When I grow up, I want to be a Peanut M&M
you quip
a little too smugly like you discovered a secret.

You already are
I reply
a whole bag of them.

Feeling sick like I had eaten too many sweets
or drank too much gin
or stayed too long in the sun
or maybe all three.

You like that answer
I can tell
but I hadn't meant to flatter or amuse.

Ironic from the one who always makes you smile.

But what color M&M am I
you persist
and I want to pour them all down your throat
and suffocate you with the bag.

I told you
You are the whole damn bag
or else it wasn't about you at all.

Like a peanut M&M you are.

Beautiful bright and shiny on the outside.

Everyone wants to touch and hold

and taste.

But brittle.

Tempted to bite in

eager to feel the smooth dark sweetness on my tongue.


too quickly.

What’s left is hard

but truly you.

That part wholly organic

that sprang green from the earth

and knew the yellow heat of the sun

 felt the morning’s pure white drops of dew

and the evening’s hot gray rain.

That part of you

neither sweet nor acid

just hard and true and perfect in itself

Roll it round and round

feel it soften

and savor its truth before biting in.

And know I had it all.


I’ve had several conversations recently about happiness. I know several people who are wrestling with the word and the concept. I struggle too, but I think I have come to terms with what it means to be happy. As a writer, I feel compelled to share my insights with you. (And, yes, I am fully aware of how happy that makes you, the reader. Not happy? Step off. No hard feelings. Open, but cautious? Read on, my people! Blindly accepting? Seriously, why are you even here?)

Those who know me well (and if you don’t I wonder why you are still here) know I’ve been through some hard times. Really gut-clenching, soul-searching, value-crunching times. I’m not religious, but I admit I prayed. I’m not an alcoholic, but I confess to searching for answers in a bottle of malbec. I don’t adhere to theories of the horoscope, or numerology, or any new-age psycho-babble, but I own up to searching for answers on some roads less traveled.
But here is where I found my answers: in the reality of everyday life, in the pure and simple gestures of people that I call my friends, in the common bonds of blood and tears and human endeavor. I realized there are people who actually want to be happy and others who don’t. There are those who cultivate  happiness, and others who seek to kill it at its roots. I think I’ve learned to identify those on either end of the happiness spectrum, and to chart those, like me, who land somewhere in the middle.

Let me be absolutely clear: happiness is my goal and my mission. From this day forward (actually from about a year ago) I resolve to surround myself with people who lift me, support me, and celebrate me (and by “me” I mean “us”). On the flip side, I commit to being one of those people who lifts and supports (just call me Maidenform). I have come to believe there is no return on investment for negativity, pessimism and self-centered positioning.

Some of my more skeptical friends are probably gagging right now, wondering if I have swallowed a rainbow or had sex with a snow-white unicorn. But if you know me well (and again, if you don’t, I wonder why you are still reading ), you know that I am -- at my core -- pragmatic, analytical and incisive. I am also optimistic, sentimental and a bit of a sap.  And you know I would never, ever, do it with a four-legged beast, actual or mythical. So, hey, thanks for accepting my complex imperfections (imperfective complexities?).

So here’s my bottom line: I cling to the belief that a better life is in store for me, for you, and for all of humanity. I am willing to do my part to make that a reality.  I acknowledge that I am solely responsible for creating  my own happiness. While I actively seek to be happy, I know that I will not be totally content while others suffer. I celebrate every effort large and small, by each and every one of us, to lift and support, to nurture and cultivate, the happiness that lives within. I resolve to find a grain of happiness in each and every challenging, heart-breaking, sweat-enducing day.

I hope you are with me. If you are still reading, I think you are. Just sayin’

A friend (in life and on Facebook) posted that she is going to take up running to honor her late mother by participating in Disney's Tinkerbell Half Marathon. Since I myself took up running a few short months ago, and like my friend, I carry around more than my share of womanly wonderfulness, I thought she might benefit from my recent experience.

So, here are my tips for big girls on the go. Some are serious and some are less serious. I hope you can tell the difference.

1. Understand that you are going to sweat. A lot. And smell bad. And your mascara is going to run, even if you buy the most expensive waterproof stuff.

2. If you insist on trying to look cute when you run, go ahead and get some special outfits, in colors that don't clash with red, because your face is going to turn beet red with exertion. Don't forget matching hair scrunchies.

