When A Dozen Eggs Doesn’t Equal 12

When A Dozen Eggs Doesn’t Equal 12

Two of my naughtier chickens, Missy & Pinky.
Two of my naughtier chickens, Missy & Pinky.

Leave it to a bunch of chickens to teach me a lesson.

About gratitude.

About what is enough.

About what makes a party.

Yes, I did say, “chickens.”

As in the 7 crazy chickens I have living in our backyard.

This is Barbie. Shhhh. Don't tell the others, but she's my sweetest, wisest and favorite chicken.
This is Barbie. Shhhh. Don’t tell the others, but she’s my sweetest, wisest and favorite chicken.

Got my first chickens about four years ago, the day before my first date with my now husband. That was one lucky week.

Lets get right to it.

Folks always want to know do we get fresh eggs?

Sure do.

The chicken math adds up to about an egg every other day from each lady. Sometimes more. Sometimes less, depending on their mood, luck, time of the year, the stock market.

And nothing, by that, I mean nothing, makes a better “Thank you,” gift than a dozen fresh eggs.

Invite me to your house for dinner? I’ll show up with a dozen fresh eggs.

You’ll go nuts.

Which leads me to last year, when my father-in-law wanted to come to see our daughter in her school orchestra recital.  He and his wife live a couple hours away. He wasn’t up for doing the driving. His wife wasn’t feeling tip top either.

“No problem,” says Tommy. Tommy, who happens to be a friend from church. Tommy says, “No problem, I’ll drive you up.”

Two hours each way to sit and listen to someone else’s grandkid’s squeaky orchestral recital? Yes, we’re talking true friend.

No better way to say, “Thank you,” I figured, than send Tommy home with a dozen fresh eggs.

One problem.

I looked at my stash in the fridge to find I only had 11.

What could I do? How rude to give only 11 eggs!

“C’mon, Ladies,” I implored as I popped out to the chicken coop. “Surely, you can lay one more egg? One more egg for Mr. Tommy?”

 

Mrs. Lucy Grubbs enjoying her treat, ignoring me and her waistline.
Mrs. Lucy Grubbs enjoying her treat, ignoring me and her waistline.

The chickens paid me no mind. Ignored me, as they do when there is something delicious that deserves their attention more.

There was a heaping pile of what you and I would call  trash.

Put it down your garbage disposal.

If you’re green, perhaps, in a compost heap.

When you have chickens, you toss it the chickens’ way—stale bread, over-soft tomatoes, apple peels and such.

 

Nugget the chicken going to town on  a piece of old bread, keeping an eye on a cherry for dessert.
Nugget the chicken going to town on a piece of old bread, keeping an eye on a cherry for dessert.

And therein lies the lesson:

What is trash to me, is treasure to the chicken.

A party! A fiesta! A moment to be excited about what has come their way.

That’s when it clicked.

I went back inside, packed up the 11 eggs in a carton.

“We have a new tradition!” I declared as I met up with Pops and Tommy. “Many have received a dozen eggs,” I explained to our guest. “You are the first, however, to receive a ‘Tommy Dozen!’”

I opened the carton to show only 11 eggs.

A "Tommy Dozen"...11 eggs instead of 12.
A “Tommy Dozen”…11 eggs instead of 12.

Tommy’s reaction?

What do you expect from a man who would drive a buddy to his granddaughter’s recital in another state?

Tommy, being Tommy, howled with laughter.

He was delighted and honored.

Took those 11 eggs and headed back down to their hometown.

I hear The Tommy Dozen story has now been told many times at their church.

It’s become part of our family lingo.

You might not have all that you expected or counted on, but look at it the right way and you’ll see you have enough. A bounty. A party. A fiesta.

For that, I thank the chickens.

And Tommy.

I would love to hear about your version of a Tommy Dozen!

How Great Friendship Comes Down To A Stack Of Pancakes

How Great Friendship Comes Down To A Stack Of Pancakes

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My friend called this week to explain something I’d never considered.

Great friendship comes down to a stack of pancakes.

Her sweet call was apparently prompted by a visit with another friend of hers.

A friend who has just filed for divorce.

“Being there for her reminded me how you were there for me,” my friend said in a voicemail that I know I will keep for a long time. “How years ago you were there for me during my divorce, how every Saturday for at least nine months, you faithfully came out to breakfast with me. By my count, that’s 36 pancakes. 36 pancakes that got me through a dark time. I just want to thank you again for everyone of those pancakes.”

This is where our versions of the same story diverge.

Sure, I remember those Saturday morning breakfasts.

Fluffy buttermilk pancakes, melting butter oozing down the sides, a pool of maple syrup for dipping, as I’m a pancake dipper, not drencher.

