High anxiety in the parking lot

Please, tell me where my car is!

Not again. I came out of Target, gazed at the vast, packed parking lot and realized I had no idea where my car was. I always mean to make a note of the parking row, but often forget as soon as I’m out of the car. 

I managed to remember it wasn’t too far from the store, so I went down the first row, clicking my key button and waiting hopefully for the beep. Silence. I turned down the next row, clicking. Silence. Another row, silence….

After the third row I got anxious. Evidently it showed, because suddenly I heard a sweet, angelic young voice. “Ma’am, do you need help?” I turned to see a pretty young woman looking at me from her SUV window, at exactly the same time I clicked my key and heard…my car!

Then the angel asked me again. “Are you lost? Can I help you find your car?”

“Oh, I just found it, finally! But thanks so much. I appreciate it.”

It was wonderful to encounter such a helpful, caring young woman in this age of self-centered individualism. Perhaps I reminded her of a beloved grandmother. I’m 71. At the same time it was disheartening to be so distracted I couldn’t remember where my car was and, the worst part, that it SHOWED. My anxiety was probably flashing like a warning light.  

I might find myself again someday wandering up and down parking lot rows, searching among countless nautical-blue Toyota Corollas for “216” at the end of the license plate. But maybe I shouldn’t be so anxious. “He shall direct your paths,” Proverbs 3:6 promises. The young woman was a reminder that God always sends angels. Almost always, anyway. Maybe I should have gotten her phone number.  

Better yet, maybe I should be my own angel and take responsibility for myself and enter the damn parking row in my iPhone notes. It’s time to grow up.  

Home Invasion

Relax.


A massive prehistoric beast lives with us. It rumbles threateningly when it’s awakened, it shakes the earth when it moves, it gobbles up space, it’s always hungry. It’s my archrival. 

The beast is my husband’s beloved muscle car, his 1970 Chevrolet Camaro. It’s a polluter, with no catalytic converter, and a gas guzzler. It gets a mere 15 miles to the gallon. Maybe 10. Yet the old space hog gets to occupy the garage while my sensitive compact lives outside in the driveway because there’s not enough room for it. On cold winter mornings I bundle up and go outside and, teeth chattering, scrape ice off the windows of my two-year-old Corolla. I run the defogger to clear the windows before I can get on the road. All the while Frank’s beast snuggles comfy-cozy in the garage.        

When we married I moved into Frank’s house and from the beginning the Camaro was like a roommate. A roommate I’m jealous of. It gets so much attention. Even though it’s an environmental nightmare Frank loves it. It’s the closest thing to a child he’s ever had. He’s the original owner and lived with it for more 20 years before he met me. He’s always working on it. Changing the oil, or tuning it up, or fixing a leak of some sort, or adjusting something or other.  

It was never like that when we were dating. I came first. I wasn’t crazy about the car because it didn’t have air conditioning or a CD player, or anything modern. But I wasn’t jealous of it. We would just use my little Sentra with its air conditioning, electric windows, CD player, etc.   

I wish Frank had a teensie car like this, instead of his massive 1970 Camaro that devours the garage.

I was almost rid of the Camaro once. Frank called one morning from the side of the freeway where the Camaro had broken down. He thought the block was cracked. I don’t know much about cars but I was pretty sure a cracked block is fatal.

I told him I was sorry, trying to hide the insincerity in my voice. I drove over to him, singing along to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High. I actually felt high. I was making plans for life after death of the Camaro. Frank would take my Sentra and I would buy the new Toyota I’d been wanting. Sweet. Lots of head room. Five-speed automatic shift, sunroof, 10-disk CD player. My fantasy ended when I saw Frank and his damaged chariot. I pulled over, turned off John Denver and tried to look sad.

The Camaro wasn’t drivable so we called a tow truck. It came and loaded up the car and drove away. On our way home Frank said glumly he didn’t think they made new engines for his model anymore.

“I’m so sorry,” I lied. When we got home I started dinner and Frank called his car guy. They talked a long time. After Frank hung up he was beaming.

“They do make new engines for my model,” he enthused. “And it won’t cost nearly as much as I thought.”

Then and there, I decided to take my stand. I took a deep breath.

“If you’re going to keep that old dinosaur, I want a divorce,” I said. “I’ve had it. It’s me or that car.”

KIDDING. I didn’t really say that. I thought it, but what I said was, “Gee, that’s great honey. I’m happy for you.” The truth is I was afraid to find out which of us he would choose.

