The Best Gift Ever

24910097_1677760535622078_6615890065848693126_nI’ve always had my own ideas about religion and politics. I’m an independent renegade when it comes to both, but I still believe in those institutions even though I am quick to critique them whenever I see problems. Thus it was a great surprise to me when I was asked to head the religious education program for pre-schoolers and elementary students at my church many years ago. It was to be the first time that lay people would fill such positions because the sweet nuns who were beloved by the parish were moving away and there were no religious replacements.

Since I am loathe to shy away from challenges I accepted the job and learned that my partner in the endeavor was as feisty as I was. Ours was a collaboration made in heaven if you will. A staff of assistants already existed and the two of them agreed to stay to help us after the good sisters had left. Judy Maskel would be our secretary and all around font of knowledge. Much as it is with outstanding office personnel she had been essentially running the place for several years, and she would prove to be a strong foundation on which we would build a new way of doing things. It didn’t take us long to realize that without Judy we would have been running for cover within weeks. Instead she was an unflinching ally to our cause who somehow managed to very quietly gloss over our mistakes and help us to feel competent even when we were struggling with the task. Over time Judy became far more than someone who kept us from appearing to be fools. She became a good friend, a person whom we loved for her unending patience and sincerely sweet demeanor.

Judy was a beautiful woman with a shock of ginger colored hair and the fair complexion of someone of Scandinavian decent. Nothing was quite as important to her as her faith in God and her beautiful family. She was devoted to her husband and her lovely children and they returned her love. It seemed as though Judy had discovered the secret to balancing life’s demands so seamlessly that she maintained a kind of calmness and perfection in everything that she did. Being around her was an exercise in relaxation. She had a way of soothing even the most tempestuous situation and I grew to truly adore her.

Eventually our parishioners accepted the reality that we would never again have nuns to educate the children in the tenets of our faith. The transition was successful in no small part due to the support of wonderful people like Judy Maskel. She was so admired by those who knew her that folks began to feel that if she liked us, then perhaps they should as well. We pioneered a change that would not have gone so well without Judy.

In the meantime I had finally finished my degree and earned my certification as a teacher. Although I had loved my work at the church I wanted to move into the next phase of my career as an educator, and so I left for a position teaching mathematics. Nonetheless, I had grown so attached to Judy and the others who had been my daily companions in our endeavors that I was determined to continue our relationship.

As so often happens life took hold of all of us. We were busy with our jobs and our families and getting together proved to be more difficult than we had expected, so I began the tradition of gathering with the group at Christmas time each year. In the beginning there were five of us who met on an evening in December to sample goodies and talk for hours about our children and the events that had occupied us since our last rendezvous. It was always a glorious time and I began to laughingly refer to our little group as “the church ladies.” At some point we decided to bring little gifts for one another and it was always fun to exchange the goodies that we had either created or purchased. One of our members made homemade jams and breads that were always the hit of the season. Judy liked to bake little cookies and such now and again depending on how crazy her own schedule had been. Always she came with her smile and a laugh that looked at life from a vantage point of unadulterated happiness and optimism.

The years seemed to go by so quickly. Our children grew into adults and we rejoiced in becoming grandmothers. One by one we began to retire from jobs that had occupied us for decades. Judy had faithfully continued working at the church, watching over the children and the teachers and the directors with the same compassion that she gave so generously and effortlessly. Somehow she always felt like an anchor to everything that is most important in this world, so the annual celebrations with her had a very uplifting effect on me. Whenever December rolled around I simply could not wait for the day when I would get to see the ladies who had meant so much to me, and to enjoy that twinkle of mischievousness in Judy’s bright blue eyes that always brought a smile to my own face.

As we grew older our conversations began to be punctuated with stories of health problems that we were experiencing. One of our members developed cancer and ultimately lost her battle with that disease. Somehow her spirit always seemed to continue to be with us whenever we met, even as the years began to mount along with our own troubles.

Judy had been diagnosed with a rare disease that runs in the DNA of Scandinavians. At first her symptoms came in small doses and she was able to come to our gatherings with her old hopefulness and sense of humor. Over time the illness progressed, and even though she complained very little we were able to see her decline. She became quite thin and there were signs of worry in her blue eyes that twinkled less and less. She seemed preoccupied with her thoughts and her pain, but she was determined to hang in with us and to show us a brave front.