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I remember looking forward with great anticipation to that Saturday morning date, as well.

It’s just that I remember the story as my friend getting me through a tough time, not the other way around.

I remember being new in town and recently dumped by a long-term boyfriend who I had thought was The One.

Yeah, you remember him. You had one of those, too?

I remember it like this: I knew very few people in town. But at least every Saturday morning, there would be my friend’s laugh, her honesty, her friendship. And someone else’s tears.

Yes, some weeks, those could be some salty pancakes.

There’s also the small matter that my math for this story works out differently.

Truly, I think my friend remembers a Jenny Craig version.

36 pancakes?

One pancake per week?

That doesn’t compute with my “He dumped me who cares if I gain 10 lbs?” memory of the story.

Oh no, there was at least a short stack of pancakes served up each of those Saturdays.

At least.

Which makes mine a 108 pancake memory.

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I do believe I still have those fat jeans stuffed in the back of my closet to prove my point.

The important thing is, my friend proved hers.

That even though, all these years later, living 500 miles apart, both happily married to better men than those who broke are hearts, you never forget a true friend.

A real friend.

The kind my friend will now be to her girlfriend who is facing her challenges.

“We’re going to be eating a lot of pancakes,” she said as she wrapped up her voicemail. “And I just wanted you to know you’ll be sitting with us at that counter in spirit for every single bite.”

So, Dear Reader, this column is for you.

You, who has had a friend there for pancakes. Who can’t remember who was really helping whom through a dark time.

Thank God, for you.

For our friends.

For pancakes.

Now, would someone please pass the syrup?

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I would love to know who was there for your proverbial stack of pancakes?

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com.

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

The Night Cancer Did Not Get To Win

The Night Cancer Did Not Get To Win

My college roommates, Heidi (L) and Sandra (R) who show me it's never too late to do what's important.
My college roommates, Heidi (L) and Sandra (R) who show me it’s never too late to do what’s important.

Too many days.

Too many days, that awful, despicable, rude, ruthless bully called, “cancer” has knocked on the door of those I love.

That day in high school when it took the life of my best friend, Cyndi’s, mother.

That day just out of college when my roommate, Sandra’s, mother was diagnosed. Doctors gave her less than a year. She got the rare last laugh and lived 10 more.

That day in ’97 when it was my other roommate, Heidi’s mother who was diagnosed.

In 2003, it was my own mother.

And just last year, as I shared with you here, Dear Reader, it was Heidi, herself. Diagnosed with breast cancer.

Cancer won each of those days.

Gave us moments we thought we were defeated.

Then, there was last week.

Last week, hosted the night cancer didn’t get to win.

That night.

That one night something so special happened.

Sandra and Heidi, my dear friends, my college roommates had their bat mitzvah.

Yes, you got that right.

Bat Mitzvah.

Sandra and Heidi reading from The Torah at their bat mitzvah, almost 40 years after most Jewish girls undertake this ritual.
Sandra and Heidi reading from The Torah at their bat mitzvah, almost 40 years after most Jewish girls undertake this ritual.

As in the ritual that Jewish girls have to enter adulthood when they 13 years old.

Only, when Heidi and Sandra were growing up, they didn’t have that opportunity.

So, they decided to do it, well, now.

I flew out to California for a service and the night I knew I would not miss.

My date? Of course, it was Cyndi. Cyndi, who lost her mom to cancer. Cyndi who has shared every milestone with me since that first day of kindergarten.

Cyndi, my best friend since the first day of kindergarten. True story! We've shared every major milestone of our lives. I've known her longer than my own little sister, who wasn't born until first grade!
Cyndi, my best friend since the first day of kindergarten. True story! We’ve shared every major milestone of our lives. I’ve known her longer than my own little sister, who wasn’t born until first grade!

Sitting side by side that night in the synagogue pews, Cyndi and I smiled looking up at Heidi and Sandra having their sacred moment.

We smiled this night because we knew this was the night that cancer could not win.

We smiled because we knew there is not a single person who chooses cancer, but here were Heidi and Sandra showing us that you still do get to choose.

No matter what your faith.

You get to choose to do what’s important.

You get to show, that sometimes, it’s not too late to do what many might’ve done decades before.

You get to choose the bond of lifelong friendships, of being there for the darkest and happiest of times.

When it came to the part of the service where the rabbi asks, “Is there anyone who has a loved one who is ill who needs our prayers?” Cyndi stood up.

“Who are you praying for?” the rabbi asked in front of the entire synagogue.

“My younger sister, Caitlyn,” she shared as the tears began to flow.

