Superstitions, Rituals and Bargains with God: Part 1 of 2

Superstitions Row 1


Years of sun damage have finally caught up to me and I never seem to make it out of the dermatologist’s office without some bad news.


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Using the lucky mug to influence my fortunes is just one of many superstitions and rituals I’ve adopted on and off since I was a child.


When we were growing up, my sisters and I were convinced our family was cursed and attributed all childhood misfortune to it.


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After I was married, I marveled at how extraordinarily lucky (my now ex-) husband was. No matter how illegal, crazy or careless his actions,


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Most of us aren’t so lucky. For those of us born without “the lucky horseshoe”, there are superstitions, rituals and bargains with God. I started early.


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As my childhood passed, lucky talismans and superstitions came and went.


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When I was 13, I struck my first bargain with God.


We were invited up to a neighbor’s lake cabin for a day of swimming and boating. I couldn’t wait to try water skiing, but as the day approached I became worried and nervous. My sole athletic accomplishment to date had been passing Beginner Swimming at the local pool.


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As we drove home that night, I knew it was time to make the first payment of the 25,550 (approximate) lifetime rosaries promised. I started praying… and promptly fell asleep.


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I made a good effort the first week, but fell asleep every time I started praying. I told myself I’d say two rosaries a day to make up for the missed payments. I eventually re-negotiated the entire deal, telling God that giving up TV for Lent that year covered Lent plus the rosary obligation. It was delusional, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to leave a contract WITH GOD hanging without resolution. (That’s just the solid kind of businesswoman I am.)


Tomorrow: Adulthood Size Superstitions, Rituals and Bargains with God


Superstitions, Rituals and Bargains with God: Part 2 of 2

I didn’t attempt another bargain with God until 1980. At that point, I was married with a 17 month old and a newborn. I had been a light smoker for a couple of years, yet couldn’t seem to shake the habit despite having tried a number of times.


While I was pregnant, I experienced numbness down my right arm.


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I froze.


I had two babies to take care of. My mother, grandmother and cousin all had M.S. I feared I would spend motherhood in a wheelchair or bedridden. I made a deal with God on the spot.


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I was jubilant! And I never, ever, smoked another cigarette.


Years later, my daughter and I took up horseback riding. As in other sports, superstition was common and widespread. I had my own unique superstitions and rituals.


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Others’ superstitions around the barn were accepted and respected. We were one big happy neurotic family.


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It is noteworthy that our superstitions themselves were 100% within our control, convenient and…. cheap.


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Scientists say a low sense of control creates a high need for superstition. This explains why even a great like Michael Jordan wore his lucky North Carolina training shorts under his Bulls uniform during every game of his career.


John Elway, the famous Denver Broncos quarterback, sat in the same seat on team flights, drove in the same lane on the way to the airport and engaged in many other rituals and superstitions. Finally, tired of managing them all, Elway decided the only superstition he would have would be to have no superstitions at all.


After I finish organizing my coffee mugs, I’m going to give that some thought.


Superstitions Row 18


Hopeful at Home Depot

This past Memorial Day weekend found me at Home Depot to buy plants for my balcony and paint for my window sills.

1 & 2

My nearest Home Depot is on North Avenue in Chicago in the middle of an area of young professionals and families. Many of them were shopping for supplies to complete home projects over the long weekend.

Some received bad news before they even left the store.


Others’ self confidence crumbled before my very eyes.


The plight of humanity stretched  before me.


Especially notable was the marital conflict erupting around me. I empathized with the constant tug of war of opinions about home improvement and decorating when two unique individuals live together. I certainly had my fair share when I was married. Like the time I came home to find a prime spot in the front hallway set up as a Civil War Memorial.


Or the time we almost a lost a future generation to a poorly installed children’s pool during a family reunion.





We were lucky no one was hurt, but that family reunion is one that no one will ever forget!

Single now, and without a husband to blame for anything that might go wrong, I hire out most of my home repairs and decorating projects. As I left Home Depot, I wanted to reassure the confused, soothe the irritated, help the indecisive and impart words of wisdom learned from decades of my own DIY successes and failures.


But I remained silent. I knew they would find their way, patch up their disagreements and make wonderful improvements to their homes.

With or without the cove moulding.

The Worry Hotline

Motherhood brings much joy, but also the responsibility for actions that will affect your children for the rest of their lives. The weight of making the wise decisions necessary to keep a child alive, safe and thriving can be agonizing. So many questions! So many answers!