Last year she spent time in a rehabilitation facility. When two of us went to visit her she was struggling with her fate. It was apparent that the disease was overtaking her in spite of her courage and determination. She wanted to reassure us, but she no longer had the energy to protect us from the truth of what was happening. When she recuperated and returned home we were overjoyed and hopeful that she would somehow overcome what had seemed to be her ultimate demise. Even when she was unable to be with us at our luncheon we all managed to laugh and rejoice in what appeared to be her recovery.

As we began to plan for this year’s reunion we learned that Judy was in a nursing home in League City. A kind of pall came over those of us left in the group when we realized that she had become so sick. We were planning to visit her when we learned that she had died. Somehow it was shocking even though she had often explained the ultimate effects of the disease that had overtaken her. In a strange twist I found myself experiencing the same calmness that she had always provided me even as I felt the pangs of sadness. I smiled at the thought that she had truly become an angel in heaven.

That same night our city filled with a lovely dusting of snow. Our first sight upon awakening the next morning was heavenly and peaceful, and I immediately thought of Judy Maskel. It would have been so like her to find a way to ease our sadness. I wondered if perhaps she had been somehow responsible for requesting that God send us a little gift to make us smile. It’s certainly something that she might have done. She was always so thoughtful and giving like that.

There are only three of us left from our original group. We have plans to meet later this month. We will miss Judy because she represented the very best of us. Hers was a beautiful soul that always lit up the room with her unconditional love and patience. She quietly impacted everyone who ever knew her. She was a helpmate and a font of wisdom. The most remarkable gift that she gave us was herself, and that was the best gift ever.

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She’s A Good Woman

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She’s a good woman with a very difficult life. She doesn’t complain, but it is apparent that she is tired. The stress in her life only seems to grow in spite of her efforts to keep things running smoothly. She makes the best of a bad situation. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. She’s adventurous and thought she would be having fun at this moment in her story. Instead life dealt her an unexpected curve to which she has responded with her usual aplomb. She’s a good woman, but one who has been pushed to the limit.

She saw an opportunity to really enjoy life with her man and they decided to grab the possibilities with gusto. They found a way to live out their retirement years in the mountains of Panama. They were healthy and hearty and would be around other expatriates, all for little or no cost compared to what they were paying in the states. They sold their house, their car, all but the most basic of their belongings and they were on their way to an exciting future with the well wishes of friends who understood that they were not ordinary souls.

They found a lovely place to live that came with a caretaker and a housekeeper who visited once a week as part of the rent. Their property was filled with exotic plants and animals and colors of every hue. They enjoyed the fruit that they were able to pick fresh from the trees and vines. They took long walks enjoying the vistas and the rarely changing mild temperatures that kept them feeling comfortable without a need for either air conditioning or heat. They enrolled in Spanish immersion classes even though most of the people around them spoke English. They wanted to totally experience the culture of their new home. It was all as wonderful as they had hoped. They had found paradise.

They met others like themselves, retirees who wanted to experience something a bit different from what they had known all of their lives. They would join their new friends for dinners and parties and game nights. They were an interesting lot with stories to tell of lives spent doing wondrous things. It seemed as though they had all found a tiny slice of heaven on earth and it was so good, at least until the unthinkable happened.

One day only six months into the move he had a stroke. It left him with difficulties that gravely limited his ability to do the things that they had so enjoyed. She immediately set to work helping him to recuperate because it is in her nature to do such things. She’s after all a good woman. Before long he was moving around the property with a walker. His appetite returned and she created healthy foods for him to eat. She worked with him to exercise his limbs and made the best of the unexpected situation. She kept his mind from drifting to dark places. She was devoted to his care and he was growing stronger by the day.

In spite of her efforts to save the remnants of the new and glorious lifestyle that they had created together it became apparent that he needed to be closer to his doctors. The long journeys into to town were tiring and took far too much time. She worried that another emergency might arise. They both agreed that it would be best to return to the states, and so they began to plan again. This time they wanted to try a small town instead of a big city like the one that they had initially left. Their research lead them to a college town in Georgia, the original capitol of the state. It appeared to have everything they might need. There would be doctors and a hospital nearby, an interesting history, a slow pace, and a reasonable cost of living. Perhaps he would even regain most of his health and they would be able to travel again, make new friends. It would be fun.