Frank and I and the Camaro are still together. I still park in the driveway. Frank’s Camaro still hulks in the garage, like always except now it’s got a brand new engine. It’s good for another 50 years. It will outlast me. It’s not fair. When I break down, I won’t get a new engine. The most I’ll get is a new knee or a new hip or two in the coming years, maybe a pacemaker. Minor parts. But on the bright side, the Camaro’s longevity reminds me of my own mortality. It helps me to savor every moment that I have now.

My struggle with the Camaro has taught me that I can only change myself. I can’t make the Camaro go away. I can’t make Frank less attached to it. With acceptance comes peace. It’s good for me, after all, to get outside on those freezing winter mornings and scrape ice off windshields. It’s invigorating, and I can practice gratitude, being thankful I’m not back East shoveling snow. I see the positive side. I’ve stopped calling the car my husband loves a gas-guzzling, space-hogging, polluting, noisy, prehistoric old heap. Now I see an iconic American classic, majestic symbol of a bygone golden age of Detroit and American car makers. I’ve learned nonresistance. That wretched old road hog—oops, I mean that national treasure—is my teacher.


The Power of Faith: WWJD – What Would Jesus Drive? A fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly car like a Honda Accord. “For I did not speak of my own Accord….” ~John 12:49

The Power of Chocolate: I love cars. Especially milk chocolate cars, wrapped in Italian foil. ~Pat Torello

 

Life knows what it’s doing.

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Relax.


It was 1981. I was 35 weeks pregnant, at home enjoying a fun episode of The Love Boat. Suddenly I felt powerful contractions, while the ship’s bartender was belting out a song trying to court a talent scout. My enjoyment turned to foreboding. I had an undeniable feeling in my gut that the baby was coming, very soon. But it wasn’t time.  

I had never even considered the possibility of not going full-term to 40 weeks. Everything until then had been going along so smoothly. I was frightened. Even though 35 weeks is not extremely early, I had a sense of foreboding. In fact, by the time we got to the hospital and they were pushing me down the maternity ward corridor in a wheelchair I was crying. “Something’s wrong,” I sobbed, “Something’s wrong. It’s not time!”

Michele, our beautiful baby girl, was born that night with “multiple congenital anomalies.” They included her smallness—she weighed just over three pounds, very small for a 35-week baby; a bent nose, twisting to the left; and tiny ears. Some other anomalies and issues such as hearing impairment would be addressed as time went on. A team of doctors came and put her onto a gurney loaded with monitors and wires and rushed her to intensive care. The team leader came to my room later and, in a voice filled with compassion, told me and Michele’s father they weren’t sure she would live through the night. We were frightened, hoping desperately that she would. We already loved her deeply.  

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If Michele had been born at the “right” time, things might have been tragic.

I didn’t see Michele until more than 24 hours after she was born, because specialists were in and out of her IC room all that time, filing in and out, examining her intently.

It turned out I was mistaken to be upset about the earliness of Michele’s birth. I’m convinced she had reached an instinctual decision in my womb to come out early. And that was exactly the right thing. It turned out that she had cranial synostosis: her skull plates had fused prematurely in my womb. They’re supposed to be detached from each other for a few years after birth, to allow the brain and features to expand as the baby grows. The neurosurgeon told us later that if she hadn’t had corrective surgery by the time she was 38 in-womb weeks (two weeks “early”) there would almost certainly have been severe brain damage. Being born at 35 weeks gave her three weeks of beneficial out-of-womb nutrition and growth before the surgery. If she had been born at the “right” time, at 40 weeks by conventional medical wisdom, she would have been brain-damaged.

So, right from the get-go, Michele was wiser than I was. She knew things I didn’t. I shouldn’t have been afraid about her birth being early, I should have been reassured. I shouldn’t have been crying in my wheelchair about something being wrong, I should have been cheering—yelling “You go girl!”

Michele’s time of arrival in the world was miraculously right. Since then she’s had her share of challenges, undergoing many surgeries since that first one in early infancy until she was 20. Much has been corrected, aesthetically and otherwise. Today she’s married, a college graduate, a lover of life, independent, intelligent, compassionate, creative, energetic, beautiful…and, I might add, punctual. She’s never late.  I could go on singing her praises but I’ll stop here.

I’ve come to realize it’s silly to worry about her, because she knows what she wants and she knows what to do to get it. Just like she knew, nestled in my womb, exactly when to be born so she could have her surgery on time. 


rose-1403530_640The power of faith: As you do not understand the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things. ~Ecclesiastes 11:5

 

chocolate-183543_640The power of chocolate: If God gives you chocolate, you open your mouth, no? ~Alejandro Jodorowski

Meditation in Real Life

I’m pretty new at meditation, with only about a year under my belt. But already I find that the more often and the more consistently I do it, the better my life goes. When I tune in to my newly discovered inner spiritual center, I find peace, wholeness, and connection with God. It benefits my emotional, mental and physical health. It heals, soothes, and restores. It keeps me from wigging out when my anxiety disorder flares.

