Four Score and Seven Years Ago

8 03 2017

In two days, my mother will celebrate her 87th birthday. 

We are the luckiest children on the planet. Mom’s smart and strong and healthy and happy.  We do not take this for granted. We are grateful.

Some (lots of) people who know how my sibs and I were raised would say that Mom spoiled us. Yes, she went to ridiculous lengths to make us happy. She was (and still is) tireless and dogged* in her efforts to make our lives as easy as hers had been difficult – and that is an understatement.

To honor Mom’s parenting philosophy this Wednesday before her birthday, here’s a loving daughter’s riff on a little news item:

Oh!  Mama-Care

Individual mandate – If you don’t like what I made for dinner, I’ll fix you a sandwich.

Subsidies for out-of-pocket expenses – If you are short of cash a few days before pay day, I’ll always have some spending money for you.

Premium subsidies – If you want to go back to school, you can come back and live with me, rent-free, as long as you want.

Medicaid expansion – I will always have band-aids for every “ouchie” you suffer.

Health savings account – I will take excellent care of myself so I can always take care of you.

Restrictions on charging more for older Americans – You’ll always be my baby.

Dependent coverage You can depend on me UNTIL WE ARE ALL DEAD, PERIOD.

Pre-existing conditions policy – I love you, without conditions, pre-existing or otherwise.

Essential health benefits – Your happiness is the only thing that’s essential to me.

Prohibitions on annual and lifetime limits – You are prohibited from ever doubting  that you will always be my child, no matter how many Annual Renewals we share.

Happy Birthday, Mom!


*Dogged pursuit takes on a whole new meaning. This is Flip – also know as DD (Damn Dog). For just a little over a year, he’s been the recipient of Mom’s affection, not to mention some fine table scraps.




25 05 2016

Have you ever put something on your schedule only to wish you hadn’t? You know what I mean? It’s that casual, “Why don’t you stop in for a drink?” kind of invitation that you accept only to wonder what you were thinking when the date rolls around.

My idea of a great spring Saturday is to put on my crummiest jeans and grass-stained sneakers and head to my gardens – alone –  for a day of weeding, deadheading, and pruning my beloved flowers and trees; so when the time came to attend a birthday party for someone I barely knew, I was not in a festive mood. “We’ll put in an appearance and leave as quickly as we possibly can,” I told my husband – our usual plan.

Well, let me tell you, that was a plan that was quickly scrapped!

As it turns out, our hosts were delightful and the more we got to know them, the better we liked them. Things were going famously when Mrs. Host said, “Honey, you should serenade Paula.” Oh, no! They had the biggest, most complex hot rod of a karaoke set-up money can buy. My husband and I put on our pleasantest “listen politely” faces and prepared for the worst.

What a surprise!

Our previously quiet host was transformed when he touched that magic microphone. We were awestruck – and that’s saying something, as we had been professional musicians for years. He was not good; he was GREAT! He had range and balance and control and timing and phrasing. Wow, just wow.

In a time when most surprises are unwelcome, bad news, inconvenient, or otherwise disagreeable, this was such a moment of delight. Had these folks who barely knew us not generously invited us to their home to share in their celebration, we’d have missed out on enjoying a wonderful Filipino meal, meeting some lovely folks, and hearing a secret singing star perform just for us.

As a confirmed curmudgeon, this is a lesson I need to remember:

When some lovely people offer you their hospitality, you might not just want to say okay – say kara-okay!

p.s.  Here’s proof of my “we used to be musicians” claim – a blast from our past –  “Crippen” 1991.

Bube's 1991 b

Hank Ettel, Bass; Paula Lewis, Percussion; Ken Lewis, Guitar at Bube’s Brewery in Mt Joy, PA.

Sometimes, You Feel Like a (Coco)Nut

20 01 2016

I love to cook. Baking (and eating) a real cake – NOT one from a recipe that starts “to a box of Betty Crocker, add . . .” – is pure buttered and sugared joy.  Out of (very little) respect for my and my husband’s waistlines, I try to restrict my cake baking to cake occasions; to bake one on a non-cake-occasion day would be a very wicked thing.

