Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice: The holiday that celebrates nerdiness

image from

Solstice is a big event in my family. We decorate the Solstice tree, string the house with as many holiday lights as we can before blowing the fuses, and open most of our presents. It's the day we celebrate our family, just the three of us. There are no outside obligations, like mom wondering why we didn't invite her over, or long drives in Christmas traffic. We often have a few friends over to share a good meal and some good bottles of wine. It's a relaxed, carefree, do whatever we want, kind of holiday.

Plus, Solstice is really frickin cool!

Solstice is a celebration of the return of sunlight. The Sun has traveled as far to the southern horizon as it can get in our hemisphere and it will now begin to climb back toward the north, bringing longer days with more light. Yes, I know, the Sun isn't actually going anywhere, the Earth is doing all of the traveling, and it's the angle of the Earth in relation to the Sun that changes the Sun's position.  Which is exactly why Solstice is so cool. The Earth has traveled to this specific position on it's journey around the Sun, marking the exact location where the days will begin to get longer for us. This is as dark as it's going to get.

Ancient peoples marked this occasion and celebrated with bonfires and music, which is where we get Christmas lights and Christmas carols (maybe I made that last one up). We can't light a bonfire in our yard anymore or the cops get upset, so we wind hundreds of colorful lightbulbs all over our homes to chase away the darkness, just as our ancestors did with their bonfires and candles.

I'm not a pagan (technically I guess I am because I'm not Christian), so my family doesn't attend the Pagan celebrations in our community. I guess you'd call me a Scientific Pagan; my holidays focus on astronomy and nature. I drink champagne when NASA sends a new probe into space, or when scientists discover something new about the universe. I was absolutely giddy when they discovered a new planet in the "Goldie Locks zone." And I cried when the last Space Shuttle flight landed. No more launches.

Solstice and Equinox are the holidays that let me fly my nerd flag, when I can debate with other nerds the exact time of day winter begins. The Winter Solstice happens at the exact same moment all over the world, and is officially clocked in Universal Time at 5:30 pm on December 22nd. But what is the exact time in our own timezone? Here is an article from Earthsky that will help you determine the exact clock-time for your timezone. For Pacific Daylight Time (my own timezone) I need to subtract 7 hours from the Universal Time (5:30 pm on the 22nd - 7 hours = 11:30 pm on the 21st). Did I do that right?

I'm a science nerd, but unfortunately not a math nerd.

The universe is more beautiful and mysterious than you can possibly imagine, filled with wonders and constantly evolving. As soon as you think you've got it figured out, a new discovery will shake your hypothesis into nonsense. And the Earth, our planet, our home, is this beautiful vessel filled with just as much beauty and wonder as the universe it was created from. We should honor that wonder. Recognize the impossible odds that allow us to be here.

This is why I celebrate Solstice. This is why I proudly call myself a nerd.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The most beautiful perspective on Autism I have ever read

This essay, written by Julia Bascom for Shift Journal, is the most beautiful and well written perspective on autism I have ever read. Ms. Bascom is autistic and writes about her experiences on her blog, Just Stimming.

Here is an excerpt from her essay, The Obsessive Joy of Autism:

image from Shift Journal

"I flap a lot when I think about Glee or when I finish a sudoku puzzle. I make funny little sounds. I spin. I rock. I laugh. I am happy. Being autistic, to me, means a lot of different things, but one of the best things is that I can beso happyso enraptured about things no one else understands and so wrapped up in my own joy that, not only does it not matter that no one else shares it, but it can become contagious.
This is the part about autism I can never explain. This is the part I never want to lose. Without this part autism is not worth having."
To read the rest of her essay, click this link. You won't be disappointed.
Queen Teen doesn't have autism, but this essay helped me find new patience with her. Sometimes it's hard to accept who she is, when I still harbor the dream of what she could be. There are days when I'm really sick of all the challenges we have to deal with, but I'm sure her frustration is even greater. She's the one who has to live it; I'm just support staff. Sometimes it's hard to slow down and let her be herself when the world is pushing her to fit in, go faster, be "normal." But when I do, she shows me a world filled with more wonder and joy than any neuro-typical can see. This is her life and she lives it the best she can, usually with a smile on her face. She is strong and smart; don't let her visible frailty fool you. Queen Teen is a force to be reckoned with.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lead Free?

While Christmas shopping at a department store, I was perusing the toy aisle when I saw a Disney Princess jewelry set that proudly announced on the package in bold, sparkling letters, "Lead Free!"

Wait a minute...


I know there have been warnings about lead in toys for years, but seeing that little package of pink plastic, Sleeping Beauty inspired necklaces with the happy announcement that the contents were indeed "Lead Free" made me look around the rest of the toy aisle nervously. I stared at the Barbies in their party dresses and sequins, at the Dora the Explorer play-sets and the Play-School dollhouses with brightly colored plastic furniture, and then at the plastic model ponies. So many lovely, entertaining, fun things our children can play with.

Which ones are full of lead?

And if they are full of lead, why are they being sold to anyone?

Why is it okay for a business to create, import and distribute toys that are toxic to play with? Do the people who sign off on toxic toys as "safe" know they're approving potentially harmful items to kids? And if so, do they then allow their own children to play with them?

Okay, maybe I'm making a big leap here by assuming that just because a toy doesn't have a "lead free" sticker it must be full of lead. This is probably more a marketing gimmick than a statement of fact. But you gotta admit, it does raise a lot questions about the toys are kids are playing with.

Often I hear a politician or business leaders say on the news that stricter controls on lead and other toxins would be bad for business and could cause larger economic harm. They say if manufacturers had to test for hazards, or if those hazardous materials were banned from toys and other items, thousands of jobs would be lost because of the drop in profits for the business.

But I want to know, why should we have to trade the health of our children for jobs?

When I run the world, there will be no toxins, especially lead, in any toy or item of clothing or food or anything our kids might come in contact with. Period. No exceptions. And anyone who bitches about how taking toxins out of consumer goods is "bad for business" will be fined one million dollars. That money will go directly to children's health care.

It will be a great day when every single toy can have a label proclaiming "Lead Free." It will be an even better day when lead in toys will be such a thing of the past a "Lead Free" sticker will be considered quant and old-fashioned.

If you'd like more information about lead and products that may contain the toxin, check out the Environmental Protection Agency website at

Sunday, December 4, 2011

We are all the 99%

With the Occupy Camps being shut-down all over the country, the question is, "What now?" Is the movement over? What was the movement about, anyway?

The occupation camps have been a demonstration of a larger movement, not the movement itself. The demand for economic justice hasn't ended because the tents have been removed. Economic Justice is the point. The movement continues whether people are camping on Wall St. or not.

The simplest way we can show our elected officials that the demands of the people must be listened to is to hang a sign in our windows declaring "I am the 99%." Imagine what a statement that would be if every person in this country who has been effected by budget cuts and unemployment, medical hardship and foreclosure, the loss of their retirement and savings, put a sign in their front window stating that they are the 99%. And it doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or Republican, "red" or "blue", conservative or liberal or something in between. If every person who is angry about the way our economy has been impacted by  greed put a sign in their window, there would be millions of signs. You don't have to march or camp, you can simply hang a sign.

We're all in this together, people. We're all effected by economic injustice. Our leaders need to see that we're awake. Otherwise, nothing will improve.

I am the 99%

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The fear of falling.

It was a scary couple of weeks after Queen Teen's fall. Her hand remained swollen and bruised, and even though the first set of x-rays showed no fractures, we waited anxiously for the second set to confirm. Sometimes it can take several day or weeks for a fracture to become apparent in an x-ray. Queen Teen wore a big black wrist brace and couldn't use her walker. Instead, Rick or I helped her walk.

