Saturday, June 30, 2007


Not enough has been made of this one, the one with the gorgeous green eyes and even more gorgeous singing voice, Tracy Grammer. I've been fortunate enough to come to know Tracy, a bit anyway. There is much to know about her, and I look very much forward to that rich discovery. What I do know is her songs are stunning. I am particularly hooked on "Mother, I Climbed." By hooked, I mean to tell you I've listened to it, on repeat, for the last 2 hours. Yes, I take meds for that.

Bag i-Tunes and, Tracy doesn't see a dime, go straight to her website and order yourself a full meal of Tracy, Dave, Dave and Tracy, all of it.

I listened to Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer's song "Verdant Mile" a million times before finally Googling "Verdant." See how much she has to teach us? My vocabulary was even verdant* before I knew Tracy!

OK, enough already, place your orders and wait to be deeply fulfilled with what you will experience.

Tracy Grammer

Portlanders, don't miss her at "The Bite", August 27th!

*verdant \VUR-dnt\, adjective:
1. Covered with growing plants or grass; green with vegetation.
2. Green.
3. Unripe in knowledge, judgment, or experience; unsophisticated; green.

Friday, June 29, 2007


Ruth calls me every couple of days and gives me the update.

Stranded in the middle of my house, standing like an island whose only attachment to the outside world is this phone cord, I try to take in the news.

“It’s not good, it is bad, the worst. Justin has a very rare, and very hard-to-treat form of leukemia,” Ruth tells me.

Twirling the oft-twirled section of my hair, the section dividing the left from the right on my head, I continue to listen.

Ruth’s voice breaks as she talks of cord blood. She talks of lots of things that I am grateful for having no reference from which to understand.

“Michelle and Joe are staying at the Ronald McDonald House by Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. They don’t know when they’ll be able to take Justin home,” Ruth tells me one day.

Only a few short days later she calls again, “Justin is going to die,” she manages to say between sobs. “They’ve done all they can do, and still, he will die.”

Willing myself to look up from the hardwood floor on which I’m standing, and moving my eyes to the sliding glass window, I look to nature to help me take this all in.

God? What’s going on here? Is this your plan that a child will die? I don’t understand…

At two years old, this boy’s life is over. He is unconscious, cords are all that keep him alive, keep him breathing. Cords tie this family close together.

Members of their church community, parents, grandparents, siblings, in-laws, nephews, nieces, everyone is called and they all show up. Like a parade, night and day there are people holding vigil with Joe and Michelle. I am one of those people.

As my precious son is about to turn one, these parents are going to lose their son. My son is hard, but he is loving, affectionate, with a gentle soul. My son is fully healthy and alive. My “burden” with him will go on for years to come. My burden no longer seems so heavy. I realize that day that being Wil’s mother is not going to be what gets me. What would completely un-do me is if something ever happened to him. I realize that there is no other loss in the entire world, in my whole life, that would even come close to the loss of losing him. My connection, my love, my purpose on this planet is so linked with him, I know, undoubtedly, that having Wil is not a problem, it is a privilege.

Joe and Michelle’s daughter,Brianna, the four-year-old, spends time at Justin’s deathbed. Suddenly she is ready to go, leave the room, and apparently, leave the hospital entirely. She tells Aunt Teresa she wants to go outside.

Half an hour later, when Aunt Teresa and Brianna return to the vigil, Teresa tells us, hushed voice, “She wanted to go outside so she could watch Justin go up to heaven.”

Fresh sobs break the mourning, the silence, the tension. In this cold, sterile, white hospital, the only color comes from our red, red eyes.

The doctors gently urge Michelle and Joe to say their goodbyes. They tell them it is time to turn off all the machines, let him go.

While Joe and Michelle make this excruciating decision, say the unspeakable to their precious child, the crowd waits outside in hall, near the elevators.

There’s not a lot for any of us to say. Mostly we hug, cry, and stand. There are so many of us there aren’t nearly enough chairs. We lean against the blank walls, we lean against each other. We can’t stand up straight, there is only enough strength to lean.

Our bodies, poised around the elevator. Anyone landing on this floor is here to join the mass. No one dares to leave, but more continue to come. As death beckons Justin, it calls us to stay close, to not break the container holding us all together.

After several minutes? Hours? Who knows, there is no sense of time in these situations, Joe and Michelle emerge. He is gone.

Far too soon there is talk of what must happen now. Are Joe, Michelle and their one remaining child just supposed to hop in their too-big cars and drive home to Creswell, over two hours away? Are they just supposed to leave their little boy there?

The doctor is in the hall talking to Joe, “I have my truck,” Joe says, “I’ll carry him out, put him in his car seat and drive him home."

