Sunday, December 28, 2008

And it's NOT just like riding a bike

Yesterday I was with my kids at an unnamed big box store I will not admit going into. They had a gift card from my big brother (who actually made the New York Times the other day - but what's that when you've already been in Rolling Stone? I have such an interesting family) and it was calling to them.

We'd first gone into another big box store, and Jake had found his copy of the Club Penguin Elite Penguin Force. Emme couldn't find what she was looking for (and, of course, had no idea what it was anyway) so we went to another store. She found the perfect guitar, pink, with a flower on it, and was excitedly carrying it up to pay for it. All of a sudden she saw one of her friends from school and was off like a shot.

I took off running after her, yelling at Jake to follow. I was not going to be on the evening news, pleading for the return of my daughter who'd been kidnapped while out of my sight.

Turned out this nice family had rented out the local roller skating rink for the evening for their sons, and because of the holidays (or maybe their lack of friends) they were afraid no one was going to show up.

And that's how we spent the evening, faced with tables FULL of pizza and soda and cake. Turns out there were only three other kids there besides mine and the hosts'. They had three, plus my two, plus the other three- yes, that's 8 kids who had the roller rink to themselves. 8 kids - what a dream come true for them!

After about an hour, the kids ganged up on us. We had no choice, really. We'd been forced to listen to the soundtrack for "High School Musical" for the previous hour.

We made our way to the counter and got our very own...skates.

I used to skate when I was a kid. Really, I did. I was pretty good at it, too. Oh, not like my Jake is now, but the clunky four-wheeled skates of my youth didn't allow for many tricks the way his inlines do.

I tried again in my early 20s, with my friend Marilyn, in the garage of the house we were renting (I think this was before the Elvis impersonator moved in, but I'm not exactly sure anymore). I was awful. She ended up in a wrist brace (which didn't allow her to drive the night we went to the snow and I was way to scared to drive in it, but had to anyway - all because of roller skates!).

Last night I vowed I would be one of those parents skating comfortably alongside their child....ha.

Every time the skates would actually start to roll...I'd tense up. Not exactly conducive to ROLLER skating. So I basically did a roller walk. Very dorky, but safe. But that's okay. My kids haven't yet reached the age where can I embarrass them by the mere act of breathing.

It was fun, they got fully tired out (I know this because Jake actually stopped skating about 20 minutes before the end and went and sat down, and Emme had a minor melt-down), and I didn't end up in the ER. All in all, I'd say that was a successful evening, wouldn't you?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A heartbreaking story

Adoption fight over 6 month old baby

Although I understand the reasons the ICWA was passed, cases such as this break my heart.

Just before Emme came, I had a daughter for six months, before a paternal grandmother obtained custody after mistakes were made in the beginning of the case. Six months to bond with and love a tiny infant. She was very small, and very sick, and we loved her and cared for her and got her through so many health hurdles. Documentation was missed in the first days following her birth (when the grandmother stated clearly that she did not want custody) and an agency in Sacramento decided that there were definite problems in the case. Our local social service agency decided not to fight it due to financial constraints, and we decided to put it in God's hands rather than hire an attorney and begin a long and heartbreaking fight.

We tried to visit with her a few times, but it was obviously very upsetting to Jake, who was only 2 1/2. After much soul-searching, we all decided it was best to stop contact. She was bonding well with her grandma. My (now) ex-husband was very depressed and wouldn't see her at all. I was a wreck for days after each visit, and so was Jake. We walked away, trusting in God to be in control. I pray for her every day.

Soon after, we received the wonderful news that Emme would be moving in with us.

During the time we waited for Emme's adoption to be final, we were on pins and needles the entire time - nearly two years...waiting for a Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma to give us their decision. Letters were lost, forms were unsigned and re-signed and mailed again, and lost again. The day we found we would be able to complete her adoption was a joyous one indeed.

My heart goes out to everyone involved in this case - the birth mother, the adoptive parents, and the little boy in the middle.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear Santa:

My friend Marilyn sent this to me today - I could have penned it myself.

Dear Santa,

I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my
children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my own doctor,
sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree
on the school playground. I was hoping you could spread my list out --
over several Christmases. Since I had to write this letter with my
son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between
cycles; and who knows when I'll find any more free time in the next 18
years, so now - -

*** Here are my Christmas wishes ***
* I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (-in any color, except
purple, which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the
breeze; but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the
candy aisle in the grocery store.
* I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh
month of my last pregnancy.
* If you're hauling big-ticket items this year, I'd like fingerprint
resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music; a television
that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals; and a
refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can
hide to talk on the phone.
* On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, "Yes,
Mommy" to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't
fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the
use of power tools.
* I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting, "Don't eat in
the living room" and "Take your hands off your brother," because my
voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only
be heard by the dog

If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for
enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or
the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being
served in a Styrofoam container.

If you don't mind, I could also use a few miracles to brighten
the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a
vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely. It would be helpful if
you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding
payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.
Well, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing, and my son saw my feet
under the laundry room door. I think he wants his red crayon back.
Have a safe trip Santa, and remember to leave your wet boots by the
door, and come in and dry off, so you don't catch cold. Help yourself
to cookies on the table, but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the

Yours always with love and appreciation,
a Mom

P.S. One more thing . . . you can cancel all my requests, if you can
keep my children 'young' enough to believe in Santa.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The invisible me

Driving in the car. A wet and wintry day. Small voice from the backseat, "Mommy, can I give you a hug?"

"Not right now, sweetie. I'm driving."

"Then I'll just hug your coat back here. It smells like you. It's like the invisible you."

Friday, December 19, 2008

In Hovering Flight - a Novel by Joyce Hinnefeld

This is no big surprise - I love books. I've talked of my love for books here before, but I'm going to do it again.

One thing that is really important to me when I'm reading is character development. I love getting to know the characters in books, just as much as I love getting to know the people that I cross paths with every day. The people that live between the covers are my friends, my enemies, my family. During the unhappy part of my childhood (and that's pretty much everything from 10 on), I lived through the stories I read. I became the characters, and escaped the realities of my life.

Thankfully, I've gotten happy since then (of course, I've had plenty of time to do this), but I still get entirely wrapped up in the lives of my friends in books.

That's why I'm so excited to be able to get a sneak peak at author Joyce Hinnefeld's new novel, In Hovering Flight, through an essay she wrote about her novel and motherhood.

Mothers are dear to me. I lost mine when I was 10, and I love to read about the relationships between mothers and daughters. Joyce Hinnefeld talks of the pull and push that robs so many mothers of doing that which they truly love during the early years of parenthood. We put ourselves, our wants, our needs, on the back burner. For Addie, the main character in the book, her daughter, her despair, and her health prevent her from doing that which she desires.

I'd like to share the essay in its entirety with you. And then I'm going out to my mailbox again to see if my copy of the book has arrived yet!

The Pardoxes of Caring

A brief piece in the November 21 issue of The Week describes my novel In Hovering Flight as, among other things, a consideration of “the paradoxes of caring.” The more I’ve thought about that phrase the more apt it’s come to seem to me.

Addie and Tom, two of the novel’s central characters, care passionately about birds and about the natural world, and also about the work they do in connection with this passion for the environment—Tom as an ornithologist, Addie as a bird artist and, eventually, an environmental activist. They also care deeply about their daughter Scarlet, the book’s other important character. For Tom, there’s a healthy balance and a meaningful connection between his various loves. But for Addie, the people and things she cares about often seem at war with one another. When Scarlet is a baby, Addie finds it nearly impossible to get to her blind in the woods and sketch, much less do any painting. When Scarlet is older and more independent, Addie’s despair over overdevelopment and environmental degradation often pulls her away from her work. Later, her own declining health interferes. So there’s one paradox of caring: for the mother in this book, the various people and things she cares about seem to interfere with this other important thing, her work as an artist.

When I began thinking about what I might say about motherhood and the writing of In Hovering Flight, I thought, initially, that I would write about that term “hovering” in the title. “In hovering flight” is actually a phrase from Roger Tory Peterson’s description of the song of the bobolink in the fifth edition of his Birds of Eastern and Central North America (“Song, in hovering flight and quivering descent, ecstatic and bubbling, starting with low, reedy notes and rollicking upward”); these are lines that Scarlet, who grows up to be a poet, uses when she tries to convince her father that words are necessary to capture the beauty of bird song. But these days the term “hovering” is being used in another context, to refer to the overly protective (and damaging) involvement of so-called “helicopter parents.” In a review in the November 17 New Yorker Joan Acocella discusses several recent books on “the rise of overparenting”—or, “hothouse parenting,” or “death-grip parenting,” or, in Acocella’s terms, “hovering parenting.”