But the worst thing was the depression. She became more sullen and moody every day. School was out for Thanksgiving break (a whole frickin week!) so there was nothing to distract her. She was mighty sick of movies after day three, and the distraction of Thanksgiving day only helped a little. By day five she was lying on her bed weeping because she couldn't find the Evil Step-Mother figurine that goes with the Cinderella. Plus, it was raining, which always puts her in a bad mood. I felt so bad for her and tried everything to keep her distracted and entertained, but when you can't even look at a book because your hand hurts too much, there isn't anything that will cheer you up. Happily, the second set of x-rays confirmed no fractures.

We all survived Thanksgiving break (mostly) and she went back to her doctor the first day of school. The doctor pushed and pulled on her wrist and hand to double check for hidden fractures or cracks, but other than a sore thumb and a couple of small bruises, Queen Teen seemed fine. She returned to school with a big grin on her face and we announced to her teachers and classmates that she was fine. She decided to keep wearing the brace though because using her walker hurt her hand without it.

Queen Teen has fallen this hard before. Three years ago she fell in the bathroom, hit her face on the sink, and knocked out a front tooth. Usually she falls about once a day, landing on her butt. Her pale skin is typically mottled with bruises, especially on her legs and feet. We've all become somewhat immune to the fear when she falls. Queen Teen curses her ataxia and gets back up on her own. Sometimes she needs help, like the day she fell into her closet and couldn't find a handhold to pull herself out. When I hear her fall in the next room, I listen closely to see if she's okay, but continue with what I'm doing. If we all didn't adapt to the worry of falling, all three of us would be drinking Vodka before 9:00 am.

But this fall felt different, because this fall scared her. Yes, she was seriously injured, which will rattle anyone, but in the days following the accident, she seemed scared to move. Not just because it hurt her wrist, but because she seemed afraid she might fall again. And I was nervous. The terror I felt when we thought she may have broken her wrist was oppressive. I still can't shake off the fear, the thought that she didn't break anything... this time. What about next time? What if she breaks her leg? She and I clung to each other a lot more than usual, and not just because of the injury or the fact that she needed more help. Our confidence in her ability to always get back up when she fell was shattered.

Queen Teen recovered more quickly than I did. One morning I heard her try to walk to the bathroom on her own, heard her shout "Whoa!" as she began to fall. I jumped out of bed and ran to her side, scolding her to wait for me, to be careful, to not fall down. She let me help, and for a few days I heard her say to herself, "You have to wait for help. You can't do it by yourself."

Shit... have I just made it worse by telling her she can't?

Luckily, Queen Teen isn't a girl who sits and waits for long. She started moving around her room on her own again by holding on to the furniture, and once the second x-rays showed no fractures, I let her. I had to force myself to go back into the other room and let her walk alone. She had to prove to herself she could do it, that she was safe, that she was strong. I had to clamp down on my fear that she would fall again. I had to have faith in her ability to keep getting up.

Today when I took her to school, several of her classmates came out to the car to greet her. They wanted to help. So I brought the walker to her as she got out of the car and allowed two of her girlfriends to guide her into the class. Watching them closely, my heart pounded and I had to force myself not to hover. Queen Teen walked into the class and she was quickly surrounded by a large group of friends who said hi, patted her on the back, touched her hand, asked her if it still hurt, was she okay, could they help. Her aid then entered, looking a little frazzled that she hadn't been there to help Queen Teen inside. This was where QT feel, so the staff and teachers are very nervous about having her walk into the class on her own. I understand, but I have to let her do it. And with that many students surrounding her, supporting her, making her feel safe, I know they won't let her fall.

Queen Teen knows that too. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A great big, epic gravity check.

Tuesday morning at 7:45 the phone rang. "Hi, this is Queen Teen's teacher. I wanted to let you know that she fell. She seems okay, just embarrassed. We didn't see it happen so I'm not sure how she fell, but the other students told us and when we got to her she was sitting on the floor. It looks like the brakes on her walker stopped working. Can you fix them?"

"She's okay?" I asked.

Her teacher said she looked fine, just shaken up, so I told her I would be there with tools to fix the walker after my hair appointment.

But when I got to school an hour later, Queen Teen was definitely NOT okay. She was sitting at her desk with an ice pack on her right hand and the school nurse by her side. QT's hand was swollen and black and blue. Did she break it? I felt like the worst mom on the planet because I'd chosen to get my hair done rather then rush to my daughter's aid. But they told me she was okay!

I took her to the ER where we sat for three hours, got some x-rays, and were told it was a bad sprain. They wrapped it up and told me to take her to her primary doctor the following day. Really, a bad sprain? Should it be so swollen if it's just a bad sprain?

Her primary doctor wasn't so sure. "Queen Teen may have broken a tiny bone in her wrist. It's hard to tell right now, but this area is very tender." She explained that there's a small bone in the wrist that is prone to breaking when people fall on their hand, which is probably what Queen Teen did. It can be hard to see at first in an x-ray unless you're really looking for it. She told us to get another x-ray next week and come back to see her after Thanksgiving. Then she put a wrist splint on Queen Teen's hand and told her to take it easy.

Take it easy? Easier said than done. This morning at 5 AM I was woken by my daughter yelling, "WHOA!" Leaping out of bed I dashed to her room and found her trying to walk across her room without her walker, in the dark, with only one hand to catch herself. She can't use her walker because she can't put any weight on her wrist, so Queen Teen figures she'll just walk on her own anyway.

Isn't this the same girl who hurt her hand and wrist because she was trying to get her backpack off her wheelchair on her own, but when it got stuck she jerked it and then lost her balance (she finally admitted that was how she fell)? Isn't she the same girl who spent THREE HOURS in the ER yesterday?

Yes, this is the same girl. My stubborn, tenacious, independent daughter who seems to think the laws of gravity do not apply to her.

This is why I have gray hair, bags under my eyes, permanent knots in my shoulders and pain in my stomach.

Maybe it was all those times she fell learning to walk and we'd just call it a "gravity check," which made her laugh and get back up again. When she was three she weighed 25 pounds and the ground was only three feet away from her head. At sixteen she weighs 95 pounds and the ground is five feet from her head. Gravity hurts a lot more now.

Thank goodness for "Sponge Bob" and Starbucks Vanilla Cream Frappuccinos; we might survive the next few days.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What is Veteran's Day?

Queen Teen came home from school yesterday frustrated. "They were trying to tell me why there's no school tomorrow, but I don't understand." It's Veteran's Day, but Queen Teen has no idea what a veteran is.

I showed her pictures of soldiers and told her they are people who work very hard for us. That's why we all say thank you to them on Veteran's Day. She studied the pictures and asked a few questions, but still looked confused. Then she asked what one of them was carrying.

"That's a gun," I said.

She stared at me, unable to hear me. So I pantomimed the universal finger sign for gun that every four year old knows. She shook her head.

"I just don't get it." 

My daughter has no idea what a soldier is, or a gun. She doesn't know what war is, and doesn't understand killing. And I decided I'm okay with that. 

But that doesn't mean I don't think about our soldiers. I have a great respect for our soldiers and I worry about them fighting in Afghanistan. In fact, it drives me crazy that people so easily forget that we're at war. We go about our daily lives untouched by the hardships they face every day, our biggest complaint being the price of gas. And it enrages me how our elected officials fight over raising taxes or reducing the deficit. Really? You don't understand why there's a huge deficit? It really has nothing to do with the fact we've been fighting two wars for the last ten years? And I know no one wants to think about this, but maybe if our taxes were higher and we were forced to live with the specter of war every day, we'd all demand that the troops come home now. What better way to bring down the deficit then to bring home our soldiers safe and alive?

This Veterans Day, let's remember the men and women who are fighting and dying right now. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

4th anniversary of the first book I published, or, how I became an orientation and mobility teacher.

