Under Self-Attack

 

Time spent by the ocean is always good for my soul.

I have a question for you, dear readers.  How would you define “self-care?”  

For some, it means a bit of pampering, such as taking the time to get a pedicure or massage.  For others, it means doing something just for you, something that makes you feel good, whether it’s sitting down with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book or going for a walk.

But what about people like me?  People who struggle with invisible disabilities?  People for whom “self care” means something entirely different?

Click here to be redirected to The Mighty to read my recently published personal essay, “With Autoimmune Disease, There Are More ‘Self-’ Practices Than Just Self-Care.” 

 

 

Bartering for Health

Does it all come down to luck? My dad and my son breaking the wishbone. Thanksgiving 2017

 

We’ve had some scary health incidents in my family during the last couple of years.  During those times, I find myself praying, thinking good thoughts, looking for signs – even more than I usually do. 

And then I take it to the next level.  I start making “deals.”  I try “bartering for health.”

It’s a crazy kind of deal that implies I’ve got some sort of power and control, and that this higher power is just waiting, listening, and receptive to requests for such health-related barters.”

The paragraph above is taken from my personal essay, “Bartering for Health” which was published in the Fall issue of Breath and Shadow.  You can click here to read the rest of my essay.

 

 

 

In Disguise

Halloween 2008 – Dressed as “Fancy Nancy”

I think Halloween is popular for a number of reasons.  The candy, of course.  But beyond that, Halloween gives us permission to put on costumes and disguises.  To try out new identities, with the safety of knowing it’s temporary.

For some, these costumes, these disguises are a natural extension of who they usually are.  For others, these costumes are a complete departure from their more usual personality.   

For my ten-year-old son, it’s a bit of both.  Over the years, he has celebrated Halloween by dressing up as a firefighter, Michael Jackson, a skeleton, and a magician, to name just a few of his costumes.

As for me, when I was teaching, costumes were primarily about ease and which ones required the least amount of preparation.  Over the years, I was a chef, a golfer, and a baseball player.  One year, my best friend and I dressed as “Fancy Nancy” of the Fancy Nancy books written by Jane O’Connor (which admittedly took a lot more prep, but was one of my favorites!). 

Now though, I feel as if I am always in disguise as I navigate my days as an “undercover disabled woman.” 

In case you missed it from a few months back, you can click here to be re-directed to The Mighty to read my personal essay, “My Life as an Undercover Disabled Woman.”

 

 

My Son Is An Only Child

Our Beautiful Family

It happened again.

A couple of weeks ago, while at the checkout line, the friendly Ralphs cashier told me I needed to have at least one more child.

She said this in front of my son.

This time around, the cashier is someone we chat with each time we see her.  She is warm and friendly with my son.  She comments on how tall he’s gotten and asks how he’s doing in school.  

But this was crossing the line.

While she scanned my groceries and I bagged them, I tried my usual answer.  “We’re blessed with Ryan.”

But she didn’t let it go.  “You need to give him a brother or a sister.  You never know what could happen to you or your husband.  You don’t want to leave him alone.”

I felt a physical reaction, as if I had been punched in the stomach.  I know this.  It is one of my great fears.

As we loaded our groceries into the car, I spoke to my son about this conversation.  “I really like it when we see Dora, but I really didn’t like what she said to us today,” I told Ryan.

I continued.  “You know each family makes their own decisions about children.  How many to have, or if they’ll have any at all.  And each family’s decision is right for them.  Our decision is right for us.  Daddy and I feel so lucky that our family is the way it is.”

“I know,” Ryan said.

But like I began this post, this isn’t the first time a supermarket cashier has commented on our one-child family status.  And even though I’ve dealt with this before, it doesn’t get any easier.

Click here to be re-directed to RoleReboot.org  to read my personal essay, “When A Stranger Told Me I Needed To Have a Second Child.

 

Mommy Has a ‘Boo-Boo Leg’

My curious son and I, on the observation area of the Santa Barbara Courthouse. June 2018 (I climbed all the stairs!)

“What does the doctor do with all the blood after they check it?”

My son once asked me that question.  It took me by surprise and caught me off guard, because it was something I had never considered.  

It’s not the only good question Ryan has asked me over the years.  There have been so many I wrote a personal essay about them.  And I’m proud to say that “Mommy Has a ‘Boo-Boo Leg’: Talking to My Son About My Autoimmune Disease” is now a non-fiction finalist in the Pen 2 Paper Disability-Focused Creative Writing Contest.

Click here to read my essay, and this year, readers may vote for their “audience favorite.” (You must have a free Submittable account to vote).  

Thank you in advance for reading and spreading the word!

 

A Tribute to Teachers

 

Though I left my teaching career five years ago, there are still many aspects of teaching I really miss.  There’s a special sort of magic that happens when you connect with a child, and that’s why I still enjoy reading about teachers who love teaching.

Recently I read Phillip Done’s memoir Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind – Thoughts on Teacherhood, and I’d like to share with you some of the passages that stood out for me.

“What exactly is a teacher anyway?  A lot of different things.  Teachers are like puppeteers.  We keep the show in motion.  When we help children discover abilities that they don’t know they have, we are like talent scouts.  When we herd kids off the play structure at the end of recess, we are like shepherds.  Teachers are like farmers.  We sow the seeds – not too close together or they’ll talk too much.  We check on them every day and monitor their progress.  We think about our crop all the time.  When we see growth – we get excited.”

