Archive for the ‘i was touched’ Category

Letters to my children

October 27, 2013

When I was starting out in the newsroom I edited obituaries.

It skewed my perspective on mortality. A good number more than you’d think are young people.

People my age died everyday. They died on the freeway, and they died of heart disease. One woman who went to high school with me died of AIDS. Another had an unexpected seizure. They left behind babies.

I was not yet 30.

It began to occur to me that my chances of survival on any given day could be good, could be bad.

I stopped taking the freeway to work.

I filled out my own obit form with my history and favorite charity. I wrote down the song I wanted played at my service.

Then I wrote letters to my children, just in case. They offered comfort, love and acceptance. They revealed what I saw in them that was good.

It wasn’t enough. I wrote more letters.

I wrote letters to be opened on their wedding days.

It wasn’t enough.

By the time I was through, there were stacks of letters for each child. They included graduation, first home purchase and first baby. Then I had to write letters for  in case one of them didn’t graduate, get married or have a baby. There were some to be opened in the event of unexpected pregnancy or in case they were gay.

I went completely round the bend thinking of circumstances I should lend a voice to.

I was writing to sophisticated people I didn’t even know. During this frenzy, my kids were 3 and 5.

Now they’re almost 15 and 17. I can throw most of the letters out. They know I would support whatever they decided to do about a pregnancy. They know I don’t care if they’re gay. They know I’m proud of the people they’ve become, and they have the strength and confidence to choose futures that make them happy.

They’ve had the benefit of witnessing my values as far as marriage, parenting, drinking and humor. I’ve taught them both how to cook, sew and play poker.

Thanks to this blog, they even have all the family stories.

I’m not ready to die, but tonight I’ve decided something close. I’m ready to relax.

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A restaurant review

July 28, 2013

Every summer I gotta go to Big Bear. It’s a couple hours away from me, but I will get up and drive there to eat bacon-and-cheese waffles for breakfast at The Teddy Bear Restaurant, or to roam The Village for jewelry and boots.

I discovered this place when my husband had a three-day conference there on my birthday years ago. I tagged along, intending to stay in the hotel, as I always do when he has a conference. I spend his conferences in the tub with a book.

We stayed at the Northwoods Resort, which borders The Village. I wandered out looking for breakfast and found a row of small businesses that could have been planned for me as a birthday surprise.

First there was a bath shop. I bought bath oils, bath beads, soaps and lotions. These are my favorite things — right up there with chocolate and books.

Then I looked down the street and saw several coffeehouses and chocolatiers. There were three bookstores, too. I may have cried.

After a quick morning buying myself gifts, I climbed into my oiled bath with a novel and some tri-tip. An hour later I was by the fire with red wine and chocolate-dipped things like strawberries and pretzels. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

My husband returned to find a wife with a totally balanced chi.

My husband had this conference every August for a few years, but last year there was nothing. It was gone, and it wasn’t coming back. We went up on our own twice. I just needed to smell the place.

Today I couldn’t stand it. I’ve been missing that town so much I can’t concentrate, so at 1 p.m. I put the kids in the car and went.

About 4 o’clock we walked past a small, tucked-back door that said “Pizzeria.” I was Book-and-Bean bound, and didn’t give a fig about the pizzeria, but I noted that I didn’t remember seeing it there before.

Then around 5 the kids got hungry. They said they had a craving for pizza. I was surprised by this, because we almost never eat it. More surprising, they were both in the mood for the same thing.

I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes. Last night we had pita, stuffed with vegetables, chicken and cantalope and topped with a tarragon mayonnaise. I guess I understand why they were in accord.

So I pointed them toward the doorway I’d noticed. It was Saucy Mama’s Pizza. We walked past some umbrellaed tables in the narrow space between two buildings, and entered the place, which was mostly behind an ice-cream and fudge parlor.

It had a great atmosphere. I love a pizzeria with red-checkered tablecloths. A guy was tossing a big circle of dough in the air. We chose the table with tall stools.

My daughter ordered a vegetable calzone, and my son and I split a Hawaiian Delight pizza, which had Canadian bacon, pineapple and regular bacon chunks on it.

I have rambled on all this time to get to this sentence: This was the best pizza I have ever eaten in my life.

We packed up half the calzone and two slices of pizza for Daddy. My son and I almost wept, denying ourselves those last two slices.

Back at home, we presented the food to my husband like begging dogs at his feet.

He shook his head at us, “I can’t believe it’s as good as you guys are saying. It’s just pizza. You three have built it up so much, there’s no food can live up to your description.”

He bent over his plate and took a bite. Then he looked up, met my eyes, and nodded.

“Oh my God.”

The kids and I started cheering and hugging. We were crazed with the greatness of this food.

Then the dam broke, and my husband would not shut up. “The crust is sublime. These people must be from New York. This sauce is fantastic….”

So there it is, my first post as an amateur food critic. Get on a plane, wherever you are, and fly here so you can eat at Saucy Mama’s Pizza.

If you want my family to sit at your feet and watch you take your first bite, we’ll be happy to make the drive up the mountain.

The trip to the emergency room story

June 29, 2013

My Oldest Friend’s baby took a random toddler spill and ended up in the E.R. with a broken nose and battered mug. Today there is also a gruesome black eye.

Mr. Oldest Friend is across the country on a business trip.

I feel for her, balancing an injured baby on one knee and keeping her preschooler from feeling ignored on the other; and for Mr., seeing ghastly photos of his little girl on the monitor — unable to be there offering strength, comfort and protection.

I’m an hour away from her, and I feel helpless, so I’ll bet he’s crazy with it.

Being a parent is much more painful than being a kid in pain, I say.

Here’s how I know.

One afternoon we bought a steam cleaner. That year we had adopted a puppy.

My 8-year-old son saw an opportunity in the empty box, which, as it happens, slid beautifully over the carpeted steps.

And which, he discovered with delight, he fit inside.

He went up to the landing halfway between the third floor and second, climbed into the box with his bed pillow and rode belly down and feet first to the bottom.

When the box hit the landing, the top swung over. The back of my son’s head hit the hardwood floor with a sound like when you drop a watermelon.

He lay there, noisily. 

I had been making chocolates when I heard the launch. I ran to him, but didn’t know what to do. He wouldn’t lift his head. I’m not good in a crisis, it turns out.

I called my husband, who was shooting pool in Uncle Mike’s garage.

I told him our son went down the stairs in the steam-cleaner box. My husband laughed. “That’s hilarious!” he said. I was in no emotional state for his not getting it. He proceeded to say the wrong thing: He told me to calm down.