This past weekend marks the four year anniversary of when I published the first book from my press, Medusa's MuseTraveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers, by Laura Fogg, is a memoir of Laura's 30 + years teaching children with vision impairments, and ultimately what those children taught her about life, love, loss, and joy. Laura has been my daughter's teacher since Queen Teen was 3, and when I discovered Laura was also a talented writer, I offered to publish her book. After a year-and a half of edits, revisions, and debates over cover design and font choices, her book was launched at the California Association of Orientation and Mobility Specialists Conference. The other teachers were excited and impressed, and we sold almost 100 copies in two days. Laura was ecstatic and I was thrilled. I was also intrigued by the other O and M teachers I met at the conference and the work they so obviously loved doing. A few days after the launch of Traveling Blind, I decided to go to Graduate School and become an O and M teacher too.

Four years later, I attended the Orientation and Mobility Conference again, this time as a credentialed O and M Specialist with a Master's Degree and a job working side-by-side with Laura. I'm still a publisher, but I'm also a teacher, working with visually impaired students throughout all of Mendocino County. It was a long, exhausting crawl to get my degree, as many of you saw if you've been reading my blog for the past three years, but so worth it. I love teaching, I love Orientation and Mobility, and I love my students.

The conference is held every other year in Monterey at a hotel right on the beach. About half of my classmates from SF State were there, as were my teachers. My main focus as a teacher was learning about GPS systems for the visually impaired because I have a student who may benefit from using such a device (see, I already sound like a teacher. "may benefit from using such a device." lol). On Saturday was a GPS treasure hunt in downtown Monterey where teams of six competed against each other to find all the clues and get to the last location before anyone else. Our leader was a visually impaired man who just so happens to be the President and CEO of Sendero Group, the manufacturer of the GPS we were using. Is that why we smoked the other teams, arriving 20 minutes before anyone else at the bar, where we waited near a warm fire and drank cold margaritas? But the best moments for me were when I got to spend time with my classmates, catching up on our lives and our teaching jobs while sharing wine and champagne. I've missed everyone so much! It's like we're part of a submarine crew, a small group of highly trained people sharing very specific experiences that hardly anyone else can really understand.

There was a raffle to raise money for the scholarship fund, so I donated four copies of Traveling Blind. As I was sitting in the audience listening to a speaker talk about the pros and cons of using GPS on a smart phone, it suddenly hit me how much my life has changed since the first time I was at this conference. Last time I was a publisher sitting behind a table covered in copies of Laura's book. Now I'm a teacher, just like Laura.

I'll always be a book publisher; no way will I give that up. But it's very hard to make a living publishing books, so I teach to support my book habit. Thank goodness I love my "real" job. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Video from Heavy Load

"They call me retard.... they call me mental.... they call me special.... THAT's NOT MY NAME"

Paul Richard of Heavy Load is a contributor to the punk anthology I edited and published, Punk Rock Saved My Ass. This song off his band's new album, Wham, shows perfectly how they feel about being called "special," or anything else that labels them. You've got to see this, and pass it on

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No more trick-or-treating

Queen Teen has decided she's a little too old for trick-or-treating. After panicking that her princess dress was too small, and sending her dad on a frantic hunt to find a new dress, Queen Teen announced that she didn't want to dress up after all.

Teenagers, the inspiration for Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Instead, she and I wore our Minnie Mouse ears and walked downtown to see all the little ones in their cute costumes go trick-or-treating at local businesses. Spider Man seemed to be particularly popular with the 5 to 9 boys, and Princesses were a favorite for the 50th year in a row for the young girls. Queen Teen loved the babies dressed up as pumpkins and teddy bears and butterflies. We didn't intentionally hunt for candy with the crowd, but many of the businesses handed us candy anyway, and many commented on our Minnie ears, which made Queen Teen giggle.

Maybe not too old to play dress up?

That night, she helped me hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters, who "oohed" and "aahed" over our yard of decapitated pumpkin heads. It made me realize that Halloween has changed for Queen Teen, but she still enjoys it. Instead of our family just focusing on her and what she wants to be (princess, princess, princess, princess...), we can now focus on decorations and handing out candy. We can be that "cool house" all the kids know about and drag their parents to see. The house with the scary yard and the really good candy.

Oh yeah... this is gonna be fun.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Vlad the Impaler's jack-o-lantern collection

My husband and I spent several hours on Sunday carving pumpkins and decorating the front yard. Inspired by Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula), he made spikes out of metal and wood while I started carving pumpkins. When we impaled a jack-o-lantern on a spike, it made a satisfying, popping, squishy sound and pumpkin goo slid out of the puncture. Gruesome!

Happy Halloween, from my muse, Medusa

Medusa pumpkin carved by Ray Villafane. See more of his carvings at

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

People with disabilities are the 99%

image from

On Saturday, my husband, father and I drove two hours south to San Francisco to march with Occupy San Francisco, which is affiliated with Occupy Wall Street. We felt we needed to be there for our daughter, Queen Teen, and others who have disabilities. Services for people with disabilities and the elderly are being cut to dangerous levels. Health care, supported living, therapies, In Home Support Services, jobs programs, day programs, and every other service necessary to the health and well being of people with disabilities have been slashed. People are being forced into nursing homes because no one can care for them in their homes. Imagine what it must be like for a 25 year old man with a disability to live in a nursing home, surrounded by the elderly and the dying, just because he needs a physical attendant to survive. The wealthy can get all the health care and supports they need while the elderly and disabled are forced to choose between food and medicine. This is a crime, and any civilized nation should be ashamed. I will not sit silently while one more person with a disability is killed because of "budget cuts."

The other reason we needed to go was because last year we almost lost our house. My husband had been laid off for the second time in 5 years and was unemployed for over two years. We tried getting help from our lender, Bank of America, but they wouldn't talk to us. We didn't qualify for any of the programs available to help people from being foreclosed on because we actually did everything right. We had a traditional 30 year loan at a good, fixed interest rate (for then) and put down a large down-payment. We were never late on our payments and when we had to refinance the first time my husband had been laid off, we refused when the bank wanted us to pull out ALL of our equity. They practically begged, but we only took what we needed to survive. But then, 3 years later when we needed to refi  because he had been laid off again, B of A wouldn't grant us an interview. They got bailed out... we got ignored.

The protest and march were small and disorganized, but the people were passionate. It was a mix of old and young, but the young were the majority. Different races and different cultures were represented. I saw young professionals walking side-by-side with tattooed hippie kids. The image you see on the news is that the OWS (Occupy Wall Street) movement is primarily made up of communist and anarchist kids who have nothing better to do then drum and rant about revolution. That image is only a tiny part of who is really there. I am a working, highly educated, middle class, woman from a small town and I saw many more people who would fit into my demographic. The idea that there is no message or cohesive point to the rallies and marches is ludicrous. Pay attention! This is a wake up call to our government demanding that our needs, the 99%, become more of a priority then multi-national corporations and banks. I don't know who payed for Obama when he got to be President, but he sure doesn't seem to be listening to us anymore.

We marched from the Federal Reserve Bank up Market Street to Civic Center Plaza near Van Ness Avenue. It was peaceful, but loud. The police traveled along side us in their cruisers, watching us with impassive faces, keeping us from blocking the road, but allowing us to walk in it. I ended up walking on the outside of the marchers closest to the police and it felt eery having a cop car slowly moving beside me while I shouted, "Who's streets? Our streets!" The march was going all the way up to the Mission District and Dolores Park, but we couldn't stay that long. We had to be back home by 9:00 p.m. for the sitter. Queen Teen had stayed home because we felt the noise and all those people would be too scary for her. Plus, it's hard to run away in a wheel chair if the protest gets violent.  I've seen the pictures from New York City. We may be peaceful, but sometimes things happen. We may not be able to camp out with the protesters, but we supported them the best we could.

