Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I "re-loaded" my Peet's card last week, and by doing so, earned "1 free beverage of my choice."

Hmmmm.... I thought, should really take advantage of that, get like a $4.00 drink, make that whole free thing work for me.

If you knew how much time I spent planning my free drink, you'd be embarrassed for me.

Finally, the big day arrived. I walked into Peet's, took hold of my card, and ordered....

1 small house coffee with room for cream.

That's what I wanted.

I got just what I wanted, for free.


Now I'm chuckling to myself about how metaphorical that is for life. We think we want BIG, when really, small is nice. We think we want FANCY, when really, simple is lovely. We think we want the moon, when really, well, you get it.

If we knew how little we actually WANTED, we wouldn't be so afraid to ask for it!

I believe we are supposed to have all we want and need, the problem is we're so conditioned that having any wants at all is just plain wrong. The only thing that's just plain wrong, is that way of thinking. I think.

Go ahead, ask away! What do you WANT? Be careful not to ask in negatives, or you'll keep getting what you don't want. For example, instead of saying, "I want out of debt" (which in turn brings more debt, because debt is the negative upon which you dwell) say, "I want financial abundance." It's OK to want abundance, really! The voices in your head that say otherwise, are old tapes that are not useful! Erase those tapes! Tape over them! Play new tapes in your head that say, "I want_____________" then picture yourself (visualize) yourself having that. Watch how things recalibrate to bring that to you. Go ahead. Give it a shot.

What do you want?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

AHEM! WHO has Africa?

This song is stuck in my head, again. I love this song, fortunately, 'cause it looks like it's going to be rattling around up there for awhile. I've been thinking a lot about changes, and this song speaks to that for me. Nobody likes change, nobody. Change is hard. Change is scary. Change is disarming. Change changes things, and we, the humans, like some semblance of control.

This human too.

Control. Love it. Trying to let go of it, completely.


F'ing hard.

I know that I am changing, and that is hard, too. Hard for me, and hard for the people that love me. I don't know where I'm going, only that I'm going. I don't know how I'm going to get there, only that I will. I don't know how things will be when I get wherever it is I am going, however it is I am getting there, only that they will be different.

Different = changed.

Different = bad? good? just different?

I've never had less "control" over my life, yet, less fear. I feel in alignment with "things", be they/it God, the universe, my soul's journey, what-have-you. It feels great this not knowing yet knowing, this journey without a map. It does not feel scary, but I know it is scaring the people around me, it's changing dynamics, it's upsetting the norm, it is highly unpredictable and yet to me, feels like something I can count on.

Is this making any sense?

I was raised with religion. I was taught God had a plan for our lives, and it was our job to follow that plan. Whatever God wanted for me, I was supposed to do that. It scared the shit out of me. I just knew the Big Guy wanted me to do icky things, so there was no way I was saying yes to that. I knew that He'd stick me in some isolated location with intolerable heat and bugs and have me starve, just to complete some plan He had for me. It never occurred to me once, not once, that His plan might be something I liked, something I might actually LOVE and be GOOD at!

Well, me and the Big Guy/Universe/Spirit/Higher Power are finally getting our stories straight. Turns out, my saying "yes" has opened a whole lot more doors than it's closed. AND, guess what? No isolated jungle with intolerable heat and bugs! (Does NYC count?)

Change doesn't have to be as hard as it so often is, it's our resistance to change that makes it hard. Often, things we are holding on to so tightly, aren't all they're cracked up to be, but they are familiar. They are family, we "know" them.

My new best friend, Katie Hnida was on Larry King Live tonight. She spoke about not knowing what the next chapter of her life would be, but that she was open to all possibilities. We may not all be 5' 10", gorgeous natural blondes that graduate cum laude from college while playing Division I football, BUT, we all have possibilities that we haven't even begun to conceive. We are only limited by our own self-doubt. I don't know who said it, and it probably doesn't even go like this, but I THINK someone super famous said, "If you want to doubt yourself, doubt your limits."


"The Circle Game", Joni Mitchell

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you're older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
Were captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won't be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
Were captive on the carousel of time
We cant return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
Were captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

I've had a recurring nightmare my whole life... I re-discover a room in my house, or a closet or attic, that I'd totally forgotten about. Inside that space are kittens, nearly dead, I'd forgotten to feed or care for them, and had I not found them at that exact moment, they would have died.

A few nights ago, my last night in New York, actually, I found the kittens again. This time they were curled up in the comforter on my bed, and when I stretched the comforter up to my neck, they rolled out. They were furry and healthy, vibrant and alive. In the dream two of the kittens looked "normal", but one had the face of an owl. Even in the dream I was aware that owls represent wisdom, and this was one cool cat.