Isn’t it ironic, I imagined writing as I reflected on motherhood and my novel, that that word “hovering” appears in the title of my novel, where I deliberately set out to portray two parents who are the antithesis of smothering, overprotective parents. As an adult, Scarlet sees the debt she owes her parents, who have taught her to love and value her work, however little the world might value it—an important lesson for a young woman who aspires to a life as a poet. She describes a childhood and early adolescence of warmth and freedom, “everything as safe and sure as Eden.” And when she is ready to leave the nest, she flies north, to Maine, with the confidence that, surely, only a child of hands-off, anti-hovering parents like Addie and Tom could possess.

But of course that’s only telling part of the story. Actually, Scarlet leaves home before she has finished school, choosing to spend her last year of high school at the home of her parents’ friend Cora—away from her mother’s despair over her work and over the planet’s decline, and also away from Addie’s increasingly public activism. And here I can see something else in what I was doing, in writing about Scarlet and Addie: I was exploring the possibility that a mother’s passion for her own work, or a mother’s own passions in general, might eventually alienate her from her own child.

My daughter Anna was three when I began working in earnest on In Hovering Flight. She was, in very real ways, my inspiration for the young Scarlet, and my memories of the elation, and also the profound exhaustion, that I felt during her first months were still vivid, and so shaped my writing about Addie’s first months with baby Scarlet. What I didn’t completely own up to in my initial thinking about this piece were the ways in which In Hovering Flight enacts my own personal paradox of caring: for my family (my daughter and husband, and now too my own aging parents), for my teaching, for my work as a writer. The effort to balance all of these is my struggle—and, I know, also my gift—every day. I hope for the ability to hold all of this together as gracefully as writer Scott Russell Sanders, who says in an interview published in the September 2008 Writer’s Chronicle

Like any writer, I struggle to preserve the mental space necessary for creative work. But I’m not willing to abandon the students and others who depend on me, I’m not willing to exploit my friends, and I’m not willing to sacrifice the people I love in order to produce a more nearly perfect book. So I go on struggling to make my imperfect art in the midst of relationships and responsibilities.

The Quakers say that work is love made visible. That’s what I wanted to give to all my characters: work that, for them, is their love, their deep caring—for life, for the planet, for one another—made visible. But I realize now that in having Addie struggle, and at certain points fail, in the effort to resolve the paradoxes of caring, I was being a bit more realistic. When you care that much, and for that many, it isn’t going to be easy—for you or for the ones you love.

Joyce Hinnefeld

I look forward to reading In Hovering Flight, and I hope you do, too. You can visit Joyce's website here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Would you visit your daughter in jail?

My daughter is terrified.

There was a bit of vandalism at her school. Some words written on a wall.

A teacher told the children that people who commit vandalism will go to jail.

She remembers writing on a wall a couple years ago, when she was four.

Now she cowers whenever she see's a police car. She's absolutely terrified.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

5 things you should never do at your company Christmas dinner

This is not an elegant party at the Ritz. Ok, we don't even have anything comparable in this town, and the party is for dinner, at 7:00, on a SUNDAY EVENING. Kind of code for "Not much partying here, folks."

1. Do not show up already drunk. And then announce it to everyone. Didn't your mother teach you anything?

2. The only single guy at work is there WITH HIS MOTHER. No need to show all you've got, ladies. Besides, didn't we learn a long time ago that a man needs a little mystery? Oh, wait, maybe that's why I'm alone...I'm a little too mysterious.

3. If it's snowing, wear a coat. I don't care if you don't have a fur, which you wouldn't wear in the rain/snow/slush mix anyway. You've just ruined the red satin cut-down-to-there dress, and you'll sit all through dinner with water spots all over that expensive dress. Does that make you feel better now?

4. If you have to ask the woman next to you to move so you can get out to visit the men's room, there's absolutely no reason to ask her if she has a dry pocket. Because, if it's me, the first time you'll do this, you'll be met with a vacant stare. The second time, perhaps some nervous laughter. But the third, fourth, fifth and sixth times, she'll want to hit you with her shoe.

5. If you have to ask someone to dial your cell phone, because you've had too much to drink and can't read the numbers, please don't keep repeating the numbers over and over again, LOUDLY, while your incredibly patient coworker keeps asking you to wait a moment while she exits out of the message that she has 25 tweets waiting to be read.

Because she'll eventually give up and realize that catching up on Twitter is more interesting than anything else at the dinner party.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sharin' the love

My friend Marilyn sent this to me...I'm just lovin' it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A man and his women

When I married my ex-husband, I received a fantastic gift.  I just didn't know it yet. 

He'd been married before, and when we started dating, he had a 10 year old step-daughter.  They weren't able to be in contact (long story, not mine to tell).  I didn't meet her.

Four years later, he had a hankering for ice cream one night and drove to AM/PM.  He was gone for 45 minutes.  Neither one of us had cell phones at the time, and I was actually starting to kind of freak out.  What if he'd been killed?  Run off with another woman?  Eaten MY ice cream and was afraid to come home?

He finally returned, and told me he'd run into his ex-wife, and she'd asked him to step back into his step-daughter's life.  He agreed. 

And Jeni was my gift.  Her mom is an incredible woman (see, I'm not the only terrific girl he's dumped!) and was so absolutely understanding and gracious.  She is so wise, and knew that it was incredibly important for her daughter to have a dad, and that a child can never have too many people that love them.

I quickly became "Mom2."  Jeni was 14, and stayed with us most weekends, and usually a night or two during the week.  She was beautiful, and sweet, and funny, a talented artist.  And best of all, she was just really fun to hang out with. 

Of course, she WAS a teenager, so it wasn't all peaches and cream, or even scotch and soda, for that matter.  There were sad times, and a couple scary times. 

There was the time I was trying so hard to get back into shape, and was faithfully working out to my FIRM volume 2 workout video.  I'd had it since the '80s, and it featured Janet Jones-Gretzky, leg warmers and all.  She and her friends got a good laugh out of that one, let me tell you.

When John and I decided we wanted  to try to grow our family through adoption, we were a little worried to tell her.  She'd been an only child, and an incredibly spoiled only child at that.  But she never let on that she was anything but excited, and she's been a spectacular big sis to Jake and Emme.  Jake wants to marry her when he grows up.  I haven't yet told him that this is impossible, because we don't live in Arkansas. 

We're still close.  I couldn't imagine loving her any more that I do.  We've painted our toe nails together, gotten drunk together, talked about men, and I've even gone to a Burner party with her.  She keeps trying to convince me to go to Burning Man with her, but a week in an alkali desert is my own personal vision of hell.

She called a couple days ago.  She was coming to town (she lives in the bay area now) with her mom, and they wanted to get together for lunch.  Her mom and I were able to forge a wonderful friendship through our joint love of Jen.  We've done this a few times, and though some people think it's odd that I enjoy a friendship with my ex-husband's ex-wife that doesn't just consist of bashing him, it works well for us. 

This morning Jeni called me to firm up the time for our lunch. 

"Oh, by the way, I invited my dad.  Is that okay?  I know you guys get along okay at Jake and Emme's events, so I was hoping you wouldn't mind."

So, okay.  I was a little freaked out.  Sitting near my ex-husband and being cordial at Jake's hockey practice, or the kids' Christmas program (which I'll blog about soon), or a doctor's appointment is one thing.  Sitting down together for lunch WITH HIS OTHER EX-WIFE kinda seemed a little....flipping weird, okay? 

Driving to the restaurant, I considered pulling into the Squire Room for a drink.  Never mind the fact that I can't drink without wanting to take a nap.  Never mind that I had to go back to work afterwards. I was driving to have lunch with my ex-husband and his ex-wife.

I pulled into the parking lot, and there he was.  We were the first arrivals.  He nervously said, "So, I guess we're having lunch together."  

And so we did.

And I realized I didn't have to be nervous.  It didn't have to feel weird.  Not for me.

He looked really uncomfortable.  Can you imagine?  Sitting at a table with two women that you've DUMPED making pleasant conversation.

And I just had to think...HA!  

It's good practice for Jeni's wedding...right?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's just gas

I'm going to do something today that I've never, ever done before.

Shhhhh, don't tell anyone.

My kids' school is having its Winter Program tonight. Preceding the program, there will be a bake sale to raise money for the music program at the school - which, by the way, is a fabulous school with a fabulous music program.