Occupy Wall Street is growing all over the country, including here in Ukiah. I'm excited. Perhaps as the OWS grows, our government and our president will finally start to think about the rest of us, the 99%, and the responsibility we all have to support those who need our help.

Stop the killing of people with disabilities through draconian budget cuts. I will gladly pay more taxes if it will save a life. Wouldn't you?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Keeping it Real

How much information is too much? After I wrote the post about my struggle with depression, I had to ask myself that question again. Am I sharing too much, especially now that I'm a teacher? What if my boss or co-workers read my blog, or the parents of one of my students? How will they feel learning that I need to take medication just to get out of bed in the morning?

But after thinking about it for a while I decided to go ahead and click "publish." This is who I am. I'm not trying to get sympathy votes and I certainly don't want to sound whiney (whiney people bug the hell out of me, so I hope that's not how I sound!). I simply want to keep it real. Depression is a very real part of my life, as it is for thousands of others, especially parents of special needs kids. Just the every day stress and fatigue can make even the toughest person start to crack. There is only so much a human brain can handle before it decides to go on strike and stop absorbing serotonin. If my honestly about depression can help others, then my blog is doing its work.

I've always been forthcoming. Too forthcoming! I know it, and I've tried over the years to keep things quiet and close to the vest, but it's so against my nature it makes me feel like I'm trying to wear a wool sweater against my bare skin (I'm allergic to wool). So I gave up. I'm more selective as to where and when I speak my mind, but I still suffer from severe oversharing. My friends understand and seem to put up with me. People who think I'm weird stay away.

I'm just as eager to know about you, too. What do you think? Hope for? Need? What makes you mad, and what makes you so happy you almost piss your pants? What were you like in the 3rd grade and what do you think you'll be like when you're 80? I love hearing people tell their stories, which is one of the reasons I love blogs so much. Don't just post a recipe or a photo of a cute kid, and please don't try to sell me something by reviewing it. Tell me a story.

This is also why I love publishing memoir. Even though it is extremely hard work helping a writer tell her story in a way other people will want to read (no one wants to read about why you bought green pants at K-mart on Jan. 3rd), after three years of being a publisher I still love editing memoir. Human beings and the epic nature of their lives make fascinating reading.

So I'll keep writing what I think and how I feel, and I'll hold fast to keeping it real.

(cool, I made a rhyme)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Depressed? Enter a Drag King contest.

It was time to do something drastic. I've been living with depression for months, coping with side-effects from different medications while searching for the one that would make me stop being suicidal. The weight of it all is exhausting. So I entered a Drag King contest.

The event was hosted by our local chapter of PRIDE to raise money for their community grants program. The theme was "Marie Antoinette" and the hosts of the event wore elaborate 17th century French gowns with oversized powdered wigs. The stage manager wore a man's suit in the same style, complete with powdered wig and powdered face. The audience came in costume, some inspired by the theme and others simply celebrating Halloween. My husband wore a kilt and Valkyrie outfit, torpedo boobs, braids, horned helmet and all. I wore a blue velvet frock coat with lace cuffs and my shiny black boots, my hair slicked back. And then I drew a mustache and goatee using a .99 Wet and Wild eyeliner pencil. With my little round glasses I felt more "Sergeant Pepper" then French Revolution.

I performed to Depeche Mode's "Martyr" which gave me lots of opportunity to interact with the audience. Kind of sexy, very danceable, the song is all about giving yourself completely to love, even if it destroys you.

"I've been a martyr for love
And I will die in the flames
As I draw my last breath
As I close in on death
I will call out your name"

So much drama to work with! It was great. The audience cheered and waived dollar bills at me, tucked them in my boots and down my shirt, swooned when I knelt at the feet of one woman, laughed when I used my mic as a... lets just say prop. I had so much fun lip syncing and dancing it was hard not to leap on tables (they were plastic. it would have been a bad way to end my routine).

Judging was done by audience cheers, and the cheers were split between me and another woman in drag. Because it was so close, we had a dance off. I was already winded from my performance, now I had to dance one-on-one with a 24 year old girl who could dance circles around my tired 44 year old ass. I just leapt all in, acting cocky and sexy and wild.

And I won.

I am now the Drag King of Ukiah.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Depression is not for Wimps

August and September have vanished. All of the sudden it's fall, and yards are beginning to be decorated with pumpkins and dancing skeletons. I missed the end of summer because a dark haze of depression took over. When I finished school I got a serious case of the blues, which I was told pretty much everybody feels when they finish grad school. So I didn't worry about it to much. I figured I was worn out from stress and the energy it took driving back and forth to San Francisco for classes and then studying every day. But instead of getting better, my feelings of futility and fatigue got worse. By July I was fighting inertia just to get out of bed. By August, I was dreaming of killing myself. And then when I wanted to cut my wrists with the knife I was using to chop an onion, I knew I had to get help. This wasn't just post-grad school angst. This was full on, life-threatoning, depression with a capitol "D".

So began the trials of finding the right medication. The first one my doctor prescribed made me manic and gave me such horrible panic attacks the first week I couldn't leave the house. I became agitated and couldn't eat. I guess some people pay good money for Crank to feel like this, but I hated it. After three weeks when the side effects didn't go away, I called my doctor and asked for something different. Problem is, none of the SSRI's work for me; Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa... out. That meant trying a new class of anti-depressents which of course, my insurance wouldn't cover. Oh well, I can't spend my days wishing I was dead. Makes it hard to get anything done.

Now I'm on a different medication which seems to be working well, other than feeling like an idiot half the time. My short term memory is terrible and it can be hard to stay focused. The first week I was so stoned I just sat outside and stared at the leaves on the trees all day. Luckily that wore off, and the fatigue is better, but I still feel like an elderly person who forgot why she went into a certain room.

And while all this was going on, I started my new job. I am officially an Orientation and Mobility teacher, which is exciting, and stressful. I'm trying to learn all the procedures and paperwork required to do my job, let alone teach. Luckily I only work part time. When I started this new medication I decided I shouldn't be driving children anywhere, let alone my own kid, so I missed half a day of work. But overall, I'm managing.

This has been a real test of my will-power; first I fought to keep myself from doing anything stupid, then I had to deal with overwhelming side effects, all while taking care of Queen Teen and starting a new job. My husband has been wonderful and really supportive, and the few friends I told about my depression have been incredible. One friend drove all the way up here from Petaluma just to take me out to lunch. And now my father is here, helping with child care and keeping me from brooding.

I feel that I am on the mend and finding my strength again, but it can feel like failure when you hit this level of depression, like I can't "hack it." I beat myself up for my apparent "weakness." Just like any medical issue, though, sometimes it takes accepting that you need help and taking medication to become well again.

I am Wonder Woman! Super Mom! I don't need no stinking medication to keep me sane.

Yeah, I do.

Please, if you're feeling like I did and are too ashamed to admit it, remember that you're not alone. Many people have major depression, even someone like me who people think is so "together." Get help. Don't wait so long that you get the impulse to kill yourself. It takes a lot of strength to go to your doctor and admit you are miserable, far more strength than jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. It takes courage to stick around and work toward wholeness. Depression is not for wimps.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Never blog drunk

Have you ever written something for your blog, posted it, then a day later re-read it and asked yourself, "What the hell did I write?"

Yeah, me neither.

A few of you read my last post called "Too Much Information" (thank you Barbara for commenting), which was me questioning just how much information about my daughter and my personal life I should really be putting on the internet. There were also some rambling thoughts about privacy and how much time I spend writing my blog when I should be working on my book. All good things to think about, but when I wrote them down I had just shared a bottle of wine with my hubby. Hence, I wrote a rambling piece about something important that didn't make any sense. I knew what I was trying to convey, but wine got in the way. 