This image is more than any of us can bear and a fresh round of sobbing begins amongst those of us standing vigil.

The reality has not set in for any of us, least of all this man that didn’t stop being a father of two just because one of them died minutes ago. He is not ready to relinquish responsibility. He is not ready to make that awful drive home, alone in that truck, with his son left behind, forever.

As the doctor assures him this won’t be necessary, none of us can wrap our hands around the other possibilities.

Finally, I must tear myself away from this heartbreak and return to my life. When I hear that the funeral will be on Wil’s first birthday, I know, I know. I will be celebrating a sacred birth the day these people share in a sacred passing.

I will never again look at my story with the same eyes. I know these people would trade my story for theirs in a heartbeat. A heartbeat. My son has one, theirs does not.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I’m still trying to shake the last phone call when the next one comes.

Mom called just an hour ago to tell me her lover, Tony, has pancreatic cancer. He is going to die. The doctors have suggested Hospice, translation, the guy has less than six months to live. By the way, he doesn’t technically have a place to live, as he lives in a “5th Wheel” on his sister’s property. He’ll need to do his dying with Mom, in her house.

Sweltering on this hot, early July evening in Portland, I’ve got both kids in the bathtub, intended to both cool and cleanse, when Mom calls. Three-year-old Lucy is quite helpful when I put nearly one-year-old Wil in the tub with her. She makes sure he sits securely in his suction cup bottomed bath seat, the one he hates, but not as much if she distracts him. I wash her white blond hair, finally reaching some length at age three, when for so long is was just wisps. This further mesmerizes the hard to mesmerize Wil. If she shrieks when shampoo gets in her eyes, all the better. Hearing others squeal is one of his favorite activities.

Wil has so little hair on his big head it’s hardly worth washing, but I do. It’s got everything he’s eaten today mixed in up there, it needs to come out, it needs to come off.

Standing at the phone, a victim of its short cord and location in the center of the house, the “pressure cooker” we have named it, the pressure coming now from the other side of this conversation, 150 miles away. Now my mom needs me, too. She can’t be of help with the kids, she needs me to help her as she navigates new terrain. She is going to lose her fourth life-mate, but this time to death, not divorce. I am less than sympathetic and feel bad, but not that bad. I’ve been through so much with Mom. This one is all hers.

I see her in my head, standing in her kitchen, her mobility also limited by the length of the phone cord in her little home in Sisters. With her salt and pepper hair, cut into a perpetual “pixie,” very little make-up, a body that has never seen the inside of a gym or “worked out” ever, she has gorgeous, shapely legs and a face that defies her 66 years on this planet.
I recall the original conversation when Tony entered the picture two years ago.

“I met him in Al-Anon, but he’s a recovering alcoholic. I’m not sure why he was in Al-Anon, really.”

To pick up on YOU! He is a recovering alcoholic in need of an enabler. You’re perfect!

“I can’t find any detectable neurosis,” she prattles on.

That may be true, but I’m detecting a couple already.

“Listen, Mom,” I say in all earnestness, “if you are happy, I’m happy. I can’t go another round with you, however. I do not wish to meet him. I do not need to meet his family. I don’t care about his kids. I don’t want to know when his birthday is. I do not want to spend holidays with him. I choose to let this be between you and Tony. I am not getting involved.”

After the last two divorces and a couple of questionable boyfriends, I feel I have more than earned this right to forfeit attachment.

When the call comes tonight I stand on my original platform. I’m “out.” I have nothing left to give to her; there is simply no more of me she can ask. That doesn’t stop the asking, but it shuts down the giving on my part, from that phone call forward.


With the kids out of the tub and watching a “Thomas the Tank Engine” video, the phone rings again. It is the other Ruth in my life. There are two. Both are mothers to me. One is technically my mother, but that role has been reversed for 34 years. The other Ruth is my high school, college and life friend, Ruth. With a much better head on her shoulders and steady, consistent behavior and advice, this Ruth is my preferred mother. She is not a taker, she is a giver. She is not needy and guilt-slinging. There are no hidden agendas with this one. There is no “projection,” nothing that this Ruth says to me is really all about her. Talking to this Ruth is the antidote to talking to the other one.

Ironically this Ruth also has salt and pepper hair, having begun her graying process in high school, rightfully earning the nickname “Mom” by all her friends, especially me. Ruth was everyone’s designated driver, “D.D.” being her other nickname. Tall and steady as an oak, this Ruth has a vast reservoir of sage advice and the capacity to listen without judgment. She is worth her 145 lbs. in gold.

This Ruth has another thing in common with my mom. She is from a family of eight. Where my mom is one of two girls with six brothers, Ruth’s family has the opposite. Ruth has two brothers and five sisters. With that many siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, Ruth’s life is so full she has very little time for outside friendships. She teaches first grade and is raising two young daughters with the help of her amazing, and stay-at-home husband, Chris.