I volunteered to bring two plates of home-baked cookies to the bake sale.

Last night, after Jake's hockey practice, and helping Emme with her homework....I had to watch House, which I'd recorded the night before. And I had to Twitter. And I never baked the darn cookies.

So, today at lunch, I'm going to a bakery, buying cookies, and replating them as if I'd made them myself. Shhhhhhhh.

Oh, but first, I have to call Pete Wilcos of Channel 7 news. He wants to interview parents whose kids go to said school - as it has some of the worst air quality of any school in the nation. 7th percentile...yes, that means 83% of the schools in America have better air quality than my kids' school. I'm going to decline the interview.

USA Today will tell you that it's because of the cement plant down the road.

I think it's because little boys like to fart.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Crummy day

Some days just get you down. I had no sick time left after staying home with a sick Emme yesterday. Being a single mom, all my sick days are saved for the kids. When I'm sick, I go to work. Thankfully, I have a private office, so I can work without spreading germs, but it's no fun. I did use part of a sick day for myself when I got cortisone injections in my back in August, but only because the medicine they gave me prevented me from driving.

When Emme first woke up, I called her dad to let him know that she was still sick, hoping he could take a day off to stay with her. He didn't answer, nor did he call back, so I presumed he was working in the field or out of town today, and I sent her to school.

My desk was piled with work today, so it was nose to the grindstone all day. I forgot my lunch, and had to buy an overpriced baked potato at the coffee shop next door, and it was cold. The representative from the new bank my boss just switched to advised me that their courier won't carry cash....???? So, I have to drive clear across town every day to make our deposits. Yes, of course, I'll get reimbursed, but still - what a pain. Our old bank is literally half a block from my office.

Emme was home sick yesterday with "the cough" that's going around. She still has it pretty bad today, but I couldn't afford to take a day off, so I had to send her to school when she should have been snuggling at home. I got to the school to pick her up, and the after-school program teacher told me how much she'd been coughing, and how it was much worse after recesses. So, of course, I felt like a really lousy mom.

After I picked the kids up, I still had to take them to buy new shoes - both have grown out of their dress shoes, and they needed new ones for the program at school Thursday night.

The one bright spot of the day: Santa was at the mall. Jake has been sharing with me that he doesn't believe Santa Claus is real. Actually, what he says is that he knows who Santa really is: it's moms and dads. He asks me if I believe in Santa, and I tell him the story of the real St. Nicholas, and I tell him that I believe in Santa. Without telling him that Santa is really a big hoax, I tell him that if he breathes a word of his doubts to his little sister or any of the kids at school, he'll never get any more Santa presents. But tonight, when he saw Santa, all his doubts disappeared. He happily sat next to Santa and told him that he really wants a Nintendo DS, but that even if he doesn't get anything, that's okay, because he has everything he wants already: his mom, his dad, and God. He really said that. He is amazing. Of course, he didn't mention his little sister.

When we finally got home, we still had homework to do. Right in the middle of homework, Emme started crying. She said that she was afraid that I would die and she wouldn't have a mom. I know this was triggered by the death recently of my friend Heide, mom to two of Emme's friends. I was able to reassure her as much as I could. Truthfully, this is really hard for me. I can't promise her that I won't die. I'm reminded that my mom died when I was 10, so now matter how much I take care of myself, this isn't in my hands. I give it to God.

On to Jake's homework, only to discover that his folder's been left at school. And the poison oak he got yesterday is much worse. I called his dad. I've never gotten poison oak, but my ex-husband reacts terribly when he's exposed to it, so I wanted to ask him the best way to treat the rash.

He didn't answer, but called back a half-hour later. He had stayed home sick from work today. So, if he'd bothered to listen to my voicemail this morning, Emme could have stayed with him and had another day to rest and try to beat the cough.

Thankfully, tomorrow's a new day. Hopefully, Jake's rash will get better, and so will Emme's cough. And my attitude.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Who's on first?

My brain is toast today. Emme was home sick today...combination of a bad cough and a bad stomach (from her new medication). I watched 3 episodes of Hannah Montana, played 7 games of war, 3 readings of A Charlie Brown get the idea.

So, now I'm helping Jake with homework. He's procrastinated, and his hockey night just got switched, so now he has a week's worth of homework to finish today & tomorrow. Bummer....

I'm reading Jake's spelling words to him, right off the list.

and so on.

I get to better..have to help him spell it (spelling is Jake's Achilles' heel).

"Okay, mom, what's next?"
"After better."
"What's after better."
"Please, mom, what's after better?"
"Yes, you're right, what's after better."
"Mo-om...what's next?"
"Absolutely is NOT one of my words."
"You're right. What is."

At this point, I finally gave in to laughter, and explained that "what" was the word.

He wasn't amused.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Can I just feel sorry for myself for a minute?

So, we got a referral to a pediatric neurologist for Emme today. Even though we've been going through tests and evaluations here, I just wasn't expecting they'd actually find anything THAT wrong. He (or maybe she - I can't really tell by the name) is in Sacramento, so at least I'll get a few road trips. But the fact that we need to take her down there is a kick in the gut. As I twittered earlier today, I wish I was a swearing person. I. am. so. scared.

And today is the anniversary of the day my mother died.

But just when I started feeling sorry for myself, someone sent me a clip about a guy with no arms or legs. Then I found out the son of some friends had a seizure last night. Then I remembered Randy's going through chemo. And, of course, my friend Heide just died, leaving her two young daughters.

And now I feel so blessed.

Dagnab it.

And yes, in fact, that's the best I can do.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Motherless Daughter

Motherloss is at the top of my thoughts the last couple days. My friend Heide just passed away, leaving motherless daughters. Yes, they have a wonderful family to adopt them now, and they have a new mom, but the loss they've suffered will be forever a part of them.

My mother died when I was 10.

When my son Jacob was small, a family came to visit. A wonderful family, expectantly waiting to adopt the young boy we were fostering. He wasn't meant for us, he was meant just for them. Lisa gave me a book before she left. Motherless Daughters, the Legacy of Loss, by Hope Edelman. I began reading, and couldn't put the book down until it was done. I think I went through an entire box of tissues. How could this woman, this stranger, know me? Know the feelings of loss and abandonment that followed me through my days, tormented me through my nights.

Hope outlines the issues that women face after the loss of their mothers....entirely dependent on the age at which the loss occurred, certain traits make themselves apparent. I fit perfectly into her description. The stories moved me to my very core.

I'd spent my life running. Running from the prospect of being hurt again. I'd already suffered the greatest hurt a child can face. I didn't want it to happen again.

Children are resilient. You hear it all the time. I heard it today at the bank.

Children are confused. They can't spill their guts, tell you what they're feeling. I was so afraid to talk to anyone. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to explain what was going on inside my head, and that if I did manage to find the words to explain the feelings, that no one would understand. So I smiled, and got good grades, and followed the rules.

You see, I didn't even believe my mother was dead. I wasn't allowed to attend her funeral....funerals aren't for children, don't you know? I hadn't even seen her in days, as the hospital she was in didn't allow children to visit. Not even her own child....a kind nurse let me in once. Just once, in two weeks. And then my mother just didn't come home. The adults told me that she'd gone "home." She was in "a better place." Even though my mother had taught me about God, about Jesus, about the resurrection, the thought still remained.....

How could a mother be in a better place than with her own child?

I'd misbehaved once (according to the adults) while she was in the hospital. Perhaps my mother had simply decided that she was tired of being my mother...maybe she'd just packed a suitcase and left. How could God take my mother from me?

I did eventually get a pseudo-mother. A foster mother, trying to mother 19 other kids...yes, you read that right. We averaged 20 kids in that foster home. My foster parents had 12 kids before opening their home to others. My foster dad had 8 kids from his first marriage, and my foster mom 3 from her first. They had one together. And then they fostered a sibling group of 5. There were a couple other "permanents" like me. And always one or two temporaries. She tried, bless her, but I needed more mothering than she could possibly give.

I spent my 20s and most of my 30s keeping people at bay. After all, if there's no close connection, how can abandonment occur? I honestly didn't think I could survive another great loss. How many nice men I hurt because I'd inexplicably turn cold and push them away when they showed signs of getting too close to my heart.

But I did survive. In 1991, I lost my brother Tony to bone cancer. In 1994, my sister died from complications of Crohn's Disease. And so I finally let someone in, someone who seemed so kind and steadfast that he'd never leave me.

And at 46, with two young adopted children, I lost my husband to divorce. The one person I'd shared so much of my life with. He abandoned me, too.