3. Get some Pat Benatar music on your iTunes. She's very empowering. I recommend "Invincible."

4. Buy the best shoes you can afford, but realize that you are going to have to replace them frequently. They are going to take a beating.

5. Invest in some reusable ice packs. I need them for bad knees. You will probably need them for those dainty little ankles of yours. And some Alleve. And muscle soak crystals for the bath.

6. Start out on a soft, level surface, like a track. It's much easier on the joints, which are already working harder than they want to. Eventually you can transition to street running if you are not paranoid about motorists wisecracking about your ass ...

7. Wear some big shades. So even if motorists are making fun of your ass, they won't know it's you.

8. Start with walking, then add short bursts of running. I think it actually is pretty effective for calorie burning and metabolism boosting. Gradually increase your running bursts and your total distance.

9. You might be tempted to run with a buddy. I don't recommend it. You will want to chat and gossip with your pal, and you just can't do that and run. Not yet anyway. Trust me. Ask my friend Stacy about the Children's Miracle Network 5K... We caught up with our lives, but not with the runners ahead of us ...

10. Stretch, stretch, stretch...and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. By the way, wine is not particularly effective for hydration. Voice of experience.

11. On your off days, try some leg-strengthening exercises like leg presses, squats and lunges. It will help keep your muscles loose and support your joints.

That's enough to get you started, my friend. See ya on the roads, but don't you dare talk smack about my ass ...

Here’s the thing about angels. They don’t like me. I shouldn’t be surprised. Why would any angel cozy up to a spiritual-but-not-religious, non-churchgoing heathen like me?

I wish I could talk to my sister Rhoda about this, but she died in 2009. She was a lot like me spiritually. Chalk it up to Catholic school education, with Mass six days a week, for many years in Latin. I got sprung from Catholic school after fifth grade. Rhoda stuck it out through high school, but I think that had to do with the cute guys in her class.

Rhoda and I both believe in God. We’ve just never connected with him or her in church on Sunday.  Give us a forest, a mountaintop, a starry night on the beach. That’s where we find our God. Or even in a baby’s smile or the sweet tenderness of a puppy’s soft, downy-pink belly.

Anyway, back to the angels. Rhoda loved angels. She collected them. Lots of them. Ceramic angels. Wooden angels. Crystal angels. Angels formed of wire and tin and papier mâché. And when she died and I inherited the primary responsibility for settling her estate and distributing her belongings, I had all these -- angels – to deal with.

I kept a few, gave some to family members I knew would like them, and sold the rest in a yard sale. Maybe the angels were offended. Maybe I priced them too low. Maybe they didn’t appreciate being separated. But really, there were just so, so many of them, and I had a lot to deal with. Sorry, seraphim. Really, I am so, so sorry.

Here’s how I know they don’t like me: one of them took a nose dive off the top of my Christmas tree. Her head exploded. Seriously, an angel suicide. Another gave up her halo. Her tiny, golden glass halo, just inexplicably came off her little head.

I try not to take is personally. I mean, it could be considered hypocritical of me to even have the angels, right? I mean, wouldn’t they be better off on someone else’s tree? Someone who goes to church, someone who knows the correct words are “angels we have heard ON high” and not “angels we have heard ARE high.”

But then I gave in and actually bought an angel! For four days I have lived with a tree that is fully decorated, bedecked with angels and Santas and snowmen and random souvenirs of various vacations, glass balls and Christopher Radko collectibles and lots of crystal doo-dads. But it was naked on top, its pinnacle bare in homage to the gilded martyr now buried in the trash can.

It just didn’t look right. I kept moving ornaments around, seeking the perfect balance of bauble and beads. And then it struck me, it needed an angel on top. So when I saw one on sale at CVS, where I stopped to stock up on buy-one-get-one Osteo Bi-Flex, I threw her in the cart and brought her home.

She’s beautiful, with a white flowing robe, a harp, and golden-glittery wings. But you know what? She doesn’t fit. She won’t stay put. She lists to the side, and threatens to fall, bringing snowmen and Santas and even the Mr.-Potato-Head-dressed-as-a-toy soldier with her!
That’s the thing about angels: they just don’t like me. Just sayin.