Then he said something productive: Check his eyes to see if the pupils are the same size. They were.

“Let me talk to him.” I handed the phone to my son on the floor. He had calmed, and wanted to hear about Mike’s new pool table.

He’ll be fine, my husband said. He’s just stunned.

After lying there a while my boy got up and started moving around the house. He ate a few chocolates, but he wasn’t right.

At 6:30 p.m. he lay on the couch and said his vision was blurry.

That was it. We were off to the emergency room.

My husband met me in that little room where they check blood pressure, weight and temperature. My son got off the examining table, puked my chocolates into the sink, and lay back down. He went promptly to sleep. We couldn’t wake him.

A doctor was summoned. He said something about checking for bleeding on the brain and used the word ‘fatal.’ We were off to a CAT scan.

It was much ado about nothing. My husband was right. After about 15 hours of sleep the blurry vision was gone and so were the rest of the chocolates.

I wasn’t so quick to recover.

Thinking of my girlfriend sitting in the emergency room from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. brings it all back.

So I write this in empathy for her, so she knows I know that sometimes, you just gotta hang your head and cry.

How I ended up in journalism

June 14, 2013

I promised to tell you about how I threw over The Hot Guy for The Smart Guy. I have to get to it, because on July 26 I have a story about us, and you should have been introduced to him by then.

Let’s recap what we have so far of my post-high school adventures: I worked as a hula-hooping singer at a ’50s place until a former customer saw me in public and offered me a job at a college where a Hot Guy came in asking for paperwork for a semester in Mexico, which I had never heard of but said I was doing, too.

So there I was, living in Mexico based on the lie that I could speak Spanish. I lived with a family there. I was a student at the Universidad de Guanajuato.

Every morning we rode an open-air bus over the cobbled streets to the university. All of us Californians got picked up along the same route.

There was a panaderia next to the school, where several of us would buy bolillos fresh out of the oven. I remember standing in that bakery in the overcast of the mornings, breaking my bolillo in half so I could shove my face into the steam and aroma.

In Mexico, papaya juice is their orange juice. They use what’s labeled here as sweet butter — there’s no salt in it. And when you order cheese on something, you get a white, crumbly goat cheese. I didn’t like any of these things, but I liked bolillos.

From the panaderia we tackled the stairs to our classrooms. I counted them once, and wish I had written down the number. There were more than 100. First there were the wide steps to get into the building, which you can see a picture of in Photos O’ Mine. Then there was a series of short switchback stairs we took to the top tower, about six stories up.

It was on those switchbacks I lost my heart.

There was a guy with unruly hair and tragically matched clothing who went up ahead of me. I always made sure I was behind him, so I could smell his cologne. I go weak in the knees for Polo. The Hot Guy smelled like cigarettes.

By the time we were loaded on a bus for a weekend in Guadalajara, I had completely lost interest in The Hot Guy. I made a point of sitting by the guy from the stairs for the six-hour ride.

He was wearing green denim pants and a turquoise sweater vest.

He had a gentle voice and kind manners. He told me interesting things and laughed at my stories. When we ran out of conversation I read aloud to him from my Katherine Stone novel. We got so engrossed in the story, that when all the kids went out dancing that night, we stayed back to finish the book.

This smart guy had become much hotter than The Hot Guy.

I loved being around him. By the time we were back in Guanajuato we were together all the time. We knew each other’s favorite things.

He had been a writer for his school’s newspaper. “Me too!” I said, which was true insofar as two of my St. Patrick’s Day entries won the limerick contest and were published.

As the summer grew short, I got worried. He had been accepted to Stanford, and would be moving there from Laguna Niguel a month after we returned. That was far from me. I began to send him telepathic messages to ask me to go with him. Ultimately he learned my hope when we wrote entries in each other’s diaries. He asked.

Back in the States he showed me the newspapers he had been a part of. I was inspired. When I enrolled for the fall semester, I joined the staff.

This story picks back up with The Earthquake story. After that quake, The Smart Guy, along with many others, suffered from depression. He cut me loose out of guilt for bringing me down, which broke my heart.

Then in spring I was sent to Hawaii….

The Smart Guy is now running Yahoo!

Click here for photo

The dog-in-the-street story

June 9, 2013

You cannot unread this story. Probably you should surf to another blog today, or read one of my better stories, like The Special Day Class or The Pregnant Teenager Story.

This will conclude my three-day series of stories non gratae.

We were about two blocks from home when my son looked out the window and saw a little dog running alongside our car. “He’s racing us.”

The dog’s legs were short, but he was fast. We thought it was funny.

We lived on a wide, busy street. As we pulled in front of our house, my husband said, “We oughta get that dog before he runs into traffic.”

My son ran to the sidewalk, crouched and patted his thighs. “C’mere b–”

We heard thu-thunk.

My son says the dog turned and looked at him just as a truck caught him. The truck drove off.

I held my son while he repeated, ‘Oh no.’ I hated that he saw that.

The kids and I went in the house while my husband went to see if the dog was alive.

When he hadn’t come back after an hour I called his cell phone. He was sedate, “Yeah?”

“Where are you?”

“In the garage.”

The dog had looked dead, but when my husband moved it to the sidewalk it started jerking.

Silence. Then, “I’m looking for something to kill it with, but I can’t do it. I don’t think I can do it. I’m just standing here. The dog’s on the sidewalk. It’s thrashing. It’s in too much pain.”

I was so worried about my son, it hadn’t occured to me to worry about my husband.

I called the animal hospital for advice. They told me to bring the dog in.

By then the dog was dead. Can I bring my husband in? He needs a shot of whatever you were gonna give that dog.

Saw my old lover in a grocery store…

June 2, 2013

I spent 10 years wondering what happened to my high school boyfriend after he went to jail.

I had loved him in that deep, drowning way 17-year-olds do.

His family was poor and fractured, and his talent and intelligence went to waste as he was forced to do whatever he could to help keep his mother’s electricity from being turned off.

His father was living in the van he sold drugs out of in front of the laundromat.

I share this, because I will always argue that he was a good boy in a bad circumstance. He was just a sweet boy.

About a year after high school he was arrested for drug possession.

We wrote each other before he was moved to a drug rehab facility in Sacramento. He was not allowed contact with people from home. That’s when I lost him.

A couple of years later I did my semester in Mexico and found someone else. The next year I got a reporting assignment in Hawaii and met my husband. I fell into that deep, drowning love adults have.

Despite having moved on from my teen heartbreak, I wondered. I didn’t know where he ended up. I expected to hear he’d died.