There's not much point to this post. Except for this: if you know a child who has suffered a loss, please, please, don't just assume that things are okay because she is smiling. Because she doesn't let you know how deeply hurt she is, because he won't cry for days on end, please don't think that nothing is wrong. Get some some books...draw them out. Don't pretend that just because "children are resilient" that life is easy for them.

I wish someone had been there for me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Top 10 Reasons to Post Today

After November's NaBloPoMo, I thought perhaps I'd take a day or two off posting...ha. I'm never going back to my old willy-nilly approach.

I just had to say that out loud. I love to say willy-nilly. Just like I love to say whisper. Go ahead...I know you want to.

But I'm feeling just too thankful about life right now not to share it.

1. Everyone's over the stomach bug.
2. The house is decorated for Christmas.
3. It's relatively clean. That means it's clean enough for relatives, but no one else....and since I don't really have relatives (does the half-brother who last came to Redding THE DAY OF MY WEDDING IN 1997?) you can't come over. Unless you have a bottle of wine.
4. Modern medicine has figured the cocktail of chemicals it's gonna take to wipe out Randy's stage 4 mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, and chemo started today. I'm wearing orange until it's if you see me looking a little peaked, that's because it's not my color - it's Randy's.
5. Heide's girls are in a wonderful, loving home.
6. I bought myself a camcorder on Black Friday, so I'll be making films of the royalty, to be recorded here for posterity (another one of those words that are fun to say out loud).
7. I had my next-to-last session with my personal trainer today. His name is Jerry and he works at FitOne. He's a sadist. And I positively feel stronger than I did a month ago. And he's adorable...listening to him talk about his girlfriend for just a few minutes gives me hope that there is romance in the world.
8. My daughter is bold and insightful....this morning she looked at me when I was tickling Jake into wakefulness, and said, "Mama, you are jealous of me. You know you are." Of course, she couldn't define jealousy for me when I asked her....
9. I have amazing circles of friends. Yes, circles...sometimes they overlap. I have friends and connections and each and every one of them is amazing.
10. I weigh less than a zebra. Even a small one.

So, as I close this post so I can return to reading Eclipse, I'm giving thanks to God for the wonders of life and friends, and the miracles of the 21st century.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I did it!

I didn't mention in my last post that my sweet Jelly Bean Princess is not the only one who was sick last night. Hmmmmm...we'll be staying home today.

So, for your viewing pleasure, here are the Corrigan Brothers:

And, ha! This brings me to 30. 30 posts, 30 days... so I didn't post every day, but I made up for it on others.

Goodbye, November.

My cluttered car (life)

There are times in our lives when we are thankful, not just for our friends, not just for our families. We find ways to be thankful for....our shortcomings.

Last night as the kids and I were heading home from a really kicken' party (kick ass because of the fabulous people there, kicked in the stomach because of the grief most of us there were feeling for the loss of one of our friends the night before Thanksgiving)I was actually thankful that I find it impossible to keep a clean car.

Right before we left our friend's home, Emme said that she didn't feel well. No surprise, it was late for her..and one of her little friends had tossed her cookies in the kitchen right in front of her. Nothing like the smell of vomit in the evening to turn a stomach. In the car, she apologized for not feeling well. ??? Why weren't the bells going off in my head? After brother dearest got violently ill Tuesday night while we were IN A RESTAURANT.

Turning onto Eureka Way, I heard it...okay, you know the sound. There's a reason it's called retching, folks.

I immediately pulled over...flew out of my side of the car and opened her door. There she was.

Holding a casserole dish I'd left in the car after our recent (okay, okay, it was a week ago) potluck at work.

"Look, mama...I got it all inside the dish!"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh, deer me....

So, this is a four-day weekend for me. Or it should have been. Our billing guy conned me into going in today - he wanted me to go by the post office and pick up the mail, then go in and sort it through, so he could have the EOBs....silly end of the month thing. I told him he owed me.

He came through. He brought me....a venison steak. I've eaten venison before- back in the Stone Age, when I was in high school (okay, maybe it wasn't quite THAT long ago, but it was THE 70s). Had it twice...the first time, it was awful. The second time I had it, my friend really knew what she was doing, and I liked it. Of course, the taste was hidden behind the seasonings she used....I remember she coated it with mustard, then floured it, then cooked it in some kind of tomato sauce, like Swiss Steak.

It's in my refrigerator now. It looks kind of dark and scary. I might be afraid of it. Help me!

Saturday morning fun

I don't remember learning to read. Or should I say I don't remember ever NOT reading? Family lore has me reading simple books before my 4th birthday. That's probably right - I started kindergarten at four and I know I was reading then.

I remember a house filled with books. My mother had a pretty decent library. There was a small library in the town we lived in during my grammar school years, but no bookstore. My life nearly revolved around my weekly visits to the town library (our school didn't have one, but was right down the street, so we'd walk). I remember the rule that you could check out the same number of books as the grade you were in - I guess they thought that's the right number of books to have for a week.

Somehow, I managed to convince them I could read more. I was allowed to bring home a stack every week.

In our classroom, we had small readers that one progressed through (they still have them, same company - in my son, Jake's 3rd grade classroom). I'd always be done with the lot of them by Christmas, and that meant I could read whatever I wished. How I loved to be called on to read aloud. It wasn't the being chosen so much that enthralled me, it was the reading itself, the love of words said aloud. At seven, I realized that theater gave me the chance to give life to the words on a page, and I participated whenever I could. It was a small town. There was no theater, apart from the plays we did in school. I must have done something right, as I always got the female lead.

And I continued to read with a vengeance. I loved series - they could keep me going for weeks. Nancy Drew? Once I'd finished the first volume, I didn't finish until I'd read them all - all that were out the time. I remember waiting with breathless anticipation for The Mystery of the 99 Steps. I was 8 at the time. I loved the fact that my mother had read them before me. I loved Edgar Allen Poe. The Brontes. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Madeleine L'Engle.

My mother died when I was 10. I quickly read through her library, then joined a book club. I had to feed my addiction. I was completely catholic in my tastes...I read everything from Please Don't Eat the Daisies to books about the Third Reich. Yeah.

During my early 20s, visitors to my home would see stacks of books everywhere. I slowly purchased bookshelves (saving my money - you see, it had to be solid oak for them - no veneer would touch my books). Still, my books would overflow the shelves. They were my comfort, my family.

And then I had kids. I literally could not read for a couple of years. My sleep deprivation was so great that If I sat down to try to read, I'd fall asleep almost immediately. Books for children didn't do this to me, most probably as I read them aloud. So my only comfort at the time were the Lambs' Tales, which I'd read nightly to my babies.

I started reading again just before my husband left., and then stopped For a year after, I couldn't read - I couldn't sustain thought long enough to gain any remembrance of the words on the page. It took all I had to take care of myself and my babies.

And now I read again. I really should update the section on books I'm reading, but somehow I forget. I love essays, I love mysteries, I read lots of books on raising adopted children and the prenatal effects of psychoactive substances. Small hobby of mine.

This morning I woke early...very early. Checking my email, reading up on the night's Twitters, I surfed from one site to another, before landing at LibriVox. I downloaded the software needed, and now I get to do one of my favorite things in the world....

Read aloud.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving thanks.

I'm thankful.

Today, just before sitting down to a Thanksgiving feast with my children, I received the news that my friend, Heide Hatcher, passed away last night.

I met her through my friend, Sharon. We spent a Mother's Day at Whiskeytown Lake, four moms and our kids. Sharon, and her bio daughter, Isa. Kelly and her two little girls, adopted from China. Me, and my two adopted children. And Heide, and her two adopted girls. Both Kelly and Heide adopted as single woman. Sharon and I divorced and coparenting with our exes.

I was struck by the beauty of Heide's children, HanneMae and Badaboo. Both African-American, HanneMae with skin the color of cappuccino, and ringlets. Badaboo's very dark skin and crinkly hair a testament to her Ethiopian heritage.

I got to know Heide better after her breast cancer diagnosis, about a year and half ago. We formed a group of friends to surround her, since she had no family near. We cared for her kids, cooked her food, spent the night at her house. She had a hard time with chemo and radiation. We thought she'd beat the monster.

Early this year, the pain in her back led her to realize the monster had returned. Numerous back surgeries caused her immense pain. She moved between Stanford and a local convalescent hospital.

Her girls alternated between two homes of friends. As recently as last Friday, our group of friends met to figure how best to help her.

This week she was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. I understand she passed away peacefully last night. A few of her friends were there when it happened.

