Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Miley Cyrus
Photo Credit

Dear Miley Cyrus,

I guess you’re famous.  I guess that’s why you’re clogging up my twitter feed and facebook posts from my normally contemplative friends. 

The truth is, I am writing more to those friends than to you.  I am writing to you as a simple woman, recently returned to America from a developing country.  I have been gone six years and I am used to watching news that is...well, news.  I have been catapulted into a pop culture that reports things like which celebrity wears what, which Kardashian is married and giving birth to whom... stuff that the rest of the world doesn’t care about.

I wanted to write to say my own three things.
  1. Your being a celebrity does not affect me much.

Your celebrity means I will either listen to your music or watch your movies or watch you play a game.  I don’t know which one you do, but with the entire hubbub going around twitter I can assume that you normally wear clothes and something happened to them lately. 

Truthfully, my main questions this week are how my friends in Egypt will survive another change of government.  How will they afford electricity or gas?  I want to know how the Egyptian church will be received by a transitory leader that will most likely be in office for no longer than ten months.

I want to know why the Obama administration has just now called attention to the tension in Syria, when that area has been dominated by fundamentalist leaders that threaten to ruin their own people for years.  And why don’t we have to the guts to confront Saudi Arabia, who have been watching this for years and puppeteering the whole Middle East? 

I want to learn more about Greece and Iceland’s financial recovery, how that will affect the economy of the USA, the balance of the Euro... the future of the yen. 

That's what I expect from my news this week.  Am I nuts?

    2.    I’ve seen you before.

I grew up watching Charlie’s Angels, then Madonna, then Brittany Spears.  Back in the day when I saw them as benchmarks to womanhood, I watched them for fashion tips and even listened to their philosophies.  In between, Wendy O Williams dropped her halter top in a TV interview, Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction and Paris Hilton played peek-a-boo with her crotch a few times. 

Once America watched in horror as Madonna, Brittany and Christina French kissed after some boob and cheek struttage.  It was all a show to jump-start the public attention on all three of them. 

Nothing new. 

By the time I stopped watching celebrities market themselves, I was almost too old to realize that the real women in my life were benchmarks for different reasons.  These women loved hard, got wounded by the objects of their affection and somehow survived.  They laughed at themselves, found beauty in even the smallest things and spent blissful moments in circles on folding chairs, listening to the conversations of family and friends. 

These women have influenced the woman I have become and will influence my daughter and her daughters.  I won’t get caught up in thinking that celebrities influence the way I live...anymore.

       3.  You sell a lot of soap.
It used to be that newspapers used to use the scandals of celebrities to pedal the detergents on page six.  There was Ivory Soap, Oil of Olay and Palmolive that they sold there.  Now my online newspapers are smarter.  On the right side, the advertisements are for Jackson Perkins roses or Modcloth dresses – vendors I pay attention to.

I know you have a job to do, but I grieve for the fact that you don’t even know you’re doing it.  As far as your concerned, you are peddling Miley Cyrus, not soap (or roses or cute clothes).  A whole lot of parents are mad at you because they let their fourteen year old daughters watch the MTV awards and find you in positions that used to be only seen on reel-to-reel films in dark movie houses. 

"MTV has once again succeeded in marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars and condom commercials -- while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14. This is unacceptable," the Parent Television Council said in a statement.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d react less.  My daughter would have heard about this performance at school, or (now) on twitter.  Whatever, man.  Watch what you have to do to peddle yourself in America.  That’s it, right there.  Watch and learn, then choose. 

I guess I have a lot of hindsight.  I used to ban viewings like these in my home, hoping to protect my kids from the world.  The truth is, we live in a fallen world.  You live in the same world that I do and my kids do.  This is the show that has been getting attention in this world. 

Okay, I live in a world like that. 

I got it.

Now I can get on with what I was doing.  I hope my blog gets two thousand hits today.  I bet it will.  After all, I’m blogging about Miley Cyrus and she’s trending on twitter. 

