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Excerpts from the book in progress
Letters to Lia:
Hard Copies so You Never Forget

 



Dear Lia,

 

     Never associate with a man who makes an issue of your weight. Your body is your business.   It is your job and yours alone to keep healthy.   Beware of anyone who wants to "help" you -it is a diabolical form of control.

    
    
Either he accepts you as you are or lose him.

                                                        


 

 
Lia,

 

      It is critical you marry a man who is a reader - not just literate - but someone who always has a book within arm's reach and never leaves the house without a paperback in his pocket.  Not only are your chances of boredom greatly reduced, but you'll more likely escape the blather of the mentally-stunted sportscasters who have ruined many a marriage.

     
    
You'll be particularly grateful you married a reader when you are  forced  to shop together.  Never will you have to be hounded by a tailgating spouse bleating, “Do you really need that?”  My heart has gone out to many a poor wife badgered by a husband who couldn't entertain himself.  “Don't you already have one of those?” he questions.  “What is that supposed to be for?” he interrogates.   “I can't imagine what you'd want with that,” he comments, his tone conveying he is a condescending bastard and a controlling one as well.

      
    
If, by chance, you ignore my advice and don't marry a reader who allows his wife to shop in peace, I hope you'll at least respond appropriately to the repellent whine,  "And just where are you going to put that thing?"

                     

                                                                Love,

   

 

Lia,

 

     I know, I know, the temptation is great - dogs are faithful, loving, adoring, affectionate and available - but you will find a human partner with even more and better qualities.  For every pot there's a lid—open your eyes and your heart.

 

     There is nothing better than a good marriage and nothing worse than a bad one.   Take your time . . . if you don't know what you want at least be very sure of what you don't want and don't negotiate away your values.

 

                                                XOXOXOXOXO

                                                                    

                           

                                                                   

  

                

 

Lia,

 

     Every summer we'd spend my dad's two week work hiatus sightseeing in Chicago.  I'm sure the decision was, in part, financially driven but my Dad truly loved Chicago.  Sometimes I wished our family could take a real vacation to the Wisconsin Dells or Pell Lake but even when I was seven I knew a lake had to be pretty extraordinary to match the grandeur of Lake Michigan.

    
    
For ten days in a row, we'd leave the house early in the morning headed for the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, 12th Street Beach, Museum of Science & Industry , Art Institute, Comiskey Park, Planetarium, Rainbow Beach, Riverview, the Oriental Institute, Brookfield Zoo - world class venues that showcased the beauty and richness of the city.

   

      When I taught in Chicago years later, my heart would go out to my students who'd never even heard of these icons, much less considered them part of their cultural heritage.

 

     You paid a price for our "vacations of substance," as my dad called them.  While we did lots of fun traveling - ballooning in Santa Fe, diving in the Keys, rafting the Grand Canyon - there were things we skipped.  I could never find it in my heart to take you to Disneyland -- not when there were so many wondrous treasures to be explored.  We took a pass on Dollywood -- please forgive me.   However, we did visit Elvis's Graceland,  thanks to Gianna's relentless pleading.  Please forgive me for that, too.

                                                                                                       

 



Lia,

 

     You grew up wanting to smash the racist, homophobic, patriarchal paradigm. I grew up living it. Girls in the old neighborhood weren't even supposed to figure it all out so I feel blessed that I did. Don't ever be content with just sitting there - do something.

 

     Mother Jones said it best.  “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!”

 



Lia,

 

     Clarify your mate's commitment to child rearing long before you even think about making a baby.

    
Once my mom left my brother with my dad while she attended a bridal shower down the block.  Three hours later she returned to find her screaming six month old son in a dirty diaper and her husband in a frenzy.
  “You will never again,” my father declared,  “leave me with a baby who is not toilet trained!”  This was during the time women believed their husbands word was the law and actually listened to them - can you spell brainwashed? Three children later, my father's perfect record showed he'd managed not only to escape
diapers but “baby sitting” as well!

 

       Though the dinosaur method of fathering is supposedly a thing of the past, take no chances and be sure you are on the same page in defining a "hands-on dad."  Dinosaurs can look perfectly normal while preying on brainwashed women.

                                                 

 

 



Dear Lia,

 

     This photo was taken the day after we adopted you from the Santa Teresita Orphanage in Bucamaranga, Colombia.

    

     Our referral included a miniscule picture of a sparkly-eyed four-year-old named Carolina Nina who was abandoned at birth, liked to sing, and occasionally wet the bed.  Within the month we flew to Bogota and hours later stood in a dirt yard surrounded by a hundred little wild things running, jumping and chasing dogs, chickens and each other while we awaited our introduction.