Most of what Ruth shares with me, and always has, is the updates on all the family members. While their lives have experienced the usual obstacles like divorce, substance abuse and serious financial problems, Ruth’s has been nothing but steady.

Tonight she is calling to tell me about her brother, Joe’s, little boy, Justin. Joe and his wife, Michelle have four-year-old Brianna, and two-year-old Justin.

“Carrie, pray for Joe and Michelle. Something’s wrong with Justin. Michelle was giving him a bath and noticed weird bruising. She took him to the doctor and they are doing all kinds of tests. They might have to go up to Portland if they can’t figure out what’s wrong, here, in Eugene. It could be bad, Carrie, it could be really bad.”

After hanging up the phone I hug and kiss my children. Nothing here is bad, really bad. I am filled with gratitude.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I spend my days writing, high in the desert of Central Oregon, surrounded by intense and active beauty. Birds of every family snack at my feeder. We've got quail, finches, blue birds, robins, hummingbirds, you name it. There are squirrels, long grey-tailed squirrels, much different looking than the ones in the valley that are brown with shorter tails. My friend, Terry, says squirrels are just rats with better outfits. I giggle each time I see the well-dressed rats run up the trees all around me.

There is a deer that comes to graze both morning and night. Right up to my kitchen window she comes, close enough to pet her, if I tried. I don't try. I am not inclined to break the agreement between us, "You don't bother me, I won't bother you." We've got a deal, and it works. This morning when I awoke she was right outside the bedroom window, resting in the early morning sun. She rests just a few feet from the yard's newest addition, the reclining Buddha. Apparently she saw he had the right idea, "Take a load off. Relax. You've got nothing but time," and she heeded his call to rest.

I resist his heed. "Relax." Why is that such an infuriating concept for me? What button is pushed deep within me that recoils at those five little letters either written or spoken? I know the answer. I find the button. Now it is my job to tease that button out until it no longer remains a button. New information and wisdom must replace well-worn tapes that still run, reel-to-reel in my stubborn mind.

The trees, mostly pine, grow in clusters. They grow tall and their trunks bend and blend together. As you look up to see where they end, over 100 feet above, you see the method to their madness. They are supporting one another up there, where the altitude gets a little too high and one might find oneself feeling faint. They've got each others' barks.

The deer, the well-dressed rats, the birds and trees all have much to tell me. I quiet myself and try to listen. I may even try to relax. There is a wind blowing through the curtains, perhaps I'll throw all caution to it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


The Harris Poll® #11, February 26, 2003

The Religious and Other Beliefs of Americans 2003

Many people believe in miracles (89%), the devil (68%), hell (69%), ghosts (51%), astrology (31%) and reincarnation (27%)

My fellow writer and friend, Kario turned me on to the Indigo Girls. Not only did she turn me on, she made me THREE amazing CDs of her favorite songs. I listen to them ad nauseum. There are so many on the mixes that sing my song, but I'm nutty cuckoo over "Galileo", nutty CUCKOO!

I've thought for years about the concept of reincarnation. When my brother married a Tibetan Buddhist I probed this belief deeply with her. For me, it makes sense. It makes a hell of lot of sense. I don't believe in hell as a place, but a state of mind, so I like to say things like "hell of a lot" just to bug.

As I dig into the joys of memoir writing, I feel ancient "stuff" coming up. It's GOT to be older/bigger than me, and if my dreams are any indication of my psyche, and I totally believe they are, they confirm this fact. Ancient symbols and stories are coming up for me dream after dream, night after night. I realize this is all a bit "woo woo", but that's OK, I AM a bit "woo woo". Being woo woo has led me to the studies of intellects that believe when a human "does the work" they are clearing the path for seven future generations, and purifying the path of seven previous generations. That's me, a little path clearer/purifier. No need to thank me, it's all part of my karma. BTW, I'm a full believer in karma, too. I define Karma as "reaping what you sow" from one life to the next. You kinda gotta go with the notion of karma if you're going to go with reincarnation, hard to pull the two apart.

Anyway, back to the Indigo Girls. Here's their great song about reincarnation. Something to chew on. If you take a bite and there isn't a speck of truth to it, spit it OUT. But if there's even the smallest taste of "aha", chew, swallow, and see what happens as you begin to digest.

