Monday, November 26, 2012


One of my athletic offspring
The day after Thanksgiving, as is the Seyfried wont, was time for some vigorous outdoor exercise. As described in my very first blog post one year ago, the exercise usually takes the form of a brisk hike. This year, because of time-crunched schedules, the gang opted to head to the neighborhood park instead. Basketball and Frisbee were on the menu. As the others grabbed sneakers and sports gear I, as usual, prepared to bring a book and sit on a bench while my clan did my exerting for me.

My children’s powers of persuasion are considerable, however, and my al fresco reading just wouldn’t cut it this year. No! I had to dust off my sneakers (well, first I had to locate them) and PARTICIPATE. Mind you, this is a woman who has literally never played either game in her entire life. Basketball was a total mystery to me, and as for Frisbees: whenever and wherever they were flung, I automatically ducked.  “Don’t worry Mom, none of us are that good,” Rose tried to reassure me.  But I knew quite well that “not that good” in their universe is “1000% better than me” in mine.

Patience was the watchword as Sheridan showed me—and showed me—and showed me, the wrist flick that would send the Frisbee soaring in the right direction. Turns out, once I stopped ducking, I could actually catch the thing. I just couldn’t throw it to save my soul. PJ was a bit of a showoff, catching the disc behind his back, then spinning it clear across a field. Next to him, my attempts to get that #@%%&## Frisbee airborne were totally pathetic. It occurred to me that I’d be better off just walking over and handing it to him. Lo and behold, though, after the jillionth try, I started to get the hang of it. 

Giddy from my unexpected success, I proceeded to the basketball court. On the opposite end of the court, Steve and Evan were playing very intense one-on-one.  Back over in the baby pool, so to speak, my only goal was to make one basket.  One basket and I’d be thoroughly satisfied.

Well guess what, sports fans? 12, count ‘em, 12 baskets! Where is that video camera when you need it? Even as I accomplished this feat I couldn’t believe I was doing it. But my aching muscles the next day attested to the fact that the miraculous had indeed happened at the East Oreland playground.

The kids were generous with their praise, and for the first time in my life I felt vaguely athletic. Mind you, I don’t intend to follow up on what was clearly beginner’s luck. Unless the family REALLY pushes, I’ll stick my nose back in my book and let THEM exercise next time. Because it was unsettling, this late-day discovery that I might not be completely uncoordinated.  If I’m not the klutz I always identified myself as, then what other assumptions of mine might be wrong too? 

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Not a scene from my childhood!
This Thanksgiving will be a happy one, with all six of my kids (Yaj is my third daughter) home, at least for the day. I will enjoy hosting this year, and am looking at cookbooks and food blogs for special dishes for vegetarian Julie.  I’m actually toying with making an Indian style meal (India Indian, not Native American—though that would be fitting), stuffing the bird with naan bread and cashews, seasoning it with garam masala, etc., just for a change. We shall see.

 Thanksgiving is a big deal to me, as it never was in childhood. Mom’s hatred of all things culinary made this foodie holiday particularly irksome for her. Hours of labor produced a really dry turkey and a fabulous (not) green bean-mushroom soup casserole. Add a can of cranberry sauce and that was about it. One year Mom forgot to serve the green beans entirely; she later found the casserole dish on the dryer (yeah, I don’t know what it was doing there either).  At table, our conversation quickly deteriorated into the SOF (same old fight), with me mad at Mo who was mad at C, Dad stonily silent and Mom angry enough for all of us. Ah, good times! 

Thanksgiving with international guests
 Since marrying Steve, and especially since the children came along, I was determined to make it a festive day. We usually had company. The college kids knew that they were always welcome to bring people home.  One memorable Thanksgiving when Evan was at the Naval Academy, he brought four friends to stay the entire weekend. They were Naval exchange students from Romania, Thailand and Cameroon. I thought it’d be fun to make some of their native dishes. So the meal featured Thai shrimp and lemongrass soup, Romanian zacusca and an African dish called fou-fou, which I found really bland, but the Cameroonians loved it.

 Twice in recent years we’ve hit the road for our turkey dinner—once to Rose’s in Boston and once to Sheridan’s when he lived in New York City. In Boston we cooked together at Rose’s friend Mary’s house, which was a lot of fun. Sher’s year to host, I asked what I could bring. “How about the turkey? And maybe some vegetables? And maybe some dessert?” he replied.  Sheridan’s contribution ended up being some wine and a roll of paper towel (our “party” napkins).  We teased him about “his” dinner for quite a while. 

 After supper we play charades and pick names for Secret Santas. I feast my eyes on my wonderful family, aware of just how lucky I am.  I wish I remembered to make every day a “Thanksliving” Day, but in the bustle of life I often forget to be grateful. Maybe this year I’ll do a better job. 

So thank you, God. Thank you for the gift of my life and the amazing people in it. May I never take it for granted.