About a year after we moved from Boulder back to my hometown, I saw him at the grocery store. I was on my way home from a workout, and looked sloppy in a baggy T-shirt and pony tail.

I squinted at him approaching in the aisle, thinking he looked familiar. Then I recognized his mother. If he had been alone, I might have walked by. He wasn’t a boy anymore, and I didn’t know him as a man.

I froze, right in front of the pasta. I whispered his name questioningly to myself — maybe it wasn’t even out loud. Then he passed by me and I was sure. I spun around and called it.

He turned around.

Then he crushed me. He said, “I thought that was you. I don’t have my glasses on –”

He wears glasses?

“– but when I heard your voice, I knew for sure. You were talking to that lady giving out cheese samples.”

That lady was in the entrance. He had known I was in the store the whole time, and wasn’t going to say anything.

His mom left us to finish shopping. I told him I was married with two kids and working in journalism. He told me he had recently spent six years in prison and had a child he wasn’t allowed to see. He said for a short time he had a nice truck. He might get a job at a furniture factory.

I was sad for his past, but excited for his job prospect. He seemed cautious. Did he think I would look down on him? This crushed me some more. I had always seen only the best in him.

I told him I had tried to find him. I tried for years. I told him I had thought of him often. I was genuinely thrilled to see him looking so strong and healthy. And alive, I thought but didn’t say.

He said he had to go, and he walked off. I never saw him again.

It was my very own Same Old Lang Syne.

Memorial Day

May 25, 2013

Today is supposed to be in memory of people who died in service to our country.

I don’t know any.

But I know a lot of people who were willing to.

I know that my grandmother (on my mom’s side) married my grampa immediately before he was shipped to Europe to fight in World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps. There was no communication for three years. She didn’t know, during all that time, if he was alive.

And I know that Granny (on my dad’s side) spent every night of the Vietnam War watching fish swim around her tank. My dad was in Da Nang. He had enlisted in the Air Force, and she couldn’t do anything but watch the fish and try to keep breathing.

And I know Boom Boom lost her job when her husband was sent to Afghanistan. She was unable to work nights and be a single mother of four girls. Her employer couldn’t accommodate her shift request. That only added to the stresses of having a husband at war.

Whether being at war was a wise move or a mistake, supported or protested, right or wrong, they volunteered to do whatever was asked of them. They and their families sacrificed comfort and safety so people like me could enjoy the life of freedom, comfort and safety this country has to offer.

Arthur Anderson, Tony Aulbach, William Badgely, Bob Barton, Fred Bauman, Sandy Beach, John Berry, Bill Buchanan, Ramon Cesneros, Howard Chapman, Stephen Chapman, Newton Cole, Neal Derry, Summer Duval, Jason Frey, Bill Garcia, John Guerrero Sr., Harold Houser Sr., Skip Howard, Sam Irwin, Jay Johnson, Albert Landeros, Dan Landeros Sr., Danny Landeros Jr., Eddie Landeros, Raul Landeros, Lee LeBlanc, David Lowy, Joseph Lucero, Tom Martin, Bill and Marie Elaine McClintock, Aaron Mello, Chris Miller, Edwin “Bill” Momberger, Chris Nicholoff, Donald Park Sr., Joseph Park Sr., William Park, Carlos Puma, Tim Radsick, Phil “Sonny” Romero, Alex Salmon, Rick Sforza, Kyle Siegel, Elbert “Smitty” Smith, Monte Stuck, Charles Wheeler, Vickie Wilson, and their families.
Not all of them are still with us, but they all came home.

Not all of them are still with us, but they all came home.

To those on my list and those I neglected to mention, thank you for your service.

Widow’s Night

May 24, 2013

Until I was 21 I thought members of my family were immortal. But in a couple of days, one of my grandmother’s sisters is going to die.

She’s 96, and she’ll be singing ‘I Did It My Way’ until the curtain closes.

There were nine of them — six sisters and three brothers — and until a few years ago, eight of them were going strong. Suddenly we are about to be down to three. There is an update. Please see comments.

The youngest is 80, but you wouldn’t believe more than 60 if you saw his tanned, laughing self dismounting his motorcycle.

I’ve got great genes.

Starting in 1992 and within eight years, all the sisters’ husbands died. Just after, I was in the grocery store buying avocados, and an old lady struck up a conversation about guacamole mix.

“I buy this Holy Guacamole,” she said. “My husband died, and there’s no point cooking a meal for just one, so every night I heat up frozen taquitos and make this Holy Guacamole.”

She told me she eats in front of the TV while Wheel of Fortune is on. She followed me around the produce section talking about Pat Sajak. This was a lonely woman.

I imagined all my aunties eating microwave taquitos in front of Wheel of Fortune. I thought, ‘I fix a homecooked meal every night. It would be no big deal to double the recipe have the aunties join us.’

So I called them all up and invited them for dinner and games. We had a blast. We decided to do it the first Friday of every month. We called it Widow’s Night.

The news of our private parties spread quickly through the family, as my cousins tried to plan things with their moms. They got denied. Widow’s Night was sacred.

There was laughter, especially with my kids’ answers in Balderdash or clues in Taboo, or when the sisters criticized each other’s card dealing, but there were tears too.

They talked one night about how it felt to give away their husbands’ clothes.

Auntie Martha saw teenagers at the mall holding hands, and realized she would never walk around holding hands again. The others nodded. ‘We had the same moment.’

Auntie Roxie heard her husband’s voice one night telling her it was late, put the book down and turn off the damned light.

Sometimes Auntie MaryAnn would get on the piano and play songs from back when, and the others would dance around. They rarely left before midnight.

We did this for years. Then we started our kitchen remodel and had to put it on hold. During this time Auntie Martha died. Then my son started high school and football games got in the way. Then we moved to a house with no dining room.

Auntie Mags died last spring at 97. Auntie MaryAnn is Hospice care. We’ll be down to two widows.

I was wrong to let all the ‘and thens’ get in the way. Widow’s Night was supposed to be sacred.

Link to photos

This is what’s in a name

May 17, 2013

I was born with an unusual name. It’s not an uncommon word, but it was spelled differently so teachers mispronounced it.

I hated the way kids and some adults felt they had to make a comment when they were introduced to me.

Often people would say, “That’s your name?” which was always followed by “Where are you from?” or “What nationality are you?”

I was from here, same as Jennifer and Suzy.

Once, in elementary school, I was getting a drink at the fountain and a boy I had a crush on said loudly, “See that girl? Her name is  (insert name here.)” The boys laughed and I cried.