Since any dream therapist worth their salt will tell you you are ALL the characters/creatures in your dreams, I've always wondered what was up with me and the damn kitties. No question about it, when I've had the "nearly dead" dreams, I've been at my lowest points, completely negligent of caring for myself. I am certainly taking care of myself better now than I ever have, so happy, happy, happy that my kitties are showing up healthy!

Thanksgiving at my sister-in-laws, we all look out her French doors at the mama cat and her two grown "babies".

"They're wild," my sister-in-law tells us.

"They don't like to be touched, petted, or be enclosed in any way. If I just put food and water out, they're happy. They take care of the rest. They stick together, keep each other warm."

I look over the mama and her babies, all the same size now, but two clearly younger than the other. Two put their faces right up near the window for me to see, one is elusive. That's the one upon whom all my attention focuses.

A glimpse, that's all the kitty gives me, but it's enough. No doubt about it. The face? That of an owl.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


10. The newspaper today was as thick as the Sunday paper, with all those ads.
9. I think while all of those people are out shopping tomorrow, I'l just enjoy staying home.
8. That button on the turkey already popped, and it can't possibly be done!
7. My mother used to serve creamed onions every year, and she was the only one that ate them.
6. I hope you all brought your Tupperware, there are going to be lots of leftovers!
5. The stores are all decorated for Christmas already.
4. That's enought salt, Papa!
3. This time we're having real butter!
2. I'm so full I couldn't eat another bite.
1. Who's ready for pie?


10. I am not at all happy that that democrat got re-elected as our governor.
9. What is going on with all these meth labes? Do you realize the long-term implications of this epidemic?
8. There is a real spiritual deficit in this country. Did you know that Macy's won't even let their employees say, "Merry
Christmas" now? They have to say, "Happy Holidays."
7. Everywhere I go there are these gambing places disguised as coffee shops. I thought we were keeping all this
gambling withing the Indian reservations to create jobs and help these poor people make something of their lives!
6. I am calling the cable company on Monday and cancelling my subscription. Have you seen the rates? They just keep
going up, while the quality of porgrammiing just keeps going down.
5. Who wants to call ________________ and wish them a happy Thanksgiving? I'm sure they are lonely and thinking of all of
us while they are in rehab.
4. I can never eat enough to make it worth all the trouble of cooking a big Thanksgiving meal. Even if I could, who can
enjoy eating knowthing that one third of the world goes to bed hungry every night!
3. Oh no, no salt for me! You know I have terrible blood pressure! I never salt anything, haven't for years! Of course,
I do love my chips!
2. I'm so full I can't eat another bite.
1. Pie? I'm ready for pie! Just a sliver though!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I've heard it three times now, from three different souces, so it MUST be true, daughters are meant to live out the drama of their mothers' subconscious, to implement their dreams.

Well, geez, that's scary!

I see it though, that's exactly what I am doing, and what an astrologer read in my chart, I am not only living out my dreams, but those of my mother and grandmother. My writing, my working with other women in community, to bring about greater good for women everywhere.

What will happen if I live out every last drama of my own subconscious?

What if I implement every last of my own dreams?

What will MY daughter do?

I hope to live long enough to see those questions answered for myself...

Monday, November 20, 2006


SO sorry I've been mis-spelling your beautiful name, you beautiful city you! Thanks to an astute reader, my mistake was brought to my attention.

I hope you'll give me another chance, Manhattan. You are fabulous and I plan to walk your streets again ASAP! Can we be still be friends?

Love and kisses,
Fully Caffeinated

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Can't even believe the last few days, I'm sure I'll be processing them for months, years, ever. We've been on the go, non-stop, meeting incredible women doing incredible things, after experiencing incredible trauma.

We've been partaking in what is called an "Urban Retreat" run by the Joyful Heart Foundation. A foundation devoted to the healing of women, survivors of sexual trauma, mind, body and spirit. The foundation began in 2002 by Emmy Award Winning, Mariska Hargitay. Yesterday she came in to speak to the group, bringing her young son, August with her. She has a commanding presence, to say the least, and an inspirational speaker and woman.

Today I spent time talking to a young woman with a memoir coming out next week, the amazing and role model worthy, Katie Hnida. She is the first woman to play Division I college football, as a kicker. Her book is aptly named, Still Kicking. You must RUN, not walk to your nearest bookstore on November 28th. She is just a bright and shining example of someone that has defied the odds.

The women that came to this retreat have been through hell. They are all working hard to pull themselves out from the depths of that hell, and reach towards the light. So hard to do, so brave of them to be on their journey, so much community between them, just knowing they are not alone on their path. I stand in awe.