See, just last month, cancer came knocking again. This time it’s Caitlyn, who is fighting breast cancer.

As Cyndi sat back down, we prayed, we cried, we hugged.

Holding onto each other.

Holding onto hope for Caitlyn’s recovery.

Protecting against all the days that cancer tries to take away.

Holding onto the knowledge that cancer can never take away that night, or our friendship, or our commitment to each other.

On that front, cancer will never win.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Need To Decide: You Looking For a Boyfriend of A Husband?

Need To Decide: You Looking For a Boyfriend of A Husband?

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Get my friend, Claire, on the phone right now!

We need to have lunch.

Like now.

I got some ‘splainin’ to do to my friend who happens to be about 15 years younger than I am.

The urgent need popped up when I got an email from her earlier this week.

Seems sweet Claire is tired of watching what seems like all of her friends getting married and having babies.

Oh, how I remember those days, which for me turned into years, and ok, decades.

My heart aches just thinking about the “It will never be me who a man I love says he wants to make a life with” ache.

My Can-Do younger friend is taking her hunt to the next level.

“Fix Me Up!” declares the email she sent out to those she loves and respects the most.

I smile.

Good for you, Claire!

I admire that kind of “Oh, Yes I Can I Will Not Be Denied Love” go-get-it-ness.

Am I able to help Claire on her quest for love?

I read further through the email chain. This is what leads to my furrowed brow, my slamming on the brakes, my reaching for my phone, to set up that lunch.

The cause for my concern?

Simply, the description of what my younger friend says she’s looking for.

There are some wonderful things on the list.

Sense of humor. Height. Understanding her ambition.

But this is where I furrow.

For, according to this list, I realize what Claire is looking for.

It’s the same thing I looked for far too long.

A Great Boyfriend.

As I close in on my second wedding anniversary, I realize the hunt, the search the passion, the drive should be for a great husband.

And no, Claire, they are not the same thing.

Hey, boyfriends are great!

It means having someone to do something with on Saturday night, not going solo to yet another one of those weddings, flowers on Valentine’s Day.

I need to say to Claire, that the formula of searching for a great boyfriend and hoping that some sprinklage of a magic pixie dust or turning yourself  inside out to be his version of fabulous, will somehow make him want to be a husband.

A great husband.

This was my formula for years.

Yeah, that formula doesn’t work so well.

Not at all.

Just ask, me, who got married for the first time at the age of 49.

And I’m convinced it only happened even then was because God took matters into his own hands and made things very simple, delivering a Rooms-To-Go kind of man. Fully-assembled and functioning, so that I could see how one those works.

Only by dating  a single dad who was raising his 11-old-daughter alone, did I clearly see what a real man, true husband material, looks like.

Only by seeing steady, dedicated, mature, good values operating right in front of my eyes on a daily basis did I get it.

Don’t get me wrong—he was a good boyfriend. There were plenty of Saturday night dates, he came with me to a friend’s wedding, and yes, there were flowers on Valentine’s Day.

But I have to explain to Claire the nothing delights me and takes my breath away like he does when he does husbandy stuff.

The providing for our family, the telling our daughter that it’s his job to keep her safe, the laughter as he smiles at my quirky ways.

It’s like this Claire–A fun little sports car is great for weekends, but you eventually need an SUV to get everything done.

So now I’m on the hunt for an SUV kind of guy for my friend, Claire. Scratch that.

She deserves an RV!

No, bigger!

A Mack Truck kinda guy who carries around the sports car inside for when it’s time to be silly and have fun.

But first, Claire I and going to have lunch where I will ask the question? “Girlfriend, you looking for a boyfriend or a husband?”

Dear Reader, I’d love to know what you think makes the difference.

Oh…and if you know of a Mack Truck kinda guy for Claire, surely let me know!

 

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio

The Hair Question Every Woman Eventually Must Answer

The Hair Question Every Woman Eventually Must Answer

rainbow hair

It’s the looming question waiting for every woman at the bottom of a plastic bottle.

The answer you give that informs the world information about you without your saying a word.

What do you believe?

What is beauty?

And so, Dear Woman, I know you’ve asked yourself.

Will you or won’t you?

Do you or don’t you?

When that time comes, do you—

Reach for the bottle?

Bottle, as in plastic.

Bottle as in—

bottle

Do you choose to color your hair?

And yes, this is question for my women only.

Call it sexist, but I’ve never seen a man look better with dyed hair. Guys, like the song from “Frozen” says, you just need to “Let It Go!”

As for us, ladies, I guess it depends, as so many of our choices do, a lot on the messages you get growing up.

raincoat gray

My own mother has had that messaging since her gray hair started showing up in her early 20’s.