My church holds great meditation sessions twice a week but that’s not enough, so I meditate at home. I use an itty-bitty room in our tiny house. The room is right next to the living room where the TV is. We use this room for so many different things we call it the Infinite-Purpose Room (IPR). The term multi-purpose just doesn’t come close. The IPR is our office, our storage room, guest room, exercise room, spiritual-reading room, and my blogging room. It’s the bad-kitty room, where we put one of our two male cats–Jack and Joe–to separate them when they’re fighting.

I had a typical meditation session this morning. I entered the IPR, and carefully stepped around Christmas decorations covering the floor to get to the small couch. I had to remove a couple of angels and a Styrofoam snowman from the couch to make room to sit. I know, I know. Here it is more than a month after Christmas and I haven’t put the decorations up in the loft yet. In my decorations rule book it’s okay as long as you get the Christmas stuff put away before Easter.

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I’d love to meditate in the vast, silent woods.

I sat on the cleared space on the couch, turned out the light and turned off my phone. I put in earplugs to drown out the sound of Judge Judy from the living room on the other side of the wall, where my husband Frank was watching TV. Judy was shouting rudely at an annoying, logic-impaired litigant. Her cynical raspy Bronx voice does not contribute to a peaceful ambience. Fortunately it got pretty faint when I closed the flimsy sliding accordion door to the hallway, and then the door of the IPR behind me. The words grew unintelligible, reduced to a faint sound like a fingernail scraping on a blackboard. I sat for a while in stillness, or as close as I’m ever going to get to stillness in our house, and thought of God. When I felt centered and ready, I turned on my CD player and put in some soothing music. I settled in while the calm of the cosmos gradually enveloped me.

I lost my centeredness temporarily when Judy raised her voice to tell a sweet, frail elderly woman that she was too despicable to even deserve to live. Then she lowered her voice, and I relaxed a bit more and let my thoughts float. I am at peace, I am peaceful, I am filled with peace, I am peace. I am hungry. I serenely let the stomach growls drift through my consciousness. The noise I make bothers me much less at home than when I’m meditating with others at the church. It’s always embarrassing to share body noises. Alone, I can just let everything rip and continue to drift in the vastness of my inner eternity. I am serene. There is nothing to be afraid of in God’s world. And nothing to be embarrassed about.

The growls stopped. In the silence I went deeper and deeper…deeper still…until I was tuned in to the heartbeat of the Universe. I entered into a profound and powerful state of relaxation, transported, transformed. I floated up-up-up to a higher state of consciousness, from which I was rudely torn away by the refrain of Lara’s Song from Dr. Zhivago. Frank programmed it on the doorbell. I remained calm, knowing it would go away and I would return to my altered state. Instead it played over and over. I paused the music to answer the damn door. I tripped over the wreath on the floor and bumped into our life-size plastic Rudolph.

“Quiet in there!” Frank called out.

It was the mail carrier at the door, with a registered letter that I needed to sign for. I was scared. I couldn’t think of anything Frank or I have done to anyone that would call for a registered letter. I took the envelope and studied it. Ah. It was for a person at the same number as our address, but on the next street over. Right address, wrong street. I was relieved. And annoyed. The mail service isn’t what it used to be. We get our neighbors’ mail all the time—retirement accounts and taxes and all kinds of private stuff, and they get ours. Being good neighbors, we always walk misdelivered mail over to the proper house and ring the doorbell, and put it in the mailbox if no one answers. Our neighbors do the same for us.

Once on my birthday I didn’t get the card from a dear friend that has come on time without fail for years. I was upset. I couldn’t believe she forgot about me! I sulked and spent a couple of weeks using up a lot of energy not forgiving her. Then the card arrived. It had been delivered to our neighbors while they were on a three-week cruise, and they brought it over when they got back. So I forgave my friend, and then I had to start all over, not forgiving the Post Office.

I returned to the IPR, relieved that the registered letter wasn’t from Frank suing for divorce, or some lawyer with clients in the neighborhood complaining that Jack and Joe were using their yard as a bathroom. In the silence I began to know with a total certainty, a sublime reassurance, that I am a partner with the Infinite and I do not walk alone through this world. Meows at the patio door affirmed this Truth. My feline companions were meowing for food and wouldn’t stop until someone brought it. I knew this, and I knew that I knew it. Jack and Joe will meow for eternity. They’ve done it before. The someone who feeds them, naturally, is usually me. Frank was glued to the TV, now tuned to Judge Milian, who is always yelling just like Judy but whose voice is more pleasant. At least there’s some humor in it. I paused the music, brought the boys their kibble, and returned to the IPR. Instead of Judge Milian, faint sounds of Hepburn and Bogart in the African Queen now wafted through the wall. I focused on my music, sounding like a river with its eternal flow, while on their river Kate and Bogey struggled in the background with leeches and hostile Germans.