Tomorrow I fly back to Portland. On Thursday I will share Thanksgiving with a loving extended family. I have so much renewed gratitude after this weekend. So much to be thankful for, so much to reach towards, so much to strive for, so much to learn.

Thank you to all of my teachers. I am thankful you have let me walk partway on your journey with you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


OK, posted my early morning piece before anyone in my family got up, then started feeling bad. I was too hard on these people. My family was no "crazier" than an other...

"MOM! It is 7:14! I am going to poop at 7:15! Don't forget! Wake me up at 7:15! I will be hiding under my bed, so look for me there at 7:15! Don't forget!"

The Pink Panther theme song crosses with "The Entertainer", and humming, leg kicking from under the bed ensue.

The next fifteen minutes we have a running monologue about what time it is. His watch is "funky", he thought it was waterproof, but ah, guess not. Could I fix it? Could I find his other two watches from wherever they are in the house? Could I find his small "clock" (calculator), 'cause he really needs to play basketball, "don't forget." How many baby wipes are in that newly opened package? 80? He wants to "smell". "Smells like 82," he argues. Legs swing from the breakfast bar, bang, bang, banging into the counter. The time is announced every two seconds in a voice he's borrowed from Lois (Malcolm in the Middle.) Toast is being made per his request, he wants "six", so the two I've made are each tri-cut. Not enough garlic salt, try again, oh, now too much, start over. Now he wants water with ice, five pieces of ice. "Did anyone drink from this already?" he asks about the cup I've just pulled from the cupboard. Oops, gotta jump off the bar stool and close the bathroom door. The bathroom doors must be closed at ALL times, don't you know? The pantry doors must be OPEN at all times. When will I remember? What time is it on my watch? Same time as on your watch. Show me, don't forget....

Ding, dong, we both run to the door, he with his greasy toast hands lock the unlocked door, blocking my way to open it for the phone repair guy. Phone repair guy doesn't find any problem with our line, must be the phone.

Ring, ring, ring, phone that hasn't been working starts to work, just to prove me wrong, Rojo asks me who is calling while I am fifteen feet from the pre-answered phone. "I don't know," I answer. "But who is CALLING?" he re-asks, exasperated with me.

Daughter is up, she wants two eggs "really" scrambled. She has re-takes today. She's not happy. Why did everyone lose her pictures the first time? Those were CUTE, now she has a cold and her nose must have grown overnight, because today it is HUGE and her picture will look ugly, and everyone will see it in the yearbook, and it's not even her fault because someone else is so stupid they lost her first set.

Husband wants to talk about a business deal he's been working on for years. Wants to re-hash it. Wants to go through the entire thing, from the top, again. Now, please.

Internet is not working. Comcast says it is. Computers say it isn't. Could I please figure that out so he can check his e-mail?

Ding dong, phone guy is back, Rojo re-locks the unlocked door again, more butter and crumbs covering the doorknob.

Time for school! Get dressed! Brush teeth! Let's go, let's go!

"Mom! I'm skating!"

"Yea, you're skating. Take the hat off your feet and put your shoes on, please."

"But Mom! I'm skating!"

"MOM! I am going to look ugly for my re-takes!"

"Care! The internet is still not working!"

Ring, ring, broken phone rings perfectly, phone man doesn't understand it.

In other words, just another day in paradise!

Just finished (literally, 2 seconds ago) Laurie Fox's novel/memoir, My Sister from the Black Lagoon. For anyone wondering what it's like to live in a family with mental illness, this is the book for you. When one member of the family is "crazy", the whole family becomes crazy. If you imagine the family unit being a mobile, the crazy person hanging from that mobile is constantly upsetting the delicate balance, and everyone else hanging from the mobile is constantly re-adjusting. Constantly.

OK, now imagine that there's a mobile and three out of four people hanging from it are crazy. It is even possible for the fourth to stay sane? How can they possibly? And then there's the chicken and the egg question. Which came first?

It's been my experience that when dealing with crazies, the ones that are really good, make you think you're the crazy one. Oldest trick in the book.

Having lived with more insane people than I can shake a stick at, I consider myself somewhat of an expert. That is to say, I'm an expert at living WITH insanity. What I am no good at all, is living with SANITY. Not so helpful, as I have come to find out, such people really exist!

I was talking about all of this with my sweet, sweet friend yesterday. She said she recently had an "Aha!" moment when dealing with her daughter that is managing OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

"I get what you've been trying to tell me all these years," she said. "The circular thinking. The DRAGGING you into their OCD head and insisting you go around and around and around with them, stopping briefly, then starting the whole routiine again. It's crazy-making!"

I'm saying.

Another friend and I rely upon a visual demonstration when talking about the nuts in our lives.

"I love you... over THERE," we say, as we hold our arms in front of us, forming a circle. With the words, "over there," we fling our pointer finger dramatically, way, way, way far away.