No big deal, until you're convinced it's the most brilliant thing you've ever written on your blog and must be posted immediately.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Queen of the Den of Chaos

My sister is the Queen of Chaos. She lives in a ranch house in a Central Valley town with four gorgeous, energetic, and dangerously intelligent children and a husband passionate about music. Her mind is constantly flowing with ideas, plans, theories and possibilities, making it impossible for her to sit down. One idea creates another, and her curiosity is limitless. She's some kind of data-base developer for a Mega bank and I hear that she has super powers when it comes to thinking like a computer. In her free time she grows a massive garden, cans her produce, bakes bread from scratch (without using a bread maker), makes home made yogurt, and knits complicated sweaters like a pro. She's also an amazing singer and plays the Celtic harp.

Can you tell I think my sis is amazing?

We're not biologically sisters, but in every other way, we are. We even think alike, although I admit she's got the leg up when it comes to logic. We're the same height and build, with the same hair and the same mannerisms. We became sisters 20 years ago when we worked together at the Renaissance Fair in the same "clan." It was like finding an unknown sibling when you thought you were an orphan: wow, there's someone as weird as me. 

Queen Teen and I spent several days at my sister's house. Mostly, I watched my sister cook all day, preparing for the week ahead. You have to just stay out of her way and understand that she is happy to see you, even if she isn't sitting with you at the table. I guess some people have a hard time with that. Queen Teen played the piano with her cousin, Eldest, singing in her loudest, out of tune, voice. She also watched movies with the girls, but mostly she wandered the house wondering what all of those busy people were doing. She and I live a very quiet life compared to the constant noise and activity of the Den of Chaos.

Unfortunately, we don't get to visit very often. It's a long way between our houses, and Queen Teen is extremely allergic to their cat, which used to be mine. My sister took the cat when we discovered QT was allergic. So it's a wonderful treat for me to spend time with my lovely cat, who I still miss, although she's been gone three years. She sat in my lap purring happily while my sister canned the chili she made that evening and Queen Teen colored pictures with her cousin, Boo.

Boo looked up at me and asked, "Did my mom tell you spooky stories when you were little?"

Even though we've told them several times we're not actually related, the kids don't believe it.

I glanced at my sister who was checking on the yeast for the next batch of bread dough.

"Yep. Your mom tells the best spooky stories."

My sister grinned.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Playing chess with the audiologist

After the Berkeley Low Vision Clinic appointment, we spent several days with the Denizons of Chaos (I'll write more about that next time), then drove to Palo Alto for an audiology appointment. Queen Teen was resigned to it, and happily distracted by three energetic girls, one loud boy and a giant house to explore. Once we reached our hotel room in Mountain View, her mood quickly changed. The sparkle in her eyes vanished, replaced by a nervous scowl. The hotel was nice (thank you and we had cable TV, something we don't get at home, but nothing could negate the misery she felt thinking about the next day: audiology.

Of all the appointments she has, from neurology to dentistry to genetics to orthopedics, audiology is the worst. She likes the doctor fine, but the tedium of the tests and the reality that she does indeed need hearing aids ("No I don't," she insists, even after the hearing exam clearly shows she can't hear a blessed thing.) depresses her more than her best friend moving away.

She did her best during the test, and I told her how proud I was of her. Dutifully she put the block in the box when she heard the tone, but she also put a block in after guessing the interval between testing tones. The doctor mixed up the timing to avoid that, so it was obvious Queen Teen barely heard anything. And during the vocabulary test she got frustrated when she couldn't identify what any of the words were. I made sure she could see the pictures, and she identified them by looking, but when asked to point to the "baseball" or "ice cream", she just looked at me and said, "I can't find it."

Queen Teen is a candidate for Cochlear Implants, but there's a lot to think about before we go that route, primarily, Queen Teen's mental health. She refuses to wear hearing aids and denies that she can't hear. She cries at appointments and has a panic attack before we leave the car. If I can't get her to a dentist to have her teeth cleaned without her freaking out, how the hell will she tolerate major surgery and implants? We're concerned that she's losing language processing ability because that part of her brain is no longer being activated; hearing aids can help with that.

Before we left, the doctor took an impression of Queen Teen's ears for new ear molds to go with her new hearing aids. That's when Queen Teen started to cry, and she even tried to hit the doctor. I soothed her the best I could, then the doctor quickly made the impressions and we were out of there. We had planned to stop and visit another friend, but we were both worn out so we decided to get a head start before rush hour traffic began. That's the only plus to Queen Teen's hearing decreasing so much: the hearing tests take a lot less time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Playing chess with the eye doctor

Queen Teen had another appointment at UC Berkely Low Vision Clinic, the best vision clinic in NorCal for people with multiple disabilities. She wasn't thrilled, but she cooperated and seemed to have fun trying to fool the doctor. I could see the machinations in QT's mind all over her face as she touched the cards the doctor used to test contrast sensitivity.

the card was on the left so next time it will be on the right, then it will be on the left again but the doctor will try to trick me after that and keep it on the left, then go back to the right...

It was as if the two were playing chess. The doctor has 20 years of experience so was able to stay one step ahead and get an accurate reading of Queen Teen's contrast sensitivity, which is poor, but not terrible.

The doctor then tested color shade sensitivity using tiles with 4 colored circles on them, one of which was a different shade. She showed Queen Teen what to do only once, and then Queen Teen quickly did the task with no further instruction, looking bored the entire time.

When the doctor put glasses on Queen Teen to try out different lenses, Queen Teen suddenly couldn't see anything.

"I don't know. I can't see it," she declared, looking down at her lap so the lenses would fall out of the frame.

The doctor just smiled.

I asked, "How can her vision be worse with glasses?"

"She's telling me she doesn't want to wear glasses," the doctor replied with a shrug.

Queen Teen's functional vision has improved from 20/600 two years ago to 20/400 today (it was 20/1500 when she was first diagnosed with optic atrophy). This is excellent news! Her impairment hasn't changed, but her brain's ability to process visual information has. Is it age and maturity? The mega doses of CoQ10? Her brain's natural ability to adapt? Who knows? I'm just so happy that her vision has improved. Thus can only help her.

The doctor wrote a prescription for glasses but suggested we ease into them rather than have her wear them all the time. Queen Teen is trying so hard to learn to read; perhaps looking at her books will be the perfect time to try her new glasses.

-bloggong on the go, with Blogpress

Sunday, July 3, 2011


What does being fat mean? What I've discovered from learning more about measuring percentage of body fat is that whether someone is fat or not has nothing to do with the scale, or with how people appear. Perceptions of being fat are cultural, and in our culture we idealize those wispy ballerina types, all muscle and bone, with only the smallest ounce of fat supporting our boobs.

But the reality is that those skinny chicks are just as unhealthy as someone with a percentage of body fat of 35%. Too little fat is as big a problem as too much body fat. Whoever said a woman who is 5'10" should weigh 118 pounds is a psychopath. Unfortunately, we all tend to think that way on a deep, collective-unconscious level.

A woman who appears "fat" as she's walking down the street in a size 14 dress may be more fit than I in my size 6. She may weigh 155 pounds, but only have a percentage of body fat around 22%, which is excellent. That makes her strong and healthy, even though we may roll our eyes at her when she orders a mocha and a cookie at Starbucks. I appear healthy, but my higher percentage of body fat makes me more susceptible to health problems like osteoporosis and diabetes. The reason is because I don't have enough muscle on my bones, and muscle keeps our endocrine systems working properly and our bones from deteriorating.

How we look or what the scale says are not good indicators of health. Dress size doesn't matter, percentage of body fat does. Women who are healthy and strong need to stop beating themselves up for not fitting into a size 8. Throw out your Vogue! Go find out your percentage of body fat and work with that instead. You may be surprised how lean you actually are.

