Thursday, November 28, 2013


We are having Thanksgiving at my parent’s house; a house with which I am familiar but not the home I grew up in.  My sister and her family are not here.  Instead, indefinitely,  they are in Panama on a sailboat.  Someone is here in my sister’s place, Cindy.  Cindy used to be my sister’s nanny.  Now she has a family of her own; a husband, baby Grace, and two foster girls.  What must these girls think of our motley crew?  

The foster girls go up to Cindy and give her gigantic hugs.  They are sweet and polite and full of affection. They’ve only lived with her family for two weeks.  I wonder what has happened in their life such that they would end up here.  I do not want to ask, especially not in front of them.  I am in awe of Cindy and her husband and the way they are contributing to our collective whole.  

I listen to their story and realize I could not be a foster parent.  My chaotic and well-lived in house simply wouldn’t pass inspection. But these girls?  Oh I would take these girls.  They are running around with my own girls as naturally as if they were cousins.  For today at least, they are family.  

I am tired, from traveling and from getting up early for fun run. From eating too much.  And from the wine.  

The television is on, football, and I am partially deaf.  This makes conversation difficult.  I find myself saying “what?” all too often.  Middle jumps in and translates for me.  It’s nice to have an interpreter.  

Tonight some knitting.  And some pie.  Tomorrow a movie.  No shopping for me. I can’t handle the crowds.  

And I am thankful.  For food.  For family.  For friends.  For days off work.  I am grateful to those who are working in my place; I’ll pay you back at Christmas when the roles are reversed.  

I am grateful for my senses; sight, touch, taste and smell.  I am grateful for the hearing which remains.  I am grateful for the balance that, more often than not, stays under control.  I am grateful for this body which propels me through this world; a vessel of experience.  

I am grateful for children who require me to step out of the box and to think differently.  I am grateful for other children who allow me to stay in the box, crouched in earthquake position, hands covering the back of my head.  

I am grateful for the internet and connections and opinions right and left.  I am grateful for the kindness of most folks (I'm sorry for the others).  

This life. It's messy and challenging.  It's tiring and worrisome.  It's heartbreaking.  But it is good. Oh so good.  


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So, Technically, My Daughter is a Felon.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook already know the story, at least the beginning. For those of you who haven't heard, here's what went down yesterday.  

While I was sleeping (I'd worked the night before) my 13-year-old daughter took my credit card and bought two 4th row tickets for One Direction to the tune of $600.00 a piece.  That's right. $1200.00 for two concert tickets.  Did she ask permission?  No. No she did not. 

This concert takes place in Phoenix, Arizona which is a mere 1111 miles from here. After she bought the tickets she started to cry. Not from remorse.  Rather from pure joy.  One Direction! Harry! Niall! The marketing machine that is One Direction has my daughter hook, line and sinker.  

Now, obviously, I was not nearly so pleased as she; especially when I found out I was the financier for this little operation. My husband and I considered many options from canceling the transaction to selling the tickets.  But where is the fun in that? Where is the lesson in that?  And so we came up with a different solution. 

Following is the contract we presented to our daughter this morning: 

I, the undersigned, acknowledge that I willfully committed fraud.  I used my mother’s credit card, without permission, and racked up $1200.00 worth of charges.  I understand that my parents are being lenient by not filing a police report. I also understand that stealing a sum greater than $1000.00 is a felony in the State of Oregon. Furthermore I understand that if convicted of a felony I could face up to a year in prison.  

My parents have been clear with me; $600.00 a ticket for 4th row One Direction seats is an unfortunate and irresponsible use of money.  There are many ways this money could be put to better use.  However it has also been acknowledged that I am my own person and as such I am allowed to spend my money as I choose.  The money used to buy these tickets, however, was not my money.  

By signing this document I irrefutably admit I have the coolest most wonderful parents on the planet.  They are the best because they are allowing me the chance to earn this money for myself.  The money put on the credit card will be considered a loan.  As a loan this money will be subject to interest.  Given that I am 13-years-old and with a questionable credit rating the interest rate will be 28% per annum.  Any given month that I do not cover the minimum payment a late fee of $30.00 will be charged to my account.  In addition I will be charged interest on the interest should the minimum payment not be met.  

I acknowledge that buying concert tickets to a stadium several states away is only the beginning of expenses I would expect to incur should the concert be attended.  If I am to attend said concert I will have to buy concert tickets for my mother and my sister.  In addition I will have to buy plane tickets for all four of us (my mother, my sister, my friend and myself). I will be responsible for all transportation costs (gas, rental car, vehicle insurance, etc). In addition I will be responsible for lodging, food and incidentals (concert tee shirts, etc).  

Once I calculate these expenses I will put them in a spreadsheet and present them to my parents.  Then a mutually acceptable timeline will be agreed upon and monthly financial goals will have to be met.  