By now, most of you know I am working for a congressional campaign, but you might not know why. So here are my Top Ten Reasons Why I Work for Elisabeth Motsinger for Congress:

10. EM is an advocate for education. You know I spent more than 20 years working in higher education, and I remain passionate about its ability to transform lives.

9. EM is an environmental activist. I’ve been hugging trees since before I ever tried to climb one.

8. EM believes in the inherent worth of every single person. Equality, baby. That’s what it’s all about.

7. EM is a force of nature. It’s true: I watched her breathe life back into her husband when he was having a stroke. Ask me about it sometime. I am forever changed because of the experience.

6. EM believes as I do, that every American should have access to quality healthcare.

5. EM believes that each of us should receive a livable wage, so that we don’t have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, and so that we have time and energy to enjoy recreational activities and engage in our communities.

4. EM is a person of compassion and integrity. I trust her explicitly to do what is in the best interest of her constituents.

3. EM is a survivor. She’s been a single mother and a widow. She returned to college with two small children and completed her physician assistant training. She’s got grit.

2. EM is a great listener, and a thoughtful decision-maker. No knee-jerk reactions from this candidate. No toeing the party line. She weighs all sides of an issue, and truly endeavors to understand positions that differ from her own inclinations.

And the number 1 reason why I work for Elisabeth Motsinger for Congress:  She WILL win in November! She won her primary with 70 percent of the vote. She has won “unwinnable” races for the school board, and she has the strength, the energy, and vision and the wisdom to defeat Virginia Foxx.

So, if you are still with me, you must have finished reading the back of the cereal box yesterday. Or it’s a slow day on the Yahoo news feed. Or you care about me. I know some of you who care about me adhere to political beliefs that are different from my own, but that’s ok. There is room in this world for a multitude of viewpoints. But here’s the point (and you knew this was coming): if you care about me, regardless of your own political beliefs, I hope you will consider making a donation – any size donation -- to my candidate. We are running a grassroots campaign against an opponent who is well-funded by super PACS and corporate interests outside our district. We have a powerful message, and an enthusiastic team. But we need funding to get our message out to our voters.

To learn more, check out our web page: www.nc5th.us  (Watch for the upcoming launch of our new webpage! )

Donate at ActBlue, or by mailing a check to 1411 West First Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101. Please include your occupation and employer so we can keep the Federal Elections Commission happy.

And remember, donations or gifts to Elisabeth Motsinger for Congress are not tax deductible. But they will help ensure that I keep getting paid. I’m just sayin …

Washington D.C. is probably not Emerald City, but this campaign of 2012 is feeling a lot like the Yellow Brick Road.

I recently signed on as a volunteer for the Elisabeth Motsinger for Congress campaign, and joined a small but steadfast band of down-to-earth dreamers who are determined that North Carolina will be represented by a woman who shares our values: equal access to affordable healthcare; opportunities for quality public education; a growing economy in a thriving natural environment; protecting human rights and ending discrimination in all its forms.

I will not cast myself as Dorothy, and I dare not assign roles to my colleagues on the campaign trail. But I will say this: unlike L. Frank Baum’s beloved characters in The Wizard of Oz, we already know that we have everything we need. We need not search for Scarecrow’s brain, because our candidate has the intelligence she needs to make the right decisions for North Carolina. Tin Man’s heart? Got it. Elisabeth Motsinger has shown remarkable compassion through her work as a physician’s assistant, her service on the School Board, and her activism on social and environmental issues. Courage? Forget about it, Cowardly Lion. When the local paper endorsed her opponent in the primary, Elisabeth replied, “I would like to thank the Winston-Salem Journal for noticing that I am an activist for liberal causes. My actions are firmly grounded in my moral vision and I make no apologies for standing fast.” The campaign staff was spitting nails, but our candidate showed us back bone and calm, reasoned courage of conviction.

And Dorothy’s fervent desire to find her way home? Elisabeth has the vision to restore the American dream. “I believe in real prosperity for real people,” she says. “America should be the land of opportunity for everyone. Our society can make sure that the generations that follow us inherit an America where dreams can still be achieved.”

In the Wizard of Oz, the Good Witch Glinda told Dorothy that she only had to believe to find her way home. Elizabeth Motsinger believes in America, and I believe in Elisabeth. And we all know who is the Wicked Witch of the West.

Just sayin.

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