GALILEO by Indigo Girls

Galileo's head was on the block
The crime was looking up for truth
And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode
I try to trace them to my youth

And then you had to bring up reincarnation
Over a couple of beers the other night
And now I'm serving time for mistakes
Made by another in another lifetime

How long 'til my soul gets it right
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light
I call on the resting soul of Galileo
King of night vision, king of insight

And then I think about my fear of motion
Which I never could explain
Some other fool across the ocean years ago
Must have crashed his little airplane

How long 'til my soul gets it right
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light
I call on the resting soul of Galileo
King of night vision, king of insight

I'm not making a joke, you know me
I take everything so seriously
If we wait for the time 'til all souls get it right
Then at least I know there'll be no nuclear annihilation
In my lifetime I'm still not right

I offer thanks to those before me
That''s all I've got to say
'cause maybe you squandered big bucks in your lifetime
Now I have to pay
But then again it feels like some sort of inspiration
To let the next life off the hook
But she'll say look what I had to overcome from my last life
I think I'll write a book

How long 'til my soul gets it right
Can any human being ever reach the highest light
Except for Galileo God rest his soul
(except for the resting soul of Galileo)
King of night vision, king of insight

How long
(till my soul gets it right)
[til we reach the highest light]
How long
('til my soul gets it right)
['til we reach the highest light]
How long

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"People who fight with other human beings out of anger, hatred, and strong emotion, even if they gain victory over their enemies in batle, are not in reality true heroes. What they are doing is slaying corpses, because human beings, being transient, will die. Whether or not these enemies die in the battle is another question, but they will die at some point. So, in reality they are slaying those already destined to die. The true hero is the one who gains victory over hatred and anger." H.H. the Dalai Lama

Gotta love ol' HH, he just f'ing NAILS it, doesn't he? This especially rings true for me as I am deep in the process of process. I am writing my memoir and anger is springing up at every turn. "Let it spring up," I tell myself, "then gain victory OVER it!" I finally "get" that by gaining victory over anger I taking back the power that those that have angered me still hold over me. It's the ultimate revenge, just like they say, living a happy life.

More than anyone else, I am discovering anger at myself. No more useful than anger directed to another, or others. Again, I am letting it spring up, "making room for it," then gaining victory over it. That's the plan, anyway.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


"It's hard to be someone else's sunshine," Kimmy Pie ( comments as we're discussing the "darkness" of one individual, and the "brightness" of another, two people caught in a swirling relationship dance.

Months later I can't get that comment out of my mind, she's so right, it's hard to be someone else's sunshine. Beyond the fact that it is hard, it's not even fair. We all know someone that is so bright and light, just thinking about them makes us feel better. We can't get close enough to them. We want what they have. We want that glow, that warmth, that light. We're willing to take theirs and make it ours. So often they are willing to give it away. They've got plenty you both agree, plenty to go around.

But really? Is there a finite amount of sunshine one has to give another? If the relationship is all give on one end, and all take on the other, won't there be a shortage inevitably? What happens when the one with all the light gets totally burned out? Who's winning then?

Obviously this issue strikes a little too close to home for me. I have only one person to blame, though, and that is myself. You can't be taken advantage of without your permission. Nobody can take what you're not willing to give.

How do you reconcile a lifetime of training that implores you to share and share alike? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Feed the hungry, tend the poor? How do you suddenly step up and decide a little selfishness is OK? A little less give and a little more take? A little less reflecting and a little more absorbing of all the sunshine?

"You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You'll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away"

What kind of bullshit children's song is that? My ONLY sunshine? What a load to put on a child! I'll never tell you I love you, and don't abandon me! Key-Rist! Quite a burden. Quite enough. May I suggest the following adjustments to the song:

I am my sunshine
My only sunshine
I make me happy
When skies are grey
I'll always know me
How much I love me
I won't give my sunshine away

I feel sunnier already.

This beautiful song runs in a continuous loop through my brain. I had the tremendous honor to hear Kate Power sing it live. I'll never forget the power of that woman's voice, so aptly named is she. This song was written for her daughter, Cathy, whom she gave up for adoption at age 18. At age 18 Cathy found Kate, and they have now been back in each others' lives as long as they were not. Mothers and daughters, daughters and mothers, tears fill my eyes just writing those words.

As I have the opportunity to really dive into the research and writing of my memoir, I see a theme emerging. A theme I didn't want to see. I thought my book would be about my evolution raising a son with special needs. The evolution of a marriage forced to be made or broken. While that is quite a story, there is a second story lying just below the surface. The business of my son's needs have made it possible, and defendable, that my daughter's needs have been made secondary. From the moment I became pregnant with HIM, my focus left HER.

The theme of "the other one" rattles around in me. I love the old expression, "Therapy is where you finally figure out it's not the parent you thought it was that you struggle with, it's the other one." So true of raising a child with special needs, too, you are FORCED to put their needs top of your list, the other child, being "typical", must assume a distant second place.