I started trying to get people to call me different names at age 3. I was Rose, Mary, Linda and Dianne. At age 10 I found one that fit, and it’s my legal name today.

I had a normal name for 13 years, and then I married a man with a last name people giggle at. It was destiny, I guess.

My children are great sports.

Last week my daughter performed in a concert. There were thousands in the theater.

The woman to my left said, “Look at this kid’s name.”

Her son looked at her finger on the program and read my daughter’s name aloud. They tittered.

I imagined identifying myself, which made my ears hot and my heart pound. I am a great big chickenpants.

An hour later my daughter’s group took the stage.

The woman said, “Here comes that kid with the funny name.”

The boy said her name. This was my chance.

I turned to her and said, “That’s my daughter.” My heart was thudding and I was breathing funny. I’m not cut out for confrontation.

“Who?”

“The child you’re laughing at.” I faked calm.

“Chivus?”

What? “No,” I said my last name.

She effected a puzzled face. “We were talking about Chivus.”

She’s insulting me with denial now?

I didn’t respond. She turned toward her son, put an arm around him and kissed his hair.

I debated telling the children what happened, but I can’t have a story inside me and not tell it.

They took it well. They asked, “Where was she from?”

Here, obviously, but I wish I had asked her anyway. Meow.

A proud moment

May 13, 2013

On Oprah, which I now tape and watch, thanks to my grama, they had an episode about children who commit suicide because of bullying.

It was heartbreaking.

But then there was one woman who shared a bright story, about a group of kids who saw a child being bullied and stood up in a circle around her. Their standing up for her, the psychologist said, gave her the confidence she needed to handle taunting in the future.

This reminded me of a phone call I got when my son was in second grade.

A man I didn’t know called and asked if I was my son’s mother.

Uh-oh.

He identified himself as Alyssa’s father. He wanted to know if I had heard what happened at lunch.

Uh-oh. “No, sir, I haven’t heard a thing.”

He was quiet a moment. Then when he started talking, I could tell he was trying not to cry.

Alyssa had gone home and told him some kids were calling her names like ‘gay,’ ‘nerd’ and ‘loser.’

Awwww. Alyssa was a sweet, tiny, timid thing who wore glasses.

He said Alyssa told him my son stood in front of her and yelled at the bullies. He told them to stop it. He said to be nice to her. He said Alyssa was his friend.

By that point the dad had given up trying not to let the tears come.

Me too.

The kindergarten craft story

May 10, 2013

On Mothers Day when my daughter was in kindergarten, I got a matchbox on a ribbon. It was a necklace.

My daughter had glued heart-shaped pasta to the outside and a photo of herself on the inside, locket style. The box and pasta were sprayed gold.

It made a perfect lanyard for my press ID. I wore it everyday.

One night a month later there was an evening school event. The kindergarten teacher threw her arms around me.

Unbeknownst to me, her husband had been getting a haircut when I took my son to the barber that afternoon. He saw the necklace dangling over my suit.

She explained to me that her staying up late spraypainting the projects gold irritated him. He suggested it was a waste of time .

My going to the barber earned her an apology.

Happy Mothers Day back atcha.

The fart story

April 25, 2013

Twenty-three years ago Mike and I were in a dark liquor store, waiting for our friend Hairy Gary to lock up.

Gary was a good-looking guy Mike had met lifeguarding, I think. He had more body hair than any human I’d ever seen.

In fact, about seven years ago I was at the grocery store and I caught a glimpse of a guy behind me in line. I couldn’t believe I’d seen as much hair as I thought I did, so I turned again and pretended I was looking for someone, so I could see if that really was a rug peeking out the neckhole of that tank top and covering the shoulders of that shopper.

It was, and it was a reunion with Mike’s old pal.

This is not germaine to my story.

So Hairy Gary was waiting for Mike and me to walk through the liquor store door, so he could lock it. As I went by, I leaked some gas.

It was silent, but Gary noticed. He said, “Mike, did you fart?”

I was mortified. I was about to be obviously lying.

But Mike just made an impatient expression and said, “Yeah, Gary, I farted. Are we leaving or not?”

I loved Mike at that moment. Only a true friend takes the blame for your farts.

I was deeply appreciative, and still thinking about it in the car as we headed to the bar. I started laughing.

Mike was totally irritated after waiting so long for Gary to get off work. He said, “What?”

I promised to tell him one day.

Twenty-three years I remembered this promise. Now I’ve made good.

How I met my husband, continued

March 23, 2013

This is the 21st anniversary of my becoming my husband’s girl.

The story I told before happened on March 22. Here’s what happened the next day.

From the airport in Hilo we were taken to the Big Island Rainforest Action Group headquarters, a building/campsite area in the forest. Many people had tents, but I had never camped before, so I slept on the floor of the main room indoors.

The Aries with the blue eyes slept in his friend Matt‘s tent.

In the morning someone with a car announced he was taking all of these hippies to the beach. I put on my neon one-piece and away we went.

We piled out on the side of a road. The driver pointed to steps and drove off.

I froze at the top of the steps. Everybody down there was naked. Hippies were running down the wooden steps whooping and peeling off their tie-dyes.

The beach was gorgeous. All the sand was black, because it was from the volcano. The ocean was clear aquamarine in front of us. We had palms and papayas behind.

I spread out my towel and lay there in my suddenly louder-than-neon one piece, watching naked hippies play Frisbee.

The Aries and Matt came to sit with me. We ate papayas and watched dolphins frolick close to shore. Later a humpback whale swam over and waved its fluke at us.

Back at the campsite all of those protesters had sunburned privates.

I had gotten to know the Aries pretty well by now. So well that Matt suddenly wanted to sleep outside, which left a vacancy in the tent if I wanted it. He said this in front of a nasty guy who had offered me tent space earlier, so I had to turn him down to protect feelings.

The Aeries asked if I would rub lotion on his burned back. He suggested I bring my baby oil over and give him a lube job.

I said, ‘I know your type, lube ’em and leave ’em.’

I think he hasn’t left me yet just to prove me wrong.

What a difference an aide makes

March 14, 2013

It happened again.

Despite my caution, I ended up with another special class. They tricked me this time by listing a teacher’s name.

When I asked at the office what subject I had, she gave me three initials I didn’t recognize.

It took three questions to learn that there is another secret code for ‘children with behavior and emotional problems.’

I was optimistic right away. There were two aides who knew the children, knew the routine and had been trained for this. They had the four students under control. I seemed to have no duties.