 I wish all of you a very happy holiday spent with the special people in your lives.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

For All the Saints

As a little Catholic girl, I decided to become a saint. One of my favorite books was When Saints Were Young. My favorite story from the book was that of St. Germaine.  As a child she was mistreated by her stepmother and made to work outdoors as a shepherdess. Though dirt-poor, she was very devout, attending daily Mass (leaving her flock in a wolf-infested area—and they were never harmed), and praying on a rosary she'd made out of string. How I longed to be holy like Germaine!! Minus the poverty and sheep-herding parts of course!! 

First Communion Day--back when I thought I had a chance
In second grade I determined that sainthood was within my grasp, and thus began a rigorous program to become one of the blessed ones. Every night I played a record of Gregorian chants as I prayed and prayed, and waited for a vision (saints seemed to have visions). I also hoped for the stigmata (wounds resembling those of Christ on the cross). That would be living proof that I was pretty darned special! Mind you, I still disobeyed my parents and fought with my sisters to beat the band. But saints were once sinners too, right? As long as I prayed myself into a trance nightly, aided by that other-worldly music, all would be forgiven. 

Alas, my campaign for sanctity failed miserably. No visions, no flesh wounds, and the Gregorian chant record started to skip. I seemed incapable of curing anybody of disfiguring sores or even the common cold. It was with regret that I abandoned my quest and moved on to being an aspiring jet-setting ace reporter with a Barbie-style dream car. 

When I became a Lutheran in my early thirties, I left the Catholic Church, with a tinge of sadness that there was a plethora of saints I felt I could no longer pray to. We Lutherans tend to believe that we can eliminate the middle man—or woman—and talk with the Big Boss directly. Oh, I still invoked St. Anthony to locate my lost items. But no more St. Christopher (safe travels), or St. Blaise (throat diseases) or St. Dymphna (mental health—and I could’ve really used her help there). 

Last Sunday was All Saints Sunday in church. As names were read of people who died in the past year, a bell tolled. We recognized that, flawed and falling-short as they may have been, they stand as saints in God’s presence now. No need for a team of Vatican lawyers to validate. No toting up of beatific visions and miraculous acts necessary. Our dear ones, just by virtue of being loved by our God, are saints. Because, in the end, it isn’t about what we do, because the best of us could never do enough. It’s about what God does through us, each one of us, poor shepherdess and struggling spiritual formation director alike. Through God’s grace our lives can become holy things, and in loving God we can become holy too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Weighing In

Happy Wedding Morning
Embarrassing as it is to admit, I am addicted to the bathroom scale. I’ve never been overweight, really (though I always think I am), so perhaps it is unnecessary for me to daily obsess about the magic number (118 = happy! 123 = miserable!) I cannot tell you one single conversation that transpired at my wedding reception, but my wedding morning weight (110!) I will never forget. 

 As a young teenager, I went through a stretch of consuming just two cups of chicken broth and one pint of ice cream daily. I dwindled away to practically nothing. I used to run out of school at dismissal time because the sound of the final bell echoing down the corridors triggered a sick-making hunger headache. When I was sad or worried, I stopped eating. When I was ecstatic/in love…I stopped eating. I don’t think one of my dates ever actually saw me consume a bite of food, ever. As my parents Joanie and Tom dwelled in La La Land, no one ever thought to put the brakes on my self-destructive behavior. And so I proceeded into married life, nibbling when I’d have loved to gobble.

During my pregnancies, I dutifully consumed my fish and veggies and milk, and packed on the suggested  pounds. As soon as the babes were delivered I cut myself off from viands until I was once again in optimum weight range.

Menopause has been a challenge, as my never-robust metabolism has slowed to a crawl. But wait! I got a lucky break! I was diagnosed as bipolar (it’s lucky! Stick with me!) and was prescribed Wellbutrin. Within days, the scale numbers started to plummet. 112! 107! Numbers I hadn’t seen in 30 years appeared on the dial. For the first time in memory, I was buying size zero clothing items (Think about it. What is size zero? Are you invisible?) Alas, at a certain point my wonder drug betrayed me, and the weight loss ceased, which was probably good because at the rate I was going I would have ended up a stylish skeleton.  

Nowadays, I am trying hard not to be a prisoner of the scale. I am making my peace with my 55 year old body, after a long and hard-fought war. It is such a woman thing, this self-flagellation with a Ramen noodle. Guys walk around with a paunch like a kangaroo with twins and think they’re A-OK.  But we women kill ourselves to be super-svelte, to be size zeroes instead of perfectly acceptable size 12s. 

Tonight, as I eagerly anticipate (and am humbly thankful for) a delicious meal cooked by my lovely daughter-in-law, I encourage us all: stop the madness! Eat something, for heaven’s sake! It is obscene to starve ourselves in a world where so many are starving, period.  Let’s be grateful. Let’s stay balanced. 

Tomorrow I will not weigh myself. I will weigh instead my kindness, my compassion, my humanity. I will calculate the numbers that truly matter, and try to let the rest go.