Am I mean? Intolerant? Crazier than all of them combined? Ruthless and politically incorrect for even talking about this with words like "crazy" and "nuts"? I don't have the foggiest, all this talk is making me, well, you know...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


My husband and friends tease me, because everywhere I go I make a new best friend (NBF). It is common place for me to walk into Starbucks, Peet's, the grocery store, wherever, and come back out with a NBF. People are fascinating, don't you think? Everyone has a story, and most would love to share it with someone.

Yesterday I was at the store bying a ream of paper. The guy behind me in line says, "So, you gonna print out your novel on that and make a lot of money?"

"Yes! As a matter of fact, I am. But it's not a novel I'm writing, it's non-fiction."

"Oh yea? What's YOURS?"

"Mine is memoir."

"Well, MINE is blah, blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda..."

I'd still be standing there now if he'd had his way.

While on my get-away with my husband, I ducked into a crowded coffee shop to grab the essential 1:00 PM latte, and he waited outside for me. I was in there forever, and while it WAS crowded, I was still in there forever. When I came out with my latte and a funny looking napkin, he said, "So, what were you doing in there so long, talking to your NBF?"

"Yes! "

This NBF was named Mark. Mark is 85, plus, immaculately dresssed, tie, sweater vest, slacks, polished shoes, a hat resting on the table. He kept making eye contact with me while I stood in line, and then just before I walked out, he approached me and said, "Do you mind if I tell you a story? It's a short story."

"Great! Tell me a story!"

He put his gnarled hand on my shoulder, looked at me with his soul-filled eyes and said, "May the saddest days of your future... Be no worse than the happiest days of your past!"

"I just thought you'd enjoy that, " Mark said. "I wrote it down for you on this napkin. It's Irish. Have a great day."

Well, Mark, I did have a great day, and I still have that napkin. It's pinned to my bulletin board next to my desk where I write. I plan to live out that Irish blessing, fully. Full of love, period. Full of peace. Full of compassion. Fully caffeinated.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

FYI - A Velvet Hammer with whip is not kinky, but since some of my favorite bloggers have put nasty images in my head, I can't think of it as anything else! Just wanted to say, "Thanks! " Not like I didn't have enough troubling images in this brain of mine!

Friday, November 10, 2006


We're back, unloading the car, listening to messages, opening mail, trying to keep that lovin' feeling alive through the re-entry process...

Why is it so much easier to be in love when you're not home? Everywhere I turn there is something needing my attention. Some merely whisper, some are much more vocal, i.e., "A" and "B", as my husband calls our children.

Within two minutes of our arrival we are both literally gasping for air, our children having sucked it all out of the room with their demands to look and listen, simultaneously and in stereo.

Enjoying our last supper together before coming home, I asked my husband, "Which one of us will crack first, and when?"

"You'll crack first. You'll get through tonight OK, but by 5:00 PM on Saturday, you'll be toast."

He's probably right, but I still hate him for thinking he's able to handle more than me.

We LOVE our children. We WANTED these children. There isn't anything in the whole entire world we wouldn't do for these two precious human beings, but geez Louise, they are just so damn unrelenting with their needs! UN-F'ING-RELENTING. Without relent! Relent-less! I just need a little more relenting, and a whole lot less of the "un"!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Line? What Line?

My husband and I are on our get-away, and I had no intention of blogging while away, but he did something "so him", it just begs to be blogged, and he knows it. In fact, moments after he pulled a "classic", he said, "You're gonna blog this, aren't you!" Can you spell rhetorical?

We drop off the last load of Rojo's things at my mom's, and have barely shut the car doors and he turns to me sweetly and says, "So, Love, we're off. Just us. What do you want to do first?"

"First I want to drive through Coffee People and get a Velvet Hammer with whip for the road. I've been thinking and dreaming about it for days."

"What happens if it's not Coffee People?"

"Well, I guess it doesn't HAVE to be Coffee People, Starbucks would be fine, but it's really a Velvet Hammer I'm dying for, so I'd prefer Coffee People. There are three with drive-thrus right on our way out of town."

"What happens if you have to go in?"

That did it. I called hiim on his s&^%.

"You don't even CARE, you just like to bug me! Wherever the line is that I draw in the sand, you've ALWAYS gotta put one toe over, look at me with that s&^* eating grin of yours, and see what I'll do!"

He started to belly laugh. He was busted and he knew it. You'd think I'd be hip to his hop by now, but he still catches me off guard. Twenty one years with this man. Twenty one LONG years.

We enjoy the rest of the day together and arrive at our hotel a few hours later.

We park near the sign that says "Valet Parking.'