I wanted to sit down with my novel, but that felt improper, so I walked around the room looking at what the kids were doing. I don’t know what my goal was, but it seemed teacher-like.

Let me introduce you to the class, who sat around the room in a semi-circle facing the wall.

First we have the boy whose job it was to curse. He was doing a math sheet, saying, “This is bulls***. Why do I have to do this f***ing s***? What kind of a**hole. . . ?”

The next boy was all about colors. He had multi-colored shoes, clothes and  backpack. He had pushed aside his math and was busy licking his desk.

The boy by the door was calmly working.

The girl in the class appeared to be applying makeup, but she was using a blue PaperMate.

Colorful boy stopped licking his desk and raised his hand. “My name is Matt.”

I introduced myself and put my name on the whiteboard. The girl began a campaign to prevent the others from using it. “Call her ‘Person’!”

Cursing boy made my day when he shook his head at her and told her she had issues.

The boy by the door finished his work and moved to face the wall, where he could press his nose deeply into his P.E. clothes. He was about 6 feet tall.

Cursing boy called me over to tell me about himself. I realized these children were smart.

He was telling me about his father, who is a ‘Po Po.’ I thought this was excrement, but I found out later it means police officer.

While I was listening to his story, trouble started with the boy against the wall. He was seated, facing away from the aides, who were upset.

“Carl,” an aide said. “Hand it over.”

“I’m Enrique,” Carl said.

“Do you want to spend the rest of the day in the office?”

“Tacos.”

“That’s it, let’s go.” I didn’t want them to take him away. I loved these kids.

An aide had his elbow. As they left the room Carl said, “Enchildas.”

I wish I could remember the three initials. I can’t wait to go back.

The pregnant teen-ager story

March 10, 2013

On my way to work at the paper I always listened to a morning radio show. One morning, in order to win tickets to a concert, a 14-year-old girl pulled a prank on her mom. She called her at work, live on the radio, and told her she was pregnant.

I got to work trying to compose myself, and inter-office messaged my girlfriend across the newsroom to meet me for coffee after my first batch of stories was edited.

I cried anew telling her about the mom’s response. She was calm. Her first words were, “It’s going to be OK, sweetie. I’m here for you. We’ll get through this together. No matter what we decide to do, it’s going to be OK.”

The child was trying to get a more dramatic reaction, and she upped the hysteria, “I wanted to go to college, and now this ruins everything. I’m so scared. I’m so sorry.”

She was quite an actress. The mother was all calmness, support and love. I was all quivering lower lip on the freeway.

About five years later my girlfriend interoffice messaged me to meet her for coffee. Her 14-year-old daughter had just discovered she was pregnant.

She told me she doesn’t know how she would have made it through that moment if I hadn’t fed her the words. Like a robot she recited: It’s going to be OK. I’m here for you. We’ll get through this together.

She held me and cried. She thanked me, as if I had done something other than cry on her shoulder in the cafeteria.

It’s five years later and my daughter is 14. If she gets pregnant I’ll kill her.

The movie date story

March 8, 2013

When the biopic The People Vs. Larry Flynt, came out in theaters, my husband and I went to see it on a date.

We’re big into dates. When we’re out, my husband refers to me as his best girl.

The theater was nigh on sold out, and we had to sit in the middle of the front row.

In one scene Mr. Flynt made a return appearance in a courtroom where he’d been scolded for disrespectful behavior.

He wheeled his chair in and took his place behind the defendant table. His T-shirt said, “F*** this court.”

The movie in no way addresses the shirt.

My husband and I were consumed with laughter.

Throughout the scene we would settle down when the camera cut away, only to start up again when it showed him presenting his defense in that shirt we were bending our necks to see.

Today we refer to that as the night we knew we were growing old with the right person.

Because throughout that whole scene, in that crowded room, no one else laughed.

My son took his best girl to the movies this afternoon. He came into the kitchen with wet hair, buttoning his cuffs and smelling like Axe.

He was ready.

The animal shelter story

February 28, 2013

I had thought moving to California would end my JonBenet-obsessed sleepless nights.

It didn’t work. I would fall asleep, but every noise sent me running into the kids’ rooms.

I decided we needed a dog. I decided a dog would have saved JonBenet.

My husband was skeptical. “You hate dogs,” he reminded me with that voice he uses on the children.

I explained that if we could get a dog that doesn’t beg, jump on people, sniff crotches, lick or smell like a dog I would be fine.

He explained that what I wanted was a cat.

I did some research on breeds, (and by ‘I,’ I mean ‘the newsroom’s research librarian.’) It turned out a husky was a good breed for me.

I found a litter in the classifieds and merged onto the freeway. I was getting excited about a little puppy I could hold in my hand, with fuzz on his ears and a fat belly.

About 10 minutes into my drive I had a thought. I should have peeked at the animal shelter first. Back to town I went.

The person behind the desk lit up. They got a husky puppy in yesterday. Let’s go see.

She led me past a row of little concrete cells with bad dogs in them, barking at me and jumping up on the bars. At the end I could see a darling little fuzzy dog sitting politely, looking longingly. I didn’t want it.

This dog, in sitting position, was almost to my thighs. I had already had the vision of my new dog squirming in my hand.

I was embarrassed to reject her recommendation out of hand, so I thought I would pat its head and say ‘good pup’ and go. She said, “I’ll take him out so you can spend some time with him in the playyard.”

I wanted to say, ‘You don’t need to open the kennel.’

She fumbled with the keys at the playyard gate. I stood behind her waiting for this to be over so I could go get my hand puppy. The big puppy was sitting calmly next to me.

He scooted closer to my leg subtly, like he was sneaking it. Then he leaned his body until his shoulder and head were against my knee. I was softening.

Then, without lifting his head, he looked up at me. The only things he moved were his eyebrows and my cold heart.

“You don’t need to open the gate,” I finally said, but not for the same reason I’d wanted to at the start.

They must have pegged me as dog-ignorant right off the bat, because he’s not a husky. He’s an Akita mix.

But he doesn’t jump, lick, beg, sniff crotches or smell like a dog.

I like him better than my cat.

Link to photos

The lump in my breast

February 24, 2013

One of  my favorite girlfriends just told me she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer.

It’s Stage 0, which is good news, but I know good news like that isn’t as calming as logic would suggest. When you’re faced with losing a breast, it’s hard to see the cup as half full.

A few years ago I was in a hotel six hours from home when I found a lump. My husband was home. Both kids were on the hotel bed playing video games.

I had barely settled into the bathtub when I felt it. My mother had had breast cancer. I went from zero to panic with one touch.

