Monday, August 31, 2009

Fire, Water, Paper, and People

This weekend, my brother Steven came through on his way from Portland to a houseboat on Lake Shastsa. Steven is the family hero. All the brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles love him. My kids love him. So do I.

He brought his girlfriend Marie, and we all hit up Yogurt Hut, for our least expensive purchase ever there at $12 for 6 people. I don't know how that happened. Usually, the five of us go and it's over 20 bucks.

Then I left everyone here and zipped up to Eugene where my aunt was at a scrapbooking conference with her friends. There were stickers and papers and serious chocolates. While the women worked their craft, I watched a show in my room on scorpion infestation. Then I went down and watched the girls cut and glue and laugh. They are a wonderful group of women: wise and funny, open and kind.

When I got in my clean, fresh hotel bed that night, it smelled and felt so good, I cried.

The next day, I came home to a fancy dinner the kids had arranged. They'd picked flowers and made placecards.

They went through all the fun things my generous aunt had bought them for school, opening up everything and unzipping and showing me and their daddy and each other.

Yesterday, Dave and I went on a date. We had lunch out and saw "Inglourious Basterds." (Which I'll post about next). It was five relaxing hours of hand-holding and no one asking if they could have a Popsicle.

Steven and Marie came back through last night. The kids sat in silence at their feet, listening to the houseboat tales. Like how their pillows fell into the lake, and how a baby on another boat toppled over on the floor and rolled around a bit.

My dad had evacuated his house near Sacramento, because of a raging fire that had destroyed about 60 homes and structures. He was staying at my sister's, but seemed more concerned about the cat getting into the salsa when we talked to him on the phone.

Yes, it's been a struggle here lately. It seems like it's been a struggle many places for many folks. But the human resource is a valuable one; there's nothing like being surrounded by just good people to give you a huge boost.

That's why I'm having over a billion kids today. To give it all back.

Friday, August 28, 2009


This morning I woke up thinking about chocolate. How good it is. But how flat. How what we need is a new shape of the gooey sweet stuff.

Like, what if chocolate was poured into mini muffin tins.

And then another kind of delicious other flavor was dropped inside. Cherry? No. Mint? Not quite. But maybe...Skippy or something.

Like Reese's peanut butter cups. Invented by a former Hershey's employee. Almost a hundred years ago.

At 6 AM today, I'm already a little behind.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Girls

"Sometimes I'm sad I'm a man. We're just so far behind," Dominic told me the other day.

I told him that even at almost twelve, at least he knows that, so he has somewhat of a leg up.

I love men.

There are oodles of amazing ones in my life: my husband, my two sons, my dad, my four brothers, all kinds of firefighters. I'd take a bullet for any of them.

But when the $#!+ hits the fan and the cards are down, it's the girls who save me.

I was tired. Worn out. It's August, right, you know what I mean: we've had the kids around all summer. Every day. All day long. The kids are restless. And bored. It's hot.

This is where empathy only from other moms comes in.

I found it when I snapped. Well, almost snapped. But snapped enough.

And while my man was out rescuing victims of smoke inahlation, and motor vehicle accidents, and cardiac arrests, my girls were rescuing me.

I'll tell you: I've never gotten such great support. From my best friend since kindergarten, who lives in Davis and offered to come up if I wanted to take off for the weekend with some of my other girls. From my friend since second grade who lives in the Bay Area and took one look at me and really saw me. From my three sisters who took my side and straightened my hair and sent me back into the world. From my aunts who have shared their struggles and successes, and my daughter who made my bed and picked me sunflowers. From my girlfriends here in Oregon who have made me go swimming, and walking, and to Costco. Who have made me laugh. And have let me cry.

And then there's my doctor. A woman. Who listened for an hour and a half to the tragedy I've put up with for the last eleven years, since my mom died, through six surgeries and the death of Dave's mom, and Reesie's quirky birth, and Dave's knee blowout and year out of work, to how I've been unable to get a good grip after Daney's seizures last winter. To how I'd had enough.

Things are changing, getting better. I'm working on it.

This is an honest blog. A place you might not always find a deep belly laugh, but a place where you will find reality, however that exists in cyberspace. And there's someone here to tell it like it is, the good and the bad, and to spill it all with a woman's heart.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Doctors and B.A.s

It seems like it'd be a crazy thing, my addiction to "Inked," A&E's reality show based on Hart and Huntington Tattoo Company, the first tattoo shop to open in a Las Vegas casino.

I mean, the "body artists" and the "receptionists" are fooling around with squirt bottles one minute, and at each other's inked throats the next.

There are catfights and hook ups and a lot of drinking...out of coffee cups. Oh, and there's some tattooing.

This show makes me sentimental. It reminds me of my (short lived) PhD program at Northern Arizona University, where the bottom line was totally the same. Where both are the centers of their universes. The people involved are the most important people, as is the dialogue, and the day-to-day goings on, not to mention the mission.

Both worlds take themselves very seriously.

They have no idea the other, or any other, exists.

When I watch "Inked," I relive my doctoral days, relieved to have left them behind. And speaking of "behind," thanks to the show, I'm thinking about getting a little monarch butterfly...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


burst along the path where I used to push my babies. The three would stick out their chubby little fists and pick the blackest berries, staining themselves silly.