I heard a click. The TV was off. Then Frank snoring. It was a soft, soothing sound and I fell asleep, which is an unpardonable offense when you’re meditating but it happens. I had a wonderful dream involving Hugh Jackman. It was not spiritual. Suddenly I was roused by shouts of “Fumble?! No!! You idiot!!” and other un-meditation-like exclamations from the TV room as the Pats socked it to the Steelers. I pushed my earplugs in tighter and the noise receded. I closed my eyes hoping Hugh was still there but he was gone. I was alone in my elevated state. I had no thoughts. It was all silence, stillness, eternity, infinity, all-life, all-God, all-love. Then all-football again, culminating in a deafening roar when New England ran out the clock to win 36-17 and secure their ninth trip to the Super Bowl in 32 years.

The roar died down and I heard another click followed by silence. Then Frank snoring. In the stillness broken only by Frank’s softly wuffling snores, there in my claustrophobic IPR, I was transported to a higher plane, a state of divine consciousness, a sense of endless love and good and wisdom and power that surrounded me in an atmosphere of total tranquility. I was also aware that I had until six o’clock when the news would come blaring through the adjoining wall, and I would have to leave my cluttered sanctuary to fix dinner. I threw my arm around the 4-foot Santa next to me, settled back comfortably, and enjoyed the tranquility while it lasted.

Another day, another meditation session in the IPR. 


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Scripture: On the glorious splendor of your majesty and on your wonderful works, I will meditate, though Super Bowl ads egregiously assault mine ears. 

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The Power of Chocolate: Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. ~Lora Brody

 

Measure your blogging success.

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Relax.


I’ve wanted to be a famous writer since I was a teenager. It hasn’t happened yet and I’m seventy, so the outlook is bleak.

Some of my humorous articles were published in magazines about 30 years ago. My target audience was single working parents—SWOPs, I called them.  I actually was a SWOP, so I knew what I was talking about. For instance, one article covered the challenge of getting kids to school on time and yourself to work on time on weekday mornings. If you are, or ever were, a SWOP, you know how tricky this can be.

I shared my solutions with readers. For instance, I had my second-grader pick out the clothes she wanted to wear to school the night before, and lay them out on her chair. And she had to stick to her decision in the morning, or there would be a consequence. Threatening not to buy her a McDonald’s Happy Meal was usually effective, especially if she needed a piece in a set, like Papa of the Berenstein Bear figures. I had her decide what she wanted for breakfast the night before too, and set the table, maybe even pour the cereal and cover with Saran wrap, pour the juice…. Every saved step helped. Then in a flash of brilliance I suggested why not eat breakfast the night before too? That really saved a lot of time. The important thing was to make sure she ate breakfast after dinner.

And so forth. People enjoyed my columns. But after a year or so my SWOP life got so busy I ran out of time for writing and marketing my articles and gave it up. The need to focus on salaried work that covered rent money, medical insurance, and the like, and have time for my daughter, trumped having fun writing.  

I retired a few years ago and thought about trying to write for publication again, but the market in our digital age is even more saturated with aspiring writers than it was in my magazine days.

So I thought…why not blog? It sounded like fun. But I also admit to a secret hope my blog would go viral, and be so wildly popular and attract such a following that some publisher somewhere would be interested in putting out a collection of my brilliant posts.

That hasn’t happened yet either. Things with my blog have been pretty quiet. Quite the opposite of viral, and that’s putting it mildly. The other day I was feeling like a failure, pitifully unsuccessful, painfully discouraged. What’s the use? I thought. On my way out to the garden to eat worms, I vowed to quit blogging, to find something else to do with my talent, modest though it is.

But I gave it some serious thought, and what I decided was that rather than quit blogging, I would redefine success.

What is success, anyway? I had to take a long, hard look at that question and define what it looks like for me.  Not for somebody else. Success means different things to different people. And I decided that if I’m having fun when I’m writing, I’m successful. After all, what is more important than enjoying life? And if I’m enjoying myself, I am a successful blogger. If I had 10,000 followers but hated the process of writing, I would be unsuccessful. If I had one follower but was enjoying myself, then I’m successful. Well, maybe two followers. 