WH 1 & 2



When I was raising my children I wanted to know who I could go to for that one, ultimate, authoritative and credible answer to all motherhood’s questions.


WH 3 & 4

WH 5 & 6


I longed for a “Worry Hotline” that I could call for answers. It seemed there was a hotline for everything…


WH 7 & 8


If cooking a turkey rated a hotline, why not child rearing? Was it too much to ask for experts to help us with the most valuable resource in the country, our children?

I desperately wanted to stop the endless weighing of pros and cons, the infinite analyzing of consequences and the fear that every decision I made might end in lifelong mental or physical harm to my children.

I wanted to go from this:


WH 9 & 10


WH 11


To this:


WH 12 & 13


The Worry Hotline would be staffed by mothers who had raised large families of happy, healthy, functional children. They would have at least a Master’s degree in Child Development and call me “Honey” or “Dear”. They would know every answer to any question with absolute certainty.

They would put me out of my misery.


WH 14, 15 & 16


Somehow, I made it through motherhood and raised two terrific kids without the support of a Worry Hotline.

However, I still think it is a good idea!


WH 17


Happy Mother’s Day, dear Moms!




Cambodia Travel Journal: Part 1 of 4

I recently returned from Cambodia where Bob has been involved with philanthropic projects for over 10 years. In addition to wanting to see his work there, I was curious about life in southeast Asia and what better time to head for the tropics than when it’s February in Chicago?

Of course, getting out of Chicago in February was easier said than done.

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So he did, and after a minor delay, the plane took off. 24+ hours later (with Bob having joined me when I changed planes in Seoul), we arrived in Phnom Penh in the middle of a dark and balmy night.

I woke up the next morning, eager for Bob to show me around the city. We hired a tuk-tuk and set out.

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This was my introduction to the chaos that is traffic all over Cambodia. Traffic lights are rare and cars, trucks, motos (motorcycles), tuk-tuks, bicycles and pedestrians just get on the road and go. There is a wide range of acceptable road behavior and if you navigate in the customary way, you seem to do okay.

A pedestrian’s lot is dicier. There are sidewalks, but they are not for pedestrians.

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Pedestrians are forced into the street to walk alongside traffic. Crossing the street is a more terrifying leap of faith.

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Eventually you get the hang of it, but you are constantly aware of the risk.

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Like all the other new aspects of this culture, I thought I was starting to adjust.

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Cambodia Travel Journal: Part 2 of 4

After a couple of days in Phnom Penh visiting hospitals, NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) and doing a little touring, it was time to meet up with Rith, Bob’s interpreter and point man in Cambodia and head out to the villages. Bob provides moto rides to the health center for sick villagers in three villages in Kampong Thom province. Our plan was to visit the villages over two days with an overnight stay in Kampong Thom city.

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I quickly booked “Sambor Village, #1 of 4 hotels in Kampong Thom!” When the best hotel in town is $55 per night, there is no sense confirming your worst suspicions by reading the negative reviews. I was already concerned about bugs of the tropical variety and was determined not to go “looking for trouble.”

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Bob and I regrouped in the parking lot and started to walk the line of vendors. I understand that bugs are part of the diet in many cultures and have seen street vendors selling them around the world. This lineup, however, seemed gratuitous. The bugs were revolting and the tourists squealing and sampling the things felt like being forced to watch a rerun of “Fear Factor”.

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Part 2 Row 4Part 2 Row 5Off we went to Lvea Chum. The villagers gather for a meeting whenever Bob visits. Through Rith, Bob asks how the moto drivers are doing, how the health of the village is and other questions about life in the village.

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Part 2 Row 7The people love the moto drivers, men who live in the village and whom they elect to the job of being on demand to take them to the health center. They are very grateful to Bob for this program. In addition to sparing a sick villager a several mile walk to seek treatment, the easier access allows people to get help before their conditions worsen. Pregnant women go for regular prenatal check-ups and more babies are born at facilities where they can get immediate attention if they are struggling.

The meeting ended with K-Ron, the village chief, thanking Bob and the villagers applauding. Afterwards, K-Ron invited us to check out his crops and the irrigation pond Bob donated in a field several kilometers away.

The moto drivers were ready.

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I could feel how careful the moto driver was being. He avoided potholes and sought out the smoothest path. He didn’t speed. Riding with him down the dusty, orange village road was a joy. And, best of all, he didn’t say a word.

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