Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wait for me while I...

"I'll be waiting...You'll be the prince and I'll be the princess..." Lyrics from Love Story by Taylor Swift

Have you ever noticed how men are always waiting for women? The fact of the matter is, men have been waiting for women since the beginning of time.

I don't know about you, but to me the sight of men waiting for women is right up there with holding the door open, pulling out her chair or helping her with her coat.

I imagine a lot of fellows put everything on hold while they wait.

Come to think of it, I don't see many young men waiting around; they're probably in too much of a hurry. It's mostly the older guys in cars with windows rolled down and radios turned up, lingering on benches while watching passersby at the grocery store or thumbing through Times and People magazines in doctors' offices.

One nods off at the laundry mat while she folds underwear. Another stands by the curb while his wife rummages in a yard nearby.

Every time I go shopping, I see what appears to be a completely bored man hanging out alone in Ladies Wear. He's holding her purse while she's trying on clothes in the dressing room. Talk about the possibility of a long wait!

Considering how much time these guys spend waiting, I figure they must be sacrificing something: teeing off with the boys, catching the game on TV, gambling at the casino, tilling the garden, shooting a few hoops or tinkering in the garage.

My father was not a patient waiter, but my husband is, which makes me wonder about the conversations that are a part of the waiting dance...

Maybe she says, you don't have to stay, and he replies, I'll wait anyway. Or maybe she promises, I'll only be a minute, and he says, take your time. If she warns, don't go wondering off, does he promise, I won't? If she asks, will you hold my purse while I try this on, does he respond, O.K.?

I imagine there's bargaining, too...

If you come to the grocery store with me, you can do whatever you want afterward. I'll bake your favorite cookies if you help me with the laundry. If you go clothes shopping with me, I won't make you go to church.

Now that I think of it, I never see these men upset or impatient in the least bit as they wait. They have a quiet calm about them. I'd like to think these patient stewards of women's agendas are really great guys who want to be supportive.

I salute this dying breed of princes as they wait for their princesses.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took first-place statewide. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at find her on Facebook.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Skip the sloppy joe mix

When I opened a letter from my sister last week, I wasn't expecting to find a postcard from my mother inside. It was postmarked Oct. 16, 1970, carried a 10-cent air mail stamp and was addressed to my sister in Pirmasens, Germany, where she lived at the time.

The note reads…

"Mary Ann, so glad to hear from you and that all is well. Will write a letter later. Here’s the recipe for spaghetti sauce.

Spaghetti sauce: 1 large can tomato juice, 1 small can tom. paste, 2 cups water, 1 tbs. sweet basil, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. garlic salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, ¼ tsp. oregano, 1 tablespoon dried onion soup mix, 1 teaspoon sloppy joe mix, 2 bay leaves, 3 tbsp. sugar, ¼ teaspoon baking soda. Bring to a boil. Simmer for about an hour.

Lots of luck. Secret to good cooking: put all your meals in the hands of the Blessed Mother.

Keep happy and well.



P.S. You may skip the sloppy joe mix and onion soup mix.

Mommy? At the time my mother typed this, all six of her children were older and had stopped referring to her as such. I wonder if she was resolving that feeling mothers get when it is no longer cool for kids to use the term "Mommy." Sometimes I catch myself wanting to sign emails and cards to my kids that way but quickly sensor myself and settle for plain old "Mom."

My mother's Sicilian spaghetti sauce was famous throughout the neighborhood, the school, the church, the entire town. I didn’t know she put black pepper in it! The sloppy joe and soup mixes were news to me, too. It makes me wonder. Mom cooked from memory and this recipe doesn't sound at all like the one she gave me. I guess she was doing her best to recall the mysterious flurry of ingredients she used.

I should have studied her more closely and taken copious notes on how much basil and oregano she poured into her palm and then sprinkled in the sauce.

I notice that her typewriter ribbon was wearing out by they way she filled in the "a" in "all," the "o," "r" and "g" in "oregano." My mother was a perfectionist, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that she tried to make her note just so.

She really was a talented cook and typist. I remember watching her do both and hoping that some day my fingers and hands would maneuver magically like hers.

Mom had the focus of a bull snake coiled and ready to pounce on its prey. Nothing could distract her from the impenetrable bubble of concentration she maintained in our noisy and often chaotic household.

In her empty nest, my sister's request for her sauce recipe surely must have lifted her spirits.

I took for granted watching her cook and receiving her letters. Mom is gone now and on April 8 she would have been 90 years old.

My husband asked me, "How many more times will you write about your mother?"