I do enjoy blogging. Sometimes I laugh out loud while I’m blogging away on the PC in our minuscule office. While I may have a tiny office, I have a big LOL. It booms out of the room and reverberates around our home, and my husband hears it wherever he is—in the living room, the garage, out in the yard…around the block if he’s jogging. He says it sometimes sounds like there’s more than one person in the room, like I’m having a party I didn’t invite him to.  

I get a lot of ideas for my blog when I’m grocery shopping or jogging or whatever. Sometimes they make me LOL. At first people stared at me and so I started wearing ear buds to make them think I’m talking to someone on my iPhone. I don’t want them to think I’m just some crazy senior. Anyway, let them laugh. I’m being a success. By enjoying myself and laughing I am stimulating chemicals in my brain called endorphins, which have been proven to reduce pain and stress and promote health. I’m making myself healthier. So I don’t mind so much if people stare at me when I laugh, but I do try not to fart.  

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I have some of my best blog ideas when I’m squeezing fruit in the grocery store.

One day I was squeezing and sniffing cantaloupes in Safeway and suddenly burst out laughing because I remembered my Victoria’s Secret misadventure. I walked in to all that pink and black silky-soft sexiness, feeling like a big old hippo in a pool full of dainty minnows. I was there because a friend told me they would measure me properly so I could find the correct size for my newly expanded senior body. A young svelte thing measured me in the dressing room. My band size was 44. I thanked her and told her I was going to go find a couple of bras, and she said “Oh, ma’am, the largest size we carry is 38.” I laughed, so I wouldn’t cry. I was humiliated, but eventually I wrote my popular post, “A Victoria’s Secret Reject.” No silky, naughty, X-rated lingerie for me. Back to Sears. (Sears might not be around for much longer. Then what?)

In the Tea and Coffee aisle I remembered the time I was in Kohl’s trying on sweaters, and brought a turtle neck on the sale rack into the dressing room. I put it on and when I looked in the mirror was shocked to see the neck of a bullfrog. My neck skin was being pushed up by the high, snug collar and hanging over it like a spare tire. I stifled a scream, but not quite totally, and heard the salesgirl outside ask “Are you all right in there, ma’am?” It was a depressing day for me, but in the end I laughed and wrote “Terror in the Dressing Room.”

Standing in the Pharmacy line I recalled a Girl Scout campout my daughter and I went to about 30 years ago, when she was five. We were all sitting around the campfire at night, and I related some little anecdote about my “ex-mother-in-law.” My daughter said, “Myrl wasn’t your mother-in-law, Mom. You and dad were never married.” I felt embarrassed and ashamed, but lightened up when delighted laughter burst out around the campfire. My resulting blog post was “Mother-Daughter Secret, Not.”

Standing in the checkout line, I remembered phone pranks my friends and I played when I was a kid, back in the Stone Age, before cell phones, when you had to be home to answer your phone, which was what we now call a “landline.” We would call and ask people if their refrigerator was running, and if they said yes we said “better go catch it.” Or we’d ask them to blow into the phone and then tell them “thanks, you just blew the bird turds off the line.” Those were the days.

It certainly makes grocery shopping more fun, thinking about funny things that have happened. I spend a lot of time pulling my cart out of the flow of traffic and writing ideas in my iPhone notes. And laughing. It makes jogging more fun, driving more fun, vacuuming more fun… I’m laughing right now, in fact, writing this very post. My husband just shouted from the living room, “Who the hell is in there with you?”

Now I have a difficult confession to make. Here comes the naked truth. The blog that you are reading right now (thank you!) has 60 followers. That’s an amazing number. Amazingly small, that is. There are millions of bloggers and readers in the WordPress blogosphere and only 60 of them follow my blog. Most of them are my friends, whose arms I twisted. I tell myself my work is good, but I’m just not much for social networking. That’s what you need to do to drum up blog followers. I know absolutely zip about SEO. (SEO is search engine optimization, by the way, the highly technical art of getting Google and Yahoo to direct searchers to your articles.) I don’t tie my blog in to Facebook, in fact I rarely post anything on my page.  I don’t tie it into Instagram because I don’t have an Instagram account, I don’t tweet about it because I’m not on Twitter.

I don’t do any of those things. I just write and enjoy myself and laugh in the grocery store and other inappropriate places. I will blog bravely on in obscurity, in the vastness of the blogosphere, like the humor-blogger version of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness. Why stop, when I’m having so much fun?


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Scripture: What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? To gain 10,000 blog followers yet not have fun?


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The Power of Chocolate: Will looked horrified. “What kind of monster could possibly hate chocolate?”
― Cassandra ClareClockwork Angel

There are no misteaks.

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no worries


I was a wild one when I was in my thirties. I had a sign in my office above my desk that said, “I type like I live. Fast, with lots of misteaks.” (There were no computers way back then—we used electric typewriters.) The sign always got a laugh from first-time viewers. They laughed, but it was true. I drank a lot, I rode around in fast cars, I partied, I stayed out all night and dragged in late to work.

