She writhed on the gym mat, playing coy and light:

“Am I doing it right? It’s like this, Right?”  Up on her hands and toes, she slowly crawls, hands splayed, backside in the air, then a quick crash and roll.  It was her interpretation of the bear crawl, and she’s milking the blond.

His hands were folded into his chest with authority, feet placed apart, like men do when they want to create presence. He wore a reserved smile as he circled her, gently and intentionally kicking his foot out with each step. She was a curiosity, the squirming mouse of the batting tomcat. It was a situation which required a bit more grooming.  

I remember when I first joined the training sessions, he was a new employee, and I overheard him ask a coworker: “You mean, whatever I tell them to do, they have to do it??” After receiving a nod, he begins yelling as I imagine he did while serving in Afghanistan. That question reminded me of how young he was. We had all guessed; His eyes had something dark behind them. I knew he didn’t like the job, but life had placed him there for the meantime until something more meaningful came along. Maybe it was something he had seen. Maybe it was a combination of things.

uh-oh. She’s waaay too transparent.

She’s trying too hard.  She’s needy. She’s like a pound puppy with new tricks.

I watched as she headed for the exit. he called her back and slipped her a piece of paper. She smiles, turns to the door and passed me. She held tight the paper to her chest, smiling, eyes wide and determined.

Day 2.

More mingling and giggling. It was a bit annoying to us who were waiting for his instruction. The training session lasted an hour, and we were already 5 minutes in…
The three of us stood silently, waiting for him to join us and review our food logs as usual. He said:

“You, you, and you…” go into the fitness room and do 15 minutes on the cross-trainer, something, anything. Go warm up…”

DAY 10.

I walk in with my Cubbie ball cap, and as I pass through the weight room to the dressing room, he whoops at me, as if my hat signified some type of readiness for hard work. “whoo hoo,” got the cap on and ready to go…” I smiled. We aren’t really on the friendliest terms; not that I didn’t want a good rapport with my fitness instructor; The first session I had with him, he told me I avoided pain and hard work because of my past hurts and experience. I really didn’t know what to say to that. I thought it was because I was fat and out of breath.
Not long after, he and a teammate were in front of me, and he said to her clearly and loudly: “You know, you are my favorite…” I couldn’t blame him for saying so. She is what we call quality people. Meanwhile, any attempts to discuss past injuries or simple comments were met with silence, yelling or indifference…an occasional snarky remark. I had two ways to view the situation: On one hand, we were being pushed beyond our limits. On the other hand, I didn’t enlist in the Marines. I decided I had made an 12 week commitment, and I would follow it through. I made no more attempts at pleasantries. Sometimes, two people just don’t get along.

One day when I tried to adapt an exercise, he confronted me: “You just do whatever you want to do, don’t you?”
“Yea, pretty much…” I answered.
he roared “Run three laps around my building!!!”

So now, there she is on the weight machine, and he appears to mindlessly spot her when he called out my hat with enthusiasm. Its already started, I thought. Its her hour of personal training, yet he’s doing anything to distract himself.

Day 14.

No more mixing and giggles. They are on opposite ends of the room- like strangers.

DAY 16

She was doing a wall sit, when he walks into the workout room and in an impersonal yet professional voice, asked “Hey how you doing?”
as he continued moving forward.
I didn’t hear her answer, but I saw her lips move but He didn’t wait for for her answer- It was just a drive-by. All I remember is the flinch, as she pressed her cheek against the wall, trying to make herself disappear. I can think of a million reasons why.

Later, I saw her in the changing room, and for the first time close enough to see her face. See had a beautiful doll face. A porcelain complexion, lovely blue eyes, full lips and beautiful smile. Hadn’t noticed it; before, she was always dressed out in loosely fitting tank tops, and once without a bra.
“That’s a really pretty dress…” I said.

“Thank you…”

I saw her a sporadically until she disappeared.