For a moment, I was taken back by his question, which really was a statement, and then said, "As many times as I need to."

Even though I am 58 and all my children are grown and gone, I always will miss my mommy.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Really? Really!

I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time thinking about God’s will. Sometimes it consumes me.

The other day, when I heard Harold Kushner, author of a dozen or so books, being interviewed on National Public Radio, I turned up the volume. The topic was God’s will.

Rabbi Kushner, who wrote "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," lost a teenage son to illness some years ago.

He believes God made a decision a long time ago not to interfere with acts of nature, like the death of his son, or acts of evil, like 9-11. According to Kushner, even though God doesn't interfere, He promises to be with us no matter what happens.

I was raised to believe that God is everywhere, God does intervene and miracles do happen. My theological upbringing had a clearly suffering servant slant to it. The notion of the harder the times, the greater the heavenly rewards was embraced.

A few years ago during my training as a hospital chaplain, I became a student of discerning God’s will through the book "The Will of God" by Pastor Leslie D. Weatherhead.

Weatherhead’s perspective tends to align with Kushner. In short, he believes "not everything that happens is God’s will, but that nothing can defeat God’s will." In other words, when bad things happen, God will work around, through and over whatever comes our way in order to accomplish his ultimate will.

I want to believe in a benevolent God, but I struggle when a young woman is killed at the hands of a rapist or when a child runs into the path of an oncoming car and dies. When tragedies like these occur, I look heavenward in disbelief and cry out, "Why?"

Equally hard for me to accept are my own unfortunate missteps. My theological sensibilities tell me that God has forgiven and maybe even forgotten my wrong turns.

Regrettably, I want to press "replay" and do over what I didn’t get right at first.

Maybe all I really need to do is follow the advice I gave an ailing woman I visited when making my chaplain rounds.

She asked with a worried look, "Is it true?"

"Is what true?" I replied.

"Does He really exit? When we die, will He really be there?"

"Yes," I reassured.

"Does He really forgive?"

"Yes." I said.

"Really?" She asked in disbelief.

"Really!" I responded with conviction.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Whistling carrots, fairies and fools

"April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four." Mark Twain

I sort of like April Fools Day. It brings out the kid in us and there’s that special element of surprise.

I’m not one to play practical jokes. It scares me too much to think someone could die of a heart attack or keel over from a stroke. And I don’t like it when the joke is on me; maybe that's why people tell me I'm too serious.

However, I don’t mind it when people pull pranks on others. The length they will go to spring jokes on unsuspecting friends, office workers and even family members intrigues me. I’m amazed how gullible people can be.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the "Top 10 Best April Fools Jokes" of all time on

Take for example Tesco's whistling carrots. On April 1, 2002, Tesco ran a fake newspaper ad announcing a whistling carrot had been genetically modified with air holes that caused the carrot to whistle when it was cooked. Can you believe it? Well, apparently a whole lot of people did.

George Orwell once said, "The aim of a joke is not to degrade the human being, but to remind him that he is already degraded."

That reminds me of a prank played by Lebanon Circle Magik, a company that specializes in sculptures. In 2007, the company posted on its website a picture of a mummified fairy. According to the story, someone found a fairy in Derbyshire, England, or so the story went, and people continued to think the fairy was real even after the hoax was revealed. Go figure.

"If every fool wore a crown, we should all be kings." Welsh Proverb

A whole lot of people were wearing crowns back in '96, when Taco Bell pulled a wild hair prank. On April 1 of that year, Taco Bell announced it was renaming the Liberty Bell the Taco Liberty Bell. No one in their right mind would believe such a thing, but millions did and protestors clogged the phone lines at Philadelphia’s National Historic Park, where the bell is located.

"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Chinese Proverb

Dick Smith had fun fooling Australians for quite awhile back in '78. Smith supposedly contracted a barge to tow an iceberg from Antarctica to Sydney Harbor. He said he'd cut the iceberg into icecubes and sell them for 10 cents each. The public was gung-ho over the "iceberg" until rain washed off the shaving cream and fire retardant, revealing that the "iceberg" was plastic. Some iceberg that was.

Clifton Paul Fadiman once said, "A sense of humor is the ability to understand a joke and that the joke is oneself."

My favorite April Fools joke happened in 1962, when Sweden’s only TV channel broadcast that viewers could make their black-and-white TVs display full color by pulling nylon stockings over them. Thousands of people actually tried it. I really cannot picture people stretching nylons over their picture tubes. Well, on second thought, maybe I can.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.