We were in Sacramento for an academic competition, which means we were with a group from the school.

As calmly as I could, I hollered for the kids to run across the hall and get my girlfriend. To their credit, they didn’t say anything about the bizarreness of my asking them to bring my friend to join me while I had a bath.

By the time she came in I was wrapped in my robe, sitting on the toilet. I was hysterical and couldn’t get the words, “I found a lump in my breast” out.

One of the other girls in our gaggle had had breast cancer twice. We knew this danger was real.

I pulled my robe aside to expose my breast and put her hand on the spot. I was breathing like a machine gun and my eyes were beginning to swell.

She ran out of the room to get one of the other moms, who’s an OB/GYN.

My poor kids must have been crazy with speculation. ‘It’s nothing, kids, just a little bathroom party,’ I would have said, if I could have said. ‘Got any of those blowy horns?’

Our doctor friend was comforting. She said the soreness and the jumpiness of the mass ruled out cancer. She told me not to worry.

I worried. For Pete’s sake I could see it. And it felt hot, but maybe that’s because I wouldn’t stop rubbing it.

I didn’t sleep that night. I thought of all the things I want to do before I die. I thought of every person who might attend my funeral.

Even knowing my lump didn’t fit the cancer-lump profile, I was afraid. I was terrified of the small chance I would hear I had cancer.

I thought of our friend, who heard it twice. She was at the beach when she felt her lump, and must have felt like this. Worse, her fears were validated. I lay there realizing I hadn’t imagined her going through this frantic dizziness. Wow, my mother went through this. And worse.

Now another friend is going through it. And worse.

My doctor girlfriend was right. I had a biopsy that confirmed it was nothing but the flotsam of my breast — milk duct tissue or some such. I felt like a drama queen.

My girlfriend who was just diagnosed caught it early through a routine mammogram.

I’m helpless to ease her anxiety. The best I can do is be her bosom buddy.

My memory

February 21, 2013

My grama used to ask me, “Did you see Oprah yesterday?”

I told her I didn’t watch that show, but she always asked, so I started recording it.

The first episode I watched shocked me.

There was a woman who could tell you how she celebrated every birthday, what she wore every Halloween and who all of her teachers were in school. Can’t everybody do that? I can totally do that.

They threw dates of major headlines at her. My daughter walked into the kitchen to find me sitting on a stool, yelling at the TV. “Lennon was shot. The space shuttle exploded. Baby Jessica fell in a well.” I could play this all day. I was having a blast.

Then this woman started to speaking to me. She said she was lonely. No one else shared her memories.

She said she wanted to forget. Me too. I take baths instead of showers so I can prop up a book, because if I shower I will stand there remembering. I will remember every disappointment, insult and fearful moment of my life.

This is also why I don’t go running.

Ok, that’s not why I don’t go running. But it would be if running were easy.

This Oprah guest who talked about feeling alone made me feel less alone — but more like a freak. I had no idea I was a freak. It’s a good thing I watched.

The next day I was eager to discuss it. I picked up Nana from her Scrabble club. “Did you see Oprah yesterday?”

“No,” she said.

My son’s tumors

February 18, 2013

This morning I have to take my boy to the doctor for a physical. This is a requirement for high school athletic teams.

We have a long history of doctor visits, this boy and I.

I’m a little nervous telling this story. The experience was tedious and stressful. The story may be so too. I’ll do my best.

When my baby was 2 he had a CAT scan because he had bulges on his temples. We were told it was nothing to worry about.

When he was 5 one side grew noticably bigger than the other. We had moved from Colorado to California, and I was pushing the doctor.

“If it makes you feel better, we’ll order an MRI.” The doctor seemed certain it was just a case of children’s growing disproportionately.

My son was afraid of the MRI. Weeks went by waiting for appointments. Then we would come home without having had the imaging. He wouldn’t get on the machine. Sedation didn’t work on him. I was falling apart.

On the third try we went to UCLA Medical Center. A nurse named Julie Lopez put him in a swivel chair and kicked it into a spin, talking casually to him about little boy things. She took away his fear. She was magic.

After an agonizing 10 days the results came in. Our doctor asked me to come in. I begged him to tell me on the phone.

I was alone in my hallway when I heard, “Your son has at least three tumors in his head. Two of them are outside of his skull. The others are intracranial.”

I’m ashamed to admit I felt a little relief. They had identified the cause of the deformity. They could fix it now.

Children at school were being cruel to him. He seemed strong enough to handle it, but I wasn’t.

This was early December, a couple of weeks before his 6th birthday. We didn’t know how to tell him. We took him and his friends to Disneyland as a salve to all our emotions.

This was followed by months of “We’ll know what’s wrong with him after….” There was an x-ray and another CAT scan before the doctor threw his hands up and said he needed a biopsy. “That will be the definitive diagnosis tool,” he said.

The insurance company said no biopsy. We fought. It was long and painful. We won, and we got to go to UCLA, where the magic people work.

My son’s biopsy was on a Monday in July. It was supposed to be two hours. It was six. There were extra layers of inpenetrable stuff on his skull the surgeon couldn’t drill through.

The tumors were drawing the bone into them in spicules.

We would have a diagnosis by Wednesday.

On Friday morning the surgeon told me they still didn’t know what my son has. The biopsy wasn’t revealing. Doctors in Europe were being consulted. No one has seen anything like this.

On Saturday morning my grandfather had a heart attack and died.

At some point the doctors gave up and named the condition after my son. The good news is that the tumors were benign. The bad news is that they couldn’t tell me what would happen.

In a year they would remove the extracranial ones, but they didn’t think they could get inside my son’s skull to get at the others. At least he would look normal.

I have to live with knowing that for a moment in that hallway I felt relief.

link to photos

Grampa’s jacket

February 15, 2013

I can’t find my grandfather’s jacket.

It’s an ugly, dirty jacket that’s too big for me. I look like a bag lady in it.

When I was 12 I had a flu I’ll remember forever. On the first day of it, my grandparents were over for dinner. I was balled up on the couch with chills.

Grampa crouched by me, kissed my forehead and took off his jacket. My eyes were closed, but I remember feeling him drape it over me. It was warm from him — a curing, comforting warmth. I haven’t found that same relief from fever chills since.

Decades later, he kept Tootsie Rolls in the pockets for my children. He always had them there. I imagine him filling those pockets before he left the house.

My children were 4 and 6 when he died of an early morning heart attack.

He used to call my daughter ‘The Baby.’ He must have been having delusions in his last moments, because right before he died he said, ‘The Baby’s bringing me cookies.’