They packed their things taking mostly memories this time along with their clothing and the boxes of Christmas decorations that always followed them even when they left other items behind. They were excited about the prospects for the future as they boarded the plane but once again their hopes and dreams turned out differently than they had imagined. He had another stroke that left him more incapacitated than ever. For a time she spent most of her days with him in a hospital, preparing their new home in the evenings. He was bedridden, an invalid unable to even feed himself at times, but she’s a good woman and became more determined than ever to provide him with comfort and love. She took him home and has cared for him day after challenging day.

The weeks went by and then the months and the years. Her life is centered on his needs. She prepares the foods that he likes, changes his diapers, gives him his medications. She sleeps in another room but never soundly. She listens for his voice or signs of trouble. The home healthcare workers who come several times each week provide her with brief interludes during which she shops for groceries and sometimes even does something for herself. Now and again one of them becomes a friend.

She’s a good woman, but her life has become ever more difficult. She is far away from family and old friends. She finds new acquaintances at the grocery store or the resale shop where she finds gently used household items for her home. Now and again she meets someone at the apartment project where she lives, but they almost always eventually move away, and she has to start over again and again. She recently fell and broke her hip. It was one of the few times that her optimism began to falter. He had to go to a nursing home until she had recovered enough to care for him, but she was back on her feet in record time. She felt that she had to ignore her own needs because she saw him deteriorating at a rapid pace without her. She needed to get him home where she might shower him with her comfort and love. She worked hard at rehabilitating herself and sooner than anyone expected he was back with her again.

He’s very sick these days. He is plagued by infections. She is too weak to lift him as she once did. She feeds him and changes him and talks with him even though he is no longer able to communicate with her as in times of old when they talked long into the night. She makes the best of a very tough situation.

A few people from nearby churches try to help her. She celebrated Thanksgiving with one of the caretakers who comes each week to work with her husband. She calls old friends to have a lifeline outside of her tiny world of routines. She tries to stay positive but there is a hint of resignation in her voice. She is weary and worried, and every new challenge makes her a bit less steady in her resolve. Those of us who know her silently wonder how much more she will be able to handle. We know that she has always been a tower of strength, a survivor, and a very good woman. Still we want more than anything for her to finally get a break. God knows that she deserves it so.

She’s a good woman who has taught those of us who are her friends how to be so. She has shown us what sacrifice and dedication look like in action. We admire her, but also want to see her enjoying life without so many challenges. She’s a good woman who has certainly earned her angel wings, but we pray that she may also enjoy better times here on earth as well. If ever there was someone who deserves a run of good fortune it is this woman. My prayer is that better times are coming her way.

Twilight Dreams

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You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.—C.S. Lewis

I’ll be celebrating my sixty-ninth birthday this week and I still often behave as though I’m eighteen and just embarking on adult life. Sure I’m not as energetic as I once was nor as quick-witted, but as long as I am still able to care for myself I plan to keep dreaming.

There are certain things that were once on my bucket list that don’t matter much to me anymore. For a very long time I wanted to live in West University Place, an upscale neighborhood near Rice University. I love the big trees and old style architecture there along with the perk of being close to so much of the action in Houston. For most of my working years I held firm to the belief that I would one day get there, but the prices of the homes kept increasing, and my salary as an educator didn’t keep pace so it never happened. Once I realized that I may as well scratch that idea from my book of dreams I was briefly sad, but eventually it didn’t really matter anymore. I love my present home and my neighbors and have little desire to move. After the floods of hurricane Harvey I was was incredibly grateful that I survived without any damage and I didn’t once think of how it would have been if I had indeed found my way into West U. Sometimes such goals actually become irrelevant.

As I’ve aged my tastes and desires have changed. I’m much more mellow than I once was. I learned the importance of appreciating the many blessings that I have rather than constantly wanting more and more. Contentment has become my most worthy goal, and I am doing quite well in living the dream. I’ve become amazingly good at thoroughly enjoying myself just watching the birds and sipping on a class of wine in my backyard. I like long conversations with my husband, and the honor of helping my grandchildren with homework. I no longer have to be reminded to be thankful because I find myself thinking of my good fortune multiple times each day. I truly enjoy life whether I am doing something exciting or simply basking in the wonder of the people that I know.

When I was younger my dreams centered on finding success, accumulating things, becoming wealthy. I eventually realized that my desires were not making me happy because they were focused on the wrong things. Once I acknowledged the greater importance of being a good person and appreciating and cultivating relationships I began to have a sense of lightness even when I was merely performing routine tasks on very quiet days. It’s quite true that nobody takes any possessions with them when they die. They may be dressed in fine clothes, wearing golden rings and such, but few are ever remembered for what they owned. What truly remains are the legacies that they have created over time. For that reason my goals as I begin to approach my seventieth decade all center on people. I truly hope that I will leave love and memories of a purpose-filled life behind.

