Where Have I Been?

I’ve been busy performing (two plays in 12 months!), serving (1 board of directors, 1 committee), teaching (5th-12th grades) and going to Colorado with my family.

But I haven’t been blogging.

I compose blog posts in my head all the time.  I have things to say about so much – gay marriage, the Confederate flag, health care, Celiac disease, Harper Lee, El Nino and many, many other things.

But I can’t sit down and write.  My brain is going ninety miles an hour and I can’t stop it.  Which topic do I pick?  What do I have to say?  Does anyone care what I think?  Why do I want to blog?

I look at my writer’s dam (I don’t see it really as a block – I can see the ideas on the other side, there is also a tiny trickle making its way out now and again, I just can’t knock the whole dam down and get that beautiful, steady flow) and . . . well, I can actually tell you when it appeared.  I can tell you what was the final straw/branch/limb placed there by the busy little beavers in my mind.

I just can’t write about it.

I have written a couple of semi-private posts and shared them with an inner circle.  But still, two years later, I’m not really ready to open up and tell more.  As much as I have healed (or as much as I think I’ve healed), the wound is still too tender, too easily opened up again.

To continue the wound analogy, I don’t believe that I have developed an infection.  I don’t feel that there is something festering, taking hold and eating away.  As a Christian, I honestly feel too grounded in the Word of God for that.  But I still feel pain.  I feel the pain, the tenderness around the wound site and, like a paper cut on a joint, the flesh keeps opening at the most inopportune times.  A song, a joke, the way an adjective is used – all of these things can cause the bleeding to start again.  Sometimes I actually find myself putting my hand over my heart and pressing in on my chest.

But, like a flesh wound, my wound is slowly diminishing.  Each time it is opened, it’s less deep.  There is less blood.  The routine of it has taught me how to tend to it.  Well, for the most part.  Sometimes it stops bleeding instantly.  Sometimes it weeps for a few days.  But it’s healing.  Slowly.  Slowly.

Some days I don’t even remember that it’s there.  Happily, those days are becoming more frequent.  I don’t know if there will ever come a day when I will boast a scar that never opens.  I may.  But I doubt that the pain will ever take its leave. I’m not sure that I want it to.  If there is no pain, then that means that I don’t remember the loss.  And if I don’t remember the loss, then I don’t remember the good.  And there was good.  Because when it was gone, there was loss.  And then pain.

Why has this wound dammed up my writing?  I don’t know fully.  I have a feeling, as I’ve been analyzing the snot out of it, that it has to do with identity.  So much of my identity was formed because of the cause of this wound.  (I’m still not even ready to put a name/face with it publicly.)  As a result, whenever I try to write a blog post that is an opinion/commentary piece, I question who I really am.  Are these my views or am I a puppet – a ventriloquist’s dummy spouting views that may not be my own?  Was I formed or did I really find my true self because of this experience?  Was I showed freedom that I didn’t know I had, or was I molded slowly into a shape that was comfortable, but really not me?  Are my words, my writing style, my “voice” really mine?  I think I know.  But then . . . maybe I don’t.

So that’s where I am right now.  I have a lot to say, but I don’t know if I’m saying it.  I try to write, but then another branch slips into the opening and stifles the flow.  I have tried to start posts online and I have tried to start posts with pencil on paper.  This is as far as I’ve gotten.

One last wound reference.  When I was a kid, I had a screen door close on my foot.  It left a large scrape on the back of my foot/leg just above my heel.  The scar that formed was very keloid-like.  For years it stuck out at least a quarter inch from my normal skin.  Certain shoes rubbed it so that it would itch or become inflamed.  I never told my parents about it because I could manage it.  I just put band-aids on it or chose shoes that wouldn’t rub it wrong.

I managed it.  I told no one.