"OK," I say, "here's the deal. Please don't buck the well-established system of hotel management. Please allow the valet to park our car. Please allow the bellhop to take our luggage. Please allow these people to do their jobs, and allow me to tip them accordingly. Please do not let your hang-ups with tipping make this stressful for me. Just go with the flow, PLEASE!"

We go into the hotel, I register, get the directions on where our car will be, and turn to my husband.

Listening from the side he decides he's got a better idea. This hotel doesn't know what they're doing. Why go through all that when we can just park our own car and carry our own luggage to the room?

I fume.

"Don't argue with me," he says.

I seethe.

I overload myself with all our luggage, needing to over-emphasize the burden he has placed on me.

"This is EXACTLY what I was trying to avoid! This is EXACTLY what I didn't want to have happen! This is EXACTLY why I had the little pep talk with you! Why must you buck EVERY F'ING THING????"

"I'm sorry," he says, "you're right." His words a balm. I can count on one hand the amount of times I've heard my favorite sentence in the world.

"I'll go fifteen more years with you, then I'm going to need to re-evaluate!" I answer.

He knows he's forgiven. He knows he is loved. He knows I couldn't be married to anyone but him. He knows I couldn't stand being with someone that wasn't fiesty and difficult. He knows I'm as stuck with him, as he is with me, two people that drive each other stark-raving mad, always have, always will, and wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Q: Why is your spacing all goofy on your posts? Back and forth between double and single spaced, what is up with that?
A: No idea. A computer ghost?
Q: When are you going to learn to add pictures and other fun things to your (boring) posts?
A: Soon! My blog is getting a make-over! My address may change, but my faithful readers will not be left without good directions to the new one!
Q: Still don't have any readers in Africa?
A: Still! Hey, you faithful readers, what can you do about that? I am DESPERATE to get Africa! I can't concentrate on all the continents that love me, I'm obcessed with the one that doesn't!
Q: When you and your husband go away, how are you planning to cope with the caffeine/Wi-Fi double addiction?
A: Priorities! I made sure when booking our hotel room that it has both Wi-Fi and easy/frequent access to GOOD coffee. Check, check!
Some of you asked for more, so here goes...

I thought the “fight or flight response” was just the normal way people felt, every day, all day long, their entire lives. The gun to the head, hurry, hurry, hurry, panic feeling was my regular mode of operation. Looking over my shoulder, obsessively, for danger, walking on eggshells, always, I don’t remember a time in my life that that wasn’t “just me”.

Motherhood only exacerbated my natural tendencies. By the time I was a mother of a toddler and an infant, the infant being high, high needs, the toddler being, well, a typical toddler, I was running on nothing but adrenaline. Knowing alcohol was a slippery slope for me, genetically, I preferred to remain in my constant state of high-anxiety, than to try to self-medicate.

Year after year of this state began taking a toll on my health. I developed “issues”, we’ll save for another post, the point was I knew I couldn’t live like this forever, but saw no alternative.

When my son was six and in school half-days everyday, my daughter in school full-time, my life began to calm down, dramatically. I didn’t know what to do with this relaxed schedule, so chose to volunteer over 1,000 hours at the kids’ school that year. Had to keep that roaring fire in my belly burning on high.

I started getting weird physical symptoms, numbing in my arms and fingers, pounding heart, ringing in my ears, actually was “seeing stars”, cartoon style. I had excruciating, frequent headaches, blurred vision, nausea, etc., etc., etc. I was a mess. The more I worried about these physical symptoms, the worse they got. I was so super aware of them, they were all I could focus on.

One wintry Sunday returning from a visit to my mom’s in Sisters, Oregon, I was driving both kids home when a snowstorm hit in the mountain pass we were trying to get through. No shoulders on the road, two whited-out lanes of narrow mountain road, out of cell phone ranger, car struggling to stay in its lane due to the road conditions, I started feeling like I was having a heart attack. My son, in the backseat, sensing my panic, turned up his needs and demands a few more notches. My daughter, sensing my panic, began asking every two seconds, “Are you OK?”
“No, I am not OK,” I thought to myself, “I am going to have a heart attack, kill us all, and God knows who else, but there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it!”

Each inch bringing us closer to safety, I began to calm down a bit. We eventually made it out of the mountains and on to a highway, where at least I knew I could pull over if I had to.

“I’ll get us to Salem, then I’ll drive to the hospital, call and have someone come get the kids,” I told myself.

Approaching Salem, only one more hour until home, I thought, “OK I’ll just keep driving, every minute closer to Portland is that much closer to safety, and that much closer to people that can help me.”

I continued this self-talk all the way to my in-laws house. They weren’t expecting me, but I knew they’d be home.

I parked in their driveway, grabbed the kids by their hands, made it up their front steps and rang their doorbell. One look at me and my mother-in-law said, “What’s wrong?”