My dream is to stay healthy enough of mind and body that I will be able to continue to help and sometimes even inspire the people that I encounter. I don’t need much for myself anymore, but I would so like to be able to comfort and enrich other lives. I have begun to understand that it doesn’t always take a great deal of money or effort to do that. Just letting people know that they matter is a great gift. So many are struggling and the world can sometimes feel quite hateful. I want to be that person who smiles and improves a day that might otherwise have been bad.

It never takes great effort to bring joy into other people’s worlds, a kind word, an affirmation, just being there. When I received a “thinking of you” card from high school friends after my husband’s stroke it felt as though I had won the lottery. That little note of reassurance and thoughtfulness made what had been a very bad day seem bearable. My goal is to pay that sort of kindness forward a hundredfold. I suppose that everyone appreciates an unexpected pat on the back as much as I do.

I so admire Jimmy Carter for continuing to spend his time and talents in his twilight years helping the less fortunate. He might have traveled, played golf, spoiled himself, but instead he has dedicated his post White House years to being a shining beacon of hope for so many who might have suffered but for his largesse. I can’t think of more noble goals than the ones that he set for himself. I wonder if I would have been as forgiving as he was when the voters rejected him for a second term as president. As lesser man might have stewed in indignation. President Carter instead found a way to remain optimistic and loving. There aren’t many bonafide saints who were as magnanimous as he has been.

I have no idea when the clock will stop ticking for me. I’ve certainly witnessed friends and family members in my age group climbing the stairway to heaven. Their deaths remind me that none of us have a certain future. Nonetheless I plan to keep planning until I can no more. I think that just about anything is possible for me to accomplish as long as I don’t surrender to the passage of time. I’m just not yet ready to sit permanently in a rocking chair just watching the world go by. I suspect that there are still many miles to traverse and I want to walk them with a sense of accomplishment.

I’ve actually considered attempting to earn a doctorate, and the only thing that holds me back is that I would rather spend time with people than with books and my thoughts. I want laughter and love and life to be part of my days. I desire to have friendships and fun. I’d like to think that I have many more smiles to flash and hugs to give away. I want a twinkle in my eyes and a happy story on my lips. I believe that I have actually found the most worthy promises of my life, and I thank the good Lord that I have everything that I need to make all of them come true.

Imperfectly Perfect

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My husband had a saying that he often used whenever one of our children was struggling in some capacity, particularly at times when they had really made some major mistakes that appeared to be threatening their futures. He would invariably tell them, “You can’t be a failure at age (insert some number here)…” His wisdom became a kind of family mantra because no matter how old our girls became he would dust them off after they had mucked up plans and remind them that they were far too young to believe that they were irretrievably doomed because of questionable choices. As the digits marking their ages changed and grew into ever larger indicators of life on this earth he reminded them again and again that they still had opportunities to recover from decisions and actions that had not worked out so well. When one of them finally asked him to define the age at which it really was possible to be deemed a failure he winked and said that would probably be the day after never. In other words there is always a new moment for finding success, a time when the sun rises and we have the possibility of setting our courses aright once again.

We all have dreams. Sometimes through little fault of our own those visions change or even become impossible. Beating ourselves up because we finally realize that something in our lives that once seemed to be a holy grail is in reality a source of grave unhappiness is a form of personal self abuse. We should never feel trapped in a situation that quite simply isn’t working out as we had once expected. We’ve all been to beautiful weddings that were dripping with love and good intentions only to hear a few years later that the couple is getting a divorce. We have witnessed young students choosing college majors at the age of eighteen that seemed so right at the time, but developed into living nightmares along the way. We know of individuals who became so stressed by what they saw as their floundering lives that they turned to alcohol or drugs to mask their pain. Many of the social crises that we see in today’s world stem from honest mistakes that have grown so big in an individual’s mind that there appears to be no way out without shame and sorrow. In our embarrassment we withdraw deeper and deeper into ourselves and shun truths that are staring us in our faces.