She was an amazing woman. She served as the director/principal at Whiskeytown Environmental School for a very long time. She was a devoted mom. And she was a great friend.

I'll miss her, and think of her always.

I'm going to go hug my kids again now. If you have kids, go do the same. And give thanks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life as I know it is over.

A few months ago, my coworkers were involved in something. Something seductive, and addictive. I managed to stay away, but it wasn't hard. I've never had that addictive personality, except with one thing, best not mentioned here. And I've managed to stay away from that one thing.

But then, someone else told me of their compulsion for it. Someone I admired. Someone I knew wouldn't lead me down a dangerous path. It was Erica.

A few nights ago, something called to me...I gave in to its siren song. I was at Barnes & Noble. Always a dangerous place for me. I find it hard to resist, hard to ignore the call of the words between the covers.

I dipped my toes into the water, cool yet murky. Quickly, I became enthralled. Soon, I couldn't pull myself away from its call.

Now, I'm lost.

I'm a fanpire.

You'll find my addiction here.

Stay away from it. Be safe.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Randy Miller

So here it is: I'm making this really easy for you.

The Big 100

This is it. My 100th post on Blogspot. And I've nothing to say.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Face of Cancer

I've posted earlier about Randy Miller of The Myriad. His sister-in-law and I go way back - back when Jake was a baby. Lorra and her husband were foster parents, and I don't know how many times we encouraged and consoled each other, watched each other's kids, and laughed ourselves silly. And she is an AMAZING cake decorator! She's moved away, and I miss her.

It's an unfortunate circumstance that's brought us back in touch. Ok, that's not even right. It's an horrendous circumstance. Her brother-in-law, Randy, has been diagnosed with mesenchymal chondrosarcoma. Until a week ago, I didn't even know what that was. Now I do.

Thankfully he has some amazingly creative and talented friends. They've made this short video that shows the Randy that's known around Redding. Not the big rock star (though his band DID win the MTV2 Mountain Dew Breakout last year). But the Randy that's a husband, a father, a friend.

Please watch it here: Randy's Mercy Fund, and if you're so moved, kick in a few bucks, ok? They can use it right now.

Note from The Myriad:

Friends and family,

As some of you may have heard, our band mate Randy Miller had a large tumor removed from his left chest/shoulder area which has now been diagnosed as Chondrosarcoma, an extremely rare cancer of the bone. Unfortunately, during the meeting with the specialist at Stanford this week, he was informed that the tumor removed was just the tip of the iceberg. The tumor is much larger than they originally thought and it extends into his shoulder and arm. There is also a tumor in his left pelvic area and thigh and still another large tumor located on his right adrenal gland which is possibly another type of cancer altogether. Due to the aggressive nature of this cancer, Randy should begin chemotherapy immediately but is waiting to hear back from the state as to whether they will insure him. Until then, he cannot begin the treatment process. Please pray that this process is expedited.

There are immediate and ongoing financial needs for the Miller family. These needs can be met by donating to a "Mercy Fund" set up by a non profit organization called The Stirring and currently designated to Randy Miller. There are a few different ways you can send tax deductible donations to this fund.
One is online at www. thestirring. org.
Located to the bottom right of the main page you will see "ONLINE GIVING". If you click on this link you will be directed to a secure page where you can set up an online giving account. Once the account is set up you will see the "MERCY FUND" and be able to send secure donations to the family through this organization.
Tax deductible donations can also be sent in the form of a check to:
The Stirring
RE: Randy Miller
3468 Bechelli Lane Suite E
Redding, CA 96002
Any financial support you can give in order to help the Miller's through this difficult time is appreciated.

Thanks for your prayers,
The Myriad

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I really should go mop my bathroom right now....but, it's NaBloPoMo, and I'm not giving up now...even though truthfully I've missed a few days.

Busy, busy weekend....aren't they all these days? Friday night was a meeting to discuss the affairs of my friend Heide. Did you grow up in Redding? Were you in 5th grade anytime in the last 20 years or so? Then you may know her. She's been the principal/director at Whiskeytown Environmental School for over 20 years. She's amazing woman, an amazing mother. She's the adoptive mom of two beautiful and charming young ladies...HannaMae and Badaboo.

And she has metastatic breast cancer. It's been a devastating journey to travel with her. She hasn't any family locally, except for those of us that have chosen to be family. During the early days of her cancer, we rotated sleeping at her house, caring for the girls, making meals, running errands, while she underwent chemo and radiation.

These days, she's been in a convalescent loving families have welcomed the girls, while others have been tempting her with food made at home.

Today she was admitted to a local hospital. She's a fighter.

What amazes me is the unwavering support of this group of people, all of whom have been touched by her.

Saturday started with Jake's championship hockey game. His team came in second in the 8 & unders. He is one rockin' goalie...the toughest position of all. He's a great goalie - the other team made 18 attempts - 18! and they only scored 5 goals...he blocked 13 goals. I'm so very proud of him.

Then I brought soup & brownies to MSM, helped with cups of apple cider, and had the fun of circulating through the dozens who were there to eat and get clothes. They have so many stories, and they were so appreciative. It's something I don't think I'd get tired of doing.

Last night we took dinner over to Randy Miller. I wrote a bit last night, and I've blogged about him before, but if you haven't learned who he is - you really should. He's amazingly talented, and he's a great dad, and awesome husband to Kristyn Miller. He's recently been diagnosed with a rare cancer and has no medical insurance. It's pretty scary for everyone who knows them.

They have incredible friends.....there are musicians doing benefit concerts and taking offerings during other concerts. But they can use your help, too.

Please, please, please, visit their website and read about this. Donate if you can. Come on, even if it's just $5. This is a great family, and they could really use your help. And they are incredible appreciative.

Redding's best kept secret

I hesitate to tell you this. Promise you won't tell anyone else?

Last night I had a date. Ok, ok....stop laughing now. It was a mommy/son date. Emme was spending the night at her friend's house. We had taken dinner over to Randy Miller's house. What an awesome family he has. Then I let Jake choose the restaurant.

It was hard, folks. Three way tie between Burger King (they have chicken nuggets and indoor playground), Pizza Hut (they have, and a pool table), or Round Table Pizza (figure out the menu, folks, but we'd never been there before and didn't know about the extras).

Ever one to try new things, Jake chose Round Table. We went to the one over on Hartnell. Ok, yeah, they sell pizza and can get that anywhere. Best of all, though? They have.....

Board games.

Lots of them.

And what did we find? People - sitting there, playing them! Families. Teenagers (who should be out drinking and petting, after all) were playing games and they actually looked like they were enjoying themselves!

We played Battleship, and Toss Your Cookies (we had to make up our own rules for that one - the guide was missing), and Snakes & Ladders.

So don't go there, okay? Because we want to find a table next time.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Tonight I was at a meeting. I laughed, I cried, I lost my keys and found them again. A dear friend is fighting cancer right now. She has no family near. But she is encircled by those who care about her. Her daughters are cared for, her bills paid, her medical needs advocated (is that a word?). Her favorite foods are taken to her daily.

We are a community.

Tomorrow we're rockin' the soup, bread, and brownies at MSM. Feeding the people.

We are a community.

Tomorrow night I'm taking dinner over to a family with another cancer battle.

We are a community.

It's amazing what people can do do when they pull together, when they know they're needed.

Brownies are in the oven...they smell incredible! Can't wait to get them there.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Simple is good

Simple days are great days. Today was one of those days.

Work was good...I got everything accomplished that I wanted to. Though I got some bad news about a dear friend, it wasn't unexpected, and there are ways I can help her. I ran into an old friend I hadn't seen in nearly a year, and did a little catching up. I had an awesomely good workout at the gym.

When I got home, my box from Country Organics had arrived and I made a wonderful soup/stew. Quick and delicious. Then one of my best friends came over..not a planned visit. We hung out and talked.

I'm so grateful for my life, my friends, my faith, my health.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Do I look like a target?

Three times in the last three days, drivers have made left turns RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! When I've had a green light.

Don't they know that is absolutely known to be the cause of collisions?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My love affair with a married man

I was so in love with him. He was 24 (I think), he lived in Las Vegas (where I lived at the time), he had a HORSE RANCH! And he was a singer. He was quite a bit older than I, but my parents had no qualms about my love affair with him. In fact, they offered to take me to see him, to celebrate my birthday.

Arrangements were made. A dress was purchased. My hair freshly curled. I was so excited that I didn't eat for two days. I was so in love with him.