“I’m having chest pain, “ I whispered.

“Don! Stay with the kids, I’m taking Carrie to the hospital.”

Never had I seen this woman act so surely, so quickly, so in-charge of a situation. Never had my father-in-law been left with the kids. Never was I more grateful to not be the one in control.

My mother-in-law, Doreen, drove me the couple of miles to their neighborhood hospital. We walked into Emergency, she yelled out, “She’s having chest pains!” so uncharacteristic of her to make a scene, to demand attention.

The nurses and technicians quickly attached an EKG machine, took my pulse, my blood pressure, and had me lie down. Just knowing I was in a hospital had a tremendous calming effect. My numbness, pounding, and panic all began to subside.
The EKG determined no heart attack, nothing going on there at all. The symptoms were so real, though, how could that be possible?

The kind doctor explained that my symptoms were real, but they were not caused by my heart, I’d had a panic attack.

“But I didn’t feel panicky until the symptoms came,” I tried to reason.

“That’s how panic attacks work, “ he assured.
You felt you were going to die, then you feel the panic, not the other way around.

He released me from the hospital with the caveat that I see my doctor first thing Monday morning. My mother-in-law took me to her house, had me lie down, then when I was ready to go home, she kept the kids so I could go home to a quiet house. My husband was out-of-town, I would be alone. Alone. Just the thought of being alone brought peace.

True to my word, I saw my doctor first thing Monday morning. He told me he doubted it was anything serious, but he wanted to run some tests just in case. I wore a heart monitor for 48 hours, we did blood and urine tests, that kind of thing, before concluding that indeed, “nothing” was wrong with me.

During the time between taking the tests and waiting for the results, I researched like crazy. By the time I met with my doctor again, I had myself nicely diagnosed.

“I think I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” I announced.

“Actually, I do too. How very ‘in character’ to have come up with your own diagnosis, “ he answered.

“I know! That’s what I’m saying! It is physically impossible for me to relax, to not live in a state of heightened alert and anxiety. I’m ready to face disaster every minute of the day. Always prepared for the worst!”

We talked about all that was going on at home, and actually came up with very little. For the first time ever, things were stable. Nobody was changing jobs, we weren’t moving, I wasn’t pregnant, we were on a good groove with both kids, our marriage was actually better than it had been.

He explained to me about the psyche, and how it is not able to process all the stress it endures during the time(s) of stress, that it “waits” until things are calm enough for the mind and body to deal with it. That was what was happening to me. In a way, it was the psyche’s back-handed compliment. I was strong and ready to deal with all the times I’d been perhaps too strong and ready.

My doctor started telling me my options, I interrupted to tell him, “I already know my options. I want to try meds, the SSRIs (Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors), Paxil in particular.

He agreed that was a good place to start, and it certainly was. Although he warned I may not see positive changes for four to six weeks, I swear I felt better after the first dose. By the third day I caught myself whistling. By the third week I was able to sleep again. By the sixth week I started to forget how awful I’d felt, and to revel in how well I was feeling.

Four years later I’ve declared myself a “lifer.” My state of constant anxiety claimed 39 years of my life, it isn’t going to own one more day.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Katie is sixteen now, Bob is nineteen. Even though her curfew is 11:00, they still have plenty of time to have sex. I can’t even believe Mom and John are so dumb they don’t realize that. They really think that if she is home by 11:00, she won’t get pregnant.

They were wrong, though, Katie is pregnant. Right away Mom tells me she doesn’t think it’s Bob’s baby. For about two minutes Katie broke up with Bob and dated a guy named Jack. They both worked at Sears in the shoe department. Apparently they did more than help ladies find shoes that fit.

Katie and Bob make-up, she then “gets pregnant”, and next thing you know Bob and Katie are married. Katie has no job, no high school, but a baby coming. She belongs in Prineville.

One kid turns into two and shortly after that Katie leaves Bob. She’s moved on, he’s not enough man for her.

Katie eventually takes off, no one knows where she is. She leaves both girls with Bob and his new wife and their two boys. Nobody knows if Bob realizes only one of these girls is his. Nobody wants to take the chance that he might not raise someone else’s child.

Katie has another daughter, we hear, nobody knows who her father is. Nobody actually knows where Katie is. What we do know is Bob isn’t the one we should have all been worried about all those years ago. Bob raises Katie’s daughter, their daughter, and his two boys with his wife. He and that wife of his stay together for years and years, and provide a stable, loving home for all the kids, while Katie is God-knows-where, doing God-knows-what, with God-knows-who.


My mom calls, John has died. They’ve been divorced for years, but Mom still keeps in touch with Lori. She knew he was in the hospital, no surprise that he died. The only surprise is he didn’t die years ago with all the drugs he took and mixed together.