I don’t remember when it resolved.  I don’t remember when I stopped noticing it.  When I went to look at it just now, I even looked on the wrong foot first!  Now it has faded to a small square that is about half a shade lighter than the skin around it.  It looks like a small, normal scar.  The only reason it entered my mind was that last week my nephew showed me a scar on his knee that has turned into a keloid.  I was able to tell him that it’s not permanent.  It will fade.  It will never go away completely, but it will look almost completely normal again.  And eventually, he won’t notice it for years.


I know that at some point I will need to tell my story – fully and (possibly) with names.  And I know that it will be because I want others who have similar scars and wounds to know that it’s not permanent.  It will fade.  And eventually, they won’t notice it for years.


On Random Gifts and Their Benefits

My mother-in-law was really great at giving random presents.  Gifts that would elicit a brief moment of eye contact between my husband and myself before any words escaped (the first word usually being “um”).  One of the most memorable was a hand painted tray – complete with a card of authenticity.  It was small, hinting to be used for serving hor d’oeuvres – if you dared to actually use a hand painted tray practically.  The flowers painted on it had some weird color combination that really didn’t go with anything.  I honestly don’t know where that tray ended up.

Another random present arrived very early in our marriage – maybe even our first Christmas.  It was a food dehydrator.  Hubby laughed when we opened it and wondered aloud what we would EVER use it for.  Um, to DRY FOOD of course!  Now WHY we would want to dry food escaped me, but I took a liking to the thing.  And I was determined to put it to use.

It collected dust for several years, but I’m glad that I fought to keep it.  I am proud to report that I do use it.  On a regular basis!

I have dried orange, lemon, and apple slices, mixed them with cinnamon, cloves and other spices and given them to teachers as Christmas potpourri.  (Teachers get enough food gifts, let me tell you.  They are happy for something that won’t spoil or cause a sugar high.)

At the end of the summer, when a frost is predicted, I will go harvest herbs from my garden and dry them.  I have containers of garden basil, rosemary, sage, and lemon balm.

And I’ve taken to getting bunches of spinach and kale from the grocery store and drying them.  I crumble them into containers and keep them in the freezer.  When I make sauces, cook ground meat, fix an omelette or even a salad, I’ll sprinkle a pinch or two in just to boost the nutritional content and to enhance the flavor.  Since I started doing that, I have gotten a lot compliments on my spaghetti sauce from my family.

Which brings me to a kind of funny story.

I dried a bunch of kale and spinach last year.  When I use only a pinch at a time, it holds for a while, but I’m running low.  I’m doing another batch this week.

I finished the spinach this morning and got my spinach container from the freezer.  For some reason, when I put the container in last year, I didn’t label it.  But I always put it back next to the container labeled “KALE”, so I’m good.  I started filling the spinach container with the new batch and noticed that the color didn’t quite match.  The previous batch was darker.  I chalked that up to being in the freezer for about a year and went on.  I mixed the new in with the old by pinching it together and rolling it around really well.  Then I went on with my morning.  (I should mention to anyone reading this that we do NOT live in Colorado, Washington or any state that allows marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes.  Get your mind out of the bong.)

Part of my morning routine now involves taking my coffee into the laundry room and sitting with our cat, Marie, as she eats.  I would like to say this is because Marie is deaf and she likes me to stand watch in case our dog, Ruby, comes in (even though Ruby is always in her crate for kitty breakfast time).  In truth, Marie is just a diva and wants an audience.  But this morning she wouldn’t eat.  All she wanted to do was rub my hand.  And rub my hand.  And grab it.  And bite it.  And rub it some more.  Then it dawned on me.

Last year I mixed the kale and the spinach together in the “KALE” container.  The unmarked container is catnip.

Yes, I have been putting catnip in my family’s food for the better part of a calendar year.

Do you know that when you type in “can humans eat”, “catnip” is third on the Google search list?  Right behind “dog food” and “grass”.

Turns out that yes, humans CAN eat catnip.  It helps arthritis, migraines, insomnia, tummy troubles and coughing, among other things.  So, you know, I’ve been helping us all.  In teeny, tiny, pinch-sized amounts.

