Tuesday, June 28, 2011

LOSIN’ IT by Susan (Vags) Murphy

At the beginning of this month I finally got my rather round behind out the door and walked it down to the nearest Weight Watcher's meeting. This is a path I took once before to some success. I lost over 60 lbs. about 20 years ago. But of course this was before I met, married and left my husband. When you go through so many residual losses in your life - your home, your security and your confidence - the only thing you seem to be able to hold onto is the ability to punish yourself. My comfort and punishment of choice is food. And it is the only thing I allow myself to spend money on when funds are tight because the family has to eat...right?

When times have been their toughest I resort to my 'mom instincts' and I try to take care of everyone but myself. I come from a long line of 'me-last' people. Then comes my epiphany. I have two sons who need me. I don't think it would be very fair to them to remain this big and be gone from their lives earlier than is necessary. So I have decided to take better care of me.

This decision does not come easily to me.

I have not even looked in a full-length mirror for about 5 years now. Still, I know I am under here somewhere so I bite the bullet and re-enlist in WW. To tell you the truth is wasn't the Points Program or even the meeting weigh-ins that held me back. It was spending the monthly fee. Spending monthly money on myself seems very extravagant.

I am sharing this with you because the say if you write things down you are more likely to achieve your goals. I may crash and burn but that's the risk you take. Doing nothing seems even riskier. In the first 3 weeks I have lost a little over 9 lbs. Spit in the ocean, but a start.

I feel as if I am among friends so I hope you will all lend me a little encouragement along the way. If you live in the Twin Cities stop by and go for a walk with me, come bowling with the boys and me, or challenge me to a mad game of badmitton.
Here's to seeing less of me in the future.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This Is American I-Dull! -by Susan Vagnoni Murphy

I admit it, used to watch American Idol. I didn't see the first season except for the part where .the girl sang, and then the curly-head boy sang, and then I thought, "the girl won," Then I changed the channel. Later on I found out that "the girl", named Kelly Clarkson, won. No big deal.

My boys and I watched the next 3 seasons and I am ashamed to say I was a bit slow on the uptake. A pattern began to emerge. The best singers did not win. The gutsiest performances were not rewarded. America sucked as voters. What's new about that, Bush got in twice, didn't he?

Like lemmings we followed the show for a few years, voting and getting disappointed. We finally threw in the towel when Adam Lambert lost to the insipid Chris Allen. I can't even go there.

Now I find I am always bored with A.I. once they are past the audition weeks where at least you can see some inspired freaks put on a good show. No I am not talking about the judges panel (Paula Abdul where are you!). In fact, Steven Tyler is the best thing on the show this year.

During the current season, like a rubbernecker at a traffic accident-I simply click on A.I. for a few moments to see who has promise and therefore will not win. I am not disappointed. I spotted James Durbin as interesting and different. I knew that would kill any chances he had. It did.

So why does this show not work? Why do the best singers get voted off? My theory is that people are voting for some ideal person who does not exist. They vote for what they can understand at the simplest level. This is the only thing that explains Scotty McCreary still being in the running. Everything he sings sounds the same. He waves the flag; he spouts home and family and proclaims his fear of any contact with Lady GaGa. Family values absconded by right wing conservatism. How's that been working out for Arnold Schwarzenegger lately?

After having been involved in the arts most of my life I want to shout "If you strive to be a cookie-cutter person made out of cream cheese you might want to look for other employment!" Artistic pursuit is not about sameness, fitting in or even perfection in many cases. The arts -music, visual, theatrical- celebrate uniqueness and embrace a different point of view. Being true to yourself should not cause the fear it does in America today.

So I bid A.I. a long-coming farewell. I think I'll see what's on The Voice this week.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Growing Pains

The warm weather today reminded me of a time about seven years ago when I decided I should carry on a family gardening tradition - planting a seedling from my Grandfather's plum tree.

The seeds from this special tree came over from Italy with my Grandfather. At least that's how I remember hearing it. My Grandfather is no longer here, but his plum tree lives on in my parent's yard where my father started it from a seed. My brother also grew his own Grandpa tree. Now it was my turn.

On a trip to Wisconsin I eagerly picked up my little tree offspring from my brother. I carefully protected this piece of history on the six hour drive back to Saint Paul.

Once home I told my youngest son Nick that we would be planting a special family tree. He watched with his big, four-year-old eyes as I selected the perfect sunny spot in the front yard where the whole neighborhood could admire the plum as it grew into it's full glory.

I spent the next arduous hours digging the optimum sized hole. Nick played on the lawn nearby as I fertilized, mulched and prayed to the Farmer's Almanac for continued fair weather.

At last it was time to place the small tree in the hole. I meticulously filled in the dirt around the roots. Added a stick with soft ties to hold it upright and a circle of chickenwire to protect it from ravenous bunnies. I was sure Grandpa was smiling down from the heavens.

The final step was to water my masterpiece. I asked Nicky to watch the tree while I fetched my Mother's Day gift - a personally painted watering can from my sons. As I rounded the house with my full watering can I saw Nick also holding a full watering can. It was the orange plastic one from his sandbox. In a slow motion sequence that rivaled the Matrix I watched Nick raise his watering can above the chickenwire to give the little tree a drink.