It's a new season, now. A new crop. I run the path alone, while my big kids sleep in.

But just to remember, I pluck off a berry and it rolls on my tongue for a second, and I close my eyes and taste those sweet days of yesterday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Divided Attention

This summer, I've realized that:

One of our kids is "watch me! watch me!"

Another is the one we have to be watching.

And the third is the one we want to watch, but can't, because we're watching the other two.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Place Winner!

It's the day after the day I decided to retire from writing, when I hear from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association that my adult short story, Bakersfield Baptism, won first place in the 2009 Literary Contest.

I thought it didn't have a chance.

It's the only adult piece I've ever written. And I didn't make it to the awards ceremony two weeks ago; instead, I went to my cousin's beautiful wedding, where she invited me to read a piece of magic from The Alchemist, and where two of my three kids threw up on me.

But Bakersfield Baptism had power. I knew it. It's a camouflaged personal story: How could a woman ever live with the loss of her child, if there were anything she could do to prevent it? What would be her vessel for forgiveness?

The two critiquers raved about the 14-page story. One was really, truly, deeply affected.

Before I had sent it in, I read it aloud one more time. To Dominic. Who cried. This writing stuff is tricky. Not the writing exactly, but all the other stuff.

Look for a sign, I told myself in bed last night.

And here it is.

Now I need to think about what it means, and what to do with it.

Thank you, PNWA, for the hope. For giving Gracie Mae a living chance. I love you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The End of the California Dream

So I'm driving near Sacramento with my dad last night and we're getting all kinds of honked at and flipped off for going slow or not gunning it right as the stop light turns green, when I tell my dad that California has completely lost its sense of humor.

I mean, when did the surfers and skiers start taking themselves so seriously here?

All these folks in their designer sunglasses and their mammoth SUVs are scuttling along frantically to get to their tanning appointments and personal trainers and their kids' Kumon classes. They're checking their watches and furrowing their brows and tapping their horns, with one foot on the break and the other on the accelerator.

They are definitely not smiling.

It has to be the recession.

Sure, these former affluenzics have had to trade in their boats to make the mortgage. And due to furloughs, their summer vacations are drearily extended. Retail is almost non-existent. Plus, the construction industry has all but died, minimizing the good times at PF Changs and all but extinguishing trips to Puerto Vallerta.

But the folks here are still alive. Their kids are healthy. And the plastic surgeons' doors are wide open.

The one great thing about California, I told my dad in the middle of 7 PM traffic, used to be its ability to laugh at itself. Hollywood had shown the world that we were silly and we knew it. We were anything but hypocritical.

Before my dad could say anything back, though, a big black Escalade with a "Greenpeace" bumper sticker laid on its horn , then cut us off.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gatsby-ing It

Lizards and manzanita and red dirt mean only one thing: desert!

And everyone here in California has a pool. So the kids and I have been pool-hopping!

We're having a good time. And we're getting tired and tan.

Reunion's tonight. Am hoping for more of a glamor than troll look.

Watch me do a triple flip off this diving board!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Second Best

All the fun people are packing for L.A.

I'm not going, because it's my 20th high school reunion (shout out to all Falcons!).

But when Dave laid out his fire and contracting schedules the other day, I crammed the kids in the car and we headed for Sacramento.

First stop: the Lego exhibit at Turtle Bay aquarium and museum in Redding. I'll tell you, that Nathan Sawaya is a real artist of The Brick!

Since we were the only ones there, (everyone else must've been in the Sue dinosaur exhibit we'd seen in Portland), the guide gave us a personal tour. He showed us the optical illusions: an eye in the middle of some Lego people, and the word "Tomorrow" written sideways into a computer screen.

After that, we hit up the Lego-building classroom. For two hours. Dominic left behind his signature pirate skeleton skull, Daney made a chair, Rees had a space craft going on, and I put together a frog face.

Then we checked out the butterfly room. Instead of celebrating the thousands of winged creatures around us, my two littles were inconsolable over one dying moth.

So we drove to Auburn, where we checked out the limit--50 library books (hee hee, I've kept my card all these years!) And after belting out a few rounds of Rock Band with my brother, Mac, my sister, Amy, and her daughter, we hit the hay, Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" playing for eight straight hours through my dreams...

All this, not quite as fun as mixing with the YA heroes in L.A. But way better than scrambling up eggs for three starving kids all day. For sure.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Over the weekend, I had the chance to see the world through the eyes of a 17 year-old boy.

My brother was here for a wedding, and he and I hung out a lot. We took walks, got coffee, and spent a half-day lounging around, discussing the meaning of life.

This is a boy who, like his friends, snowboards and mountain bikes and watches "The Office" and has four more months before deciding where to apply to college.

But unlike his friends, this boy has no mom. He hasn't since the week before his sixth birthday.

And yet, he is wise beyond belief. Inquisitive. Deep.

He's wondering if he and his girlfriend will stay together when he moves south in a year. He's worrying about finding purpose.

He's comparing himself to his older brothers, and asking himself if he stacks up.

It was refreshing to see that after this young person was unplugged--from satellite TV, from his X-box, from his cell phone and his iPod--there was a soul-searching, free-thinking human with a calling for compassion.

He wants to be happy, and to live his most meaningful life.

And he's doing just that. A novel in the making.