I am allowed to be creative in earning the money for this trip.  I can set up a Go Fund Me or similar account.  It has been suggested that it will take all my creative spirit to convince people I unequivocally NEED to attend this concert.  I may not beg my parents for money.  I may not beg my relatives for money. I understand that the chores completed at home are my responsibility as a member of this family and as such do not come with monetary compensation.  If I am to sell items such as crafts or baked goods I am responsible for the seed money needed to create said items.  No additional loans will be granted. 

I also understand that my schooling can not suffer.  I must, from this point forward, get no grade less than a B.  If my grades are lacking I understand the tickets will be immediately disposed of.  I will, however, still be responsible for the monies borrowed.  

Finally, if I am unable to earn the money required for this trip the tickets will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation so that a truly deserving child will be able to see this band. As previously stated - I will still be required to pay back the loan.


Truth-be-told I will be shocked if my daughter is able to comply with the terms of this contract.  If she earns the money and maintains her GPA then good for her. I'll see you in Phoenix next September.  If she is unable to earn the money then I hope she will at least have learned something about life and its concomitant costs. And, perhaps, she'll even have a bit of extra change in her pocket.

Oh the joys of parenting!  


Note: we've already had a spirited discussion about interest on loans.  Indeed it appears lessons are being learned. :o)

Addendum: after this blog post my daughter has decided to start her own blog and write from her perspective.  You can see her post here

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why I Write

Words live inside me.  In my chest.  They bounce around like pinballs; vaulting off my heart and springing against my ribcage. I can’t sleep with them pushing, shoving and pulsating.  They tear at me and eat away the fleshy parts of my lungs leaving me breathless.  They bore into my heart and cause palpitations. They test the integrity of my diaphragm, leaning into it until my stomach cries foul and heartburn rears its ugly head.  

I can’t really blame them, these words. They are looking for order in a chaotic world.  They want to find their way out. They want to have meaning.  And they want to be heard.  That is why I write.  

You see, writing has a magnetic pull.  Words are automatically drawn by this mystical force.  Pen in hand these words line up neatly along my arm and march out on to the page.   

And then they are free.  And I am free.  And we both can rest. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Animal ER

“I need someone to take the biting end,” said the traveling neurosurgeon to no one in particular.  I looked around the hospital. The cages were full and my technicians were busy.  

“I guess that’d be me,” I said and followed him to our patient, a 178 pound Great Dane.  The surgeon was going to pinch the dane’s rear toes, clamp down on them as hard as he could with hemostats, to determine if the dog could feel deep pain.  Deep pain was good.  It meant the neurologic circuit between the feet and brain was intact.  This dog couldn’t walk.  We wanted deep pain.  

My job was to ensure the surgeon did not get bit.  I’m not particularly interested in revealing my weight but suffice it to say I am five foot two and weigh less than this dog.  

I sat down on the speckled brown floor, a surface made for fancy garages.  We thought the material would be good in our hospital; classy, not too slippery and not showing dirt. I eyed a region that looked suspiciously like dried blood.  So much for hiding muck.    

I wrapped my arms around the dog’s neck and said a fleeting prayer.  I felt like a little girl with my arms wrapped around our Great Pyrenees -- Pepi.  An amiable dog that put up with all my prepubescent poking and prodding.  I only hoped this dog would be as gentle. Because the truth of the matter was if the biting end wanted to bite he was going to do so.  And I would be the likely recipient of said interaction.

But luck was on my side.  Our patient was just that -- patient.  He had deep pain and he did not bite.  Win-win.  

I heaved a heavy sigh and found myself utterly grateful for this gentle giant.  After our encounter I was beginning to feel bonded and was glad for his prognosis.  He probably had a fibrocartilagenous emboli (a stroke to the spinal cord). Given time he might recover. I rested my head on his, thanked him for being good, then got up to talk to his owners.  

The treatment portion of our hospital was separated from the exam rooms and reception area by swinging aluminum doors.  I went through the first set of these doors and skittered past the exam rooms with as much stealth as I could muster.  The rooms were full of clients waiting for my attention.  I went through the second set of swinging doors and out into the lobby. 

The dane’s people were sitting by a large plate glass window that overlooked the strip mall parking lot.  It was dark outside and I instinctively looked for the tree covered in white lights -- my beacon in the darkness.  But the tree wasn’t lit up.  Damn.  

I pulled up a chair, a gaudy fabric covered seat upholstered in a contemporary design, and began to review their case.  

I’d only just begun when the front door swung open and a gust of frigid air poured into the lobby. I shivered. It felt as if a spirit had passed through me and for a brief moment I was creeped out. 

A woman with a nose ring barreled through the door.  In her arms was a small scruffy dog who was actively seizing.  I excused myself, pried the dog from her arms and went back through the aluminum doors leaving them swinging in my wake. 

We gave the seizing dog an injection of valium. The medication worked immediately and our patient’s tremors began to slow.  He looked like an over medicated parkinson patient -- limbs flailing this way and that.  

Then I did it.  I opened my stupid mouth. 

“I’ll bet this dog couldn’t bite if he wanted to.”  

Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Though we practice medicine, science, we also wholeheartedly believe in the power of the jinx.  I had just cast a spell which all but mandated that this dog was going to bite us.   