Too bad my mother-in-law never got us a label maker.  That would have come in handy.

Sister Knows Best . . . Sometimes

Yesterday, my brother published this blog post.  I invite you to read it right now because I’m going to reference it quite a bit.  As a matter of fact, this whole blog post is an extended comment on the post.  So read it.  Now.  I’ll wait.

And . . . you’re back.

He’s a great writer, my brother.  And, well, he kinda threw me under the bus.

In the blog post, he writes about my decision to go gluten free.  His words:  “It seemed a silly decision based on a scienceless hippy trend—a conversation starter rather than a valid health-based choice.”

When I read that, my mouth dropped open.  I was not joining a trend!  How could he say that?  As a matter of fact, just a month or two before my decision, I had told myself in no uncertain terms that I would NEVER go gluten free.  I had several friends jump on the bandwagon because it was they had heard how great it was and I was just not going there.  Granted, the friends in question had pantries full of supplements, drink mixes, cleanse directions, etc. all designed to detox, de-wrinkle, melt fat, clear skin, raise IQ points, grant world peace and enable flight.  They were/are the true wagon-hoppers.  I knew how I felt about them and I did not want that reputation myself.

Six weeks later I was in my doctor’s office looking at the beginnings of arthritis on my foot x-ray.  I had two pairs of shoes in my closet that I could wear without feeling as if a hot poker were being driven into my big toe joint.  I had a drawer full of wrist, thumb, and elbow braces/supports/wraps to pull out when I wrote or typed too much.  My doctor began laying out my future – over the counter pain meds until they didn’t work any more.  Then prescription.  Then we’d look at injections.  I didn’t even want to think about what was after that.  I had just returned from Lubbock where I helped care for my father as he recovered from yet another arthritis-related repair surgery.  I had just lived a weekend with my future.

I went home and really thought about my body.  What was going on?  Why was this happening?  Was the only treatment really pain management and some drug that might slow the progression?  I could not reconcile that the only way to help myself was drugs.  I had fought other conditions with alternative treatments, so that’s where I started.

Several years earlier I thought that I was going into early menopause.  I was having mood swings, night sweats, hot flashes, the works.  Yet my blood work looked normal – no indication of pending hormonal imbalances.  A friend suggested that I go to a nutritionist.  She had seen one for the same complaints and with supplements and a diet change she had gotten herself back on track.  I saw the same nutritionist as my friend, and within two months of supplements and balancing protein intake, the symptoms went away.

So that’s where I went for solutions about my arthritis.  I told her my diagnosis and the first thing she said was, “Give up gluten.”  She went into a long explanation, but I really didn’t hear her.  All I could think was, “Dang it!  Dang it!  Dang it!  I’m going to be one of THOSE people.”  I had to really weigh that option.  Just the thought of hearing myself say, “Could I have a gluten free menu?” was enough to have me seriously consider pharmaceuticals.  But the thought of the expense and toxicity of ingesting an increasing amount of anti-inflammatory drugs outweighed the prospect of being thought a flake.

So, in February of 2011, I went kicking and screaming into the World of Gluten Free Eating.

The change itself was actually not as difficult as I thought.  There are plenty of culinary options out there for GFers.  It was just the stigma that I hated.

About six weeks later, I noticed that I didn’t wince when I pivoted on the landing on the landing at home.  I took time and realized that there was no more red hot poker working its way through my hallux at every step.  All of a sudden, my entire shoe collection was open to me again.

I also noticed that I didn’t fight to stay awake during Sunday morning worship service any more.  Before I just thought that I was continually tired – after all, wasn’t I a stay-at-home-mom who had recently gone back to work part-time?  Didn’t I have reason to nod off when still?  (And my excuse before I went back to work was pretty much just the stay-at-home-mom part.)