I was making lots and lots of misteaks. I lost a couple of jobs. I got new ones right away, though, which kept me from facing up to the need to straighten up and fly right. Jobs grew on trees in young Silicon Valley forty years ago. I drove drunk and got DUIs. One night stands out because I did NOT get a DUI. I quietly drove off-road after leaving a restaurant on the edge of a San Francisco Bay inlet, and ended up on the bottom with my car completely submerged in salt water. I don’t remember how I got out of the car but I did, and stumbled into a Mercedes showroom. They summoned the police and I was transported to a hospital for overnight observation. I wasn’t given a DUI or even cited because no one saw the accident. They just saw a dripping wet, muddy, bedraggled young woman.

Don’t worry. All this gets better, just hang in with me a bit.

After my Bay swim, as if the misteaks I’d already made weren’t enough, I made a DOOZIE. I got pregnant, by a man I’d been dating for a few months. Finally, I was scared. Petrified. I did all right financially as a corporate writer and editor but I didn’t have a steady job with a lot of security. I had no extended family for support. I didn’t know if Mike was going to help me and his child. I didn’t know anything about being a mother. I went to Planned Parenthood, and spoke with a woman who definitely favored the abortion route. She frightened me, more than I was already, with her tales of how difficult it would be to bring up a child by myself.

But by that time I deeply loved the baby—him or her. Back then we didn’t know the gender until the baby was born. I decided to have the baby and keep it rather than put it up for adoption.

That was thirty-six years ago. I still remember the day Michele was born. I wasn’t ready for how much I loved her. It was like an emotional earthquake and tsunami and Category 5 storm all at once. I loved her so much it scared me. Mike and I lived together for five years but never married. He did support his daughter, always, and we actually shared custody when she was small. But as time went on things got more complicated. When she reached the science-project stage of grade school we practically had to rent a U-Haul to get the projects back and forth. From then on she stayed with me and spent every other weekend with her dad.

I made lots of misteaks as a mother. I continued to drink alcoholically until she was three. But one morning I woke up and had my Moment of Clarity, a phenomenon well-known in AA circles. I realized without a shred of doubt that if I continued drinking I would lose Michele, either physically or emotionally or both. There was a county alcoholism treatment center close to where we lived, and I got out of bed that morning and called about their services. I went to a group meeting that very night and haven’t had a drink since. I went from the county treatment center to lifelong membership in AA. Five years after that I quit smoking. Michele absolutely hated smoking—a filthy habit, for sure—and I finally got to the point where I couldn’t stand her nagging anymore. I paid for five sessions with a licensed hypnotherapist and haven’t smoked since.

Michele and I have had some rocky times but she’s brought more love into my life than I ever thought possible before she was born. And pain, too. She graduated from college and is married and working now, and lives in a nearby town, but a few years ago she estranged herself from me for two years. That was more pain in my life that I ever thought possible. I had quit drinking but I still had a lot of stinking thinking, and ghosts from my childhood, lots of anger, rejection, the shock and sadness of my father’s suicide, and other traumas.  I’ve worked through a lot of it but even now much remains. My work is cut out for me. Recently I joined the Religious Science church. It involves constant study and there are frequent classes and discussions about basically seeing the deeper side of things, beyond appearances. It helps me stay positive—and keeps me busy. 

I’m far from a perfect mother, but I always do my best. And I realize that getting pregnant and having Michele was the best thing I ever did. She might be the main reason I’m still alive. My drinking was becoming more and more destructive, as continued drinking always does. Thank God I didn’t injure anyone, or worse, while I was driving around drunk. Michele in my life has made me such a better person. I’m much more honest about myself now, and see my flaws, and do my best to change them, and have learned to apologize when it’s called for. I’ve been to anger management classes and forgiveness classes and all kinds of other classes, I meditate, I read spiritual books constantly, I volunteer… I do these things because I want to be the best person, and the best mother of a 36-year-old, that I can be.

Getting pregnant seemed like a misteak at the time but it wasn’t. Even my drive into the bay no longer seems like a misteak. When I’m discouraged, it’s one of the things on my cheer-up list because it shows me how much God loves me. I have absolutely no memory of getting out of the car and swimming to shore. I was guided by an invisible force that has always been there to protect me. The police said my car was deeply submerged and far out in the water. They were amazed that I made it to shore. They figured I was on the swim team in school. But I wasn’t on the swim team. I dog-paddled, that’s the only stroke I knew. And nevertheless here I am, thirty-some years later, alive and blogging about it.