After the 12 weeks of training was complete, I participated in a group training session when he again my trainer. He jokingly said as we reflected back: “YOU shut me out…” he said.
“No, YOU shut ME out…” I said.
As we progressed, I began talking about my arthritic knee, and he said: “You never told me anything about that!”
“Yes, I did, it just went through that little shredder you got inside your ear!”
“yea, That shredder inside your ear, you know, I say something, and its just like “Ffffffftt….” (I make a wave signal with my hand) it just goes right through that shredder of yours..

He laughed. “Yea I do have a habit of that…”


“A lady walks in…”

“Ever been to California?”

Yes, actually my ex-husband and I vacationed there, and we drove the pacific coast highway…”

Well, I went last March, and it was hotter than hell. I’m 92 years old- sometimes I feel it, sometimes I
don’t. I was riding with my daughter and I was so nervous thinking about the cliffs
and while talking about them, my daughter put her hand on my arm and announced she was pulling over. She never uses
this kind of language but once stopped she looked me in the eye and said: “Mom, shut the $#@! up.”
she pulled away quietly and that was that (laughing…).”

Neck Above Water

Many over the years have speculated about depression, well, specifically MY depression- if only I would do a specific thing, eat certain foods, or say specific prayers ( yes, I have even bound the “spirit” of depression through prayer),  then I would be cured, healed…I would be “normal.”   A well-meaning lady told me if I would eat whole, non-processed food it was cure my depression. That is probably true for certain types of depression. Sadly and ironically she died of cancer.  She taught and believed if she ate all the right things, she would live her life out in optimum health.  It was a wise thing, Its just there are no guarantees.

People mean well.  They want to help.  They want to believe for me and for themselves.

After several years of praying and following a carrot on a stick, I realized that in spite of all my efforts, all of my faith, after all the prayers and verses recited, God for whatever reason chose not to heal me, and it was time to deal with reality.

That moment came in graduate school.  It didn’t really phase me that I was crying almost every day.  In fact, crying spells were for years the norm.  But this time was different:  While I was used to my mind racing, it took off with fantastic speed.

I was walking on campus when I looked over to my right and saw a man looking at me through a window, with a bewildered expression, as if I was crazy or something.  I realized I was crying and arguing with myself.

What am I doing?   I knew what I wasn’t doing-  I wasn’t able to focus on my classes, or my studies.  I decided to visit my doctor who after a lengthy spell of listening to me asked if I had diabetes, or any other form of illness- would I take care of it?  He wasn’t one to throw people towards medication, either,  He believed in medication as a last resort, after exploring all other options.  Giving my history, I was officially a “depressed” person.  He explained brain chemicals, how these affect mood and behaviors, and how there is no shame in taking care of one’s self, in spite of stigma.

I left with a bandaged arm where the nurse had taken blood, and decided a little window shopping might help me sort things out.  I probably looked quite ragged with all of my makeup long lost after an hour of crying.  I was in line at a store register when I noticed a woman’s bracelet and told her how attractive I thought it was.  She told me where she bought it, that it was sterling sliver, then continued through the check out line.  She went to the door, turned back to me, and clamped the bracelet on my wrist.

“Whatever you are going through, remember God knows and cares for you.”

Ah yes, God.  The one who is still here in my moment of truth.  The all-powerful one who could have removed this defect from me but chose not to.  How many times had I been reminded if only I had the faith of the small mustard seed, I could move mountains?  How many times was I told “If I would just have faith?”  How many times did I “Bind” depression so I could live a victorious life?  

I didn’t realize it that day, but accepting the truth of my depression was the most liberating moment of my life.

Being Jane

It was the glossy, red and black ad that caught my eye-  The local women’s magazine was in search for two “Janes” for their  annual “See Jane Lose” program.  A local gym and other business’ in the community offered their goods and services to the elected who were required to follow a strict diet and exercise regimen for 8 weeks.  Afterward, the Janes would take part in “The Big Reveal” at a women’s luncheon, and have their story published in the women’s magazine.  

 Having just moved to the area, I was desperate for renewal and the required essay was a welcome challenge:  Why should I be the next Jane? 


To Be Continued…

A Good Witness

I rode the ministry bus a few times as a girl.

