Becoming the One


We’re in our 24th day of Arizona’s “Stay at Home” order, and I’m surprisingly busy and content. Why is that?

I have a considerate, understanding husband who is thoughtful enough to leave me alone in my office for hours at a time. We go for long walks. We take turns cooking and watch a lot of good stuff on TV. We have sex. We go camping and fishing to break up the monotony of being at home day after day. I bake. I work in the garden. I organize my shoes.

But honestly, if I didn’t have my women friends, I think I would be in a terrible funk. Men may feel the same way about their male friends; I’m not sure. You see, we women reach out to each other. We send each other texts, emails, and notes. We call and check on each other. We ask each other for advice. We FaceTime and meet in the park for lunch. We share our recipes, books, TV shows, feelings. We organize happy hours on Zoom. We do these things because we are women, and women prioritize connection. They initiate.

And when I don’t initiate, one of my friends does. I have several who are especially good about that. I get busy and weeks may go by. They don’t give up on me or assume I don’t love them. They reach out. And I’m grateful. Because women can talk to each other about things the men in our lives just wouldn’t know or care about. Let’s face it: while I’m talking about my sick friend, Gene is thinking about the exhaust manifold in his truck… or the weeds that need spraying… or his testosterone level.

There are some big differences between the sexes. And I gave up long ago expecting to get everything I need from my man. I need to be loved by others, too, and I need to express my love for them by giving them my attention.

So I’m trying to become “the one” in Hafez’s beautiful 14th Century poem, “With that Moon Language.” Because I love my girlfriends. And they love me.

With that Moon Language

Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them,

     “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud;


Someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this,

This great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one

Who lives with a full moon in each eye

That is always saying

With that sweet moon


What every other eye in this world

     Is dying to




I don’t think a lot about karma (the Hindu view of causality, i.e., good deeds lead to beneficial effects and bad deeds to harmful ones). Being a Christian, I operate on the Judeo-Christian take on Karma: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6) What’s the difference? It’s subtle. I think Solomon means that we should do good, and even if we don’t see an immediate return to us, in one way or another, it will make the world (and us) better.    

But I recognize karma when I see it. And a good example stands out in my memories of the 15 years Gene and I spent in wonderful Tucson, Arizona.

We moved there to have an adventure. We’d been married a year. I had nowhere to go in my career, and was ready for a change (After all, it had been almost seven years. You know the saying…). I had developed a love of Tucson during my years with the Arizona Community Foundation as director of ArizonaGIVES and then with Ballet Arizona during Nutcracker season.

So, when a former employee of Gene’s implored him to meet her father and talk to him about running his software business in Tucson, he agreed. I remember that meeting well. We were outside at a picnic table. Her father had sunglasses on the whole time; that should have tipped us off.

We moved to Tucson, and Gene was excited for a new challenge. The business needed him. The owner had gotten tired and needed to retire. He promised Gene he would stay out of the way and let him work his magic. You see, Gene had turned several computer businesses around. It’s what he does: he fixes things. (He’s still working on me. And for those of you familiar with the Enneagram, yes, he’s a 1.)

For a solid year, Gene put his heart and soul into that business, building a remarkable team and creating a marketing plan that put the company on an upward trajectory. It wasn’t easy. The owner was a belligerent bully, constantly interfering. In spite of that, profits began to climb. And then, Bam! The owner met with Gene and told him he had sold the business, and the new owner wanted to run it. Gene was out.

Now my husband is no fool. He had made provisions in his contract for just such a possibility, and the owner now owed him quite a lot of money. Getting the owner to pay him was another matter. In fact, it was the ordeal from Hell.

Finally, a date was set, and the two men met at the bank. The owner had given the banker instructions to have the money there in one-dollar bills and wanted Gene to list each dollar by its serial number and sign for it. I am not making this up.

Gene stood up and walked out.

He called his lawyer in Phoenix, a long-time friend, and asked him for advice. He suggested Gene hire a “no bullshit lawyer” in Tucson, set a new meeting, and take the attorney along. Gene found the perfect lawyer: a smart, intimidating man who wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat and had “Take no prisoners” practically written across his forehead. He looked to be about 7 feet tall.

They arrived at the bank. The owner took one look at Gene’s attorney and gave Gene a cashier’s check for the money he owed him. Done.

Gene spent the next year looking at businesses to buy. He found one: a computer business owned by a brilliant, but quirky guy who knew he lacked the business acumen and marketing skills he needed to grow the business. Gene bought it. The owner was willing to stay on for six months of consulting. It was perfect.

And the owner of the first company? Six months later he was dead of cancer.

Felt like karma to me.



C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors. I became a fan the summer after 5th grade, when I read The Chronicles of Narnia, and wept when I finished the last one – not so much because of the sadness of the tale, but that it was over.

Turns out, Lewis was close friends with J. R. R. Tolkien. In fact, Tolkien led Lewis back to Anglicanism after years of his having been an atheist.