Guilt is not helpful. Mercy is. Mercy for the place she holds in the family, and the places she does not. Mercy for her brother, for truly, there but for the grace of God go she. Mercy for her mother for doing the best she could/can. Mercy for the daughter that wants more, deserves more, needs more, but there isn't "more". Mercy for herself, and myself, for knowing what we know and struggling none-the-less. Mercy. Mercy high, mercy low. Mercy me.


I can't love you more than I do
True loving's hard to explain
You've seen me through
You see through me
You see the things that I do

Mercy high, mercy low; no goodbye, just hello
Come right here, don't you go away.
Here under sky on stepping ground
Take my hand, turn around
We'll waltz up sweet memories.

I do love you more than old shoes
More than the sun on the rain
There's nobody's got somebody
The way I got you on the brain

Mercy high, mercy low; no goodbye, just hello
Come right here, don't you go away.
Here under sky on stepping ground
Take my hand, turn around
We'll waltz up sweet memoires

Hold me, let's dance together
One, two, three;
Steps break like sudden feathers
And hearts break free.

I was so wrong, you were so gone
I never got over your name
Just to lose you forever, now we're dancing together again
Come right here; don't you go away.
Here under sky on stepping ground
Take my hand, turn around
We'll waltz up sweet memoires.

Hold me, let's dance together
You lead me.
Waves break in turning weather
And hearts break free

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Dad," such a loaded word for me. For 33 years I struggled with my dad. I found dads I liked better, but one by one they died. Nobody was left to re-teach me, or rather, help me un-learn my lessons on what a dad was or wasn't.

When I first met my husband, he was unemployed, living with his parents, and had a perm. I couldn't get enough of him. I chased him for six years until I wore him down and got him to marry me. I knew, "knew" knew, he would be a wonderful father. I had only to look to his own to be further convinced. His father was everything I'd every wanted in my own; gentle, kind, loving, patient, supportive and unconditional with his love. I knew my unemployed, curly-haired boyfriend had all that in him and a little bit more.

When I first told my husband I was pregnant, he was ambivalent. He didn't feel ready. Fortunately, our daughter was born and her first year of life was pretty idyllic. "We've got this parenting thing DOWN," we both thought. "We're pretty much the best parents ever. Look how our daughter sticks to a good sleeping schedule and our lives go on with nary a hiccup."

"We want two kids, right?" my husband said to me one night.

"Right," I answered.

Nine months later we brought our son into the family.

Overnight we went from having it all under control to having nothing even resembling control. Out-of-control, chaos, disequilibrium and frenzy defined our lives.

Trial by fire, they say, and that was the story for us. It'll burn you alive or all the crap will burn away, and only the purest and strongest will remain. All that was pure and strong in my husband remained. Every single belief he held sacred, every "way" of being was challenged and put through the fire. Great wisdom and deep compassion resulted.

Today my husband and I are in the middle of a carefully coreographed passing of the baton. I have been the at-home parent for 13 years, he has been the one "out in the world." Today my husband fully appreciates which of those two jobs is considered "full-time" and which one is 24/7, 365 x 13. It is my turn. It is his turn. It is our children's turn for a new sheriff in town. The town is ready for a new sheriff, the old one has grown tired and bitter. The new sheriff is ready to shake things up. There will be some job re-shuffling, some re-organization, some things I once considered crucial will cease to make the list. Some things I felt weren't worth the effort will make their way up the list. Some things won't change at all. My husband will say what he means and mean what he says. His boundaries will remain, despite resistance. His list of non-negotiables will remain firm, yet short. His heart will remain wide and soft.

I knew my husband would make a great father. I underestimated him.

Happy Father's Day, Love.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


It is hot for this early in June. Normally the Willamette Valley doesn’t get its heat until the fifth of July, it’s almost a joke, but heat has come today, June 10th, 1996. With the heat has come its friend, humidity, adding weight to this impossibly heavy day.

Heavy within my own body, eight months pregnant, comes the oppressive pounds of now being the one to unravel the complicated tangle that is my dad’s estate. As I stand on the rolling lawn of the cemetery, one eye on the Catholic priest that we’ve asked to do the service, one eye on my toddler that wants out of Daddy’s arms and into mine, I feel as though I am the one being buried. Heavy. There is no other word to describe this day.

My young daughter’s hair blond and blowing, she struggles in my arms. There is no place for her to rest comfortably with her unborn brother already taking me farther and farther away from her.

“It’s OK, Honey, I’ve got you, “ I try to sooth.

Do I really have you? I have just become the head of my birth family. I am about to give birth again. You, my first born, is there enough of me to go around? Do I really ‘have’ you?