The church must have called the previous night to arrange it,  because we were dressed and ready before it arrived, and that doesn’t happen on a whim.   As I stepped on board I’d scan for familiar faces.   Sometimes it was packed; other times, it was spotted like bound insects on a web.

A well-dressed Chaperone stood at the front of the bus, balancing himself  with the help of a silver pole when the bus leaned too far on its side, while enthiastically leading us in Christian Song:

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

“Jesus loves the little children,

All the children of the world.

Red and yellow, Black and White,

They are precious in his sight.

Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

“Jesus loves me, this I know,

for the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to him belong,

They are weak, but he is strong…”

When I reunited with the Church community as a young adult, the bus ministries had began to wane.  Even when parents had no use for Church, some still found value in sending their kids for whatever reason suited them.  There was a large church in town known for its bus ministry; they owned  a fleet of busses but by the time I reached 19 years old,  the collection had dwindled down to a handful, and even they may not have ran every week.  On any given Sunday, the driver or Chaperone may ask one exiting if they planned to attend the next week.  After receiving a smile and usually an  agreement, they sometimes returned only to find an empty driveway and a quiet home after a few knocks on the door.

Like everything else, gathering people for church is a crap shoot.

Honestly, even in my fresh religious fervour, they were times I didn’t want to go to Church.  But most of  the time it was one of those things I did,  even when I didn’t feel like it.  Then some days, I gave into the flesh and remained huddled in my bedroom away from any unneccessary stimuli.  But with newfound faith came newfound responsibility to be a good witness.  After all, if others see you going and enjoying church attendance, they might be willing to come along for the next service.   If family see you slacking, what impression would that leave about Jesus’ over-all appeal? If I didn’t want to hang around him, why should they?  My dad told us kids that faith was nobody’s business, but in Church I learned immediately that with faith comes responsibility-To God and everyone else.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…

The first time I saw the large structure on the hill, the thought occured to me that it was there I should attend, as if I had been supernaturally tapped- though going took a few weeks planning. Saturday would come and go and I already had myself talked out of it.

I turned to my mom to join me- She was very kind and while hesitant, agreed but we set it back another week.

The Big Church was set off on a hill over on Dockery Street.  It was sided with a rustic antiqued wood as if repurposed from a monstrous barn.  The builder’s vision was simple but spacious.  Previous to it’s existence the land  hosted a series of houses that had been swept away by the Tornado of 1974.  My aunt Thelma’s parents lived in the house that once occupied the top of the hill.  The funnel had flattened their home and scalped her sister O.D. Mae. Afterwards, if the sky turned gray and the angels began to bowl,  the sisters who lived together in old age would make their way to the basement as fast as they could go.  There they stored years of paper grocery sacks and newspapers.  Growing up during the depression, they learned the value of stock.  Anyway, if you believe everything happens for a reason, then you could view the tornado as God’s hand making room for yet another sanctuary, even for the likes of me.

As Mom and I entered the Narthex of the church, we were greeted with smiles and handshakes, an inquiry as to whether we were from the neighborhood, and an invitation to make ourselves at home.  Two ladies eagerly greeted us with the same joyful surprise and introductions. I met Diane, a lady who eventually became a mentor, and her friend Jean.  I later learned Jean’s husband had a desire for church, but since he made his living driving a Beer Truck, he couldn’t sit in a pew on Sunday and the driver’s seat of a Beer truck on Monday. So he stayed home.  We stood and sang a few songs from the Red Back Hymnal, passed the plate along while settling in to listen.

In a building that housed maybe 2 to 300, there was only a handful.

It was nice to feel wanted.  I am sure most visitors had been carefully cultivated while we just sprouted out of nowhere.

I was interested in the sermon.  At the time I tried to follow the message though can’t recall any of it now.    I remember leaving with a certainty that my choice of Churches was somehow destined.  I was intended to be there, some how, some way.  But I was a little empty though, too.  I concluded:

“This place is nice.  The people are so friendly, I enjoyed the songs and listening to the minister speak. 

 I am glad I came, but this is NOT what I am looking for.”