His name was Wayne. We were going to see him perform. I chose this evening instead of a birthday party (and I'm convinced there WOULD HAVE BEEN A PONY). But I didn't care....because: I was in love with him. Though we hadn't met, I was sure that he'd see me and ask me to marry him....this was big, really big.

My step-dad worked in the gaming industry, so we had front row seats. Absolutely front and center. I was so nervous and excited, I could barely sit still. But my parents had been taking me to social events since I could walk, and I knew that I needed to sit and sit quietly. It took everything I had to remain quiet and not scream out my love for this man.

A comedian opened the show. I've always had a love for funny men (my father was the first) but I didn't care about this guy. I just wanted, no - needed, to see my man.

He walked out on stage....he was so incredibly handsome. He sang, and my heart stopped. And then he talked about...his wife.

I was crushed. There would be no marriage for me. If I couldn't marry this man, I knew I would never marry.

But then the unthinkable happened....all of sudden, his song ended, and he said that he had a special guest. He called my name, and invited me on stage.

And that is why, and that was when, I sang a duet on a stage in Las Vegas with Wayne Newton. I was seven, and I was in love.

We sang "Red Roses for a Blue Lady."

The rest of the evening passed quickly...afterwards we were ushered into his dressing room, where he gave me his autograph, and gently kissed my cheek.

I've never forgotten his kindness, and I've never had a birthday like that since.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday evenings

Sunday evenings always come crashing down on me. We have so much fun on Sundays....after church we'll go to the Sundial Bridge, or Caldwell Park, or Enterprise Park, drive to the mountains, go to Burney, have friends over...the list goes on and on. But then there's cooking to do when I get home. Because of the kids' sports, we don't get home until 7:30 or so on Monday and Tuesday, and with Emme's bedtime at 8:00 - well, we're pushed, to say the least. So, I try to "cook big" on Sunday evenings so that we can just warm up leftovers...

Then it's bathtime. Reading. Bedtime for Emme. Homework with Jake - he gets his homework packet on Friday, but doesn't like to do any then. It's his last night at his dad's each week, and special to them. Saturday, and somehow homework never gets done. So, Jake does his homework Sunday night, and we're still pretty much one on one for that.

Then off to bed for Jake. I wish there was a bit more time on Sundays. When I was in high school, Sundays were always the longest day of the week. We weren't allowed to do anything, except read and hang out together in between church services. The day seemed to run on forever. And, while I complained about being bored, I miss it now.

While Sunday is the first day of the week on our calendars, it always feels like the end to the period at the end of the sentence. It closes off one week, so that we can move on to the next.

May your Sunday evening be filled with peace and joy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Me, Me, Meme

Hal tagged me a while back, and I thought that today, my 50th birthday, would be a great day to finally get it finished off.

Link to the person who tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.

Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.

Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.

Let people know they've been tagged by leaving comments on their blogs.
Okay, here goes.

1. I'm an actor. I first appeared on stage at Bullhead City Elementary School in the role of "Princess" age age seven. With some breaks here and there, I did theatre pretty much regularly until 2000 (when Jake was born) with one encore in Sylvia at the Cascade Theater. It was the second play they did there after the reopening. I think I'm pretty good at it, and I'm starting to really miss it, but as a single mom who doesn't want to leave the kids with a sitter all the time, it's going to be a while before I get back on the boards. My favorite role - tie between Nora in A Doll's House and Mona in Come back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean. But Stella in Streetcar was pretty darn fun, too. But, wait! I really like comedies, too! Okay, I love it all. I love crying my eyes out and slapstick humor, and making people cry with me and laugh at me.

2. Once I walked 60 miles in 3 days to raise money to fight breast cancer. It was honestly one of the biggest things I've ever done. The training, the fund-raising, the sheer pain (I think that was pretty much when I finished off the cartilage in my left knee).

3. I had a truly bizarre childhood. I was the cherished daughter of a Russian composer/conductor who scored over 200 movies for Columbia, and a French model (okay, she was born in France, but grew up in LA). We lived in Mandeville Canyon, and had Glen Ford and Fernando Lamas as neighbors. That idyllic life came crashing down when I was two and my father died. When I was four, my mom remarried a man who worked in the gaming industry. We moved a lot, but ended up in Bullhead City, Arizona (of all places). My mom died when I was ten, my step-dad died when I was 13 and I finished off my childhood living in a foster home in Kingman, Arizona. All of these events shaped me into the twisted person I am now.

3. I do my very best to follow Jesus. He's my friend and my savior, and I don't do Him justice. But He's never left me. And I have to say, I've met the most amazing people through Him.

4. I can cross my left eye while keeping my right eye looking straight ahead. I was bored a lot in elementary school, and this is where I perfected the talent.

5. I love tea. I really like coffee, too, but tea is really where my heart lies. I love the taste, I love the ritual. I hate the way it stains my teeth, and spend a fortune on whitening. My favorite is Russian Caravan.

6. People tell me their life stories. People I've just met, people I work with, people I've known for years. And I carry their stories and their joys and their pain forever after. My boss' wife told me it's because of my aura. Well, I have a dear friend named Aura and I don't think she has a darned thing to do with it. But I really should call her soon, anyway. Maybe we could get together for tea.

7. I was the girl whose photo in the yearbook topped my wish to have a dozen kids, but I didn't become a mom until I was 41. I thought I'd never have kids, but I guess God had a different plan for me. My parts didn't work, but there were two women who were able to have babies, but just didn't have their lives together and they lost their privilege to parent. That breaks my heart at the very same time that I cherish my babies and can't imagine my life without them. Adopting through concurrent planning was a riotous roller-coaster of emotion and I don't think I could do it again. It was a huge contributory factor to the demise of my marriage (I found out that my ex had met his "soulmate" and wanted to leave me only two months after we finalized our daughter's adoption), and that absolutely breaks my heart more than anything else in my life. But my ex and I manage to do a fairly reasonable job of co-parenting (even though he's on his 4th or 5th soulmate since then). It will never, ever be the same as having them grow up in a loving home with the both of us, but I guess it will have to do.

And, now that I have you just where I wanted you, here are my tags:


Thursday, November 13, 2008

My girl

I could write about my kids every day. They are simply amazing. The challenges they've each been through can be shocking. I have a medical file on each of them, from their times in NICU, and it makes me cry to think of the pain they went through. Emme had physical therapy until she was a year old. Of course it was painful - have you ever been through physical therapy? Emme's therapist told me that the pain was probably equal to that I felt when I underwent therapy to release a frozen shoulder. I prayed, I cried, I swore....but I understood why the therapist was causing me pain. My poor child had no idea....she could only cry. It broke my heart and I was terrified that she would blame me always.

Emme was born with congenital muscular torticollis, and because she was in foster care, and the pediatrician didn't pay much attention to her, it went untreated. By the time she moved in with us, her head was badly misshapen (plagiocephaly). I don't take no for an answer when it comes to my children - I'm like a momma bear. I didn't give up. Every week I called the pediatrician, until he could get approval for a physical therapy evaluation. Finally, we were able to start therapy...a wonderful woman from the Moose Lodge (of all things) came out to the house every week.

I have so much respect for fraternal organizations that provide social service help....Emme was caught in the gray area between Medi-Cal and private insurance...we were unable to cover her under my ex-husband's insurance until the adoption was final (yes, I know that's illegal - but what..he's supposed to argue and lose his job?). But the Moose covered it free and clear.

Our therapist worked with Emme an hour a week, but more importantly, she trained me to do the therapy - 6 times a day, 7 days a week. Pulling and stretching and causing pain. The two of us would cry together.

And every 45 minutes while she slept I'd awaken to move her, to change her position, to massage her sweet little head and try to get it to regain it's normal shape.

Mothers would tell me they couldn't do what I did - they couldn't cause pain to their child. It was one of the hardest things I've done, but I had to remember that what I was doing was for her good. That it would allow her to hold her head upright, to prevent neck pain and problems later in life, that it would allow her to have a normal appearance.

And it worked. On her first birthday I had a photo taken of the back of her head, and gave it to her physical therapist, to show how lovely and straight she held her head. It was a success.

Emme is going through so many changes right now - and I have to remember that we'll get through each challenge as we did that one...crying together, praying, and doing it together.