When I picture myself at 50, I see a strong, muscular woman who likes to run in the evening after a long day of teaching. I do not see a weak, weary woman who struggles to load a wheelchair in a mini-van, which is me now. 50 isn't that far off, so I need to focus on strength training to meet my goal.

But at the same time, I need to be careful not to obsess about this. Once an anorexic, always an anorexic, and I've caught myself a few times ignoring hunger pains because I didn't want the calories. It's a slippery slope for me, so I need to focus on exercise and not counting calories. Although I have cut waaaaay down on sugar and upped my veggie intake, which seems like a good idea for everyone.

Here's something else I've been thinking about: Jennifer Lopez is considered fat. Can you believe that? The woman is GORGEOUS, but because she's got a big butt, the media labels her "overweight." People make jokes about her ass. I'll bet she's about 25% body fat, another excellent number, and could probably kick all of those paparazzi asses without breaking a sweat.

Need more proof that percentage of body fat is more important than scale weight? Check out this short article that explains how it works and what it means.

Understanding Your Body Fat Percentage

Friday, July 1, 2011

The dunk tank

When my husband does something, he does it full throttle, balls to the wall, do or die, 100%. There is no half way, it's all or nothing.

So when we joined our local gym to get our sorry asses back in shape, he suggested we get our percentage of body fat measured.

Oooooh, that sounds like so much fun! I really want to know how fat I am in excruciating detail, understand the exact amount of fat piled up in my body, especially around my middle. Yes, everyone should learn how much of their body is made up of gelatinous fat. Sign me up!

My husband thought it would be somehow romantic to do the dunk tank together: a bonding experience. He made our appointments at the Physical Therapy office for a beautiful Friday afternoon. I dug out my old bathing suit and winced at how tight it felt on my hips. This is going to be so much fun!

Queen Teen and I watched as Rick got in the pool. The water came up to his chin as he bobbed gently on the submerged chair. The very friendly therapist explained how to blow out all your air as you dunk your head under the water. Rick followed her instructions and Queen Teen started to giggle; she'd never seen anyone swim like that. After three times, Rick got out of the tub and dried off while the therapist computed his body fat.

Not bad. Rick only needed to lose two pounds of body fat to be at an optimum percentage for health. All those years of working out had paid off and he probably went over the healthy line just in the last few months because he'd been working so much he couldn't exercise regularly. He grinned with pride, relieved by the findings.

Then it was my turn.

The water was warm and didn't reek of chlorine. I gripped the handles of the chair and pulled myself under while blowing out all my air. It was surprisingly hard to do. My body's survival mechanism kicked in and wondered what the he'll I was doing. Trying to drown? I had to concentrate on forcing out my breath and holding it while staying under long enough for the therapist to get a measurement, and after the fourth time (one for practice) my body was going into full on panic mode. At last we were done and I happily climbed out of the pool and retrieved my towel which Queen Teen was holding for me.

"You're silly," she said. Yes I am. Only a crazy person would want to know exactly how fat they are.

How fat am I? The therapist did the formula twice to make sure, surprised by what it said. I am over 30% fat, considered unhealthy for someone my gender and age. To reach a healthy percentage, I need to lose 7 pounds of fat, probably the exact amount clinging to my belly like a flabby, white, oversized hand bag.

If only I could keep my car keys there.

Rick was thrilled, and more invigorated to get back into the gym. I on the other hand felt as if I'd aged by ten years in ten minutes. For a former anorexic teen, the idea of being fat felt horrifying. and yes, I know, I'm not really "fat." I'm getting older, so of course I don't weigh 115 pounds any more. But as I walked across the parking lot to my car with Queen Teen still chatting about how silly Rick and I are, I heard the voice of that 60 year old, fat woman who had confronted me many years ago.

"I used to look just like you!"

Did she curse me?

After I'd had a few days to think about it, I decided that finding out how much fat I'm carrying around is a good thing. It is too easy to blow off that flabby feeling and suck in my gut while ordering another mocha. I can hide my belly rolls with high waisted jeans and loose t-shirts. Disguise and avoid, and in so doing slowly get fatter until I start to have health problems. Knowing that I'm already unhealthy is a wake up call. If I want to be health at 50, if I don't want to turn into that spiteful woman at 60, I need to change my exercise and eating habits now. Why wait until I get diabetes?

I went out and bought new running shoes.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


On thursday morning, I plucked cherries from the tree we share with the neighbors. The birds seem to be lazy this year because there were hundreds of large, sweet, purple-red berries left on the branches.

Usually the birds strip the tree bare the second the cherries ripen. I managed to pick three cups of fresh berries...

...exactly enough to make a Gluten Free cheery and pecan cobbler.

We were preparing for our Graduation Celebration on Saturday, June 25th, and were expecting close to 30 friends and family members to join us for champagne and bbq pork shoulder. Thursday night Rick marinated the pork and then early Fri morning started smoking it in cherry wood chips on the bbq. It took 9 hours, and then we had to finish it in the oven, letting it roast until 11:00 at night. By then, I was sick of the smell of smoked meat and wondered why the hell we didn't just have hamburgers! 

I'm glad we didn't, because the pork was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. People literally moaned with delight while eating their pulled pork sandwiches dripping with bbq sauce and coleslaw, North Carolina style. And the cobbler? SWOON. It was the absolute best thing I have ever baked. I found the recipe on the blog Gluten Free for Good. I don't know if it was the fresh cherries or the pecan crumble top that made it so good, but the other thing that makes this recipe great is how easy it is. Go ahead, give it a try.

The weather was perfect and my friends crowded onto my recently cleaned deck, chatting, laughing, drinking champagne and eating. My friends have very diverse backgrounds: politically, spiritually and economically. Everyone from Tea Partiers to Socialists. I like spending time with different types of people, hearing different viewpoints and debating the merits of the Obama economic plan. But what my friends have in common is intelligence and the ability to have a good conversation. Strangers talked with each other like long lost friends and we didn't have to resort to party games to keep the mood high. 

Even Queen Teen came outside and joined in the talk. A friend of mine knows ASL and he sat beside her and started signing. She sat up straight and watched him with wide eyes and then signed back. They chatted like that for several minutes. I've never seen her more engaged when someone tries to talk to her. Here was a person speaking her language, OUTSIDE of school, just for fun. What a treat! I could see in her smile how thrilling it was for her to have a conversation with someone that wasn't tied to classwork, how wonderful to be a part of the party instead of just a silent observer. Obviously, I need to provide more opportunity for her to chat with ASL users outside of school. 

She was also ecstatic because there were four other girls at the party, one in particular who hung out with her in her room and played. Later, I popped in The Frog Princess and all the girls watched it together while eating strawberries and tortilla chips. Queen Teen grinned with delight to have so many kids watching a movie with her. 

So many good friends at my party, new and old. Three friends I have known since high school, and one of those drove all the way from Fresno with her family. My brother and his wife were there, and my mom got over her nervousness to drive to Ukiah from her home in Lake County. Laura, my master teacher and soon-to-be-coleague came bearing a gift: the map and key to the MCOE car. "I need the key back, though," she said with a laugh. 

Later that night, when the last of our friends had left and the food had been put away (and I'd scraped the last of the Gluten Free cobbler off the bottom of the pan. Oh my god, it's good!), Rick and I finished an open bottle of wine in our back yard and stared at the starry sky. The night was still warm. Crickets chirped loudly and the night blooming jasmine filled the air with sweetness. Contentment filled me for the first time in ages.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Time and Injury

Several weeks have flown by and now the sun is beating down on my back yard, a hot 102 degrees. What happened to June?

Remember my post about how being a mom is like living the Theory of Relativity? I seem to have proved the point.