So, I am happy to report that tomorrow is my birthday.

Cake occasion!!!


In years past, I have made myself German chocolate cake, hummingbird cake, peanut butter chocolate cake, pineapple upside-down cake (my dad’s favorite), to name a few. This year, it’s time for a three-layered spectacle of vanilla cake, infused with coconut milk, filled with coconut sweetness that seeps into each layer, and topped with seven-minute frosting that’s been coconutted to the nth degree.

I know lots of folks are not fans of coconut, but it’s not their birthday!  I’ll bake them something delicious from their flavor favorites when it’s their turn.

For tomorrow, though . .  .









Happy Birthday to ME!

Que Sera, Sera

2 09 2015

In a few weeks, my dear father-in-law will be eighty years old,  so we’ve spent the last week in Mexico, celebrating this milestone with seven days of sunshine, food, drink, and family.

I am a very lucky woman to have married into this smart, funny, and kind group of people.

While this week has been wonderful, it has also been melancholy, for my own dear father’s birthday is also toward the end of September. It seems odd that the happiest family moments can draw the most bittersweet of memories, the sharpest pangs of grief.

Dad’s been gone for over twenty years, but I often hear his voice in my head, usually gently teasing me, always supporting me. This week, I heard him singing to me.

          Goodbye Joe, me gotta go me oh my oh . . .

          Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be . . .

          Bet my money on a bob-tail nag; somebody bet on the bay.

These were songs he sang to me when I was a little girl. They remind me that my earliest memories are of my father’s love. I suppose the family love that surrounded our group this week is what drew that music to my ears.

I am a very lucky woman to be the daughter of a smart, funny, and kind man.

Now, I am going to sing myself to sleep. Dream sweetly.

28 Days of Grey

25 02 2015

All discussion of long-term climate change aside, it’s been stupid-cold for too long now.  I, like many folks, wilt during winter’s weak and brief periods of sunlight and severe and extended periods of frigid temperatures. With that admission on the record, here are

The Top Ten Reasons It’s Time For March.

10. Daylight Saving Time arrives, dropping the green flag on the race to spring!

9.   Dressing like Michelin Man to get the mail is getting exhausting.

8.   Static electricity:

I can fry the TV with an index finger, if I forget to touch other metal first.

7.   Fewer snotty noses . . . can’t vouch for attitudes . . .

6.   I look less crazy at the ice cream shop.

(I will eat ice cream in any weather; I just look less abnormal when it’s not two below.)

5.   The end of the mattress sale (and mattress commercial) season.

4.   The top news headlines won’t be dominated by meteorologists.

3.   Cars can begin to return their natural color, instead of road salt gray.

2.   February Funk replaced by March Madness.

1.   Mad Mildred (my mom) will celebrate her 85th birthday –

2-25-15 probably by bowling a 200 game.


February, it’s not you; it’s . . .  wait, it IS you.

You are a cold, menacing, ugly, grey jerk and I won’t miss you one bit!


It’s an Investment

10 09 2014

9-10 14

Remember, when you were a kid, and some well-meaning relative gave you a savings bond for your birthday?

What kind of crappy present was that!   You had to wait for it to mature.  If you were patient, it would pay big dividends.

What the hell was that all about?  Remember how disappointed you felt, how confused, how downright pissed off?  If that person had loved you, she’d have given you something you could use NOW!

Siblings fall into that category, I think.  As the only child for over two glorious years, I was none too happy when my mother brought home and proudly presented me with an interloper –  my sister.  She interfered with my being-spoiled-rotten time; then she made it very clear that I was not, in fact, the smartest little girl ever (she was – and still is); and then she made me feel uncool and incompetent for my first-born-ness  .  .  .

and then, it happened.

Maturity – mine as much as hers.

Dividends of the highest magnitude.

Today is my sister Phyllis’s birthday.  I want to thank my mother for the gift she gave me on September 10th 1956 – the one I had to “grow into”.  This is a gift whose value continues to appreciate.

Thanks, Mom.

Happy Birthday, Phyllis.