The breeze gives comfort to the small group gathered. After 74 years you would think a person could draw a crowd, but not this man. Of the few that are gathered here, even fewer can say they really knew him. Most of the people here are showing their support for me, for my brother, Michael, and for my mom, the wronged party.

Looking briefly from the eyes of the priest to those of the group, steady figures in my life look back. My godparents/aunt and uncle have made the long drive. My second mother, my mom’s sister is there. My closest cousin dropped everything and came down from Seattle, over five hours away. These are the same people that continued to ask about my dad long after he disappeared from their lives, my mom’s side of the family. Perhaps they, like me, believed my dad had enough humanity that he was worth respecting upon his death. Perhaps they were willing to forgive and forget all the stories of drunkenness, hostility, manipulation and abandonment they’d heard so many times. Perhaps they were just there out of duty and obligation, a guilty “must do”.

It seems wrong to wear casual sandals to your own father’s funeral. It seems wrong to be swollen and pregnant, burying a man named Wilson, carrying his grandson, Wilson. It seems wrong to see all these people that I know would rather be anywhere but here on this hot, miserable, heavy, heavy day.

Monday, June 11, 2007


“Not yet, not YET!” he yells as I see his jammied body whiz by on the way from his bedroom to the bathroom, quickly passing by my office. My computer screen tells me it’s 6:15 AM. I take my first deep, cleansing breath of the day.

The lid of the toilet bangs, indicating it is up, and so is he. Another day has begun, officially.

The toilet lid bangs back down, he flushes, jabs his fingers under the running water to pacify me, then runs the four feet back to his bedroom, grabbing the blue and red car-shaped pillow off his bed.

“There,” he says as the pillow lands on the floor next to my writing desk. “NOW you can wake me up! You cannot wake me up until I pee. I have peed, so now you can wake me up! Come and wake me up, Mom! Come and wake me up!”

I pick up the car pillow, take another big breath, and walk next door to his room.


The red, white and blue of his quilt covers the mound that is him. Fake snores come from the wiggling mass. I crawl next to him on the bottom bunk, lift the quilt from his face, and cover my nose and mouth with both hands.

“The breath! The breath! Not the breath!”

“Haaaaaaaaa” he exaggeratedly exhales.

“The breath! You’re killing me with the breath!” This time I pretend to gag.

Eyes crusty with allergies, sandy blond hair poking up from the crew cut, pushed askew from all the positions his body has been in on the bed since 8:30 last night. He sneezes twice, wiping his nose and eyes along the blue sleeve of his pajama top, leaving a white, shiny trail behind.

“Zero, blast off, one more time!” he informs me.

I put the bad breath joke through its paces until after “one more time” I lie writhing next to him, having all but died from the halitosis. He laughs so hard there is no sound. He cannot recover from laughing long enough to draw air.

“OK, OK! I am awake! Watch me get ready! Watch me put on my socks! Watch me go downstairs! Mom! Are you watching me? Don’t forget to keep watching me!”

To the stairs we go, he with the NBA pajamas, size eight on his nearly eleven year old body, the waistband still too loose and landing south of its designated part of the body.

I have on any combination of pajama bottoms and t-shirt. Different mornings, different combinations, but all mornings blur into one. My love mug in my right hand accompanies me through the rigors of our routine.

“Wait! I need to bring Sam! Sam? Where are you, Sam? Are you awake, Sam? It is time to go downstairs and have breakfast, Sam!”

Having found the pink Build-A-Bear named Sam, he is ready for the next phase of the morning routine.

“Stand behind me on the stairs, Mom. Do not go ahead of me. Wait for me, Mom. I will go down and you will follow me on the stairs. Do not go ahead of me, Mom. Wait for me.”

He sits on his bottom at the top of the stairs.

“You stand on that stair, Mom. I will go down and you will go down, but you cannot go down until I go down, OK, Mom? You will wait for me to go down, OK?”

As we descend the twelve wooden stairs together, he on his bottom, scooting down excruciatingly slowly, me impatiently standing behind him, he continues with the routine.

“Is your body awake yet, Mom?”

“Not yet, Love, not yet. My body is not all the way awake yet.”

“But you have your coffee! Why is your body not awake if you have your coffee?”

“The coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, Love.”

“When will your body be awake Mom? Will it be awake at 6:30 AM PST? Will it be awake at 9:45 AM EST? What time will your body be awake?

“It will be awake at 7:55 AM”

“But that is when I will go to school, Mom! How come your body will wake up after I go to school? Will your body wake up before I go to school? I want your body to wake up before I go to school! I want your body to wake up at 10:00 AM EST. Promise your body will wake up at 10:00 AM EST? “

“OK, I promise.”

Finally having reached the main floor, we walk together into the kitchen.