It does me more good to look at what I used to think of as misteaks in a different light. Now I call them learning experiences. I examine them and draw all the wisdom and understanding and guidance that I can squeeze out of them. Instead of feeling ashamed, I profit from them. I learn. In fact, I no longer believe there are any misteaks. Everything happens for a reason, one which isn’t always apparent.

Well, there is one thing I consider a misteak. A real one. It’s meowing at me now. A ragtag, scroungy feral cat used to run through my yard a lot and one time I broke down and fed it. That’s all it takes. One time. They never stop hounding you after that. Now, a small fortune later, he’s neutered, immunized, and deflead. He has a heated bed and gets Fancy Feast. He considers all this his divine right, no way a misteak.  


rose-1403530_640Scripture: “I have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try to reach the goal before me. And I own up to my misteaks.” ˜Philippians 3:13

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The Power of Chocolate: “If there’s no chocolate in heaven, I’m not going.”


no worries

Relax. It all works out.

Who is this gutsy woman?


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No worries.

Several months ago doctors discovered a potentially cancerous cyst on my husband’s pancreas. They saw it on a CT scan, taken to investigate a possible infection before performing a rather simple hernia operation. The cyst was a surprise to everyone. Frank promptly had his hernia repaired and shortly after that had a major operation to remove the cyst. 

The whole experience was very challenging for both of us, as you can imagine. But through our struggles, we grew. In fact, the difficulties that arose made me realize I’m much more than I ever thought I was. Abilities and strengths had been hiding inside me, undiscovered until Frank’s operation. Here are some examples.

PATIENT ADVOCATE: I’m usually rather timid, but as Frank’s advocate I was take-charge and creative. I wandered around the hospital and stole magazines from waiting room areas when Frank was out of reading material. When the doctors switched his diet to solid from liquid, I went out to wonderful little restaurants around the hospital and smuggled in sushi and sashimi and tempura and other favorite delicacies. When he became alert enough to want to watch television, I figured out how to operate the TV in his room because the nurse didn’t have time. This is the accomplishment I am most proud of. There wasn’t even a manual, and to say that I am electronically challenged is a real understatement. But I did it. I stretched my boundaries. Maybe I’ll even do some troubleshooting to solve some problems with my PC. On second thought, never mind. That’s why God made Geek Squad.  

I was at the hospital early in the morning every day for the week and a half he was there. I nagged him to make sure he breathed every half hour into his spirometer, a device to help prevent pneumonia. Nagging isn’t pleasant but somebody had to do it and I rose to the occasion. It’s a lot more pleasant than pneumonia.  I took him for at least two daily walks around the corridors, so he wouldn’t get pneumonia just lying, inactive, in bed, and after I got home in the evening I always called and made sure a nurse or assistant walked him before bed.  I made sure he ate, instead of sitting and looking at food that was often left in front of him too far away to reach, in containers he couldn’t open in his weakened condition. I think without someone in the room to help him with his food he would have starved. When I left I made sure he was warm and positioned comfortably and his nurse call button was in reach. I made sure he drank lots of fluids. I emptied his plastic urine container.    

WOUND NURSE: I am alarmed at the sight of blood. That’s another understatement. There’s a great line in a Woody Allen movie (I can’t remember which movie). It goes “Blood. That’s supposed to be on the inside!” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I can’t quite believe I did what I describe below.

Our wonderful home health nurse, Mandy, came three times a week to change Frank’s wound dressing. As queasy as I am, I forced myself to watch her every time because of the possibility, though unlikely, that someday there would be too much drainage to wait for Mandy’s next visit. Sure enough, the someday came. I checked his bandage one evening and saw a lot of pus and blood. I took a few deep breaths and splashed my face with cold water, to keep from shaking. I knew I had to do the deed.

As queasy as I was, I managed to calmly remove the old bandages. Mandy kept her supplies in our house, and I cleaned the wound out by putting saline-soaked gauze pads into the sizeable incision on his abdomen, pushing them down gently with long Q-tip type things, and used them to lift out the gauze pads along with the pus and blood that clung to them. I did that several times until the soaked gauze came up clean, then wiped his abdomen around the hole, tamped fresh saline-soaked gauze down into it, and sealed it up with tape and several gauze pads.

Okay, I confess. I had help. Panicked, I called the home health service and told the night nurse on duty what was going on. I couldn’t have done it without her, or without my speaker phone. Her calm, professional voice broadcasting from my landline led me through the whole process step by step. Still, I can’t believe I mucked around like that in a hole in my husband’s stomach. The next time Mandy came I told her about it, and Frank actually said it was “heroic.” I treasure his remark. I think he has a new respect for me. It’s the highest compliment I’ve ever gotten from him. The only one, actually. He’s a man of few words.  