My kids and I didn’t laugh at the weird noises my stomach made during bedtime because my stomach had stopped talking to us.  Hmmmm.  Maybe there was something to this gluten free business.

After I started seeing such good results, I brought up the idea of my brother trying it.  I knew that he had been diagnosed with arthritis years before so I thought that maybe it would give him the same relief it gave me.  He rolled his eyes.  And now you, dear reader, are up to date.

Yesterday morning, when I read his post, my jaw dropped.  I couldn’t believe that he would portray me as so shallow and flaky that I would just jump on a bandwagon.  (Because no, I’ve never done anything shallow and flaky nor jumped on any bandwagon in my life.  Never.  I swear.)  I thought that he made me out to be the type of person that he wanted to be sure HE wasn’t.  So I posted some comments to his Facebook link.  Not hostile ones, just ones defending myself.  My phone immediately played the Breaking Bad theme.  It was my brother’s ringtone.  He was terrified that he had offended or angered me.  I assured him that he hadn’t.  Not really.  However, I did ask him to change the way he portrayed me to reflect the fact that I did not make the decision to go gluten free based on a trend – I did it at the urgings of a professional as a way to manage pain.  He agreed to the change.

We continued to talk about our respective dietary journeys – his path infinitely more rocky than mine – and I realized that I couldn’t ask him to edit his blog post.  His initial perception of my going gluten free illustrated his point perfectly.  Four years ago, all he heard was that I was trying this trending thing.  He didn’t listen to my reasons – he didn’t need them.  I was becoming just another annoying gluten free d-bag.  And then I was the annoying gluten free d-bag who was pressuring him to join up.  Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.  That was his take on my decision four years ago – that was HIS truth of the situation.  How could I ask him to change his truth?  Who am I to ask another writer to censor a true story just because I don’t like the way I’m portrayed in it?  All of the facts of his post are true.  I told him not to change it.

(I just decided to tell my side, too.)

Now it’s my brother who is trying to pull ME onto the celiac “bandwagon”.  He has done extensive research and is convinced that I have it.  There is a genetic component to it so it is highly likely.  I exhibit some of the signs.   For instance, now that I have eliminated gluten from my diet, I can tell you within an hour if I have accidentally ingested some.  I get bloated, uncomfortable and my stomach will strike up a rather loud conversation with anyone in earshot.  (That can be awkward.)  My symptoms are not as dramatic nor as debilitating as my brother’s, therefore he believes that I have “silent celiac”.  That basically means that I (could) have all the damage with little to no pain.  Yay.

He frequently urges me to be tested so that I will know for sure.  Gluten damage for a celiac patient is more serious than it is for someone who is merely allergic or intolerant.  It would be good to know for that reason alone – then I could be diligent instead of careful.

I think.

I don’t know.  I go back and forth.

The main test counts the number of antibodies your body is producing against gluten.  In order to measure this, the patient must consume gluten and produce a reaction.  I am not willing to go through what I know will be a very uncomfortable (and possibly debilitating) few days in order to be told that I should never have consumed the gluten required for the test.  The test that does not require me to consume gluten is not covered by my insurance.

And why do I need an official diagnosis?  I mean, if the treatment will be the same as what I am doing now, why do I need the piece of paper?

Validation comes to mind.

Right now when I tell someone that I am gluten free, I get that look – eyebrows go up, head cocks a little to the side, bottom lip frowns a little.  They ask “why” with no words.  For some strange reason, I feel that I own them an explanation.  And in a way, I do.  I refuse the cookies/brownies/pie/casserole that they made as an act of affection.  I cause them extra work – getting a gluten free menu –  as they seat our party of four.  So I want them to know that I’m not doing this to be trendy.  I’m not doing this for attention.  I’m not doing this to open up a conversation about GMO.  I’m doing this because if I don’t, I won’t be able to leave my house for the rest of the day.  I want to say to them, “Believe me, I would LOVE not to have this restriction.  I would LOVE to be able to go anywhere at all at any time of day and get something to eat.  I would love to be able to plan a road trip without having to bring my own snack stash.”  But because I don’t have the blood work/biopsy results, I can only go with “It helped my arthritis.”