She’s 17; I still call her The Baby.

And I’m hysterical, because I can’t find the jacket.

What would we have done?

February 5, 2013

My Oldest Friend and I had a lot of summer afternoons to fill.

Sometimes we would hop on the banana seats of our little bikes and ride to the library or the park. Mine was pink and had strawberries on it. Hers was blue with white paisleys.

Other times we would tie the wagon to the back of a bike, and one of us would pull the other to the library or park.

There was naught but the library or park to visit, if we didn’t have money for the corner store where the candy lived.

There was even handlebar riding. There were never helmets.

At some point in the voyage, one of us would usually say, ‘What would you do if . . . ?’

‘. . . I fell off; I got hit by a car; I suddenly died.’

I don’t remember what our answers were. I only remember being happy that we both wondered the same things.

The map story

January 30, 2013

Tonight’s story was my son’s choice.

When I was in seventh grade I had Mr. Snodgress for social studies. Mr. Snodgress was one of the best teachers I had, and I remember many things he taught or said.

But he was funny about maps.

Every week he passed out a blank map with a couple of continents on it. We were to get Color-Rite pencils, color at a 30-degree angle with a light touch and rub over the finished product with a Kleenex to soften the lines.

Fine.

The he started going on about the compasses. Mr. Snodgress wanted compasses with more pizzazz. We were slow to learn he didn’t want a plain cross with N, S, E, W at the points.

Cheeky punk that I was, I drew an elaborate full-figure Popeye, arms outstretched toward east and west. It took up the whole Atlantic Ocean.

It was a masterpiece. It was shaded and detailed from pipe to shoes. It was rubbed with a Kleenex. Vigorously.

The next Monday he was handing back the maps. He made it plain he recognized the sass, but he chuckled and breathed deeply before clarifying his compass request.

I don’t remember all the words. He started with something like, “When I said to make your compass nice…,” and ended with something like “not what I meant.”

But I remember the middle exactly: Probably the best drawing of Popeye I’ve ever seen.

Holding hands

January 28, 2013

My son is 16.

When he was an infant in my arms, I showed him off to one of my husband’s co-workers. Her son was 16 at the time.

Teary-eyed she told me she had realized the other day that he doesn’t hold her hand anymore.

“I wish I had known, that last time, that it was the last time,” she said.

This haunted me.

When my son was old enough to hold my hand, I ordered, “Warn me before you stop holding my hand.”

Everytime he held my hand he would say, “Don’t worry Mama, this isn’t the last time.”

I just realized the other day, one of those times was a lie.

A happening

January 20, 2013

In my lifetime, today happened.

My daughter asked to miss school to accompany me to a brunch this morning, where people were gathering to watch President-elect Obama be sworn in.

It was an emotionally charged morning. I sat at a table between my parents, across from my grandmother and my daughter, and watched a black man become my president. I tried to eat, but I couldn’t swallow. I guess there was too much proud in my throat.

When the oath was finished, and President Obama said, “So help me God,” we cried. People stood and clapped. And embraced. Celebration drove a need to hold one another.

I love what happens to us during historic moments. We have happenings. People came together to watch Neil Armstrong set the first footprint on the moon. We came together to grieve on Sept. 11 2001. We came together today. We gather to watch, to rejoice, to share awe or fear, to support and to touch.

On the way home, my daughter, who is 14, said, “It must be a bigger deal than I can understand that he’s black.” What a beautiful statement of how far we’ve come.

It was only a year away from being in my husband’s lifetime that Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing racial discrimination in schools and employment — and in public. It wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act enforced blacks’ suffrage. That was within my husband’s lifetime.

And now today happened. And my daughter doesn’t see a black man; she just sees a man.

Today, as always, I celebrate being an American. Today, as I do every four years, I celebrate the right to participate in my government. And today, for the first time, I celebrate that the people of my country chose to turn to a man for leadership, who in my parents’ lifetime would have been legally beaten in the doorway while watching his light-skinned brothers register to vote.

At dinner with my family tonight, I will raise a glass to the following people: every American soldier who has shed blood or was willing to shed blood protecting my right to vote, read a newspaper and choose my own church; Harriet Tubman; Dred Scott; Rosa Parks; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson; and President Barack Obama.

I salute their courage — and as I was reminded this morning — their hope and virtue.

My mother-in-law’s story

January 16, 2013

We got a call from the East Coast tonight. My mother-in-law is in the hospital. Something is amok with her legs. We’re on stand by.

When she was a little girl starting elementary school, her father was captured as a prisoner of World War II by the Germans. A few years ago she gave us a tour of the small Massachusettes town she and her sister stayed in during that frightening time.

She started with the house — her aunt’s — and told us about her cousins, who were teen-agers and wore make up and heels. As she drove through the town, she showed us the path she and her sister took walking to school.

“This is where I hid my shoes,” she pointed.

Somehow she had acquired a pair of heels. Cluck-clucks, she called them. She wasn’t allowed to wear them to school, but she did anyway. She hid them by the side of the road and changed en route. If I remember correctly, the cluck-clucks were much too big.

Even as I sit here, a responsible adult with a history of mischief, I am stunned by elders who admit they were once naughty.

My favorite part of this story was seeing her face as she told it. She was 7 again, excited about forbidden shoes.

The dead boyfriend discovery story

January 15, 2013

I was 17, and it was just after New Year’s. My Best Friend, three friends and I were cruising around, up to no good. I was driving.

Near to My Best Friend’s house, we saw stationary police lights.

“Hey, this is one of those checkpoints they’re doing to catch drunk drivers,” one of us said. I don’t know if this was a new practice, or just new to us, but we were curious about it.

We approached, but, being teen-agers up to no good, chickened out and turned the corner a block early. We went to My Best Friend’s house.

After a period of restlessness, we piled back into my car and went to watch the police catch drunk people. 

It wasn’t a checkpoint.

There was a motorcycle on the ground, and a boy lying very still. We couldn’t get close enough to get a good view, but we parked and stared.

“Best Friend,” I started hestitantly. “Doesn’t that look like David’s bike?” David was My Best Friend’s boyfriend.

“I guess,” she said casually, “but he’s working tonight.”

I got out of the car and walked over to an officer. I found out that the motorcyclist wasn’t carrying identification. They didn’t know who it was. I didn’t look at the boy. I acted casual to My Best Friend, “Let’s go back to your place.”

When we got there, still trying to appear calm, I suggested we call the grocery deli where David worked and see when he gets off. His boss said he got off early; he should be home by now. I said, “Hey we have nothing better to do, let’s call him at home and see if he wants to join us.”