This isn’t about me.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I was ten years old on Balboa Drive, chasing my sisters down the street because they dared me to.  We were not supposed to leave the court without permission, but Shari and Colleen were feeling naughty and wanted to run from me, screaming.  I took off after them as they did, even though it was nearly dark and I was barefoot.  The wind whipped my hair back and I was laughing and running at the same time. 

I remember this moment because it is a measure of happiness that I remember as one of the happiest in my life.  It is a true blessing to have this as a memory.  It makes me happy just by writing about it.

Happiness is something that humans pursue more than wealth – which is saying something.  It is a more than a feeling, it is a state of mind.

According to Aristotle, the purpose of every human being’s happiness is dependent on their  ability to achieve something which is good. His theory on happiness was that anyone could achieve it through knowledge and good actions – provided that our motivation is pure.

The Bible portrays happiness as a place of safety and peace, accompanied by contentment in knowledge of who you are in relation to who God is.  This happiness is fulfilled by Jesus, the Messiah who brings peace to the world.

In every belief, in most religions, happiness is championed.  It is usually seen as something to be shared, something to be attained and given freely.  Buddha even said, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” 

I have seen the richest people I know be miserable because of circumstances (mainly bitterness and unforgiveness).  We have sat in Sudanese villages where a woman has told us that there is nothing that makes her quite as happy as watching a sunset and smoking her pipe.  

The youngest people seem to figure it out the fastest: happiness is simple. A baby experiences laughter and it raises our spirits; a child realizes that playing outside is perfect with a box or a ball.  

Happiness is simple; it’s amazing how we have polluted it.

Today I will be happy.

I decide to be happy today because I will allow myself to feel the miracle of life around me.  I will seek to share this happiness with others, just because I want to be happier.  I will laugh too loud, be kind to strangers and say hello to someone I don’t know.  I will text my kids and tell them that they are miracles to me.  I will do something for someone else without them knowing.  I will write something beautiful, reach out to a friend and make gorgeous food for my husband. 

And I will be nice to myself.

Will you be happy today with me? 

I dare you.  

Monday, August 19, 2013


I was an adult when I read it for the first time and tears came to my eyes in the bookstore.  It was all Leo Buscaglia’s fault.

I majored in Speech in college and I was captivated by Buscaglia, the man who told the best stories of love and normal family life and finding happiness in a hurting world.  In one of his many talks, he mentioned the name Shel Silverstein and referenced the book that many consider the most poignant of all children’s works.  

I found it in a bookstore and read it in its entirety, loving the illustrations as much as I did the words. 

The book is simple; almost simplistic.  At first glance, there is almost nothing to it.  It’s about a tree (one that instantly takes on human qualities) that can’t move who “loves a little boy” who can.  The boy is a classic boy with non-stop energy and imagination.  He is (at first) the story’s protagonist. 

Things change as the boy grows and he is exposed as a selfish man who thinks only of himself.  Gone is the innocence of his youth where he thinks of the tree as his companion.  Instead of feeling cheated by this strange fact, the reader’s attention turns toward the tree, who loves the boy.  As much as the tree gives, it is she who is happy – never the boy who is receiving everything she can possibly give.

 I read it again today in one scroll down with my mouse.  It was lacking the pictures, but it made me remember.  I remembered my children, freshly bathed snuggling close to me to hear a few books before bed.  Even as an exhausted mother, it was my favorite time of day.  Right after the dinner dishes were finished and the kids were squeaky clean and their hair was damp and their eyes sparkled as they carried their choice of books to me for read-aloud time.  I always wanted them to pick The Giving Tree, my favorite even then.   

The Giving Tree is more than a book; it is a painting of how things work in many relationships where there is one giver and one taker.  It is an invitation for the reader to rethink the concept of happiness, forgiveness and identity.  It is an explanation of how it is possible to love with a special selflessness, remembering the best about our beloveds.  Love, the book tells us, is a wondrous, beautiful thing that costs us everything and makes us happy.

It is seldom the takers who are happy in this world.  I love the book for its reinforcement of this fact.  It does it over and over again with one line.  