I’ll admit that we are often a harsh and judgmental society that likes winners and tosses those we deem to be losers aside, but we still love a good story of salvaging a life gone astray. We admire the people able to stand up and redirect their futures. The phoenix is still a potent symbol for the act of rising from the ashes. We love Robert Downey Jr. because he managed to overcome life threatening addictions and reemerge as a popular and compassionate cultural icon. We adore President Jimmy Carter for openly admitting to his personal flaws and forgiving those who have trespassed against him. Each of us knows countless individuals who stumbled and fell only to eventually succeed beyond their wildest imaginations. Most of the time all we need do is gaze in the mirror to see such a person.

It is in our natures as humans to make mistakes, and so more often than not life becomes a serpentine journey filled with pitfalls, potholes and poor choices. It is actually quite rare to find someone whose entire existence has been fault free. Few roads are straight and narrow. Even St. Mother Teresa had moments of darkness in which she questioned her very faith in God and humanity. The key to her sanctity was not in living a trouble free existence but in being able to forgive both herself and the rest of mankind for being imperfect.

I am a great fan of the television program This Is Us. The writers have tapped into the realization that each of us is imperfectly perfect. We spend most of our lifetimes chasing after ideals rather than happiness. It often takes us a long long time to understand that all we need to feel really good is to accept ourselves with our warts and all, to realize that every person is wonderful and beautiful. Once we are able to be the individual that we believe we were meant to be the good feelings that we have inside spill over into everyone that we meet. Our confidence and abilities grow and grow and we become ever stronger and better versions of ourselves. Doing this takes forgiveness and a willingness to avoid the tendency of thinking that our inevitable mistakes have made us failures.

Of course we have to live amongst other people, many of whom have been so abused either by others or by themselves that they project their own feelings of inadequacy on us. We sometimes fall into the trap of believing them when they tell us that we are at fault or that we are somehow unworthy. They want us to be as miserable as they are, but we never have to loathe ourselves or stay in their orbits. It is not just okay but actually necessary that we leave such situations behind no matter how painful the extrication may be. Mostly we must remember that other people’s transgressions are not our own no matter how many times they attempt to blame us for their misery. One of the most difficult situations that we will ever encounter is the realization that we cannot save everyone that we meet, and that evil exists. The key is to leave behind relationships that hurt and demoralize without feeling that we have somehow failed.

As we journey through our lives we will falter again and again. Bad days will turn in excruciating weeks. Instead of beating ourselves up we only need to step back just long enough to chart a new course. We must learn how to ally ourselves with people who support us when we make hard but wise choices and don’t abandon us when we manage to muck things up.

We have a dearth of role models these days. We have a president who is prone to blaming everyone but himself for his troubles. We have watched a candidate for that same presidency fumble to find the answers as to why she failed to land the prize. Both of them are loathe to look inside their souls where the truth most certainly lies. They are unwilling to admit that they perhaps don’t possess all of the answers. They are as flawed as any of us, imperfectly perfect. Both are searching for confirmation of their worth in all the wrong places when what they need is the simple admission that they have sometimes been wrong. Those who learn to admit their flaws and love themselves nonetheless literally glow from the experience. It is a truly freeing experience.

The moral of the story is that we can’t be failures at any age as long as we keep trying. The reality is that there will be thousands upon thousands of “tries” in each life. We all must learn how to get back up again after our falls. It is one of the most important lessons that ever need to know. Once we grasp it everything changes. We know that we will encounter countless challenges along the road and we won’t always deal with them in the best possible ways. We will make messes. It is what we do. The key to the happiness we seek is to just keep moving no matter how many times we find ourselves climbing out of a pit once again. Soon enough each of us will a way to be imperfectly perfect.

A Taste of Home

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Have you ever had a yearning for a particular something to eat only to have your hopes dashed because it wasn’t available? That happened to me and husband Mike last week. He’d visited one of his doctors and underwent a multitude of lab tests that required him to fast. He received positive news from his doctor regarding his progress in regaining his health, so we decided to celebrate by getting an omelet at The Union Kitchen on Bellaire Blvd., a favorite place to meet up with good friends for Sunday brunch. We were almost salivating as we contemplated the yumminess that was in store, and happily we got a nice table on the patio right away. The weather was quite lovely and it felt as though we were experiencing one of those picture perfect days in Houston, something for which we longed after being somewhat homebound for the past three months, not to mention having witnessed the horrors of hurricane Harvey. When we opened the menu and it became apparent that there was not an omelet to be found. A quick inquiry with the waiter revealed that breakfast items are part of the weekend brunch offerings but not the weekday fare. Mike’s disappointment was palatable.