His sister said he wasn’t home. He was at work. Was he wearing the new helmet he got for Christmas? No. Does he have his wallet? No, he forgot it on the dresser. Uh oh.

I don’t know now how I got the nerve, but I mentioned there was an accident around the corner from his house. I remember saying, “It’s probably nothing, but there was a motorcycle there.”

It was him, and he was dead.

He was hit by a Greyhound bus, the driver of which hadn’t taken his insulin and was declared to be completely at fault. Apparently this approximates driving drunk.

A few days later My Best Friend and I were alone in the mortuary viewing David. He looked different, rubbery. My Best Friend was sobbing.

It was one of my first experiences with death. It was profound. He was just there the other day, and now he doesn’t exist. Where is he? And wow, David knows what happens when you die.

But I learned something, too. If blood isn’t circulating, hickeys are forever.

The earthquake

January 9, 2013

I live in Southern California. Last night we had a lengthy earthquake, and both of my children were somewhere else. It was a small quake — initially reported as a 5, then downgraded to  4.5 — but still the phone lines were clogged for a few minutes. Because of this realization, I was more afraid after the quake than during.

Naturally, I have an earthquake story.

It was October 17, 1989, and I had just been named the news editor of my college newspaper in Los Altos Hills, which is just south of San Francisco.

I was in a happy bubble as I drove home through the old-fashioned downtown at 5 o’clock. There were mom-and-pop shops with picture windows on both sides of the little streets. Knick knacks, ice cream, records — Los Altos is great for shopping.

Stop signs keep the cars moving slowly through the area, but the tailgating guy behind me was impatient. He would move to the side, as if to see if he could go around me. I remember I thought, ‘I’m a real journalist now. You can’t spoil my mood.’ But I knew he was angry.

At the third stop sign, I felt the car start to idle hard. This wasn’t unusual. Then it bucked a little, and I thought, ‘That guy got out of his car and started jumping on my bumper!’

As I turned around to scowl at him, I heard, ‘Get away from the windows!’ A woman ran out of a store into the street and stopped in front of me, holding her pre-teen daughter protectively under hunched shoulders. That’s the image I hold the strongest. That woman trying to shelter her daughter in panic.

I panicked too, trying to think if I had ever heard something like, turn off the engine or your car will explode; or roll down the windows or they’ll shatter. I thought it was The Big One I’d been advised to handle my whole life, and I couldn’t remember any of the advice. I shut off the engine and rolled down the windows.

I was one block from the intersection at the expressway, and I saw the asphalt there roll like an ocean wave, toppling the red-light signal as it changed to green and flickered out.

I had to drive around the downed signal to head into the mountains going home. That made me cry, but I didn’t understand why. I cried all the way home.

When I got there, I went directly to my phone — stepping over a bookcase, tapes, my little face-down TV — and called my parents. I was surprsied to get an open line. I kept my message brief because I knew the line would clog: I’m OK; I’ll call you tomorrow.

Then I called my paper’s managing editor. I was a journalist after all. ‘Mike, you’ll never guess what happened to me on the way home from your house! I’m heading to the campus.’

Mike argued with me, but I was a real journalist.

Finally he said, ‘Hey.’

‘What?’

‘Take your camera.’

It was a darn good thing he said that.

I interviewed and photographed students sitting on knolls, riding out the aftershocks removed from the danger of buildings. I captured the aisles of the library, piled feet high with books. I got some rubble that had been a chimney.

And then the sun went down.

I had never been in darkness so total. If I hadn’t had that camera, I don’t know how I would have found my car. I made the flash go off and took a step. I went flash-step all the way to my car. I must have been the last one on campus.

As I had expected, the phone was out by the time I got home. The couple whose basement I lived in lent me a lantern. They had a transister radio going upstairs, where they listened in silence as they swept up the remains of all their colored-sand art jars.

We learned it was a 7.1.

School resumed a few days later when the power came back, but on Oct. 18 the dedicated staff met unsummoned in the newsroom. We pulled out manual typewriters to put together a special edition.

Everybody wanted to tell his earthquake story. They probably still do. Me too, apparently.

The deer story

January 8, 2013

My son is  getting his driver license. (I learned at work that there’s no apostrophe s in driver license. Who knew?)

An unpredictable driver shook him up a little bit Sunday when he was driving me to Costco, so I told him this story:

When I was 20 I moved from Los Altos Hills, Calif., to Boulder, Colo., to go attend college where my new boyfriend lived. He flew out to my place; we loaded my Camry with all my belongings, and we got on the highway.

It was afternoon when we drove through Lake Tahoe, which was beautiful. Like any 20-year-old in love, I slowed down through that area to give The Boyfriend time to have the idea of an impulsive wedding. I was practically at a crawl leaving that town.

By nighttime we were driving through a whole lot of  nothing. I had never seen places like this, and was astonished to know they existed. With developers running out of room in the Inland Empire, I had the urge to send them a note.

I was driving because The Boyfriend had something he needed to study for regarding his master’s degree.

Suddenly a deer stepped in front of us and stopped.

I must have been going at least 90 mph. I may have been sitting cross-legged and using cruise control. I know that’s how I drove a lot of that trip.

Quickly I tapped the brakes and swerved behind the deer, who galloped off.

Dr. Oz says memories are tied to emotions. This says something about my state at 20. I don’t remember any fear, or even relief at being alive after.

The reason I remember this adventure is The Boyfriend put his hand on mine and complimented my driving.

Naming the baby

December 28, 2012

My grampa and I were close. He did little things all the time to show me he loved me.

For instance, whenever he knew I would be stopping by the house, he went up to A&W and got me a vanilla shake. I only like chocolate shakes, but I so loved that he did this for me that I never told him.

He used to say all the time, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”

My first baby was due on Dec. 20, and Grampa had brought my family to Colorado to be with me. They got there Dec. 13, just in case.

By the 23rd I was jumping in the snow, trying to hurry things along.

Grampa came out with a cup of coffee and sat down to watch me. “What will his middle name be?”

“It’ll be my husband’s name, unless he’s born on the 28th. If he’s born on your birthday, Grampa, I’ll believe fate wants him to have your name.”

Grampa made me stop jumping. “Hold that kid in five more days!”

My son was born the next day.

While I was in the bed, my husband filled out paperwork.

“I named him after Grampa anyway,” he announced. That baby-naming maverick.

But the truth was, I was happy he wanted to make Grampa happy.

I would do anything for him, too.