And the tree was happy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Before                           After

I remember the moment I realized I was fat.  It was a rude awakening to hear Dave Lamb infer it on “Come Dine With Me South Africa” and I was blown away by his cheekiness.   

I was in a room full of people who were watching the airing of the TV show and cheering me on, even though we all knew I hadn’t won.  At the very end of the show I declared “It’s over!” to which the narrator said “It is now!” as I laughed. 

We have a saying in America – “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”  I was laughing my melodic laugh, a song on most other days – Most other days where I’m not called fat on nation-wide TV. 

“Does he mean I’m fat?”  I cried out loud  - no one knew what to say.   Not even Mario.

Mario had been in one too many of these situations and it was no-win for him.  He could see I was hurt and just smiled, encouraging me (as did everyone else) that it was a joke about my laugh, not a crack about my weight.   Somehow I got over it, but it always stung  every time I re-watched the episode.  After all, I knew what the narrator meant.

Even after the Come Dine With Me airing, I didn’t change much.  After all, my husband loved me madly; my friends all supported me.  My family was (as always) very supportive of me and wanted me happy, no matter what.  Weight wasn’t important to all of them.

The truth was this: I was overweight.  My husband’s opinion would not change that.  Neither would my family’s or my friends.  After moving back to America, I had to get real with myself.  My personal trainer stayed behind in South Africa and I was at a crossroads in my life. I had to get the weight off -once and for all. 

I did. 

I’ll keep it off, God willing.  I can beat the patterns that got me there in the first place.  I have the ganas, the desire to beat back the death that used to live in my old brain.  I am being transformed; restored.    

It all started with a few truths I had never been ready admit to myself until April 22, 2013.  I wanted to share some powerful truths that caused the change between my ears ; because that’s really where I’ve lost the most weight.

1.  I got honest with myself.

I was overweight by anyone’s standards.  I’ve never put a lot of faith in the BMI charts, but they are a good place to start in determining if you are overweight.  A healthy human adult should weigh a certain weight for the height that they are, unless they are a body builder or a gymnast.  I was neither. 

I was overweight on most days, using most scales, during every season.

The reason I was overweight wasn’t because of my genes.  It wasn’t because I was fifty and had a hysterectomy.  It wasn’t because of my supreme cooking skills or my life of hosting so many people in my home. 

It was because I ate whatever I wanted – when I wanted it. 

I had rules for my overeating and they made sense to me.  I would overeat at parties, on special occasions, on Sundays….  My permission slips to overeat were only surpassed by my “morning-after-regrets” and my disbelief in what the scale said. 

I refused to believe that I had a deeper problem – a terrible feeling of never having enough.  Overeating was only part of the problem.

2.  I learned about food and the power it had over me.

A person who overeats usually has other health concerns.  I had chronic asthma and took my inhaler wherever I went.  I had antacids at my bedside, in the kitchen and near the TV. 

When I decided to follow an eating plan that fed my body instead of my taste buds, I began to nurture a new Janet who lay dormant inside of me.  I watched movies on nutrition.  I shopped for organic produce and fresh whole foods.  I started paying attention to which foods satisfied me most. I measured my portions and became truthful about my serving sizes.  I ate three meals a day and I was honest with myself that that was enough.

The first few weeks I was “hungry.”  Truth?  I was coming off white sugar and white flour.  I was an addict to both – and my addict demanded that I get a fix.  An addict’s least favorite word is no; so I felt my body rebelling by sending signals like “I’m hungry!” 

Most of the time I was “hungry” I was tired -  I needed rest.  I tried to lay down every time I was hungry.  It was excruciating, but I did it.

And then I realized I was an addict, and I was okay knowing that.  I had to start somewhere.

3.  Alcohol had to go.

Alcohol is a food.  It goes into your mouth and is processed by your several systems that keep your body moving.  When I decided to be honest with myself I that included that I would have to be honest about everything that I was ingesting. 

I suddenly was confronted with addictive patterns that didn’t belong in my life.  I had been using food and alcohol to tranquilize my head and heart.  I never processed the pain that was causing my compulsive patterns.   Food I couldn’t eliminate, but alcohol I could.  I gave up the best red wine, the finest martinis and said hello to water.  Tea. 

