Making banana bread in a crisis

Grease the bottom of your pans. Combine all the dry ingredients including the cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Have you noticed that whenever you’re feeling just a little too smart, too strong, too handsome, too successful, too whatever . . . the bottom drops out! I remember finishing a long series of lectures for wannabe lawyers, making sure my kids had all made it to their summer jobs, and hopping on my bike on a beautiful warm day in Iowa, peddling down the road with hard work at my back and the sun of success in my face.

And then a van smacked me unconscious on the side of the road, temporarily paralyzed my body, and crushed my voice box.

Go figure.

Now combine eggs, bananas, sugar, and oil.

Theresa Greenfield was on top of the world. She had just turned in all the signatures she needed from eligible voters to formally launch her candidacy for the United States House of Representatives. She had raised more money than any of her fellow Democratic candidates. She had been campaigning hard for a year. And gosh darn, everything was jelling. She was on the road to success.

“I was so excited. I was thrilled.” She tells me, her brow furrowing, still in disbelief.

And then Greenfield got hit by the proverbial van.

“On Thursday night, my campaign manager walked into my office and told me that he had forged signatures on our petition.”


Greenfield didn’t even quibble about what was forged and what was not. She fired her manager and went down to withdraw her papers to run as a candidate. She was not going to run a campaign based on tainted signatures. Her candidacy was essentially over. She was toast.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients.

“And then I got to work,” she says with a steely look.

One option was to start all over and collect new signatures by 5 p.m. One work day. The clock was ticking.


“About 8 in the morning people began to deploy and collect for the 8 counties required. We needed 1790 signatures. Our supporters called their supporters who called their friends. People called me I didn’t know and said, ‘Hi, I just heard. I’m in Adel, I can get 20 signatures.’ ‘Hi, I’m in Creston with 50 signatures.’”

Greenfield turned to all the Democratic candidates running for Iowa governor. And they didn’t disappoint.

“All the gubernatorial campaigns helped me out. They released their staff. They provided advice. Their campaign managers were all at the Capitol when I was filing. They were strong for me. They stepped up to be my campaign manager for the day.”

“Someone shouldn’t lose based on a technicality,” says John Norris, one of the gubernatorial candidates.

So he acted.

“We shut down our office for six hours and pulled people off to help her get names. We just sent people out on the streets. At one point we had a meeting point between people collecting signatures at highways 34 and highway 148 for three vehicles and a hand-off.”

Norris smiles at the craziness of it all.

“It’s just like when a farmer gets injured. You all come together and get them through the crisis. You’re always stronger for that.” He pauses. “All of us are stronger.”

And Greenfield kept hustling and calling and collecting and cheerleading as the day slipped away.

“We had people running to the Secretary of State Office with one minute to 5 p.m. with sheets of signatures. There were a lot of cheers.”

It was done.

Fold in nuts.

But it was not to be.

Not enough signatures. Just 200 short.


Ah, but Greenfield, still dumbfounded from the evolving news, reminds me of real disaster.

“I lost my first husband to a work accident when I was 24 and pregnant.”

Greenfield looks me in the eye with her jaw set.

“What I learned at the young age of 24 was how important social security and hard-earned union benefits are. I would have gone to poverty without them. I had one child and was expecting number two. And came from a poor farm family. When the union leaders came to my home after the funeral, they said, here’s how we’re going to take care of you. They explained social security and the union benefits. They couldn’t bring my husband back, but they wanted to make sure that I knew I could pay the rent.”

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 55 minutes.

As I sit with Greenfield in the ashes of her former manager’s mess, she has no room for self-pity.

“When I’d go to church on Sundays after my husband died, two union members would meet me at my car. One would grab one baby and one the other. I’d sit at church and they’d sit right next to me. There were times at Mass that I’d just cry the whole time. And they just sat next to me and said, this is okay. It’s okay to cry. They would hold my babies.”

Greenfield looks away and then looks back.

“People are good. And we saw this again on Friday.”

So, what is Greenfield’s response?

“I know we aren’t stopping. We are going forward with this race for the House. There are other ways.”

And for yourself?

“I had a meet and greet last night. I really spent a long time thinking about gratitude after that event. There are just times you have to stand up and be strong. And when the door is closed, and no one can see, like with my former manager’s bad choices, I still choose what is right. And that’s important.”

So what did you do after the meeting last night?

“My twin sister and I baked banana bread until 12:30 at night. When you’re in a crisis people bring you food. I did the exact opposite. I was in a crisis and I needed to bring people food.”


“I decided the campaigns for governor needed a special thank you. So this morning we delivered banana bread from my kitchen to their campaigns.”

No kidding.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then eat.



13 thoughts on “Making banana bread in a crisis

  1. I love this column!! I’ve always said that just when I think I’ve got things figured out someone comes along and hits me in the head with a 2X4. Your accident was much more literal, but you are so, so right. I love Theresa’s story and am glad you shared it. I’ll watch for her.
    I’m wondering if you get my comments when I send them from my phone. I don’t think it works right.

  2. WOW…. This made me cry, but in a good way. What a inspiring story. DAMN, at times, Life is not ‘fair’ but that IS Life. We all have to keep up “the Good Fight”.

  3. Joe, this is so spot on it’s incredible! And as Theresa’s husband, I should know. From the day I met Theresa, I’ve watched how celebration and tragedy alike are always met with a hearty covered dish or desert. Growing up in the city, I never appreciated how healing food can be. But on the farm and in small towns, this is the currency of love. Thank you for an incredible piece, from one writer to another. Warmest regards. Steve

  4. Great article! Spot-on accessment of my good friend Theresa. She’s the Real Deal and you captured her essence perfectly.

  5. Wow! Theresa! I had no idea. I would love to bake some bread with you. Got loaf pans, will travel. Let me know what I can do.

  6. Oh my, this story has me in tears. I know that there are good people around us to support us in times of crisis, but our country needs this woman! If only our Congress was filled with such honest, caring people how truly great we would be as a nation. Thanks for this uplifting story.

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