My technician shot me a nasty look, a well deserved one at that, and took the dog to the scale where, as per my prophesy, he exploded. He threw himself off the scale, a mere inch off the ground, and slammed his head onto the floor. He bit his tongue and began to bleed profusely.  He shat himself and expressed his anal glands perfusing the clinic with an aroma of unsullied fear. 

Though this dog could not walk he began to scoot himself across the clinic with surprising speed, blood and feces smeared in his wake.  Each attempt to catch him was met with a mess of gnarling gnashing teeth.  He was barking, screaming and growling.  I knew, with fair certainty, everyone in the hospital could hear his tantrum, including his owner who remained in the lobby.  

I began hopping back and forth on my danskos muttering “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”  The tasmanian devil of a dog was headed across the treatment area -- straight for the great dane.  The dane, who was too big to fit in a kennel, was lying on the floor. 

Now the dane had been gentle with me.  But I had no idea how he felt about other dogs, much less, those of tasmanian descent.  Time slowed and I imagined this dane opening his mouth, cranking it back 150 degrees like a snake, and swallowing the terrier whole.  

And this entire incident would be all my fault. Vexes aside the buck stopped with me. If either of these dogs were injured I would ultimately be to blame.  

I ran over to the dane hoping to intercept any potential interaction but did not move fast enough.  The biting, slithering, mess of a terrier slid right up to our gargantuan patient.  And that gentle giant of a dog simply cocked his head in curiosity.   

Oh thank you!  Thank you!  I was becoming more and more bonded with this fabulous black beast.  

We threw a towel over the terrier and tackled him.  He was muzzled and subsequently subdued with medication.  Oh me oh my!

A bit worse for wear I returned to the lobby, reassured the terrier’s owner and resumed my conversation with the dane’s owners.  

Though his medical situation was not ideal the dane had a chance for recovery. With supportive care and time he may be able to walk again.  The couple didn’t say a word. Instead they looked at me, blinked, and then looked at each other.  And I knew.  Fuck.  Fuck it all to hell.  They were going to euthanize.  

They wanted to be present and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. I pulled the sickly pink solution into a 20 cc syringe.  I sat in front of this wonderful dog and he looked at me, his mouth open and panting.  He trusted me.  We were friends.  

His owners stood over him and I gave the injection. I caught his bowling ball of a head as it fell to the ground.  His owners turned on their heels and left, leaving me on the speckled floor next to their precious dead dog.  I lowered my head to his once again and began to cry.  

Then the aluminum doors burst open and another emergency beckoned.  I stood, wiped my eyes and, with no other choice, returned to work.   

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What I've Never Told You.

What I’ve never told you is I believe in magic. Irrational irrevocable magic.  

The sun, when it shines through the windshield spreading a layer of warmth across my chest -- that’s magic.  That’s the universe cradling me, holding my heart, as I make my way through the world.    

The stars, that twinkle at 2:00 am, as I step in the back alley of the the strip mall, a brief respite from the night shift.  These stars are crepuscular magical beacons. Luminaries from the heart of the beast.  

The dog, who twitches and trembles and growls in his sleep, chasing the squirrel of his dreams.  Then wakes -- abundantly happy, bouncing and bounding. A life lived in the moment. He is unadulterated magic.  

The frost that covers my windshield in intricate patterns, making me stop in my tracks to wonder at it’s magnificence. Pure magic.  

The child who hugs me with her whole self, the one who still holds my hand in public, the one who looks at me with those baby blues and melts my soul.  Tender magic. 

The early morning sun bouncing off snow capped mountains; a golden pink alpenglow punctuating an unwelcome morning commute.  Unexpected magic.  

Leaves that twist and turn; waving at me like a beauty contestant.  The universe shouting hello.  Discounted magic. 

The orange, rusts and golds of fall.  The pure white of fresh fallen snow.  Verdant buds pushing through frozen ground.  Abundant greens bursting everywhere.  Sun and sand and water and heat. Colorful seasonal magic. 

An owl hooting in the night.  Wondering who.  Who?  Who?  

A spotted baby deer frozen in her tracks.  A doe who bounds an elegant retreat; all four limbs off the ground.  Instinctual magic. 

The smell of onions and garlic simmering on the stove.  Hot apple cider, pumpkin pie, and pomegranates.  Coffee and cream.  Friends and family and red red wine.  Teeth purple with the first sip. Ritualistic magic. 

Welcoming fires that crackle and pop.  Glorious smoky perfume.  Pajamas and slippers, blankets slung over shoulders.  Books in hand.  Football on TV.  Comforting magic. 

Sheep who give wool.  Wool which turns to yarn.  Yarn that turns to blankets and hats, gloves and sweaters.  Enterprising magic. 

Words that spill onto the page. 

Serendipity, providence, coincidence.  Being at the right place at the right time. 

It’s all magic.  

So when you ask; How’d you do that?  Where’d that come from?  How’d you know?  

My answer will always be one simple word:  Magic.