“Will you go to the funeral with me?” she pleads.

Of course I will. That’s the only reason I’m here, right? To support you?

Bob comes to the funeral. He looks much the same way he did nearly 30 years ago, but he is softer, more handsome, more smiley, more self-confident. He has all three of Katie’s daughters with him. Don’t know how or when the third one got dumped on him, but no surprise that she did.

This daughter, this now fifteen-year-old girl, Jordan, looks exactly like her mom did at that age. Exactly. Same heavy eye make-up, same dangly earrings, same dirty blond hair, same blue eyes. In those blue eyes of hers is the same hesitant look, the same “I’m not a child. I’m fully grown-up. I know more than I should” look.
I grab Bob after the service and I tell him how sorry I am that we all judged him so harshly, so wrongly. I tell Bob that John should have kissed the ground he walked on, that really, he was the best thing that ever happened to Katie, the only one she could really count on.

Bob smiles, blushes, thanks me.

“You know, we think Katie is dead. We can’t call her ‘dead’, though, there isn’t a body yet. We’re pretty sure the last guy she was with murdered her. That’s why I’ve got Jordan.”

I look over to where Jordan is standing, alone, looking like she’d rather be anywhere but here. I walk towards her, right hand extended.

“Hi, I’m Carrie. Your dad said I should come over and meet you.”

Eyes raise slightly from their focus on the floor.

I guess that means we’ve officially met.

Another exerpt from the memoir... this is the first part of "KATIE", the rest is coming!


“Hi, I’m Carrie. Your dad told me to come in and meet you.”

Slightly lifting her eyes from TV to me, I guess that means we’ve officially met.

I thought John was rich, and I was right. Katie has everything in her room, her own TV, own phone, own stereo. It’s just Katie and her dad living in the townhouse. Katie hates her mom and won’t even talk to her. She loves her dad, John. They are a pair that go together. When Mom marries John in a few months, she will be getting Katie, too. We all will, like it or not.

Even though I’ve always wanted an older sister, Katie isn’t really what I had in mind. We look enough alike to pass as sisters, both dirty blondes, blue eyed. As far as I can tell, that’s all we have in common. Only eighteen months older than me, she seems like she’s twenty, at least. Her eyes wear heavy make-up, her ears are pierced with long earrings dangling down way past the lobe. Nothing about her room says, “I am fifteen,” it all says, “I am all grown-up.” There are no posters on the wall, no teenage decorations. It is the room of a grown-up with a serious boyfriend. There are pictures of Bob everywhere.

My mom and John hate Bob, and are hoping that they can break them up, I’ve heard them talking. Bob is eighteen and a high school drop-out. He has some “dead-end” job, no ambition, and John and my mom are sure he is having sex with Katie. John even has thought of suing Bob for statutory rape, since Bob is technically and adult, and Katie is only fifteen. My mom is trying to let John handle the Katie and Bob thing as long as possible, she’s not ready to take-on Katie any sooner than she has to. Me neither.

Besides Katie there is Matt and Lori, John’s two older kids. We know for sure Matt won’t be living with us when Mom and John get married, he’s already living with some loser girlfriend in a trailer park somewhere. Matt’s been in and out of jail, and John’s given up on him, Mom says.

Lori is the one we don’t know about. We are getting a big house, six bedrooms, one will be an office for Mom and John, right next to their bedroom downstairs, and four will be upstairs for Mike, my brother, me, Katie and maybe Lori. Lori is nineteen, so she can really do whatever she wants to do, and right now she thinks she’d rather live with a guy named Rick in a trailer home. Not the same trailer home her brother Matt lives in, a whole different one. Two out of three kids of John’s living with people they are not married to, in trailer homes, is not something Johm is proud of. If you ask me, it’s only a matter of time until Katie and Bob move into a trailer home, too, but nobody’s asking me.

Nobody ever asks me, they just tell.

By the time the wedding is over in March, and we finish school in Prineville in June, it is time for Mom, Mike and me to move back to Eugene, where our dad and old friends still live. We’re happy to see our old friends, not so happy about being closer to Dad. It’ll be way harder to avoid him in the same city. Being three hours away is about the only thing nice I can say about Prineville.

“Prineville is just not your cup of tea,” Mom tells me. The question for me is, how could it be anybody’s cup of anything? There is not one good thing about Prineville. Not one good thing. In Prineville we are poor, Mom works all the time, I have to babysit Mike everyday after school because he is only in elementary school, and I’m in Junior High. I have to ride my bike everywhere I need to go, Mom never gives me a ride, and even if it is raining or freezing cold outside, I am stuck on my stupid, ugly bike.