And I still haven’t said goodbye to Diet Coke.  A friend who has watched my transformation up close suggested that I watch a documentary on aspartame.   I groaned, knowing she was right. 

4.  I had to process sources of pain that caused behavior I didn't want in my life.

Read that again. 

If I had to be honest and weigh and measure my food, AND give up the hooch…. I had to begin a journey into the center of my soul that needed to be repaired.  The journey is exhaustive- and exhausting. 

Still, it’s better than the lifestyle of plastering all the wounds without paying attention to why they are there. 
The funny thing about wounds are that they cause behaviors.  Limping around, favoring  my weak sides, being grouchy when I am tired are only physical signs that something is wrong.  The real wounds people have are deep inside and most of us (if we are honest) don’t have the time to take care of them, or we don’t know how.  Some of us have been taught that if we only believe … if we only have faith that our wounds will heal.

I have learned that I must participate in a lifestyle of taking care of my wounds so that they really heal.  If I do this, I will less likely hurt others that I care about. 

My restart included a lot of honest, humility and reflection.  I had been living a life that discouraged looking within too much.  I had to give myself permission to tend to my own wounds; and I am in process.

5.  I had to be accountable to someone safe.

What would I do without friends?  I have so many who are lovely and loving – they genuinely care about me.   One of my friends offered to be my “bullshitometer” on this journey.  I can squeak past my old friends with my old patterns, but not her. 

She had recently gone through a similar journey herself.  Her journey began with a similar moment of awakening and she was confronted with painful patterns in her own life.  Because of her journey, she can relate to mine.  We both are becoming “filled with sanity” little by little. 

Because of her, I can be honest about my deep emotions and my food battles.  Even sobriety  and self-awareness can’t hold a candle to the beam of the truth that comes from a good friend.  She understands the truth behind the truth.

6.  I have rediscovered God.

Confessions of a missionary? 

In all the years I say I “served God”  I mean this in the most humble way:  I had neglected my true love.  I had been busy doing good things and forgotten about my love. 

My rediscovery has been very personal; very private, but very real.  It hasn’t come with bells and whistles, but with love.  I have had doors open with grace, things drop off of me with love…true love. 

I get shy talking about this, mainly because it is such a personal thing of how we know God.  I spent years running around doing things for Him, even in His name…but now I realize that He wanted only me. 

That’s refreshing.

7.  I have practiced gratitude.

The antidote for the poison of “not enough” is gratitude.  I have learned to be content with slow progress and minor victories. 

While I haven’t had the mounds of pizza and Mexican food that I swore I’d have upon my return to my home country, I have been grateful for raw and organic foods that abound here.  I am grateful for a smile or the sunshine.  I have to remind myself that inhaling and exhaling are gifts I’m not entitled to.  I have chosen to love things that before I would complain about. 

I adore raw red cabbage.  I love raw cauliflower.  I am grateful for beans.  I have a long list of things I cannot believe are mine.  I have to say it over and over again several times an hour.  Thank you, God!  I am grateful. 

The journey has just begun, but I can tell you this:  It has been three months since I started a journey of being nice to myself.  In those three months I have lost thirty pounds (13.6 kg’s).  I have a graveyard of unused inhalers, I don’t even know where Mario keeps the antacids and I haven’t washed a martini glass for three months. 

Instead of feeling deprived, I feel free.  If I were honest, the best reward is being free.  

It almost makes me laugh.  And now no one can say that the fat lady is singing.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013


There were those years of wasps
Paper chewing
Nest building
Flying fiends;
Laughing in my face
Invoking fear and
Magnifying their threat to my life

There are pools of honesty on all sides
Laughter and sobriety

And you say there is grace
Forgiveness enough
To go around;
Lies that will evaporate without a sound?
I wish the years of wasps
Never were
Rather than my recent
Past exposing my fear
And I wish they all
Could forgive me
For all the years
I ran from them.

I wish….