“Yea, Mom! Who is the best mom? I am so happy your body will be awake at 10:00 AM EST. Thank you for following directions, Mom! You are good at following directions, Mom! I am going to give you a star. Can I give you a star, Mom?"

Already standing before the art supplies, both cupboards flung open with a thud, knobs dinging the adjacent doors, paper pulled from the bottom of the stack, at least 20 extra pieces other than the one intended landing on the floor, he grabs a red one, his favorite color.

The 9 1/2” x 11” piece of paper soon filled with a single “A+”. The A more of an upside down V, the crossing horizontal line so high and so tiny, it hardly constitutes an A. The + sign larger than the A. There is no more room on the paper for any more commentary. His hands have done their best to indicate what his brain is telling them. This is his best.

Friday, June 08, 2007




Nothing like having a child with special needs to help you pound out what's left of your ego-driven ways.

My super athletic, super coordinated, super all American boy, husband, thought he'd have a little boy just like him someday. Well, he got one that LOOKS just like him alright. Darling dimples, same astigmatism, glasses, tall, skinny body. Problem is my husband hasn't found a sport yet he can't instantly excel in, and my nearly 11-year-old can't stand on one foot without falling to the ground.

My almost 5 foot son is still riding a bike with training wheels. The bike is TINY. We've put training wheels on a much bigger bike, but he won't touch that one with a ten foot pole. As my husband said, that's almost worse, having a full-sized bike with training wheels. So, my son continues to tool around the neigborhood on a bike intended for a toddler. My husband struggled with this up until recently, and then came to the same realization he always does eventually, "Who cares?"

As though Rojo energetically sensed his resignation, he upped the ante. He is now "The Ice Cream Truck" on his bike, and that requires that he carry my blue purse in his hands from which to distribute the ice cream.

I've cautioned my husband to resist accepting this too soon, or God only knows where it'll go from here.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


... I got the call, "Dad died."

... I drove to Eugene, 2 hours south, 8 months pregnant, toddler left with Grandma, and met with that reality.

... I took hold of the purse strings, so elusive to me for 33 years.

... I began to settle a chaotic estate, while putting my inner chaotic state on hold.

... I pushed away tears, anger, resentment, relief, and put one foot in front of the other.

... I realized grief would have to wait. I expect to start working on that grief any day now.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Been struggling lately as it's come to my attention that not one, not two, but three men I know are not happy with me at ALL. How can someone as sweet and delightful as me, stir up all this dust? "Little me", as Eckhart Tolle calls our ego-driven self, is very defensive! How dare they! They are deflecting! They have so much of their own stuff to deal with, they are dodging that in favor of attacking me! While that may be true (Little Me is convinced it is) it doesn't make the situation any prettier. The fact remains, I have inadvertantly, and with the best of intentions, hurt those men. They are hurt. I am super "right", but they are super "hurt", and I am working double overtime to want their peace above my righteousness.

Little Me and the soulful part of me are waging war. If my apology to them is not sincere, what is the point? Why even aplogize for something I so believe was pure in its intent? Why even apologize to men so dense and ignorant they have to make me wrong to justify the feelings within themselves? How am I any beter than that? Aren't I doing the exact same thing? Who am I to call them dense and ignorant? Who do I think I am? And around and around they go, Little Me and Real Me, chasing each other in a race that can only be won by surrendering, allowing the need for compassion to overtake the need for validation. Allowing the Real Me to take comfort in extending the olive branch of peace to those engaged in battle with me. Allowing the Real Me to douse Little Me's voice out with huge pourings of love and peace. Love, love and more love. Period.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


In my friend's, Kathleen, family, there is an expression oft used, "Getting the pink."

Story goes, one of her young nieces began singing to herself one evening after a particularly busy, kid-filled day, "I didn't get the pink, didn't get the pink, didn't get the pink all day..." over and over to herself with a sad, pitiful look in her eye, and pathetic tone in her song.

"What's wrong, Honey?" one parent eventually asked.


They were eventually able to determine "the pink" to be a pink Otter Pop (frozen snack). Apparently the day was hot, lots of kids in and out of the house coming in for Otter Pops, and well, you can see the tragic ending to this story. She got purple, green, blue, red and orange, but alas, no pink.

Years later, Kathleen's family uses the term when anyone is feeling left out, not important enough, or just receiving sub-par levels of attention in general.

The inverse also is true, one can get "plenty of pink." It's even possible to get "too much pink." I've been thinking about all of this as I process the needs vs. wants "thing". Feeling recognized, validated, noticed is such a basic need. God love the person that is able to state this need so well! Getting the pink goes nicely with my other favorite stolen expression, "Not enough has been made of..." invoked when what was said/done/felt/etc. did not get the proper level of response. Really, when you think about it, they are just nicer ways of calling bullshit!