At least until she's a teenager, right?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Randy Miller from the Myriad

If you're from Redding, you might know Randy Miller, drummer for the Myriad. They won last year's MTV2 Dew Circuit Breakout. They're amazing...anyway, Randy is also brother-in-law to a dear friend of's some news about him:

Some of you may have heard, our drummer Randy Miller had a large tumor removed from his shoulder/chest area a few weeks ago which proved cancerous. Initial results indicate Chondrosarcoma (cancer of the bone) and a PET Scan today revealed suspicious spots around the surgical area, his left arm, adrenal gland and pelvis. Chondrosarcoma is very rare and for that reason treatment is necessary at special facilities. He has been referred to Stanford to determine the best course of action. The unfortunate thing is Randy cannot talk with the specialist or even schedule an appointment until the state determines if he is qualified for medi-cal. It appears it could takes weeks or longer before he finds out if he is qualified. We'll keep you updated as soon as we know more.

There are immediate and ongoing financial needs for the Miller family. The support that has come in over the past few weeks has been amazing and we would like to thank everyone for all they are doing. Our friends in Third Day just announced they will be holding a benefit concert for Randy on Sunday, December 7th at Friends Church in Yorba Linda, CA.

Tickets go on sale 11/21 at www. transparentproductions. com.

All proceeds go to Randy Miller.

If you would like to help out financially you can do so by donating to a "Mercy Fund" set up by a non profit organization called The Stirring and currently designated to Randy Miller. There are a few different ways you can send tax deductible donations to this fund.

One is online at www. thestirring. org .

Located to the bottom right of the main page you will see "ONLINE GIVING". If you click on this link you will be directed to a secure page where you can set up an online giving account. Once the account is set up you will see the "MERCY FUND" and be able to send secure donations to the family through this organization.

Tax deductible donations can also be sent in the form of a check to:

The Stirring
RE: Randy Miller
3468 Bechelli Lane Suite E
Redding, CA 96002

Any financial support you can give in order to help the Miller's through this difficult time is appreciated.

Thanks for your support,
The Myriad

My 5 pet peeves about the gym

This is really weird - I am older than my mother ever was. Technically, I'm six moths older than she was when she died - As of Saturday, I'll be an age (nope, I'm not telling) that she never was. As can be attested to by the other members of my motherloss group, that's some big deal.

One of the weird things about getting to be this age is my skin. Okay, I know there's more fat under the skin now - thanks to the back problems that made me stop belly-dancing over a year ago. But the skin itself is - different. Softer, but not in a good's hard to explain. But easy to hate.

I wish I had 24 year old skin back. I was pretty modest as 24 year olds go. Now I kind of wish I'd gone around in a bikini the whole year - just to show off that skin. I could even have gone skinny-dipping. Yeah, skinny-dipping. I really would have loved that. Except the part about being naked, of course. In front of other people.

Anyway, I'm back in the gym. Trying to get control of this body before it goes too far south. And I love it. I love the way people say hi. I love the way I feel when I've lifted more weights than I thought possible (thanks to Jerry). I love the way the shower feels on my not 24 year old skin after a really hard workout. I love that my kids love going there, so I don't have to feel guilty about going there.

But there are some things I. don't. love.

1. People who don't wipe down the machines after they work out. "But I don't sweat." Yeah, right. I don't care about that anyway. Well, unless they've dripped all over everything, and then that's just gross. But there are still germs! So I end up wiping the cardio equipment off first (I'd do every machine, but they'd think I was a whack-job). I mean what if the person who was on the elliptical didn't wash their hands and then got on the machine and put their germy little hands all over it? I'm not a fanatic about germs normally, but the gym just seems to be such a breeding ground.

2. People who talk on their cell phone while working out. Loudly. If a call is that important, and it could be, just take it away from the exercise floor. I find it highly uncomfortable to hear the juicy details about someone's romantic escapades when I don't even know them, but it seems that lots of people aren't shy about sharing the intimates. Yes, that's you - the girl that always wears yellow. Just stop it.

3. Heavy lifters who don't re-rack their weights. Enough said.

4. Women in the dressing room who take up the bench, 2 stools, and half the floor space just to get dressed.

5. And here's the big one. The one that made me start thinking about this whole issue - don't touch the equipment someone else is working out on! For any reason. Even if you think you're trying to be helpful.

Tonight I was on one of the treadmills that has a built-in TV. I was watching the Food Network. But I also had the little matrix going that shows the graph of what I've been doing....I'm working on intervals, and it helps me keep track. This woman, who I've never seen before, walks up and says, "Let me show you something," and clicks my matrix off! The nerve! I know she probably thought she was being helpful, but not only was she so NOT helpful, she scared the snot out of me when she came up like that.

So, lady - if you're reading this: Back off. I mean it. But if you want to compliment me on my skin, go right ahead.

TCM Love

I love TCM...or I guess I should say I love the technology that TCM uses now. I guess I should clarify that it's Turner Classic Movies.

Anyway, they have this setup now, where I searched for my last name, and it pulled up (for now) non-existent biographies on both my father and my uncle. Then I just put in a request for email reminders whenever either one of their movies are playing! TCM emails me a reminder, I go to DirecTV and set it up to record. I can do this from anywhere! And I'll never miss another of their movies! Yippee! And how did I find out about this??? Google Alerts. Love 'em.

This is pretty awesome for me. My dad died when I was 2, and Uncle Costia died when I was like 8. Between the two of them, they either scored or conducted almost 600 movies.

Next up, "Commanche Station" with Randolph Scott.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Can you hand me a tissue, please?

My eyes are puffy, now my cheeks are getting puffy. I woke with a headache, and it's getting worse. I didn't blog yesterday, and it's NaBloPoMo. I'm full of ADD-edness today. Driven to distraction. Not finishing anything. Is it the sheer quantity of carbs I devoured this weekend? Is it the fact that I have a milestone birthday this weekend? And, frankly, it's disturbing me. I've been bursting into tears daily this week. I told the kids I thought they could spend the night at their dad's on Saturday so I could do something grown up. They completely nixed the idea. Tears and pleading. So now I'm spending my birthday doing the best things ever - having dinner at Red Robin and going to the movies to see Madagascar 2.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Boo - I love you.

My kids' school has a tradition. It's the selling of "BooGrams" for Halloween. Great fundraiser for the 8th graders. They can make money to go on field trips where they sneak away from the chaperones and smoke weed. Just kidding.

Jake's 3rd grade teacher forgot to give out the BooGrams on Friday, so they got them Monday. He was really excited that he'd gotten three. One from me, one from his friend Drew, and one from.....a secret admirer.

"Mom, you know my best friend, Hunter? He's got two girlfriends. I think he should break up with one of them. Two takes too much time."

Of course, I questioned him about the secret admirer...he thought it was either M or K. Both sweet girls, I'm sure. As long as they stay away from any idea of corrupting my sweet, sweet son....

"So, Jake, what did this BooGram say?"

Dear Jake,

You are so hot. I am in love with you.


Your secret admirer

"Mom, what does that mean?" "It means she thinks you're cute." "Oh, that's weird. Why would you say hot for that?"

Yesterday at his parent-teacher conference, Jake's dad brought up the note. Mystery solved.

All the little kids go into the 8th grade room to buy their BooGrams in the weeks before Halloween. They ask the 8th graders for help in deciding what to say....

I know there's an 8th grader out there laughing about this now, in between downing shots and making out with his girlfriend.

Friday, November 7, 2008

BFF Forever

Marilyn and I have been friends since right out of high school. We went to a group interview for a health club called "Vogue Figure Control" in Modesto, CA. I commented on her necklace, an "M," and we started talking and haven't stopped. I introduced her to her first husband, Gene. He asked me out and I didn't want to go out with him because we worked together. Okay, so the marriage didn't last, but they did have a most amazing son, Ian.

We walked 60 miles together for the Breast Cancer 3-day. We've seen each other through everything. In many ways we're as different as can be, but we manage to stick together.

She's a gorgeous natural blonde. She works in the film industry, as a studio driver, and has the coolest. stories. ever. Right now I'm wearing a pair of scrubs that she got from the Gray's Anatomy set.....whoa.

She drove up from LA today to see me and the kids. They're with their dad tonight, so we went to C.R. Gibbs for dinner, then tried the new beer pub across the street. Snake Bites are awesome. We were immediately greeted/accosted by a very inebriated man named Kevin....great. We were home by 9:30.

I'm so glad to have a friend like Marilyn. No matter what, we always stick together.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Christmas is coming

My son Jake is very materialistic. He loves his toys. He loves other people's toys. He loves the toys he sees in stores and on TV commercials. He can't bear to part with old toys. He's great at sharing them, but he's always lusting for more.