“Oh, you really need to start coloring your hair,” her mother told as she sent her straight to the local beauty parlor.

I was fascinated to hear this story recently, never realizing that it was my grandmother who sent my mother on her half-century long journey with trying to cover up what nature was sending out of her head.

My grandmother, my Nana Lil, who always wore the most gorgeous head of snowy white hair. Not gray. Not silver. Solid white.

That is, until the day my grandfather passed away.

From that day on she was blonde.

“Papa’s body was barely in the grave,” my mother remembered recently, “and your Nana was at the salon dying her hair.”

Her memory brought into focus something I had never really put together before—my beloved Nana with gorgeous white hair for most of my childhood and her later years when she sported that blonde hairdo that, between  you and me,  I never thought suited her olive complexion quite as well.

It was only the other day that I learned the rest of the story.

“Papa always forbade Nana to dye her hair,” my mother recounted, bringing to a life a time when a husband ruled a wife in such ways. “His passing was her first chance to decide what she wanted to do with her hair.”

What had looked to me like an off hair color choice was now something so much more.  It was about power. It was about choice. That lemonade sauerkraut color suddenly looked beautiful in my memories.

Though I get my dark coloring, my eyes, my skin, my hair from my grandmother and mother, I don’t remember my own mother telling me what to do with mine.

I just kind of always knew I would start going gray in my 20’s and yes, I would, and I do color my hair.

Oh, I have fantasies of cutting it all off super short and just going with my natural color. One day I will do that. Until then, God only knows how much salt and pepper awaits.

I have friends who have let nature take her course.  Some inspire me. Like my friend, Lori, whose short salt and pepper cut sets off the sparkle in her violet hazel eyes.

And if I’m honest, which it’s my job to do in this column, there are a few friends who I would love to send to the salon, as my grandmother sent my mother, because the gray is just making them look older and blah.

For now, I’m a voluntary slave to the color, the highlights, the blow dry to get my hair looking just so.

It’s my choice.

Turns out, sometimes, that choice changes.

When I saw my mother last month, I noticed something new. A single white streak of hair peaking out in the front of her off-center part.

“I’ve decided to stop coloring my hair,” she shared, though she didn’t say why.

She’s letting it grow in from underneath, slowly revealing her new look to the world with that single white streak.   It looks like it will be the same pretty snow white my grandmother had.

New generation, reverse choice.

As my mother answers the question, “No, I don’t color my hair because for me, for now, it’s now my choice not to.”

What about you, Dear Reader, do you or don’t you?

 

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Fumble: Handling A Family Crisis From Across The Country

Fumble: Handling A Family Crisis From Across The Country

This cartoon says it all! Thank you, Mike Bannon! MordantOrange.com
This cartoon says it all! Thank you, Mike Bannon! MordantOrange.com

 

“We have a crisis going on here.”

Those are not exactly the words you want to hear from your daughter when you’re calling home from the other side of the country.

“I’ve only been gone a few hours. What could possibly have gone wrong?” I asked with a jillion scenarios racing through my mind.

“Daddy can’t find his keys,” my daughter explained.

“Oh,” was all I could say, at first simultaneously giving thanks that that was all it was, and an “Uh oh,” realizing this was going to get ugly before it got better.

And so begins this tale of an upside down obstacle, Dear Reader, that I bet you can relate to—

What do you do when you’ve lost that item you absolutely must have?

For my husband it was his car keys.

“No big deal,” I think I might’ve heard you smirking, except that we are talking the added stress of the missing wife, (that would be me at a speaking gig on the other side of the country) and the dreaded Small Window.

Trying-To-Show-He-Can-Do-It-All Husband had only minutes after picking our daughter up from school. He needed to walk the dog, throw dinner together, and was getting ready to go to his baseball game.

Yes, baseball game. As in yes, he plays baseball. Not softball. Baseball. As in yes, he’s too old to be putting his body through that, as in—that’s a whole other column.

“I’ve looked in the car, on the street, on our bed, in the laundry—“

“He’s digging in our neighbor’s trash,” my daughter chimed in.

“I cleaned out the freezer,” he added.

“The freezer? You thought you left your keys in the freezer?” I asked, in my not so helpful voice. “And?”

“Not there,” Husband grumbled.

“Bummer,” said me, the useless long distance wife. “But, hey, thanks for getting that freezer cleaned out. It’s been on my ‘To Do’ list for months.”

There I was, going all gratitudey on him. My friend, Lisa, likes to say that in a crisis we all revert to type.

I went spiritual.