Consider your pink needs today, and with gentle speech demand that they be met, understanding in the end, nobody will truly meet them but ourselves.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


The first time I heard that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear, I was stunned. That was over 20 years ago, and since then I've come to embrace that fanatically, one might say. Wherever there is "hate", I try to determine what is the fear behind that. Finding the fear isn't the challenge, it's determining where the fear lies on the hierarchy of needs.

If you believe what Maslow taught us, that one cannot move "up" until foundational needs are met, it's quite helpful in becoming more compassionate and patient with others.

When Jennifer and I conduct our writing workshops, we must first create a safe "container". We believe that until the basic needs at the foundation of the pyramid are in place, transcendence is impossible. People, mostly women, come to us to write their story, to get it "out" of their bodies and minds, and to heal from whatever trauma(s) have taken place in their lives. Ultimately, what we want more than anything, is to facilitate the transcendence of trauma, or to get people on their way towards that transcendence. We believe writing memoir to be tremendously efficient in doing so.

We also believe there is a great responsibility to pad that transcendence process with soft places to land, deep inner resources from which to pull when the road to transcendence gets bumpy. And we try to do that in 2 1/2 days. Obviously we cannot be the first stop, nor the last on this path. We are just a "rest stop" along that highway. A place to pull off from the road and re-group. Clean out all the "litter", freshen up, have a snack, and move forward. Ever forward.

From Falling Awake I've learned how to ask for what I want. From Jennifer I've learned how we can't get what we want until our basic needs are first met. Needs, then wants. Needs, then wants. Needs, then wants.

I taught elementary education for 12 years. Over those years I saw the distinct trend. In schools where the population of students had a low level of basic needs met, more time in the school was spent on meeting those needs, than in formal "education." In many schools in our prosperous country, food, clothing and shelter are provided. Food, clothing and shelter. Nothing more basic than that. Yet without that first level on the pyramid "handled", how can we even pretend those students are coming ready to learn?

And so as I settle back into life as a mother and wife, 3,000 miles away from my last gig as a teacher, I wrestle with this conundrum. How do we offer both a place to meet needs and wants? How do we make people safe, let their story pour out, teach them a few nifty writing techniques, and prepare them for the backlash after publication? How do we serve without being self-serving? How do we teach anything but what we most need to learn ourselves?

Friday, June 01, 2007


They say New York is the city that never sleeps. While that appears to be true, there is definitely some serious sleep taking place in room 804 of my lovely Manhattan hotel. I'm on a one-woman campaign to turn the tide. I take my sleep seriously, and do some of my best work in an unconscious state. It is there that I am with "my people" from the other realms. I derive clarity, receive helpful messages, and am at the very least, well-entertained.

Some tell me they don't dream. We know that if that were true, they'd be psychotic. That is the real bummer of sleep deprivation, the loss of that dream state of sleep. Wanna make someone go nutty cuckoo, wake them throughout the night for months on end. If you've ever been a new mother, you know what I'm talking about. Torture with a pretty name, post-partum.

So, we've established that we all dream (those of us still with one breath left between us and the funny farm). What happens is we are not remembering our dreams. The trick is to grab whatever ghost remains before your monkey mind starts doing its thing. In that moment before sleep turns to "What I have to do today," take ahold of that tiger's tail, and give it a swing. If all you can grab is a couple of tiger hairs, start with that.

Then, consider that Carl Jung was right, we are all aspects of our dreams. Re-run your dream, better yet, say it outloud or write it down. If you have a patient friend/lover/roommate, tell them. After each word, phrase or sentence, say, "Part of me." You'll freak yourself out, I'm warning you, so go easy.

Let's walk through the scary places of my mind together...

I am a child (part of me) returning (part of me) to my aunt's house (part of me). All I want to do is put together a familiar puzzle (part of me). Everyone else (part of me) wants me to do what they want (part of me) but I won't rest (part of me) until I get the jigsaw (part of me) completed (part of me).

That's just a snippet from one of many dreams I've had recently. Some nights I am the only person on the planet that can fly (part of me). Nobody else is impressed (part of me).That is both my favorite and most frustrating dream. Other times I'm being chased (part of me) by bad men (part of me).

When you have a particularly troubling dream, it can be quite a challenge to see yourself as your own perpetrator. Whatever parts of the dream bring you great excitement or fear, spend extra time on. Wherever there is a lot of energy, there is great wisdom/lessons contained.

Today we return to The City of Roses, Portland, Oregon. We leave behind the city so nice they named it twice. We leave behind the city of so many broken dreams, and we leave behind the idea that it's up to someone else to make our dreams come true.