Throw in an injury, and my blogging time dissipated like the clouds that used to block this blistering air.

this is gonna slow me down
And now I have the problem of deciding what to write about, because so much has happened since June 3. First of all, I got a job, starting in August, which is mighty exciting but also scary. Queen Teen finished her freshman year of high school and is now charming the socks off a fresh batch of boys in Summer school (that better be all she charms off). My newest nephew was baptized at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and my oldest nephew graduated high school. And then June 19th was my wedding anniversary (12 years). There have been two meetings discussing what to do about Queen Teen's increasing anxiety problem, and then we missed two doctor's appointments at Stanford because she had a melt-down about her hearing aids.

But mostly, I've been battling post-graduation depression. Not fun.

I reached the point where even reading my email created so much anxiety I had to keep my laptop closed or break out in hives (gee, I wonder where Queen Teen get's her anxiety disorder?). Writing with an injury was too painful, and reading other people's work required too much concentration. Everything was exhausting. The things I used to love, like working on my play or playing "The Sims", became chores. Nothing made me happy, and I felt like I was going crazy. I just wanted to eat sugar and watch "Roseanne" reruns all day.

My best friend told me that she also suffered from depression and anxiety when she finished grad-school. It sounds like a lot of people do. Why haven't I heard of this before? Seems like something they should tell you in school.

"Now class, you'll probably experience a severe bout of depression about two weeks after you finish school. This is normal and temporary. Even people who have never experienced depression will suffer with overwhelming feelings of exhaustion, futility, and hopelessness. You're not crazy, you're just going through withdrawals from the constant stress you were under for the past three years."

Hearing that just before I took my last final might have helped.

I'm slowly feeling better, but it's a struggle. Solitude seems to help, so does working in my back yard. I can check my email now, but I still have trouble with the volume of information on Facebook. And I've started running again, just short jogs, which helps with the anxiety.  I visualize all the strain and worry piled up like a "Transformer" behind me and then I start outrunning it. I'm actually thinking about trying a marathon next year.

There are times I wonder why I went to grad school. Why did I do this to myself? How did I manage to go to school and take care of Queen Teen's needs at the same time? What was I trying to prove? Soon I'll be working, and even though it's part-time, I have no idea how I'll manage. Will I manage?

Of course I will.; I always do. Today, I need to rest my mind, talk things out with my councilor, and give my hand time to heal. By August, I should have my balance back.

Friday, June 3, 2011

When it won't stop raining, make your own sun

...and then tape it to your ceiling.

(The sun is on 3' x 3' butcher paper, created by Queen Teen and her mom, and now hangs proudly on the kitchen ceiling. It's a good thing to dance under)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Living the Theory of Relativity

image from Prosperity Blogger 

Time slows down to a crawl when I'm home. I feel as if I'm zooming as I clean and cook and work in the yard; as I work on promoting my press and answering emails; as I help my daughter dress, make her bed, comb her hair, do an art project. But in actuality, time inside my home slows down as compared to the outside world. When I think only a few days have passed, I discover that in the outside world a week has flown by. I feel like I'm inside Einstein's theory of relativity and I am the twin traveling at the speed of light, in which time slows down, while my sibling ages and dies back on Earth, where time continues to flow at a somewhat-steady 365 days in a year.

For example, it is the last day of May. This afternoon I have a job interview, which I'm very excited about (and nervous! I've never been interviewed as an O and M candidate before. What are they going to ask me?). The application process requires three letters of recommendation. No problem, I thought. I'll just ask my Master Teacher and my Instructor and the woman I worked with when I was a Family Advocate... holy cow! Is it really May 26? I thought I still had three weeks to get those letters from people. Now I have two days before a holiday weekend!

Frantic calls netted me two of my letters, but my instructor is slammed with work right now and won't have time to write me a letter for several weeks. Oh well, two letters are better than no letters, and I'll be able to show the hiring committee the third letter when it arrives. I hope.

This time management problem isn't a new phenomena, it has been going on for years. I don't return phone calls when I should because I get so busy keeping up with Queen Teen and helping my husband that its evening before I realize I never made the call. This can go on for several days, which can be annoying to people. In fact, talking on the phone is difficult period. I prefer email, because an email can adapt to my own, home-time-zone while talking on the phone jars me into dealing with the speed of the outside world.

In this day of technology, why do people insist on chatting on the phone?

Time management was easier when I was in school, because I was constantly having to navigate the two time-zones that were my life. When I was interning, I discovered the only way I could get any work done was to stay away from home. Once I set foot in my house, time slowed down again and all of my attention landed squarely on my husband, child and dog. Never mind that I needed to write client notes or return a call to my master teacher. My daughter needed something and my husband wanted to chat about his work and the dog was hungry.

It doesn't help that I'm still suffering from the post-grad school fatigue I've been feeling for a month. I suppose playing video games and watching movies isn't the best way to get any work done.

When I am working, I'll need to find a way to go back and forth between "Earth" and my "rocket ship" more easily. The outside world demands focus and speed, while my home world demands the same, but at a slower pace. Speed is relative. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Article - 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor

I just read this hysterical article by John Cheese on about the hard truths about poverty, and I laughed so hard I almost spilled my coffee all over my laptop. Everything he writes is true. The only reason this is on Cracked is because the authors uses the word "fuck" a lot and there are plenty of "bend over and be screwed." So if you're offended by things like that, skip this article. If not, read on.

Being poor is like a game of poker where if you lose, the other players get to fuck you. And if you win, the dealer fucks you.
(read more)

For example, Queen Teen receives support from Social Security because she is disabled. I am required to keep her money in a separate checking account from my own. Unfortunately, she doesn't get enough money from SSI to avoid bank fees, so our bank charges Queen Teen $10.00 every month to have an account. Those wankers are taking $10.00 from a disabled child every month!

I am looking for a new bank, but so far it seems that ALL the banks charge poor people extra money. Ass-Holes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Graduation Day

I graduated from San Francisco State University last Saturday. I needed to put a great big metaphoric exclamation point on the end of my university experience, so I walked with 2000 other graduates dressed head to toe in purple. I sat in the blazing sun listening to speech after boring speech on a jumbo-tron because the actual speaker was too far away from me to see. The stupid cap kept sliding off the back of my head and the "hood" all masters candidates wear continued to choke me, despite my heavy ring of keys I'd attached under my robes to hold it off my neck. The only one in my O and M class who decided to walk, I felt a little lonely surrounded by large groups of celebrating students from other departments. But at last I got to walk to the podium, get my bright purple envelope (they send the actual diploma in the Fall) and shake the hand of a University chancellor. For those sixty seconds, I was buoyant; I could have flown above the heads of every single person crammed into the stadium on the wings of my bright purple robes. (read more on my other blog, Medusa's Muse)

Me in front of the Visual Impairments Classroom, after the ceremony.  Nobody looks good in that hat!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sweet 16

On Thursday, May 26, my baby girl turns sixteen. Sixteen! And I have to say, so far there's nothing sweet about sixteen. For the last week and a half, she has been moody, rude, short-tempered, and ornery. She gives orders like Princess Know-it-all and seems genuinely shocked when I refuse to obey.

I like it.

She's behaving like any other typical teenaged, American girl, picking fights with her mother and believing with all her heart that the world revolves around her every whim.

The world no longer revolves around her mother (me).

I miss that little girl who used to cling to my legs with her tiny arms and giggle when I tried to walk. I miss the child who loved to sneak into my room and try on my hats. I miss the days when she and I would each wear one of her tiaras and have a tea party with her stuffed bear and Strawberry Shortcake doll. That little girl is long gone; now I live with a young woman who no longer thinks that I am a perfect symbol of womanhood and the greatest role model in the entire universe.

I'm glad. I want her to grow up, be independent, find her own path and her own identity. I want her to become her own person, separate from me. It makes me sad to feel her push me away, but I also feel excited and happy for her.