And you know what, I also just want to know that it’s not in my head – that I’m not making this up or creating my own symptoms.  I want someone in authority to tell me that I’m not being a flake and that it’s okay to ask a wait person to make another trip for a special menu.  I want someone official to say it’s okay to turn down the cobbler that a friend brought to work that she made with the apples from her own tree.

But until I decide to take that insurance un-approved test, I have one of the best endorsements of all.

At the end of his post, my brother wrote “I’ll never doubt you again, Sis.”  That makes me smile.


My father is a well respected theatre professor, director and actor.

My mother is an award winning, published playwright, director and actor.

My brother is an accomplished songwriter, band frontman and animator.

I am . . . .

I am . . . . . . . . . .

Working on it

Supermoon – 2012

A couple of years ago, there was another Supermoon. Princess (my daughter who is now 14) and Buddy (my son who is now 11) had a very different interpretation as to what a Supermoon is.

Back in 2012, as we were driving to school, the DJ on the radio said that he would be back in a moment with information on how and when to see the Supermoon. Princess looked at me with horror on her face.

“Supermoon? Really?” she said.

“Yes,” I said. And then I explained how not only was there a full moon Saturday, but it was going to occur as the moon passed closest to the Earth so it was going to appear HUGE in the evening sky. She looked relieved.

Turns out, she thought that the DJ was advertising a large gathering of people showing their butts. Sort of a Guinness World Record of mooning. Naturally, she was appalled that they would advertise this, much less organize it.

Buddy, however, was disappointed that we couldn’t attend.

Locked Up

Locked Up

Sometimes the Inner Critic materializes
Becomes real
Becomes flesh
Uses someone else’s mouth and voice to say the exact same things

that once

were just

in your own head

And like that you’re bound yet again

If the voice is on the outside, does that now make it true?
Will one voice become many?
What’s the combination to this stupid lock?

Old Typewriter

Old Typewriter

My childhood on Mommy’s typewriter.
Jamming the keys on purpose.
Hitting the space bar until the bell rings
Switching to the red ribbon when it was available.
Oh! And who could forget typing letter upon letter in one place at (the end of the line)
when you forgot to return.
The advent of correction tape and Liquid Paper brought smudges and white fingernails.
Forget the iPad.
My childhood was half struck letter and wasted paper
Black ink fingertips and forgotten margins

All Kinds of Mamas

By definition Mother’s Day is about moms.  Of course we immediately think of the women who have carried babies in their wombs, birthed them and then raised (or are in the process of raising) them to be people.  Then we think of moms who were not physically able to carry a human in their own body, so they take in a child who does not share their DNA.  And there are the women who care so much for the human being that they create and carry that they choose to give them to another who is better equipped to care for a child.  All of these women are celebrated on this calendar day.

But there are two other types of “moms” out there who get overlooked.  They are not readily categorized as moms, yet they perform most (if not all) of the same duties and exhibit most (if not all) of the same character traits as traditional moms.  They are silent and sometimes invisible, but they should be celebrated just as the rest of us are.

I know mothers who have experienced newborns, toddlers, preschoolers and up might chuckle if I add parents of “fur babies” (or pet owners) to the ranks of momhood.  But I became a mom long before I married and had human babies because when I was 20 I adopted a cat named Pepper.  She was my baby and I took care of her like she was my own child.