I am good in school, all A’s, and have a few decent friends, but they aren’t real friends, they don’t really know me, or seem to even try to get to know me. Every kid in Prineville is “going with” some other kid. They start going out in fifth grade, at least, and from what I can tell, not very many of the girls make it out of high school without a baby and a husband. Then their husbands go work in the mill, or at Les Schwab, and that’s it for them. They stay in Prineville for the rest of their lives with a bunch of kids, no money, no college, no nothing. Just Prineville. Everyone thinks I am the freak for not wanting a boyfriend, for getting good grades, and for planning already for college. There is no possible way I’m ending up like these people. No possible way. If John weren’t planning to get us out of here, I’d figure out another way.

Me and Prineville, we don’t mix.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Nine years ago the renowned pediatrician and author of many books on children with special needs, Stanley Greenspan, was coming to Portland. He wanted to see Portland's "finest", the most puzzling, hard to diagnose kids. He was working with another renowned behavioral and developmental pediatrician here in Portland to coordinate his efforts. This doctor would bring him kids, the kids would be videotaped, then Greenspan and this doctor would work with a team to determine what in the hell was going on with these kids. They'd videotape these kids over months and years to mark their improvements. A study would be underway. They would use the most cutting edge therapies and the think tank of some of the finest minds, to see what they could do about these kids, that were beyond anyone else's capacity to "heal".
Ring... ring...ring...ring...
"Hello, Carrie, you don't know me, but your son has been recommended for a study..."
I nearly hung up on this man. I had no time for a "study". I had no time, nor energy, for a shower, much less anything as big-sounding as a "study". Plus, I had never heard of either of these two men, and wasn't planning on buying whatever it was they were selling.
Fast forward nine years...
Yesterday my husband and I were in this loveable doctor's office, a man we've grown to think of as a friend, a savior really. My husband and I each greyer, heavier, more wrinkled than when we all first met, but with smiles on our faces, instead of perpetual frowns and frequent use of profanity.
This doctor had a visiting pediatrician sitting in his office. He asked if we were OK having our appointment with this woman in the room. Hell, we'd been videotaped at our worst for years, we could certainly handle a gentle listener off in the corner.
As our savior filled in this young doctor, my husband and I looked at each other with an "Oh, shit!" look. For five full minutes he rattled off all the issues our son had dealt with/is dealing with. THEN he moved on to our daugher. Another five minutes and lots of fancy/scary words were thrown out.
"Presented on the 'spectrum'"
Sensory Intergration Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Debilitating anxiety
Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
Auditory Processing Disorder
Pectus Excavatum
Global Motor Planning issues
Poor muscle tone
Severe regulatory disturbances
Brain is disorganized
Mood disturbance
Communication disorders
The doctor turned to us when he was done and said, "Was that pretty accurate?"
"Yes," we both nodded, before piping in that he had articulated our "story" better than we ever could, and man, oh man, was it ever a hard one to articulate.
Last night, trying to recap the conversation at the doctor's office, my husband and I both were simply struck with how much we've been through, and how far we've come. We aren't far enough out of the woods to have the perspective this doctor has, but still far enough to see that we're sitting in a much rosier place today than we have been, ever, with our children.
Wednesday my husband and I are sneaking off for a three-day mini-vacation, early fifteenth wedding anniversary celebration. Working out the childcare for our now 10 and 12-year-old is now possible. We are finally at a point where we can both be gone, together, and feel good about "what" we are leaving behind.
What lies ahead is not as frightening, not as anxiety-ridden as it has been for so long. We are older, wiser, more skilled, and much more realistic than we were when we began this parenting odessey.
Tomorrow is promised to nobody, but next week three days are promised to "us". It's a miracle in and of itself that there's still an "us" after the constant assaults these special needs have hurled at our union.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Not sure how it got started or why, but I always know Rojo is up and ready for me to "wake him up" when his red and blue car-shaped decorative pillow leaves his bed and lands at my feet. No matter where I am in the house, he finds that pillow, then finds me, and hurls it before running back into his bed and faking sleep.
I then am to loudly pound my feet as I approach, while saying, "WHO IS AWAKE IN HERE?" Meanwhile, he continues to "fake sleep." He lies in a ball under all his covers, Mr. Magoo eyes popping out when I turn the comforter slightly back.
"What time did you wake me up?" he asks each day, while both of our eyes flick towards the digital Mickey Mouse clock on his dresser.
"5:45, " I answer.
"No, 5:46," or 5:44, always arguing a minute in either direction.
Each morning I am torn between loving this ritual, and being annoyed beyond belief for his fixation on the exact moment we are experiencing.
Maybe it's not a pillow he's throwing me, but a brick to the head to be with him, in that moment only, for what else is there?