The water started to pour. Nick dropped the watering can. The can fell. I ran. The can fell on the tree. The tree broke in two. I screeched. Nick froze.

At this point I made one of the better decisions of my life. I looked at Nick, reached out, plucked the watering can off of the destroyed tree and flung it with all my might over the fence into the neighbor's yard. The alternative would have been Nick sailing over the fence into the neighbor's yard. I chose wisely.

This is a cautionary tale for all of us who want to plant things in hope of seeing them grow. Sometimes you have to cut your losses. Sometimes you need to see the bigger picture. Sometimes you have to remember that your children are the most important seeds you plant. No wait, always you have to remember that children are the most important seeds you plant.

Then, you throw the watering can into the neighbor's yard.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Put through the cheese grater

Go Packers!

You will either cheer or jeer that first statement but it doesn' t matter to me. I have bled green and gold since birth. My father and mother raised two children for which they wished a three simple things: health, happiness and devotion to the Green Bay Packers. Often, the second thing was dependent upon how well the thirst thing was doing. Needless to say, their daughter is very, very happy this year.

What is so sweet about this year's trek to the Super Bowl is seeing Aaron Rogers shine. Brett (boom-boom) Favre did his best to not help Aaron learn anything from him when they were teammates in Green Bay. It sure hasn't kept Aaron down.

I think it is a case of character. They both have a lot of talent. Brett (boom-boom) Favre has accomplished amazing things. However, his ego has taken up so much room on the field there is no room for the rest of his team.

I was touched when I learned recently that Aaron Rogers took a bunch of less privileged kids out to bowl and to eat and even convinced some of his Packer teammates to come along. He did it with his own money and without the press or the hype. That is class.

Whatever happens on February 6th (and you all know what I hope will happen) I am proud of my team. But guess what, I am always proud of my team.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I hate cancer. There I said it. It is sort of freeing - like saying the name Voldemort in the last book of JK Rowlings Harry Potter series. No one wants Voldemort in their lives the same way no one wants cancer. At least Voldemort was defeated and you can close the book and have done with him. Cancer is not that simple.

I spent my evening driving to a sweet little town called Osseo, Minnesota to attend the final viewing of the mother of a very dear friend of mine. She died from cancer this past Sunday. She was a beautiful person.

I really hate cancer. It is sneaky and it is persistent and unpredictably predictable. It scares us and it takes away the people we love. We at the funeral home spent tonight, not acknowledging the death cancer brought to this dear family, but honoring the life of the woman it claimed. Cancer cannot take that away. It cannot defeat the precious memories this mother of two created, nor can it eradicate the deep feelings in the many, many hearts she touched. That will always be our victory over cancer.

However, cancer's nasty way of stealing precious lives from this earth does leave behind one thing. It leaves behind the family and friends who are hurting from the loss. It is hard to witness people we love experiencing such sadness. It is this part of cancer that may, in some ways, be most cruel.

I try to understand why things like this happen. I am a religious woman so I pray about it, but I am not so deep that I can puzzle this out to anyone's satisfaction. I will say that this is the sharpest reminder to say the kind word, hold the empty hand, mend the past wrongs and just be there for those around us. Life is too damn short.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Ta Ta 2010

Saying goodbye to a year of your life is an odd thing to do. You are really just saying goodbye to a number because all of the events and emotions stay with you and shape you as you enter the next year. So here it goes for number 2010.

First things first, I am grateful t be around for a new year. I am always aware that life is fragile since losing my brother in 2007 and almost losing my son Alex that same year. Many people I love have passed away and it is not lost on me that I have been blessed to spend another Christmas with my Mom and Dad.

My boys and I enter this new year healthy, with a roof over our heads and income to feed and take care of ourselves. In these days that is a lot to be thankful for.

We are strong now and many of our dear friends are facing hard times and life changing events. To them I say, lean on me. You were there for some of the hardest years of my life. I am so ready to be there for you. What do you need?

I do have some resolution-type things to work on. Chilling out more with the kids. Lightening up. I have had so many rough years I tend to look over my shoulder a lot. It keeps you on edge . I will try to soften that edge this year.

Also, as frivolous as it seems - taking more time to have some fun. Finding things to smile about and getting involved in theater again. Boy do I miss it.

I also need to get healthier. I am not talking about the diet till you puke plan. I am just saying I need to increase the healthy foods and activities. I started this in the latter part of 2010. I alrrady fell better. I have to keep it going.

Finally, let people know how much appreciate them. We all take too much for granted. I don't want to be that person. My inner monologue needs to match the words I say to others. I have a good life. Those around me make it that way. I want you all to know that.

So that's it for 2010. I am spending the evening with my boys and my cousin and her daughter swimming and staying overnight at a hotel. We are grateful to have this time together. For those I cannot be with tonight. Have a good and positive New Year. I'll see you soon. Promise!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

See you some day

Good bye Uncle Emil. With all our love, Susie Alex and Nick
June 27, 1925 - February 03, 2010