     

     “Mar, there’s Lia,” Daddy said, calling you by the diminutive name we’d decided on when we first saw your picture.  “Can’t be,” I said, “that little bitsy isn’t four; she could practically fit in my purse.”  Just then the woman with this little speck of a girl in a cheesy, paper thin, too long dress cut across the yard our way.  “Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, this is Carolina,” she said in Spanish.  I dropped to my knees to be at
 eye level with your size two frame.  “Ola, Carolina,” I said as I kissed your cheek.  “Ola,” you chirped.  “Eres tu mi madre?” Are you my mother?  Yes, I nodded.  “Es el mi padre?” Is he my father?  “Si,” I answered, as your very serious face with eyes the size of manhole covers scanned Daddy from top to toe.  Slowly those very serious eyes shifted to the beautiful doll I carried.  “Es esa mi muneca?” Is that my dolly?  “Yes,” I said, putting the dolly in your arms, and in a split second, from this teeny body,  your big voice boomed, “Bueno, vamos!” Good, let’s go!

    

     Hearing this, Daddy scooped you up and into the waiting taxi.  As you sat on Daddy’s lap with your little fingers tracing the face of your muneca, I thanked God for gifting us with a fearless little warrior who had only been waiting for the chance to take on the world. 

 



My Sweet Lia,

 

     You were always dreamy.  From the time you discovered my scarf drawer, you floated through the house draped in silk squares like a midget courtesan.  Your first Halloween you chose to be a bride with a long, white flapping veil blowing in the breeze as you dashed from house to house trick-or-treating.  Your world was always filled with creative imaginings, inspired paintings, lovely writing and wonderous books of fantasy.  You lived on the corner of Pretend and MakeBelieve in La-La-LiaLand.

 

     And then we were diagnosed together.

 

     The Doctor found it interesting that we share no biological connection, but we do share Attention Deficit Disorder.  Did he not realize that God made a perfect match?

 

     Someday we will discover the land to which all of our keys, eyeglasses, books and belongings magically disappeared.  It is not easy being a dreamer . . .

                                            



Dear Lia,

 

     Every so often Daddy completely and unequivocally revalidates my decision to marry him.  Your cat, Gabrielle’s emergency provided just such an opportunity.  I’ve always defined domestic violence as washing, cooking, ironing and such but somehow a needle and thread found its way into our house.  I only picked up the dangerous weapon once or twice but Gabby managed to lunch on a needle.  Her gagging and the knotted end of the thread dangling from her mouth sent us off to the Burr Ridge ER. 

    
Two hours and $600 later we were racing to Brookfield Zoo’s emergency vet with you in the back seat holding Gabby with her temporarily stitched belly.  Apparently during the first surgery she’d aspirated the needle into her esophagus and required more complex intervention.  As we skidded into the second hospital’s snowy parking lot, a little gurney was rolled over to the car to retrieve her.  Soon a Doctor was saying, “She is a very sick little cat.  Surgery and Intensive Care will cost between five and seven thousand dollars and I can’t guarantee that she’ll make it.” 

     Without a blink, Daddy placed his American Express card on the counter.  Gabrielle is a lucky little shelter cat.  Daddy is the best!
                               

                                                    

 



Dear Lia,

 

     I have never wanted you to know the scary, punishing, mean God I was raised with – the One who scrutinized your every move, kept a scorecard, always got even and made you pay.  I wanted God to be a source of comfort, not pain, strength, not fear, and peace, not turmoil in your life. 

 

     So except for the pageantry of a few Catholic rituals, I shielded you from the yoke of organized religion and tried to provide a more spiritual model for living.  May you always nurture the God within!  NAMASTE . . .



Lia,

 

     Probably far back in my mind I harbored some loose agenda for my daughters, replete with college, love, marriage and family, but I never really mapped out any particular happy trail for you.  I did, however, always want you to love reading and books as much as Daddy and I did.  You were showered with gifts when we returned from Colombia, but our biggest ooohhs and aaahhhs were always reserved for presents of books.  We read to you every day in Espanol, and English, and your bedtime requests for Daddy’s original tales of Sammy Snake and Danny Dog continued long past first grade.  You liked the library, but your biggest treat was a trip to Border’s.  We planted the reading seed early, nurtured it carefully, tended it lovingly, and it worked!  We raised a home-grown reader!  You will never be lonely.