If you choose to adopt a homeless animal, you become a parent.  You may be “owner” on paper, but that dog or cat (or bunny or ferret or whatever crawls, flies, swims or slithers into your heart) becomes your child.  (And if you don’t think of them at least a little as your child, then you may not need to be a pet owner.)  It’s not easier to be the parent of a fur-baby, and it’s not harder (well, maybe – and I’ll get to that), it’s just different.  My job as the mom of a human offspring is to raise them to be able to take care of themselves and to eventually become a contributing member of a community.  At some point, they can make their own lunches.  At some point, they can be responsible for their own transportation.  And at some point they become completely independent.  Not so for fur-babies.  For the life of your pet, you will be their source of food, exercise, entertainment, and health care.  You will be their life for their entire life.  That’s a huge, time consuming responsibility.  It’s almost like perpetually having a toddler in the house.  Until . . . the animal becomes geriatric.  Then it is like perpetually having an infant.  You have to clean up “accidents”.  You get up in the middle of the night to let them go to the bathroom.  You have to pick them up and carry them places.  And you have to interpret non-verbal signals about their health and well being.

Here’s where, I think, it becomes harder to be a parent to a pet.  Odds are that you will outlive your fur-baby.  By a lot.  When you have a human child, there is a very great chance that you will never have to deal with the loss of that child.  Not so with a furry companion.  You WILL have to experience their decline and their loss.  It is hard.  It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – and I’ve done it four times so far.  I’ve also signed up to do it at least three more times now that we’ve adopted two cats and a dog.  Yet, we moms of companion animals go back willingly again and again because we can.  Because our hearts are not a fixed size and can expand to encompass many sizes and shapes of love.  And because we know we can make a difference.

Yes, parenting humans is challenging and difficult and stressful because there is a LOT at stake.  The way you parent a human can affect countless lives, as well as society overall, for a long time.  But parenting a rescue is just as important and transformative on a smaller scale.  It’s especially important and trasformative to the fuzzy little life that you save.

I have noticed another group of “moms” who have become more numerous lately, yet who are anonymous and invisible.  These are the women who have become mothers to their own aging parents.  Blessedly, I have not experienced this with my own parents (and I pray I don’t have to), but I have friends and family members who have gone through, or are going through, this unexpected stage of life.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s hard.  I can’t imagine the toll it takes.

I have two dear friends (not a couple – just FYI) who chose early on not to be mothers to human offspring.  They and their husbands have been wonderful parents to a variety of cats and dogs over the years.  I see them now using incredible mama skills – patience, endurance, wisdom and unconditional love – with their own parents.  In my eyes – as a woman who is in the process of raising little humans that I co-created – what my friends are doing is much harder than anything I’ve ever done or will do as a mom.

My journey as a mother to my kids is one that is measured by celebrations of progress – walking, talking, potty training, reading, skip to driving, graduation and then life on their own.  My role as a mother will constantly evolve and diminish until I become more of an adviser than a caregiver.  In other words, I train my kids to take over my job.  My friends’ role as mothers to their own parents is the opposite.  It will continually increase from child to assistant to caregiver.  They don’t work their way out of a job, they work their way into it.

I chose to become a mother.  I (kind of) knew what I was getting into.   My friends with aging parents had the mother role thrust upon them.  They chose to accept that role even though they had never planned on it.  And they are dealing with the same things I dealt with when I took on that role.  I read their blogs and Facebook posts about having to find a “baby sitter” for their parent if they want to go on a date with their spouse, shuttling their parent to appointment after appointment, dealing with picky eaters and cleaning up poop.  But these entries are not about cute little children who can basically be physically carried if they cannot or will not walk on their own.  These entries are about confused adults – with adult sized bodies large enough to cause major ambulatory problems if they cannot or will not walk willingly.  I am in awe of these women.

Being a mom is hard in every form – mom to human, mom to animal, mom to mom.  It requires more of you than you knew you had to give.  I’m glad that there is at least one day where we can pause and breathe and acknowledge the work that women do for others.  Thank you to my own mom Juanice, to my friends Adette and Dana who have adopted and cared for many orphaned fur-babies and for my friends Melissa and Lisa who have had to take a reverse role as mom of a parent.  We’re all pretty darned wonderful.  Let’s have a piece of chocolate and pat ourselves on the back.