community, family life

A young man’s best friend

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Who’s got your back, Jack? Well, God for starters. Add in various family members (mom’s usually at the top of this list) and your dog (get one if you already haven’t.) And, perhaps more unexpectedly, church ladies from just all over the place.

Why do church ladies care about this generation of young men? Church ladies love people, for one. Secondly, it’s simple math. Those of us who are church ladies of a certain age have daughters, nieces or granddaughters whom we hope will marry in the next decade or so. We want that dating pool to be deep and wide. Deep and wide, I say.

So, if you’re a guy and you happen to find out you’re on some church-lady hit list — by which I mean prayer list — don’t feel alarmed, feel blessed. We just want to make sure you’re ready should you catch the eye of one of ours. We pray for your faith, your safety, your gainful employment. We pray that you’ll have no inclination to be a contestant on The Bachelor.

We pray that you’re getting plenty of veggies, sleep, exercise and sunshine. We want you to be strong. Strong in the faith and, well, strong enough to carry a sleeping toddler all the way from a certified-safe, properly installed car seat to his certified-safe, properly assembled crib. See where I’m going here?

Gentlemen, it’s true. God loves you and has plans to give you hope and a future. And, we church ladies do, too.

family life, women

How to find a decent man

“Everything I buy is vintage and smells funny. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a boyfriend.” Lucy Liu, American actress

Where can you find a decent man? In aisle 2 of your local grocery store around dinner time on a Saturday night. Seriously.

I came to this conclusion when a rash of summer eating and entertaining caused the food supply that should have lasted until Monday to fizzle out by — you guessed it — around dinner time on Saturday night. I headed to the grocery store — where I wound up getting more insight into the male mind than I did gap food.

It all started in the produce section. “Hello,” said a young man standing near the broccoli that I was after. It took a couple of seconds to realize he was talking to me, a mid-life woman who hadn’t heard that kind of “hello” for quite some time. “Um, hello,” I said back.

Then, I got my broccoli and fled, running my fingers over my chin to make sure I didn’t have food residue or anything else that could elicit a “you poor soul” hello. I did not. But, it happened again, and again, and again. “You pour souls,” I was now the one thinking. “You’ve been staring into those tiny phone screens so long your distance vision is completely shot.”

It wasn’t until I hit the coffee display that I figured out what was going on. “Good evening,” a man of about 30 drawled. He had exactly the same wistful look on his face that our dog does when I’m making Italian. Yep. That was it. I was wearing a dress with a strong 1950s apron vibe. My cart was full of real food. I wasn’t a vision of loveliness. I was Betty Crocker come to life.

“It was pure reflex,” my husband said when I reported my findings later on the front porch. Then we went on to nearly laugh ourselves sick over how domestically inclined young women could use this phenomena to their own advantage. (This is the kind of Saturday night fun you, too, could be having 25 years from now if you visit aisle 2.)

We discussed the potential eligibility of the men — hey, we have daughters. 1. Men who shop for groceries on Saturday night are grown up enough to want real food instead of drive-thru. That is good. 2. “She’d know they’re not living with mama,” he pointed out. That is very good. 3. Grocery stores are very low on the stranger-danger scale. That is a necessity.

We discussed strategy. 1. The young woman has to “shop” alone. It exudes confidence and makes a “good evening” much more likely. 2. She has to have the right stuff in her cart. She may be planning to eat a jumbo bag of chips and an entire tub of dip with her girlfriends later (ah, good times), but this kind of “shopping” requires real food. “A box of brownie mix would probably help,” my husband added. 3. “And, she can’t just run in and out of the store,” he suggested, really into it by now. “She has to really cruise those aisles.”

So, there you have it, ladies. Happily ever after if it works. The makings of a fine dinner if it does not.

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family life

Emergency chocolate


“A lover tries to stand in well with the pet dog of the house.” Moltiere, 1600s French playwright

“It’s my emergency chocolate,” I explained as my husband watched me wrap up a tiny square of 85 percent cacao and tuck it into an equally tiny pocket of my purse.

“Oh,” he said with a knowing smirk. “In case your dealer gets arrested or something.” I smirked back. His cleverness would have been more effective had he not been drinking coffee at that very moment. Caffeine. Dark chocolate bliss. It’s a toss up as to which is more addictive.

And, it’s not like the guy doesn’t know about food stashes and the care and feeding of, well, me. He’s the one who came up with the idea in the first place. It all started when we were dating. Behavioral ecologist that he is, he immediately noticed that I simply do not do well if I go more than three or four hours without food. Cranky. Lethargic. Not good girlfriend states of being.

So, the guy who feeds chickadees so expertly learned to keep me equally well nourished. From our first date — a Sierra Club potluck for which he prepared a fruit and yogurt bowl — all of our outings involved food. And, if the date went on for any length of time, there was more food. If we went into Chicago for the day, by the time we wrapped things up with a trip to Powell’s Books, a granola bar would suddenly appear from one of his pockets. If we were hiking the dunes, there would be a baggie of cereal or raisins or something.

The technique soon extended to my dog. He began arriving at my home with a bag of cheddar cheese crumbles tucked into the pocket of his jeans. Luki loved him. I mean loved him. It didn’t take long for me to feel the same way.

Many years into marriage, I try to reflect on these moments frequently. They always make me smile. And, they always make me feel a rush of affection that might otherwise not be felt in the mid-life crush of children, work and maintaining a house that’s almost as old as both of us put together.

That guy’s still here. He may be busy, a bit messy and even get cranky with me now and then. But, he’s still here — swapping out the dead battery on my car in the rain, keeping a stash of just about anything anyone in the household could possibly need, brushing our dog’s coat to magnificence every Sunday.

God, help me to always see that man, that husband, as long as we both shall live.