Lewis was to become a great theologian. In my senior year of high school I read his book, Mere Christianity, and the concept of contrast hit home: the idea that without rain, we wouldn’t appreciate sunshine; without pain, we wouldn’t feel comfort; without cruelty, we wouldn’t see kindness; without terror, we wouldn’t know peace; without evil, we wouldn’t recognize good. Contrast is instrumental to our appreciating what we have because if we aren’t threatened with its loss, we take it for granted.

And as we stay home during this horrendous pandemic, I do think it helps to appreciate, feel, see, know, and recognize all the positives. Where we see hunger, ill-health, poverty, suffering, injustice, and untimely death, we also see amazing heroism. “Look for the helpers,” as Mr. Rogers said.

I see them all around us — in my neighbors, who are checking in on those who are alone; in the young man who shopped for us with such care and delivered our groceries with a respectful bow; in my friend Rita, who is sewing masks for service members and their families; in clergy conducting online services from home; in doctors opening their offices to ill patients; in our daughter Katie, who is a NICU nurse, and goes dutifully to her 12-hour shifts at the hospital, leaving behind her husband and three small children; in our newscasters broadcasting from home; in our restaurant workers, who cook our “to go” orders and serve us with a smile; to the grocery store workers, who diligently stock the shelves, sanitize the carts, and man the check-out counters; to volunteers who are calling to check on the vulnerable who are home alone.

I see “the helpers” with immigrant children who are separated from their parents. And I see them in the prisons, with those who feel hopeless.

As they go about their business, ‘the helpers” unconsciously model the good in this situation: the opportunity to be our best selves. Without realizing it, they are challenging us to join their ranks, to do what we can. And we all can do something.

Yes, life is filled with contrasts. And when this damned COVID-19 is over, and we have witnessed the great good in humanity, perhaps we will be better people, and the world will be a better place.

Home Sweet Home on the Road


Let me set the stage: I am married to a frustrated forest ranger.  My man is an introvert, a very focused guy, a guy who knows a lot about a lot of things, a guy who was happily living like a monk when I met him. And I’m a people person.

It all started with an ad I ran in the “Meet Your Match” section of The Arizona Republic.  My friend Len Young decided I was bored. So she helped me write the ad, and I sent it in and recorded a three-minute phone message about myself.    

You see, back in 1997, internet dating wasn’t de rigueur. (That’s an homage to my French teacher, Madame Pallissard.)  People ran ads, and those who were intrigued paid the paper by calling a 900 number to listen to the advertiser. I received about 10 messages, and returned all but one, which belonged to a man whose accent was so thick I couldn’t understand him.

After talking to my potential dates, I decided I wanted to meet Gene. He has a wonderful voice, for one thing, had left a very articulate response to my message, and was self-deprecating, unlike the rest, who sounded more like job interviewees than potential friends. So I checked him out by calling his workplace and asking for his title and address. He appeared to be legit.

We met for breakfast, played golf a couple of times, went fishing, and started dating. Three years later, after two broken engagements and while I was mid-way through chemotherapy for breast cancer, we got back together. I found that I couldn’t live without him. Literally. On June 22, 2001, we were married.     

Jump to today. We are camping in Payson, Arizona, in our travel trailer. Now doesn’t that sound romantic? Well, guess again. And picture a guy who just 10 days ago was diagnosed with Bells Palsy, while we were camping in Cottonwood, Arizona. He was determined to get out of the house after being home for a week because of the coronavirus.

I love to go camping; I really do. But the getting there and the coming home are a lot of work. There’s hiring the kitty-sitter, planning the food, grocery shopping, gathering the fishing stuff, packing clothes and toiletries, bringing things to do if it rains, and leaving the house clean, in case we’re killed on the road.

Once there, I make the bed (like wrestling a bear), put the food away (picture squeezing into Spankx), and organize our things (imagine limited space and, even more important, limited sockets).

And then there’s Gene’s part: packing the car, hooking up the trailer, driving to our campground, parking the trailer (the true test of love and commitment), removing the stabilizing bars (I always imagine him losing one of his arms to this part), unhooking the car, connecting the water hose, installing the sewer hose, and plugging into the electricity. You can see why I’m concerned about all this work in his present condition.

So here we are, having driven each other nuts trying to get the trailer properly positioned and level. It takes a few tries.

Me: “Can you pull up and I’ll try one of those boards under the tires?” He pulls up. I lay down the board, and he backs up over it until I shout, “Stop!” Me again: “How about if you pull up and I’ll try the thinner board?” Same thing. Me again: “I think we need one thick board and two thin ones on top of it. Can you pull up again?”) Finally, the trailer is fairly level, and I am completely insulted, as he has talked to me as if I’m an idiot, just because he couldn’t hear or see me while I was directing him. And then he tops it off with this: “I’m not sure you’re in tune with my needs.”

So I get organized inside, and he enjoys the great outdoors and has a glass of wine. And slowly, as we eat dinner (reheated pork loin with peaches, mashed cauliflower, tabbouleh, and chocolate chip cookies, with more White Burgundy), we relax and begin to talk again.

I’m reminded of telling both my girls, once they were old enough to think about marriage. “Chemistry is important; it gets you through the tough times.” A glass of wine, a nice dinner, and the cuteness factor. Thank God for the cuteness factor.