I was willing to compromise by trying something else but Mike had his heart set on an omelet since he had missed having breakfast earlier in the day. Besides we had chosen this particular restaurant for a very specific reason. We had intended it to be yet another medical test on that day.  You see, from taking Plavix as a blood thinner after his stroke Mike had lost all sense of taste. His description of the sensation was that his tongue felt as though is was wrapped in plastic. Everything that he ate had the flavor of water crackers, blandness that had taken away all the joy of eating. He was able to discern textures but no flavors. Eating had become an exercise in getting proper nutrients but little more. When he reported this side effect to his neurologist the medication regimen was changed, but it had nonetheless taken quite a while for his tastebuds to become active again. Only days before had he begun to slowly enjoy the essences of food. Eating the omelet at The Union Kitchen was intended as a treat on many different levels because he had found that delicacy so enjoyable in the past when we had been there with very dear friends.

I suggested that we just leave since we had not yet ordered. I doubted that anyone would even notice our departure, but in that regard I was wrong. Mike was polite enough to inform the hostess that we had changed our minds and would not be staying. We had no sooner walked out the door than the manager, Rob Thomas, and the owner of the restaurant rushed outside to determine what might have happened to cause us to want to depart so suddenly. When I explained the situation they requested that we return to our table and insisted that it would be no problem whatsoever to prepare any kind of omelet that we desired. We smiled and sat down feeling rather special. We decided on a vegetarian omelet and waited with pleasant anticipation.

Mr. Thomas brought our food to us personally. He had included extras on the plate like freshly sliced avocado and roasted potatoes and peppers. The presentation of the meal was a work of art with a delightful color palate and an aroma that made us even more eager to eat. As expected the omelet was exceptional with the perfect pairing of onions, peppers, mushrooms, eggs and Swiss cheese. Best of all Mike was able to savor every lovely flavor because his tastebuds were as active as they had ever been. We relished the moment and marveled at the extraordinary service that Rob Thomas had insisted on providing us.

While we ate we watched Mr. Thomas visiting with the diners at every table, making unique orders become reality over and over again. Eventually he came to see if we had been satisfied with our meal, and we were able to tell him the entire story of Mike’s stroke and the journey that we had made in the ensuing weeks. We were no doubt a bit long winded and there were so many customers, but Mr. Thomas never once acted impatient to leave. He listened with great interest and sympathy even joking that as a restauranteur he would rather go blind than not be able to taste food. He also told us that because the Union Kitchen is a scratch kitchen he can alter most recipes and fulfill special requests with little or no problem. He noted that with several grocery stores in the area he would not be reluctant to run out to get whatever he needed in an emergency. Then he gave us his business card with his personal phone number, urging us to call him ahead of time if we wanted something unusual on one of our future visits. He even revealed that he has special pans in the kitchen marked with the names of customers with severe allergies. He uses them whenever they come so that the dishes he prepares for them will not be cross contaminated.

We laughed and joked and mentioned that we felt as though we were a bit like Jack Nicholson in the diner scene of Five Easy Pieces ordering dry toast. When we explained that classic bit of Hollywood brilliance he laughed and said that he was going to use it at his next meeting with the waiters. Then he began to wonder if Mike would also be able to taste something sweet and insisted that we choose from among the restaurant’s desserts for a treat that he was going to give us without cost. We’re suckers for bread pudding and the creme brûlée variety sounded particularly tempting, so we decided to forget the diet for a few minutes in the interest of experimenting. We were not disappointed in the least. Not only was Mike able to distinguish its delicate blend of sugars and spices, but it was also one of the best versions that we have ever eaten.

We left The Union Kitchen so full that we only ate raisin bran for dinner later that night. Most of our satisfaction though came from the superb customer service that Rob Thomas had provided. He had made us feel quite special on a day that was particularly important to us. We both agreed that we would make The Union Kitchen a regular outing. We still eschew salt and sugar and carbs at home, but even Mike’s doctor has told him that he doesn’t have to be a repentant monk all of the time. It really is okay to enjoy some remarkable tastiness now and again, and I can’t think of any place that I would rather go than The Union Kitchen, a place with wonderful food and even better friendliness. I’m so glad that Rob Thomas came after us. He managed to provide us with a brunch that we will probably never forget. He gave us a taste home and old fashioned service that is all too often missing in today’s hurried world. It was a five star experience. You should try it yourself sometimes. Just tell Rob that they guy who couldn’t taste sent you.