“Teachers are word warriors.  All day long we explain, correct, examine, define, recite, check, decipher, sound out, spell, clap, sing, clarify, write, and act out words.  We teach spelling words and history words and science words and geography words.  We teach describing words and compound words.  We teach synonyms and antonyms and homonyms, too.”

“Teachers try everything short of back handsprings to get their students to quiet down and pay attention.  We flick off the lights, clap patterns, hold up fingers and wait, change the level of our voices, count up to three, count down from five, set timers, brush wind chimes, shake shakers, bribe kids with free play, and seat the boys next to the girls.”

“I was in Teacher Mode.  It turns on automatically whenever children are near and goes into overdrive when it senses busy streets, mud, gum, or bloody noses.”

“Of course nothing has changed like technology.  A bug was something you brought in from recess to show the teacher.  A desktop was something you scraped dried Elmer’s glue off with your teacher scissors.  Hard drives were on Monday mornings.  Viruses kept you home from school.  And cursors were sent to the principal’s office.”

Now it’s your turn, dear readers.  Feel free to share any school memories or teacher anecdotes of your own in the comments section below.

This Is Marriage

Joyce Maynard’s memoir, The Best of Us, is heavy.  Physically heavy at over 400 pages.  Emotionally heavy in its subject matter.  From the back cover:  In 2011, when she was in her late fifties, beloved author and journalist Joyce Maynard met her soulmate.  Then, just after their one-year wedding anniversary, Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  As they battled his illness together, she discovered for the first time what it really meant to be a true partner and to have one.

The book was beautiful, and raw, and powerful, and honest.  It touched me and moved me so much so that after I had to return my copy to the public library, I went out and bought my own.  

This week, I’d like to share with you just a few of the passages I tagged while reading:

I look back now on that day as one of the moments I discovered a small but significant truth about marriage: that it is in the act of surrendering the old, familiar patterns and all the things a person believes to be immutable that she may discover a new kind of beauty.  Something better even than her old way.”

Not all at once, but gradually, over the months, another revelation came to me: None of that other stuff, much as I’d loved it, was what made a marriage.  Not restaurant dinners or romantic vacations.  Not walks on the beach or visits to the wine country in the Boxster.  Not oysters and martinis or moonlight over the Bay Bridge.  This was marriage.”

But the larger truth is, I am here.  This is not the experience I wanted, but as with every other experience in my life, I do not intend to sit this one out, or to pretend for one moment that it isn’t happening.  This is my life, and at the end of the day, I don’t want to miss a minute of it.”

 

My Confession About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

In my 4th grade classroom, preparing for Back-to-School Night. 2006

I have a confession to make.  I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom.  I was a teacher before my son was born, and I planned on being a teacher after my son was born.

At least, that was my plan.

But for those of you who read my blog and know me, plans started to change in 2010 when I became ill.  They really changed in 2013 when I retired from my twelve-year teaching career. 

There is a lot to read about the difficult decision to become a stay-at-home mom or the equally-difficult decision to return to the workplace.  But I didn’t find a lot to read about moms who become stay-at-home moms when it wasn’t their choice.  And as much as I love my son, as much as I feel lucky to take him to school each day and pick him up each afternoon, being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t my choice.

You can click here to be re-directed to mother.ly and read my recently published essay, “I Never Planned To Be a SAHM – To Be Honest, I’m Still Adjusting.”

 

Proudly Under-Scheduled

Time for the important things — a game of basketball between father and son

When you Google “Overscheduled children,” more than 200,000 results show up.  If you’re not familiar with the term, it applies to children who are spending most of their waking hours in school and involved in organized activities (such as enrichment classes, sports teams, and lessons). 

I’m proud to say that my son is not an “overscheduled” child.  He’s a ten-year-old fifth-grader who goes to school until 2:30 pm (1:30 pm on Tuesdays), and then spends the rest of the afternoon at home doing homework, playing, and relaxing (except on Tuesdays when we pay a visit to the public library). 

You can learn about our family’s decision not to have Ryan become an “overscheduled child” by clicking here and reading my recently published essay, “Why My Son Doesn’t Need ‘Enrichment’ Classes” at RoleReboot.

 

 

I Can’t – And Here’s Why

A photo taken during my teaching days. After a museum field trip, my students enjoyed rolling down this big grassy hill!

On the second day of this school year, my son’s teacher asked if I was available to help chaperone field trips.  It was before school, a minute before the bell was to ring.  There wasn’t time for me to give her a medical explanation so instead, I gave a quick reply, “It depends.”

How was I to tell my son’s fifth-grade teacher that just because she saw me every day (at drop-off and pick-up times) there were medical reasons why I couldn’t help on field trips.

During the second week of school, my son had his first field trip.  A walking field trip.  Again, his teacher asked if I was available to join their class.  This time, I said, “No I’m sorry.  I can’t do it.”

Which was true.  It just wasn’t the whole story.  And most of the time the whole story is much easier for me to write than it is to say.

Click here to read my personal essay (written when my son was a second grader) that explains “Why I Don’t Volunteer to Chaperone My Son’s Field Trips.”