week,” he said the following Monday…

That was back in July. Now, it’s a whole new thing on the weekend. Before Hank went with me, I’d get to class just minutes before the start. Throw on my bike shoes and hop on. With Hank, we arrive fifteen minutes before class.  It’s like our airport run on business trips – getting there way too early me – such a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person. We stand around waiting. Makes me nuts.

Recently, Hank’s taken it to a new level.  Gone is that guy on the bike next to me charting his heart rate on the Apple Watch. He’s moved on, improved and sprinting right in time with me.

He’s got his own account. His own App, his favorite teachers, and when I go without him it’s: “Where’s Hank?”

Yes, we have become THAT couple on Sunday. Bike one & two - that couple in the golf cart I longed to be.  And, now that we were, I wasn’t so sure I liked it. I’d gotten used to having my own thing. It had changed. It became “ours” and he’d turned it into an airport run!

But, last Sunday in class… Heather called out to Hank at a difficult point. She could see he was giving it his all. “Yah, Hank!” I found myself smiling, his trying hard - sharing in something I found fun.

On the way home, we were back to the usual bickering about his driving. But, something had changed inside me. So we get there early? So his driving makes me crazy… What’s the big deal? 

I just wasn’t used to sharing a recreation with him. The time in the car (between the bickering) we engaged in mindless conversations, about little things, nonsense chatter that when you don’t spend enough time together, you don’t take part in.

It reminded me of those old days on the fluorescent wheels…

After our first "ride" together last July

Upon our early arrival last Sunday...