“You need to turn it over to Saint Anthony,” I instructed from Los Angeles. “He’s the saint of lost items.”

“We’re not Catholic,” my dubious husband countered.

“You want to split hairs or find your keys?”

“Well, I did say, ‘Kallan, Kallan, Kallan,” he said, invoking my younger sister’s name.

“She’s our Parking Fairy, not The Lost Key Saint,” I explained.

It does happen to be true that saying my sister’s name 3 times will always produce the best spot in any crowded parking lot, but again—that’s a different story. Try it for yourself. For the record, she’s useless when it comes to finding lost keys.

With clock ticking, the pressure mounting, and the big game looming, my husband went full-on conspiracy theory.

“I think the mailman stole them or I left them in the front door and someone came up and grabbed them,” he opined.

I know our daughter was rolling her eyes at that one as much as I was.

Her corner when things go bad–declare her parents are nuts.

“Robbing mailman, praying to saints, you people are crazy.”

I can’t say she was wrong about that.

Turns out Husband never did make it his baseball game that night, which might not be such a bad thing.

And I never did hear how he was planning on getting to work the next day.

In the end, the key to the keys, the savior, the answer turned out to be simple, total exhaustion.

With not a single drop of energy left, Husband crawled into bed where, you guessed it, his leg kicked a lump of a metal object.

There were his keys.

“I swear I checked the bed 10 times!” he declared when recounting the happy moment.

Doesn’t it always work that way? Be it lost keys or love or the meaning of life, you don’t find the thing you’re looking for so desperately until you totally give up.

How does it work for you, Dear Reader? How do you find lost items you must have?

My husband would love to chime in, but he’s busy—writing a letter of apology. Needs to say he’s sorry for slandering our perfectly nice mailman.

 

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Change Your Name When You Marry? Your Take!

Change Your Name When You Marry? Your Take!

Well, hello there, brides and wives!

Looks like my column from a couple of weeks ago where I shared my choice not to change my name when I married has touched a nerve.  The responses have been pouring in.

There’s no way I could print all of them, so here are a few.

Tammie Morris represents the majority of women I heard from who chose to take her husband’s last name and make her maiden name her middle name. She writes, “It worked for me and I was able to have both names without the hypen thing.”

Delores Stoner-Woodard does use a hyphen, with a twist.  She is married to her best friend’s husband. Hold on, no scandal here. She and her second husband married after she was widowed and her best friend passed away. How sweet is that? She writes, “I felt strange having the last name as my friend, also, I liked my last name.  My new husband didn’t object, so I kept my name.”

A big “Thank You!” to Caroline Leach who reminds me that there were women pioneers decades ago allowing me to make a personal choice today. “40 years ago, I was almost turned away at the court house when we went to get our ‘official’ license because I would not take the envelope that contained a change of driver’s license and notification to the social security.

The clerk indicated that we might not be legal in the state.

So don’t take this question for granted. There were sisters and brothers who went through a lot so that this generation can even write of the option in a major newspaper today.”

Susan Leafman didn’t change her name and believes it is all a personal choice. She shares, “Now there is a new wrinkle in this subject.  My older daughter is getting married and seems to be wrestling with changing her last name.  My advice to her was don’t do what I did because it’s what I might expect, do what is best for your marriage.”

I even heard from some men, like Arnold Simon. “When my daughter got married last year, the couple decided to keep her last name. It is nice and simple, while the groom’s was one that invited snide remarks. The groom is now experiencing what most brides in the past have dealt with: lots of time-consuming paperwork acquiring new social security card, driver’s license, bank account, etc. The choice itself was the easiest part.”

My favorite responses, as always, involve humor.

Sue Bilkey didn’t change her name and laughs at the consequences. “Our friends have combined our last names (Cobb and Bilkey) and to many of them we are the ‘Cobilkey’s’ and that’s fine with us as well.  At our lake house we have a sign reading ‘Camp Cobilkey.’”

Lois Hertz shares, “I have been married for 30 years. I never seriously entertained the idea of changing my name. On the other hand, I don’t like my first name. Perhaps I could have changed that to his?”

And finally, Beverly Struble offered me this suggestion, “The answer to your name change situation is really simple–Have your husband and daughter change their names to KAGAN!  lol.”

I’ll pass that one one, Bev, but I know he’s quite happy with his last name.  The good news is he doesn’t flinch if someone does call him, “Mr. Kagan.” I love yet another good sign that I found a great guy.

As new bride Jean Love figures as she struggles with changing her name, “In the end, my last name doesn’t matter. We love each other and we’re married. We’re a family. That’s what counts.”

It sure does. Thank you, Dear Readers! I always love hearing from you.

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.