This morning on the way to school, Jake was wondering aloud if his dad was going to get him some Legos he'd promised. I told him that I knew he really wanted those Legos, and he's really, really good at creating some imaginative stuff with them.

All of a sudden, he said, "But mom, I don't really need them. It's okay if I don't get anything for Christmas." Thinking he was joking, I said, "Ah, but what about that DS you've been wanting?"

"Mom, all that's really important is you and daddy and God. The toys are nice, but I don't need them."

This kid blows me away.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

They amaze me every day

I wish I would have talked about this election more with my children. Mistakenly, I just didn't, at least as much as I should have. I know when I was 6 or 8, I really had no concept of government. I guess I just thought that my kids were more interested in reading, writing & 'rithmatic. Boy, was I wrong.

Discussion in the car tonight, on the way from school to hockey:

Emme: "Momma, almost my whole class voted for Mr. Senator John McCain (she said it just like that - so impossibly cute)."

"Emme, do you know why so many people wanted to vote for Sen. McCain?"
"Because he's very responsible, and he wants to take care of people, and he wants to make sure that sick people get taken care of."

I'm really glad that she has clarity on this. I wish that I could have gone over the candidates' voting records with her myself. This was a powerful lesson for me.

"So, Jake, did your class hold a vote?" "No, but I would have voted for the other guy." "Obama?" "Yeah, him." "And why is that?"

"Because I think war is awful, and I think that the other guy just wants us to have a war all the time."

Wow. I'm blown away. These kids have very definite ideas - awesome!

We had a talk after hockey, Jake & I. Emme was already sleeping. We talked about some things I thought were important. That the President has a grave responsiblity. That whoever is elected deserves our respect and support. That an African-American is our President-Elect, and a generation ago, African-Americans in the South had to use separate bathrooms and drinking fountains. That President-Elect Obama has a family that loves him, and two young daughters, and that he will make all his decisions knowing their effect on his family as well as ours. That he has an awesome responsiblity, and the fate of all Americans weighs on his shoulders.

We talked about the fact that he won't see another Presidential election until he's 12 years eternity to him.

And then we celebrated with that most delectable of impromptu desserts - rice cakes & Nutella. Oh. My. Land. You really should try it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote for Love

Google has an ad for Prop 8 on my blog today (and everyone that uses Google AdSense). Wow - they must have a LOT of money. I'm not going to remove AdSense for one day, then put it back. But it's not my idea to have it there.

Please know that the opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of its owner. While I might tell you how I'm voting, (which would, I'm sure, bore you to tears, and you wouldn't care anyway) I'm not going to tell anyone else how to vote. Not that you'd listen to my pea-brained reasons, anyway.

Just know that my underlying motives for voting propositions the way I do come back to this:

Is it kind?
Is it just?
Does it best serve the majority of the people, or a select few?
Does it advocate stewardship of the earth, our money, our time?
Does it demonize someone that is created in God's image?

I will tell you to vote, though. Vote your conscience, vote your pocketbook, spin-the-vote, whatever. Just vote, okay? And remember the old adage, if you don't vote, I don't want to hear you complain.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Do I have your attention now?

It's National Blog Posting Month. Every day. Something to read, right here. No promises of quality, just quantity.

Pastor Dan made me think today. So did Los (Ragamuffin Soul). And Pastor Ryan. Thanks, guys.

When I vote Tuesday, I'll remember this: I'll not demonize those whom God has created in his image. And if I vote for someone, or something, I'll continue to pray for them - and for those on the "other side."

And I'll be thankful for my health, and the health of my children. And I'll pray for (in no particular order):

Susan (Fatty's wife, fighting cancer, quite possibly in the home stretch now)
Heide (My good friend, mom to Hanna Mae & Badaboo, and fighting cancer and painful back surgeries)
Randy (Lorra's brother-in-law, just diagnosed with cancer)
Jeffery (Dawn's husband - she just fought uterine cancer, and now is awaiting test results for her husband - he is very ill)
Kelsey (Kirsten's daughter, only 14 years old. Survivor of a congenital heart defect, now fighting an unknown connective tissue disease with a brave heart and a smiling face)

I was feeling so unbelievably confused. Why am I surrounded right now with people who need so much more help than I can possibly give? What can I possibly do to help?

But I know.

I can cook.
I can pray.
I can share what money I have.
I can praise God.

Pray Backwards

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sometimes it's just too much

An old pic, but a goodie
My kids had a good week. A really good week. Not a single note, or phone call from school. Don't get me wrong, they're not bad kids. But they have their issues. Don't get me started if you believe wholeheartedly that all ADHD can be "cured" with diet....sometimes the brain is just wired differently. We've tried every dietary restriction out there, and they are very healthy because of that, but who they are doesn't change - and my kids ARE the ones who will be discovering something new, or inventing something we've never seen before, or taking off to climb the world's highest mountain - because their brains are working 50 times faster than anyone else's. There's a reason, and those of you who know me well already know what it is. Look back through my archives, and you'll see I've alluded to this, but I'm just not going to do it right now. Who knows exactly why special needs kids are the way they are, anyway? And does it really matter?

My kids had a really good week. They had a great time at church today - Emme found a friend she hadn't seen since changing schools in kindergarten. Jake finally saved up enough "bucks" to buy a marshmallow shooter....

My kids had a really good week. They both asked to go to Burger King for lunch after church. They actually agreed, and worked together to convince me. I think it's the last fast food restaurant in town with an indoor play area.

As I waited for our food, I sent them in to play. I noticed three women come in to order right after us. One well-dressed, and a bit older than the other two. The younger two had beautiful smiles. They were very short, and one obviously had Down's Syndrome, while the other seemed to have another genetic difference I was unfamiliar with. I gave a quick prayer of thanksgiving for families and love, and resiliency, and my children's good health. The shorter one paused at the soda machine, choosing her drink carefully. I told her I liked her t-shirt, and she gave me a smile.

A few minutes later, I turned to bring our food into the play area room. I saw this young woman on the floor, cradled by her older friend and a man who'd been having lunch with his kids. She was having a seizure. I asked what I could do to help - they had already called 911, so I went out and told the staff of Burger King that an ambulance was on its way, and grabbed some napkins....the young women had been ill, and I wiped her face clean while we tried to determine if there was still food in her mouth. We were afraid she would choke.

I comforted the girl with Down's Syndrome, then my own kids. I got everyone settled down and returned to the sick girl's side. As I was saying a short prayer, I heard my son call out, "They're here!" He held the door open for the firemen.

A gurney was brought in, an IV started, and she was on her way to the emergency room in no time. It turned out her friend was her Special Olympics coach. She followed the ambulance to the hospital.

During this time - probably only 10 minutes, though it seemed longer, not one other person tried to help. Not one employee of the restaurant came to see if the young woman needed anything, nor did they come out to clean up the mess. We were there another half-hour after the ambulance left, and the mess remained on the floor and tables. I went out to remind them, and a young man told me that he had been too busy.

At first I was angry. Then I realized they were all young teens, probably scared, probably overwhelmed...probably not wanting to clean up the mess because they were afraid. An older couple had stood and stared the entire time - I had to ask them to move so I could get some napkins. Honestly, I'd never seen anyone suffering a grand mal seizure before, either, but I just saw a young girl who needed help. How can anyone not help?

My kids had a really good week. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Glory Hole

We always stop here - my kids are endlessly fascinated, as am I. We've never actually seen the water spill's very low now. No chance of that. It's right next to the Kennedy Memorial. President Kennedy dedicated Whiskeytown Dam during his last visit to California, only seven weeks before he died. We love to look over the lake, and I imagine what it must have been like the day JFK stood there.

My mother was a Kennedy lover....I remember the day he was shot (yes, I'm that old). I was home sick from school that day with German Measles....I guess if anyone gets them anymore, they don't call them that. Not PC. Now it's Rubella, and preventable. We had quite an oubreak in town - the first grade teacher caught them, and was pregnant. Nine months later she gave birth to a deaf child. I'm a believer in vaccinations.

My mother cried when saw saw the news about JFK. It seemed to me, a kindergartner, that the whole town was crying for days. I know we've never seen a president since that's engendered that kind of emotion. I'm saddened and afraid that people would gloat if some of our recent presidents had been killed.

Last night we were leaving a benefit for a dear friend with cancer. Just at sunset, we rounded the corner from the NEED camp by the dam and saw this. We weren't the only car to pull in, but I was the only one without a camera - except the one on my cellphone. I never thought this photo would turn out.

Smoke from a prescribed burn hung over the water. The sky was just beginning to turn color, and was reflected in the lake.