It's annoying though. Twice I've had to reprimand her for being rude: that was just today. And in the last week I've thought very seriously about packing her up and sending her to her dad's.

Why does growing up have to be so hard on the parents?

Happy birthday my darling, difficult, fabulous girl. You are wonderful.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What does one wear with a bright purple cap and gown?

Saturday is commencement and I'm walking. I'm not really sure why this has become so important to me. None of my classmates are walking; I will be the lone student from the Orientation and Mobility department walking to the podium to receive my mock-diploma. They don't even call your name during the ceremony, you just stand up in a line and one-by-one walk across the stage to shake hands with the Dean, get your picture taken, and then leave. They'll mail me my diploma in a couple of months.

this is the test shot from the photographer back in Feb, when I was still frazzled and exhausted from school.  I had just dropped off my application to graduate and thought, "Why not? I'll assume I'm graduating and get my picture taken." 

Why on Earth do I want to sit on a folding chair with 3000 strangers in the middle of Cox stadium, in the cold (mid-50's in San Fran on Saturday!), and listen to some people I don't know give speech after boring speech for two hours? It's insane. I should just have the party and skip the pomp and circumstance.

But I really, really, really, really, really want to put on that bright purple cap and gown and go to commencement. It feels like putting an exclamation point on the end of this chapter of my life. I survived grad school! I am now a Credentialed Teacher of Orientation and Mobility with a Masters degree. Against some crazy odds, and with the incredible support of my husband and my friends, I did it.

Would skipping commencement change any of those facts? Nope, but it sure will feel good sitting on that field knowing my husband and brother-in-law are out in that crowd somewhere cheering for me.

So think of me on Saturday, and raise a toast in my general direction. Life is good.

Oh, and if it is indeed doomsday, could you all wait until AFTER my graduation party? I'd like to celebrate a little before the rapture. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Certain Proof - a question of worth

Elizabeth at "A moon worn as if it had been a shell" posted the trailer to this documentary and I had to share it with you.

What strikes me about this short preview is how honest the movie seems. It isn't a pity-party or an "inspirational" story where we can all look at the cute kids in wheelchairs and feel sorry for them. Instead, it seems to show the real struggle of trying to educate children with severe disabilities and the emotional toll on the parents and the teachers. The kids need so much, but is any of it helping?

I don't know when Certain Proof - a question of worth will be released, but I'll be looking for it. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is being a Princess contagious?

Queen Teen was in a bad mood when she got home from school.

"Mom! You forgot to put the Cinderella pen in my school bag."

"No, you forgot to put the Cinderella pen in your school bag."

"Well... I didn't even know where it was!"

"It's on the TV stand right next to your sunglasses and hat."

"How am I supposed to know?"

"Because it's sitting right there."

"Well I didn't see it!"

"You can bring it tomorrow."

"Well, you should have put it in my bag!"

I held up my hands. "Stop yelling at me."

She glared, looked away, and mumbled, "Well... she should have."

I left the room, counting quickly, "1,2,3,4..."

Two hours later, after her snack and movie, she came into the kitchen where I was preparing dinner and said, "You left my cup in the living room, Mom."

"No, I think you left your cup in the living room," I said.

She stopped and glared at me. "It doesn't go there."

"Really? I had no idea." I kept stirring my pot of pasta.

She just kept looking at me. Sarcasm is lost on her.

Then she released the breaks of her walker with a loud "snap-snap" and turned around. While she walked out of the kitchen she said, "Well, that's not where it goes."

A little while later, Queen Teen yelled from her room, "Mom!"

I walked in and saw her sitting on the floor. "Yeah?"

"I can't find my book."

"Which book?"

"The book I was reading."

"I don't know which book that was."

"The Rugrats one."

Queen Teen has thirty Rugrats books. "Which one?" I asked again.

"The one I was reading!"

"Honey, I don't know which one you were reading."

"Hmph!" She crossed her arms and turned away from me.

I sighed, and started counting again, "1,2,3,4..."

After dinner, she got ready for her bath. I was taking her hair out of the ponies, when she snapped, "Mom! We washed my hair yesterday!"

"I know. I'm pulling your hair up higher so it doesn't get wet."

"You don't have to do that!"

"Fine!" I had only one of her ponies out so I left the other one in and started the water running.

"Mom, what are you doing?"

"Starting your bath."

"But you have to fix my hair."

I took a deep breath, counted to 5, turned around and stood very close to her. "You forgot to say please."

"Well... I don't...."

"You forgot to say please," I repeated.

She looked down and  mumbled, "Please."

"What did you say?"


"OK." I took out the remaining pony-tail and then pulled her hair up into a bun.

She looked at me and smiled, "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

After her bath I helped her dress, then tucked her in for bed.

"My pillow isn't high enough."

I stood up and looked at her with my arms crossed.

"Will you please fix my pillow," she said sweetly.

Is being a Princess contagious, because since we came home from Disneyland she seems to think she should be wearing the royal jewels and giving orders. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011


"Cinderella remembered me and was happy to see me," Queen Teen said after Cinderella stopped by our table in Ariel's Grotto. The Princess helped Queen Teen stand, hugged her tightly, and then chatted for a moment. She signed Queen Teen's autograph book then moved on to the next table where more starry eyed little girls waited for her.

Cinderella is Queen Teen's favorite. From the moment she first saw the movie when she was 4,  Cinderella has been her bestest imaginary friend and personal hero. And when she actually met Cinderella at Disneyland three years ago, Queen Teen acted as if she'd had lunch with Miley Cyrus. Cinderella is real and lives in Disneyland with the other Disney Princesses, Tinker Bell and Mickey Mouse!

When do kids stop believing that Princess Jasmine and Arielle are real?

At age fifteen I suppose she should be past that stage, but she isn't. In fact, since her hearing disappeared she seems stuck at an in-between stage: too old to be a little girl, but unable to take that leap into being a teenager. She doesn't know who Justin Beiber is and couldn't care less.

When she was 3, she had an imaginary best friend named Bobby who went everywhere with her. He stayed by her side until she was in the 2nd grade, which is when she made real friends. Some girls in her class began sitting with her at lunch, playing with her at recess, and one invited Queen Teen to her birthday party. All through elementary school, she had a large group of girl friends, all of who vanished when she entered Middle School. They moved on to cell phones, spent their time chasing boys, and one began teasing Queen Teen, distancing herself from the "retarded kid." This is the same time Queen Teen's hearing declined, until by the 9th grade Queen Teen was profoundly deaf.

Her imaginary friend has returned, this time by the name of Sara. Queen Teen spends her days at home talking to Sara and Cinderella, laughing at their jokes, arguing over something Queen Teen may have done, debating the merits of good manners, and giving advice. Even at school, I've seen her turn her head and say out loud, "What did you say Sara? Oh yeah... you can say that again."

It makes a lot of sense that she'd talk to people in her head more than the people around her. It's difficult having a conversation with people in the real world. Imaginary people speak a language she can understand, and they always understand her.  Cinderella is one of her best-friends. We visit her every year at her home, Disneyland, and every year Cinderella stops at our table and gives Queen Teen a hug.

This year, Queen Teen finally met her second most favorite Disneyland person, Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins and Bert spent a long time with her, chatting and smiling. They took their time and gave Queen Teen a chance to talk, too, something most people don't have the time to do in the so-called real world.

That's the best part of our trips to Disneyland; every cast-member takes their time with her, even when they're pressed for time by the hundreds of other children waiting their turn to visit. Whoever trains them has done a fantastic job. I wish they could train us how to do it.

How does Queen Teen define reality? It seems that the world she's created inside her own head is more real than the world we all live in out here, with our hectic schedules and demands, our complicated language increasingly difficult to understand, and our too fast pace. If Justin Bieber is the real world, Queen Teen doesn't want anything to do with it.