Lunch with Marjorie: Dental care, brain surgery and playgrounds—part three

Editor’s note: This is the third part of a three-part series. The first part appeared in the July 5-10, 2007, issue, and the second part appeared in the July 18-24, 2007, issue.

“Would you like dessert today, ladies?” our server at Kiki B’s interrupted.

“Want to taste Kiki’s amazing espresso brownie?” I asked.

“I’m so easily swayed,” 61-year-old Sara Salberg said.

I ordered one with two forks.

“It looks very fattening,” Sara said.

“It is fattening. Kiki doesn’t use anything artificial,” I said.

Growing up a farm girl in the Rockford area, Sara went to Guilford High School, and then attended the University of Illinois for a year.

“My oldest brother hadn’t gone to college,” she said. “My folks wanted somebody to go. I thought it would be fun. Everybody said I was smart. But I was messing around in school, the life of the party. I loved to have fun. I wasn’t a serious student. It was a matter of quitting or flunking out. I quit at the end of one year.

“I didn’t do drinking parties,” she added. “I was going to church. I was in the choir.”

“You’re the baby of the family,” I teased.

“Yeah, yeah,” she said, like she’s heard that before.

After she married her husband, Chuck, Sara worked at beauty shops for 10 years.

“You look artistic,” I said.

“I always worked for really nice shops,” she said. “It was stressful. I was always so busy and overbooked. I didn’t ever want to say no to somebody.”

She quit working in beauty shops after her second child, and then helped her husband start a business for cement construction equipment. But for Sara, life was mostly about being a mom and homemaker.

“And pouring myself into things that encouraged women,” she said.

“What are goals now?” I asked.

“Mission trips,” she said. “We take medicines and things to hospitals and orphanages in the Ukraine. The second time, we went to build a playground with a ministry that builds playgrounds all over the world in impoverished countries.”

She couldn’t remember the country. Some brain functions still frustrate her as she tries to remember.

“My husband’s been on 39 trips,” she said.

She traveled to Russia on a mission trip in 2006.

“I went to a little Russian village—actually, the town where a group of Chechnyan rebels came in and killed a bunch of school children,” she said. “They held them hostage—like forever. The children were peeing and pooping all over because there was no place to go. There were—I forget how many hundred people. It was horrible. You know about the Chechnyan rebels?”

“No,” I confessed.

“Part of a terrorism group who come into all parts of the world and kill for the lark of it,” she explained.

“What motivated your mission trip?” I asked.

“My girlfriend hadn’t been traveling yet,” she said. “My husband said it would be a good trip for me to take solo after my surgery. It was probably a little too soon.”

That was about nine months after her surgery. She has only recently been feeling back to normal.

“Today, and the last five days…nothing shakes when I shake my head,” she said.

Besides enjoying her four grandsons, three who live close by, Sara finds purpose in mission trips.

“I just want to keep serving God…probably building playgrounds around the world,” she said.

“You pound nails?” I asked.

“What I can do, I do with gusto,” she said.

“Other passions?” I asked.

“I used to can and freeze with my mom, but when it’s only two in the house, it’s—why are you cooking for so many people?” she said.

Her days are filled with reaching out.

“I typically go to the Y and then come back, get cleaned up and phone friends,” she said. “I like to encourage people.”

“You have a sense your life was preserved for a purpose?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” she said. “That’s the whole thing. Why did God save me instead of somebody else? Why did God give me all these red flags saying ‘get help’? God isn’t finished with me yet? It’s not that I didn’t realize it before, but I was so busy raising kids and grandkids, and doing the mundane and the necessary.”

She is conscious that life is short.

“I’m 61,” she said. “I want to cross the finish line the way God would want me to. If my story can help somebody and encourage them, even if it means they go to a different doctor and get a second opinion. …”

She said she wishes people would follow their hearts.

“I think sometimes we hold so much in and never release it,” she said. “No wonder we walk around so tense and tired and weary. Who are we hiding from? We all walk around thinking everyone else is perfect and that we are the mess.”

“Any last thoughts?” I asked.

She concluded, “Maybe when you get your next dental check-up, ask him to check your carotids.”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at

from the July 25-31, 2007, issue

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