CHARGE NURSE: When Frank came home from the hospital I set up a detailed medical schedule, giving him all his antibiotics and pain and other medications on time using a timer I bought just for that purpose. I kept a killer written schedule and recorded time and amount of every single medication dose I gave him. You’d have thought I went to nursing school. I made sure he walked with his walker at least twice a day and breathed into his spirometer frequently. Every day I made three balanced, nutritious meals, sufficiently bland for his tender, surgically assaulted digestive organs. I gave him a daily sponge bath. I stayed with him day and night leaving the house only for groceries and prescriptions and the occasional furtive stop at Starbucks, for several weeks until he was able to do more things independently and was steady on his feet. If I had to leave I made sure the phone and the emergency inhaler for his COPD were within reach.

And, like any good nurse, I didn’t put up with any shit. It was for his own good. I watched him like a hawk. No way could he get out of breathing exercises or walking or eating his veggies or taking his multivitamin, which he thinks is for sissies. He didn’t want to take the probiotics I gave him to prevent diarrhea either. He’s suspicious about anything that’s new and unfamiliar to him. He argued and gave me a big hard time about it, but I brought him in line by dropping subtle hints about putting him in a skilled nursing facility. I was up to cleaning out his wound and changing the bandage, but I wouldn’t have been able to deal with diarrhea. A baby’s diarrhea is one thing. I’ve done that. But an adult male? Forget it.

One day I heard him mutter something under his breath about Nurse Ratched but I just let it go. I don’t think I was that bad. And I was tough on him because I love him.   

BAD ASS BIG-CITY DRIVER: I’ve been a timid country girl all 70 years of my life, hiding out in the suburbs of Silicon Valley. I was born here when it was still sleepy Santa Clara Valley. I’m a bit reclusive and I have a big phobia about driving in big cities, like San Francisco, which to  me is huge and frightening. It’s way bigger than Fremont, the boring little bedroom community where Frank and I live.

Hiding behind my phobia, I had managed not to drive to San Francisco for decades. But SOMEBODY had to drive Frank to his biopsy since he would be anesthetized and could not drive himself home. And the biopsy was in San Francisco. A cab or Uber simply wouldn’t do.

The demon was at my door. It was staring me in the face. The SOMEONE who had to drive him was ME.

I went to war against my phobia. I pored over printouts of Google Maps. I memorized all the streets and printed directions for the drive not only to the hospital but the drive back home as well. A friend showed me the basics of my iPhone GPS, which I had never used, and I drove around with it on all the time until the biopsy date, getting used to it. To top it off, Frank and I made a couple of dry runs before the appointment. We parked in each nearby parking garage so I could get familiar with the drill. They don’t have parking garages in Fremont.

I even prayed.

On the big day my knuckles were white on the steering wheel but I made it to the parking garage for Kaiser San Francisco. The biopsy was positive, which meant another epic drive in a few weeks, this time to the surgery center in Oakland. Again we did a couple of test drives. Eventually I got to be an old hand driving around Oakland streets because Frank was in the hospital for 11 days and I made the round-trip drive every day by myself.

Today I no longer shrink from city driving. I can outmaneuver the best of them. I can change lanes on a dime and cut people off and beat people to parking spaces like I’ve been doing it all my life. I can be as verbally abusive as any Type A driver. I’ve used words I never even knew I knew. Frank no longer likes to drive with me. He says I’m rude and reckless, and that I could move to New York City and make a good living as a cab driver. And he says if I do, he will stay here.

Those are the highlights of challenges I rose to meet. I look back at when we first found out about Frank’s cyst, and remember how daunting it was to contemplate being his sole care giver. But I did it. I did it all, from changing his bandage and being an all-around nurse to taking care of the house and the housework and the yard and the cats and taking out the garbage and paying the bills and chauffeuring and cooking and grocery shopping and all the rest of it. I continued doing it all for months after his surgery while he slowly recovered.  

All the things I was afraid of actually expanded my horizons. Things that I was certain would be too much for me to do turned out okay. I learned first-hand that I am up to more challenges than I ever thought possible. I’m going to say it, just this once: I was awesome.

Everything worked out including the outcome of Frank’s surgery. The cyst was completely removed, and turned out to contain an extremely low-grade cancer, and nothing had spread beyond its borders.

It doesn’t get any better than that. 


rose-1403530_640Scripture:  “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God, and Google Maps, and nurses on speaker phones, and a mocha latte now and then, all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26

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The Power of Chocolate: “I’ve been through some tough times, with no one to talk to, to share with, to count on. Thank God I had chocolate.”


no worries

Relax. It all works out.